Victoria Groulef joined Reading's LGBT community today as they proudly marched through the town.
Victoria said: "I know from years of going to Prides that friends and Reading's LGBT community value Pride as a chance to meet old friends, make new ones, and enjoy a good time."
"We've come so far since as late as the 1990s, when gay friends felt they couldn't be open about their sexuality", Victoria said. "We've got further to travel, with hate crime a reality for some. But, we have a chance to celebrate a country and a town where LGBT people and straight friends are proud to be happy, and happy to be proud."
Along with Anneliese Dodds, Labour's new South-East MEP, Victoria answered questions on many issues, big or small, on the parade and at the LGBT Labour's stall at the festival site.
In close cooperation with the LGBT community, Labour introduced civil partnerships, reduced the age of consent, and removed section 28, among many other things, while in Government. Labour MPs are responsible for the passage of equal marriage, providing the majority of the votes in Parliament. And, in opposing the Coalition over cuts to LGBT youth support groups, Labour is supporting LGBT people and will soon be making its commitments to ever-greater equality if it forms the next Government.
Victoria Groulef was delighted that Caroline Flint MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, chose a speech in Reading to unveil plans for a new energy regulator should Labour win at the next General Election.
Building on Labour's energy price freeze, Caroline announced that the next Labour Government will give a tough new regulator the power to revoke energy companies' licences where there are repeated instances of the most serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers.
The regulator will also be charged with producing an annual 'scorecard' for energy suppliers, reporting on the company's performance and identifying any possible areas of concern. These are part of a wider set of reforms to fix the energy market.
Caroline also revealed new figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which show how the Tories have presided over a broken energy market. Despite Ofgem issuing 30 fines, totalling over £87 million, since 2001, energy companies have continued to mistreat their customers and face another 16 probes into mis-selling, poor customer service and other bad practice.
She also highlighted the scale of the rise in energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis since David Cameron became Prime Minister:
· Household energy bills have risen twice as fast as inflation since 2010.
· Household energy bills have risen four times as fast as wages since 2010.
· And household energy prices in the UK have risen faster than almost anywhere else in the developed world since 2010.
Caroline Flint said: "These figures lay bare the full scale of the cost-of-living crisis and David Cameron's failure to tackle rip-off energy bills. On David Cameron's watch, energy bills in Britain have risen twice as fast as inflation, four times faster than wages and faster than almost any other country in the developed world. Households cannot afford another five years of this.
"At the next election there will be a real choice between another five years of rocketing energy bills, rip-off tactics and poor customer service under the Tories -- or Labour's plans to freeze energy bills until 2017, saving the average household £120, and reform the energy market for the future."
On the announcement that the next Labour Government will give the regulator the power to revoke energy companies' licences where there are repeated instances of the most serious and deliberate breaches of their licence conditions which harm the interests of consumers, Caroline Flint added "the public have a right to be treated fairly by energy companies. Where firms fail to meet these standards there must be tough and decisive action. Too often energy companies seem to view the regulator's fines as a cost of doing business -- not as a warning to get their act together. Of course consumers must be compensated -- but if energy companies persist in mistreating their customers they must know their licence could be on the line."
Victoria said: "From the tens of thousands of people I have spoken to over the past few months I know that many people in Reading are struggling to pay their energy bills and with winter around the corner they want to know what Labour would do to tackle the issue. Earlier in the year I met a lady who was sleeping in one room with her children in order to cut down on heating costs and I know from talking to small businesses that energy costs are one of their biggest concerns. That's why Labour's plan to freeze energy bills and to reform the energy market is so important."
Commenting on today's announcement on rail fares, Victoria Groulef said: "Commuter season tickets will rise again next year by a staggering amount with a ticket from Reading to London (including the underground) costing £5,025.96.
"I know from talking to commuters that their season ticket is one their biggest outgoings and this increase will further stretch budgets. Reading is a commuter town and many people have no choice but to get the train into London in order to work.
"That's why I think we need a cap on fares on every route and reform to deliver a better deal for commuters"
Victoria Groulef is urging residents in West Berkshire to take part in a consultation about where new homes could be built in the area.
The document has been drawn up by West Berkshire Council and in the Reading West section of West Berkshire it could mean around an extra 950 houses, the largest developments would be around Theale and at Pincents Hill.
Victoria Groulef said: "The Council must assess each site by its merit and assess if local services like GP practices, schools and roads can cope with an increase in population size as well as infrastructure, access and drainage.
"Any developments that get the green light must include a large proportion of affordable homes, over and over again I speak to people in the their 30's and 40's who are living at home with parents because they cannot afford their first home, this is not good enough.
"I am particularly concerned about the impact of developments on the unique nature of villages in the area and the pressure on local services and infrastructure near to the Reading Borough Boundary. That's why we need local people to get involved in the consultation as they are best placed to flag up problems and issues."
West Berkshire Council's Housing Site Allocations Development Preferred options consultation Document is being consulted on until mid-September.
Consultation documents can be found here.
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."
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