Talking Points: February 2010

Of course no review will ever be absolutely comprehensive, but hopefully this will give a taster of the topics and trends interesting local bloggers in the past four weeks.

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


The big issue was clearly the annual budget debate.

R-Words; Proposed Council Tax Rates Across Berkshire; The Berkshire Council Debate: Views And Perspectives; Council Tax Debate Leaves Conservatives Red-Faced; An Overview Of Democracy In Action

There were a range of proposals to resolve the opposing financial and social pressures brought up by the current economic conditions.

Each borough authority across the county has different demographic and administrative pressures and found separate solutions, but it is still possible to discern some trends.

Conservative rhetoric has been for cuts to taxation and spending as a way to boost the economy, however this has been challenged in different regards.

Council services appear to offer lower value for money where tories are in power in Wokingham and Bracknell as the tax rises are offset by higher service cuts, a state of affairs which has arisen due to bad financial planning and lower scrutiny of accounts. This future also faces Windsor and Maidenhead as Conservative plans to slash budgets were criticised for following a flawed business model, while in Reading the Conservative party refused to submit an alternative motion on the budget for fear of exposing this prior to local elections where they hope to take power.

Labour continues to be in favour of above-inflation rises in spending on public services, while LibDems have been criticised for varying their position according to circumstances.

General election campaigning stepped up a gear.

Tories Face Questions Over Funding; Conservatives Criticised For Hyping Fear Of Crime; Budget Debate Leaves Conservatives Red-Faced

Right-wingers got egg on their faces as Conservatives faced a barrage of attacks on all fronts. They appear to have abdicated any claim to their traditional 'bread and butter' policies of morality and standards in public life, law and order and financial competence.

And both Conservatives and Labour were criticised for having insufficient policy proposals by the professional body of the IT industry.

Meanwhile left-wingers have been arguing over their claims to represent an accurate view of reality as Green and Labour candidates enjoyed a robust exchange of views.

The issue of equality in society was drawn into focus.

The Pink Party; Equal Opportunists

Conservatives attempted to defend themselves against accusations that their proposals wouldn't do as much as other parties to stamp out homophobic bullying in society, accusing other parties of politicising the issue.

Retiring Labour MP Martin Salter was embarrassed by the groundswell of public reaction against his contribution to the equality debate when he chose to verbally abuse Pope Benedict XVI, calling him "a bloke in a dress."

Issues of new media were under the spotlight.

Fit To Print; The IT Crowd

32 regional newspaper titles - including Reading Post - were sold by parent company GMG in a move which poses the economic challenge represented by freedom of information to big corporations. GMG has been an ardent defender of the free online content model, but big losses created by online expansion has forced the company to rationalise their position.

And representatives of the IT community came together to lobby on behalf of the public, urging political parties to make a stronger committment to enabling greater access to the economic potential of information technology.

The debate over Reading's bid for city status rumbles on.

City Splits; RRL #49

While an unlikely grand coalition has broken out between Labour and Conservative parties in favour of the bid the public appears completely split down the middle on the question. LibDems surpised some onlookers by failing to join in the political consensus by asking some detailed questions on the value it represents.

That's not to say anyone is doing down Reading town. Far from it in fact, as one local poster comments, Reading is already "a real hub of fantastic events," which begs the question whether any tangible advantages would come from a change in status, or indeed if it would lead to any at all.

And on a positive note in campaign news campaigners celebrated success with the apparent conclusion of two local campaigns.

Jolly Days; United Opposition Defeats Developers

It appears the efforts to ensure the future of communities will be designed to suit the wishes of the people in those communities rather than those of outside forces gained a boost this month as the high-profile campaign to find new permanent owners for the Jolly Anglers pub on Kennetside was successful. The Jolly Anglers pub opened its' doors again on 1st March.

And residents declared themselves satisfied by the rejection of contentious plans to build 750 houses on a prime piece of green-belt land between Reading and Theale.

But just as two sets of campaigns reach the finishing line, another continues on and a fourth starts up.

Mass Demo Against Weapons Of Mass Destruction; Barriers To Safety

Anti-nuclear protesters were out in force as a major decision was taken to build a nuclear waste store and new weapons facilities at Aldermaston, and a fatal road traffic accident lead to concerns about traffic safety on a local dual-carriageway.

Interestingly each of those four campaigns highlighted the contradiction not just between party political interests, but between the differing interests of local and national politicians.

Volunteers Spring To Action

For some it showed how the gap can be exploited for electoral gain, but for others it offered an indication that the solution to problems can be found not by leaving these matters to others, but by getting more involved in the community.


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 - so why not have your say and get blogging!


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