Politicians are often accused of talking and not doing and it is therefore pleasing to be able to report on an initiative started by my ward Councillor colleague Mark Ralph. At a time when we have a growing older community and local activities always seem to be targeted to young people, Mark worked with the local Age Concern, the Primary Care Trust and Borough Council to set up a group in Emmer Green (Peppard Ward) to discuss the concerns of older people and provide some solutions. This has since been replicated in other areas in Reading.
The next 50 PLUS+ group will be at St Barnabas Hall, Grove Road, Emmer Green on Monday 12th January between 2pm and 5pm and the agenda will include a self-help network for older people, equity release, community policing, options for additional activities (beyond Tai Chi), the history of the Royal Berkshire Hospital and further development of 50 PLUS+ events and the Caversham Active Retirement Club. If you are 50+ do feel free to come along.
Previous meetings in Emmer Green have been packed and this next one is likely to be no exception. People only come to successive meetings if they feel them worthwhile and productive, so I congratulate Mark and all the partners on a fantastic initiative.
UPDATE: I understand that this was another well attended event with over 90 people packed into the hall.
Sitting, as Reading does, in the heart of the Thames Valley; home to Microsoft, Oracle and other hi-tech companies I thought it would be interesting to see how those who aspire to (or do actually) represent us at Parliamentary level communicate using latest techniques.
I had a look at their individual websites, their Facebook presence and any blog I could find. I accept that this is an unscientific survey and I may have missed something but as Peter Snow would say “It’s just a bit of fun!”.
To start with Reading East, I had a look at sitting Conservative MP Rob Wilson’s website. It states that he is in the process of setting up a new site which will go live shortly but the existing one is up to date with the latest article being from 7 January, details of surgeries (although these are horribly out of date) and a link to his blog. The blog is well laid out and updated reasonably frequently and includes a series of videos of his activity. Wilson has a Facebook group with 58 supporters and what looks like a personal page as well.
Lib Dem challenger Gareth Epps doesn’t appear to have a personal website but he has a profile on the Greater Reading Lib Dem website and a short piece on a Woodley & Whitegates site, which when you click on the link for more information, tells you the page doesn’t exist! He has a Facebook group with 188 members but it doesn’t appear to have been update or commented on for a while. Yesterday I was pointed to a YouTube group which has a lot of video clips including some from Epps. He has no blog that I could find.
Labour candidate Anneliese Dodds has a website with a small number of news items. What is noteworthy though is the microscopic font that is used on some pages. She has a Facebook group with 150 members but it doesn’t seem to have been updated since early last year (unless there are Reading Borough elections this May that I wasn’t aware of)! She also has a personal page on Facebook but I couldn’t find any YouTube videos or links, or any blog.
Green campaigner Rob White has a profile page on the Green Party site but no website that I could find. However, his profile has links to his blog and personal Facebook page. His blog is actively and recently updated and his Facebook profile doubles up as a support group page.
For the Reading West constituency, Conservative candidate Alok Sharma doesn’t appear to have a personal website but is using the Reading West Conservatives site to get his message across. Sharma has an active personal Facebook page with 40 friends which also acts as a support group page. I am not aware of any blog run by him.
To be truthful I had no idea who the Lib Dem candidate for West was but on conducting an internet search found that it was Patrick Murray. He has a website with biographical detail but no news or activity in the constituency shown and his repeated claim that he is an Oxford City Councillor is unlikely to cut much ice with the voters in Reading. He has a personal Facebook page but it is not open to public viewing and no blog that I could find.
I have saved the Reading West Labour MP Martin Salter to last. His website has claimed to be in the process of being updated for at least a year now and only has basic contact details and the option to download a 2008 surgery calendar on it. He does not appear to have heard of Facebook or have a blog.
All could do better but it is not hard to conclude that Martin Salter earns the title of “Luddite” of the Reading political scene. For someone who has access to a £10,000 a year communications allowance his web communication is a joke. Runner up for the “Luddite” award would be Reading West Lib Dem Patrick Murray but I suspect his lack of effort reflects the likelihood of him winning the seat.
Winner of the “Tech Savvy” award would have to be Reading East Conservative MP Rob Wilson for the range and content of his various web outlets. (Yes I know I used to work for him but I defy anyone to come to a different conclusion having inspected the links). The award for runner up goes to Reading East Green candidate Rob White for the range and activity of his various pages.
If I have missed anything of note please let me know and I will update the article.