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Queen’s Speech guarantees thousands of parents in Reading will get help with childcare costs

childrens centre photoA major tax-free childcare package will help 505 families in Reading, Liberal Democrat Cllr Meri O’Connell said today (Monday, June 9th).

Working families will get up to £2,000 to ease the cost of childcare as part of a scheme to be rolled out in Autumn 2015.

It means a family with two children under 12-years-old could benefit by up to £4,000 a year.

Meri said: “The announcement in the Queen’s Speech last week provides a huge boost to hardworking families in Reading.

“This is something Liberal Democrats have fought for and are now delivering in Government.”

“We are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society and this helps children get the best start in life.”

The Queen’s Speech outlines the legislative agenda for the Coalition Government over the next 12 months.

Meri added: “It was announced every infant will get a free school meal to help improve education attainment and child health.”

“It comes on top of 15 hours free weekly childcare we have already delivered for all three and four year olds and pupil premium to help our schools.”

“All these measures will help parents go to work and provide security for their families.”

Lib Dems in Reading reject Reading Borough Council’s budget proposals

income-taxLiberal Democrats on Reading Borough Council have rejected the Labour-run Council’s budget proposals, which will be presented at the Council’s meeting on Tuesday 25 February.

Cllr Ricky Duveen, the Lib Dem group leader on the Council criticised the proposed Council tax rise of just under two percent. He said, “It is amazing that on a budget of £120m they couldn’t find half a million pounds to freeze the Council tax. They are putting up the cost of living for those people they claim to be helping. Other councils across the country have been able to take advantage of the Government’s freeze grant, why not Reading?”

Cllr Duveen also accused the Council of setting its priorities based on the needs of the Labour Group, rather than the people of Reading. He said, “Where, for example is the Council’s commitment to road safety? The Council should be taking the lead on bringing in 20 miles per hour speed limits in residential areas across the town. This measure has been proven to save lives and promote sustainable transport. It is as if they want more accidents to happen on our roads.”

He noted that the Council was setting aside £9.5 million pounds to cover equal pay claims, from female workers. He said, “I challenge the Council to bring this sorry episode to an end and to make arrangements to pay out what they owe their female workforce. They should stop the legal wrangling, stop the procrastination and do what is morally right.”

Lib Dems welcome City Deal for Reading

forburyReading Lib Dems today hailed the announcement that Reading, along with the other Berkshire authorities and the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) had been successful in having their City Deal accepted by the Coalition Government.

This announcement heralds a massive campaign across Berkshire to get our young people working at a time when many, up and down the country, cannot see a future for themselves in the world of work.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“This is an important deal for the people of the Reading and the rest of Berkshire which will help thousands of young people develop the skills and confidence to grasp the opportunities to build successful careers. I am pleased that we have been able to put £2.4 million funding from the Youth Contract to such innovative use, bringing together businesses with local public services to tackle youth unemployment and help more young people make an instant impact in the world of work.”

Reading’s City Deal will:

• Achieve a 50% reduction in youth unemployment within 3 years
• Secure £1.5 million of private sector investment to support employment and providing young people with the skills they need
• Generate 1,300 new employment opportunities for young people, including helping 800 to sustain work for at least six months
• Creating 1,500 new work experience placements across the region
• Creating 300 additional apprenticeships and 800 new youth contract wage incentives, which are incentive to employers, paid if they provide a young person with employment that is sustained for 6 months
• Creation of a Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub to improve business support

Reading Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Ricky Duveen said, “This is a massive boost for Reading and the whole of Berkshire and will provide a wealth of opportunities for our young people. We can take a lead in fighting off youth unemployment and provide many local youngsters with the right skills for some exciting new job opportunities in Berkshire.”

Reading Liberal Democrats welcome MPs vote in favour of Equal Marriage rights

Rainbow Hearts Reading Lib Dems applaud the news that MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of Equal Marriage Rights on the third reading. We know that the outcome will make many people in Reading very happy. This is a positive step forward towards true equality for all in the UK.

Georgina Hughes, Chair of Greater Reading Liberal Democrats said:

“I’m delighted by this news and want to thank all MPs who had the courage to vote for equal marriage rights. I’m particularly proud that the vast majority Liberal Democrat MPs voted in favour. This is a great day for equal rights in Britain”

The stats

Of all the MPs that voted:

  • 7% LibDems voted against
  • 9% Labour voted against
  • 51% Conservatives voted against

There has been much talk of the seven Liberal Democrat abstentions. Of this seven, four were on government business, one had just given birth, another was looking after a seriously ill family member, and there was one true abstention. Also much has been made of Sarah Teather, who voted against. Sarah has supported and campaigned for improving gay rights throughout her political career, however she holds strong Catholic beliefs and so this may have been a step too far for her. The Liberal Democrats are a party of equality and freedom, and we respect people’s points of view. This was a free vote and thus we respect her decision.

Locally in Reading, our Tory MPs voted very differently. Ex Reading Councillor Glenn Goodall said:

“Reading West MP Alok Sharma showed real courage in voting for Equal Marriage rights, but the same cannot be said for Reading East MP Rob Wilson who voted for and against (signifying he abstained). He’d already refused to show his hand at various public meetings and then hid behind an abstention – this is shameful in my opinion”

A look at shows that throughout Rob Wilson’s political career he has mostly voted against improving gay rights.

Overall we can be very proud that we live in a liberal and forward thinking country. Yes there is still a long way to go, but we are travelling in the right direction.

Lib Dems Announce Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner Candidate

John Howson

Prof. John Howson

The Lib Dems across Berks, Bucks & Oxon have selected a leading campaigner and magistrate as their Thames Valley candidate in the Police & Crime Commissioner election on 15 November – Professor John Howson.

John Howson knows a thing or two about crime. Businessman, Academic, Licensing Justice, and victim of crime, as well as a former government adviser.

Commenting on his selection, Professor John Howson said: “Although the Lib Dems were happy with the existing arrangements for scrutinising the police, the new role has become much wider than just its original intention of holding the Chief Constable to account. Commissioners will play a strategic role in the management of the fight against crime across the Thames Valley, and this embraces discussions with many different agencies as well as the police.”

He continued: “As a businessman and former university head of department, I am used to the scrutiny of budgets, and have written about concepts such as activity based costing.

“Policing in England is a matter of consent. Currently, too much crime is linked to addiction, whether drug or alcohol related. Helping to stop re-offending is the best way to keep down police spending in the future.

“As a victim of a classroom stabbing when a teacher, having experienced four burglaries in my adult life, and been involved in two road traffic accidents, I know the effects crimes can have not only on the direct victim, but also on others in the wider community.”

A resident in Oxfordshire for more than 30 years, he also knows the diversity of the Thames Valley police area having been involved with training teachers across the three counties for more than ten years.

Lib Dem Regional Chair and West Oxfordshire councillor, Liz Leffman, said: “We are delighted to have such an experienced campaigner, with an excellent knowledge of policing and crime, as our candidate for Thames Valley.”

Statement on Civic Offices Procurement

Commenting on the relocation of the Civic Offices, Cllr Daisy Benson, Group Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Reading Borough Council said:

‘Our top priority remains protecting vital Council services to vulnerable people in Reading.

“However, regarding the Civic Offices doing nothing’ is not an option either for taxpayers or staff.”

“Remaining in the current Civic Offices was the most costly of all the options proposed and based on the information Reading Borough Council officers have provided Plaza West represents the best value for money option and therefore the one we support.”

“But the Council must not sign a blank cheque: with public finances under huge pressure at the moment in Reading the Council needs to keep a tight rein on costs for the Civic relocation project to ensure that an extra burden is not placed on local taxpayers.’

“The Labour administration must bring forward regular progress reports on the civic offices relocation including costs associated with the project to Cabinet meetings to ensure costs are kept under control and to improve transparency and accountability: after all this is public money being spent.”

Duncan Hames MP pays a flying visit to Tilehurst

Meri, Daisy, Duncan and our other campaigners

Meri O'Connell (in red), Daisy Benson (to the right) and Duncan Hames MP (to the right) with Lib Dem Campaigners in Tilehurst

Following a visit from a Catherine Bearder MEP last week, Duncan Hames – Member of Parliament for Chippenham – paid a flying visit to Tilehurst this Tuesday to show his support for local Liberal Democrat candidate Meri O’Connell.

Whilst helping Meri on the doorsteps of Tilehurst Duncan said “It’s clear Meri is working hard. She lives here and people already know Meri and her team in Tilehurst. We have a shared experience in that she’s a school governor, as was I for my Local Authority. I can see she will be a strong voice standing up for her community.”

Meri added “Even though my focus is on local politics it was great that Duncan offered his support in Tilehurst. Duncan gave up his business when he was elected as an MP and his campaign, like mine, wasn’t funded either by unions or big business. It’s that kind of ‘no strings attached’ commitment to democracy that I want to offer to Tilehurst.”

Catherine Bearder MEP supports new Tilehurst Candidate

Meri, Peter and  Catherine in Tilehurst

Meri, Peter and Catherine in Tilehurst

Liberal Democrats were delighted to host Catherine Bearder MEP as she came to town to help their new Tilehurst candidate with a spot of campaigning last Monday.

Meri O’Connell is hoping to take up the baton from current Tilehurst councillor, Peter Beard, who is stepping down from the Council this year after more than a decade of continuous service in Tilehurst.

As she was helping Meri on the doorsteps of Tilehurst Catherine commented “People in Reading need more local councillors like Meri who are passionate about improving their communities – people they can rely on to work hard and speak up for them and I was happy to come down and support her on the doorstep.”

Meri added “When I heard that Peter was retiring from being a councillor I decided that I wanted to carry on the long tradition of active councillors who really are local and who don’t take Tilehurst for granted.”

“As a local councillor I will focus on the things that matter in my ward, like safety railings on busy roads, cleaner streets, and providing a strong voice in the Council for the resdients of Tilehurst.”

Peter commented further “I was first elected to Reading Borough Council in 1974 and had to stand down in 1983 for work-related reasons. When Liberal Democrat Jim Day retired as a councillor in Tilehurst I was elected in his place in 2001 and I’d be overjoyed to see a continuity of the hard-working spirit that I inherited from Jim be passed over to Meri.”

Liberal Democrat Candidates for May 2012 Local Elections

Following earlier selection of Meri O’Connell in Tilehurst, Janel Blattler in Katesgrove and James Moore in Redlands, Greater Reading Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce the remaining Liberal Democrat Candidates for the Local Elections.

Abbey – Kirsten Bayes. A long-time campaigner, as Deputy Leader of Reading Borough Council in 2010 Kirsten delivered the first 0% Council Tax rise ever seen in Reading, along with a budget that cleared the way for a second 0% Council Tax rise this year. Kirsten lives in central Reading and works in IT.

Battle – Mark Whiley. Mark is a former graduate of the University of Reading where he was active as a Community Warden for 2 years in the University area. Mark currently lives off the Oxford Road and works in Reading for an IT firm.

Caversham – Jenny Woods. Dr Jenny Woods is a trained scientist and professional administrator, currently coordinating a national network of researchers looking at how science can improve our lives in future. She is passionate about building a fair society where everyone has the chance to make the most of their lives and is a strong believer in accessible learning and new technologies to help bring this about.

Church – Annette Hendry. Annette has been a Reading resident for over 30 years and a long-standing community activist and is a Trustee of various voluntarty organisations. Annette was formerly a Councillor in Peppard ward.

Kentwood – Jon Walls. Jonathan Walls first moved to Reading in 2001, when he started working for a small, young, entrepreneurial software company. He has lived in Kentwood since 2009 and has just joined another new venture as a senior consultant. Jonathan also enjoys music, and his band plays regular gigs around Berkshire.

Mapledurham – Chris Burden. Chris, a business support professional and long standing resident of Caversham, takes an active interest in environmental and quality-of-life issues. A keen supporter of the Reading Tree Wardens, he has planted trees in Richfield Avenue, Christchurch Meadows, and Westfield Rec., and is involved with Caversham GLOBE.

Minster – Georgina Hughes. Georgina joined the Liberal Democrats to fight for a fairer society for us all. She is currently Chair of Greater Reading Liberal Democrats and commutes to London for her work in web development.

Norcot – Margaret McNeill. Margaret worked for many years in local government, so has lots of experience of how councils work.  Now retired, she takes an active interest in the community and wants residents to have a bigger say in what happens in their neighbourhood.

Park – Hoyte Swager. After having moved to Reading in 2008, Hoyte currently lives in Park near Cemetery Junction. Hoyte works in Dinton Pastures Country Park at the Hurst Golf Course as acting Head Greenkeeper and is studying for NVQ in Sports Turf.

Peppard – Mustafa Chaudhary. Mustafa was born in Reading and has lived in Caversham since 1978. His history of community activism speaks for itself. He has served as a trustee with Reading Voluntary Action, was a member of both Thames Valley Police IAG and Caversham NAG. He is currently Vice-Chair of Reading SACRE and a member of Reading Inter-Faith Group. Mustafa runs his own architectural practice.

Southcote – Dave Warren. Dave was born in Reading and has lived in the area ever since. A former postal worker he is now a tireless campaigner for carers rights and a community activist in Southcote.

Thames – Guy Penman.  Guy is a history graduate and works in London at The London Library. He has lived in Thames ward since 1974 and stood for election there in 2010. As well as being interested in maintaining and improving the provision of library services in Reading he is also concerned with such issues as community policing , public transport , planning  and the environment.

Whitley - Rebecca Chester. Becki is a former journalist who became interested in Liberal Democrat policies after working on the election campaign for the Bournemouth Daily Echo. Being a long-standing resident of Reading, Becki wants to ensure that decisions made regarding its community benefit all concerned.

Georgina Hughes, Chair of the Reading Liberal Democrats and Minster candidate said “With the announcement of our remaining candidates, the strength of our local team is clear. Our candidates offer a diverse range of talents and a great mixture of experience from across Reading along with the energy to deliver great things for our communities.”

Figures Reveal Bias in Road Repairs Spending

Statistics revealed by Reading Lib Dems obtained from Reading Borough Council’s Highways Department via a Freedom of Information Act request appear to show higher spending over the past year in wards with Labour councillors.

  • The top 5 wards by spend are all either completely Labour controlled or, in the case of Katesgrove, have one Labour Councillor and are looking to make it two.
  • 3 out of the bottom 5 wards are Conservative held, with 2 being jointly held by with either Lib Dems or Greens.
  • Little or no funding was spent in Kentwoood or Mapledurham (both Tory strongholds).

Commenting on the figures Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Cllr Ricky Duveen, said:

‘These figures appear to show a bias in spending decisions by the Labour controlled Council towards improving areas with Labour councillors. If so this is totally wrong.”

“Yes there may be more traffic on some town centre roads but that does not explain all these figures.”

“Spending should be on the basis of need not party politics.”

“The Labour Administration needs to explain these figures to the people of Reading.”

Upcoming Events

   September  2014 »
Events on September 15, 2014
  • Exec Committee meeting
    Starts: 7:30 pm
    Ends: September 15, 2014 - 9:30 pm
    Location: Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC), London Street, Reading, United Kingdom
Events on September 24, 2014
  • Fresher's Fayre
    Starts: 11:00 am
    Ends: September 24, 2014 - 5:00 pm
    Location: Reading University Students Union RUSU Reading, RG6 6AZ
Events on September 28, 2014
  • Liberal Drinks
    Starts: 7:30 pm
    Ends: September 28, 2014 - 10:30 pm
    Location: The Inn On The Park, The Pavillon, Woodford Park, Haddon Drive, Woodley, Reading, United Kingdom


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