Thursday 22 January 2015

Consultation Given Go-ahead & Why Labour hasn't looked after Mapledurham Pavilion

Two petitions & twenty-two questions were put to Cllr Jo Lovelock, Leader of Reading Borough Council (RBC), at Monday night's Policy Committee.  The focus was on where the permanent site for The Heights primary school should or shouldn't go in the views of various local groups, as well as on details about the consultation RBC will carry out at the request of the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

You can read the petitions and questions here.

Some supplementary questions were put to Cllr Lovelock, the most memorable of which came from Andrew Rogers after he had asked the following question which in itself needs careful thought:
"Considering the current status of the proposed location of The Heights free school in Caversham, does the Council think it is appropriate to pledge £100,000 to extend and refurbish the Pavilion at Mapledurham Playing Fields?"
Cllr Lovelock's response was:
"This is a long-standing commitment by the Council.  The Pavilion is a valuable community facility and we are committed to its redevelopment or refurbishment.  This is why we will continue to make £100,000 capital funding available for this purpose.
"How and when this refurbishment takes place may indeed be impacted upon by any proposal by the EFA to locate the new free school on the Mapledurham Playing Fields."
Andrew Rogers' supplementary question was along the lines:
If the Pavilion is so important to RBC, why has it been left to fall into such a dilapidated condition?
Labour's Leader Cllr Lovelock replied that RBC's priorities are elsewhere.  She started saying that RBC is building new schools, then seemed to correct herself saying that RBC is expanding existing schools. [I think she realised her mistake as it is the Government, not RBC, which is building the town's new schools, eg UTC Reading, The Heights, Maiden Erlegh in Reading and the Hodsoll Road primary, as well as the completely new school building for Reading Girls].

Site Visit of Pavilion June 2013
It has been abundantly obvious for years & years that RBC's Labour administration has chosen to invest in facilities elsewhere over Mapledurham Pavilion, long before the migration to Reading and sharp rise in the birth rate came about.  I remember a Planning Committee site visit in June 2013 when I managed to get some Labour councillors including the then chair, Cllr Lovelock's husband Cllr Ruhemann (now deceased), to Caversham Heights to see the Pavilion.  They were visibly shocked by its dilapidated condition.

Apart from central government funding, local authorities get money from a variety of sources including Council Tax and something called Section 106 monies (s106).  This post I wrote in 2011 highlighted the Labour administration's poor record keeping of how RBC spent s106 monies.  Local Conservatives & I campaigned against Labour's lack of transparency.  In case you don't know, s106 monies are paid by a developer to help ameliorate the extra pressure put on services close to their development, eg on roads, schools, leisure and housing.  The money should be spent on upgrading facilities including increasing school capacity in accordance with a calculation set out in RBC's policies. However what Conservatives uncovered was that s106 monies had been used for developments miles away from where the impact of the developments was being felt, eg north of the river s106 monies had been used south of the river in west Reading.

In light of the above, you will not be surprised to know that Andrew Rogers' supplementary question to Cllr Lovelock made me laugh, as put on the spot she publicly had to admit what locals have known all along.  Labour has not prioritised Mapledurham Pavilion, but I know and appreciate just how crucial the hall and changing rooms are to our local community.