Palmer Park Consultation

We welcome the publication of the RBC proposals to develop and improve the Palmer Park recreation complex, a major leisure facility for East Reading. You can find full details of the proposal on the Council’s website here. The consultation ends on Friday 22 February.

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Caversham buses underfunded by the Council - then cut

The bus services in Caversham keep getting cut on the grounds of unprofitability, but new information indicates that Reading Borough Council may be at least partially responsible for the funding shortfall.

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Two-thirds of plastic in packaging pots and trays unrecyclable

Manufacturers must scrap the “smorgasbord” of plastics which are used in packaging for key foods so that councils can reduce waste sent to landfill and increase recycling, local Lib Dems are warning.

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Latest figures show care crisis is getting worse, say local Lib Dems

A survey released by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), of councils across England has found that nearly one in three had seen home care services close or cease trading in the past six months, while slightly more had seen residential and nursing homes go under.

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Hospital admissions due to falls by older people set to reach nearly 1,000 a day, warn Lib Dems

Local Liberal Democrats have warned that the number of hospital admissions due to an older person falling, is set to rise to nearly 1,000 a day by the end of the decade.

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More than 423,000 homes with planning permission waiting to be built

More than 423,000 homes have been giving planning permission but are still waiting to be built, according to new research published by the Local Government Association.

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£3.5 Billion Right-To-Buy 'Firesale' threatens socially rented council housing

Liberal Democrats are warning that the number of homes still owned by Reading Borough Council is continuing to fall.

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National roads receiving 52 times more government funding than Reading’s roads

Ricky Duveen with a pothole.

It has been revealed that the Conservative Government’s funding for local roads maintained by Reading Borough Council will be cut by £287,000 in the next year.

Liberal Democrat campaigner, Ricky Duveen, is calling for the Conservative Government to reverse its funding cuts to Reading’s road maintenance budget and to tackle the difference in funding it provides for national and local roads, so that councils can tackle the £12 billion repair bill to bring our local roads up to scratch.

And across the country, national roads – motorways and major trunk roads – will receive 52 times more government funding per mile by 2020, compared to local roads maintained by councils.

New analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) reveals the Government plans to spend £1.1 million per mile to maintain its strategic road network between 2015 and 2020. In comparison, it will provide councils with just £21,000 per mile for the local roads they maintain over the same period.

This is despite an increase in the number of cars travelling on local roads, average speeds falling and local roads making up 98 per cent of the country’s road network.

There are now 125 cars per mile on our roads compared to just 101 cars per mile in 2000. Councils say this is ratcheting up the pressure on local transport, causing congestion and road maintenance issues such as potholes, wear-down of road markings, and increasing general wear and tear.

Many people are now calling on the Government to deliver a radical new strategy to provide a fully-funded plan for the growing number of vehicles on the nation’s roads. The LGA believes this should include reinvesting two pence per litre of existing fuel duty into local road maintenance, which would generate £1 billion a year for councils to spend on improving roads and filling potholes.

Ricky said: “Local Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for Reading Borough Council to do more to fill in potholes on our local roads. The Government also needs to do far more to help councils with long term funding, to help motorists and cyclists up and down the country.

“The Conservative Government must reverse funding cuts to roads in Reading.

“It is also wrong that funding for local roads is miles behind that of the strategic road network. Very few journeys begin and end on a motorway or trunk road. Spending 52 times more on improving our national roads while starving local roads of investment will only serve to speed vehicles up between increased delays and congestion on local roads.

“Our local roads form vital arteries for our communities. But with almost 30 per cent more cars now on the nation’s roads than in 2000, they are under more pressure than ever before.”


Anger over increase in green bin charges

Ricky Duveen with a green bin.

Those of you with gardens will remember that when the council introduced charging for green bin collections there was a great deal of anger at the level of charge being imposed. Almost all those (some 16,000 residents) with green bins paid the new £50 charge. The council had forecast that only 8,000 residents would pay up, giving an income of nearly £400k to cover the £300k cost of providing the service plus a small margin for error. Some residents prefer to use the cheaper green bags rather than bins.

The council are now proposing to raise the green in collection charge to £60 to rake in some £850k annually from next year when the cost of providing the service has barely changed, at £300k. The eagle-eyed amongst will have spotted that the council are using their residents as cash cows to make a profit of over £500k on their green bin service.

I wonder what Labour councillors would have said if they saw a private firm whack up their charges for a monopoly service and treat their customers with utter contempt. What howls of anger and indignation would have poured forth!

Unsurprisingly, when they introduced the £50 charge in 2016, the Labour councillors did not mention the making of excessive profits from green bin collections but instead talked of covering their costs. Would Labour councillors now explain to us, the residents of Reading, how they justify putting up the costs of a monopoly service that already makes a hefty profit.

Lastly, isn’t it strange how this story breaks just after the local elections and not before!


Support grows for licensing bill to establish national database of taxi drivers

Taxis

Support is growing for a legal register that ensures local authorities are in the know about drivers seeking a licence in their areas, despite previously being banned or refused a licence elsewhere.

Councils have led the way on this issue, developing a voluntary database of licence refusals and revocations, and are backing the bill’s call for this register to become mandatory.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has consistently called for a taxi licensing regime “fit for the 21st Century” and believes that this bill could be an essential first step towards updating Britain’s outdated and unfit-for-purpose licensing laws for taxis.

Local Liberal Democrat campaigner James Moore said: “Some taxi laws date back to 1847 and the era of horse-drawn hackney carriages, and the current patchwork of outdated laws leaves councils with restricted powers to enforce taxi licensing requirements in their area.”

In particular, if a driver has been banned or refused in a particular area, it is difficult for councils to be able to stop that person from gaining a licence somewhere else if the driver does not disclose their previous history. The LGA is hoping this new bill will make it easier for local authorities to share this information, building on the register that the LGA has already commissioned.

The Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill 2017-19 is due to continue it's second reading in October, and will extend safeguarding measures to taxi drivers. The Bill will require authorities to record all refusals and revocations on a national register, as well as requiring them to cross-reference new applications against the register, to stop rogue drivers securing licences elsewhere.

Alongside safeguarding worries, the LGA has concerns that a failure to update cab legislation:

  • Takes no account of the increase in app-based taxi services such as Hailo, Uber, and other companies, which has led to concern over how new models fit within the outdated framework and results in legal challenges which are costly and disruptive for councils, residents, and industry.
  • Has opened the floodgates for drivers operating across licensing authority borders, with councils unable to take enforcement action against taxi drivers licensed by other local authorities, even if they are operating in their areas.
  • Has undermined the level playing field between different parts of the cab industry and drivers licensed in different areas.

As a result, the LGA is throwing its support behind the bill which it says will help protect both passengers and reputable drivers.

James added: “This bill would be a positive first step towards the licensing regime for taxis that is desperately needed for the 21st Century”.

CASE STUDIES

Councils do all they can to prosecute those who break the law, and several successful examples of councils doing so are below. However, the LGA is concerned that the lack of updated legislation means successful prosecutions are just the tip of an iceberg, and the below examples illustrate the seriousness of the need for more updated legislation.

Walsall Council had to take action against a man who impersonated his brother in order to obtain a taxi driver’s licence. Between 7 February and 16 March 2017, Moshin Zeb carried out over 500 pre-booked taxi journeys for profit, despite being uninsured and disqualified from driving. A member of the public tipped off the council and under questioning from local licensing officers discovered Zeb had been fraudulently using his brother’s identity. Zeb was charged, found guilty, and sentenced to 28 months for 5 counts of fraud. He was also disqualified from driving for 3 years and 6 months.

Wealden District Council brought action against a man who was operating an unlicensed taxi service that faced numerous complaints regarding a poor level of service, including many people left stranded and out of pocket from a failure to arrive to pre-booked appointments and airport runs. Despite having his taxi licence revoked and repeated council warnings, Ashley Hussey continued to drive his unlicensed taxi, and trade as “Village Cars”, with his vehicle logged in the vicinity of Gatwick Airport on more than 80 separate occasions. The Council were able to bring action against Mr Hussey, and he was disqualified from driving for 18 months and fined £4,700.


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