Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
Church's Labour Team, led by our Councillor Ashley Pearce

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Monthly Archives: November 2017

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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