READING EAST MP Matt Rodda and the new parliamentary candidate for Reading West Rachel Eden welcomed newly-appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Margaret Greenwood MP to Reading recently.

Visiting the Whitley Community Social Club and Café, the Shadow Secretary of State was also able to meet with local employers, volunteers and community members and discuss the challenges faced by communities in assisting and equipping people with skills for both the job market and also for engagement with community initiatives and projects. Obstacles to applying for and receiving funding for community projects was also discussed and explored in a Q&A session with the Shadow Secretary of State, which was well received. Recently-elected parliamentary candidate for Reading West Rachel Eden was also able to meet and chat with the Shadow Secretary of State.

As part of the ‘Big Local’ development plan, Whitley Community Development Association were able to secure over £1m of lottery funding; this has proven to be a vital source of funds to secure the complete redevelopment and transformation of the Community Centre and Café into a modern community hub – fit for purpose and designed to serve the needs of local people.

The finished project will realise the provision of fully functioning community café, a library and learning resource centre, a local museum and a performance hall -complete with stage. Further, there will be space for leisure and recreation so that local community groups can use the space for their activities. Local voluntary organisations, support agencies and small businesses will also be able to make use of the space, and advice drop-in sessions on a variety of issues and neighbourhood needs are planned upon completion of the building works. This project is nearing completion and is due to be finished in Spring 2018.

A guided tour was led by Community Development Co-Ordinator Trisha Bennett who showed the Shadow Secretary of State and the Reading East MP around the ongoing building works at the site and pointed out the new facilities.

Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said:
“I was very impressed by the community café that I visited. It shows what can happen when you empower communities. I was particularly impressed by the Whitley Researchers who are exploring means of improving local people’s lives, by having them play the central role in any prescription offered to them. Consequently, getting them into work. It is clear that there are really exciting developments in the pipeline in Whitley.

“Rachel Eden’s work as a local councillor who understood the community was also very interesting. In Rachel, Labour has a fantastic local Parliamentary candidate for Reading West. I wish her every success.”

Following the visit by the Shadow Secretary of State and a tour of the ongoing building works, Reading East MP Matt Rodda said:
“Whitley Community Social Club and Café are outstanding projects which provide work and a welcoming environment for many local people. The key to its success is that they are run by local people and that they offer food and other services that the
community wants.

“I think it is really important that local people are able to take the lead with these sorts of community projects; this is what helps it to make such a difference in helping to get people back into work and to support the regeneration of Whitley.

It was wonderful to have the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Margaret Greenwood MP, in Reading, and she was really interested in the success of the Whitley Community Café.”

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