Road Safety

I was struck again earlier on today driving back to Reading from Oxford by the amount of investment by other authorities in basic road safety. Every village on my route had an electronic 30mph speed sign that flashed a warning if drivers approached at faster speeds. These signs are now common almost everywhere except in Reading. They do remind careless drivers that there is a 30mph limit as they enter a built up area.

In Reading we have a very different approach to road safety, we tie several small yellow plastic signs to lampposts with long messages in print so small that drivers could not read the messages even if they saw the sign amongst all the other street clutter as they speed by at 40-50mph. Oh, and the signs are taken down after two weeks and moved to another road. There were originally supposed to be electronic signs used in these two week actions but the council only has two such signs so most of the campaign is restricted to the ineffective yellow plastic signs on lampposts.

And the reason    RBC officers fear that electronic signs would be vandalised and parts nicked if they were left in Reading streets. So why does this not happen to traffic lights or other road signs ? They also have precious little budget for road safety so we have this wonderfully ineffective ‘awareness campaign’ which is, apparently, going to help reduce traffic speeds in Reading. Do not ask them how, they are not measuring traffic speeds before or after the signs are put out. In short the whole campaign is all about pretending to do something about a very serious problem for which they have no resources to tackle properly.

Community Alcohol Partnership

For the uninitiated this is a scheme to tackle alcohol related problems around known troublespots. Reading are due to give the go-ahead next week for a pilot scheme in Tilehurst around the Triangle. In essence they will make use of government funds to pay for a full-time worker to tackle the well-documented problems around the Triangle area where there is the constant threat of unruly behaviour by youngsters, often fuelled by alcohol. When the council has carried out test purchases in Tilehurst using under age kids, some 33% were allowed to buy alcohol illegally.


Whilst we all applaud this pilot scheme (and the results of a similar pilot in St Neots had a dramatic effect of local alcohol-related problems), it is just a shame that we have had to wait for Home Office funds to pay the £8,000 cost of a part-time Project Officer for the 6 month trial period. Other areas in Reading are not so fortunate and in the current economic climate, may have to wait a long time for similar projects. Despite all the newspaper headlines and trouble for local shopkeepers, Reading cannot run a scheme off its own back.

The scandal of our wasted taxes

luxury party

A shocking dossier from the Liberal Democrats has revealed just some of the ways our taxes are being wasted on extravagant and incompetent projects.

A massive £13 billion has also been spent on an NHS records system which doesn’t work.

How our money is wasted

* £13 billion on an NHS record system that is a complete failure
* £130 million on refurbishing Ministry of Justice offices
* £81 million on a Department of Transport economy drive that was supposed to save £57 million
* £29 million on accommodation for asylum seekers that was never built
* £265.8 million the amount the government spent on advertising, marketing and public relations in 2007/8, an increase of £197.2 million since 1997-98
* £200 million wasted over the past five years on IT projects that were never completed
* £7 million on chauffeur driven cars for ministers in one year
* £28.78 million in rent for unoccupied houses for soldiers and their families
* £330 million overspent by government departments on their premises
* £4.2 million by the Government’s Qualifications & Curriculum Authority on hotel rooms in an 18 month period
* £50,000 on a party to which only 20 guests were invited
* £2,000 each on image and public speaking training for Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham

The truth about Gaza

Last Tuesday’s debate in the Council was mostly one-sided and only one voice spoke against the motion and its various amendments, all condemning Israel out of hand for retaliating with ‘disproportionate force’, without bfingeringthe root cause of the latest conflaguration, Hamas firing rockets at Israel. For the record, here is what I said during the debate.


Speech on Gaza Motion   27 January 2009                             Cllr Ricky Duveen

I understand that many people in England have been upset by what has happened in Gaza in the last month. However, to propose a motion that is one-sided in outlook and aimed solely at blaming Israel for the trouble is both narrow-minded and pointless, but also divisive to the people of Reading that we represent.

I should make clear here that I have a personal interest in the Middle East, as an Israeli citizen (I hold dual nationality) and as someone who lived there for many years, did his national service there and who has many friends and family still living in Israel. Three years ago Israel withdrew from Gaza and the world held its breath hoping for a new dawn of progress towards an overall settlement in the region. Since then, Hamas has won an election, taken over the government of Gaza and brutally suppressed supporters of the rival Fatah movement. Gaza is very much a one-party state. Hamas has dedicated itself not to just ruling Gaza but to destroying the State of  Israel. Despite the 1.5 million Palestinians living in abject poverty in Gaza, most of whom are reliant on aid from donor countries, it has spent much of its time and resources stockpiling rockets to fire at Israeli towns. They fire these rockets from within one of the most densely populated areas of the region and hundreds have been launched at Israel before during and after the ceasefire the ended in December, never mind the last few weeks of actual war. They did so in the knowledge that Israel would defend itself by attacking the rocket launchers and the Hamas fighters that launch them. They almost prayed for Israeli retribution and the propaganda victory they would take from it. I do not doubt their attachment to their cause, but let us be clear – their cause is the destruction of Israel.

The Israeli government has stated on numerous occasions that it will take whatever measures are necessary to halt the rocket attacks on its citizens. The warnings went unheeded and the rockets continued to be fired.

No-one celebrates the loss of 1,200 lives, innocent or otherwise. No-one celebrates the destruction of the last month. No-one celebrates the suffering inflicted on a civilian population. But wiser heads will realise that there was no other way to stop Hamas.

This motion is borne out of support for Hamas, an avowedly terrorist organisation whose sole aim appears to be the spilling of Jewish blood and the destruction of the State of Israel.  

The motion itself appears to stem from a meeting some weeks ago which was apparently held in the spirit of community cohesion. It just happened to avoid inviting members of one particular community who would have had a very different view.  I do not think community cohesion had much to do that particular meeting.

The motion then utterly fails to mention Hamas at all and lays all the blame for the recent fighting on Israel. Someone really should remove the blinkers from Labour Party councillors once in a while and allow them to see reality. What started a war was Hamas firing off rockets at Israeli towns and villages. Their whole purpose was to goad Israel into a response and when it happened it was, of course, disproportionate. The use of disproportionate force is why armies concentrate their resources to attack the other side, its what wins battles quickly. The motion fails to make any mention of Hamas’ tactics of hiding itself in amongst the densely populated area of the Middle East, using schools and hospitals to conceal weapons and fighters.

To those who say Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been debilitating and that the response to rocket attacks was disproportionate, let me say this   that without them the rockets would still be falling on Israeli towns and villages and not just hundreds, but in their thousands. No-one has ever yet managed to talk Hamas into stopping rocket attacks, they are an organisation of terrorists dedicated to death and destruction. Only the brutal use of force has stopped them. This motion merely gives them the succour and support that they crave from Europe. It does not even pretend to be even-handed.

This Council must never be seen to offer support to blatantly terrorist organisations like Hamas.

The resolution ends by “instructing the Chief Executive to investigate what options are open to the Council in terms of its purchasing and other policies to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government.”  So that’s clear then, its OK to trade with China, Bielorussia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other bastions of democracy, but not Israel.

I would also like to point out one or two things to those who have not noticed the undertones of the debate outside these walls.

Reading is proud of its international links, with people from many nations across the world living and working in Reading in peace and harmony.  Yesterday we heard the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents 500 Muslim organisations in this country has decided to boycott the national Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in protest at the Israeli actions in Gaza. They do not distinguish between Jews who live in Britain and Israelis, they are all, apparently, the enemy. I would like to take this opportunity of asking Reading’s Muslim community not to boycott this Memorial Day but to use it to reflect on where blind hatred leads.

To sum up  – this insidious motion, put together by blinkered Labour Party hacks, is one-sided, it ignores the role of Hamas entirely and serves only to divide the community of Reading in which we all live. I urge members to join me in voting against it.

Ruheman Resigns

So its the end of Cllr Ruheman as the Chair of Childrens Services in Reading. Having been in post for more than 10 years he still refuses to take any blame for the findings of the Ofsted JAR report which found that child protection was inadequate in Reading. In spite of all the press cases over the last several years it was on his watch that one poor child died from methodone poisoning after the council failed to intervene. It was on his watch that he ‘suddenly discovered’ that 10 social workers were seriously underperforming. It was on his watch that the turnover of social workers became a crisis. Worst of all, it was on his watch that the council budget was set perilously low last year, starving frontline services like Child Proctection of funds in order to bribe the voters of Reading with a low council tax rise at last May’s local elections.

According to Cllr Ruheman, he was in control of the situation and working hard to improve it – which must be why the government sent its hit squad in !

The arrogance of this Labour councillor knows no bounds. If it was not for their defeat in last May’s elections he would still be in post. He resigned before a motion backed by the Lib Dems and the Tories called for his dismissal.