There was a full Reading Borough Council Cabinet Meeting last Monday night. Here are some decisions that took place.
READING TRANSPORT LIMITED REPORT OF THE DIRECTORS
There was a report from the Directors of RTL which was discussed at length. RTL has been shortlisted for awards such as the National Transport Awards 2009 Contribution to Sustainable transport.
Business has been difficult as the impact of the recession drove down ridership. Fluctuating fuel costs have also been problematic and the rise in costs as well as a loss of income. However, the current situation has improved with the programme of management action.
A report was received on the Bio-ethanol project which was introduced in 2007/08 on the number 17 line in which 14 bio-ethanol powered buses were introduced to the fleet. This project, which was introduced to limit air pollution and promote green energy efficiency in transport was a national pathfinder project that had not been trialed on double decker buses in Britain before. The Bio-ethanol initiative was a bold and imaginative step forward in environmental terms that made the Nottingham Climate Change declaration more than good intentions and empty words. The report to Cabinet stated that there would have been a reduction in the amount of pollution in the area due to the project.
However, the cost of the fuel and the source of the bio-ethanol has raised fundamental questions.The case was based on primarily environmental issues and not on economic issues which are a serious concern for efficient and green alternative energies.Whilst evidence pointed to a marginally higher cost of bio-ethanol than diesel the actual running costs were significantly higher due to better energy qualities of diesel. The true economics of bio-ethanol fuel was not fully investigated and widely reported to the RTL board and the Council. In the drive to put the environment first questions were not asked and actions were taken before decisions were made by the Cabinet.
In hindsight decisions should have been made with a fuller grasp of the evidence of the expense of bio-ethanol as an alternative environmentally fuel that is economic and sustainable.
In October 2009 the Board of RTL decided that the bio-ethanol buses were uneconomical in the present climate and that they would be converted back to diesel.
Whilst the Tories were happy to be photographed with the new buses they now seek to see heads roll due to the costs that have not been recovered. The Tories tried to paint a picture of massive costs to the council tax payer of near a million pounds. Interestingly Councillor Willis in his blog said that he would move am motion at the next council meeting to call for resignations from the council. Presumably he has read the latest opinion polls which will keep his party out of council control and he expects to be in opposition after May 6th elections.
The true cost of the project is £154.000 not from the council tax payers but costs incorporated within RTL. The cost is lower than claimed as much of the outlaying capital spend is still valuable to RTL and is being used to good economic effect, such as the fuel station.
This is the difficult conundrum of green policies that will initially cost more than less environmentally friendly fuel. The facts are that this current Labour administration are totally committed to improving air quality in Reading and are proud of pioneering new technologies that are efficient, cleaner and will eventually cost less than fuels that are clearly damaging the planet.No new technology comes without a cost and we believe the decision was thoroughly justified at the time in which all political parties did not oppose.
It will be interesting to hear your views on this.
TREE SURVEY AND REPLACEMENTS
The Cabinet were pleased to agree a budget of £50.000 to be allocated as part of the Capital programme for the years 2010/11 and 2011/12 for the replacement and planting of trees. That a programme of tree protection is ongoing and a programme of tree felling takes place in response of health and safety fears.
CENTRAL BERKSHIRE WASTE PFI SCRUTINY
Cabinet took a report from scrutiny on the recommendations including waste minimisation and recycing food waste. In comparison to the previous report on bio-ethanol the Berkshire unitary authorities were criticised by other political parties for taking into financial constraints when not looking to involve food waste.
The discussion then went political with the empty promise of the Tories to bring back weekly non recyclable rubbish which has been strongly criticized by Bracknell Tories on the basis of reducing recycling and significantly increasing costs on introducing weekly collections bringing more bin vehicles onto the streets and increasing land fill taxes.
How are the Reading Tories going to pay for those taxes?
LANDLORD ACCREDITATION SCHEME
Cabinet were pleased to support the re-introduction of the Landlord Accreditation Scheme recommended by a special scrutiny on landlords which will subject the council to work with good private sector landlords and isolate bad landlords that fly tip and exploit private sector tenants.
CHILDREN'S HEALTH SCRUTINY REVIEW
Cabinet finally received a report that both Chairs of the Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Panel and the Chair of the Housing, Health and Community Care Scrutiny Panel could agree on. What wax left out was the blaming of single young mothers and subjecting the Sure Start to a bureaucratic target setting programme. Common sense broke out in which the Lib Dems and Labour agreed that a lot of resources had been invested in attempting to improve children's health in Reading but that there was a lot to do to break the cycle of poverty and poor health in many of our families in Reading.
DEVELOPING COMMUNITY SAFETY LOCALITY WORK IN READING
Cabinet agreed to merge the Safer Reading structure and the Neighbourhood Action Groups to a new localised structure influenced and controlled by local residents working with the various agencies such as the Police and Council staff.