Wednesday, 23 February 2011

What a Waste of Money

Well that wasn't worth the wait was it boys and girls?

12 months ago Labour laid into the Tories for asking the Chief Executive to go away and find some imaginary savings. A year later that's exactly what they did.

Now to be fair, so did I - lay into the Tories that is! The difference is that last year there was a Lib Dem budget signed off by the S151 Officer.

I couldn't do zero percent because I didn't have full access to the books. What this year has taught me is that either Labour were lying when announcing their "lowest possible" council tax or they didn't have a Scooby Doo.I think it was the later, but they could have been lying.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Stand and Deliver

A little late, but welcome nonetheless, the Post has finally brought up the issue of safe standing at football.

To Stand or not to Stand at Reading FC

September 2008

Safe standing areas at football matches are current Lib Dem policy.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Kerb Your Enthusiasm

You have to take off your hat to Tony Page for giving a breathtaking display of chutzpah that seeks to hide a party completely bereft of ideas.

His latest lapse into losing touch with reality is his claiming the credit for "forcing" the council to have a public consultation over the problem of kerbside parking. Of course, it is nothing of the sort. There is no victory for Labour. It is a loss for local council tax payers and the local democratic process.

What really happened is that as part of the consultation process all councillors were asked to consult with their residents and send a list of local streets that they would like to see exempt from the scheme which, and let's not forget this, would be extremely popular in many areas.

It's what a councillor is meant to do - represent the community they are elected to serve. It is all covered by the council constitution.

Instead what really happened is that all the Labour councillors wailed and failed in their constitutional duty to participate in representing and advocating the residents who elected them.

The council constitution is quite clear:

2.3 Roles and functions of all Councillors
(a) Key roles All Councillors will:
(ii) act as community advocates and leaders by:

  • promoting and representing the Borough and the local communities and bringing their views into the decision-making processes of the Council and partner agencies;
  • being the advocate of and for their ward and local people and communities living within it, including responding to petitions;
  • providing information to, and promoting local democracy, participation and engagement by, sections of the local community
It was the Labour group completely refusing to do the work that they are constitutionally obligued to do and for which they collectively get paid over £150,000 a year to participate in that has meant that a costly exercise will now have to be carried out. It's because the coalition is committed to public consultation that residents will now have to pay the cost of Labour taking the ball away.

So let's have none of Cllr. Page's nonsense and his Road to Damascus conversion to the joys of public consultation. What Tony Page is actually proud of is costing council tax payers £20,000 for a Borough wide consultation because he and his group reject in principle their duty to perform the functions that are the basic reason they were elected. If he and his cohort had been doing their jobs that money could be spent on something else. But no doubt he'll whine about savings needed to pay for it as well.

Perhaps the real problem is that Labour councillors refused to consult the public over so many things over the last 23 years that they've completely forgotten how to do it.

I think there is a serious case for breach of the council constitution and a reclaim of £20,000 from the Labour group to fund it.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Curiouser and curiouser.

The RCRE email mystery gets even stranger. I received this email.late on Sunday.
Dear Sir/Madam.

I am writing to support the Racial Equality Council of Reading. 

In 2009 I suffered race religious discrimination and harassment at my work place. I seeked help from many places like the citizens advice, police and my community centre. Each time I went to these places they did not help me. As a last resort I met a worker at the readings racial equality council who helped write letters and advised how to follow grievance procedures through the whole process. Because of his help and intervention the people who were causing me the distress at work were suspended and the company took a strong line of action against discrimination. I wish to say that my dignity was restored and now other people of ethnic minorities in my work place feel they do not have to put up with what I went through. If you cut the funding where do people in my situation go to, as other agencies never helped me even when I went to them. I am very grateful to the worker of the racial equality council and hope that you don’t stop this help to other people who may need it. Please reconsider the decision to cut the funding of the racial equality council.

Your Faithfull

***** *******.
It contains a serious allegation about the Citizen's Advice Bureau, that they did not help someone who went to them seeking advice.

In 2008 when I was on the RCRE board I heard a similar complaint against the CAB which was used by a board member as evidence that RCRE was the only organisation that could help. I checked it. That person had not contacted the CAB for help on the matter they had complained about.

I smelled a rat.

The writer of this email hasn't contacted the CAB either! I wonder if the police would like to comment on the accusation that they refused to help someone who went to them complaining about being the victim of racial discrimination. It's one thing to write in support of an organisation but it's quite another thing to make up a story.

Other news....

A message of support on getReading in support of RCRE's £90,000 per year cash guarantee comes from Ruwan, Newbury.  Mr. Uduwerage-Perera is a member of RCRE and on the board of the UNI Network whose project director is Rajinder Sohpal. He appears to be a little shy of mentioning it in his post.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Personnel Matters

Looking through my emails I've discovered that RCRE will be facing an industrial tribunal on 14th-16th June. This relates to a matter that I chaired a personnel sub-committee panel on.

I was asked by RCRE to keep those dates free for a potential appearance as a witness and to provide a statement.

You know I might just do that!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Blind Pilots

I hope you never change
I hope you never go
I hope you always keep
Our little secrets though
But how'd we get here
At this height
And what's this talk of
Dead weight

I know we always drink
But we don't always fight
The landing lights are on
But we're just out of sight
Cos this thing's mobile
There's still wheels
And I'm not done yet
So hang on

You came along to change the grade
To raise the bar I'd made of late
You came along to raise the stakes
To tend to me and my mistakes
I can't pretend that I could be
The man you said you saw in me
But hang around and I'll try and land this thing

Noone came
Noone saw
Someone pass the manual

And soon I'll go away
I'll see you at the door
So go put David on
Read about the war
We're just blind pilots
In strange planes
Back seat drivers
In dead cars

You came along to change the grade
To raise the bar I'd made of late
You came along to raise the stakes
To tend to me and my mistakes
I can't pretend that I could be
The man you said you saw in me
But hang around and I'll try and land this thing
Yeah I made a list of all the things
That I could change how I could win
I can't and I refuse to say
The wheels have slowly come away
I pray to God my soul to keep
Cos I could never stand the heat
But hang around and I'll try and land this thing

Noone came
Noone saw
Someone pass the manual

The Cooper Temple Clause

Friday, 11 February 2011

You Must Remember This...

I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Here's looking at you kid.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Lok 'n' Store - Revisited

Yesterday was the latest saga in the long running Lok 'n' Store development on the Kennet opposite Elgar Road. The original application had run out of time and the developers had asked for an extension.

One of the difficulties with planning is that quite often a development meets all the applicable policies and regardless of whether you think it's appropriate, quite often you have to agree to something you wouldn't normally want to see built. In this case a previous planning committee had unanimously voted against the scheme but this was overturned by a planning enquiry. The problem is that if you get it wrong the council has to pony up costs which can be significant.

For me the crucial test was whether there had been any material change since the planning enquiry gave the go ahead. The answer had to be a 'yes' as the council now has a policy (CS15) that would require density amongst other things, to be taken into account. This wasn't considered by the inspector as at the time the council had no policy.

So for now the application for an extension looks to be heading for refusal.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Minority Report

To hear Labour weep tears for the Ethnic Minorities Forum and RCRE was quite something.

I can bet they've never had a crowd of neighbourhood kids gathered outside their houses screaming "Jungle Bunnies Go Home" or got in a fight because their younger sister has come home in tears because she's been called a "Wog"?

I have. Let me tell you it's not very nice. Really it isn't. Take my word for it. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
My Mum, Aunties and Uncles

I might be a white pinko but my great grandmother was Tamil-Singhalese. My mother is brown-skinned, as is one of my sisters. My other sisters are different shades between. When immigrants from Sri Lanka came to England they settled in Highbury, so if anyone wonders why I'm an Arsenal fan it's because I support my Mum's team.

I have suffered racial prejudice on a scale that is unimaginable to middle-class whites whose idea of fighting racial hatred is based on pseudo-student one liners more suited to Rik (with a silent 'p') from the Young Ones. You haven't really fought racial hatred unless you've had a punch in the face simply because you have a mother with brown skin.

Yet to hear the local Labour party sob about the descent of Reading into the race hate capital of the UK because organisations have to justify their existence you'd think that the local coalition had invited Jack Straw to give a presentation at the next full council.

Jack Straw? Yes, he who said: "There is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men ... who target vulnerable young white girls. We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way."

Now THAT is racist, yet Labour politicians and supporters are quite happy for this racist white man speak on their behalf.

This is the same Labour Party that when I denounced the targeting of Muslims using NI35 at the Ethnic Minorities Forum, first promised to remove the target, then sneakily reintroduced it several times, defending a clearly racist piece of legislation to the point of ridiculousness. Again and again they ignored the clear wishes of the forum to remove NI35 from their programme. They clearly did not listen to it when they ran the council, so why their sudden conversion to its importance now other than for political purposes?

Labour's anti-racist credentials are flawed and self-serving. They don't give a toss for ethnic minorities unless they can deliver votes to the polling stations in taxis.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Curious Incident of the Email in the Night.

Now here's a co-incidence. All councillors have been sent unsolicited emails which start off with exactly the same first line:

I am extremely disappointed and shocked by the decision made by Reading Borough Council to cut the funding of the RCRE. [N Razak]

I am extremely disappointed and shocked by the decision made by Reading Borough Council to cut the funding of the RCRE. [S Khan]

You would be forgiven for thinking perhaps that someone at RCRE was sending out a standard response asking people to be 'extremely disappointed and shocked'. Very sloppy. Maybe I can be forgiven for thinking that they aren't quite the spontaneous groundswell of support they were supposed to appear as.

There was another co-incidence when BBC South Today were invited to a stage managed piece of news by RCRE when we saw their former chair in an unattributed piece to camera at the Oxford Road Community Centre extolling RCRE's virtues. Why so shy? Why keep quiet about that fact?

And by pure coincidence again, the filming in the RCRE offices as the camera panned around the table meant to look like an RCRE board meeting had Bet Tickner sitting there who as far as I'm aware wasn't appointed to the board by the council, it was Cllr Ayub. So what was she doing there other than emphasising that this was a Labour put up job? Of course, there was no mention of RCRE coming to the Tory and Lib Dem groups complaining about Bet Tickner slashing their budget.

The reality of the changes to funding of the voluntary sector is that there will be no more favours. Every organisation will be treated equally. And that means everyone, including those run by ex-Labour councillors. If they have the strong case that they keep telling people they have, then they should make it. This is public money it needs to be justified. It is not a hand out.

In another one of those curious co-incidences, Rajinder Sophal was the Labour chair of the Personnel and Equal Opportunies Committee that in 1998 resolved to pay three full time salaries to union officials from the council tax.

There seem to have been an awful lot of co-incidences when Labour ran the town.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Standards are Slipping

Seems that Jo Lovelock and Unison as well as spreading misinformation are proposing to waste even more public money on completely pointless referrals of political opponents to the Standards Committee.

This is how this inter-web works. This is my personal blog. If you don't like it don't read it.

And I think people are entitled to call it a hidden payment if there is no line item in the budget for it under salaries and the appendix containing the text of the agreement has been missing for 13 years from the committee minutes library and not publicly available from the council web site.  It's called fair comment.

It seems Labour's defence of the agreement is that the terms of the deal was made publicly available in 1998 to anyone who attended the meeting and also to anyone who went down to the basement with a torch where they would find it in the filing cabinet marked 'Beware of the Leopard'.

She also seems to know a lot about the meeting 13 years ago that agreed to implement it when she wasn't even there:
Present:   Councillor Sohpal (Chair);
 Councillors Bello, Green, Lockey, Putt and Sutton.
Apologies: Councillor Lovelock

And for a bunch of bullies they really are a bunch of precious little flowers taking offence at the slightest whisper of critique. They weren't so sensitive when Labour members became accessories to the murder of 250,000 Iraqi civilians. Shame on them!

So here's another one for her to report. Jo Lovelock is using the Standards Committee for political purposes.

Maybe a charge of £1,000 for each unsuccessful referral needs to be considered to stop Labour continuing to waste even more council tax payers money using it to tie up officers and opponents. Then again, they'd probably get Unison to pay it for them!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Unequal Pay

Now here's an interesting thing. Unison have told staff that:

"the trades unions have not agreed to any part of the Pay and Grading (P & G) scheme."

[My underlining]

Any part? Like the bit where staff will get equal pay for equal work? I can understand why unions and their members may not like aspects of the deal, but this is a pretty categorical statement for the rejection of any aspect of it and just to be clear this is the deal that was put together by the previous Labour administration that they were too scared to implement.

This is the point where staff should start to understand that the backhanders their union officials got from the Labour administration bouight their silence. Union officials should NOT be paid for by their employer if they want to be seen as representing the best interests of their members rather than the cosy symbiosis of Labour and senior union branch officials.

I'm a union man. I would urge all staff to join a union. But for goodness sake have the bollocks to reclaim your union!

A Budget Proposal

At the last council meeting, Labour proposed the following amendment:

After recommendation 2.3 add additional recommendation as follows:

2.4 That when the further proposals referred to in 1.6 of this report are brought to the Cabinet in February 2011, the Chief Executive is instructed to include proposals to provide Council services to a broader market of both other public agencies and also possibly private sector organisations in order to increase revenues as an alternative to cuts to services.

The coalition fully agreed with this proposal and added it to the report, largely on the basis that it's exactly what we've been doing all along. Duh!

Now, as Labour moved the amendment, I'm sure that they will agree totally with my proposal to seek alternative funding by offering the services of three full time union officials to other public agencies and invoice the unions for the full cost recovery of the FTE (Full Time Employees) posts currently paid for by council tax payers thereby avoiding cutting three full time posts from front line services to pay for them.

After all, it's exactly what they asked for!