I’m continuing to work on a number of issues over the summer
Raising the importance of Reading Prison as a possible arts hub
I am working with the council to see if Reading Gaol can be turned into a hub for the arts and I called for the Government to support this project in a debate in Parliament.
The prison is both a very important historic site with links to Oscar Wilde and others and is a grade II listed building, it also sits next to the Abbey and there is the possibility to use the gaol as part of an arts and heritage site in what could become a heritage quarter of the town.
I think this could be a very exciting option which could help the arts and raise awareness of Reading’s rich history. However, there are a range of practical problems as the prison is owned by the Ministry of Justice and the site includes an ancient graveyard. I am keen to work with councillors and have approached the Prisons Minister about the proposal and how to overcome some of these challenges.
I have been working with other Labour colleagues calling for the UK to maintain a sensible relationship with Europe and for a customs union and full access to the single market. I am deeply disappointed by the Government’s inability to develop a clear position and to carry out an effective negotiation with the EU.
Theresa May’s attempt to paper over the wide range of views in her own party does not seem to have worked. At the same time the European Commission has pointed out that it would not accept her proposals on customs. She now seems to be undertaking a series of visits to try to persuade individual European Governments to support her, despite a lot of evidence which suggests this will not work.
I have also been running a campaign raising awareness about plastics pollution, in the run up to the Plastics Bill being debated in Parliament this autumn.
Our team has been talking to local businesses about what could be done by the Government to reduce waste from items like plastic packaging, building on the reduction in plastic bag use, which the Welsh Labour Government played an important role in helping.
Showing support for defibrillators
I attended a very moving opening of a deregulator at the Whitley Café, where the equipment was unveiled by the family of a local man who suffered from heart problems. Cllr Rachel Eden, the Labour Candidate for Reading West and I both wanted to support this important initiative which has been driven by local people in Whitley.
Details and pictures can be seen here
Presenting a Birthday Card to the NHS
Rachel and I also showed our support for our Health Service by joining with a number of councillors trade unionists and local campaigners to present cards to the RBH to celebrate the NHS’s 70th birthday.
Bus services meeting
I also arranged a public meeting for residents in Caversham and Emmer Green where Reading Buses is reducing services due to financial pressures.
Our council owned bus service is one of the best in the country and Reading is one of only three areas where bus use is rising. However, costs are also rising making it harder for bus companies.Buses are a lifeline for many people, particularly older people, disabled residents, young people, families and commuters.
I think it is important to consider ways of raising money to fund public transport, including encouraging more people to use buses and reducing the cost of congestion to the bus company by considering priority measures for buses.
In addition, I think it is important to help residents consider the council’s consultation on a possible work place parking levy or congestion charge, as possible ways of raising funds for public transport.
I also want to thank all those who helped deliver leaflets about this meeting, all those who attended and to particularly thank Caversham Labour Councillor, Adele Barnett-Ward, for her help with the meeting.