An open email to the candidates for West Berkshire local elections: April 2023

With the local elections around the corner, I wanted to find out a little bit about the stances of the potential counsellors for my local Tilehurst ward of West Berkshire Council. This email has been sent to the candidates of all the parties standing for election which are:


  • Paul Kander
  • Jane Langford
  • Thomas Marino

Liberal Democrat

  • Simon Billows
  • Janine Lewis
  • Gary Norman


  • James Warren


  • Jacqueline Paynter

I’ve copied a redacted version of the email below and look forward to sharing any responses I receive

Subject: West Berkshire Disability Services

To the perspective counsellors for Tilehurst and Purley ward,

With the upcoming local elections, I wanted to reach out to understand your position on the current disabled service provision in this area and your views on how this could be improved.

For background, I was diagnosed with a rare form of progressive sight loss in 2018 called Cone Dystrophy and in December 2021 was registered Severely Sight Impaired. I have lived in this area for most of my life and my family and moved back to this area in 2017. My youngest child is autistic and attends the local specialist school where he is thriving and my eldest is currently studying for her degree at Kingston University. My wife and I both work full-time – she as a Mental Health Counsellor specialising in working with neurodiverse clients and I am a Product Owner for the financial services division of a prestigious automotive manufacturer. As you can probably tell, disabled services are a constant talking point within our household and my wife and I have cause to be increasingly disappointed with the services offered by West Berkshire Council which, in years gone by, were the benchmark that other councils would aspire to. To this end, I would ask for your thoughts on ways services could be improved, specifically for the following aspects:

Disabled Bus Pass

The table below compares the Disabled Bus Pass offering provided by the neighbouring councils to West Berkshire.

CouncilTimes of useCommunity bus eligible?Companion Pass?
West BerkshireOff peak:
M-F 09.30 – 23.00
Weekends/bank hols. all day
ReadingAll dayYesYes
WokinghamOff peak:
M-F from 09.00 (in district) 09.30-23.00 elsewhere
Weekends and bank hols. Any time
OxfordshireOff peak:
M-F from 09.00 (in district) 09.30-23.00 elsewhere
Weekends and bank hols. Any time
HampshireIn county: Any time
Elsewhere: Off peak:
M-F 09.30-23.00
Weekends and bank hols. Any time
WiltshireOff peak:
M-F from 09.30-23.00 (with certain services available before 09.30)
Weekends and bank hols. Any time
A comparison of disabled bus pass provisions for West Berkshire and its neighbouring councils

As you can see from the above, West Berkshire’s offering is inferior to all the others in the local area and does not meet the needs of disabled people, especially now the Companion Pass has been removed. It is especially disappointing as, should I live less than half a mile away, I would be entitled to free unlimited travel. As a disabled traveller who works full-time, it feels that West Berkshire does not appreciate the difficulties that I, and many like me, face and, with such a severely limited offering we often have to make difficult choices regarding our travel arrangements. This is made even more complex due to the obstructions the council appear to have put in our way.

Please could you advise how you would look to influence change to improve this service?

Autism Support and Respite Services in Tilehurst

In October 2022, we were awarded with 36 hours of Mencap sitting service to allow my wife and I some respite and to provide our son with specialist support. As he gets older and his needs change, this respite is getting more important as it allows us time to recharge to ensure he gets the best possible care at home. Although this service was awarded in October, we have been unable to take advantage as it is only available out of Mencap’s central hub in Newbury and they do not provide any outreach services to Tilehurst. Despite assurances from the SEN and Disabled Children’s Services team that they are working with Mencap to ensure this service is accessible, we have still not had any update and so, 6 months later, our award remains unused. Instead, we have had to source paid services from Reading Borough Council so our son can attend a monthly LEGO club out of their respite centre in South Reading.

We find it shocking that a council such as West Berkshire which used to be the benchmark for disability services only appears interested in supporting its vulnerable families in the Newbury area rather that across the whole region.

Again, I ask what you, as representative for Tilehurst and Purley ward would do to ensure these services are improved to ensure all vulnerable families are supported, not just those in Newbury?

15% of West Berkshire Residents are Disabled

According to the 2021 Census, almost 15% of West Berkshire residents were registered as disabled, meaning that there are approximately 25,000 people in the borough with some form of disability. With such a high percentage I am sure that you will agree that ensuring effective provision is of paramount importance and I look forward to discovering how you will champion the needs of the disabled community should you be elected.

Thank you for your time in reading these important concerns and I look forward to hearing from you. Likewise, if you would like to discuss any of the points raised, then I would welcome the opportunity.

With best regards

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