Friday, 27 January 2012

Thoughts of flying

It must be that time of year again - when the New Year's resolutions have been put on the backburner and people start dreaming of getting away from routine.

Graeme Thiessen recently emigrated from Reading to Adelaide in Australia - he describes the first part of his family's travels (and some travails too) with a selection of fantastic photos to stir the wanderlust. Putting everyone in the mood he says:
"Like explorers of old, when we crested a hill and saw the stunning view of bright blue waters, crashing surf and white-gold sand, it felt like we were discovering this place for the very first time..."
Students tend to travel at the less glamorous end of the market, broadening horizons and gaining experiences. So RUSU's advice list on what to take should be well-heeded - though packing the fake blood might lead to some intriguing possibilities.

Meanwhile, more serious weather watchers point out a change in European law has added the cost of carbon emissions into the price of a flight.

Meteorologist Irvine discusses the introduction of the European Trading Scheme Cap on aviation, explaining the legal controversy which has delayed implementation and arguing in favour of market-based measures to tackle expected increases in Carbon Dioxide emissions, while admitting a more organised response from the International Civil Aviation Authority will mean some adjustment in the scheme is inevitable.

For the rest of us ordinary mortals, we're resigned to staring at the skies and watching the flocks overhead...

Update: Wendy fancies a flight of inspiration!

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More weather issues

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Mole who was a Plant

#rdgnews - Reading's Labour party bosses have admitted they were 'forced' to reveal their plans to eliminate senior management posts in a £1m savings drive earlier than required.

Cllr Jo Lovelock described her 'embarrassment' at discovering the 'leak'.

The anonymous author of the since-deleted Civic Minded in Reading blog had reported 'overhearing' a private supermarket conversation in which a senior Labour councillor proclaimed where the axe would fall, ahead of the mid-December announcement - thereby preempting any requirement to inform or consult with counterparts, as would be normally expected, and producing a fait accompli.

The reorganisation of RBC senior management will involve eliminating the £145,000pa Chief Executive job currently held by Michael Coughlin and combine his role with the equally powerful and well-remunerated Director of Resources post, held by David Peasley. Labour expects this to create annual savings of £920,000.

Mr Coughlin is widely respected for his scrupulous commitment to constructive non-partisan politics and was praised for his smooth oversight of the potentially fractious recent, and short-lived, period of coalition - the first in Reading's modern history. Cynical commenters have suggested the move is personal payback against Mr Coughlin who replaced the more Labour-friendly Trish Haines in 2008. Long-serving Mr Peasley is now expected to assume the newly combined top job.

Effectively conceding the point, Cllr Lovelock has since declared no inquiry will take place to identify the author of the blog or establish the truth of the supermarket allegation, as "there are far more important things to be getting on with."

Well, it's obviously so unimportant to her that serious breaches of councillor conduct by members of her own side are overlooked that she spends extra time whipping-up disciplinary hearings for opponents (see previously)!

Jane Griffiths vents some spleen against her former party colleagues, wondering whether it was simply a coincidence that the accepted culprit (generally acknowledged as Park Ward's Cllr Hartley) is standing down at the next election in May, so it was no loss to remove him from his frontline Cabinet position anyway.

So witness the perverse spectacle of Labour activists cock-a-hoop at the apparent embarrassment for their party!

In what was a pre-arranged and coordinated strategy, Redlands Ward Cllr Jan Gavin gives the game away explaining that she hopes any savings produced from cutting management jobs will prove to be a successful election ploy which will help her local team unseat LibDem leader Cllr Daisy Benson in the ward they both represent.

And Cllr Gavin's electoral agent Tony Jones talks up their chances declaring a belief that people who previously voted LibDem are 'coming home to Labour' - there's nothing like the sight of experienced politicians treating voters like their personal chattel!

But LibDems struck back.

Cllr Warren Swaine republishes the original rumour, adding his comment:
"It is absolutely true that Labour has had a series of meetings which were out of cycle and it was abundantly clear that they were up to something and that something is, it would appear, is to axe officers who they deem as uncooperative."
He then followed up by picking out a phrase used by Labour which he calls a 'slip' - he notes Cllr Lovelock justified the removal of the Chief Executive position on the grounds that the council will employ "a significantly smaller number of council staff."

Cllr Swaine points out that Labour is struggling to contain spending increases currently running at 16% this year having previously promised to reduce outgoings in line with national cuts in central grants, and is thereby seeking to distract attention from the increased level of debt Reading is taking on just to survive - in Reading's budget 1% equates to about £1m.

A fresh local financial crisis is looming locally... is Labour hoping for a bailout, or will they make savings by cutting more jobs?


Oranjepan says:
Having kept a close eye on local political blogs while monitoring the Berkshire blogosphere, it is beyond belief that an obscure blog-site can appear and reproduce a single post of unsubstantiated hearsay before disappearing without a trace after only a few days and be noticed, let alone be taken seriously by any political figure in the town - that is, unless the writer is a known plant operating as a sympathetic source within the  established political ecosystem. The only possible conclusion is: the 'leak' was not by a whistle-blower, but a dog-whistler.

As the Labour leader said, "Rather than pretending it was not happening, we decided we would not be disingenuous" - this is absolutely untrue, she has hardly contained the fact, rather she and her colleagues enthusiastically brought the matter into the open by disingenuous means.

For Cllr Lovelock some things are more important than the truth, though clearly not the jobs of council employees.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Madejski embraces Russki 'dream'

The announcement that Reading FC owner Sir John Madejski has agreed to sell a controlling stake in the club has been met with mixed feelings. Reading Post polls 2:1 of readers in favour.

The deal, which is 'subject to due diligence and league approval', will see Thames Sports Investment Ltd recieve 51% of shares in exchange for an estimated £40m upon completion at the end of March.

At the official press conference he declared "This fit is so good it is not funny" - it is 'a dream' for all sides (update: official club sources put the price paid by TSI at £25m. The club website summarises the key points from the press conference here).

BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor comments that this is 'uncharted territory', but although many unknowns remain there are grounds for cautious optimism. Mr Madejski will remain Chairman until at least 2014 whereupon he will become life president, in a role which recognises to his development of the club in the past 22 years and ensures a smooth transition.

Boris Zingorevich
Football finance expert Chris Brady reveals TSI is an investment vehicle fronted by Anton Zingarevich on behalf of his billionaire father Boris - who 'has been sniffing around' English football for a while and recently denied making a tentative bid for another club.

Anton with Katia
However 29-year-old Anton Zingarevich has a particular connection to Reading, having studied Sports Management at Sindlesham's Bearwood College between graduating from Reading University and a move into Venture Capital and Private Equity in America.

Mr Zingarevich will be represented by TSI executive Chris Samuelson on the club board. He explained money would be available for improving the squad, "but the club will always be prudent," before reasserting, "Everything we do must be prudent, if it's not prudent then we won't do it."

Possibly a prudent move itself, given 'visa-related' problems kept Mr Zingarevich away from the press conference!

Ben@the.offside publishes the first photo of Reading's new majority owner. He is excited by the move, stating "ultimately, the club will continue as it has, just with a bit more money."

Users of independent club forum Hob Nob Anyone? speculate vigorously on the future. As do those on Royals Rendezvous.

'Limited' funds have been made available during the current transfer window, with reports that a bid for Doncaster sharpshooter Billy Sharp may be in the offing alongside two other rumoured arrivals and Jimmy Kebe's signature on a new contract to appease hungry fans. However other prospects are also going in the opposite direction with Dutch outfit FC Utrecht offering a trial to Jacob Walcott (cousin of England's Theo) and Division 1 promotion-chasers Huddersfield Town re-loaning 21-year-old defender Sean Morrison.

Continuity is a theme, with all sides noting the admiration they hold for John Madejski and a desire to maintain the ethos of responsibility he instilled at the club.

urzz1871 expresses concern among faithful of The Tilehurst End that running a Category One Academy whilst changing from being a 'selling club' may not be a financially sustainable model. He argues for more transparency regarding finances and highlights as-yet unanswered questions from fans' open letter on ownership.

Stephen Dempsey gives his summary: given the jobs of backroom stalwarts like Nicky Hammond are secure the takeover should be viewed "as more of a steady evolution than a Russian revolution." 

He adds, "I don't think we should be expecting, or even wanting, massive amounts of money poured into the first team squad."


In a BBC interview (video), Sir John describes the potential excitement this 'partnership' offers for pushing the club to the next level as a 'win-win situation' which also allows him to slip gracefully into retirement.


Elsewhere Peter Edwards in City AM suggests the name may be more familiar on Merseyside after an attempt to use Brunei-based Fortress Sports Fund as a vehicle for similar investment in Everton. Mr Zingorevich was hailed at the time for his 'encyclopaedic football knowledge' by Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright, but others will note the link between the family's Ilim Pulp company and Dmitry Medvedev, the one-term Russian President.


Anton Zingarevich earlier provided evidence of his outlook when responding to Bloomberg.com. He explained that "The new generation [of Russians] has more freedom... We also have more opportunities; the trick is using them."


RT provides further insight, describing Mr Zingorevich jr. as a supporter of current Russian champion Zenit St Petersburg and quoting his wish to turn Reading into "a profound outfit".

Reading fans may also be interested in connecting with their prospective new owner via his LinkedIn profile, or by inspecting his friend Egor Lavrov's flickr photostream

Meanwhile pictures of Reading's new owner's glamorous lifestyle emerged when he was recently spotted with wife Katia celebrating a 'Russian Christmas' at Dubai's exclusive Burj-al-Arab hotel (see pic above).
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More sports stories from the local blogosphere

Saturday, 14 January 2012

13th-time Unlucky!

Friday 13th appears and TV repeats of the horror series are resurrected.

In a similar vein local bloggers are on the scene...

Elizabeth Thomas worries that she has enough accidents as it is, and promises not to get out of bed for the whole day.

Reading some of the bedroom door notices gives a sense of the approaching fear and trepidation.

Elsewhere jabblog scares all-comers with the depth of her background knowledge into the oddness.

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more eclectica

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Reading Tories choose new faces... and some old ones too!

#RdgNews - Reading Conservative Group have elected a new frontbench leadership team.

New Leader, Cllr Harris
Church Ward's Cllr Tim Harris was elected unopposed as the new leader, replacing Cllr Andrew Cumpsty.

In a deliberate show of unity he was proposed by Cllr Richard Willis and supported by Cllr Jeanette Skeats, new Group Whip and Deputy Leader respectively. Cllr David Stevens was re-elected as Group Chairman.

Cllr Harris said, "The energy, knowledge and innovation within the Conservative Group is awesome," adding, "the Conservative Group is united in our strategy to continue to set the local political agenda and to hold the minority Labour administration to account."

New Whip, Cllr Willis
Cllr Willis describes his youthful boss as "a great guy" who shouldn't be underestimated.

However former Labour mayor Tony Jones suggests the triathlete may be forced to into a 'chicken run' from his seat at forthcoming local elections.

New Deputy, Cllr Skeats




LibDem PPC Gareth Epps calls it: "a huge promotion for Tim Harris, and a big test" considering "it suggests a real weakening of the position of the hapless Reading East MP and his proxies in the Civic."

Amidst allegations of deep internal divisions among tories over the contentious deselection of Cllr Willis' ward colleague, Cllr Harris explained his neutrality in that matter enabled him to be the unity candidate.


Oranjepan says:
Having waited an age for the eventual departure of Cllr Cumpsty after his failure to build support for coalition politics in Reading, the new Conservative leader faces a race against time to establish his imprint in time for the next round of local elections
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