Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Communicating Autistic Needs

Cllr Emma Warman has broken her blogging exile to report on a special meeting of RBC's Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Panel. She was clearly moved by the Berkshire Autistic Society's presentation and described it as highly informative.

Meanwhile Anna Roberts regurgitates a series of statistics showing that Reading has above average numbers of sufferers - 25% of the town's children live with special needs, compared to the national average 17%.

One of the major problems is that intensive two-way communication is not taught in the borough's schools which often leads to reduced life skills and social exclusion.

The meeting was part of a country-wide consultation exercise, building on the National Autistic Society's Exist campaign. A series of similar meetings across the country will form the basis of future government strategy and contribute the major part to the forthcoming Autism Bill which will create legal duties for authorities to provide acceptable levels of support to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

One change will be to introduce a specialist team to every local authority with the responsibility to improve identification and diagnosis thereby enabling better care provision and planning.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Berkshire Builders Fined For Cover-Pricing

After a major investigation the Office of Fair Trading has levied record fines against some of the country's biggest builders for price fixing - including for contracts undertaken in Berkshire.

The 'cover pricing' scam involved collusion between bidders in competitive bid processes to artificially inflate and distort contract values payable by customers, sometimes including local authorities.

In many cases this also included 'backhand' payments between bidders as part of prearrangements to guarantee 'preferred bidder' status.

A total of £129.5m punishments were handed out to companies for illegal practices between 2000 and 2006.

Projects in Berkshire found to have been illegally tendered include:-

Mount Pleasant in Bracknell,
10/12 Bowden Hill in Sunninghill,
12, 14 & 16 Redlands Road in Reading,
a classroom extension at Hillside Primary School in Reading and
Herschel Grammar School in Slough.

According to Building Magazine the fines have also opened the door to councils undertaking further criminal proceedings out against the guilty parties which may lead to the disqualification of directors. The OFT said they would take no further action themselves, but encouraged civil suits and blacklisting as further measures against companies where it is appropriate to do so.

Both Wokingham Borough Council and Reading University responded to the news by reassuring the public with the explanation that their tender processes are transparent and comply with competition law, but they would take a second look at companies found guilty of malpractice.

Bracknell Blog has been on the case, previously expressed concern about the high cost of works. They also note that Apollo has denied the charges and will be appealing against their fine.

Meanwhile Alyson Pollock at Comment is Free argues that this scandal highlights another failure in the Government's Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which it uses to drive capital investment schemes, and lies behind a recent report by the National Audit Office called Improving the Competitive Tender Process.

Building industry spokespeople said companies were now in compliance with updated regulations, but the fines would almost certainly cost jobs because the extra profits had likely already been absorbed.

However, the OFT stated the problem is 'endemic' within the industry and will remain so while the behaviour continues to be incentivised.

Oranjepan says:
After a 5-year investigation it is a scandal that the regulator finds itself hindered by a lack of resources and a changable economic climate, to add to the futile pursuit of enforcing bad regulations which create the problems in the first place.
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Labour Are Out Of The Running In Reading East

...at least according to the bookmakers.

Ladbrokes are quoted as offering the best price for Labour hopeful Anneliese Dodds at an eye-watering 100/1, putting her beyond the realms of even a 'value' bet!

And in a neat piece of symmetry Conservatives and LibDems are made the twin contenders by Paddy Power at 1/14 and 14/1 respectively. Other parties are not quoted.

Cllr Swaine is excited by this news. He says Ms Dodds has aligned herself too closely with the dying Labour government and is almost certain to suffer the same fate as a swathe of people dramatically reject Gordon Brown.

With voters equally concerned about the prospects of a hung parliament allowing Mr Brown to continue in the job, and a landslide majority for Mr Cameron's Conservative party which would give license to the more ideological tory tax-cutters, the prospect that Labour are 'no-hopers' in this seat may encourage significant numbers to swing behind Cllr Epps parliamentary bid for the LibDems.

It would also mark a remarkable decline for the Labour party to be pushed from 1st place into 3rd in the space of two elections.

UKPollingReport provides unrivalled coverage and analysis of the state of the parties as the final party conference season before the general election heads to its' climax. Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, 28 September 2009

Housing Market Joys And Woes

Your home is the single biggest purchase most people will ever make in their lives and the housing market has therefore become a prime indicator of the state of the economy.

So it will warm the hearts of large sections of society to know that their equity is returning to positive territory.

Radio Bracknell reports house prices are on the rise again, while Appleton Estates have recently seen a recovery in rental prices.

This has even lead to some estate agent chains feeling bullish enough to open new shops.

However with the credit crunch still fresh in the memory many will be wondering if reinflating the bubble is a sustainable means of wealth-creation and getting the country out of recession.

PKS Property Services says you'd be right to be highly sceptical about the sudden return of confidence, citing 5 reasons why they predict the sector could halve in the next 12 months.

Redlands LibDems are concerned with the effect of the housing market on those who find themselves excluded from it.

Cllr Benson reports on the case of a Reading-born resident who wants to stay in the area, but for financial reasons relies upon housing provided by the council.

The Right-to-Buy policy introduced by the Conservative government in the 1980's helped many people with disposable incomes get a step on the housing ladder, but the consequence was reduced service levels for those who had become trapped.

Not only were the more desirable and larger council-owned properties sold off first, meaning overcrowding became a problem as the available property pool dwindled, but it also has meant a reduction in the ability to maintain those it does have - leaving many homes in an unfit state for habitation.

With bad housing one of the prime causes of deprivation and child poverty, Cllr Benson notes the reduced life chances in areas like the Hexham Road.

The ward resident she spoke to has taken the response by applying to join the council housing waiting list in Oxford.

Her inescapable conclusion is that Reading under Labour prefers to shift problems than to deal with the causes.

-

Update: Bracknell Blog takes us on a tour of Easthampstead's listed Point Royal tower block. Dazmando notes that there are social ills, as with all social housing, but says the ability to deal with them "also depends on your neighbours and your relationships with them and your willingness to engage."

It's official - housing prices are back to 2008 levels!

The Age of Stupidity turns his analytic gaze on housing asset prices, describing them as one of the most misunderstood asset classes around.

Interestingly he says that bubbles are caused by expansionary monetary policies and predicts inflated prices on goods and services will be the preferred choice of policy-makers to control the economy grinding to a halt.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Salter Slammed For 'Riot' Reference

Non-partisan local blogger Gideon Mack has launched a furious attack on Reading West MP Martin Salter for having "exaggerated an incident to the point of lying".

He accuses the parliamentary representative of a cheap and offensive attempt at headline-grabbing, after he reacted to video footage posted on Youtube in the aftermath of Reading Festival.



Mr Salter called the attitude of the Police responses 'cavalier'. He urged the imposition of ID cards and other measures to clampdown on revellers in time for next year's last night, while also describing the excesses of chanting music fans around bonfires as the behaviour of 'drunken yobs'.



However this statement appears overblown as respectyourfestival.com responded by showing security taking an active role in controlling bonfires.



Oranjepan says:
In a media dominated age different camera angles will always show different views. How we allow ourselves to form an impression is all a matter of perspective.

Watch for yourselves and make your own minds up.

More Reading Festival coverage.

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Update: Mr Salter had a 'frank and forthright' discussion with councillors, Police and licensing officers on the subject.

Afterwards Mr Salter claimed his intervention had woken all parties up to his fear that similar incidents may be more serious in the future, but Chief Inspector Dave Parker contradicted the Labour MP stating that he had been reassured by the debrief and that drastic measures were not required.
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Friday, 25 September 2009

Recommended Reading List #35

Just like buses, just when you've waited a while for one along come two in a row!

The ever-interesting Graham Jones examines the growing communications breach between 'traditional' politicians and the public. He notes the criticism of the Labour party by President Obama's digital strategist and points out how there has to be senior level buy-in from those at the top.

He argues that it is essential to operate at the same level as your intended audience, otherwise whatever effort you may make will be wasted and however hard you try to bridge the communication gap you will look and sound increasingly out of touch and disconnected from those you're trying to reach.

With fewer numbers of voters identifying tribal political loyalties and politicians increasingly seen as careerists separated from normal people in a class of their own he warns established politicians to take note or lose out.
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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Recommended Reading List #34

It's been a while since something with a local focus quite as deserving as this appeared on the radar.

The title of the town's 'premier humourist' has well and truly passed to a new champion with this rundown of petty provincial parochialism (most of which I hadn't touched with the proverbial bargepole), but despite all that his love of our thriving hub which desperately wants to be the capital of the country's main gutter pours forth in a joyous tirade.

And on this evidence Reading definitely has some valid claims (well, it almost rhymes...).
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Monday, 21 September 2009

Grand Committee Meeting Sparks Democratic Debate

Last Monday the Grand Committee of South East England met at Reading Town Hall.

All the regional MPs were invited, but only 14 (of 59) Conservatives, nine (of 18) Labour and four (of 6) LibDems turned up.

Reading Chronicle describes the '25' as representing a good attendance in comparison to similar events in other parts of the country, referring to concerns that the 17 required to form a quorum would not be achieved.

BBC's regional political correspondant Peter Henley reports regional economic and infrastructure issues were on the agenda, including jobs, roads and housebuilding.

You can read the eight oral questions posed to the minister here.

He also asks whether the away day for MPs was a practical method 'to burst the Westminster bubble' and bring a new perspective to the political process, or whether it was only good for 'grandstanding'.

Clearly it depends on the behaviour of the individuals.

Despite his misgivings about the 'balkanisation' of national government (though not of counties, eh?) and decentralised decision-making, Wokingham's John Redwood was there.

He took the opportunity to criticise his chance to hold the minister to account, called the Grand Committee a quango, compared the affair to a Soviet press conference and called for an end to regional government

Mr Redwood had obviously forgotten that SEERA (the South East England Regional Assembly) was dissolved earlier this year, as he argued against the government's regional accountability plan - which forms part of the 'Strengthening Local Democracy' policy for greater devolution of powers - and opposed the modernisation of parliamentary procedures.

Meanwhile Jane Griffiths was on SalterWatch duty, reversing her initial suggestion that the Reading West MP didn't attend the local event, to note he made a flying visit in order to get a photo opportunity with regional Minister Jonathan Shaw MP.


Oranjepan asks:
Is democracy for the people, or for the politicians?


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Friday, 18 September 2009

Labour Names 10 Candidates

Reading's Labour group has taken the opportunity of the lull in the party conference season to announce ten of 16 candidates who will be standing in council elections next spring.

The biggest news is the return of Malcolm Powers to the local scene after a considerable absence, while a new political dynasty appears on the horizon as Chris Maskell's daughter will be slipped into place as independent councillor Tony Jones stands down (although he has yet to confirm his parliamentary bid).

In swing-seat Katesgrove 20-year-veteran councillor Richard Stanthorp is heading for the hills, allowing newcomer Matt Rodda the chance to gain experience.

The Green Party's Rob White notes that he will be facing a heavyweight in Labour's failed candidate in the Henley by-election and former Kentwood councillor Richard MacKenzie (who wrote the short-lived 'Don't Run The Lollipop Man Over').

Sitting Park ward councillor Shirley Merriot is 'reluctantly' standing down because of 'career pressures', and apprently not because of some of the reasons former Labour MP for Reading East Jane Griffiths describes.

And in Whitley, party employee Jane Eden announces on her blog she will be replacing Mary Singleton-White.

-

Update: Reading Chronicle also reports the announcement.

Oranjepan asks:
It begs the question, are Labour now so unpopular that they can only depend on family members, party employees and stalwarts in a town they have held control of for over two decades? And why are they only capable of announcing two-thirds of their slate at this time?
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Sunday, 13 September 2009

Refit For Broadmoor

Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne houses some of the UK's most dangerous and notorious criminal personalities (including the 'Yorkshire Ripper', Peter Sutcliffe, and the 'Stockwell Strangler', Kenneth Erskine), but the venerable Victorian institution has come under fire in more recent times as conditions have been deemed unsuitable for the treatment of patients.

An unusually high rate of suicide and a failure to protect those housed in the high security psychiatric unit was noted by the Quality Care Commission, who criticised 'a series of shortcomings' by operator West London Mental Health NHS Trust saying the facilities were 'unfit for use'.

Director of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, explained that the situation described in the report "is about as bad as it gets if you are a patient with mental health problems."

Chief executive SANE the mental health charity, Marjorie Wallace, said

"We are increasingly concerned about the familiar litany of failures and lack of supervision, which puts vulnerable people at risk and leads to preventable tragedies."
Meanwhile new CEO at the NHS trust Peter Cubbon reassured the public that the implementation of changes was being taken as a priority.

Bracknell Blog has been on the spot reporting on the challenges facing the institution.

Darren Bridgeman provides a detailed write-up of an investigation into the death of a fellow patient by human cannibal Peter Bryan, which concluded "a collective failure at all levels" was responsible for not preventing the incident.

He also covers the background to story, sympathetic to the problems of providing modern psychiatric care for 260 of the UK's most seriously mentally-ill patients in a Grade II listed building built in 1863. He notes how the trust is currently evaluating four different options for redevelopment.

And from other sources we learn what some of these system and regime changes will involve.

Kevin Murray, Clinical Director at Broadmoor, described the hiring of an extra ninety psychiatric nurses as a positive move:
"More nurses will mean the patients will be in a safer environment. There will be the same number of staff on a ward as usual but they will have fewer patients to supervise. This will enable staff to spend more time with patients and that will help improve relationships between patients and members of staff and it will improve safety within the hospital."
And Gamezine notes a Channel 4 report that Wii Fit gaming consoles will be provided for every ward in a bid to help patients take more exercise.
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Saturday, 12 September 2009

Reading Buses In Turmoil

Despite being an award-winning transport company the publicly-owned Reading Buses has been garnering some negative headlines as it turns into an unwitting vicitim of the current economic climate.

A six-per-cent drop in passengers has contributed to losses totalling £40,000-per-week and this has lead to managment imposing swinging cutbacks including the closure of 'economically unviable' routes.

LibDem Parliamentary candidate for Reading East, Cllr Gareth Epps, described how quickly the situation had changed for the cash-heavy business, "without any real public awareness," and called for neighbouring local authorities to pool their resources to support valued local services in a move which has since been taken up.

Meanwhile a threatened strike by the Unite union appears to have been warded off following a vote of no confidence in the board of directors.

The company has faced severe criticism for ongoing fare rises in rural areas and scheduling confusion caused when a popular service between Tadley and Reading was cancelled - only six months after it was introduced.

A massive reorganisation of the bus schedules was introduced for the start of the new school year, but this hasn't been enough to stop the slide in the company's fortunes.

Worryingly, the company website is struggling to keep up with all the changes, and passengers may be being deterred by the difficulty in gaining reliable information.

The state of affairs has reached such a pitch that a public meeting was organised by Maiden Erlegh Resident's Association on 10th September to discuss services in East Reading and Earley.

This follows an emergency subsidy authorised by Reading Borough Council to protect the 22 route and a temporary deal between Wokingham Borough Council and Thames Travel to keep the 83 route to Woodley's Bulmershe School until Christmas.

Bus bosses have defended their business plan to maintain a 1% profit margin on popular routes as offering 'value for money' and rejected calls to open up public transport to competition, saying the 15% margin charged by First bus company would reduce choice.

They also argued their wide variety of tickets enabled customers to get best value according to their needs.

Oranjepan says:
A profusion of choices only leads to confusion, but Hobson's choice is no choice at all.

-

Update: Reading East MP Rob Wilson has responded by urging bus workers to reject strike motions during a ballot this week, arguing that industrial action would be counterproductive.
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Friday, 11 September 2009

It Was Eight Years Ago Today

Neville Hobson says 'Never Forget' that day.

Steve Borthwick can't for two reasons, as he should have been in the Marriott Hotel that day, but was lucky to be watching the birth of his son instead.

Elizabeth Thomas remembers the feeling of isolation and wanting to be back in her native USA to lighten the traumatic experience by sharing it.

Meanwhile Mr London Street does his best to lighten the mood.
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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Reading Festival 2009: Radiohead Video Special

Clive Davis seems to think jazz is all bebop and scat, and this therefore rules out Radiohead's Sunday headline set at Reading.

Meanwhile Seb Scotney sparks an argument with Nick Hasted of the Independent over the definition, but is still 'curiously drawn' to the music despite being about 40 years too old to attend.

Check out the set for yourselves...













More Reading Festival coverage.

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Reading - City Of Culture?

Somewhat unexpectedly Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw MP has announced Reading will be included among the longlist of 29 locations vying to be the first officially designated 'UK City of Culture' in 2013.

The competition aims to repeat the success of the European version at a national level and "could host high-profile media events including the Turner Prize, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, The Brits and the RIBA Stirling Prize as part of their year in the spotlight," becoming a focus for national attention in 2013, according to the original press release.

During Parliamentary questions Secretary of State Andy Burnham MP asserted that the "broadest possible definition of city of culture, which would allow as many parts of the country as possible to join the competition".

Mr Bradshaw cited the success of Liverpool in hosting the 'European City of Culture 2008' and argued this "proves that cultural life most definitely does not begin and end within the M25" - repeating an argument made by his predecessor earlier this year.

But while the prize will garner attention for the host city and Mr Burnham originally compared it to Franklin Roosevelt's Federal Art Project, it will not recieve a penny in official funding.

BBC Berkshire reports that Reading "put itself forward as a potential candidate," but this claim is strongly questioned by vice-chair of RBC Culture & Sport Scutiny Panel, Cllr Warren Swaine, who also states that the subject wasn't even raised at a meeting of Reading's Arts Forum held only two days ago.

Cllr Swaine also wonders whether this action was properly authorised and asks what resources were put into the submission.

In a heated debate on the Reading Post article, commenters are flattered by the attention but are almost universally derisive - with so many contenders on the longlist, it is blatantly flattery intended to decieve!

The process for inclusion on the longlist of contenders will remain open until October 16th and further bids are expected to join the like of Chorley, Barnsley and Hull.

Oranjepan asks:
Is Labour is cynically attempting to create 'feel-good stories' in key constituencies ahead of the final conference season before a general election, or is this a serious initiative?


Meanwhile Reading is also taking part in the National Heritage Open Days initiative, which is designed to enable locals and visitors to discover the 'hidden gems' on our doorsteps.

Rob White is glad that Reading is taking part as he notes that Reading is "sometimes accused of lacking history and culture".

Find out more at Heritage Open Days.

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Update: Linda Fort sparks a debate by quoting RBC executive member for culture and sport, Cllr Graeme Hoskins, who said that although famous people like Kate Winslet and Ricky Gervais are closely associated with the town, "it is not just about the big names."

Elizabeth Thomas notes Reading came in at 36th in The Idler's list of crap towns.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

10:10 - Countdown To Copenhagen

10:10 is a simple campaign which strives to help the environment and reduce the impact of climate change by cutting carbon emissions 10% by 2010.

Steven Rogers explains how the campaign is an effective way to encourage members of the public to take practical measures without having a drastic impact on the quality our lives.

He gives a couple of simple suggestions how ordinary people can make a difference without changing our lifestyles.

And it has attracted wide support from many sections of the political spectrum.

Reading's two Labour parliamentary candidates have latched on to the campaign as a way to mobilise their election bids. They gave their backing to cabinet minister Ed Miliband MP in support of a global climate deal that is 'ambitious, effective and fair' at December’s Copenhagen summit.

RBC executive member for the Environment, Labour's Cllr Paul Gittings said he would be urging his party to adopt it as a strategy under his watch.

Meanwhile Thatcham LibDem Cllr Lee Dillon demonstrated his green credentials by publicly backing the campaign too.

He explains that while it is being hyped as a 'bold' target it is highly achievable and in line with what scientists say we need to do over the next 18 months.

Cllr Dillon quotes from the campaign mission statement,
"It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a huge problem like climate change, but by uniting everyone behind immediate, effective and achievable action, 10:10 enables all of us to make a meaningful difference."
Before adding his own words, "I believe that this campaign makes perfect sense. It will save me money, it will make me healthier and it will help save the planet."

To find out more visit the 10:10 website.

On the other hand it seems Conservatives are promising to impose cuts of 10% for purely economic reasons.

-

Update: Adrian Windisch is full of praise for Labour and LibDems support of the initiative.

Cllr Glenn Goodall reports that Reading Borough Council has commited itself to the campaign.

Howard Thomas watches the continued build-up as Gordon Brown says we have "50 days to save the world."
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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Tilehurst Terrorist 'Oddball' Jailed

Neil Lewington was sentenced today after being found guilty of 'having explosives with intent to endanger life' and 'preparing for acts of terrorism'. He will serve a minimum of six years before he is eligible for parole, although Judge Peter Thornton QC increased this to an 'indeterminate' jail-term, conditional on further public safety assessments, on the grounds of public protection saying,
"you are a dangerous man, somebody who exhibits emotional coldness and detachment... You would not have been troubled by the prospect of endangering somebody's life or damaging their property. In my judgement there is a significant risk to the public of serious harm."
His own defence barister, David Etherington QC described him as a "silly, immature, alcoholic, dysfunctional, twit, fantasising to make up for a rather sad life".

Lewington was arrested when he was found drunk and urinating in public on Lowestoft Station in Suffolk.

Prosecutors noted how he had an interest in other bombers with similar motivations, such as Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh and Farnborough nail-bomber David Copeland, while items found at his home at Church End Land included a Waffen SS handbook and Neo-nazi propaganda.

Neighbours described him as a 'lone lunatic' who came from a 'lovely family', expressing shock and surprise when a full anti-terror squad descended.



Meanwhile local commentators have condemned the man.

Cllr Richard Willis distances himself from the white-supremecist, saying that "despite not actually carrying out any attacks, his intent was clear... Reading is a better place for his removal." Only Reading, Councillor?

Woz Writes in a somewhat more outspoken and succinct manner.

Background round-up: The Tilehurst Terrorist

Other sources: Reading Chronicle, Reading Post, Newbury Weekly News, Reading 107FM, Lancaster Unity. Google aggregates more.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Proud Of Pride?

Reading's annual Gay Pride took place on Saturday, with a march through the town, followed by an event held on King's Meadow.

'Hundreds' participated in the march, while organisers said they expected as many as 15,000 to attend the day-long festivities.

Initial reports that the National Front would mount a counter-demonstration in protest at the display of flamboyant sexuality were neutered when NF spokesman Tom Linden conceded that their efforts would be "best employed with a national demonstration at the London Gay Pride event".

Royal Berkshire Hospital demonstrated their solidarity with the cause of sexual liberation by raising the rainbow flag, making it clear that there is a strong commitment to equality and diversity across the town.

Reading Pride spokesman Jamie Wake said, "Reading Pride believes in equality, diversity and freedom of expression from all groups in society," explaining that "we value all opinions both culturally and politically."

In a supreme example of 'love-bombing' he expressed support for open dialogue across society in the hope that all sides could learn from each other, adding that "there is still a war against discrimination and visibility is the most powerful weapon available."

However Green Party activist Rob White felt opposition to the event was 'unfortunate' and encouraged condemnation and confrontation rather than dialogue and engagement.

Meanwhile Tim Trent went along to the proceedings and was thoroughly disappointed.

In a powerful article he details how "Reading is unchanged by the event."

He says the event had a distinct lack of atmosphere, asking "where were the carnival floats, where were the extraordinary costumes?... Where was the charisma, the part that makes the onlookers gasp and approve and applaud?" saying instead that what participants got amounted to "a small guided tour of Reading."

The fete on King's Meadow was a small island of tolerance and colour on an otherwise drab occasion, noting public sector employers associations and a campaign to allow gay men to donate blood. And while several young couples felt free enough to hold hands and make public shows of affection only a tranny ascending a climbing wall in knee-high stilettoes could bring him to exclaim "what gusto, what aplomb, what gravity, what a strong gusset!"

He was dismayed at the lack of community integration, taking this as a sign that attitudes still have a long way to progress before equality and diversity is truly valued in our society.

-

Update: Cllr Emma Warman posts that 8 local councillors from her party took the opportunity to come out and meet the public at a stall labelled "Conservative and proud" where they had a selection of cakes emblazoned with the party logo and a petition calling for a specific anti-bullying policy on LGBT issues in schools.
Cllr Warman explained that she thinks the best thing about the day is that it isn't a 'niche' event and is capable of attracting many people who don't consider themselves part of the 'gay community'.

Cllr Tim Harris, who organised the Conservative Party stall at the event, said "I truly believe that Pride parades across the country have really made a difference in reducing discrimination, and Reading Conservatives were delighted to get involved."

Reading Labour Party have responded by highlighting the hypocrisy of the Conservatives' show of support for equality when matched with their new alliance with the 'homophobic' Polish Law & Order Party which banned Pride events in Warsaw.

Anneliese Dodds said, "It all makes David Cameron's 'apology' for Section 28 ring very hollow."
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Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Good Food Guide

The government recently published a new Food Security Assessment as part of efforts to ensure the sustainability of the UK's food supply.

In it Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Hilary Benn MP said, "We need a radical rethink of how we produce and consume our food."

Sheepdrove blog reports on the response from the Soil Association which makes plain the need to 'transform the way we will feed ourselves in the future" and cites Reading University research pointing out how organic farming could be the answer, whilst also potentially offsetting climate change.

Robin Smith watched the BBC series 'The Future of Food' from where he picks up an 'occasional pearl of wisdom'. He points out how with as much as 1/3 of all food bought in this country thrown out to waste and the prevalence of an overly meat-dependent diet the potential exists for us to support a population twice current levels.

Rachel Eden supports the Chicken Out! campaign. This encourages consumers to consider the welfare of the animals we consume in meat products and use our purchasing power to pressure participants in the food supply chain to behave more responsibility - she thinks it may even help your waistline!

Last, but not least, Matt Blackall is given an awayday while working for DEFRA to visit a farm so that he could better understand the lifecycle of the milking process.

Matt explains how economic pressures can be imposed by commercial organisations such as big supermarket chains forcing smaller producers to accept lower prices, which can lead to corner-cutting in order to survive. It is a dilemma for bureaucrats to negotiate because although food quality is of the utmost importance, government depends on encouraging business to improve profitability.
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Reading Festival 2009: Video Special 2

Even though a 'horde of the unwashed' descends on Reading for the duration of the event for the vast majority of local residents the experience largely passes them by.

So for a closer insight into the delights you may have missed, here is a selection of videos, as culled from YouTube.

Here is a selection of performances starting with the unannounced secret 'special guests'.

Them Crooked Vultures


Kings of Leon


Radiohead


Deadmau5


La Roux

And finally

Placebo's The Bitter End

More Reading Festival coverage.
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Reading Festival 2009: Aftermath

Clearing up after the showpiece event often uncovers a range of odd, bizarre and unpleasant stories, as everyone tries to judge the overall impact in economic, cultural and social terms (Reading Chronicle cites estimates that the festival is worth £6m-10m to the local economy).

Thanks to Reading Guide for helpfully providing a photo album of the scene from the morning after.

Festival organiser Melvin Benn promotes the idea that this was the best festival ever!

He says that criticisms of the sound system from some bands (watch Caleb Followill here) was incomprehensible and RBC spokesperson Sarah Bishton confirmed that the entertainment license had been amended to allow the last two act to increase the volume by three decibels.

According to Mr Benn the flag ban had actually enhanced the fan experienced - as proved by the fact that new ticketing restrictions has not resulted in reduced numbers of tickets sold.

Despite sensational stories of arson attacks against festival property, rampaging mobs intent on destruction and a teen admitted to a specialist burns unit at the Rivermead site, Mr Benn argued that "it was my impression that the campsite was quieter this year than last year."

Police generally concurred with the assessment that incidents of public disorder were no worse than previous years.

Meanwhile - for the first time - Trading Standards undertook a joint operation to see that traders operating under the Temporary Events Notice as well as local shops complied with the law.

Four premises (out of 20) failed tests when officers visited over the course of the week, and in each case the vendor was given an £80 fixed-penalty notice for selling alcohol to underage customers.

Inspector Keith Tracy was positive: "praise should go to the majority of operators who passed."

Oranjepan asks:
Was it worth it for you?

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Update: Reading West MP Martin Salter has followed up by pouring fuel on the fires himself, disregarding the statistics collected by the Police and arguing that the "controversy and alarm" surrounding the events alone justifies an ID card system to identify, prosecute and ban offenders.

More Reading Festival coverage.
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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Reading Festival 2009: Video Special 1

Even though a 'horde of the unwashed' descends on Reading for the duration of the event for the vast majority of local residents the experience largely passes them by.

So for a closer insight into the delights you may have missed, here is a selection of videos, as culled from YouTube.

For a personal view from the crowdgoers: Chenderit Goes To Reading 2009



The Beast


Reading Festival FAIL


Here is jasmineh622's Vlog report.

Meanwhile Absolute Radio interviewed a selection of the best bands, including White Lies, The Gossip, Florence and The Machine and Glasvegas. Readers of this blog may be interested in how Simon Mundie digs into the political opinions and motivations of the performers.


More Reading Festival coverage.

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