Bringing West Berks Businesses Together

July 14, 2014 9:17 PM
L-R: Peter Baldock (Douglas Instruments) with Judith Bunting and Catherine Bearder, MEP.
Judith Bunting with Peter Baldock (Douglas Instruments, East Garston) and Catherine Bearder, MEP

Judith Bunting recently invited leaders of high-tech businesses from across West Berkshire to sit down with Catherine Bearder, MEP to discuss how our local companies, large and small, can build business in the new EU.

The event, What Next for Europe? Building Business in the new EU, was hosted by Helen Lamprell, Corporate & External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK, and took on subjects that ranged from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), to research funding and cross-border regulation.

Explaining the motivation behind setting up the event, Judith said: “When I was directing documentaries at the BBC, I would speak with companies and research groups, all working in the same field, only to find they did not know what each other was doing. I want to make sure this isn’t happening in West Berkshire.”

Judith went on, “If I get to Westminster, I will help all our businesses get the best advice and information on offer about opportunities in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.”

Helen Lamprell, Corporate and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK, with Sylvia Boschetto, from the IMechE
Helen Lamprell, Corporate and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK, with Sylvia Boschetto (Hampstead Norreys) of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers

Sylvia Boschetto, who works out of Hampstead Norreys, for the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, was clear that the development of green technology would never have happened so quickly if our companies had not been able to trade so easily with the European market. Jennifer Sumsion, MD of Micronclean, Newbury, and Peter Baldock of Douglas Instruments, in East Garston, both trade extensively with Europe, but both bemoaned the amount of paperwork and labelling that can be involved. Catherine Bearder agreed EU legislation needs to become smarter, simpler and quicker. She also revealed that QR codes are being explored as a way of simplifying labelling for manufacturers, whilst still providing the information required by consumers.

Judith Bunting said: “Trade across Europe is essential for many of our local businesses. Our hi-tech industries, from Vodafone and Quantel, to Stryker and Douglas Instruments, are critical to building a stronger economy. I was delighted to have the opportunity to bring people together to explore the issues and opportunities offered by the EU and how West Berks business can build on what’s available.”

From the Institute of Directors, Allie Renison, Head of European Affairs, reported how the younger generation of their members are increasingly keen on Europe. Paul Morris, from Vodafone, Paul Morris noted that the EU is particularly good at funding scientific research: The UK currently receives more research funding from the EU than any other member state.

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West Berks business roundtable discusses how to get the best out of Europe – L-R: Paul Morris, Head of Government Affairs, Vodafone; Peter Baldock, Director, Douglas Instruments; Alexandra Renison, Head of Europe and Trade Policy, Institute of Directors.

 

For more photos from the event, go to: https://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Follow Judith on Twitter, here: https://twitter.com/JudithBuntingLD

Teaching our Children to Read

As Easy as ABC

January 1, 2014 4:36 PM
ABC to Read - Judith with students from The Willows and Mary Moffat and Alistair Davis, volunteers
Judith Bunting with ABC volunteers, Alistair Davis and Mary Moffat, and students at The Willows, December 2013

Congratulations to local charity, ABC to Read, on being Awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, in recognition of its outstanding work with local children who are struggling with their reading. The award is acknowledged as the MBE for volunteer groups.

Marcia Rowlinson, Chief Officer of ABC to Read (Assisting Berkshire Children to Read), says the charity’s intentions are simple and clear: “We aim to reduce the number of children leaving primary school unable to read at the expected level and to help break down the barriers felt towards reading and education in some parts of the community.”

I met ABC and its volunteers at Christmas, last year, when I was contacted as part of their push to get more people to volunteer to help children in West Berks schools to learn to read.

The team at ABC recruits, trains and supports volunteers from the local community to act as an ABC reading helpers. Helpers then spend 30 minutes with each child, twice a week, reading, chatting and playing games. They focus on the child’s reading confidence using a range of general literacy resources provided by the charity, but need in West Berks, currently outstrips demand.

There are plenty of children, even in our wonderful West Berkshire, who do not read well or even at all, and the undivided attention given by ABC volunteers makes a world of difference. Latest evaluation data show that on average the performance of children supported by the charity improves by 2 educational sub-levels in a year, but whether students go on to study history or science, or just read newspapers, instructions and shopping lists, volunteers know that by teaching a child to read, they are opening doors to a fundamentally better life.

Schools pay to have ABC volunteers come into their schools, but it doesn’t cost much and it’s a great way to use Pupil Premium money. One volunteer costs £360 per year, which equates to £3 per week per child. If your school already has its own army of volunteers, the charity is also glad to train schools’ own Parent Helpers.

At the Willows, I met volunteers, Mary Moffat and Alistair Davis, and it was evident they love working with their students. Head Teacher, Alex Butler, also, has no doubt her children benefit hugely from the regular reading sessions.

I read the group two of my favourite poems (Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash, if you’re interested, and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore – it was December, after all). The children loved it – they were friendly, full of energy (in a good way!) and hugely receptive. We had great fun, with them calling out the rhyming words at the end of key lines. The children are a real credit to their families and The Willows.

ABC is working to increase the applications of volunteers from the West Berkshire and
increase the number of primary schools that take on the scheme.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer or if you are a teacher or parent who would like to find out how to get the scheme into your school, please write to ABC to Read for advice and information.

The address is: ABC to Read, Bridge Hall, Oxford Road, Reading, RG1 7PN or call on: 0118 951 1336. The email address is: abctoread@btconnect.com

JB reading at The Willows, ABC to read, 2
Reading with students at The Willows – what rhymes with jelly?

Judith Bunting is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Newbury and West Berkshire. You can keep up-to-date with her views and activities here: http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Follow her on Twitter, here: @JudithBuntingLD

Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance

 

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In the studio with the Magic Hands team. Most of the team is deaf.

In the recent reshuffle David Willetts has been succeeded as Minister for Universities and Science by Dr Greg Clark, whose portfolio also includes a Cabinet Office cities and constitution brief, which is a worrying dilution of attention. I will be writing to Greg Clark to ask him to scrap the recent changes to the Disabled Students Allowance. 

Earlier this year, David Willetts set out to “modernise” the DSA. What he seems to have achieved are measures that simply guarantee deaf and disabled students will not be able to perform as well as others.

There is no doubt that people with dyslexia will be affected by these changes to the DSA. Many will fall into the category of having a ‘mild’ disability. Universities are now required to take on the provision of their support and I am concerned that institutions do not have sufficient knowledge and experience to provide what’s required. How, also, are we to decide who has more complex needs and who’s needs are ‘mild’?

I also work with a number of young deaf colleagues. Many of them, as students, received the DSA, as was, and benefitted hugely from the help it gave. The new changes will be very discouraging to those with disabilities who are keen to enter higher education. This is to be regretted by everyone.

In the recent reshuffle David Willetts has been succeeded as Minister for Universities and Science by Dr Greg Clark, whose portfolio also includes a Cabinet Office cities and constitution brief, which is a worrying dilution of attention. I will be writing to Greg Clark to ask him to scrap the recent changes.

More information about the changes can be found on the following websites:

https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas/overview
https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studyhere/educationaladvisorsandschools/stem/blog/blogentries/proposedcutstodisabledstudentsallowances(dsa).aspx

There is an official e-petition against cuts to the disabled students allowance which will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold. If you would like to join the campaign, please sign here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63748

 

Flooding – Report on meeting with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water

 

 

Report after my meeting with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water wastewater engineer for West Berkshire – Judith Bunting.

July 3, 2014 11:13 PM
Judith Bunting, in Compton, with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water
Judith Bunting with Andrew Hagger, ThamesWater, examining an offending manhole cover in Horn Street, Compton

Recently, I took residents’ concerns about the foul-water flooding that took place, during last winter’s floods, to Andrew Haggar, Thames Water wastewater engineer for West Berkshire.

We all know that groundwater conditions, last winter, were extraordinary. What I wanted to find out from Andrew, was why so much groundwater got into Thames Water‘s sewage system, that foulwater spewed back out of manhole covers and interior fittings. People suffered these issues across West Berks, from Lambourn and East Garston to East Ilsley and Compton, taking in significant sections of Newbury, notably Northcroft Lane and Shaw, along the way.

Laying larger sewers is not the answer. Foulwater pipes are, perhaps, surprisingly narrow (6″ – 9″ diameter), but normal sewage flow is surprisingly low volume. 1,000 homes produces, on average, a flow of just 1 litre per second. (Apparently we can be relied upon to flush in rotation.) Standard pipes are big enough for the job, so long as only waste is flowing through. The problems come when the system is flooded with groundwater.

When this happens, we must be clear: It is the system that’s at fault, not the ground water.

If the sewage system is functioning properly, our ground should be able to flood all around the pipes, every day of the year, with no adverse consequence. We deserve to be secure in the knowledge that we will never see sewage in the streets or in our gardens. We should be confident, in twenty first century Britain, that we can flush, even when it rains.

I am pleased to say, that Thames Water now seem to accept the fact that their pipes should not experience ingress of ground water however wet it gets.

Shaw residents speaking with Catherine Bearder MEP and Judith Bunting
Earlier with year, introducing residents who suffered severe problems in Shaw, Newbury, to MEP Catherine Bearder

Key Questions

With all this in mind, my chief question to Andrew Haggar today was the same as has been asked by many people I met at the time:

  • How is groundwater getting into your system?
  • What you doing to stop it happening?

These may seem blindingly obvious questions, but I met people with infiltration problems in this area, in the late nineteen eighties. It beggars belief that the same problems are still happening, today.

How does the water get in?

Being an engineer, Andrew gave a satisfyingly clear answers – he was willing to put a few figures on it, as well. Water gets into the foul water system in 3 ways:

  • 20% gets in through cracks in the pipe and leaking joints
  • 70% gets in through inundation through manhole covers, through vents, and through the walls of unsealed inspection chambers.
  • 10% is put into the system by members of the public, seeking to get rid of floodwaters. People do not always realise that ifthey pour their floodwater into the foul-water drain, their neighbours may find foul-water pouring out of their loo and on totheir floor.
Judith Bunting with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water, at Compton Pond, Horn St and Wallingford Rd

Actions Underway

You will be able to get detailed reports on Thames Water‘s works, in your area, from the relevant flood forums, in due course. For now I can report the following:

  • In Lambourn: relining will begin very shortly. The Council is negotiating re traffic management during the works.
  • In Eastbury: the public sewers were relined ~2004. This process involved pushing a Neoprene ‘sock’ down the sewers, which was then cured into place with a chemical gel. The effect was a fresh, non-stick sewers, with no cracks.
  • In East Garston: relining work, ~2004, began at the bottom of the village, working up the valley from the pumping station.
  • In East Ilsley: The camera inspection of the village pipes, promised at East Ilsley’s Parish Council meeting, has now finished. Pipes were examined from West Ilsley, across the fields and down to the East Ilsley pumping station. These pictures are now being reviewed, to locate defects.
  • In Compton: key manholes are begin sealed. I alerted Andrew Hagger to the ingress of water through the walls of the inspectionchamber, on Horn Lane, as reported to me by resident, Ian Hickling. Andrew has taken note, and will look into the
    possibility of sealing this chamber. This is done by injecting resin into the walls.
  • The aim is for work in both Lambourn and Pang Valleys to be completed by October 2014.
  • In Newbury: Thames Water were somewhat surprised to hear about foul water egress in Shaw and the Northcroft Lane area. I was glad to share your experiences and my photos.

Manhole Covers

Manhole covers and inspection chambers are particular issue. Vents are required to allow the inevitable gases to escape from the system, but Thames now seems to be taking a pragmatic view to this, however, which pleases me: They are sealing the vents on low lying manhole covers, and leaving them open on manhole in higher ground.

Foul water egress from manhole at Newport Rd and Pike St, Shaw
Foul-water egress from manhole cover, Newport Rd and Pike St, Newbury, February 2014

New Homes

Perhaps surprisingly, water companies have no right to object to any planning application – they are not statutory planning authorities. They do try to make it clear when development may cause a problem. If a development is large, new sewers will be built. Brownfield developments, it seems, can actually improve local sewage flow, because their use often involves reopening old, closed, sections of foul-water pipe.

Note: If you have photos of foul-water problems suffered during winter 2013/2014, send the to me atjudithbuntingld@gmail.com and I will send them on to Thames Water.

Judith Bunting at Swan Court, Northcroft Lane, Feb 2014

Decent Homes for All

A major concern of Lib Dems here in West Berkshire and nationally is that too often, planners, developers and architects concentrate on the physical fabric of what is built rather than the social context in which housing needs to be placed.

This can create ghettoised areas in our towns, where young are separated from old; rich are separated from poor; and in which a post code lottery discriminates against people in terms of both the education and jobs markets.

HOUSING ISSUES IN WEST BERKS:

There are over 300  people ‘sofa surfing’ in West Berks District, while sites which could take hundreds of smaller homes, ideal for single people or couples, lie closed and unused. 

Meanwhile, developers have been granted permission to build huge estates on the green-field site at  Sandleford, to the south of Newbury. Any sensible person looking at those plans and the local context can see we have insufficient schooling, doctors surgeries, shops houses and roads to serve the number of families that will be coming into the area.

At the same time, we have excellent brownfield sites, perfectly placed for development that stand unused. Some are former industrial areas close to existing housing and accompanying infrastructure (not talking about the Stirling site, here, that’s a well-known, particular case). Some are old housing units, that just need bulldozing to make space for new development – such as Taceham House (pictured), in Thatcham, which has been empty, now, for about 6 years. Local builders need the work, young families need homes. What’s the problem? Why do we have social housing blocks standing unused?

Others brownfield sites are blocks right near the town centre, where, until recently, government offices were housed, such as Elizabeth and Avonbank blocks in West Street. These two were sold to developers in February this year. I look forward to seeing what proposals are put forward (http://www.newburytoday.co.uk/2014/mystery-developer-pays-1-87m-for-west-street-sites). One has to wonder why the Council did not develop the buildings themselves or at least retain a part share instead of selling off our family silver, once again, to developers – but that’s not what this post is about.

BEYOND WEST BERKSHIRE:

In the past, ghettoisation was forced by ‘slum’ clearance in which large areas of densely packed ‘courts’ and ‘terraces’ were placed by new build, often concrete, solutions. In some cases these solutions, built on once low-value land, have become hugely valuable. Today, areas with low land values are often the only places in which reasonable quantities of social or other low-priced housing can be afforded. Areas with high land values attract private development of property types which are most attractive to developers. Or existing landlords simply increase rents dramatically and clear social housing tenants from their homes.

Untrammelled  market forces, create ghettos. Better to retain mixed communities and accept the responsibility that comes with being a social housing landlord. The consequent ghettoisation creates a wide range of social and economic problems. Families have been and are forced apart; social mobility is reduced; the concentration of people with problems in some areas creates problem areas in which stigmatised individuals suffer from poor physical and mental health and poor education and employment prospects within stigmatised communities.

Local authorities should provide clear and transparent details of how they calculate housing needs and local people must be fully involved in making choices as to how those needs will be met. For the good of the community they serve, Councils must pay attention to local infrastructure and services, and to creating mixed communities.

The policies I support, strengthen local decision making by rebalancing the relationship between communities, local government, the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State. Using brownfield, rather than greenfield sites, makes far the best use of existing facilities, such as shops, roads, and water works. Andrew Haggar, Thames Water wastewater engineer for West Berkshire, told me recently that brownfield sites often come with existing water pipes and drainage, and when this is re-opened and brought back into play, it can improve local drainage for all.

DECENT HOMES FOR ALL: For more information about Lib Dem Housing Policies, please see the full report, below, Decent Homes for All: http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/libdems/pages/2012/attachments/original/1390841965/104_-_Decent_Homes_for_All.pdf?1390841965

Judith Bunting – Campaigning for Better Education in West Berkshire

In early 2013, Judith Bunting kicked off West Berks Lib Dems’ campaign: Education for a Fairer Future.

The campaign was launched against the backdrop falling GCSE results throughout West Berkshire and average achievement levels at GCSE which were below the national average. In addition, in June 2013, it got worse, when Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw,  highlighted West Berkshire as the Local Authority with the widest gap between the achievement of the lowest 20% of our students and the average:

“Strikingly, the Ofsted report, Unseen Children, shows that areas where poor children are doing worst in terms of educational opportunity are relatively prosperous parts of South East England, like West Berkshire. As a local authority area, West Berkshire:

  • Has the worst attainment in the whole country at primary school
  • Has the second worst attainment at secondary school
  • Is in the bottom three local authorities for qualifications at 19.”

How could this have happened? What have Conservative Councillors been doing since 2005, when they took control of West Berkshire Council, to allow standards in our schools to fall so far? What has MP Richard Benyon been doing to keep the the Council’s eye on the education ball?

At the same time as educational standards have been falling in Newbury and West Berks, the Council has been cutting funding for school support officers, year on year. Each time they make these cuts, Lib Dem Councillors point out the dangers in what they are doing and make a stand. Each time, the Council Leaders do not listen.

No one goes into education to make things worse for children. The problems we have been seeing are too widespread to be the fault of one particular set of teachers or any specific school.  I started the Education for a Fairer Future campaign to draw attention to this widespread problem and to try and ensure West Berks Council does more to support the futures of young, striving students in Newbury.

Since the Education for a Fairer Future campaign was launched, the Council has put an additional £400,000 into the schools budget. They also committed to giving John O’Gaunt School £1m for new buildings. Great stuff – glad they’re listening – but why do our children have to wait for the bad headlines, before the Council takes action?

  • We must put pressure on the council to increase secondary and primary education provision for the 4,000 new houses being built in Newbury.
  • We must ensure the Council does not cut away support for school support officers any further.
  • The Local Education authority needs to provide inspiring leadership and provide the training and advice schools need.

We all must work together to do the best for our children. 

 

West Berkshire Broadband

At a recent event in the centre of Newbury, I heard yet more stories from people living and working outside of Newbury and Thatcham about the poor broadband speeds. Two rural business leaders reported broadband speeds below 2Mb. Particularly worrying, as they are based in Elcot and Winterbourne, villages that are not included in the current Superfast Broadband plans, at all.

This is shocking. If I am elected to Westminster, for the sake of all businesses and residents across West Berks, I will campaign vigorously for better broadband services in and across our district.

People should be able to run businesses from home, whether you’re a publisher sending multiple picture files to a printer on the far side of the world or a hotel that would like to offer its guests more than 2Mb.

In West Berks we have many sophisticated businesses in our villages: From hi-tech science in East Garston, to Engineering Consultancy in Hampstead Norreys, to PR and marketing in East Ilsely. They all need broadband that’s as fast and reliable as we have in our towns.

bunting may nine 113
Faster broadband is important for everyone in our communities – whether it’s children doing homework, day to day banking, or grannies keen to stay in touch with their families.

Earlier this year, I visited John Leech, our MP representative on the DCMS select committee. He was astounded at the bad deal Gordon Lundie and Richard Benyon had negotiated for West Berkshire from the Superfast Berkshire consortium. Leaving rural areas so far behind nearby towns in terms of the service the receive and when they are likely to receive it, is very shortsighted.

You can read the speech I gave to Conference about the importance of broadband infrastructure for all our communities, here: http://westberkslibdems.org.uk/en/article/2014/853249/judith-bunting-s-speech-to-conference-on-the-critical-importance-of-broadband-services-to-rural-areas

Dyslexia in West Berkshire

 I was delighted to join with dyslexia specialist, Jacqui Flisher (below) to organise the Dyslexia – The Big Picture event at Sheepdrove, recently. Many thanks to everyone who came along. The evening kicked off with a showing of James Redford’s documentary, The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia and this was followed by a panel discussion. It was great to hear about the successes of high flyers and to be reminded that people living with dyslexia span the full ability range.

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Sheepdrove Dyslexia Event, Panel line-up, L-R: Lord Addington, VPres the British Dyslexia Association; Gary Smith, CEO of Brainbook Ltd; Jacqui Flisher, local Dyslexia Specialist; Judith Bunting, Chair; Inspector Chris Ward, Training Manager at Thames Valley Police; Claire Malpas, Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
I also recently had the opportunity to visit the Accelerated Education Unit at Trinity School and to meet Gaynor Davies and the amazing teaching team there. The unit is open to all students with dyslexia, from all across West Berkshire. The work the students I met were putting in and results they’re achieving are impressive.
It is vitally important that services like these exist so we can continue to create opportunity for all children, no matter who they are or what their background is.
I was delighted to meet Cathy Howells, teacher at the Trinity School Accelerated Education Unit, and some of the students, there.
I have signed a petition asking the government to save Disabled Students’ Allowance, which affects students with dyslexia, who are deaf, as well as those with a physical disability. 
If you would like to sign also, click here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/63748

Flying the Flag for Newbury Business

June 9th, 2014

 

Judith Bunting with Vince Cable at the Bloomberg Keynote Speech
Judith Bunting with Business Secretary, Vince Cable at the Bloomberg Keynote Speech

At Nick Clegg’s recent keynote speech in London today Judith Bunting asked what the government could do to further encourage the development of our science, technology and research industries of the M4 Corridor.

“These companies are the future,” Judith Bunting said. “Their research, development and manufacturing provides the precisely the kind of highly skilled work that is underpinning the economic recovery of the country.” She went on, “Should hi tech industry be eligible for the kind of tax-breaks enjoyed by other industries, like film and TV?”

“If I am returned to Westminster, I will pursue the idea of tax breaks for start-ups in the technology industry. Vodafone was once a Newbury start-up as was Quantel. Now they employ thousands of people in our area.  Our hi tech industries and their skilled workers are critical to stimulating economic growth.”

Nick Clegg was glad to acknowledge the importance of the technology industry to the economic recovery of Britain. With reference to the speech made by Judith Bunting at Federal Conference, last year, he emphasised the importance of getting reliable broadband coverage extended to the whole of the UK. In his speech, earlier, Nick said, “If this parliament was about reviving the economy, the next will be about rewiring the economy”.

Nick also celebrated Vince Cable’s work in promoting the teaching of engineering, electrical and technical skills in FE Colleges and the establishment of the Apprenticeship and the Higher Apprenticeship schemes in which companies sponsor students to take technical education to degree level.

Nick Clegg giving Keynote Speech at Bloomberg June 2014
Nick Clegg: Keynote Speech at Bloomberg

To keep up to date with Judith‘s Views and activities around West Berks, please go to: http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

To follow her on Twitter, click here: https://twitter.com/JudithBuntingLD