Friday, 1 April 2011

Lib Dems Lead Improvements on Hexham Road Estate - And More Planned!

This morning I spent some time in Hexham Road Estate with a couple of fantastic officers from the Council's Housing Department.
I remember all too clearly what this area looked like when it was represented by three Labour councillors. It was badly neglected by them when I first got involved in campaigning in Reading: abandoned cars, graffiti, fly-tipping and other forms of anti-social behaviour were all big problems for residents.  The estate could not look and feel more different now - thanks to the work led by the local Lib Dem team and much-needed improvements funded by our local Decent Neighbourhoods Fund.

I was elected in 2006 and was the first person to actively campaign both inside and outside the Council chamber for this estate to be improved and for the voices of residents to be listened to. Residents I spoke to back then were deeply dissilusioned by the Labour-run Council and their local councillors.
Since then I have been joined by two outstanding advocates for the area in Kirsten Bayes and Glenn Goodall who have worked with me to get stuff done.Our campaign is an ongoing one and as local councillors for the area we work hard all year round to ensure the estate is as clean, green and safe as it can be for residents. 
We have led successful campaigns to improve the security of flat blocks and alley-gates across the estate to reduce burglary and anti-social behaviour. We also ran a successful campaign in 2009 to get the Council to bring in measures to reduce mini-moto nuisance on the estate. This led to anti-cycle chicanes being introduced and new more secure doors being fitted.
Throughout our campaigning we have worked hard to increase community involvement in Council decisions - including the first ever survey asking residents what changes they would like to see which has since driven much improvement.
Today I had a tour of some of the improvement works carried out over the past few months across the estate including overhauling of all the fire safety works, redecoration of blocks and replacement of windows. A couple of the flat blocks used to be really intimidating places until recently and feel much safer since changes were made.
Walls have been painted Magnolia to make them lighter and more inviting. New lighting has been installed, flooring throughout flats has been replaced and new ceilings installed. A new state of the art fire alarm system has been installed to help keep tenants safe.
RBC Housing have used funding from our unique Decent Neighbourhoods Fund in Reading (from the Housing Revenue Account) to make improvements to the communal areas in the estate. It was these areas which were so badly negelected by Labour as a result of their focus on meeting national Decent Homes targets and little else.
Outside the flat blocks themselves we have led lots of real improvements on the estate. In 2009 parking areas were resurfaced and repainted. Bin room doors have also been replaced, metal fences painted and bin stores introduced to make the area look more neat and tidy.We have got the Council to introduce more dog litter bins around the estate to help reduce dog fouling. We have also got action taken to reduce Pigeon nuisance on the estate.

Residents told us they would like to see Council ASB officers work more closely with the Police. This is now happening with the ASB team co-located in the Police HQ. RBC Housing and ASB officers now hold regular Surgeries between 10am and 12 noon on Monday mornings. You can also contact them by phone on 0118 937 37 57 (Housing) or 0118 937 2147 (ASB).
One of the more visible improvements we have made to the estate is getting more trees and greenery planted. As a result of our campaigning 10 new trees have been planted in the estate in addition to hundreds of Daffodil bulbs. These have really brightened the place up. I'm proud of what we've been able to achieve on behalf of residents so far but I know there is plenty more to do. The Council is launching a new survey soon to find out what improvements residents would like to see. I look forward to reading responses and acting on them quickly.

£400,000 has been set aside in this year's housing budget to fund further improvements not only on Hexham Road but across Council estates in Reading.
 Labour voted against our plans to invest in Council houses and estates so residents can have no guarantee if they vote Labour that this vital work will continue into the future.
If residents living in estate areas in Reading want to see neighbourhood works in their neighbourhoods continue the message is simple: vote Liberal Democrat on May 5 because locally in Reading we are leading the campaign for better estates for all.

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