Friday 28 June 2013

D-Day for Arthur Clark Care Home

Conservatives at the Reading Borough Council meeting on Tuesday stood alongside local residents to call for the Labour administration to scrap plans to close the Arthur Clark care home in Albert Road, Caversham. Residents protested outside the Council chamber before the meeting and packed the meeting to present a petition and ask questions of the Labour Lead Councillor.
Cllr Ed Hopper with protestors before Council

Due to the large number of signatures on the petition a debate was generated at the start of the Council meeting. The Labour administration moved a weasel worded motion referring the concerns of the petitioners to the Council’s new Adult Social Care, Childrens’ Services and Education Committee which meets on Monday 1st July.

Thames Ward Councillors Ed Hopper and David Stevens then moved and seconded an amendment which called on the administration to “cease all attempts to close Arthur Clark care home”. This was supported by all Councillors except for the Labour administration. Even the single Caversham Labour Councillor and Labour’s Reading East Parliamentary candidate voted against the amendment!

After lengthy debate, Labour voted down the Conservative amendment and used their majority to push through their motion.

Cllr Ed Hopper said, “I wanted to give the Council as a whole an opportunity to say that the Arthur Clark home should remain open rather than see the decision pushed off to a committee of which only a few Councillors are members. I was pleased that so many Councillors supported my amendment but disappointed that Labour used their majority to override the views of others Councillors and the large number of residents in the gallery”.

Cllr David Stevens said, “This is the first time ever that the public has presented a petition with enough signatures to trigger a debate. I am amazed therefore that the Labour Group was not willing to listen to the strength of feeling locally and invest in this care home rather than just close it down. We will keep up the fight to ensure that the views of local people are heard and heeded.”

At the end of the evening after the presentation of the petition, exhaustive debate, and numerous questions Cllr Ralph (Independent) moved a motion which many had expected him to withdraw. It was rather after the fact, as the Labour administration had made their position clear in the earlier debate, but in the spirit of cooperation Conservative Councillors had decided to support Cllr Ralph’s motion and voted against Labour’s inevitable amendment. In the most bizarre moment of the night Cllr Ralph then voted in favour of Labour’s amendment and against his own motion!

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Harris said, “It was a long and heated debate but what matters in this is the effect closure would have on the many elderly residents and the removal of a facility which should be retained to serve future generations north of the Thames. Conservative Councillors will be using every available opportunity to urge the Labour administration to think again and fight for a future for this much loved home.”

You can watch the council meeting online on YouTube and see for yourself 'democracy' in action.

D-Day for the Arthur Clark care home is Monday, 1st July at 6.30 pm.  Members of the public are encouraged to attend and, if they give advance notification of their intention to film proceedings are permitted to do so.

Update  You can read GetReading's report in today's paper here.  If you have a view on the future of the Arthur Clark residential care home why don't you post a comment?

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Public Meeting: Bus Update for North of the River Wednesday 19th June

My Conservative colleague and Peppard Ward councillor, Richard Willis, has organised a public meeting tomorrow night at 6.45 pm at the Milestone Centre, Northbrook Road, Caversham Park Village, about the bus services and the changes which will come once the new northern inter-change to Reading Station opens.

The CEO of Reading Buses, James Freeman, will explain the proposed changes after which he has kindly agreed to take questions from the floor.

Richard has also arranged for a senior Council Transport Officer to attend to speak on the planned new pedestrian/cycle bridge over the Thames. This bridge was something which he proposed when he was Lead Councillor and we began the work to include it in a bid to central Government for the funding. The bid was successful and will now be built in the next year or so.

All north of the river residents are welcome to attend the meeting but if they cannot I am happy to arrange for a summary of the briefing to be emailed to them following the meeting.

Thursday 13 June 2013

A Lot Going On

I apologise for not posting as regularly as I used to.  About 3 months ago I started working full time for Rob Wilson MP in his constituency office which has reduced my available time for this.  Fortunately though I am able to continue both my councillor role as well as the chairman of governors at The Avenue Special School.

Officers & councillors outside the Pavilion
For many years I've been on Reading Borough Council's Planning Committee and this morning, for about 1.5 hours, I joined other committee members on our monthly site visits.  Mapledurham Pavilion was our second stop.  One reason I'd asked for the visit was to show Labour councillors its dilapidated state.  They were visibly shocked.  I think two out of the three hadn't seen it before.  I showed them most of the inside as well whilst "Escape" (the parent & toddler group I used to run) started up its session.  But for the toddlers & mums, the hall would have been bleak too.

This reminds me that a week on Saturday, 22nd June, is the second Mapledurham Fete.  It starts at noon, carrying on all afternoon and metamorphosing into a music festival in the evening.  As last year, all monies raised will go towards regenerating the Pavilion, which could happen soon if the planning application goes through unhindered.  I'll be running a skittles stall again and hope lots of people will come and enjoy what I'm sure will be a great day supporting this excellent cause.

Getting back to this morning's visit, outside the Pavilion was a hive of activity with a multi-agency crack down led by the Police of various motoring offences.  They were: pulling over motorists for using a mobile phone, driving without a safety belt, speeding; checking for the illegal use of red diesel, ensuring anyone transporting metal had a licence, checking tyres, etc.  Also present were Council officers, independent observers & Neighbourhood Watch Group (NAG) members.  I don't yet know the stats, but was pleased to see such a big operation in action.  Sergeant Nigel Scarratt & PCSO Ian Chaston were there together with Police from further afield.