School cuts – West Berkshire Council proposes charging schools who need help

Judith Bunting at Park House School, Newbury, during
the recent election campaign.
With Ian Millar, Head of Physics.

This week West Berkshire Council announced plans for financial “task forces” to be sent into the district’s struggling schools to help heads manage their budgets. They are also threatening to charge any school that requires ‘the task force intervention’.
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Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Newbury, said: “This is another shockingly negative move from the Conservatives on West Berkshire Council. They present this issue as if our schools are failing, In reality, the actions of West Berkshire Council and the Conservative Government mean that many local schools have not only suffered significant cuts to their funding, but at the same time are being expected to provide more services around children’s mental health and other matters.”
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Judith continued, “West Berkshire Council should be glad to help schools doing their best to keep up standards of education under such onslaught, not chastise them and then charge them for the privilege.”
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This week, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran told national press about the hypocrisy surrounding Justine Greening’s announcement £1.3bn of additional funding for schools. In reality, she said, this ‘additional funding’ will come from “efficiencies” from within the education budget:
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“This is a desperate attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Instead of providing the £4bn of extra funding promised in their manifesto, the Conservatives are recycling cash from the education budget. It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Schools are still facing cuts to their budgets once inflation and increasing class sizes are taken into account.
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“Children only get one go at education. We need to invest more in our schools to ensure that no child is left behind.”
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Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Twitter, here: @wberkslibdems

Follow Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats on Facebook, here: www.facebook.com/WestBerksLibDems

News and views from Judith Bunting can be found, here: www.judithbunting.co.uk or @JudithBuntingLD or www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Report on Housing Q&A – Judith Bunting and Lee Dillon

This report gives the gist of the discussion that took place in the recent Facebook Q&A on Housing. Thank you to everyone who took part!

At the sharp end, we had Lee Dillon, Councillor for Thatcham North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Council Group, and Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency.

Discussion kicked off with social housing:

SOCIAL HOUSING

We opened proceedings, with a question from Sue Farrant asking:

“How many affordable homes do West Berks Council say they have provided in, say, the last 5 years and how many have they actually provided?”

Lee Dillon replied that 101 affordable housing units have been built in West Berkshire so far this year [latest figure]. Last year West Berks saw 158 completions. The Council has set itself a target of developing 1000 affordable homes by 2020, but has admitted that is unlikely to hit that target and looks set to fall short by at least 150.

Tony Harris joined the debate, asking about the situation with the affordable flats in Parkway. Out of 111 housing units in the development, 37 are allocated to be social housing. Sadly, 4 years since the units were all finished, the affordable unit were still not being late. Tony was looking for an update:

Do you know if the situation with the affordable flats in Parkway has been resolved yet? We learned that due to another West Berks Council legal cockup the developers realised they could keep them vacant and still keep the council’s money.” He went on to ask, “Are the flats now occupied and have WB legal accepted responsibility?”

Judith Bunting answered with the latest news that, “The 37 affordable units have now been allocated to the social housing provider, One Housing Group. I understand, however, that only one flat is occupied. After all, it is just four years since Parkway was completed!” She went on to say, “West Berkshire Council accepted legal responsibility for this crazy situation some time ago, now. Sadly that did not speed up their quest to find in a housing provider.”

“This is a disgraceful situation”, commented Ian Hall. And so say all of us, Ian!

Lucie Thompson then asked: “How much social housing has been replenished, and why do we see less and less being built. The housing list bidding system, how many families are living in cramped conditions because there is a shortage of 3 and 4 bed houses.”

Judith Bunting picked up this question saying, Lucie, Afraid I cannot find precise information about the number of bedrooms. The latest figures from the National House Building Council show that in 2015 the UK built:

  • Detached Houses:         42,173                     27% of which was social housing
  • Semi Detached:              35,423                     23% social housing
  • Terraced:                          26,531                      17% social housing
  • Flats:                                 49,529                      31% social housing
  • Bungalows:                     2,484                          2% social housing.

Judith Bunting continued, “The problem is that not enough dwellings are being built altogether. The country needs a major programme of house building, increasing the rate of construction until we reach at least 300,000 houses a year and giving more freedom to social landlords, local authorities and local communities. Funnily enough, when we were in coalition, the Tories nixed the idea of any major investment in housing, although Nick Clegg’s proposals for a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, seem to be going ahead.”

  • Semi Detached: 35,423 – 23% social housing
  • Terraced: 26,531 – 17% social housing
  • Flats: 49,529 – 31% social housing
  • Bungalows: 2,484 – 2% social housing.

I’m afraid I cannot find precise information about the number of bedrooms. The problem, not enough dwellings are being built altogether!

Lucie Thompson“My point is that so many houses from the social sector were sold to families during the last 40 years that they are not replenishing those homes. This in turn leaves a huge gap for families living in a two bed flat, waiting for a house, then you have this crazy bidding for the house to even get it! Some families wait years!”

Rowena Lewis agreed: “I agree Lucie, it is a nightmare for any family on a single salary or person trying to restart after a change in personal circumstances.”

Lucie Thompson finished, saying, “I personally think there is a bigger need for social housing than affordable housing, currently, and that is nationally”.

COUNCIL HOUSING
Building on Lucie’s comments, Judith Bunting drew our attention to the graph below from the Local Government Association (LGA), posted by Judith, shows how the type of new homes being built has changed over the years:

Graph 1 - new homes, private and social sectors

“In 1981, you can clearly see the effect of Margaret Thatcher’s policies, in the dramatic drop off of council built homes [yellow line, Local Authority Housing]. Interestingly, the increase in social housing (grey line) comes in 1990, while John Major was PM. This is when social housing overtakes council housing for the first time. During the Blair years, 1997 – 2007, the rate of building of social housing drops off again. Gordon Brown oversaw a rise in the building of social housing, which then remained pretty steady during the coalition years. “

A presubmitted question asked specifically about Council Housing in West Berkshire:

“Other Councils still have Council Houses, why is it not the same in West Berkshire?”ow

Lee Dillon had no doubt about his answer: “West Berkshire Council could build Council Houses it if wanted to.”

Judith Bunting was also very clear: “There is no good reason why we do not have Council Houses in West Berkshire. The Conservative government of 1979 transferred the public housing stock to the private sector and created the right to buy. Today, though, it is a Council’s choice whether to build Council Housing again. Our Council has chosen not to do so, and shows no sign of changing their minds. It is worth noting,” she said, “that Reading Borough Council still builds Council Houses.”

Lee Dillon picked up with a comment on the cost of housing in West Berkshire, “One clear reason why we are in desperate need of affordable housing, from social rent, through to shared ownership is this …

Graph 2 - av house prices in WB
The average price of a home in West Berkshire has risen to a whopping £336k. Assuming a 10% deposit (£36k) you would still need a mortgage of £300k which requires a joint income of over £75k per year.”

Lucie Thompson joined in with the comment that“Sadly this also means the average earner and below will always be trapped in rented properties. It’s not just the North/South divide, it’s the rich poor divide and many middle class are being squeezed into poverty.”

Lee Dillon: “Spot on, Lucie.”

This brought Mel Macro of Hungerford into the debate. Mel made the point that the staggering size of the mortgage required to buy a house in West Berkshire had pushed her and her partner go with SO [Shared Ownership].

“I bought a shared ownership house as for us it was the only option to buy. Whilst happy that it enabled us to buy, to buy the rest of it we are limited – we are only allowed to buy up to 25 % at a time, which means 3 more lots of fees, solicitor charges etc. This effectively stops it being sensible/affordable to buy your own home outright. I don’t know if there is any talk so that all shared ownership homes have the same ‘rules ‘ or that they make it as easy to buy your SO home as they do your own council house.”

Mel Macro went on, “We bought the first one we were offered after losing out umpteen times, so there wasn’t a choice. With that and the fact that solicitor costs are almost double for shared ownership and you can only get a mortgage from a few banks it just seems like everything is against you!”

Lee Dillon: “Hi Melanie Macro, some Shared Ownership agreements allow people to staircase up in 5% blocks.”

Melanie Macro: “It doesn’t make any sense to buy 5% in my opinion, because it costs thousands in fees. You’re better off saving and waiting to buy a larger chunk, it’s the upper limits that upset me for that reason.”

Lee Dillon: “I think there should be a standard agreement that allows stair-casing without new legal fees at each point.”

Which sounds like a very good idea to us!

HOUSING WHITE PAPER

Judith Bunting drew our attention to the Government’s Housing White Paper, currently making its way through Parliament:

The full white paper can be read here, Fixing our broken housing market.

Judith Bunting said that although the paper shows that the Government recognises the scale of the housing problem, sadly, it still misses the main point. The paper omits any plans for new, genuinely affordable homes to rent.

Judith also drew our attention to the Joseph Rowntree Trust’s review of the paper, which makes the point that: “For many families in the UK, high rental costs make the difference between just about managing and not being able to manage at all: poverty in the private rented sector has doubled in the last decade, leaving millions trapped in insecure, expensive housing.”

A question from Sue Farrant highlighted the worst of the current problems.

Sue Farrant asked, “How many households are living in temporary accommodation at the moment? What’s the average length of stay?”

Lee Dillon answered, “Hi again Sue. Sorry I don’t have those figures to hand but what an absolutely on topic question – especially here in West Berks where have seen recently local companies stepping up to help out.

Only last week the Executive at WB considered the future of the Homelessness service going forward. They decided to cut the budget by £349k which will see a reduction in the amount of places where people can sleep from 108 units to 73 units.

So sadly those living in temporary accommodation with decrease but not because more is being done to get them into permanent homes but because there will be less provision or them going forwards.”

As in any discussion of housing in West Berkshire, the topic finally moved on to Sandleford:

Presubmitted Question: “It looks like the 500 house development in Sandleford is not going ahead. What does that mean for housing developments elsewhere in West Berkshire?”

Lee Dillon took this question: “Sandleford is expected to provide 2000 homes in the not too distance future, but a poorly chosen site has led to delay upon delay with the latest decision not now expected until the Autumn when we should have had a decision around about now.

“The impact of Sandleford not being built will be massive for communities across the District as it is designed to provide such a large percentage of our housing and what the Council have to provide in terms of a thing called 5 year land supply.
(which is where the Council have to show the government how it can always provide homes over a rolling 5 year period) the district as it is designed to provide such a large percentage of our housing, and what the Council has to provide in terms of a thing called 5 year land supply (which is where the council have to show the government how it will provide homes over a 5 year rolling period). The major riss is that the Council puts all their eggs in one basket with Sandleford. Now it is in trouble, we could see many more planning appeals ahead.

“This means developers will be free to put new sites up for approval and will have a higher chance of winning them [whether we like it or not] at Appeal as the Council wont be able to demonstrate to the inspector that we have a good supply of housing coming forward.”

Judith Bunting picked up: “Part of the problem is that Councils need to start insisting that developers to buy into the community focussed district plan. I understand that developers need to make a commercial profit, but we need to challenge ‘requirements’ for super-profitability. Developing large sites such as Sandleford and the London Road/Faraday Road trading estate is a privilege. Where such huge sites are concerned, developers should expect and be expected to accept community needs.

“In West Berkshire, the Conservative Council should have started planning to develop London Road/Faraday Road years ago, when they first took power. By now we could have a shiny new headquarters for Bayer at the Robin Hood Roundabout, as well as many flats across the site, mixed in with light industry. At a meeting of the businesses on the site in 2015, almost all agreed that the area needs to be developed. Most people said would be happy to move temporarily while building work went on. 2 years later, though, no development has started. Largely because the Council is insisting that a single develop takes control of the whole site AND that they expect the plans to be as profitable as possible. Here, there is no doubt that money is being put ahead of community needs.

“The Council should be also working with Newbury Football Club to make the most of the ground on Faraday Road. With cooperation, the Council could help the club create a modern site with artificial pitch, which the main team could share with women and the 350 youngsters that play with AFC Newbury each week. If development has started soon enough, the Council could have incorporated the recent Travelodge development as well.”

And finally, here is a graph that shows how the number of private renters, across the population, is increasing (palest blue). It’s not something people asked about, but it is a distinct trend and a dead good graph.

For comparison, below it we have posted a pie chart showing home ownership vs rental housing in Germany.

Graph 3 - Share of private renters is getting biggerGraph 4 - pie chart, Germany cf UK private renters

What is your opinion? Do you think it is healthier for society if more people rent their homes, or should be encouraging everyone to buy their own?

 

What Other Councils Do …

 

If anyone tries to tell you that it’s unrealistic to fight the cuts being imposed by the conservatives on West Berkshire Council, here’s a little ammunition:

Eastleigh Borough Council has a £150m asset management plan which has enabled 13 years of real term cuts in council tax and NO CUTS TO FRONT LINE SERVICES.

Eastleigh Borough has a population of ~129,000 and the Council has been Lib Dem controlled since 1994.

Meanwhile, in West Berks, our Conservative Council over the past 9 years has sold off all kinds of assets, retained no interest in commercial developments and allowed major employers to leave our area. Result?  We face many significant cuts.

Where is our Council’s foresight?  Where is the planning?  Where is the hard-headed determination to do the best for West Berks?

 

MORE DETAIL:

Regarding Eastleigh, the broadbrush headlines, which I guess is what you want, are that back during the financial crash, faced with the failing of a major local venue, Eastleigh Council didn’t kick Hampshire Cricket Club out (as WBC are doing currently with Newbury FC). Rather, the council stepped in as funder. They BOUGHT THE GROUND and leased it back. With a major Hilton Hotel, conference and banqueting facility and spa on site, plus an 18 hole golf course, they have ended up with:

* net income at maturity to council on roughly £35m investment of £1m each year

* 500 on and off site jobs for economy created

* annual local economic impact £50m

* venue saved and one of top wold cricket grounds created

In contrast to the above, when sitting on the Faraday Road site which included light industry, potential for housing and larger development, and a football ground – The conservative run council in West Berkshire Council sat on its hands. 

I heard it personally from Gordon Lundie: WBC did not develop the Faraday Road Site earlier because of the financial crash.

What Eastleigh did in 2008 is a fantastic example of how a forward thinking council, that wants to invest in the local community and infrastructure, can make things work.

The Aegeas Bowl, as the development above is now called, is only part of the £150m asset management plan that Eastleigh Council have developed which has enabled 13 years of real term cuts in council tax and no front line service cuts.

election-clegg-2_3282468k

Budget today – Success for West Berkshire charity campaign

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 09.37.04

Lobbying for the WBRRC, JB with (L-r): Lord Newby,
Tim Farron MP and WBRRC’s Andrew Sharp; JB accosting Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last October.

Fingers and toes were crossed earlier this week for news in the Budget for one of West Berks local charities.  I am glad to report success for West Berkshire Rapid Response Cars. Their campaign has reaped a reward in this year’s budget. 

Back in 2012, Andrew Sharp, the Chair of Trustees for The West Berkshire Rapid Response Cars got in touch to ask if I could help with their long running campaign to get VAT relief on the purchase of new rapid response cars.

Each car costs about £20,000 and VAT relief would provide the charity with the £4,000 it takes to equip a standard vehicle as a car appropriately decked and equipped for emergency paramedic use.

All money for the cars comes from fundraising in and around West Berkshire on charity collecting days, crafts fairs, and the wonderful Greenham Common Trust.

IMG_2627 - Version 2Cars are operated by South Central Ambulance Service and driven by SCAS paramedics, like Jerry,on a volunteer basis during off duty hours. They are based in rural corners of West Berkshire, such as Yattendon and Kintbury, where it takes ambulances far too long to reach. The Service should not need additional help from the WBRRC to cover the more remote parts of West Berkshire, but they do, and as long as emergency cover is not reaching our residents fast enough, I am delighted to have been able to work with the charity to achieve this reform.

The WBRRC drivers attend crises across West Berkshire, giving emergency help, sometimes standing ambulances down, sometimes ferrying the walking wounded to hospital in Reading, Swindon.

After three years of letter writing and lobbying and watching Air Ambulance and Rapid response boats – both charities we heartily support – get tax breaks in two budgets, at the end of last year I finally got the ear of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, our Danny.

The budget announced this Tuesday includes the following phrase:

2.112 Rapid response vehicles – The government will provide a grant to support charities providing rapid response vehicles for medical purposes.

We understand that the grant is a sum of money set aside to go towards compensating rapid response car charities for the VAT they pay on cars and equipment and look forward to discussing the size of the grant with treasury officers as soon as possible. (Just can’t wait!)

Huge congratulations go out to Andrew, Deborah and everyone who has supported the charity and the campaign over the last few years.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 09.49.32

Rural Broadband: Am I missing something?

Because of an enquiry from a constituent, I have gone back, this morning, to coverage maps for the Superfast Berkshire project, which detail which areas will receive fibre optic services by the end of the project in 2016.

They are truly extraordinary – and not in a good way. I showed them to our MP on the DCMS Select Committee (John Leech) and even he was astonished to see the appalling provision that’s been negotiated on behalf of West Berks, compared to the coverage for the East.

And remember, the Lead Authority for the Superfast Berkshire project was the loveable Tory team on West Berkshire Council. Richard Benyon was along side them, sticking up for the needs of his rural residents.

Superfast Berkshire - Fibre Coverage by Phase (Superfast Berkshire (http://www.superfastberkshire.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=34509&p=0))

Superfast Berkshire – Fibre Coverage by Phase
(http://www.superfastberkshire.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=34509&p=0)

EXTRAORDINARY EXAMPLE: If you look at the map close-up, below, you’ll see, under the green and the red shading, that Yattendon is well covered. Good for Yattendon, no problem with that at all, in itself. But while Yattendon village is covered twice and the greenfields around are promised superfast coverage by December of this year, Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys are not expected to receive fibre optic superfast coverage by the end of 2014, the end of 2015 or the end of 2016. Perhaps not even, at all.

Large numbers of people live and work in Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys. Lots of children need to do homework online. What did they ever do to offend West Berkshire Council? What were their Councillors – those people elected to represent their interests – doing while this so-called negotiation was going on?

Looking at the project completion map (the purple one, below), even once the additional funding of the Rural Communities Broadband fund, so proudly trumpeted and the ‘planned’ infill satellite and wifi coverage, only 25-50% of households in Hermitage will receive coverage >2Mb.

Superfast Coverage at Project Completion (Superfast Coverage at Project Completion (http://www.superfastberkshire.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=34510&p=0))

Superfast Coverage at Project Completion
(http://www.superfastberkshire.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=34510&p=0)

I could go on further about East Ilsley, East Garston and Compton, with a population of ~2,000, where 0-25% superfast coverage is the best that is promised by the end of the project. Scandalous.

Looking at these maps, one would assume that Reading was leading the Superfast Berkshire negotiations, that Windsor and Maidenhead must have held the floor, that Slough drove proceedings, but no – no, West Berkshire Council was the lead authority on the Superfast Berkshire Project. Richard Benyon proclaimed more than once, how wonderfully the negotiations were going.

If this is the best result our MP can get from good negotiations, lord preserve us from his bad ones. There are times, in life and in politics, when being nice is simply not enough.

For more information about the Superfast Broadband project, see their own site: http://www.superfastberkshire.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=34509&p=0

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

See what I’m up to on Facebook, here: www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Schools Minister visits West Berks

5th Sept - David Laws 042_1024

Last week, Head Teachers from all West Berkshire schools were invited by Judith Bunting to meet David Laws, Minister of State for Schools when he came to visit John O’Gaunt School in Hungerford.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for school Heads to share their ideas and discuss the burning questions of the day with our Minister of State for Schools.” Judith said: “I am delighted David accepted our invitation to visit West Berkshire.”

David Laws MP commented: “In government Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society. We are taking action to make sure that every child can reach their full potential, whatever their background.”

Despite Lib Dem action, in 2012/2013 74% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in West Berkshire still failed to achieve 5 good GCSEs. This was on the agenda for today’s meeting along with:

  • How to tackle the falling standards in West Berks schools.
  • How Heads are working to reverse the decline of GCSE results seen across the district in recent years.
  • How to make the most of funding available for small village schools.

Judith Bunting added: “The Conservative Council and MP for our area have consistently failed to take action to push up standards in West Berkshire schools, so we have gone directly to the Schools Minister and local Heads. These are the people who can ensure every child gets a fair start in life.”

 

TeenTech makes science inspirational

Judith Bunting and Maggie Philbin meet young people at TeenTech event, July 2013 (Louise Bellaers)

Local celebrity and presenter of Tomorrow’s World and BBC One’s Bang Goes the Theory, Maggie Philbin, was in Berkshire last week promoting an event that travels the UK inspiring young people about careers in science, engineering and technology.

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Newbury and West Berkshire, went along to find out how it works.

TeenTech has been running in the Thames Valley for four years. The event is organised by local Education Business Partnerships working in collaboration with Maggie’s TeenTech team. Over that time they have been able to reach over 1,500 young students and teachers, and make them aware of the diverse and exciting career possibilities in science, engineering and technology.

Commenting, Judith Bunting (pictured above, second right) said: “I am passionate about both education and science, so I find this project exciting on a personal level. Traditionally, science, engineering and technology have been seen as a bit geeky, so I think it’s great that this programme is helping to dispel those myths.”

Judith went on to say: “Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of meeting future employers’ needs by ensuring the next generation is suitably skilled. The M4 corridor is often dubbed England’s “Silicon Valley,” so we really must invest now to reap positive returns in the future.”

Judith Bunting tries out AWE's super-sensitive infrared camera
Judith Bunting tried out AWE’s super-sensitive infrared camera

 

Commenting further, Judith said: “Maggie’s Teen Tech is a shining example of how visionary leadership can inspire young people about making affirmative career choices. I’m confident that it will also help safeguard the future of the local economy, as it will ensure that West Berkshire has a smart, savvy and tech-aware workforce in the 21st century.”

Keep up-to-date with Judith’s views and activities around West Berkshire: 

http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

http://westberkslibdems.org.uk/

 

 

‘Worst place in England to be a child from a poor family’

Judith on the Sunday Politics Show - Nov 2012

The chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said recently that West Berkshire is “the worst place in England to be a child from a poor family, in terms of education opportunity.”

In a speech in London last Thursday, Sir Michael said, “Disadvantaged children in this lovely, affluent part of south-east England last year had:

  • the worst attainment in the whole country at primary school;
  • the second worst at secondary school;
  • and, were in the bottom local three authorities for attainment at 19.”

Sir Michael went on to say, “West Berkshire is an example of a much wider problem affecting the relatively prosperous counties of south-east England. On the surface, education outcomes for these areas may look good but, for children eligible for free school meals they hide deep and shocking failure.”

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Newbury and West Berkshire, (pictured) said: “These troubling findings are why I started an education petition back in March, aimed at improving education outcomes in West Berkshire. Newbury’s educational attainment has been in decline for some years.”

Judith went on to say, “It’s outrageous that somewhere like affluent Newbury is not only seeing GCSE figures fall below average and English results tumble nine percent in one year, but that we are also now one of the worst authorities for failing poorer pupils.”

Referring to the Liberal Democrat Pupil Premium policy adopted by the coalition government whereby schools will receive £900 in extra funding for each pupil who has been eligible forfree school meals for the past six years, Councillor Irene Neill (Con, Aldermaston), the executive portfolio holder for education at West Berkshire Council, said: “I’m confident that it will make a difference.”

Councillor Neill went on to say, “We should not be making a political football of our children’s education.”

Judith Bunting responded: “This is not about party politics. I wish there wasn’t a need to campaign about education provision in West Berkshire, but local children are being let down and that is simply unacceptable. Our children deserve the best education possible, no matter what their background.

The decline in local schools in such an affluent area should be a stain on the conscience of West Berkshire Council. The Council snd our MP must do more to support the futures of young striving students in Newbury.”

You can sign our Education for a Fairer Future online petition here: www.change.org/petitions/increase-education-provision-in-west-berkshire

You can read Judith’s open letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, here: http://westberkslibdems.org.uk/en/article/2013/679180/open-letter-to-michael-gove-secretary-of-state-foreducation

You can keep up to date with Judith’s views and activities around West Berkshire here: http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

Education for a Fairer Future

david-clulow-speaking-to-lib-dem-ppc-judith-bunting-about-the-education-petition-in-newbury.jpg

This weekend Judith Bunting and the Liberal Democrat team were in Northbrook Street in Newbury to promote the Education for a Fairer Future campaign.

This campaign comes against the backdrop falling GCSE results throughout West Berkshire and average achievement levels at GCSE, last year, which were below the national average.

Newbury and West Berks educational attainment has been in decline for some years – last year GCSE English results fell by 10% in West Berks. At the same time, the Council has cut 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.

The decline of local schools in such an affluent area is a stain on the conscience of West Berkshire Council and a symptom of conservative complacency. Let’s ensure West Berks Council does more to support the futures of young, striving students in Newbury.

Judith Bunting is also putting pressure on the council to increase Education provision for the 4,000 new house due to be built in Newbury.

Join the campaign today by signing our petition at:

Education for a Fairer Future: change.org/petitions/increase-education-provision-in-west-berkshire.