The West Berks Labour team and our fantastic supporters from across Reading and beyond, have been making good progress with our local canvassing. We have been heading out twice a week in an effort to give every resident in our wards a chance to talk face to face with their local Labour team from the comfort of their own doorstep. If we stick to the devised schedule, this project will take 2 years, but of course sometimes we have more helpers and get more door’s knocked than that.
The other reason to undertake this mammoth task is to ensure that our data is as up to date as possible. Knowing which households vote for which party allows us to get a good idea of which areas to target in local elections to make sure we get some Labour representation for residents on West Berkshire Council (currently 48 Tories and 4 Lib Dems in total!). This information also tells us which voters are undecided on how they would vote if another snap general election was called, and which are Labour supporters.
Those identified Labour supporters receive special letters from us letting them know who their candidate is and checking if they need help to get to polling stations or with applying for a postal vote.
We have been having some very positive results on the doorstep this summer, in areas which previously were not very supportive of Labour. We are meeting people who were Tory voters who are now Labour voters and these people seem to significantly outnumber the voters changing their minds in the other direction. In our canvassing session last weekend, the team I was with spoke to 80 people in total, 40 of whom are now Labour supporters.
I joined the party less than two years ago, and originally thought that canvassing sounded a terrifying task, but I quickly found that most of the people we meet are interesting and/or lovely and it can be a lot of fun!
Today, 15th July 2017, saw the relaunch of campaigning in West Berks wards after the 2017 General Election. It is always great to connect with local residents and hear their concerns but this event marked the beginning of our long term campaign to ensure that every resident has had the opportunity to share their views, tell us what they think and have a say in the issues we campaign on locally and nationally.
The current minority government could fall at any time, either due to a rebellion from the DUP or from within the Tory party itself, so we need to be ready should there be another snap election. We also have local elections to West Berkshire Council in 2019 to prepare for and there is always the possibility of by-elections should any of the current councilors retire or resign.
The news from the doorstep today was that Labour support has increased since the election, even more than it increased during the election campaign, with some who voted Tory in June already saying that they would vote Labour next time around. Reasons given centered on the coalition with the DUP and the apparent inability of Theresa May to negotiate, as paying £1.5billion just to keep her job was not viewed as a having achieved a good deal of the UK!
Unseat Alok Sharma
Across Reading West there will be monthly mass canvass events like this one, where activists from across the South East come to help out under the theme of “Unseat Alok Sharma”, so look out for these if you would like to get involved!
Regular Local Canvassing
There will also be two canvassing sessions each week in the West Berks wards, on Wednesdays 6:30pm until 8:30pm (except the weeks of our Branch meeting, in which case it will only be a one hour session to enable teams to get back to the meetings). and Saturdays 11am until 1pm. Locations will be notified in advance by e-mail, posted on our events page and on social media.
We are also planning to campaign on target issues, such as school funding. We plan to do one school-gate campaign event each month, from September onwards.
You may have heard the Tories claim that the schools budget is protected. But the truth of the matter is that pupil numbers have increased and changed to the way that funding is distributed mean that almost all schools will see a reduction in their budgets on a per pupil basis.
In West Berkshire, estimates show these plans result in all of our schools anticipating a substantial budget cut, equivalent to at least two full time teachers, with two of our secondary schools expected to lose funding the equivalent of 16 teachers. That equates to a funding cut per pupil varying between £225 and £752 in our area. Labour has pledged to stop the cuts to school budgets with a real terms increase in funding. To find out the figures for your local school, visit independent website: www.schoolcuts.org.uk
Your Local NHS Services
The NHS in England has been divided into 44 areas. Each area has had to produce a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) to account for how they will change their services to cope with a shortfall in Government Funding to the NHS nationally of £22billion.
Our area is included in the plan for “Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West” with an expected funding shortfall of £479million by 2020. This will have impact on many locally delivered services and could threaten the Newbury Community Hospital. You can read the full plan, here.
The current average house price in England is £234,794, but in West Berks the average price is £343,758 (from Land Registry, March 2017). This is completely unaffordable for most people. Someone on an average income cannot afford an average-priced house. We have also seen an increase in the cost for private renters. Labour has pledged to build a million new homes over 5 years, at least half of which will be Council Houses, helping to tackle our chronic shortage of housing supply and reduce the amount of taxpayer’s money going into the pockets of private landlords.
Royal Berkshire Fire Authority must find savings of £2.4m by 2020 as a result of Conservative government cuts. To do this they are closing Pangbourne fire station and making other reductions. Only Labour will stand up for our public services and ensure that our communities are properly catered for.