Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
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Events calendar

The latest edition of the South Reading events calendar will be delivered to thousands of residents in South Reading later this month. The calendar, now into its 3rd year collates events from South Reading into one place. These include schools, arts, football and religious as well as others. The calendar is funded and delivered by Church Ward Labour party and delivered free of charge to households.

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Universal credit set to hit Reading families hard at Christmas

Universal Credit will replace Child Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credits, rolling them into one single payment. It is due to be rolled out in Reading from 6 December 2017.

Matt Rodda MP recently spoke out against it in Parliament which can be read here. Many families in Church Ward will be hit by the clumsy and ill timed nature of these changes and we urge the Government even at this late hour to think again.

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December events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 2nd December from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee meeting including some involving Church Ward will take place on Wednesday 6th December at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors were we discuss local issues will take place on Saturday 2nd December at 12pm at The Whitley cafe.
  • Northcourt Avenue Waiting restrictions consultation: Councillors continue to get views on the proposed waiting restrictions in the Avenue. We will be out on Saturday 9th December at 11am to canvass residents views.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Church Ward Cllrs Eileen and Ashley will be in attendance as Chair & Vice Chair respectively on Tuesday 12th December at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Carols by candlelight-Ashley will be attending local homeless charity Launchpad’s Carol service at Minster church on Thursday 7th December at 7pm.
  • Canvassing: Doors on Ashburton Road will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Saturday December 2nd at 10.30am.
  • Ridgeway school Christmas markets: Ashley will be attending these in his role of Chair of Governors on Friday 8th Dec from 2-4pm.
  • St.Barbarus Christmas service: Ashley will be attending and doing a reading at the service on Sunday 10th December at 6pm.
  • South Reading calendar: The latest version of the popular South Reading calendar with lots of dates for local events will be delivered to every household in the ward. If you have any feedback on this please contact us.
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Work to start on South Reading community hub

Eileen, Paul & Ashley at the community centre.

Building works required to create the South Reading Community Hub is about to commence. From Monday 4thDecember 2017 through to May 2018 building alterations and improvement works will take place and include the following:

  • Relocating Whitley Library to the right hand side of the Centre; the existing library will continue to remain open whilst building works are taking place at the South Reading Community Hub to create a new Library
  • Improving access and the  building frontage, signage and forecourt
  • Relocation and upgrade of the Centre kitchen
  • Improve the toilet facilities
  • Modifying the Youth Centre and adding a new dedicated outdoor play area to enable the Children’s Centre to operate from this space during the day (including offering adult learning) whilst still allowing the space to be used for youth/hire at other times. This makes better use of the youth club and makes the children’s centre more visible and provides a better space to run activities from.
  • Maintaining comparable space for hire with a new meeting room formed to compensate for the library moving into a meeting space.
  • Providing a new office for shared use by RBC staff and partners

The Centre will continue to be open over the period of construction for the use of the Nursey, Children Centre and Cafe only where no major building works is scheduled to take place. No bookings will be taken for community hire over this period.

We have worked with the Nursery and Children Centre to provide alternative safe access for its staff and users into the building. Whilst the Café will continue to use its existing main entrance for most of the construction period.

The works to provide 6 car parking spaces at the Well Centre replacing the loss of the 3 car parking spaces in front of the Centre is now complete.

Display boards to inform the community about the start of the works at the Centre and Whitley Library and regular progress updates will be provided to the community over construction period as well.

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Hammond’s crumbs from the table

The crumbs from the budget table. That’s what I thought when listening to the budget delivered by the robotic spreadsheet known as Philip Hammond.
First all of the Macro (big stuff). Erm, well it’s bad. Economic growth (what the country produces) forecasts were out. Well out. In fact they will be a quarter worse than we predicted. Imagine that for your household budgets?! Thought your wage was going to be £1000 a month but was actually £750, this isn’t a minor error. This means lower tax receipts (but still plenty to give to top rate earners and corporations!) so less funding for schools and hospitals. This pushes borrowing and debt up even more. It is the lack of growth in the last 7 years that has pushed borrowing up, not excessive spending. It was the early choking off of growth from austerity that caused this. Productivity is also down, it is not expected that the UK will produce anymore. In terms of a household, it’s the same as your wages falling when you expected them to rise, credit card bills going up and the quality of your house getting worse, hang on that’s pretty accurate for many.

Onto the policies. Nothing on public sector pay. Still being cut. Our teaching assistants to our soldiers will continue to see prices go up more than their wages. But the paradise papers last week show us that there is plenty of taxable money out there, it’s just that it’s on Lewis Hamilton’s private jet. Oh but there will be a premium paid for Maths study, the fact there are no teachers out there to teach it is neither here nor there. The NHS will get an “extra” £2.8bn, this is a unique way of additional funding. Cut the funding (it is claimed the NHS will have a £30m black hole by 2020) then give back just a bit of it. If you have ever been burgled, I’m sure you would be oh so grateful if the burglar came back with your kettle whilst hording all they stole. On the railways, ignore the fact that since 2010 rail fares have gone up 27% and all of the profits are flowing to shareholders abroad, 25-30 year olds can save a third on a trip to London once a month! No nothing on commuter fare, still £5000 a year for you I’m afraid.

The planned fuel duty rise for petrol has been stopped, that’s good news. Hang on, planned by whom? They’ve been in power for 7 years, did they plan to increase it and then didn’t? How’s this good news!? It’s the same as it was! But a great boost when real wages are collapsing. Then on housing, a “long term goal to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020’s”. An admirable goal, I have a long term goal to be playing Premier league football by the mid 2020’s, I have absolutely no idea how but nor do they on this xso on we go. Cutting stamp duty for first time buyers as usual with Tory housing policy is throwing fuel onto the demand side fire. A simple demand and supply diagram could show spreadsheet Phil that it is supply that needs to rise not demand. It is this that would make them more affordable. The policy may help someone my age but just pushes home ownership further away from those younger.

Take the crumbs away, and this is another budget of falling growth, falling wages, falling productivity, falling home ownership, and rising debt. How long is this long term economic plan?

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Community safety survey

We are delighted to advise that the Community Safety Survey is now open for residents to provide comments to help us prioritise the way Safer Neighbourhood Forums will work over the next 2 years.

Safer Neighbourhood Forums (formerly Neighbourhood Action Groups) are community based problem solving groups to help resolve local Community Safety and Crime related issues.

Whilst we will look at all the concerns, we will not be able to focus on them all and priorities will be decided taking into account not only the survey but the Community Safety Partnership priorities and those of Thames Valley Police.  You can complete the survey here.

The survey opens from 6 November and closes on Friday 15th December.  We encourage you to share this amongst your neighbours and local groups so we can tackle those issues most important to you.  The survey is only available online so we are encouraging the use of the ‘Get Online Reading’ drop in service offered within libraries around Reading.  Visit Neighbourhood Initiatives Officers will be available at a drop-in on at the Whitley Library on Thursday 16th November 2pm-3pm.

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Northcourt Avenue parking consultation

For a long period of time now parking on Northcourt Avenue has been an issue that residents have been contacting Councillors about. Some measures have been taken such as on Wellington Avenue but the issue is not going away. The combination of other restrictions nearby, an expanding University and changing housing conditions means that the road is being used for parking more and more each day.

Councillors have recently met with Transport Officers at the Council to try and develop proposals for a solution. Parking permits appear to be unpopular so an extension of the waiting restrictions already in place seems most plausible. We would like to hear your thoughts. At this stage this just a CONSULTATION. Nothing is assured.

An EXAMPLE of the format the restrictions could take is:
2 hours no return Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
(Times can vary)
Parking bays installed so visitor parking is still possible.

You can see the plans here: Northcourt Ave and  Ennerdale Road

This is currently an informal consultation so we would like you to email any comments in support or against to:

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Critical friend

A critical friend isn’t that person that always criticises your dress sense or tells you that you are drinking too much, this is the phrase most often used to describe a Governors relationship with the schools they govern at. A quick recap on the role of Governors. They give up their time for FREE because they have a sense of community and wish to help. Last year the Government floated the idea of getting rid of Governors in academies but quickly back tracked when they realised the leafy shires may rebel. They have also made it more difficult to become a Governor, inflicted more paper work and created more hoops to jump through. Yet still people do it. Governors oversee the running of a school, from appointing heads to authorising exclusions. It is a big responsibility made more difficult be the Government every week it seems. 

I recently became chair of Governors at one of the Primary Schools in my ward. As a teacher in my day job, I cannot advocate enough the CPD (career and professional development) this provides. Far better than paying an expensive consultant or toddling off to a course, go into another school. Talk to other teachers, see what happens and listen to everyone involved. Since I have been a Governor at my school, we have been inspected, so have had “cosy” chats with Ofsted, we have expanded so we have met with the Local Authority and most importantly, we have been running along, as a school does, as usual.

The biggest change in the last year has been the proposed and now staggered introduction of the new school funding formula. This formula has been mooted to change for years and there are good arguments either side, but its implementation has been a mess. Within two years all money for education will go directly to the schools. Good you may say, keep those meddling local bureaucrats away from messing it up. But that does negate the ability of collective buying and costs saving. It does negate the ability for a local authority to plan provision. And possibly most importantly, what if it goes wrong? What if a poor head is appointed or there is just bad decision making. Well, then it is left for the Governors to try and scoop up the mess.

There are other big issues with the funding changes. Funding depends on a myriad of things: pupil numbers, deprivation funding, Pupil Premium Grant, numbers of students with education health and social care plans, in year pupil movement and pupils being there on census day to name but a few. All of these things take paper work, admin and planning. Just the things that schools have had to cut back on since the Government has cut funding. On a side note, funding has categorically been cut, the “record levels of funding” argument a huge deceit when cost rises and pupil numbers have been taken into account.

But all of these issues pale into comparison when you go into school for Governors meetings. Because at 8am meetings or 7pm meetings, I see the dedication and professionalism of the teachers in school. I see teachers singing songs to year 3’s, I see teachers calming down the student with anger issues in year 6 and I see good teaching throughout. This in the face of 7 years of pay cuts, struggles to recruit and redundancies.

It is a Governors role to ask questions of the school they govern, and that of course is right. But I would also argue it is to question the Government that has made it so difficult to do so.

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JMA- “A rapid process of transformation”-Ofsted.

Ashley outside of JMA.

“Leaders have created a calm and orderly environment. Pupils treat each other with respect”-JMA Ofsted report.

It was the above quote from John Madejski academies latest Ofsted report that resonated with me most after just having visited the school and impressive new head Laura Ellener. As a teacher myself, Ward Coucnillor for many of JMA’s students and Chair of Governors of nearby Ridgeway Primary, I was delighted at the recent Ofsted report that showed great improvement. Work to do, but on the right track with the right people.

As soon as you walk through the gates you notice how calm and quiet the school is, there is clearly a purposeful atmosphere. The reception was warm and welcoming (always a good indicator of a school!) & I was met by the Principal Laura Ellener. The Principal brings with her a dedicated team driven by improving the school. A tour of the premises demonstrated some wonderful facilities including a pristine sixth form block, excellent sporting and ICT facilities. The classrooms I dropped into had an excellent learning culture and engaged students.

The school has been through many different guises and changes throughout the years but I am convinced it is finally on the right path. A strong Governing body including two head teachers, a new trust about to lend its support, local collaboration with the Whitley Excellence Cluster and a driven senior leadership team has seen this rapid process of transformation that Ofsted has noted. Hopefully Ofsted will be back in a couple of years to note even further improvement.

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November events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 4th November from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee meeting including some involving Church Ward will take place on Wednesday 8th October at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors were we discuss local issues will take place on Thursday 9th November at 7.30pm at 101 Northcourt Avenue.
  • Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the second full Governors meeting of the year on Monday 20th November at 7pm at Ridgeway school.
  • Remembrance service– Church Ward Councillors will pay their respects on the morning of Sunday 12th at St Mary’s Butts before a march through town.
  • Canvassing: Councillors and members will be discussing parking issues with residents on Thursday November 9th at 6pm on Shinfield Road and on Saturday 25th November at 10.30am on Staverton Road.
  • Northcourt Avenue Residents Association meeting: Cllr Pearce will be attending the NARA meeting to discuss the St.Patrick’s hall redevelopment on Wednesday 1st November at 7pm.
  • Calendar collating: The South Reading calendar running from January to June is currently being collated. If you have any events for that period that you would like included, please email
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University of Reading consulting on St.Patricks hall redevelopment

Artists impression of the new halls.

The University of Reading is this week seeking feedback from residents on their proposed changes to St.Patrick’s hall before submitting a planning application. You can also view the proposals and submit comments online from Thursday 26 October to Thursday 9 November at

There will be a small exhibition of the proposal boards in the Lower Lobby of the Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) Building at our Whiteknights campus on Friday 27 October from 11am to 3pm. Students and staff are welcome to come along during the day.

Local residents and neighbours are encouraged to submit their thoughts on the proposal on the above email address. I will be meeting with resident groups, the Council’s planning department and the University before the application is submitted to hear from all sides.

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Alok Sharma’s thought & actions on education

I recently received a letter from Reading West MP Alok Sharma after I had emailed him as part of the NASUWT campaign on school funding. There appears to be a big disparity between Alok’s words and his actions, so I thought I’d have a go at translating.

He starts by saying “I am enormously grateful for the work they do to ensure  children have the best chance to succeed in life”. What he probably meant was, I’ve consistently voted to cut your pension. Mine’s gone up.

On teachers pay he says “The recommendations are consistent with the Governments 1% public sector pay policy”. What he probably meant was, I’ve consistently voted to cut teachers wages. Mine have gone up.


Alok says he wants fair public sector wages “while balancing this with being fair to other taxpayers”. What he probably meant was, we spent £1bn to cling on to power, cut taxes for the richest and most powerful.

On teacher numbers Alok says”Im encouraged that there are more teachers in our schools than ever before”. By this point I think Alok had just given up…..

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Nationalisation and Tory profiteering

I was interested to read Newbury MP Richard Benyon’s comment piece in this week’s Reading Chronicle. It would appear Mr Benyon is not a fan of nationalising industries. I won’t bore you with graphs, talk of natural monopolies, dynamic efficiency and elasticities. Instead I will just point out some facts and inaccuracies Mr Benyon appears to have missed. Mr Benyon says that “Nationalised industries were a shambolic drain on public finances”. I wonder if he includes in this the subsidies that are provided to our current “Privatised” system of railways. Whereby in 2015-16 the railways received £4.8bn in net Government support, double the level from 1985 under the oh so terrible British Rail. (Figures from the ONS). This of course has not stopped these private firms paying out dividends to shareholders. So, overall UK tax burden has gone up (we are paying more to the exchequer), Rail subsidies have risen and dividends paid to shareholders have risen. Or more simply, Robin Hood in reverse. The poor are paying more in tax to subsidise rail shareholders.

Mr Benyon goes on to say “If the national debt increased by this much we would have to spend at least £7bn more on debt repayments every single year”. This from a man in the Government that has increased the national debt to 88% of GDP, the highest level since 1996 and lest we never forget, the Tories in the last 7 years have increased national debt more than all Labour Governments put together, ever! Not finished there, Mr Benyon compares this figure to what we could spend it on. “The equivalent of 81,000 nurses, 69,000 teachers and 66,000 police officers”. Its so nice that he now cares. Nurse numbers have fallen by nearly 2000 between March 2016 and March 2017, 50,000 teachers left the profession in 2015, up from 10% in 2011 and police numbers have fallen by 20,000 since 2009 according to the home office. So we better not nationalise things otherwise what, the Tories will cut more public servants!? And he proudly proclaims “And that’s according to the Office for budget responsibility by the way”, yes, the same OBR that this week said there will be a huge whole in the public finances thanks to the UK’s poor productivity.

But it is the water industry where Mr Benyon proclaims the greatest expertise, he says that “around £120bn has been invested in water and sewerage infrastructure”. A very impressive figure although he doesn’t say what it was before so we have no idea if this is an increase or decrease. What I do know however is that when the water industry was privatised back in the 90’s, nearly £5bn of debt was written off. It’s easy to invest if the Government have picked up the debt tab. I also know that in the first 8 years of privatisation, profits went up by 142%. This could be due to huge efficiency increases of course. But I also know that the average water bill in 1995 was £315 per year (at current prices) but in 2015 it was £340 a year. So investment has gone up but so have prices. Or in other words, you are paying for the investment.
Benyon goes on to say “Since privatisation, Investment has been financed by an inflow of cash from around the world”. But prices have gone up? And this is one way of looking at it, the other way of looking at it is that these tax payer subsidised industries are paying out dividends to go abroad! My water company Thames water is part owned by the China Investment Corporation and the Abu Dhabi Investment authority. Why is it ok that foreign Governments can own and run our railways but not our own Government?

But maybe, just maybe Mr Benyon has his own agenda? I say maybe, a quick glance at the register of members interests tells me that he is director of UK Water partnership which is a not for profit company set up to promote the interests of the UK water sector. Not for profit for some but Mr Benyon is paid £15,000 a year for 12-14 days of work to do this job. So much like the railways, Governments are not to profit from it but fine for shareholders and individuals.

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John Madejski academy shows rapid improvement

South Reading secondary school the John Madejski academy has undergone a rapid improvement in standards in the last year, Schools regulator Ofsted have said. The school continues its journey to an outstanding school and is now out of special measures. The staff team lead by Principal Laura Ellener have shown great determination and spirit to keep the school improving. More can be read on the schools website

New Ofsted grading for JMA after “rapid process of transformation”

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Northumberland Avenue resurfacing work

A section of Northumberland Avenue between Hartland road and Honiton road will be resurfaced this month. The Highway Maintenance Team will commence a trial of an alternative pot hole repair system on roads where the depth of defects are below the current 50 mm depth investigatory level. The repair system is a quick / speedy solution that will seal the road in advance of the coming winter. It is not anticipated that much disruption will occur as the solution is a quick process and moves along the length of the road fairly quickly.  The works will take place sometime during the week starting 2nd October.

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Councillors help clean up Rabsons Rec.

Councillors and volunteers after a successful mornings clean up.

Church and Whitley Ward Councillors joined volunteers to help clean up Rabsons Rec. Church Ward’s Ashley Pearce and Eileen McElligott donned high viz jackets and grabbed litter pickers to work their way round the Rec. Half a dozen bags worth of rubbish was collected leaving the park in a cleaner state than before.




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Jeremy Corbyn conference speech

Today Jeremy Corbyn further outlined his vision for Britain when this divided and incompetent Government finally falls. At the closing of the Labour conference in Brighton, the Labour leader promised rent controls to help stem exorbitant rate rises and to repeal the damaging policies of austerity amongst other things. More on Jeremy’s speech can be read here.

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October events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 7th October from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors were we discuss local issues will take place on Saturday 7th October at 12pm at The Whitley Cafe.
  • Rabsons Rec clean up: Councillors will join volunteer s with litter pickers to help give Rabsons Rec a tidy on Sunday October 1st at 10.30am. Meeting in Academy sport car park.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Church Ward Cllrs Eileen and Ashley will be in attendance as Chair & Vice Chair respectively on Thursday 5th October at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 
  • Aspire2 Quiz: A Labour team will enter the local children’s charity Aspire2 quiz on Friday 13th October at 7pm at Ridgeway school.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee meeting including some involving Church Ward will take place on Wednesday 11th October at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Canvassing: Councillors and members will be discussing parking issues with residents on Wentworth Avenue on Saturday 7th,  Sycamore & Hazel Crescent on Saturday 14th and Northumberland Avenue on Saturday 28th October, all at 11am. 
  • Full Council meeting: Church Ward Cllrs will be in attendance on Tuesday 17th October at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 
  • St.Patrick’s hall exhibition: Reading University will be consulting on their latest proposal for the redevelopment of St.Patrick’s hall on Wednesday 25th October at 5pm in the Shamrock room within the hall.
  • John Madejski academy open morning: Cllr Pearce will be visiting the rapidly improving JMA secondary school on Hartland road to speak with the Principal Laura Ellener on Monday 30th October at 9am.
  • Newsletter delivery- The latest copy of the Church Ward Rose will be delivered towards the end of October to keep residents up to date with what their Cllrs have been doing in the past months.
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Academy sport swimming pool to be updated

Academy Sports swimming pool will temporarily close on October 2nd for urgent refurbishment works. The Northumberland Avenue pool was transferred back into the management of Reading Sport and Leisure this year, after being operated and managed by the John Madejski Academy since 2007.

The Council is now replacing much of the original plant and equipment at the pool as part of a major investment programme which will allow the pool to operate in future years. Work on the site will include fitting a new boiler to heat the pool and installing a new ventilation system. The council has reprogrammed school swimming lessons while it is closed.

Councillor Sarah Hacker, lead member for sport, said: There is never an ideal time to close a pool, particularly for this length of time, but I hope regular users of the facilities will appreciate that these are major improvement works, which make a complete closure unavoidable.

“Much of the fabric of the pool at Academy Sport has been in place since it opened in 1983 and now needs complete replacement. Officers are taking the opportunity to carry out a number of improvement works at the same time to avoid future inconvenience. We expect the pool to be open again early in the New Year when swimmers can look forward to a much more pleasant swimming environment and more reliable facilities.”

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