Victoria Groulef

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Reading Labour Party were delighted with the result of the Southcote by-election held on the 24th July.

The election followed the sad passing of much loved local Councillor, Pete Ruhemann who had served Southcote for almost 30 years.

Matt Lawrence won the election with 1019 votes and an increased share of the vote.

Victoria Groulef said: "Of course we all still miss Pete Ruhemann and it was difficult having a by-election following the loss of such an instrumental and much loved member of the community. I am however thrilled with the by-election result and it gives us a great platform to go on and win Reading West at the next General Election for Labour. We will be out and about in Southcote next week knocking on doors and listening to the local community."

Labour win Southcote by-election

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Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire Council are both facing shortfalls this September when free school meals are rolled out to all infants.

The total set-up and delivery costs for the Reading Borough Council area are £591,000 but the Government grant for the scheme is only for £384,000. In West Berkshire the extra costs are not yet known but the council says funding is not sufficient.

The shortfalls, uncovered from committee reports and following a Freedom of Information request by the Labour Party, show that the extension of free school meals will leave many councils in need of contingency funding.

Last month, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg defended their handling of the policy, saying that "a decent amount of time has been set aside for its introduction" and that "it will happen in September, it is fully funded".

Victoria Groulef said: "I fully support the idea of having free school meals for key stage one children, but the policy needed to be fully costed, funded and thought through before implementation. It's of serious concern that both Reading Borough Council and West Berkshire Council are facing a shortfall which will have to be paid for from already over-stretched resources. This has been an ambitious programme and I know that local authorities are doing all they can to work with schools to deliver it on time, but adequate funding must be made available by national Government, it is time they recognised the scale of the problem."

Councils left with huge bills for Free School Meal funding shortfalls

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Victoria Groulef  today put her support behind the Federation of Small Businesses 'Keep Trade Local Campaign'.

The campaign celebrates independent small businesses on and off the high street. To enter the challenge people who use a local independent businesses from now until the 11th August can input the amount they have spent on the FSB website and be in with a chance of winning £250 just for Keeping Trade Local.

Victoria said: "Keeping Trade Local is a great way for people to support some of the fabulous local businesses in our area. Whether it is buying a new doormat, rug, carpet or hard flooring from Meadway Carpets on Meadway Precinct or having your clothes repaired or ironing done with the Ironing Lady on the Oxford Rd it is great to support local independent retailers. We all know that small businesses generate wealth, employment and opportunity locally. Keep Trade Local is our chance to champion local businesses across Reading and maybe even win £250 in the process."

Supporting local businesses in Reading and Keeping Trade Local

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A Southcote family facing homeless shared their story with Labour's Housing Minister. Zoe Brown lives with her partner and three children in Reading but their landlord has decided to sell the home and they can't afford the other rental properties on the market. Victoria Groulef raised the case with Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds MP and arranged a meeting.

Reading continues to be one of the most expensive places the rent due to the close proximity to London. The Labour Party has pledged to give a fairer deal for families who rent, with plans to make 3 year long term tenancies with predictable rents the norm and to ban letting fees for tenants.

Victoria said: "It's really important for our ministers to hear the stories of working people who are struggling to rent a home in the area where they live, their children go to school and they are part of a community. Affording the rent is only part of the problem as many tenants also struggle to find the money for all the additional extras including fees.

"We need urgent action to tackle this issue and Labour's pledge to give a fairer deal for families who rent, with plans to make 3 year long term tenancies with predictable rents the norm and to ban letting fees for tenants will help."

Emma Reynolds said: ""Victoria is campaigning in Reading West for private renters to get the stability and security they need. The truth is that we have one of the most unstable private rented sectors in Europe. In Reading many people are renting, many of whom are families with children, like Zoe and Dave who I met yesterday. They deserve a stable home and that is why a Labour government will take action to deliver them a fairer deal.

"We will ban letting agent fees on tenants and we will legislate to make three year tenancies with predictable rents the standard.

"The Tories and Lib Dems have failed to act but the next Labour Government will stand up for generation rent and give renters the peace of mind they need."

Councillor Richard Davies, Lead Member for Housing at Reading Borough Council said: "Zoe's case is typical of what we are seeing happening many people renting in the private sector here in Reading. I am determined to do all we can to help families in housing need and am seeking ways to improve our deposit guarantee scheme and increase our social housing capacity. Labour's plans to reform the private rented sector will make a real, lasting difference to the housing situation here in Reading"

Family’s housing situation shared with Shadow Minister

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Victoria Groulef has backed a proposal to introduce a Bill to help tackle violence against women and girls. If successful at the next General Election, the Labour Party will introduce legislation to help protect victims of domestic and sexual violence, make the criminal justice system more effective at bringing those who commit violent acts against women to justice and do more to teach young people about healthy, respectful relationships.

The Bill will include the following measures:

- A new Commissioner for domestic and sexual violence who will work across Government making sure the needs of victims are reflected in Government police

- Making sex and relationship education compulsory and updating the content for the 21st century so we tackle online safety and online exposure to pornography too

- Publishing domestic abuse and sexual violence performance tables for every police force across England and Wales to shine a light on poor performance and raise standards

- Stronger action to protect people online, including the issue of 'revenge porn' and blackmail using sexual images

The Bill follows data released in March that shows in the Thames Valley Police area for domestic violence, though police recorded crimes are increasing, 20.5% fewer cases are being passed to the CPS for prosecution and there are fewer convictions (from year 2010/11 to 2012/13).

In addition there were 34,125 reports of domestic abuse in 2012/13 and only 1445 resulted in a conviction.

For rape, though police crimes are increasing far fewer cases are being passed to the CPS for prosecution and there are fewer convictions.

Victoria said: "I know from my women's safety survey I ran earlier in the year, that action to tackle violence against women and girls must be a priority. This Bill would ensure that proper information is published- so that local communities, police forces and prosecutors can see how areas are doing and work to improve."

"A commissioner, modelled on the children's commissioner covering violence against women and domestic abuse, with powers to ensure standards are raised would also be welcomed.

"It's also vital that young people are given effective sex and relationship education in school and that it looks at the impact social media and the internet has on the issue. Local people want to see tougher action to stop those who commit violent acts against women and girls. That is what this Bill does, but we need a Labour Government to enact it."

Victoria backs plans to introduce a Bill to tackle violence against women and girls


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