Opinion: The Campaign for Reading

In Reading, with council elections taking place most years we are used to campaigning all year round.

But this year is different.

For the first time we are defending our record in power at local (and national) level.

We are no longer in our comfort zone but it is exciting to be able to deliver for residents on the really key issues such as housing and social mobility where Labour failed.

And as Andrew Stunell MP, Minister for Local Government observed when he came to visit us last week it is a record of action about which Lib Dems everywhere can be proud.

In just 11 months, from fixing potholes to low-carbon buses the coalition both nationally and local is improving life for residents in Reading.

For the first time in many years we have frozen Council Tax.

However,  in delivering this we have not strayed from our promise which we made to residents when we went into coalition with the Tories last year to protect the most vulnerable and children and adults in our community.

And despite having to make £19 million pounds worth of savings in the Budget this year we have managed to keep all our libraries open and even extend some library opening ours.

We are proud in Reading not to have closed any SureStart centres,  leisure centres or swimming pools unlike many Labour-run Councils.

In housing, we have successfully lobbied government to win funding to build the first council housing in Reading for over twenty years, and secured much-needed investment us to deliver 76 new affordable homes.

Elsewhere we have investing in estates to improve the quality of life of Council tenants above and beyond the requirements of the national Decent Homes Standard which we met earlier this year.

We have introduced a new, more cost-effective scheme to improve standards in the private rented sector (where a quarter of residents live) and despite budget pressures we are continuing to bring many long term empty properties back into use after Labour ignored the problem for years.

In the 11 months since we took control of the Council with the Conservatives locally we have increased transparency and reduced waste in the Town Hall.

We have published spending online and brought the Council into the modern age by launching a new social media strategy.

And by running a more efficient Council we have increased financial support to the voluntary and community sector, as well as introducing a new open, and transparent funding criteria to so local residents know what their money is being spent on and why.

We see education as a key route out of poverty in Reading and we are, utilising the Pupil Premium  to help the poorest children and increasing local apprenticeships to help young people succeed.

Between July and November 2010 the number of 16-18 year olds that started apprenticeships was 267 compared to 124 when the Council was controlled by Labour.

This was the biggest increase across 19 councils in the South East.

The saying goes all politics is local. And In Reading Lib Dems we have being practicing localism (or community politics as we prefer to call it!) for years before it became fashionable.

And this election like any other our excellent local council candidates will be out on doorsteps championing the causes raised by residents, forgotten by Labour and overlooked by the Conservatives.

This has been a challenging year but I am confident we can continue to deliver on the issues that matter to voters Reading both now and in the future.

Cllr Daisy Benson is the deputy leader of the lib dem group on reading borough council and Lead Member for Housing, Health and Community Care. She blogs at Daisy’s Campaign Diary.

Posted as part of Elections, Referendums and Liberal Democrat Achievements – Caron Lindsay’s Guest Editor Day

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This entry was posted in Local government, News and Op-eds.
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4 Comments

  • Dave Warren 7th Apr '11 - 6:29pm

    I am really pleased to be part of the team of Lib Dem candidates in this years election.

    The party has come a long way in recent years and the council group has more councillors
    than at any time since the early 1980s.

    Daisy and Kirsten Bayes provide first class leadership. The success of the Lib Dems here
    is largely as a result of their hard work.

    The coalition administration has done a good job in difficult circumstances and we have a
    psitive message to put out.

    Labour are of course in denial and simply oppose everything just like their national masters.

    Vote Lib Dem on May 5th.

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