Monday, 28 June 2010

Academy schools in Reading

Here is the list of schools -- obtained through a Freedom of Information Request -- in Reading who have expressed an interest in becoming an academy.

NOT Outstanding Schools
All Saints Infants School
Blessed Hugh Faringdon
Geoffrey Field jnr
Norcot Early Years Centre

Outstanding Schools
Churchend Primary School
Kendrick School
Reading School
Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre

There is clear evidence that Academies do not improve performance and in some cases make it worse.

The Green Party has always spoken in favour of greater freedom for the school to decide how it is run. However this does not and must not mean putting the running of the school into the hands of a private sponsor who may know nothing or very little about education, and taking the power away from parents and teachers who have little representation on the governing body at an Academy.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Video no shock doctrine for Britain

Reading employment update

The claimant count in May was recorded at 3946, reducing by 129 claims from the April figure, for three consecutive months claimants reduced and are 242 claims down on the figures for May 2009.

4.0% of the working age population of Reading is claiming job seekers allowance down 0.1% from April. The GB and South East rates reduced by 0.2%. The Reading rate is 1.2% higher than the South East rate of 2.8% and is no longer inline with the GB rate which is 0.1% lower than Reading, at a rate of 3.9%.

In April, White British people made up 60% of the claimant count, 2465 claimants for the month, down 55 claimants from last month. A relatively high proportion of people’s ethnicity was not known (14%). There were 835 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) claimants in April 2010 compared to the 770 BME claimants in April 2009.

The majority of claimants, 665 people, are aged 20-24, 17% of all claimants fall within that age group, up 1% from April. Those aged 25-29 make up 13 % of claimants as do those aged 40-44. Those aged 25-29 saw the largest drop in claimants from April to May with a reduction of 35 claimants. Claimant numbers increased only for those aged 40-44, all other age groups went down in numbers claiming. Young people (those 24 and under) represent 25% of all claimants.

70% of job seeker claimants are male, which has been more or less the same throughout 2009 and into 2010. Only marginal fluctuation of 1 or 2 percent over the period has occurred and this time last year males made up 73% of claimants, which means female claimants had an annual increased from 27% to 30%.

The proportion of Reading’s population claiming job seekers match those of 10 authorities in Great Britain including Bridge End, Bedford and Preston. Across the South East, Reading is in 8th place with 7 other local authorities with a higher rate.

Hopefully, the situation will continue to improve. But with the Conservatives and Lib Dems poised to swing the axe again on Tuesday at the "emergency budget", this may push us into a double dip recession.

I would like to see a Green New Deal introduced, creating millions of jobs and training opportunities, giving us the infrastructure and public services fit of the 21st century. This economic boost would help get us through the recession.

Pedestrian killed in accident at Cemetery Junction

There was a collision between a pedestrian and a vehicle at Cemetery Junction on Saturday night, which resulted in the death of the pedestrian.

This is a tragic accident and my thoughts go out to the victim's friends and family. I have been campaigning to improve the safety of the various crossings at this busy junction for a number of years with petitions and other lobbying. I will be redouble my efforts and have asked for an urgent meeting with officers.

Cuts: the axe falls yet again on local public services

Devastating cuts are beginning to filter down to Council level. Last week it was announced that next year's council budget will be cut by £1.6 million -- 11.9%.

The Reading Post has an article on this here going into more detail.

Reading Labour are attacking these cuts which will have a devastating impact on public services, but forgetting to mention that they would have introduced very similar cuts, but just a little bit further into the future.

Cuts are not necessity, but a political choice. One alternative would be introducing a fairer tax system where the superrich pay their share. Green MP Caroline Lucas has co-authored a report on alternatives to cuts to our public services which will surely hit the weakest and most vulnerable hardest.

And we haven't even had the emergency budget yet!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Spending cuts or tax rises?

A new ComRes poll reports that more people would prefer a tax rise to spending cuts:

"I would be prepared to pay more income tax rather than see public services cut
Agree 48%
Disagree 45%
DK 7% "

The Green Party is the only Westminster party which has consistently argued for a fairer tax system rather than spending cuts which will tear our public services to shreds leaving the weak and vulnerable at the mercy of the market.

I believe we need a broad anti-cuts movement nationally bringing together churches and other religious groups, with trade unionists and other progressives. To make this happen we need local meetings to start building.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

New Green MEP for the South East, Keith Taylor

New Green MEP for the South East Keith Taylor said: "Following the historic election of Caroline Lucas as the country's first Green MP, I have taken the Greens' seat in the European Parliament for the next four years representing South East England.

"As you may already know, the MEP positions are awarded using proportional representation against the regional list each party agreed at the last election (2009). Caroline was number one on the list and I was number two, so as Caroline cannot be both MP and MEP, the Brussels post is offered to the next in line without the need for a by-election.

"I have resigned as a Brighton & Hove councillor, thus prompting a by-election for my St Peter's & North Laine seat where I know our talented candidate Lizzie Deane will excel at representing her constituents.

"The last eleven years as a Green councillor have been enormous fun and a life-shaping experience, and my deepest thanks go to my partner Lizzie and my family, my colleagues, councillors past and present, and the hundreds of members without whom none of our shared success would have been possible.

"As new MEP for South East England, I will be a member of the Parliament's committees on International Trade, Petitions and Transport & Tourism. Additionally I'm part of the delegations to Afghanistan, Iran and Palestine.

"I will also co-chair an Intergroup on opposing supermarket domination, and work around Roma rights and mental health issues.

"You can keep up to speed with what I'm doing and get all my contact details by visiting my new website on I'll also be sending out regular newsletters.

"Over the next four years until Euro elections 2014 I will try to:

. Make a positive difference to the region, striving to promote sustainability and strong local communities
. Fight for fairness and equality
. Help build on the numbers of elected Greens here working closely with local parties and the SE Confederation, so that electing two MEPs in 2014 is a real possibility

"Increasing the region's Green presence has to be a joint project - something we can all contribute to. I look forward to working alongside you in helping get more Greens in Town Halls!"

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Carers' week in Reading

I attended the carers' week event in Forbury Gardens earlier in the week. This is one of the many events which make up carers' week in Reading.

Amongst other people I talked to: The Stroke Association, Reading Social Services, Wiltshire Farm Foods, Ryder-Cheshire Volunteers, Crossroads Care, Mencap and Thrive. I also had my blood pressure taken -- 117/70 -- which is apparently good.

The thousands of voluntary carers in Reading provide an essential service to their loved ones and it is no understatement to say that without this unpaid and often unrecognized work, society wouldn't function as we know it.

With the Conservative-LibDem coalition nationally cutting services left, right and centre and with the same local coalition unfortunately refusing to rule out cuts to care locally next year it looks like the voluntary care sector will be one which will be growing quickly.

Monday, 14 June 2010

East Reading Children's Centre launch

On Friday I attended the launch of East Reading Children's Centre -- it is located in the Newtown in the old Rupert Square Information Shop building. As well as a venue for children's activities the centre also contains lots of useful information about other activities going on in the area.

I was amazed by the number of parents and children who came along to this event. I am sure this centre will be a cornerstone of the community.

This would be great on its own, but having campaigned to get this long-term empty Council building back into use means it is a added bonus.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Park Ward Green Party Councillor's surgery

I will be holding a surgery -- for people to ask questions or raise issues of concern -- in the upstairs lounge at Park Hall, United Reform Church, Palmer Park Avenue on Saturday, June 12 between 10:30 a.m. and 12 noon.

If you are unable to come along to the surgery but have issues that you would like to raise, please contact me:

Post: Councillor Rob White, Green Party Councillor for Park Ward, Councillor Services, Freepost NAT 6730, Reading, RG1 7BR.

Telephone: 0118 9372288 or 0798 5923938


Grange Avenue shooting latest

The police had a Gold -- very important -- meeting this afternoon and this is the latest news:

Investigation progressing – no arrests have been made.
Chief Supt Shead has appealed for people to come forward etc etc (Interviews on 107 and BBC Berks).
A Police Family Liaison Officer has been appointed to the victim’s family.
Area around the scene has been re-opened to the public.
There is an Independent Advisory Group (routine) meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, however Supt Kirk is communicating with IAG members in the meantime to keep them updated.

Wokingham Road/Grange Avenue shooting

I was shocked and saddened to hear that last night there was a shooting on the corner of Grange Avenue and the Wokingham Road outside one of the shops. A man has been injured. Get Reading has a bit of detail here but not much is in the public domain yet.

As a local ward councillor I was informed that the police are having a "Gold Star" meeting this afternoon -- very high level. I have asked that the police keep up patrols in the area to reassure members of the public and keep me informed.

I think we need tougher licensing on guns, cutting off the gun supply to the UK and banning the sale of replica guns will bring down violent crime. We need solutions that work, not political posturing: I don't care about looking tough, I only care about stopping people being injured and killed.

Fortunately, gun crime is relatively low in Reading!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Why not go for a walk in the Cemetery Junction cemetery?

The Cemetery Junction cemetery is looking very pretty at the moment with an abundance of wild flowers. Well worth going for a stroll there. You might even see a deer!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Local Con-Dem manifesto published

The Con-Dem coalition in Reading has published its manifesto.

My quick sentence long appraisal is that there aren't many concrete projects in there, but fortunately they say that they won't be cutting care to elderly and vulnerable people "this year".

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Reading Council climate change newsletter

The Council have produced this climate change newsletter.

I think it is very informative.

You can sign up for it by e-mailing:

New glass recycling bank for Newtown?

View Larger Map

As a Green I am always pushing recycling -- after reducing and reusing of course. Our local priority has been pushing for a food waste collection as this is the single biggest component of the average bin, but we would also like to see glass collected on the doorstep.

As a short-term stopgap I am always happy to listen to the experts -- residents -- and suggest good locations to the Council. About half a year ago a resident asked me if we could get a glass recycling bank installed at the River Kennet end of Cholmeley Road -- saying that there used to be one there. I passed on this request to the Council. I was delighted to see an e-mail in my inbox asking for my thoughts on this happening from a council officer.

My instinct is yes, it would be a good idea as it would bring glass recycling closer to a large number of Newtown residents, and the site is far enough away from any housing so as not to cause a noise nuisance. What do people think?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A month in the life of a Green Party councillor – April & May

I have rolled the April and May updates into one as it has been a fairly hectic couple of months of election campaigning.

Council meetings – 1
Community meetings and events – 9
Enquiries and requests for repairs from residents – 32


· Campaigned against tenants being charged unfairly by estate and letting agents.
· Called for an increase to the state pension.
· Worked towards the abolition of tuition fees.
· Campaigned for electoral reform and against the Lib Dems selling out.
· Attended my first council meeting as a councillor.
· Condemned the attack by Israel on the Free Gaza flotilla.


· I was elected as Reading's first Green councillor .
· Got a bin installed at the top of Bulmershe Road.
· Successfully lobbied for keys to be issued to businesses so the Cumberland Rd alley can be locked at night time.
· Got cracked paving slabs in Cumberland Rd/Amity Rd alley fixed.


· None claimed.

I condemn the attack on the Free Gaza flotilla

I am deeply shocked -- although given their track record not surprised -- by the brutality of the assault by Israeli troops on the Free Gaza flotilla, which has left many people dead and wounded.

I completely condemn this deadly attack on a peaceful aid convoy.

This attack is a serious infringement of the principles of international law.

I am joining Green Party leader Caroline Lucas in calling on the UK Government, and the EU, to apply pressure to lift the ongoing blockade of Gaza, which makes essential humanitarian aid for the population of Gaza virtually impossible to deliver.

We also call for the quick establishment of an international inquiry to shed light on the circumstances of this attack.