Joined-up Thinking between NHS and Thames Valley Police

Congratulations to Thames Valley Police and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for putting joined-up thinking into action. Between them they have launched a Street Triage scheme.

This innovation means that a qualified mental healthcare nurse will be on hand to assis the police five nights a week Thursdays through to Mondays (so covering the busy weekend period) so that mentally ill patients can be seen and assessed by a qualified practioner rather than simply being locked away in a cell before anyone asks any questions, followed by a long, long wait to see someone qualified in mental healthcare.

On its first week of operation, covering Reading , Wokingham and West Berks, some 20 incidents were attended by a mental health nurse, saving the police many hours of time that needs to be spent on their main job of protecting the public, and, importantly, getting the right help to mentally ill patients as quicklly as possible.

It has been a long time coming but well done to all involved in this scheme.

Pothole, more potholes and yet more potholes

8 July 2012 Walnut Way
January and February seem to be the prime months for potholes appearing in our roads. Many of them appear after a winter cold snap freezes water in the tarmac. As water turns to ice it expands in volume and cracks the road surface. Now our roads have never been very good but the current state is worse than I can ever remember. Despite government grants to help pay the costs of effects of bad waether on our roads the council is still struggling to cope. I have certainly received numerous reports of new potholes from Tilehurst residents over the last two months.

Curently the council only orders repairs if a pothole is more than 2″ deep as they try to ensure that the worst potholes are filled in whilst not blowing all the cash on minor holes. The upshot of this policy is that we have numerous potholes that cause bumps to cars travelling over them (and are downright dangerous for cyclists and motorcyclists) and the overall look of our roads is shabby.

The answer would be to spend more on proper fixes and road resurfacing but this is not afforable in the current economic climate. Do keep reporting any new potholes, the council will repair the larger ones. In the meantime the only advice I can give is to drive carefully, and give up on low-slung sports cars.

Stop nicking our bus stops !

I am sure that there are lots of elderly folk who do not understand why all the bus stops all over Reading have been removed over the last month or why the bus stop on Pierce’s Hill in particular has never been replaced at all since an accident damaged it last year.

The explanation is that one company was awarded the contract to provide bus stops several years ago by the Labour Administration in charge of the Council. Just before the contract ran out, they tendered for a new contract and awarded it to a new company. Sadly the contract allowed them to pick up their bus stops for all over the town without any reference to the new company that apparently cannot start operating until all the old bust stops have been removed. Only when can they start installing new bus stops. It makes you weep when contractual arrangements like this end up as a right pig’s ear with the poor public losing out. Lucky for the people of Reading, we have had good weather over the last couple of weeks – otherwise a lot of people waiting for busses would have got soaked as well as having no place to sit down.

I sincerely hope that the new contract does not have the same pig’s ear of a mess when it eventually runs out.

Oh, and the one on Pierce’s Hill will eventually be replaced, we just do not know when.

Tilehurst Residents Surveys

I have spent time over the weekend going through the results of the latest batch of Residents’ Survey Forms from Tilehurst. There were a number of gripes but several issues were prominent among the responses (80 recieved so far and still counting):

  1. some residents wanted to return to a weekly bin collection for the grey (landfill) bins;
  2. quite a few residents thought that bus fares were too expensive;
  3. the traffic lights recently installed along The Meadway caused more problems than they solved;
  4. dog fouling was mentioned as a problem several times;
  5. speeding is clearly an issue on some of our roads in Tilehurst;
  6. morning and afternoon parking problems outside local schools;

And what have we councillors been doing about these issues ?

  1. the introduction of fortnightly collections has nearly doubled (from 20 to nearly 40% in round figures) the amount of rubbish that we now recycle as opposed to throwing into landfill . In general residents are content with fortnightly collections though there is always a danger of problems with maggots etc if the weather turns partiularly warm and we will ask council officers to plan for such a contingency.
  2. bus fares in Reading are not cheap but they become a lot cheaper if you purchase bus-about tickets or weekly tickets and even cheaper if, like me, you buy an annual season ticket. Single journeys are still expensive but the TIF bid includes money to subsidise fares in Reading in order to encourage the use of public transport. If the TIF bid is successful then we should see cheaper fares in 2011.
  3. The Meadway lights are an ongoing headache. We have tried telling officers that they serve no purpose but actually slow the flow of traffic for no good reason. They have responded by offering to rephase the lights and reduce the time allowed for traffic turning into The Meadway apart from Church End Lane which can be quite busy. I understand they are still working on the phasing. Like most of our residents, we remain sceptical about the usefulness of these lights.
  4. Dog fouling is the result of anti-social beahviour by some dog owners who think it is fine to leave dog pooh on public roads, footpaths and parksand who clearly do not care about children playing in the area or walking to school. Please let me know (ring 961 4027) if there is any mess on your streets that needs clearing up. If there is a problem with particular dog owners then call the Dog Wardens on 0800 626 540.
  5. Local action on speeding has taken a new turn with the introduction of mobile speed guns in November. This is a Lib Dem initiative and we shall see what effect they have on motorists in Tilehurst.
  6. We had an issue outside Park Lane School soon after I was elected and I got the Traffic Wardens to patrol outside the school at the relevant times. A few tickets later and the parents got the message. Moorlands is different in that parents do not park illegally but for half an hour morning and afternoon Church End Lane does become clogged. We do not have a solution other than to ask parents to drop off children at the entrance to the playing fields if posible.

My thanks to all of the residents that too the time and effort to fill out our survey forms.

Hasty Consultation for the Buses

Reading Buses are consulting on changes to their routes but have given people only one week to respond. This is outrageous.

Their consultation is at

http://www.reading-buses.co.uk/articles/reading-buses-needs-your-views/?PHPSESSID=6528259f93572ed490cdab575cb3b714

If my reading of the changes is correct then residents living in the far west of Tilehurst will see a major reduction in frequency of their bus services. Many services (routes 33 and the new 33a that replaces the 15) will now terminate in the Triangle rather than carry on to the Bird’s Estate and Westwood Glen.

This is clearly unwelcome at a time when we should be encouraging people to use public transport and I shall be commenting to Reading Buses.

I have written to Reading Buses asking why they have given the public just one week to respond to their consultation.

In the meantime, your comments can be sent by e-mail to:-

consultation@reading-buses.co.uk

or by post to:-

Consultation
Reading Buses
Great Knollys Street
READING
RG1 7HH

Services for Vulnerable People or Tax Cuts

Tonight’s Council meeting really set out the difference in approach to running council services. The Tories attacked Labour for not sticking to their budgets. Labour accusd the Tories of not caring for vulnerable people. The spat arose over what to do with a windfall of £3.6m that Reading BC has been given from the government as a result of overpaid VAT. The Tories want to use it to keep next year’s Council Tax increase down to 0%. Labour want to use part of it to to pay off some iof the extra sopending incurred by Childrens Services and Adult Social Care in catering for a huge increase in demand for these services which has affected almost all local councils this year (as a result of some highly publicised abuse cases).

The Lib Dems sided with Labour in the votes and opposed the Tory idea of cuts across the board to pay for these overspends this year in order to have their0% council tax rise next year. They were never specific about where they would cut the money other than calling for ‘across the board cuts.’ This, from the party that could not even produce a budget last March and insists on being the party that knows how to run government.

I told the Tories that they could not run services for vulnerable people as though they were running a corner shop and that they could not simply ignore the increased demand this year, or slash other front line services to pay for it  when this windfall was available.

I also pointed out that the Labour Government knew exactly the level of demand currently being experienced by both Childrens and Adults Social Care Services up and dowm the country but had chosen not to provide councils with any more funds. They had been quite happy to spend billions to prop up broken banks but would not spend a few millions to support broken humans.

Bottle Banks in Tilehurst

Reading BC is under pressure to increase the amount of glass it recycles. For years it has collected all the kerbside recycling in a red bins provided free to each household. The recycling materials are then sorted at the new Materials Recycling Facility in Smallmead. Glass is excluded from this collection system as it would shatter and create a hazard for anyone sorting the recycled material by hand (and even in Smallmead some of the sorting is indeed done by hand). So for years now tonnes of glass are thrown into the grey non-recycled bins and end up in landfill. It is one of the major components of the waste that Reading sends to landfill.

The answer the council have come up with is to put out many more bottle banks around the town to try and encourage people to recycle more of their glass bottles. That is a good aim but convincing local residents that a bottle bank close to their house is a good thing can be a bit tricky. Sending out letters explaining the reasoning behind the bottle banks has not generally produced a flood of comments being fed back to the council.

The council have identified 3 potential sites in Tilehurst for bottle banks. The first one in Harvaston Parade got very little response (only 6 out of 50 letters sent out) so the local Lib Dem team sprang into action and surveyed the houses near the proposed site, door to door. The result was 21 residents in favour and 16 against and whatever the result it was a lot more representative than the council’s letter responses.

More recently sites were proposed atoutside the Horticultural Society Hall in Gratwicke Road and on the green in Lansdowne Road. Again the council’s response rate to its letters has not been brilliant. Again the local Lib Dems carried out surveys and found that residents in Gratwicke Road were 15 against to 14 for the bottle bank whilst over in Lansdowne Road there was a big majority, 9 to 2, against the bottle bank. In fact on the latter site there appears to be a petition now being circulated to oppose the bottle bank.

All of which goes to prove that if you want residents’ opinions on local issues, the best way to find out is to go and talk to them. Relying on folk to write back is not good enough.