Talking Points: January 2010

As a new feature for the new year I've decided it's worth having a look back at the month gone by to pick up any trends in what local bloggers have been most interested in.

Of course no review will ever be comprehensive, but hopefully this will give a taster.

Here's Reading List's archive of local blog news for January 2010.


Bookending the month were two big debates.

- The first of these was the ongoing attention paid to the way authorities responded to the winter weather crisis.

More Weather On The Agenda; Round-Up: Snow - The Sequel; Winter Warmer; Beneath The Surface; The Snow Summit

After parts of Berkshire descended into temporary chaos when a blizzard hit giving the country the first white Christmas in years bloggers were well primed for another bout.

Although the second wave was accompanied by less outspoken criticism it did throw up a variety of responses which began to look into the causes and effects of public policy on the physical and ambient environment.

Dealing with the immediate problems of heavy snow and ice was the big concern for many, but this quickly turned into a debate about climate change and how and whether to pay for the damage it causes. Prevention is better than a cure, but do we have to learn to live with the situation which faces us?

- At the other end of the month the proposal for Reading to bid for city status came up for discussion.

Is Reading A City?
; Reading's City Bid Approved

The civic movement saw a big split between those who feel this is a banner moment to help improve the local economy by raising the standing of the community and those who feel it is more about appearances than real improvements.

Underlying the debate are questions about local government economics and accountability. Primary among these is the desire to reshape the boundaries of the unitary authority in line with the actual area of the urban unit.

The most recent boundary changes left Woodley, Earley, Calcot and some parts of Tilehurst outside Reading borough, and since there is a demographic split between urban and suburban residents on either side about where they want decisions to be taken this is naturally controversial.

- In between the two, the upcoming General Election came into focus as party manifestos started to be set out by candidates.

Cameron Indirectly; Splash To Backlash

Conservative Party leader David Cameron visited the town (at the second attempt) to talk about his plans.

Initially it was to launch his pledge to protect the NHS from the swinging cuts to public spending he envisages and answer specific questions from the public, but in the event invitations were given to a limited selection of activists and media at short notice to recognise volunteer groups and the emphasis he will place on supporting the third sector as a means out of budget troubles.

Car Park Spats; Countdown To The Budget; Labour Crumbles In Face of 'Call In'

This was followed by the incumbent Labour administration's laying out it's proposals.

It became apparent that Labour's strategy to minimise painful cuts to the public budget was to increase revenues from peripheral charges, such as on parking. So when it became clear that the level of increases were excessive opposition strengthened and the proposals were scaled back. This ties the hands of budget setters and pressure will be on to keep headline council tax rises down in this election year.

Making Minds Up In Reading West; Local LibDems Recognised For Online Activism; Opening Doors To New And Empty Homes

Meanwhile LibDems were also fully engaged as Redlands representative Cllr Daisy Benson was selected as the PPC in Reading West.

This came as little surprise considering the successes she has had using social media to reach out to members of the public and on changing local housing policy as chair of one of Reading's main scrutiny committees. She is clearly a rising star among local politicians nationwide and very much at the heart of the LibDem party, as was shown when party leader Nick Clegg announced his ideas on housing.

SADs, Dams And 'Lies' In Green-field Dispute; A Comedy Manifesto

Green Party activists were also to be seen looking for a way to make their presence felt in the political arena.

Rob White, who hopes to get elected as the first Green councillor in Reading, got involved in a dispute over protecting a local playing field. He also got to meet celebrity supporter Mark Thomas when he gave a comedy show in the town.


Life is never dull in Reading, but how any of these talking points play out is something we'll just have to wait and watch... or contribute to ourselves!

We can all make a difference to the lives we live by discussing the choices we face and giving our opinion, so if you want to participate in the online debate contact Oranjepan and Reading List will monitor your local blog too - get blogging!

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