Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Labour in Reading:a responsibility free zone

The Evening Post reports that more than one in five children in Reading are raised in poverty.
Senior Labour Councillor Mike Orton  is described in the same article as being 'horrified' by the figures and keen to challenge the current administration of the Council to tackle poverty in future.
I agree with Mike - these statistics are shocking and they highlight the scale of the task we face to try and make Reading a fairer, healthier, more successful Town for all residents. I am keen to make the Council focus more closely on what we can do to reduce child poverty although clearly responsibility does not lie entirely with the Council but other agencies too.
Sadly this issue is not news to me - in fact it was the basis for the cross-party scrutiny review I led with Cllr Mark Ralph (Conservative)  earlier this year which challenged the complacent attitudes of the then Labour administration towards health inequality, and called for a concerted effort across local agencies to break the cycle of poverty in Reading. How depressing that the response of Labour councillors at the time was characterised by repeated attempts to rubbish me rather than take the issue seriously - hence when the review reported to Cabinet I was forced to argue that child poverty was too important an issue to be reduced to a political football.
Indeed had Cllr Ralph and I not raised serious concerns child poverty would not even have been discussed by councillors last Tuesday (one of our agreed recommendations was regular update reports to councillors to enable them to more effectively challenge the Council).
So with this in mind, my colleagues and I in the Coalition Administration are grateful for Cllr Orton's backing in our efforts to reduce poverty where high-spending Labour councillors and a Labour government, has so comprehensively failed the poorest children in our communities.
But let's make one thing clear: this shocking picture of thousands of children living in real poverty did not develop overnight as the result of Coalition policies. The figures quoted in the article and the scrutiny panel meeting which relate to child poverty are based on statistics collected only a few months ago when Reading was still ruled by a Labour-run Council, and a Labour government.
All of which begs the question what was Cllr Orton doing to during that time to challenge Labour members and officers? I cannot for the life of me recall him or other Labour councillors making impassioned speeches about the need for action on child poverty. Those speeches were left to opposition members to make.
It is a mystery. What is widely known is that Cllr Orton  has been a Whitley councillor since 1975 (one of the most deprived wards in Reading), and is both a former Leader of the Council and former Lead Member for Community Care. Someone who has been well placed to lead change locally and not someone who has lacked power or influence over Labour policy locally or nationally.
However, sadly in this area like so many others the Labour Party in Reading has increasingly become a responsibility free zone, and in my view the people of Reading deserve better.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Daisy.

    You are doing such a good job,
    under the previous Labour council
    the Lead councillor for Health
    and Community was virtually

    Fair minded local people will ignore
    Labours opportunist posturing and
    see that you are working hard for us.