Reading Liberal Democrats



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Lib Dems Launch: “Six to Fix” campaign ahead of Local Elections on 5 May.

Manifesto Launch 2011

Paul Burstow MP, Minister for Care Services has helped launch Reading Lib Dems manifesto for the upcoming local elections.

Launching the Lib Dems to “Six to Fix” Cllr Kirsten Bayes, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Reading Borough Council said:

“This year the Council has been forced to live within its means as a result of Labour’s mismanagement of the public finances both locally and nationally.”

“Despite tough decisions as a result of having to make £19 million pounds worth of savings, unlike many Labour-controlled councils here in Reading we have kept libraries, children’s centres and leisure facilities open and increased funding to the voluntary sector.”

“Letting Labour run the Council again is not worth the risk. Only the Lib Dems can ensure that key services are protected”

Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader Cllr Daisy Benson said:

“The Lib Dems working in coalition have cut Labour’s wasteful spending of Council Tax Payer’s money on schemes that don’t deliver for local people ,and frozen Council Tax for the first time in many years.”

“But we recognise there is still much to do to improve services for people who live in Reading.”

“The Lib Dems will continue to focus resources on delivering better services and better outcomes for residents.”

“Six to Fix” in Reading

1. Cut waste, Protect services and keep taxes low

  • We will work to cut waste in the Town Hall to get the best deal for local taxpayers.
  • We will continue to promote to increase transparency in decision-making and spending.
  • We will focus resources on protecting vital services valued by local people.
  • We will continue to consult residents on key budget decisions.
  • We will work to keep Council Tax as low as possible.

2. Protect services to the vulnerable

  • We will ensure the most vulnerable children and adults in Reading get the support they need.
  • We will invest in preventative services and intermediate care to help keep older people stay healthy and independent.
  • We will work with the voluntary and community sector to help all residents get the most out of life.
  • Carers in Reading are unsung heroes. We will prioritise respite care and services for carers to help them live fulfilling lives.

3. A cleaner & Greener Reading:

  • This year 12 local centres will receive a deep clean after years of neglect by Labour. Going forward we will ensure that local shopping areas are not overlooked in favour of the town centre.
  • Reducing fly-tipping, litter and graffiti remains a priority for the Lib Dems and we will use the tools and powers available to the Council to keep local areas clean and green.
  • We will look to increase the range of materials residents can recycle on the doorstep wherever possible.
  • We will promote schemes and initiatives that help residents cut carbon emissions and fuel bills in their own homes.
  • We will actively promote walking and cycling to reduce carbon emissions and ease congestion.
  • We will work and improve rail transport, including Reading Station upgrade.
  • We will fix pot-holes and continue to invest in improving roads and pavements in Reading after years of Labour underinvestment.

4. Cutting crime in Reading

  • We will work with local Police teams, Neighbourhood Action Groups and residents to keep cutting crime in our neighbourhoods.
  • We will invest in the voluntary and community sector to build capable communities.

5. Giving children and young people the best start in life

  • We will increase local apprenticeships to improve the life chances of all young people
  • We will work hard to ensure all children achieve their full potential by investing funding via the Pupil Premium.
  • 1 in 5 children live in poverty in Reading as a result of Labour’s failed policies while in government and at local level. We will prioritise activities at neighbourhood level which reduce the impact of poverty on children.
  • We will protect services to vulnerable children and young people.

6. Better housing and decent neighbourhoods for all

  • Increasing the supply of affordable housing, particularly family-sized homes will continue to be a top priority.
  • We will maintain lifetime tenancies for Council Tenants and continue to invest in Council-owned homes.
  • We will continue to invest in estate areas and neighbourhoods across Reading via our unique Decent Neighbourhoods Fund.
  • We will work with landlords to improve standards and tackle poor standard in the private rented sector.
  • We will continue to take action to reduce the number of empty homes in Reading.

Council ’100% committed’ to protecting rights of Council tenants – ‘no plans’ to introduce fixed term tenancies in Reading

Consultation document

Responding to the Government’s Consultation on the Future of Social Housing, Cllr Daisy Benson, Lead Member for Housing on Reading Borough Council said:

“Council housing is a vitally important public asset and we welcome the opportunity to take part in the the national debate on the future of social housing launched recently by the Coalition Government .”
“The reality we face in Reading is the demand for social housing to rent vastly outstrips supply.

“This is as a direct result of number of factors including high house prices, a net reduction in council housing stock through Right To Buy, and crucially the failure of the previous Labour Government’s  build new council housing over the past 13 years.”

“The Coalition Administration of Reading Borough Council is 100% committed to working alongside tenants and their representatives to protect the rights of existing Council tenants, as well as ensuring all local residents have fair access to Council housing.

“We have considered the Government’s proposals carefully and plan to continue to continue to offer lifetime tenancies to existing tenants and new tenants.”

“We have no plans to introduce so-called ‘fixed term’ tenancies as we feel the negative impacts these could have on tenants and communities outweigh the potential benefits.””We agree with the Government that all decisions about council housing and tenancies should be taken locally by elected councillors in consultation with tenants and residents and this reinforces our commitment to putting residents first.

“This is in stark contrast with the years of micromanagement of council housing by the previous Labour government.”

Link to Government consultation: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/socialhousingreform

Key elements from our consultation response:

  • We strongly welcome the protection of security of tenure and other rights for existing tenants, including when they move. This will be especially important for under occupying tenants seeking a move, particularly when the housing benefit restrictions commence in April 2013.
  • We also welcome the duty on Local Authorities to set the strategic policy for tenancies for social landlords in their area as they are best equipped with knowledge of local circumstances.
  • We hope that this will also provide the opportunity to encourage social housing providers to continue to contribute, through their tenancy policies, to sustainable and thriving communities.
  • In the Reading context we will continue to offer lifetime tenancies or homes to those who may need the security of these and would not foresee any circumstances whereby we would change the tenancy type or rights of existing tenants (including those who move home within our stock) and strongly support the continued provision of lifetime guarantees of a social home for rent through the Tenancy Standard for older people and people with long term illness or disability
    In principle we agree that there should be some freedom to offer flexible tenancies. Used responsibly and appropriately they may assist in meeting shorter or fixed term housing needs for particular households.
  • However we recognise the challenges of ensuring that these new freedoms and flexibilities can be used creatively to best meet local needs and priorities while avoiding the risks of revolving door homelessness, residulisation of older and disabled tenants, disincentivising people from improving their circumstances for fear of losing their home and limiting the opportunities for a wide range of people to put down roots and contribute to a sustainable, mixed, community.
  • It will be important to have the time to fully consult with tenants and local stakeholders, using up to date housing needs and market information to inform the debates, on setting both the strategic policy for tenancies in our area and our own tenancy policy. (It is of concern that this will not be possible to complete before Housing Associations will have had to set their policies on the use of Affordable Rented homes for April 2011).
  • We will want to ensure that these policies balance the key strategic demands of relieving the most pressing housing need, making best use of stock, providing long term settled accommodation for those who need it and shorter term support for those who may be able to move on. It will be important to look too at the strategic needs for the wider area housing market and to collaborate in ensuring that one local authorities policies do not cause a ‘push’ of residents to another area.
  • We suggest that it might be appropriate for landlords to be required to agree with their tenants a review period for their Tenancy policy and that its impact and operation is reported to and scrutinised by tenants to inform that review.
  • We strongly welcome the investment in bringing the very difficult empty homes back into use and support the New homes Bonus (NHB) being applied to empty homes.
  • We strongly welcome the reform of the Housing Revenue Account as a means to provide a sound and sustainable platform for Council Housing and the move to true self financed balance sheets.
  • The proposed reform will enable tenants and Councils to develop a strategic relationship that is not subject to micro-management from the Treasury and means that Councils will (in consultation with tenants) be able to develop much longer term business planning and asset management strategies.
  • The ability to take local and meaningful decision about how the rent yield is spent is an important step towards localism and will encourage place based budgeting
To speak to Cllr Daisy Benson call 07766157857

Councillor welcomes plans to reduce Housing tenancy fraud in Reading

A report to Reading Borough Council’s Community Care, Housing and Health Scrutiny Panel this evening (7 December) has revealed that following concerns initially raised by Cllr Daisy Benson and anti-fraud officers, the Council is  taking a more robust approach to identifying and reducing housing tenancy fraud in Council housing in Reading.

This is already paying dividends with 21 potential frauds investigated and a number of properties re-let.

Endorsing the findings of the report, Cllr Daisy Benson, Lead Member for Housing on Reading Borough Council said:

“I raised serious questions in 2009 about the robustness of the Council’s procedures in relation to tracking and cracking down on potential housing tenacy fraud after nationally it was revealed that illegal tenancy fraud is rife in many towns and cities.”

“I am pleased to see as a result of the concerns I raised the Council is now taking a more robust approach including raising awareness with staff and Council tenants to identify fraud and get action taken.”

“People who fraduently sub-let Council properties are defrauding the public purse and putting additional, unwanted pressure on Council housing in Reading which is already  in high demand.

“The cost to the Council of every fraud is estimated at £11,000 which equals the cost of putting up families in temporary accomodation.”

“This is wholly unacceptable and the Coalition Administration of Reading Borough Council is committed to taking further steps to identifying potential fraud and action against offenders.

“This is in stark contrast to the complacent approach of the previous Labour administration which could have cost taxpayers dear.”

For more details about the actions taken by the Council since March 2010 please view the housing fraud report.

Lib Dem councillors on Reading Borough Council have expressed support for the ‘Vision for Social Care’ unveiled by Lib Dem Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow MP.

The vision is about making services more personalised, more preventative and more focused on delivering the best outcomes for those who use them.

It encourages care and support to be delivered in a partnership between individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, the NHS and councils – including wider support services, such as housing.

The vision sets out a new agenda for adult social care based on a power shift from the state to the citizen, by committing to:

  • Extend the rollout of personal budgets
  • Increase preventative action in local communities,
  • Keeping people independent and helping to build the Big Society
  • Break down barriers between health and social care funding
  • Encouraging care and support to be delivered in a partnership between individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, the NHS and councils – including wider support

Welcoming the plans, Cllr Kirsten Bayes, Deputy Leader of Reading Borough Council said:

“The Coalition Government has demonstrated its clear commitment to supporting carers and vulnerable people and that is very welcome.”

“These proposals will help us to support older and disabled people in Reading – and their carers, to live more independent lives.”

Cllr Daisy Benson, Lead Member for Community Care added:

“The vision is built on two key reforms that Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for many years.”

“The first is that people – not institutions- will have control over their care. By extending the roll out of personal budgets, first proposed by the Liberal Democrats in 2004, we will give individuals the freedom to decide what their money is spent on.

“The Coalition Government’s vision for social care will also deliver on our Party’s manifesto commitment to provide respite care to carers by making additional funding available  for this specific purpose.”

Cllr Daisy Benson welcomes new incentives for councils to act on empty homes

Cllr Daisy Benson outside a former empty home

Cllr Daisy Benson, Lead Member for Housing on Reading Borough Council has welcomed the Coalition Government’s announcement that it plans to reward councils that bring empty homes in their area back into use as part of the New Homes Bonus.

  • The Department for Communities and Local Government has launched a consultation on the proposed New Homes Bonus.
  • Through the New Homes Bonus, the Government proposes to strengthen the incentive for local authorities to identify empty properties and work with property owners to find innovative solutions that allow these properties to be brought back into use.
  • The Government is proposing to reward local authorities for bringing empty properties back into use through the New Homes Bonus
  • The measures include counting refurbished empty houses as additional housing supply, the same as new build.

Cllr Benson commented,

“I am pleased that in line with the Coalition  Agreement the Government is putting policies in place which will help councils not only build more much needed affordable and socially rented housing, but will also tackle the important issue of empty homes.”

“Homes that are unoccupied for long periods  are a blight on our neighbourhoods and represent an unnecessary waste of resources when demand for housing in our area is high.”

“Locally the Lib Dems led the campaign to get Reading Borough Council to bring long-term empty properties back into use after Labour neglected the problem for years.”

“In recent months  long-term empty properties across the Town have been brought back into use by the council working in partnership with landlords – including properties in prominent positions in London Road (Alexandra House) and Christchurch Road (pictured).”

“It’s right that councils should be incentivised for every home they bring back into use in this way as the system set up by the previous Labour government provides no real incentives for councils to act.”

“Tackling the problem of empty homes is one of the things we must do to help meet the demand for housing in our Reading.”

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Events on July 27, 2014
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