The Church Ward election newsletter is available online to read from the below link.
JMA Principal Laura Ellener has confirmed that JMA will continue to provide sixth form education to students of South Reading. Ashley recently asked the lead Cllr for education at a Full Council meeting:
Can the Lead Councillor for Education update us on the rumoured possibility that the John Madejski Academy in South Reading is considering the restructure and redundancy programme that would lead to the sixth form being “mothballed” ?
REPLY by Councillor Jones Lead Councillor for Education.
The John Madejski Academy is managed by the White Horse Federation Trust, a multi academy trust based in Swindon.
It has recently emerged that the trust has being considering a range of options to reduce costs. These include “mothballing” the sixth form and ending the academy’s elite sporting programme – a notable strength of the school which has been singled out for praise by Ofsted. Over the last few months, they have been working to plan the very best future for the school.
Despite the serious financial situation facing the academy, the Trust has confirmed that, with support from the government, JMA is going to be able to continue to offer education from 11 through to 18.
Their ambition is to ensure that over the coming months and years, they build on the good recent improvements to enable students to thrive from 11-16. They are also committed to work on enhancing the range of choices for students from 16 to 18 to study a range of academic, vocational, and sport-based education.
The Trust has confirmed its view that JMA’s role in the local community is of vital importance.
Any significant change to provision in the future will involve wide consultation with all stakeholders and, as a Council, we will clearly be central to these consultations due to our statutory responsibilities for pupil place planning.
Ashley asked the following question at this weeks Council meeting regarding health care funding in South Reading:
It was reported last year that the South Reading CCG saw a rapid increase in the number of patients registered at GP surgeries, up from 129,945 to 144,066 or over 10%. With the South Reading CCG still the most underfunded in the whole of the UK, can the Lead Councillor update us with what measures are being taken to help improve health services in South Reading?
REPLY by Councillor Hoskin Lead Councillor for Health.
NHS colleagues confirm that in 2017/18 South Reading was the lowest funded Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in the country. In 2018/19 the new Berkshire West CCG which covers Reading will be the second lowest funded CCG in the country, with Oxfordshire being the lowest. Berkshire West CCG will also be £25m below its target allocation based on national funding formula. So not only does Reading lose out on a national funding formula that doesn’t properly take into account the health deprivation challenges Reading faces but we are even funded considerably below even that.
It is my view that Reading’s patients and NHS staff are particularly let down by government underfunding. Without action to save money and cut services our local NHS planning area of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire West faced a funding shortfall of just under half a billion pounds (£495,176) by 2020. Staffing shortages are another major concern. The impacts of shambolic Brexit negotiations are now being strongly felt across the NHS. In the 12 months following the referendum nearly 10,000 European Economic Area national quit the NHS, up 22% on the previous year, whilst recruitment has plummeted. In our NHS planning area of Oxfordshire, Bucks and Berkshire West there over 1,000 nursing post vacancies.
It is a tremendous credit to the dedication and hard work of local NHS staff that local NHS services perform relatively well compared to the country as a whole. Despite the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) recording its worst A&E waiting times ever, nearly a fifth of patients waited more than four hours for treatment last winter the RBH is rated “Outstanding” by the CQC and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust “Good”. These are tremendous achievements is such difficult circumstances and I am sure the whole council joins me in congratulating local NHS staff.
This council takes very seriously its role in working closely with the NHS in order to support local services to our residents. Working together and with the voluntary sector we are helping to keep people well and out of hospital and for the last two full years, Berkshire West has been in the top 4% in the country for emergency admissions to hospital.
On Thursday May 3rd, local elections will be taking place across Reading including here in Church Ward. This is your chance to send a message to the Government to end their reckless Austerity regime. This Government has presided over real terms pay cuts to our teachers, police officers, nurses and care staff. This has seen fewer teachers in our classrooms, the worst winter performance in A&E at the Royal Berks and fewer police officers patrolling our streets. All this whilst the national debt has rocketed and real wages across the country have fallen. Austerity has failed and it’s time to change.
Here in Reading we have seen our Council’s budget from central Government cut by over 90%, stretching our resources to breaking point. The huge majority of your Council tax money goes on caring for our elderly, schooling your children and looking after the most vulnerable in society. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do this with the Government’s severe budget cuts to Reading, whilst wealthier Tory run Council’s such as West Berks and Wokingham see smaller cuts. There are many other things we would love to do as a Council but this Government is making it impossible.
Reading Council still has much to be proud of over the last few years, with a successful school expansion plan including Reading Girls School and Ridgeway Primary here in Church Ward, the works to develop the new community hub on Northumberland Avenue with the relocated library, café and meeting spaces, Academy Sport has seen its facilities upgraded and funding for Green Park station secured. We want to do more but we need a Labour Government to achieve this.
Due to one of our Councillors standing down, you have TWO VOTES in May’s local elections. Cllr Ashley Pearce will be seeking re-election and says “I have been a Councillor for 4 years & it has been a privilege to serve this community. I have engaged with residents, helped residents & spoken up for residents. If re-elected I will continue to be the residents voice on the Council.”
Candidate Ruth McEwan is looking forward to the challenge, she says “I look forward to working with all residents in Church Ward, getting to know people in the area and listening to their concerns. I will use my experience from my community and charity work to build links and relationships across the community.”
Use your TWO VOTES on Thursday May 3rd to elect Labour’s Ashley Pearce & Ruth McEwan.
- Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 7th April from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
- Ward walk: Ashley and candidate Ruth McEwan will be walking the Ward to spot any issues and speak to any residents on Tuesday 3rd April in the early afternoon.
- Planning meeting: This months planning committee of which Ashley is a member, will take place on Wednesday 4th April at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
- ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Ashley will be in attendance and chairing the meeting on Thursday 5th April at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
- Ridgeway Full Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the Full Governors meeting at the school on Thursday 26th April at 7pm at Ridgeway.
- Church Ward Rose and Reading Banner delivery: The latest editions of the local Labour party newsletter and the Church Ward Rose will be delivered through doors this month, informing residents about local election issues.
- Canvassing: Doors on Alandale & Wentworth will be knocked to ask residents concerns on at 12.30pm on Wednesday 4th April, Shinfield Road on Thursday 5th at 12.30pm, Hollydale & Wheatley on Friday 6th at 12.30pm, Axbridge & Torrington on Saturday 7th at 11am, Windermere on Monday 9th at 12.30pm, Barnsdale on Friday 13th at 12.30pm, Cressingham Road on Wednesday 11th at 5.30pm, Whitley Wood Road on Saturday 14th at 11am, Hartland Road on Thursday 19th at 5pm, Northcourt Avenue on Saturday 20th at 11am and Cherry Grove on Saturday 27th at 11am.
- Reading youth Council event: Get involved, get voting. Event to inform young people about Reading Youth Council and give an insight into the work of local councils, councillors, and MPs. Tuesday 3rd April, 5.30pm at Civic centre.
- WCDA: Remember the Whitley £1m- open evening showcasing current and future projects of Whitley community development association and the lottery money on Wednesday 11th April at 6.30pm at Whitley Cafe.
I have had the privilege of serving this community for four years, I have met hundreds and hundreds of residents, all with different stories to tell and issues to help solve. I have attended many resident meetings and fun days, as well as knocking on countless doors all year round. Unlike some, we campaign and listen all the time, not just at election time or for a photo.
I was born in Whitley and being able to give something back over the last few years has brought me great joy. I attended Geoffrey Field Junior School, and worked at Ryeish Green secondary School until a Tory Council closed it to save money. I have been a teacher at a secondary comprehensive for ten years and have been a Governor at Ridgeway Primary School for over 5 years. Education matters to me. Giving kids the best start in life can’t and shouldn’t be done on the cheap as this Government is attempting. We have excellent Primary schools here in South Reading but we know we have work to do with our secondary’s to improve provision. New head’s and sponsors have already started this process and I will do all I can to help this along.
I have been involved in some tough decision making at the Council that this Government’s reckless Austerity regime forced us into. I did not come into politics to cut public services, and a Labour Government will restore public provision to the levels it should be. Nevertheless, we have still managed many improvements in the area, including refurbishing local schools, creating the new Community and library hub as well as the renovations of Academy sport. I also personally oversee the creation of the South Reading calendar every 6 months, which I hope has helped bring people together and keep them informed of local events. Your voice matters and we will do all we can to support it.
I recently got married and like most people my age, will be looking to start a family and get on the housing ladder. Like everyone else I want fair wages and job security for me and my wife. I want more affordable housing that would shorten the time we’ve had to save for a gigantic deposit. I want good local schools and facilities for my family that are funded fairly.
I hope I have done enough over the past four years to merit another four years to help serve your wonderful community. I have enclosed a postal vote form in case you wish to make voting in the local elections easier. Vote Labour and Ashley Pearce on May 3rd.
I asked the following question at this week’s Full Council meeting to Cllr Jones, the lead Cllr for Education:
The latest edition of the Church Ward Rose with news of recent activity across the Ward will be delivered to all households in March. It can be viewed on the link below.
Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 3rd March from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
Planning meeting: This months planning committee of which Ashley is a member, will take place on Wednesday 7th March at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
Full Council meeting: A budget for the Council’s next year will be proposed on Tuesday 27th March at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
Church Ward Rose delivery: The latest edition of the local Labour party newsletter the Church Ward Rose will be delivered through doors this month and can be viewed elsewhere on this website.
Canvassing: Doors on Cherry Grove will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Saturday 10th March at 10.30am, Foxhays Road on Sunday 11th March at 11am and Winton Road on Saturday 31st March at 11am.
Reading half marathon: Thousands of athletes and fun runners will be running through South Reading for the annual half marathon on Sunday 21st March, starting at 10am.
Reading Borough Council unanimously (all parties, all Councillors) agreed a motion put forward by me in January asking for Councils to be able to borrow to build homes and that all right to buy receipts should be kept to reinvest in housing stock.
I today received this response Reading Borough Council response letter 21 Feb 2018
As expected from this Government, no real response with smoke and mirrors leaving our housing crisis to get worse. Also not a surprise that housing Secretary Sajid Javid, doesn’t really care about Reading’s housing crisis. This is a man who was a director of his brothers £11m buy to let company and who is a landlord himself, he plays an active role on restricting housing supply. His voting record also shows he voted to phase out secure tenancies for the very poorest and voted against a bill that would have ensured properties were fit for human habitation.
The response is short, non specific and dismssisve, much like Tory housing policy. “Local authorities will be able to bid for increases in their caps”. Translated, we’ve kicked this into the long grass and we may help out some of our Tory mates in Surrey. “An additional £2bn to deliver more affordable housing at social rents”. Not quite what Housing Minister Dominic Raab said this week on his “ultras” WhatsApp group when he called for all social housing to be sold off. “You also proposed that local authorities keep all of the money received from right to buy”. At this point the response may as well say F off. But the Tory record on right to buy record is pretty appalling, between July 2016 and June 2017, 12,383 were sold but only 4813 were built. Or in other words, a 62% loss in affordable social housing.
The house price bubble suits the Tories, it suits the landlords amongst them and all of their landlord friends. The entire economic house of cards is built upon the inflated prices remaining high. They have no real interest in increasing the supply via building social housing, ending land banking or speeding up planning permission. Only Labour will do this. Every Tory policy is all about increasing demand (Help to Buy, Cutting stamp duty, help to buy ISA). This may help a few of the current generation get on the housing ladder but more importantly keeps the bubble in tact. A 1945 style approach to our housing crisis is needed, and Jeremy Corbyn will provide it.
The South Reading Leisure centre has re-opened after major improvement works. More can be read on the Council’s website
This month, one of South Reading’s secondary schools found a new sponsor in the White horse foundation. As an academy school, John Madejski academy is not run by the local authority but a multi academy trust who over see numerous schools in the area.
Laura Ellener, the principal, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all of the students families and staff at JMA, and will further accelerate our progress to becoming outstanding. “TWHF’s ambitions and values closely align with our own and so this collaboration was an obvious choice.
“We are looking forward to becoming part of TWHF family, continuing to create an exceptional educational community and achieving all the possibilities and opportunities that this will bring.”
TWHF currently supports 20 primary, secondary and special schools across Oxfordshire, Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. JMA will be its first venture in Berkshire. There website can be found below:
The Reading Banner, the Labour party cross town newsletter will be delivered to all households in Church Ward over the next month. It includes stories on health, housing and education.
Tonight at the Councils planning applications committee, Reading Universities application to demolish and rebuild St.Patricks Court with a potential increase of 650 students was turned down.
Councillors and MP Matt Rodda have engaged with local residents and the University over a long period of time to listen to the desires and concerns of each.
- Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 3rd February from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
- Planning meeting: This months planning committee including the St.Patricks hall application will take place on Wednesday 7th February at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
- Canvassing: Doors on Tamarisk Avenue & Hillbrow will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Thursday 8th February at 5.30pm and Blagdon Road on Saturday 11th February at 11am.
- Full Council meeting: Ashley will be asking a question regarding secondary school provision as well as other business on Wednesday 28th February at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
- Ridgeway Full Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the second Full Governors meeting of the school year on Thursday 8th February at 7pm at Ridgeway school.
- Reading Banner delivery: The latest edition of the Reading wide Labour party newsletter the Reading Banner will be delivered through doors this month and can be viewed elsewhere on this website
- Reading Council Big event: This years RBC big event will focus on ways to tackle loneliness in Reading. It will take place on Wednesday 21st February at the town hall from 5-8pm.
- Labour AMM: The Labour All members meeting will take place on Thursday 22nd February at the Civic centre at 8pm.
- Ridgeway parents evening: Ashley will be meeting parents in his role as Chair of Governors on Thursday 22nd February at 6pm.
At this month’s Full council meeting I will be submitting the following motion for discussion:
“This Council notes:
The average monthly rent in Reading is now over £1000 a month (valuation office agency)
The average house price in Reading is over £300,000 (according to the Land Registry)
The earnings to house price ratio in Reading is now 10:1.
The average house deposit in the UK is £33,960 and in Reading this is much higher (Halifax)
Reading Council is doing all it can to ease the housing crisis with the Homes for Reading company and the building of new Council houses including at Conwy Close.
This Council resolves to write to Housing Minister Sajid Javid to ask if he will support the Local Government association campaign that asks to enable Councils to:
Allow Councils to borrow to invest.
To keep all of the money received from the sale of homes on right to buy.
To use this and other funding to reinvest in building new homes that are good quality and affordable.”
I hope that this is able to gain cross party support as it is an issue in Reading that needs urgent action and spans party political lines. It supports a local Government campaign (again, cross party) that calls for local Councils to be able to borrow to build and help us solve our housing crisis.
Teresa May visited a first time buyer in Wokingham earlier this month which was reported on in Get Reading. Some of the kinder comments included: “How old is this first time buyer? 58?”, “first time buyer from a wealthy family who chucked 50 grand at them” and “First time buyers? Do they still exist?”
The number of first time buyers has dropped by nearly 250,000 in 20 years, the average age of home ownership has risen and the deposit needed is now somewhere in the region of £50,000. Without the bank of mum and dad, many people are unable to even entertain the idea and have simply given up on the prospect of home ownership. This has led to many people moving out of the area all together. For someone that has spent all of their life in Reading, seeing people having to up sticks due to housing costs is deeply saddening.
The tinkering in the budget was not enough, the crisis is now and needs immediate action to remedy it, not vague promises and targets that are tied to some artificial goal post. If Councils were able to borrow to build homes, for real people and families, not buy to let landlords for profit, then a future revenue stream or asset sale is created for the Council. An asset is on the books and welfare bills fall from lower housing benefits and B&B accommodation. It really is a win win situation.
The Conservative leader of Norfolk district Council John Fuller said after the budget that the opportunity to “Fully lift” the cap on local authorities ability to borrow and build has been missed. I hope that he is wrong, that this motion will pass and that housing Minister Sajid Javid will press for this change and help the residents of Reading.