The Conservatives have been accused of presiding over ‘lawlessness’ in Woodley, with regular complaints of open drug dealing, violent crime and anti-social behaviour. 

Councillor Greg Bello, a Labour representative for Loddon South has raised alarm at ‘lawlessness’ plaguing the area.

He has accused the Conservatives of ‘years of failure’ to tackle crime, amid some disturbing reports this year.

Cllr Bello said: “There are drug dealers, shoplifters and scammers active in Woodley town centre and cars are being stolen in our community with daytime burglaries with young men in balaclavas and baseball bats going into houses with people in them.

“We have Travellers going into restaurants and not paying after a slap up lunch and then when challenged they beat up two members of staff.”

He also accused Travellers of ‘causing chaos’, shoplifting, dodging bus fares and recently ‘causing a ruck’ at the Good Companions pub in Loddon Bridge Road which led to staff being assaulted.

READ MORE: Travellers left without a designated space to stop in Woodley and wider area, council says 

Cllr Bello said: “I see drug dealing openly, and in some flats, I see people coming [for drugs] at all hours of the day and night.

“Drugs are a cancer.

“Enough already. It’s time for action and time to get serious with all criminals in Woodley. We have had enough.”

The accusation of lawlessness has been levelled at Matthew Barber, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for the Thames Valley.

Addressing Mr Barber, cllr Bello said: “You have had four years, you have failed.

“He does not deserve to be elected.

“I like the Conservatives, they are well-meaning people but when the lawlessness gets to such a degree you have to stand up to the commissioner.”

Cllr Bello has written to Mr Barber but has not received ‘the courtesy of a reply’ yet.

He added that  ‘God willing’ the Labour Party will win the upcoming general election and make gains in the Wokingham Borough Council elections, where he is standing as candidate for Loddon ward.

Cllr Bello said: “I think it’s time for action, it’s time for legality, it’s time for law and it’s time for Labour.”

In reply, Mr Barber said: “Cllr Bello needs to get his facts right. I have personally taken an interest in residents’ concerns in Woodley and have attended several meeting with the Woodley Town Partnership.

“As part of the doubling of neighbourhood police officers across Thames Valley I have had correspondence in just the last week stating that people have started to notice the increased presence in the town centre.

“One of the issues, particularly around shoplifting has been under reporting to the police, as part of attempts to address that the police will be launching a new reporting and intelligence sharing app later this month.

“I’ve personally agreed £10,000 of funding from the Community Fund to support CCTV in Woodley.

Reading Chronicle: Matthew Barber, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley. Credit: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames ValleyMatthew Barber, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley. Credit: Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley

“It would be naïve to suggest all of the problems are miraculously sorted, but we now have a record number of police officers in Thames Valley and we are starting to see the benefits of the emphasis I have put on neighbourhood policing.

“I have strengthened the police response to illegal encampments – something Cllr Bello’s Labour colleagues have criticised me for – and we have seen a reduction over the last couple of years.”

Mr Barber visited the town centre alongside cllr Pauline Jorgensen, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Earley and Woodley constituency before Easter.

He will face Labour challenger Tim Starkey and Liberal Democrat candidate  Tim Bearder in the Thames Valley PCC election on May 2.

READ MORE: Candidates announced for Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election 

Meanwhile, cllrs Bello and Jorgensen are set to stand in the Wokingham Borough Elections on the same day.

Crimes plaguing the area are set to be discussed at a full Woodley Town Council meeting in May.