In this week's column, Jason Brock, the outgoing leader of Reading Borough Council, makes the case for the Labour Party, and asks for people in the town to lend their votes to the current administration to deliver on its agenda for the next year. Councillor Brock writes:

Next Thursday, May, is election day in Reading, with one-third of the Council’s seats up for election – one in each of the 16 wards. I’m sure you all have had leaflets pouring through your door and candidates coveting your vote. And like I say every year, it’s a good thing that we have such a strong culture of local democracy here in Reading, and a strong local media to scrutinise us.

Reading Labour have once again laid out an aspirational and ambitious agenda, which you can find on our website

During challenging times, the vital services councils provide become even more important. In Reading, we are seeing the same pattern as in most other parts of the country, with more people turning to their local council for support – and Reading Labour will always do all it can for everyone in our community.

I am pleased that, after many years of prudent financial planning by your Labour-led Council, Reading remains in a relatively strong position to absorb the additional pressures, but that doesn’t mean challenges don’t lie ahead in terms of identifying the new savings and income needed to balance our budget, which every council must do by law.

There are increased costs for the Council in looking after older and vulnerable residents for example, mostly due to inflationary pressures. We are seeing a significant increase in costs in our children’s services too, with more children and families being referred to us, with more complex issues. We are also having to provide more emergency accommodation, with the high cost-of-living resulting in more evictions from privately rented housing.

These are all fundamental Council services which support some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and a responsibility we do not shy away from.

Notwithstanding the challenges, as a Labour Council we remain hugely ambitious for the town. Unlike many other councils, our robust financial planning means we can continue with our programme of modernising and improving local facilities in the months and, indeed, years to come.

READ MORE: Reading Labour Party launches manifesto in effort to keep power this year 

Just a few examples of this are: a continuation of Reading's biggest-ever road repair and resurfacing programme; building a modern new Central Library in the town centre; a brand new performance and community space at the Hexagon Theatre; a continuation of our major investment in modern new leisure facilities, including the exciting opening of the town's flagship new pool at Rivermead planned for this summer; dedicated new cycle lanes in the Bath Road/Castle Hill area, adding to new cycle lanes on Shinfield Road; quicker and more reliable bus services; continued investment in renewable energy and sustainability schemes; pushing ahead with major regeneration of the Minster Quarter area; new sheltered housing facilities for older and vulnerable residents, including on Battle Street at the old Central Pool site; and continuation of our investment to provide 400 affordable new Council homes.

The role of a local council in difficult times is often to direct resources to the individuals and communities who need our support the most, but it is also essential we continue to look to the future by investing in Reading and maintaining a powerful local economy, which will ultimately help everyone in our town to benefit from its undoubted success. Obvious challenges aside, we remain in a strong position to do that.

To put it in simple terms – we’ve achieved an awful lot for Reading, but there’s more to do and we have a plan to deliver it. I hope you’ll continue to back Labour across the town on 2nd May so that we can continue delivering for you.