Thursday, 30 June 2011

How RBC Works - Part 287

I and my ward collegues had been working on an ongoing parking issue on behalf of local residents. After no response from the council I quite reasonably asked for an update to see where it had got to.

On the 18th April I sent in my query.
It wasn't logged on the system until the 28th April
It wasn't allocated to a case officer in the transport department until the 12th May.
The officer didn't respond until the 28th June
I was sent a response to it today.

In the meantime the issue I raised has appeared on Labour propaganda claiming it was they "what did it". Complete balderdash as it was a previous decision made after lobbying from Lib Dem councillors but I expect nothing less from them.

If I was a cynic I'd say that this delay was quite deliberate.

Luckily I'm not a cynic, I'm a skeptic.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Shredded Tweet

The Mayor got all hot and bothered yesterday about councillors tweeting in the council chamber. She stopped the meeting several times to tell the miscreant off. The horror!

I know that she is only in the job thanks to the two-faced previous Mayor and not had the advantage of shadowing the Mayor for a year but perhaps to get her up to speed on procedures someone should have told her that it is perfectly legitimate for councillors to tweet during meetings to keep people in touch with what's happening in their name. As long as it remains council policy that meetings should be webcast and made accessible to all it is a perfectly reasonable thing for elected representatives to do.

Here's the crux of the matter for the technologically challenged Luddites in the Labour group. The council has an existing policy on webcasting.

Definition of webcasting: A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is “broadcasting” over the Internet.

From twitter.com: "The Twitter Streaming API allows high-throughput near-realtime access to various subsets of public and protected Twitter data."

Facebook also has a streaming API, so for the purposes of existing council policy, tweeting and posting on Facebook are allowed by the previous motion.

Which makes me wonder how did Jon "Snitch" Hartley know that someone was tweeting before crying to mummy? He couldn't have been following the debate on Twitter because that would surely make him a hypocrite so I do hope he wasn't getting texts from his chums in the public gallery. You see, texting isn't streaming media and doesn't come under the amended Open Source motions provisions. Mind you, he's the councillor who took photographs during a council debate so a 'do as I say not what I do' attitude from him will be no surprise to anyone.

There's some social media guidance from the council but that's all it is guidance. I have no problem with the view of the Commons committee report that says it should be used "with decorum and regard for others". I don't think any posted last night fell outside that test unless you were a Labour activist looking for something to moan and bellyache about.

The only finding from the standards board of any relevance was about being disrespectful to members of the public. Well, I don't mind being found guilty of being disrespectful to Basher McKenzie. I was. However, to make out that he was some sensitive little flower hurt by the thought that only silver bullets could stop him was funny. Poor little diddums. However, to keep on side I'm happy to restrict tweeting to the debate in hand, I'll just lay off their stooges until after the meeting.

The bottom line is that informing the public about the conduct of debate via Twitter is absolutely covered by existing council policy, subject to the normal rules of councillor conduct.

Of course the real reason that Labour don't like tweeting is that is gives people the ability for the opposition to put over their points direct to the public in a contemporaneous fashion without a filter. Most residents have never been to the council chamber and have no idea what goes on in in their name and the nature of meetings is that column inches to cover the debate properly is limited to a few soundbites. So until meetings are routinely broadcast, it is the best way of showing the democratic process in operation.

In that respect, tweeting is being embraced by councils up and down the country, the Houses of Parliament and now the Courts are looking favourably on it as a way of communication during public sessions.

Labour's attempts to put the genie back in the bottle are as laughable as they are ludicrous.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Promises Promises

Remember that concrete promise from Richard McKenzie that Labour would instigate immediate legal proceedings against Wokingham Borough Council over Maiden Erlegh admissions? The parents do. There was a lot of bluster and talk of betrayal and the usual tosh from Labour and faux ansgst.

Well, they're in charge and what have they actually done on now they are in power. Yep, another Labour climb down on yet another bogus election promise.

John Ennis is going to write a strongly worded letter.

That'll learn them.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Pravda

I had to laugh at the "Volunteers keeping it clean" press release from Matt Rodda in the Post. Actually giggle would be more accurate!

It was a press release worthy of the old USSR. Whilst it was nice of him to pop over from Caversham, he miraculously managed to leave out the fact that all three ward councillors were there and that apart from myself and the Lib Dem candidate from the May elections there only appeared to be one other Katesgrove resident there.

NAGs are also meant to be politically neutral and residents know that when I was secretary I bent over backwards to preserve that separation so it remains to be seen how local residents will view Matt's efforts to politicise the Katesgrove NAG like his Labour colleagues have done with the Redlands NAG.

Still, I can't blame him for trying.

A more interesting line of enquiry at the moment for me is whether I can get to the bottom of what appears in the face of it to be a complete and flagarent breach of the Data Protection Act by one of the Labour lead councillors that could result in a fine for RBC if it is as it has been reported to me.

Ignorance is no protection from the law!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Every Little Helps

Now I have no problem with the application for the Tesco distribution centre on the old Courage brewery site. I have every intention of judging it on its merits and ensuring that it is a fair process in accordance with planning regulations and laws.

However, you have to wonder about new Whitley councillor Kelly Edwards involvement in the process. Tesco tell us that they have engaged the services of Green Issues Communiqué to be the PR consultants for the process and to that effect residents and councillors have been sent a letter detailing a couple of PR events being run by that company.

Now I knew that Ms Edwards worked for them and I asssumed that she was "hands off" but I'm staggered to find that she is actually the lead manager for the Tesco account at Green Issues Comminiqué.

It makes me wonder why, as an Abbey resident and former Redlands candidate, did she switch from a seat that Labour always told us they were going to walk to stand as the Labour candidate for Whitley. Was it to represent her consituents or her client?

It'll probably be blamed on the Council but I note that she hasn't published her declaration of interests yet.

From the Green Issues Communiqué web site:

Team – Kelly Edwards, Executive Director

Kelly Edwards has worked at Green Issues for seven years and is Executive Director in charge of operations. Kelly is based in Reading and is the lead manager of two of the company’s key accounts in retail and house building: Tesco and Bellway. She also has particular experience in renewable projects.



Kelly is a councillor for Reading Borough Council and was a General Election prospective parliamentary candidate in 2005 for the Labour Party in Hertsmere, gaining over 11,500 votes. Before joining Green Issues, she spent six years working at the House of Commons as a Press Officer to an MP and as a Senior Parliamentary Researcher and assistant to a several ministers. This experience, combined with her former role as a council LEA school governor, means that Kelly has a thorough knowledge of both national and local authority politics.


Update: I was reminded this morning (25/06/11) by a resident that Green Issues were the company responsible for the PR for the Lok 'n' Store development

Friday, 17 June 2011

Equal Pay Lawyers 4U ~ No-win, no-spree

The news that Reading Borough Council has lost an Employment Tribunal over its failure to implement equal pay under a Labour administration and that it took a no-win no-fee lawyer to do so is not only a major embarrassment to the Reading Labour Party but a damning indictment of the council's unions that are meant to represent low paid staff.

For over 12 years Labour knew that there was a problem, it was an agenda item in 1998 on the then equivalent of the Personnel Committee. So what did they do about it? Bugger all, that's what.

Labour swept it under the carpet each year because they needed the money they had earmarked in the previous year's budget to balance their appalling record in managing the in-year budget rather than to pay staff what they were due.

To give some idea of the scale of the problem, in 2009 they had put aside over £2m to pay equal pay. They didn't implement it then which means that staff who were not paid it are entitled to claim all that that £2m now. Except it's worse than that because many of these cases go back for many more years than 2009.

Labour knew that they were liable to pay out this money and compounded the problem by dragging out the implementation of equal pay even when they knew all about the increasing year on year risk. It took Labour to lose control of the council before staff finally got equal pay and that was against the backdrop of opposition from their unions.

We can see that Labour clearly knew they didn't have a leg to stand on because their last budget saw the council put £3m into its reserves to hedge against losing the tribunal cases. But in typical Labour fashion they used an accounting trick in the Local Authorities Capital Finance and Accounting Regulations and they didn't put any real money aside, it was a dodge. Put simply, they took the risk that if the cases were found against the council, they could add it to the £200m debt they already owed by capitalising it.

Well, the chickens have come home to roost.

I would estimate the total liability Labour left the council tax payer with is nearer to £8m. That would require a 13% increase in council tax to pay for their previous years' negligence. Of course, Labour would be banned from increasing council tax by that amount so the inevitable consequence of their previous in-actions will be massive cuts to compensate.

Remember that when Labour start to slash services to pay for these claims. This is not down to the coalition, the greedy bankers or any "ideological reform" of public services. It is down to more than 12 years of burying their heads in the sand, fiscal irresponsibility and a supine set of local union leaders.

Disgracefully the unions were against inplementing equal pay. We know that because Unison said: "the trades unions have not agreed to any part of the Pay and Grading (P & G) scheme" and so equal pay had to be implemented by the coalition over their heads.

The sad aspect of this, for someone like me who is a great believer in effective union representation, is that the lesson for council staff is that they best represented by a no-win no-fee lawyer rather than those who take their union subs under false pretences and not only lick Labour's boots but still give them the money to buy those boots.

If council staff require effective representation, it's clear that it's no good asking the unions to act. they had over 12 years to do so and failed. Staff could no worse than cancel their union subs and start looking at the no-win no-fee adverts on telly. In fact I would encourage all staff to put in a claim now, if they haven't already, and demand what the law says they are entitled to. It's Labour's mess, let's see them clear it up themselves.

At least we can be grateful that Labour have finally started being honest about the real funders of their local party. In a new submission to the Electoral Commission, the address of the largest donor to the Reading & District Labour Party has listed their address as being: Civic Centre, RG1 7AE.

A long awaited admission that the council tax payer really does fund the local Labour Party.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Redundant Labour

One of the attacks that Labour used on the coalition at the last election aided and abetted by their local donors, was the number of redundancies they were claiming were being made.

Their literature referred to 300 job loses and a decimation of council staff. It was of course all designed to panic staff and cause as much fear as possible. They deliberately left out the fact that 150 of the 300 "jobs" were posts that had remained unfilled for a year and the Performance Improvement Programme (PIP) which they started and presumably supported was going to account for the majority of post reductions. 

Well, I now have the actual figures for last year. There were 49 redundancies above the figure due to their own PIP programme.

Yes, 49 in a council employing nearly 2,500 people (excluding Education). Only half of that number were not agreed by staff which means that in the first year ever that the council had frozen council tax and saved £18m, the evil coalition (© Reading Labour) had only six more non-agreed redundancies than Labour had done the year before and Labour had done that whilst the unions looked on approvingly and completely failed to get Labour to implement equal pay for the Council's lowest paid staff.

I wasn't happy having to make a single redundancy. I agonised over every single post made redundant in my area. It was not something I wanted to do but it was forced on me by the perilous state of the finances when I took over the environment portfolio.

However, the total rank hypocrisy of the Labour group is revealed when we see that in 2007 they made 25 people redundant. In 2008 11. In 2009 30.

Let's see how many the "worker's" party sack this year. They have a track record of doing so which their union masters are happy to turn a blind eye to.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Waste Collection on the Fourth Estate

I've always been a little suspicious of The Chronicle after I did an interview many years ago which mentioned Martin Salter and where I commented on some verifiable facts, indeed I even provided sources for them. They spiked it on the grounds that it was "controversial" rather than factually inaccurate. The Post printed the one I did for them.

Sadly the Chronicle is an establishment paper and for too long that establishment has been Labour. Therefore I wasn't surprised to see them make up a headline: "Lib Dems caught out attacking their own budget cuts" and use the words "The Lib Dem opposition has been left red-faced" based on some rather fallacious remarks from Tony Page and no independent evidence that either statement was true. There was no budget cut so no-one could be caught out or left red-faced.

"Labour claim..." would have been fair but editorially I guess that's repetition and was not necessary before publishing what appears to have started life as opinion piece.

The disappointing part is that I patiently explained to their reporters that there was no cut, why it was not a cut and pointed them to the gold book which contains the budget options where any budget cut or saving would be listed. They still went ahead and published it with a misleading headline and content. I'll be charitable and put it down to them not understanding the subject matter rather than never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

This appears to be the bit that their reporters and editor can't seem to grasp. For there to be a budget cut or a budget saving... it has to be in the budget. Not even the council press statement referred to changes as being part of the budget. The Chronicle simply made up the idea of it being a budget cut to get a sexier headline.

I guess I should be grateful that they at least printed my comment, even if it didn't set alarm bells ringing about the veracity of their story.

I've been looking further into what happened and had a meeting in Friday to discuss what went wrong. The March decision by officers was not to scrap additional collections but to do them during the week rather than pay out extra for overtime. That might have annoyed some staff, but residents were still going to get extra collections under the coalition administration and the resources in terms of staff and vehicles to do so were protected budget items.

An analogy of what happened is that the coalition gave Streetcare enough money to buy some Heinz beans from Morrison's and they discovered that they could buy the same tin cheaper at the local shop. Only an idiot would have a problem with that. I guess Labour policy would be to send them back to get it from Morrison's at the higher price!

It is clear from my meeting on Friday to discuss the matter with council officers that at the time that decision being made there was no cut envisaged. Equivalent service means no cut. Geddit?

So far so good.

How then do we explain to Labour's behaviour? Given that, as explained, there was no cut proposed, how did we get to Jan Gavin, Keith Jerome, Graham Hoskins, Tony Page, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all shrieking on about Con-Dem cuts? The only explanation that holds up is that they took a decision to cut the service and planned to blame it on the coalition. It's why once caught out they had to lie about their actions and try to displace the blame.

What is the real story?

We now know conclusively that it was Labour who scrapped the extra collections because it was the Labour administration that told the Redlands NAG they had been scrapped. Even more damning, their own council press release confirmed it to be a Labour cut when it stated that the end of term collections would be "dealt with through the usual scheduled collection." Those were the first mentions ever that the extra collections were not going to be made.

The question then is when did Paul Gittings make his decision to scrap the coalition's extra collections? His press statement is quite clear that Labour were going to handle the end of term collections only using the usual scheduled collections. That was never the intention of the officers' decision made in March and it is shoddy of Labour to put them in the firing line making them take the blame for a cut that they made themselves.

The swift restoration of the coalitions plans for end of term student collections shows up Labour's words on this subject for what they are - lies. If the coalition had left no capacity in the system to deal with these collections and as they have publicly claimed got rid of the vehicles then Streetcare couldn't possibly have been able to reinstate them so quickly. The capacity was there all along. I know, I left it there.

To clear the extra waste using the alternate weekly collections alone was clearly an additional cut made by Labour and I believe made to compensate for the £26,000 they are losing each month because of their uncosted promises in Streetcare. It's also their first use of their strategic plan to blame every unnecessary cut they make on the coalition. Shame it's all unravelled for them so quickly.

I'm not going to waste my time asking for apologies for their bullshit because most people understand that they simply cannot be trusted.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

University Challenged

I've got a meeting about the end of term collections tomorrow so I'll not delve too far into this now but a few things need to be stated before the Labour lie detector spins out of control.

Jan Gavin has put out a statement that the loss of collections is due to budget cuts in Streetcare by the coalition. She lies

There was nothing in the coalition budget saving papers that require this saving to be made. There were no redundancies in the bin collections team as a result of budget savings. Go on, look in the gold book. There's nothing about stopping these collections as a budget saving option. I'll go further, it wasn't even in the full set including rejected budget options. There probably a reason to make it now that Labour are losing £26,000 per month of income in the Streetcare budget, but if there is a reason now that is totally Labour's fault. You see, Jan, is directly responsible for this cut to an important service that her residents rely on each year to keep their streets clean.

Keith Jerome is abusing the Redlands NAG for political purposes again by emailing residents referring to the NAG meeting which he chairs urging them not to sign a petition to reinstate these collections accusing them of being "con-dem" cuts. He Lies

There were no redundancies in the budget for refuse teams and the weekly collection proposal adopted by the Lib Dem and Conservative administration actually required extra capacity which was budgeted for and could have been used for these collections. If a cut has been made it was not as a result of the previous administration.

And if they were, as he says, "Con-Dem" cuts he wouldn't any problem with reinstating them would he? Except they're not. They are cuts by the new Labour administration, end of story.

Sarah Hacker claims that the decision was made by Streetcare, not Labour. She Lies

Er, who is in charge of this council? You are. Get with the programme. Labour run Streetcare. A Streetcare cut is a Labour cut. You are responsible for this one Councillor Hacker. A pathetic attempt to pass the buck.

Labour members wriggle and squirm, spam the #rdg tag and peddle the big lie that the nasty coalition made us do it, but we didn't. We left the council with the capacity and the budget to do the university collections. It was not even an option discussed and rejected.

What is happening is that their uncosted promises and never ending reviews are costing hundreds of thousands of pounds in unbudgeted expenditure across the council every month as they fail to introduce changes that were made to protect services such as this and this failure to realise income is starting to hurt residents as they have to slash services which we protected.

This is one guarantee I can make, a Lib Dem in the administration would not have made this cut. It is completely unnecessary.

The reason they squeal so loudly is that Labour don't like it when they are caught red-handed. They don't like it up 'em you see.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

I Like It When a Plan Comes Together.

It's good to see Paul Gittings so thoroughly approving of my scheme to generate income for the council and protect regulatory posts. It's a shame therefore that such enthusiasm is spoilt by his voting against them in the budget.

JD Wetherspoons, AB Walker, Greene King PLC and Majestic Wine are now signed up to take advice from RBC which will save them money and generate income from the council and more importantly will protect staff positions and services.

It is recognition that Reading provides first class services of a national quality in these areas and I'd like to thank the officers in this area for their hard work (you know who you are) and Michael Coughlin for his whole hearted and full support for my initiative to bring this to fruition.

Let's make one thing clear though. The money that this raised was going to be ring-fenced to protect this important area of work for the council and to sustain jobs and services to local residents. If Labour start dipping their hands into this pot and use it as general income stream to pay for their incompetence elsewhere then they will deserve contempt.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Puppet Government

The First Cabinet meeting has seemingly established the pattern for the year with Labour complaining about "Punch and Judy politics" then resorting to the language of the playground. It was immensely amusing.

What is becoming abundantly clear that a deal has definitely been done behind closed doors by the Greens with Labour. Jo Lovelock as good as admitted it when challenged to reveal Labour's agreement with them she said: "We have published all there is to be documented" rather than there is no agreement. We know that even the Labour group are not stupid enough to commit to promises in writing so I actually believe her when she says that there are no more documents to be published.

You see, it's the verbal promises that we're interested in. The little "we'll see what we can do" accompanied by the nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.

The alternative scenario Labour would have us believe is that the Greens are so incredibly stupid that they handed over power to them for absolutely nothing. Are we really to believe that Rob White is as dumb as to not only give them the Cabinet for no agreement but to lie on record about who he was going to vote for as Mayor and then change his word and lose any claim to integrity he felt he had simply for a pat on the head?

In fact there was evidence of an unwritten agreement when Rob White walked out of the Cabinet meeting before the agenda item discussing the most important thing for the council over the next year - the finances. You can't help the poor and vulnerable if you don't have any bloody money. Thanks to the Greens a call-in of any cabinet decision requires all opposition councillors on the committee to vote for it - including them, which is never likely to happen.

His walk out before the discussion on the budget item was therefore very telling. It is so obviously part of their secret deal that the Greens will ignore any financial papers and leave it clear for Labour to rubber stamp their own budget without any scrutiny. Because if it wasn't part of any deal, it was a staggering abdication by Rob White of his responsibility from someone taking public money to scrutinise what the administration are doing. We know what that really signified. The Greens will see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

You can see how future budget discussions will go. The nervous glances from Rob to Jo to make sure he is saying the right thing. The pre-briefing to make sure Labour and the Greens use exactly the same rhetoric. The charade of "sitting on their hands". Must have been worth at least a tummy tickle.

As for the rest, the price of failure for Graham Hoskin has been that Labour are now woefully lacking in talent, with only John Ennis and Mike Orton looking like they will be able to hold their own over the next year.

Morning star and Reading West candidate Rachel Eden would be lost without her script to read. The trouble was, when the pesky opposition don't actually make the points she thought they were going to make made her pre-written ramblings look very very silly.

Jon Hartley, I have to say, is putting in a bravura performance as dead man walking before he loses his seat next May. All very reminiscent of that other Park coward, John Howarth and his final year's blustering before it ended in ignominy. It won't help you Jon unless you start stabbing the Greens in the front.

Perhaps that's the deal. Hartley leaves Park with only a whimper to allow perpetual loser Richard McKenzie to stand again and so allow the Green's to win a third councillor in exchange for Green abstentions throughout the year. After all it makes no difference whether Park has a Labour or Green councillor. One way or another Labour can count 100% on their support.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Green at the Gills

The first direct consequence of the Greens propping up Labour has been revealed... the end of year student collections have been stopped.

Of course, Labour and the Greens didn't come out and announce this to the public via a press release. they let it leak out via a Neighbourhood Action Group. As a ward councillor affected by this decision, I've not been told about it. Shear cowardice.

These collections are essential in student areas like Katesgrove, Park and Redlands to prevent the build up of rubbish which are a natural result of students packing up to go home. It's not the students' fault but is something that really winds up residents if it is left around for weeks on end as used to happen and let's be clear, the Greens have let it happen.

Why can I blame Rob White for this cut? Simple, it was not in my budget savings. A coalition administration would not have cut this service. Labour have and Rob White let Labour form the administration. He is just as much to blame as Paul Gittings. In fact even more so because his negotiations with Labour demanded the reversal of the charges for green waste collection. Cause and effect.

In the Greens' world of pestering Mummy at the supermarket checkout for sweets she can't afford, their "victory" has come home to roost and will directly impact the residents of Park ward. Nice one Rob. Labour's Caversham and Norcot based councillors have also been remarkably quiet about this first unnecessary cutting of services to their constituents. Fingers on the pulse as ever in their homes miles away from their wards they claim to represent.

The delay to the implementation of the green waste charges has already lost the council £80,000. This is not theoretical, it is real money that pays for staff salaries and has to be found from somewhere else.

We also see the first example of how Labour react to budget pressures, as I predicted, by slashing services. They are incapable of keeping to a budget and you will see throughout the year even more services cut to pay for their financial ineptitude and short-termism - the majority of which will be unnecessary and caused by their own incompetence.

I made some pretty tough decisions to protect the long term future of council services but which would not only guarantee their long term future but would also have enhanced the services offered by the council. I had constructed a 5 year business plan that protected waste services and allowed for the introduction of kerbside glass, mixed plastic and eventually food waste collection as a sustainable services by reconfiguring the service to make the environmentally dubious green waste collection pay more for itself and to create alternative income generation streams by commercialising the trade waste collections which are currently overpriced and underused. The irony that the Greens will be ultimately responsible for the council's failure to introduce these new recycling streams would be laughable if it wasn't also so bad for Reading residents.

The Green's don't like responsibility. They are incapable of making any decision so it is hard to work out whether the Greens behaviour has been a case of lambs to the slaughter or Labour's obedient sheep but which ever it is, in this case the losers are the residents of Katesgrove, Park and Redlands.

In the Green's little world they believe that an absence of decision making absolves them of culpability. Wrong. Threatening to squweam and squweam and squweam until they're thick will not abdicate them of that responsibility. Every cut, every stopped service and every closure is just as much their fault as it is Labour's and I will hold them to account for each and every one of them.


Update: The Lady doth protest too much. I've said this before but how can you tell when Jan Gavin is lying? Her lips move or she blogs something.

This pretty much sums her up:
The Lib Dem Councillors in Redlands have accused Labour of scrapping the end of term extra rubbish collections in students areas in a blatant twisting of the truth. Their lies are breath-taking. They accuse us of taking decisions behind closed doors .. they must have very short memories, it was their decision to cut Streetcare Services not ours!
There is no twisting of the truth by the Lib Dems. Scrapping the end of term collections was never an option put to me. I would have fought to keep them. I've seen no decision book entry to confirm it so "behind closed doors" describes the decision exactly. I don't need to have a short memory to forget this as I have my budget options papers where there is no mention of this Labour cut.

This is simply the first in a long line of Labour cuts that are caused by their unaffordable election commitments. There is only one liar here so no wonder she is wriggling like a worm on a hook after being caught in public letting down her Redlands constituents from her home in Norcot.

Let's be clear here. This is a cut by Labour for which they and the Greens are wholly responsible. It would not have happened with the Lib Dems in a coalition administration. It will hit her constituents who must be kicking themselves for falling for her lies and she is responsible for it as much as any other Labour or Green councillor.

I always knew their election lies would unravel eventually and we will see more and more in the near future. I'm just surprised it's only taken a matter of weeks for her to get caught out.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The City State of Reading

City status. I remember voting against it in a council meeting last year and given exactly the same circumstances I would do the same again. That may surprise people given that I also back the Lib Dems change of mind about supporting the bid but it shouldn't. The simple reason is that the facts have changed and people who refuse to change their opinion in the light of new information are fools.

The basic heart of the matter a year ago was what would the council get from city status? At the time it was an increased stationary invoice and an unquantifiable bill for council tax payers. 

The minority Labour administration had shown itself incapable of sticking to a budget and exhibited a penchant for pissing other people's money up the wall on grand schemes like their ridiculous WOMAD replacement (which I subsequently discovered they had kept details from me when I was vice-chair of the Culture and Sport Scrutiny Panel and they lost tens of thousands of council tax payers monies in the process).

Simply put, at the time of the Council motion there was no reason to think Labour wouldn't have done exactly the same left in charge of any bid.

A year on and those reasons are no longer valid. What happened in between was that the Lib Dems were in joint control of the Council so any idea that public money would be wasted in any quantity was clearly not going to happen.

Reading CIC ran with it and did a magnificent job at putting to gether their bid so whilst there is still a cost to the council it has proved to be marginal and under those conditions the only reason to not support it would be a desire to throw a childish tantrum.

But then we know for some that is their raison d'être. Their only goal is to be against something simply for the sake of it. I blame it on a sixth form debating society view of politics where it doesn't matter what the argument is, the aim is to take a contrary point of view, regardless of merit.

I'm more than happy to admit when I'm wrong, PCSOs for example, but in this case it is simply that facts have changed and I'm happy to change my mind accordingly. I'm still not convinced that city status will make much of a difference without the inclusion of the Greater Reading area but I have no intention of raining on anyone's parade and I wish the bid all the best.

It's all very well playing Don Quixote charging around on a quest to slay imaginary giants but that's the mark of a political pygmy. Reading has enough of those in the Cabinet.