Isobel is a Conservative local councillor on Reading Borough Council, first elected in 2006. She represents Mapledurham Ward. This is her personal blog with news & her views.
If you would like to contact Isobel, emails may be sent to Isobel.Ballsdon@reading.gov.uk and will be treated in confidence
Reading East Conservative Chairman, Alison Swaddle (right) & me
On Saturday over 2,500 people flocked to Mapledurham Playing Fields for the first fete in decades.The Warren & District Residents’ Association (WADRA) organised and ran the fete to raise awareness and money for building a new community hall to replace the Pavilion.
The fete which was opened at noon by Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, had a huge variety of activities, stalls and entertainment.On the day over £4,500 of profit was made and this will increase further with the sale of the professionally taken fete photos, where 50% of the proceeds will be donated to the charity.These may be viewed and ordered via www.wadra.org.ukRaffle ticket numbers of unclaimed raffle prizes may also be found on WADRA’s website.Prizes that remain unclaimed after 15th June will be re-used in subsequent events.
People came from all over Reading and further afield making it a truly multicultural event enjoying the fabulous weather and everything on offer.Visitors were able to try out 6 different sports with demos and coaching sessions from clubs covering the town.
There was a full line up of live entertainment on the stage with 4 bands and 4 dance & drama displays viewed lying on the grass or from the comfort of straw bales.Also included in the day was a display of classic and vintage cars.
Children enjoyed the face painting, skittles and treasure hunt as well as the bouncy castle and craft stall. The bar was very popular and there was a wonderful mix of food ranging from a traditional BBQ to Asian food, with cakes and strawberries too.
Elisa Miles, fund raising event coordinator, said “It was great to see so many people on the playing fields having a wonderful time.All the preparation paid off and I thank the many volunteers, RBC’s Parks Department, local groups and businesses for making it such a success!Our next event is our 2nd dinner dance on 16th June which sold out months ago.”
Speaking as the newly elected Mapledurham Ward councillor as well as being a member of the fund raising group, it was thoroughly enjoyable helping Elisa and the rest of the team. My husband and other Conservatives helped me run the skittles stall which raised £170.70 for the replacement hall. We are always on the look out for new fund raising ideas and would welcome more volunteers, businesses and clubs to join us to help make a new hall for the community a reality.
Rob Wilson MP helped Elisa Miles and other helpers launch the publicity campaign for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Fete which will be held at Mapledurham Playing Fields on Saturday 26th May from 12 - 6 pm.
The Warren & District Residents Association (WADRA) is organising the event to celebrate both the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.
I am sure it will be a great afternoon with plenty to entertain everybody from a bouncy castle and face painting for young children; games and craft stalls for teenagers; and Zumba dancing, a Classic Car Rally and a beer tent for the adults. If you have things you'd like to sell, why not book a pitch in the car boot sale? There will be live music, a BBQ, a cake and tea stand, as well as a raffle; and many other things besides!
I'll be running a wooden skittles stall and hope to get both young and old having a go. All proceeds from this and the other stalls will go to the regeneration of the Mapledurham Pavilion and Community Hall.
This short week has been a busy and stimulating one for me. On Tuesday as chair of governors of The Avenue Special School Academy I accompanied a group outing (courtesy of Proctor & Gamble) to the Olympic Stadium.
The pupils, staff and I were completely blown away by the Visa London Disability Athletics Challenge. The stadium was fabulous, the competitors awesome!
My favourite events were the blind sprint races where the athletes ran alongside a sighted sprinter with an elastic between their partner's & their wrist. I found the blade runners particularly inspirational - they were so fast I missed filming Richard Whitehead setting a new World Record for the mens' 200 m, only catching those behind him!
The music system was great and the pupils sang and danced along, sometimes screaming with laughter at the lyrics, which they knew back-to-front!
Although the stadium was pretty empty for this trial day, it wasn't hard to imagine what the atmosphere would be like for the Games. This week it wasn't possible to appreciate the events taking place on the opposite side of the stadium because there was no screen-footage. However I'm sure come the summer everything will be up there for all to see and enjoy.
The children absolutely loved it and their day was made by a Channel 4 camera team filming them cheering exuberantly for a forthcoming advert for the Paralympic Games!
To follow from that memorable day, this morning the full governing body and I went round the first floor 'extension' of The Avenue School which was very exciting to see. The School is part of a larger building which incorporates The Avenue Centre, and it is in to the latter that we are extending. The works will enable us to have two extra classes of pupils (16 in total plus staff). These are much needed places and will be no problem to fill as we have a long waiting list.
As well as the site visit, I spent the rest of the morning in Finance & Full Governing Body meetings.
As an aside, and going back to the Stadium, I was thrilled today to learn my friend Dave Luckett managed to get tickets to the men's 100m. I knew he was applying but never dreamt he'd succeed! I didn't apply for any tickets but am sure anyone who goes to the Paralympics or Olympics will have an absolutely wonderful time!
In my experience as a councillor and campaigner the run up to all elections is frantic and exhausting.Getting the balance between home-life and electioneering is almost impossible to achieve.I’m not alone in needing several days to recuperate and recharge my batteries, clear up my work area and get on top of paperwork.
It is particularly hard accepting the loss of hard working colleagues because of the national swing against the Government & no fault on their part.
The most bitter pill to swallow is the nasty campaign here in Reading run both in Church and Peppard Wards, both personal - though only the first specifically against our Conservative candidate.I’ll leave it to readers to judge the various post-election accounts of current and past councillors.At least the latter malicious campaign (in Peppard) was unsuccessful!
It is galling however that to a large extent it is down to where one is selected for, together with the national picture, how electoral fortunes are likely to pan out.In the Conservative Party, in common with others, we have strict rules over selection so that sitting councillors do not have an automatic right of re-selection.This keeps councillors on their toes which of course is beneficial to residents.I, like the others, had to go through the selection process.
The real test though is yet to come: will the electorate realise over the coming months they have been hoodwinked or not?Is their newly elected local councillor a mere pawn or capable to stand up for their electorate come what may?Did the electorate have a narrow escape perhaps in Peppard – judging by what has been written since?That is for the electorate to gauge.
From my own viewpoint I know newly elected Jane Stanford-Beale worked exceedingly hard and will make an excellent councillor.She has a formidable track record and is a superb addition to the Conservative Group.In Thames Ward, my replacement, Ed Hopper, is a wonderful man.He is thoughtful and resolute in his determination to improve life for residents.Deservedly he receives an extremely positive reaction on the doorstep which I am certain he will live up to.
I hope my friends, Azam Janjua, Dave Luckett, and Emma Warman who sadly lost their elections will be back in 2014.I am proud to have stood by Azam as he has had to withstand Reading Labour’s most disgusting personal campaign of recent history.Four years ago I was struck by his personal following even though he was asking traditional Labour supporters to switch over with him to the Conservatives.He has worked tirelessly and will be a great loss to his Church Ward fellow neighbours and residents.
Although Labour’s campaign in Dave’s home ward of Caversham wasn’t personal, it published inaccurate information, eg over Briant’s Avenue and also the supposed restoration of bus passes for pensioners: however Dave’s behaviour at the Count was impeccable (as was Azam’s and Emma’s).He is incredibly positive about the future and I’m sure he will bounce back.
Emma, a gifted orator, will also be sadly missed on our benches over the coming two years.I hope like the others she will continue working with the Conservative team and work towards a comeback in 2014.
I think all politicians are agreed that more has to be done to engage voters.I am sure I’m not alone being infuriated and saddened on the doorstep with the reaction that people simply aren’t interested & don’t feel there’s any point in voting.It is small comfort that Mapledurham, my new ward, had the best turnout across Reading.It was only just over 41%.Okay I have the best mandate of any RBC councillor, but it still means that just under 59% weren’t engaged sufficiently to bother voting.
I’ve been using this weekend to think out how best to engage with my neighbours & fellow residents.I will continue to work hard at my job and trust that through my actions I will deserve my election as the sole representative of Mapledurham Ward.