Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

March events

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.

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Government not interested in Reading’s housing crisis

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.




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JMA to team up with White Horse Federation

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:

Our Schools

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Council listens to residents & asks Uni to be more considerate

The application was seen as an over development.

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.

Whilst it is understood that the University needs to expand, and Reading wants a thriving University, this should not be at the expense of local residents.
The St.Patricks hall site is ostensibly a residential area. As such, the increase in student numbers would have been an over development that would have exacerbated traffic and parking problems. Added to this was the potential for anti social behaviour and negative impacts on the locally listed Pearsons Court.
The University should continue to engage with local residents regarding the impacts the University is having on the local community, notably parking and noise. If a further proposal for the St.Patricks hall site was to come forward, I hope that the number of students and the issue of parking are seriously considered before any submission.
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February events

  • 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.
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Urgent action needed on housing

The Councils new homes for Reading company is helping but Central Government action is required.

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.

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Ashley becomes Chair of Governors at Ridgeway

In September last year I became the Chair of Governors at Ridgeway and wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and my background.
My background and experience have both long been in education. I have been a teaching assistant in the past, and have been a teacher at a secondary school for ten years now. Further to this I am a local Councillor for Church Ward and sit on the ACE committee (which includes the education work of the Council) as Vice-Chair. In the last year I have visited and spoken to the Head teachers of our two most local secondary schools, John Madejski Academy and Reading Girls School in an attempt to aid improvement, and help bridge the transition gap.

I will have been a Governor at Ridgeway for 5 years this summer, and it has been a greatly rewarding experience. I have been on various committees to help oversee standards, and I have had particular responsibility for Pupil Premium monitoring. During my time as a Governor we have helped oversee the impressive expansion of the school and its buildings, curriculum overhaul and the appointment of our new head Ms Steele.

I have visited the school on many occasions to see the pupils and staff in action, and have always left impressed and full of pride. There are obviously always challenges and areas for improvement and I am working with the Head teacher to help implement the post- Ofsted action plan for school improvement. Budgets need to be fit for any future changes and, looking forward, pupil numbers and development in South Reading are ever-changing and contribute to the challenge we face.
I am always looking to hear parent’s views and opinions on the school and its future, so if you ever wish to contact me, please email or call on the contact details below.
Ashley Pearce

Chair of Governors


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January events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 6th January from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee on which Ashley is a member will take place on Wednesday 10th January at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors where we discuss local isues will take place on Thursday 11th January at 7.30pm at 101 Northcourt Avenue.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Church Ward Cllrs Eileen and Ashley will be in attendance as Chair & Vice Chair respectively on Wednesday 31st January at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Canvassing: Doors on Ashburton Road will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Saturday January 6th at 11am, Barnsdale road at 6pm on Thursday 11th January and Windemere Road on Saturday 13th January at 11am.
  • Full Council meeting: Ashley will be raising a motion about house building finances as well as other business on Tuesday 23rd January at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 
  • Ridgeway standards Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the second standards & curriculum Governors meeting of the school year on Monday 29th January at 5pm at Ridgeway school.
  • South Reading calendar: The final copies 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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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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