Monday, 23 July 2012

Open Mouth. Insert Feet.

Originally I was disappointed when John Hartley found himself in the 5 items or fewer lane in Waitrose and unceremoniously dumped from the Cabinet but in retrospect Jan Gavin is the gift that just keeps on giving and far more entertaining to scurrilous persons like myself.

The lead councillor for U-turns just can't help putting her foot in it and she has managed to do it once again in spectacular fashion over the University and Hospital Area study.

Jan's unhealthy obsession with fellow councillor Daisy Benson is well documented and now the town's most grammatically challenged lead councillor (and that takes some beating with John Ennis in post) has put on her most school-marmy tone in admonishing her fellow councillor by calling her a "naughty girl".

Denigrating female politicians is a modus-operandii for someone who attacked Daisy for being a bit "blonde" but what was @cllrdaisybenson's error this time? Why repeating what officers had told her that the painting of parking bays would result in a reduction of spaces in a given street. How do I know they said this? Because I was in the meeting when they did!

In fact, Zelda has a habit of attacking people on Twitter. Anyone who dares criticise her omnipotence gets the hairdryer treatment... and the local residents don't like it much. Labour are discovering that she is a liability and exposed their complete dearth of talent.

As well as being dyslexic, Jan is also dyscalculic. One tweet from her suggested that 50% of residents were in favour of a residents parking zone and that Daisy would have been aware of it if "only" she spoke to residents. Well, the actual facts are that 89% of residents didn't respond which means that only 5% were in favour of a residents parking zone... 61% under the number that I was told that Highways would accept before even considering one. Residents should be thankful. Labour have acted before on less than 5% backing.

I guess Cllr Benson was unlucky in speaking to the other 95% of residents. How unlucky can you get. Perhaps in truth it's Jan who needs to get out more ;-)

But it looks like Cabinet will be entertaining this year. Tony Page would literally roll his eyes in meetings when ever Zelda came out with another of her focus group ideas. He's not a big fan.

I'm looking forward to more this year from the gaffe prone lead councillor, not content with blabbing out Labour's hidden agenda. She really can't help sticking both feet in her mouth at the same time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Green with Envy

For decades Labour's approach to community politics has been to use public money to further their political strangle hold on minority communities. Instead of each according to need it is to each according to how many votes can be delivered to the ballot box.

Tony Page said as much when awarding RCRE money last year when he urged a charity to illegally ask its members to vote Labour and directly linked it to the handing out of council cash. It is on public record. It is never about value for money or what is best for Reading. It has always been about what has been best for Reading Labour Party.

Their latest wheeze is to interfere in the Green Road mosque to put their placemen back in control of local Asian politics. It's probably too complex to broach in a single blog post, but the evidence is overwhelming... if only the Asian community wasn't too scared to speak out publically about it.

The whole range of issues related to the Green Road mosque and the internal conflict between the Alexandra Road and South Street mosques is impossible to simplify, but if you think Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen was an awkward moment for both, then that is nothing on internal Asian community politics in Reading. We're talking Ian Paisley giving The Pope a peck on the cheek territory. It's time to recognise that they are irreconcilable and that for the council to conclude a commercial deal is in the best interests of community relations and council tax payer.

But to condense a complex matter into a more succinct scenario, the question that people should be asking is why does a municipal authority demand to have a politically appointed trustee on a mosque board? Why indeed! The answer to that is at the very heart of the matter.

Quite simply, the continued interference of the Reading Labour Party using council cash in local Asian politics is a disgrace and many of the local Asian community are appalled by this but are too scared to make a stand against certain elders who are in Labour's pocket.

The bottom line is that a borough council should not be directly involved in religion or its organisations and Labour has compromised the impartiality of officers by abusing council finance for political gain.

The Green Road mosque has planning permission. It doesn't need a complex trust arrangement. My concerns about traffic and parking were taken on board and from a planning point of view I was happy that the location was sutainable and that a green travel plan was going to work. There is no reason why a fully commercial transaction could not be done and the mosque built. If that involves just the Alexandra Road mosque moving, then so be it. There is a clear wider community gain from that happening.

There should be no political interference in a religious organisation by the council. either a deal is good for residents or it isn't. The Green Road mosque forago stinks and Labour's behaviour is harming community relations both from the internal divisions it is creating within the Asian community and anger at a perception of preferential treatment from without.

Get politics out of religion. And get council back handers out of Reading politics.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Keeping Council

Much as I enjoyed being a councillor, the view from the other side of the public gallery is much more amusing.

The panicky U-turn by Labour over their proudly announced Park and Ride schemes seems to have also knocked on the head the University and Hospital Area Study which, in any case, I've always suspected was an excuse by the Highways department to roll out parking meters into residential areas.

However, after their one-way IDR, Rose Kiln Lane and Shinfield Road fiascoes Labour seems to have adopted a turkeys not voting for Christmas mentality so I suspect it will now be quietly shelved. As the strength of feeling around the Park and Rides showed, messing around with parking is a dangerous game in local politics.

That's so well understood that when I was asked about getting a new residents' parking scheme in Katesgrove, I was told by Highways that they wouldn't even consider going out to consultation unless I could prove more than 66% support from residents. Based on figures from when I was a councillor, the council has had nowhere near even a 50% response rate from residents in the university area let alone support, so the smart money after their climb down on the Park and Rides is they will scrap any changes.

Unless they really are so desperate for the cash to pay for their increased spending that they will introduce parking meters against residents wishes anyway.

But the most entertaining part of the meeting for the masses in the public gallery was not the U-tum. It was watching Jan Gavin land her group in it again. If only she had kept her mouth shut. Liking the sound of your own voice is dangerous if you have nothing to say.

An innocuous Lib Dem amendment to Labour's Programme asking them to make a commitment to not close any Libraries and Children's Centres looked to be being quietly buried with the usual tribal "foolish Lib Dems" put downs... until the Cabinet member with too much time on her hands decided to blurt out Labour's real plans.

It was like winding up a clockwork toy and letting it go. An angry "We are looking to rationalise", "Of course we can't guarantee not closing services", "We're looking at other ways to deliver" and "I'm not wedded to bricks and mortar" was as clear an indication as there could be without actually naming them that there is an asset stripping exercise going on which curiously didn't make it into Labour's Programme.

Labour's problem is that they have reinstated schemes that steal from the poor to give to the rich and lost the savings that were required to protect those services. Of course they can't guarantee them. They have cynically determined that making unnecessary cuts to these services can be blamed on the national government.

But a single failure to engage brain before mouth has undone any hope they had of keeping it quiet.

Once the foolish cabinet member with too much time on her hands had placed both her feet in her mouth, we saw furious back-peddling from Jo Lovelock shrieking slightly hysterically about Lib Dem 'scaremongering'. Well Jo, you could have squashed that on the spot by saying categorically that Labour would not close any Libraries or Children's Centres. You didn't. Simples.

I suspect that means Janet Gavin is going to have so spend the next Cabinet meeting sitting in the naughty chair now that Jon Hartley no longer occupies it.

[Update] It would appear from her own tweets that Cllr Gavin has fled the country to escape the wrath of her own party!