One day after the national Lib Dem leadership conducted a truly irrelevant reshuffle of their team, word reaches me of dissent in local Reading Lib Dem ranks. My mole tells me that new Council group leader Cllr Gareth Epps has failed to unite the rest of his small group behind him. In the leadership election last year he saw off a challenge from the current deputy leader Cllr Kirsten Bayes, who has proved a competent performer in the Council chamber.
Cllr Epps is also the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Reading East and there is a growing feeling that his Parliamentary ambitions are more important to him than his Council role. As a result some Lib Dem Group members think that they backed the wrong horse. Last year he missed a meeting of the full Council in order to attend a pop concert, leaving his colleagues disorganised when it came to voting.
I hear that Cllr Epps may therefore face a challenge this year at the Lib Dem annual meeting and will probably struggle to get more than a couple of votes.
Crime figures for the various police districts in Reading Borough for the period April-November have been published by Thames Valley Police here. Whilst there are some very welcome reductions in crime, particularly in the town centre (Abbey Ward), although the various types of “assault” and “wounding” remain very high, there are some worrying increases in “serious violence” on Oxford Road South and North, and a very big increase in burglaries across Caversham and West Reading (Tilehurst and Norcot wards).
The police are under a lot of pressure and compared to the Met they are under resourced in the Thames Valley Police area. In London every council ward has a Sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers). If Reading had that level of resourcing our hard pressed Bobbies could cover far more ground.