In Public Office

Above: Lobbying for the Great Western mainline capacity expansion at Reading Station, here discussing the implications of the project with the Crossrail team. The project allows for future extension of the Crossrail route.

 

John has served as a Councillor on Berkshire County Council and Reading Borough Council, a ‘unitary authority’. He also served on the South East England Regional Assembly. His time in local government came to an end in 2007 when family and business commitments made it impractical for him to carry on in public life.

John says, “It was a great privilege to have eleven great years in local government. I enjoyed it immensely but although there is always more to do, I’m not a person who can go ‘on and on’, I think it is important to set oneself objectives and look to achieve them. When I look at the outcomes now, I’m very happy with what I was able to do both for the people I represented, Reading and Berkshire. I will approach representing South East England in the same way.” 

 

Above: Kicking off construction at Chatham Place – one of the urban regeneration projects on which John led strategic planning during his time on Reading Borough Council.

 

Berkshire County Council

John was elected for Reading Redlands Division in 1993  serving till the dissolution of the County Council in 1998. He became Labour’s Transport and later Environment spokesman in the Labour-LibDem administration that ran the Council, the Conservatives having been routed to third place in what was formerly a safe County.

As well as winning many local improvement in his Division County Councillor John was able to:

  • See through the construction of the A33 Relief Road.
  • Delegate road safety and local traffic management decisions to local level.
  • Win the cancellation of the Reading Cross Town Route that would have destroyed the Thameside environment at Kennetmouth.
  • Remove building of the Thames Flood Plain from Berkshire’s Structure Plan ensuring that the increased danger of flooding in Reading, Maidenhead and Windsor was avoided.
  • Ensure that proposed gravel extraction at Upton, Slough was removed from the Berkshire Minerals Plan.
  • Won the backing of the County Council for Reading FC’s new ground at the Madejski Stadium.
  • Bring in the first permanent rules allowing motor cyclists to use bus lanes in the UK (Bristol implemented the first experimental orders).
  • Declassify a stretch of motorway to enable it to be used by Park and Ride public transport – the only time this has ever been done in the UK.
  • Win the commitment of Berkshire to the first Single Regeneration Project in Reading at Hexham Estate in his Redlands division that brought Housing and environmental improvements and built a well-used Community Centre and children’s play facilities.
  • Support the creation of Unitary Authorities in Berkshire.
  • Represent the County Council on the Thames Valley European Forum, set up to build links and promote the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire region.

John says, “I was pleased to serve on the County Council but I was delighted to see it abolished. It was remote and negative. While the Berkshire settlement was not ideal every one of the six unitary councils, whether controlled by Labour, Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats have proved to be more responsive, more in touch with ordinary people and less bureaucratic than Berkshire. The dire predictions of the traditionalists proved false and co-operation between councils of different political stripes has been better than anyone could have hoped. Yes there are disagreements but overall we have better, simpler local government. I’m glad I stuck to my guns.”

 

Above: Celebrating the funding by the Labour Government of the £80m M4 Junction 11 project with Martin Salter MP, local councillors, project engineers and business leaders.  The Tory MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson, decided to join us to celebrate Labour’s achievement – and cadge a free drink.

 

Reading Borough Council

Elected to represent Park Ward on Reading Borough Council in 2001 and re-elected in 2004, John served the Ward until 2007. He became Lead Councillor for Strategic Planning and Transport. Under his leadership Reading became one of the UK’s leading transport authorities – a significant achievement for a new and relatively small unitary council. and is best known for his successful campaigns to win major funding for sub-regional infrastructure projects at M4 Junction 11 and on the Great Western main line.

As well as representing people in Park Ward, John was able to:

  • Win funding from the Labour Government for £800m track capacity improvements on the Great Western mainline to remove the bottleneck at Reading Station. The works are now in an advanced stage and the new station concourse has been opened.
  • Build support, as Chair of the Reading Station Partnership Board, for the project across all political parties, business leaders, regional politicians and rail industry experts.
  • Win funding from the EU’s Trans-European Networks programme that kept the Reading Station project alive while the Conservative privatisation of the rail industry unravelled and threated to scupper the project.
  • Win £80m of UK Government capital funding for the M4 junction 11 improvements in Reading and Wokingham seen as vital by Berkshire’s business community.
  • Initiate the modernisation of the Reading Buses network (which also serves Wokingham and West Berkshire Districts) and brought new expertise into the company that has maintained its status as one of the UK’s most successful operators, improved the service and carried more passengers.
  • Secure funding for projects with Reading’s minority communities.
  • Defend concessionary fares from Conservatives who wanted to cut Reading’s leading service to the elderly and disabled.
  • Make the case for a western rail link to Heathrow Airport to be part of Berkshire and the Thames Valley business community’s long term transport objectives.
  • Negotiate with Crossrail and Network Rail to ‘future proof’ the Reading Station re-build to allow for an extension of the line and promoted the necessary track route safeguarding.
  • Help win new facilities and improvements at local schools.
  • Protect urban open spaces and the Kennet Valley countryside through the planning system.
  • Win urban environmental improvements for his ward.

John says; “Although I’m most closely associated with transport and infrastructure projects, some of the things I’m most proud of were the results I was able to get for individual members of the public who needed somebody to take up their case – that’s the most important thing you are elected to do.”

 

 

Above: Launching National Cycleway 23 with SUSTRANS. NCN 23 runs through Hampshire connecting Southampton with Basingstoke and Reading where it meets NCN 4 along the Thames and Kennet and NCN 5 heading north to Oxford and beyond. 

 

South East England

John represented Reading on the South East England Regional Assembly from 2002 to 2007. During that time he served on the Regional Planning Committee, the Joint-European Committee (with the then regional development body SEEDA) and the Regional Transport Board

As a member of the Regional Transport Board John was able to support a range of projects around South East England including:

  • Winning all party backing for the Great Western capacity works at Reading
  • Brighton and Hove’s Bus Priority Scheme
  • Infrastructure improvements at Ebsfleet in Kent
  • The Hindhead Tunnel improvements to the A3 that removed a key bottleneck that blighted communications to Portsmouth and the Solent towns
  • Approving supporting submissions for infrastructure improvements in east Kent to win the case for EU backing
  • Persuading all parties represented of the outline case for western rail links to Heathrow and the principal of extending Crossrail.

John says, “The regional assemblies were doomed experiments, but while they existed it was important to use the influence it gave me over infrastructure priorities and funding. Being a member also gave me a perspective over the issues affecting South East England beyond my own council responsibilities, including health services, housing and the limitations that the availability of effective broadband has placed on the development of a new and sustainable rural economy”.

“Being involved with South East England’s links with the European Union not only directly benefited the Thames Valley, but gave me experience of what can be achieved by engaging.”

 

Above: Leading the team of engineering and transport strategists presenting the business case for the Great Western Track Capacity works to Network Rail.

 

Other Public Bodies

John has served over many years on a range of public bodies covering a variety of policy and social interests:

  • Member of the Court and Council of the University of Reading.
  • Trustee of Readibus (a community transport provider)
  • Trustee of Berkshire Young Musicians Trust
  • Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership
  • Hexham Estate Crime Reduction Group
  • Governor of Queen Mary College (Basingstoke)
  • Governor of The Vyne School (Basingstoke)
  • Governor of South View Primary Schools (Basingstoke)