The Whitley Pump met Matt Rodda, still Katesgrove councillor but more preoccupied with Westminster business these days, in the Global Cafe at RISC on London Street. He explained how he was pushing for things in Parliament that local people wanted and his top three priorities were to fight austerity, fight against hard Brexit and provide more affordable housing.
The election campaign last June in which Matt Rodda (Labour) defeated the defending Conservative MP Rob Wilson is now six months in the past and we wondered if he had overcome his surprise at being an MP.
The short answer is no because I am still a little bit surprised about it… I was extremely surprised, I was really quite staggered by it. I thought that we would get really close to the Conservatives but we wouldn’t be able to beat them.
Matt Rodda explained that an MP’s life is very busy with lots of things happening in Reading and in Westminster. That morning he had met with Microsoft along with deputy leader of Reading Borough Council Tony Page to talk about technology and the training of apprentices.
As parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald, he participated in the committee stage of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill pushing for more electric vehicle charging points and giving priority to urban areas such as Reading where pollution is a problem. He asked the transport minister John Hayes:
…as someone who represents a constituency with poor quality air—we suffer greatly from air pollution in Reading, as do many other urban areas, even relatively small or medium-sized ones—I not only commend his interest in encouraging charge points but urge him to speak to his officials and other partners, including the industry and local authorities, to see whether areas with air pollution problems can be prioritised as we roll out this new technology.
To which the minister replied:
The hon. Gentleman, with great courtesy, gave me notice as part of the civilised conversation we had at lunchtime that he would raise that very point. When he mentioned it to me informally, I said that it was an interesting thought. It is not incompatible with the zonal approach we have taken to air quality. As he knows, we have developed an approach that focuses on areas that are particularly severely affected by poor air quality. I cannot give a definitive commitment to do exactly what he says, but I am certainly prepared to think about it. It would not be out of tune with the Government’s approach; as well as raising the quality of air for everyone, we have done extra work in parts of our country—typically urban places—that are particularly badly affected. I think he can take that as a small win, in that he has made his point, which I have acknowledged and committed to going away to think about more.
In his constituency, Matt Rodda has been campaigning against the cuts proposed to bus services to Caversham, Woodley and the 9 and 19 routes to Whitley.
He said that he had already had a meeting with Reading Buses:
…and I want the local councillors to be more involved, as obviously they represent the people in that area, and then I’m looking to do a public meeting in Whitley as well.
Essentially the problems are similar in all three places [Caversham, Woodley and Whitley]. They are all a long way from Reading town centre, or a reasonable way from Reading town centre, lots of older people use some of these bus services and the bus company gets a relatively small subsidy which comes from central government… On some routes the numbers of people using the bus routes are lower than some of the arterial routes… The bus company’s pension scheme and fuel costs are also going up.
The majority of people in Reading East voted to remain, and in his acceptance speech Matt Rodda had said that one of the issues that Labour had campaigned on was “the importance of having a sensible discussion with Europe and no Tory hard Brexit”.
Matt said that he was very proud of his contribution to the remain campaign and mentioned the several hustings and debates he had attended in Reading during the campaign. “I am still keen on working as closely as we can with Europe when we leave but I do accept the result of the referendum,” he said.
The Whitley Pump asked Matt Rodda for his view on housing developments outside the borough boundary, which will put extra pressure on Reading’s infrastructure and services without benefiting the town with extra council tax revenue.
Generally speaking I am opposed to it because I think it is an inappropriate form of development. The Local Plan quite rightly points out that there is a lot of brown field land that is available for regeneration or redevelopment… There is still a large supply of light industrial land like the former Post Office depot near the station, and there is enormous potential to use that.
I would much rather see an urban renaissance with houses built nearer to the town centre or nearer to local centres in Katesgrove, or in Newtown or Caversham… than three miles away in the countryside where there is valuable agricultural land, where there is green space; we don’t need development there.
The Whitley Pump asked about his support for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as during the Labour leadership election in 2015 he had supported Andy Burnham.
Matt explained that he had not met the Labour party leader before he came to Reading for a rally at Rivermead during the election campaign, but:
I’ve been really impressed with him; the first time I met him was at Rivermead… he was very eloquent at that meeting… and every time I’ve met him since then I’ve had a really enjoyable and helpful conversation where he’s been quite supportive of me personally and other new MPs.
Yes, I supported Andy Burnham in 2015 but that was 2015; things have moved on. Jeremy… has been able to capture the mood of the times and project a really positive agenda of what we can do to change things.
How to contact your Reading East MP
Matt has been holding constituency surgeries every two weeks on Fridays at various locations, but only by appointment because of the large amount of work he has. He inherited the caseload of his predecessor Rob Wilson and there has been an upsurge of interest because he is the first Labour MP in Reading for seven years, and the first in Reading East for 12 years.
Budgets for staff and office accommodation are set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) at £150,900 and £24,150 respectively. He has almost recruited a complete team of staff but is still searching for a permanent office in an accessible central location in Reading.
You can email Matt Rodda at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him on 07746 642938. MPs can only deal with cases from their own constituents, and the urban conurbation of Reading is split into several constituencies (Reading East, Reading West, Wokingham and Maidenhead). You can find your MP by entering your postcode here.
- Matt Rodda for Reading East
- Parliament website – Matt Rodda
- 2017 General election results for Reading
- Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
- Reading Buses
- Is east Reading’s MP voting for his constituency?
- Get Reading – Andy Burnham visits Reading and sets out economic vision in Labour leadership contest
- Jeremy Corbyn visits Reading
- IPSA – scheme of MPs business costs and expenses 2017-18