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Town Mayor opens new clothing shop in Hilliers Yard

24-05-2018 Sue Round

In one of her first official duties, Town Mayor Councillor Lisa Farrell has opened the new Rohan shop in Hilliers Yard (May 24).

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Scouts honour twenty-five years of service - & encourage more volunteers to join the team

24-05-2018 Sue Round

At their AGM on Monday (May 21), the 2nd Marlborough Scout Group showed their appreciation of Andrew Barnett, who has volunteered as a leader with the group for more than twenty-five years.

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The NHS goalposts are on the move again - how will Wiltshire's NHS be affected?

23-05-2018

You wake up one morning to hear the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg telling her sleepy-eared audience that the government are about to 'unpick' some of or some parts of the Conservative-led Coalition's great NHS restructuring. 

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Marlborough St Mary’s gymnasts vault into second place

23-05-2018 Sue Round

What a result! Marlborough St Mary’s Year 4 gymnasts have come second in the Wiltshire Level 3 School’s Gymnastics Competition held at West Wilts Gym in Trowbridge.

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New Town Mayor's call for openness and public participation

23-05-2018

Councillor Lisa Farrell took the chair at her first full council meeting as Town Mayor (May 21) and called for the Council to welcome the public to its meetings.

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Marlborough Golf Club Ladies Captain's fantastic fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospice

23-05-2018

Sue Lyon presented a cheque to Julia’s House at the hospice in Devizes to mark the end of her year as Ladies Captain at Marlborough Golf Club.

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An open letter in response to Wiltshire Council’s increases in parking charges for Marlborough

23-05-2018

David Dudley has written an open letter about the parking situation in the town - with special reference to the large increase in annual parking permit fees which will affect people coming into the town to work.  He has copied his letter to the Town Council.  Here it is in...

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Burbage school mud larks raise money for Cancer Research UK

22-05-2018 Sue Round

Year 6 pupils at Burbage Primary School took part in the ‘Pretty Muddy Kids Race for Life’ held by Cancer Research UK at Lydiard Park, Swindon last Saturday (May 19).

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Will Wiltshire Council listen to "the voice of thousands of children"? Council votes for "every best effort" to keep…

22-05-2018 Sue Round

Lucy Gomes’s petition opposing the closure of Braeside and Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centres was presented and discussed at Wiltshire Council’s meeting at County Hall, Trowbridge (May 22). The petition, she said, was, “the voice of thousands of children.”

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Jobs: Medical Receptionist - Kennet & Avon Medical Practice

22-05-2018

  Medical Receptionist       Hours: Part-Time and Full-Time positions available - shifts will include some 7.15 am starts and 7pm finishesSalary: £7.38 - £9.33 per hour depending on qualifications and experienceThe Kennet and Avon Medical Partnership (KAMP) is a newly formed GP partnership, caring for around 18,000 patients and operating across two purpose...

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It was not a sink-hole but it was more than a pot-hole

Emergency road repair crews were called out on Wednesday morning (April 17) after motorists reported that a huge and dangerous hole more than a foot deep had appeared in the middle of the road at the south end of the new Pewsey Road bridge at the bottom of Granham Hill.

What caused it is a mystery, but workmen are looking into it......

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Disloyal Lady Thatcher claimed her successors only wanted to destroy her legacy of success

Thatcher and Major and the 'Blue Divide' that grew between themThatcher and Major and the 'Blue Divide' that grew between themThe disloyalty of Baroness Thatcher after she was forced out of office by her own Cabinet colleagues in the wake of the disastrous Poll Tax was the highlight of a Radio 4 programme yesterday (Saturday) presented by Elinor Goodman.

The former Financial Times journalist and Channel 4 News Political Editor, who lives at Wilton and is well known in Marlborough, concentrated on What Thatcher Did Next in a programme that included interviews with a host of Lady Thatcher’s former colleagues and friends.

Among them were Tory peers Lords Powell, McAlpine, Bell, Hurd, Parkinson, Fowler plus Tory MPs Kenneth Clarke and Euro-sceptic Bill Cash.

The inevitable outcome was a display of arrogance by Lady Thatcher, who believed that her successor, John Major, was deliberately destroying her legacy and used her friends to poison the press against him.

“She was supportive of John Major during the Gulf War but as he tried to nudge the party towards his version of compassionate Conservatism she became increasingly suspicious that he was trying to undermine her achievements, and with speeches in America claimed that Major was dismantling her inheritance,” Elinor Goodman revealed.  

“She dismissed his government as a B team, despite claiming to be loyal.”

She pointed out that Lady Thatcher saw Major “as her protégé” but when he didn’t turn out to be a true Thatcherite “she felt another burning sense of betrayal that exacerbated the grievance she felt about the way she was deposed."

“Losing the job, she not only lost her power and status but also the framework of her existence.”

Lord McAlpine compared her loss of the premiership to bereavement, the more so as she had not planned to retire and had not been rejected by the voters, only her colleagues, there being “no job specification for ex prime ministers.”

Elinor Goodman added: “She never recognised that winning another election might require a change in tone and, in some cases, policies.  As Major’s government limped from one crisis to another, her acolytes felt they had her support to undermine him.”

At first Major’s problem was that she was too supportive of him, promising to be “a good back-seat driver” but he fumed against her disloyalty and reportedly called Lady Thatcher “mad and loopy.”

Later he wrote in his memoirs that her support for the Maastricht Treaty rebels “had turned a difficult task into an impossible one.”

Lady Thatcher intervened in subsequent leadership elections and made the Conservatives' annual conferences a “nightmare” for party managers, added Elinor Goodman.

“At the 2001 conference she described herself as 'The Mummy Returns' unaware it was the title of a horror film.”

But even when visited the weekend before she died, Lady Thatcher, now frail and losing her memory, announced that she wanted the Conservative Party to win the next general election outright, proving that throughout her life she was a tribal Conservative.

Elinor Goodman concluded: “The Conservative tribe owes a huge debt to her but most of the 23 years after she was forced to step down were extremely painful ones, both for herself and for the party."

“She didn’t make it easy for her successors but, as she saw it, it was her duty to protect her legacy. Consensual politics were not for her – in office or retirement.”

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Watch morning telly this Saturday for a taste of Marlborough – with a Marlborough wine?

Saturday Kitchen visits Marlborough's TescoSaturday Kitchen visits Marlborough's TescoSaturday latest: see below for the two wines Susie chose in Marlborough.

A team from BBC Television’s popular weekend morning show Saturday Kitchen was in Marlborough on Wednesday (April 10) to shoot an insert for this week’s programme. With them was one of the regular presenters, Master of Wine Susie Barrie selecting wines to go with the studio dishes – and available in Marlborough’s Tesco and Waitrose stores.

Marlborough News Online caught up with them at Tesco after they’d climbed to the top of St Peter’s Church to get those vital high angle shots of the High Street.  They were certainly not put off by a little bit of early morning mist hovering over the town.

The opening sequence was to be shot at Marlborough College – more wine selected from Waitrose’s shelves – and then the team visited the High Street market.

The programme has been produced for the BBC by the independent production company Cactus Television since 2006.  Cactus Television was founded by Simon Ross (brother of Jonathan Ross) with his wife Amanda and makes a number of entertainment and cooking television programmes.

Saturday Kitchen visits Marlborough's WaitroseSaturday Kitchen visits Marlborough's WaitroseSaturday Kitchen, presented by chef James Martin, has an audience each week of between two-and-a-half and three million – which is considered a very significant audience for that time of day. This Saturday (April 13) James will be joined at 10.00 am on BBC One by chefs Clare Smyth and Paul Ainsworth – with appearances by Rick Stein and Raymond Blanc.

Their crew in Marlborough was producer Andy Clarke, cameraman Mike Maddams and runner Hannah Wilson.

They often choose a town for a taped insert into the live programmes.  Why had they come to Marlborough?  Andy is from Bristol and has had his eye on Marlborough for a while: “What a lovely town, what a pretty High Street, what good shops – it’s good to showcase a place where mums and dads can come for tea – and some shopping.”

 

Susie Barrie at Marlborough's TescoSusie Barrie at Marlborough's TescoBoth Susie Barrie and her husband, Peter Richards (also a Master of Wine), are regular wine experts on Saturday Kitchen and together they run the Winchester Wine School and a wine club.  

Susie has ‘good memories’ of Marlborough – she brought her very young son Thomas to be photographed by Pete Davies at Marlborough Photo Services: “What a beautiful photo he produced – it brings tears to my eyes.”

How’s the day been? “It’s been”, Susie says, “a lovely day in Marlborough – everyone’s so helpful. And we even had a little bit of sunshine.”

And the wines?  You had better check the programme.  Not wanting to spoil the surprise, we’ll add them to this report after the programme has gone out.  What are the odds that one of them is from Marlborough, New Zealand?

Now it can be told: the two wines Susie chose in Marlborough were:

At Tesco - suprise, surprise - a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand: the Ara Pathway 2012 - £6.49 from Tesco.  This was to go with the programme's monkfish recipe.

And to go with the smoked haddock Scotch eggs, she chose another white wine - the Laurent Miquel Vendanges Nocturnes Viognier 2012 - £8.49 at Waitrose.

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Major London art exhibition to be shown on Marlborough cinema screen

Le Chemin de Fer (The Railroad) by Édouard ManetLe Chemin de Fer (The Railroad) by Édouard ManetArt lovers can see the work of the 19th century painter Édouard Manet – considered the founding father of modern art­ – in Marlborough this month, thanks to the magic of the Town Hall's versatile silver screen. 

The first-ever major show of Manet's work at the Royal Academy of Arts, Portraying Life, opened at the end of January and, due to demand, has been extended until midnight on April 14.

But for fans not lucky enough to get a ticket, there's an opportunity to see the artist's work at Marlborough Town Hall, as the exhibition is brought to the big screen by the Kennet Valey Arts Trust.

The High Definition film of the exhibition, which will be shown on Tuesday, April 11 from 6.30pm and again on Tuesday, April 16 from 1pm, also includes exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the show’s preparation, interwoven with a superbly crafted biography of Manet and 19th-century Paris.

Tickets cost £13 in advance from www.kvat.co.uk, Sound Knowledge or White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough. 

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Call goes out for volunteer ‘Champions’ to join the campaign for digital literacy

It was through Marlborough News Online that Gerry Young first found out about Wiltshire Council’s Digital Literacy scheme.  Last October we reported that the scheme was coming soon to the Marlborough area.

Gerry has now been appointed by Wiltshire Online as the scheme’s volunteer coordinator for the Marlborough area – and he is on the look-out for volunteer Digital Champions.  

With the Wiltshire Online team, he is seeking five Digital Champions to start supporting residents in the practicalities of using internet connected computers. You do not have to have a degree in IT, but you do need to know your way around computers and the internet.

Gerry told Marlborough News Online: “The idea is to cover problems such as setting up email for the first time, using office packages such as Microsoft Office or the freely available alternatives such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice.”

“Typically people have issues with setting up their wireless networks for the first time, shopping online, or setting up a Skype account to make intercontinental video calls to family and friends.”

Gerry hopes to find five Digital Champions for this area – the poster calling for volunteer Champions is below.  Anyone interested in helping with this scheme can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 01225 793349.

The service is totally free, but there are limitations to what these Digital Champions can do. They will not be involved in adding memory or changing disks, or installing new operating systems or hardware. Problems beyond the scope of the Digital Literacy teams are filtered out by Wiltshire Online. Instead callers will be given the names of some appropriate professional computer support organisations.

Gerry Young lives at the heart of the area – near the High Street.  He trained as an engineer and has spent the last ten years in technical sales.  He now teaches three days a week at Wiltshire College – and will be coordinating the work of the Champions.

The great thing about the scheme is that assistance can be given at a time that is convenient to both the volunteer and the learner.  It generally involves one-to-one sessions either at a library, wi-fi enabled café or in people’s homes.

In addition, St John’s Academy is seeing whether use could be made of their IT suites – out of school hours.

Wiltshire Online has made a commitment to help at least 6,000 adults across Wiltshire get on line by March 2016.  And as more and more government and council services rely on online access, it is becoming crucial for people whatever their age to get connected to the internet.

Wiltshire Online insists that you must not be afraid to suggest to an elderly relative that they should use the Digital Champions to help them.  Just listen to 86 year-old grandmother Betty. She needed a bit of help - given at a speed she could cope with - to get herself proficient with the internet.  And listen to the end or you’ll miss how she became a member of the digital age.

To enlarge click on image To enlarge click on image

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Murder at Wilton Windmill

Windmill MurderWindmill MurderWilton Windmill is to be the setting for a murder mystery event, written especially for the venue by professional actors.

The “seriously scary” immersive event is being staged by Smoke & Mirrors, a company of actors trained at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Central School of Speech and Drama, who specialise in bringing murder mysteries to interesting and historic buildings.

Alex Rain, from Smoke & Mirrors, told Marlborough News Online: “The plot features a television producer filming a programme - live on the night - about the supernatural.

“The producer is at Wilton, having been invited by a local psychic medium who has a great revelation that she wants witnessed by our audience and the TV cameras

“But the medium is in cahoots with an immoral and unscrupulous historian, who's hoping to cash in on the deal.”

Mr Rain promised the audience “some of our most spectacular set-pieces to date, as well as the most ambitious murder we've ever attempted.”

And he revealed that the cast would include an actor familiar to fans of the TV hospital drama Holby City. 

Murder at the Mill will take place on Saturday, June 8 from 7.30pm with tickets costing £20. For full booking details, visit www.wiltonwindmill.co.uk/2013/04/02/murder-mystery-at-wilton-windmill/

For a creepy video of the Smoke & Mirrors team in action, go to http://hauntedmysteryweekend.co.uk/about-smoke-and-mirrors.html

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Biking Bishops roll into town on their Christian Aid marathon ‘Tour de Wilts’

Bishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield (left) and the Bishop of Ramsbury, Dr Edward Condry take well-earned refreshment at the halfway stage of their marathon ride around WiltshireBishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield (left) and the Bishop of Ramsbury, Dr Edward Condry take well-earned refreshment at the halfway stage of their marathon ride around WiltshireThey may not be Sir Wiggo or Mark Cavendish, but the ecclesiastical peleton comprising the Bishops of Swindon – Dr Lee Rayfield and of Ramsbury – Dr Edward Condry rode into a Marlborough after a long hard battle against the elements for an overnight stop and a Civic welcome from the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Guy Loosmore at the halfway stage of their sponsored tour of the county.

The two day marathon ride is to promote Christian Aid Week (12-18 May) and the route starts and finishes in Trowbridge, but covers nearly 170 miles in between and takes in many of Wiltshire’s towns and hills with stops to visit Christian Aid groups in each.

Today (12 April) started early and the first stop was Warminster, followed by Mere, Salisbury, Amesbury, Pewsey, Devizes and finally Marlborough,  a total of 95 gruelling miles with plenty of steep hills, a strong head wind and blustery April showers to negotiate.  Day two will take in Royal Wootton Bassett, Swindon,  Highworth, Cricklade, Malmesbury, Chippenham, Great Somerford, Melksham, Bradford on Avon and finally Trowbridge, an overall distance of some 70+ miles.

As well as promoting the forthcoming Christain Aid Week the Bishops are raising money for Christian Aid on JustGiving.  To donate visit www.justgiving.com/bishopsonbicycles

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At St John’s Question Time women outnumbered men – and that’s counting Lady Thatcher

St John's Question Time panelists, L to R, Deborah Rees, Chris Watts, Fiona Hornsby, Adam Pratchett (chair), Claire Perry and St John's teacher Peter Baldrey who organised the eveningSt John's Question Time panelists, L to R, Deborah Rees, Chris Watts, Fiona Hornsby, Adam Pratchett (chair), Claire Perry and St John's teacher Peter Baldrey who organised the eveningDevizes MP Claire Perry told the Question Time audience at St John’s Academy on Thursday evening (April 11) she had doubts about the timing of the government’s decision to cut the top rate of income tax from 50p in the pound to 45p.  Taking into account the ‘we’re all in it together’ mantra, she said: “If I were Chancellor I’d have said this is something we aspire to – but not now – but, hey, I’m just a back bencher.”

Also on the panel were Fiona Hornby who has stood twice as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Devizes, activist Chris Watts from South Swindon Labour Party and local businesswomen Deborah Rees who co-founded ‘Innecto Reward Consulting’ in 2002 and is their director of consulting.

About 120 people attended the session which was chaired by Adam Pratchett – head boy of St John’s Academy.

Picking up on the top rate tax cut, Fiona Hornby’s view was that “It doesn’t look fair – and like many things in life, it’s not enough to do the right thing - it has to look right.”  Chris Watts said he simply did not understand the government’s argument that it had not raised enough revenue.

Fiona Hornby had a simple response to the question “Do the panel think the UK should leave the EU?” – “No”.  She emphasised the wider, non-economic advantages of membership – especially being part of a bloc of nations that is listened to across the world.

There was near unanimity on the need for Britain to remain in the European Union. Chris Watts was worried that the long wait for the referendum would put off inward investment and was sure that if Britain left the EU, inward investment like Honda’s at Swindon simply would not happen.  

Mrs Perry wanted to keep the market and lose other connections with Europe.  But she thought a democratic decision on membership was overdue – and didn’t think ‘the clapped out politicians’ of UKIP would influence many people.

Two questions relating to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher dominated part of the evening and the one which sparked the most debate was whether she had helped women enter and flourish in Britain’s politics.

Mrs Perry dismissed the notion of ‘all women’ candidate lists. But Deborah Rees said the situation was so dire “I think women short lists are required.  Doing it for one election is not enough.  Let’s just try and see if it makes a difference.”

Fiona Hornby widened the question to include the public’s general lack of interest in politics.  In part she blamed the weekly Prime Minister’s Question session in the Commons which she said sounded like “children squabbling in a playground”.  

To which Mrs Perry retorted: “It’s fun though – you’d think it was fun if you were there.”

Chris Watts took up the theme: “I don’t think politicians have moved on from the soundbite”.  But with so many new sources of information people can check soundbites out and see whether politicians are telling the truth or not.

On the more general issue of Lady Thatcher’s legacy, Claire Perry declared: “I was no Thatcherite in my younger years”.  She praised Thatcher as someone who ‘absolutely stood up for Britain’.  

But Mrs Perry did admit Lady Thatcher had made mistakes – like selling social housing and not replacing it:  “Some things were done with less humanity than we would do now.”

Chris Watts explained some of Lady Thatcher’s mistakes: “Changes were made too far and too fast – what happened to the coal industry was a mistake.”  Deborah Rees thought that many people’s response to Lady Thatcher was more ‘a gut feeling’ than a thought out response.

Finally the panel tackled the government’s changes to the benefits system. Fiona Hornby welcomed the universal benefit – provided it really worked in practice.  She called some of the government’s other changes ‘just plain barmy.’

Deborah Rees admired Iain Duncan Smith for spending ten years working out how to change the system.  However, “He shoots himself massively in the foot when he says things like he can live on £53 a week – that undermines how I feel about his changes. No one can possibly live on that amount of money.”

Chris Watts criticised the ‘demonising of people on welfare’: “I find that quite offensive.” And he attacked the ‘bedroom tax’ to be paid by people in social housing with a spare room.

Mrs Perry defended this policy saying it was a ‘fair’ change.  She said she was ‘sorry’ if people had to move and the extra room will only cost £14 a week – with the rest of their home still paid by housing benefit.

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Customers grounded as Go Ballooning goes pop

Go Ballooning publicity shotGo Ballooning publicity shotPewsey-based hot air balloon operator Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd has gone into administration, leaving hundreds of pre-paid customers grounded, and around 30 people out of a job.

The company traded from Woodborough under the name Go Ballooning. It has previously traded as Horizon Ballooning and High Adventure Balloons. 

Its website was taken down last week, and was today today replaced by a message which reads: “The Company is deeply saddened to advise that after successfully trading for over 25 years and flying many tens of thousands of customers we have had to take the very difficult decision to cease trading.

“The company has been and will continue to work with the liquidator to attempt to formulate a solution for customers.” It advised customers to log back on from Tuesday, April 9.

In a statement, The British Association of Balloon Operators (BABO), the UK trade body for commercial hot air balloon operators, of which Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd was not a member, said: “For some considerable time, the BABO committee has been of the opinion that Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd’s business model was seriously flawed, and drew to the directors’ attention as far back as November 2010 the unacceptably high number of passenger complaints BABO was receiving with regard to their operation.

“Furthermore, since mid-July 2011 BABO have had several conversations and correspondence with Wiltshire Trading Standards regarding concerns over the level of customer complaints pertaining to Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd. However Wiltshire Trading Standards felt there was no further action required on their behalf.

“We deeply regret the distress and financial penalty suffered by customers, staff and suppliers who may have lost money with Cameron Flights (Southern) Ltd, but can only emphasise that this company was not a member of our association and therefore operated outside of our trade body’s control. 

“We would always urge members of the public to ensure that they only book a balloon flight with companies who are members of BABO.”

It is understood that the company had been cancelling booked flights for some time.

As early as June last year customers had set up a Facebook Page called I Didn't Go Ballooning (www.facebook.com/ididntgoballooning). 

Customer Simon Walsh wrote: “We were bought tickets for a go ballooning flight at the end of 2011 for my wife 50th birthday present, it was cancelled 5 times last year due to 'the weather'", while Keith Balbi said: “I purchased two tickets from go ballooning two years ago and still have not flown yet coz everytime i try it gets cancelled. I paid 230 pounds and they will only offer me 25 percent refund. Not happy.”

And today angry customers took to Twitter to vent their frustration. Chris Brown write “Flight tomorrow (paid for) no update until the 9th? Hotel paid, what do we do? Been trying to go for 2 years!” while an anonymous balloon pilot wrote: “I was one of there crew until yesterday. There's no hope. Don't expect answers to calls/emails. Lots now out of work,” and “all us who did the flying in a big hole”.

Cameron Balloon Flights (Southern) have no connection with Bristol-based balloon manufacturers Cameron Balloons Ltd.

* UPDATE: On Tuesday (April 9) the Go Ballooning website was ammended to display the following message: 

CAMERON FLIGHTS SOUTHERN LIMITED formerly trading as ‘Go Ballooning’

The above named company ceased trading on 4 April 2013 for reasons of insolvency.  The directors have approached Mr Joe Sadler (licensed Insolvency Practitioner) of Elwell Watchorn & Saxton LLP to convene meetings of members and creditors for 24 April 2013 with a view to placing the company into creditors voluntary liquidation.

The directors are currently assisting in preparing a statement of company affairs to be presented to the meetings and no further detailed information is available at the present time. However, all creditors are encouraged to monitor the ‘Go Ballooning’ website at http://www.goballooning.co.uk/ where current information will continue to be posted.

Any creditor who has made payment by credit card or similar is advised to contact their issuing cardholder in the first instance to establish whether payment may be refunded under the ‘chargeback’ scheme.  Further details of the scheme may be obtained by typing ‘how do I use chargeback’ into your search engine and following the link to the ‘Which?’ Consumer Rights website.

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GWH misses A&E waiting times target as pressures on hospitals grow

Great Western Hospital at Swindon has told Marlborough News Online that it has not been meeting the four hour target for waiting time in its A&E department during the winter period. This follows the release this week of Government figures showing that across England in hospitals with major A&E capability 93.3 per cent of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours against the target of 95 per cent.

Although waiting times normally increase in winter, it is said that this winter’s figures showing the target was missed for the last nine weeks (up to March 24) is ‘slightly worse than previous winters’.  

Alf Troughton, Medical Director at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have seen unprecedented increases in activity, with over 3,500 more people seen in our Emergency units compared with the same period last year. We have also seen around ten per cent more emergency admissions to our hospitals over this period.”

He added: “Our staff have been working incredibly hard over the busy winter to ensure patients are receiving safe, high quality care, despite the pressures faced and we are very grateful for their dedication.”

The Medical Director said that up to the winter period GWH had been meeting the target waiting time: “…but GWH, like many other hospitals, has fallen short of this target over the winter period. Currently we are working on plans to improve our performance and ensure we are working at maximum efficiency within the Trust.”

Since GWH opened in 2002 the number of people each year who attend its emergency department has gone up by about fourteen thousand to stand at 70,731 in 2012.

One of the aims of the Government’s decision to replace NHS Direct with the new NHS 111 non-emergency helpline is to reduce attendances at A&E departments. The delay in rolling out this service across England and the number of inappropriate referrals to A&E made by NHS 111 is not helping hospitals cope with this winter’s A&E surge.

It is reported that the Department of Health has set aside £8.4 million to pay NHS Direct to continue providing its helpline service in areas – such as Wiltshire – where it has not been safe to switch over to NHS 111. This money will cover the old service until June 30.

However, NHS Direct has itself won contracts to provide the new NHS 111 service for more than thirty per cent of the population. The contract for Wiltshire’s service is held by the private provider Harmoni, now part of Care UK.

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Now four Waitrose partners from Marlborough sing together to lift the austerity gloom

Marlborough's singing quartet, left to right Rose Bennett, Jane Rowland, Ann Young and Ian DavisMarlborough's singing quartet, left to right Rose Bennett, Jane Rowland, Ann Young and Ian DavisThey are not only partners in Waitrose serving the people of Marlborough, but now four members of staff have joined a newly formed choir called, naturally, Partners Aloud.

It is but one of 11 such choirs from an original 30 within the John Lewis Partnership who are to compete in an internal competition taking place at the company’s conference centre in Odney, near Cookham, in Berkshire.

But more than that singing together has helped lift the gloom of today’s austerity gloom.

“We’re very much a scratch choir,” Ian Davis, a Waitrose delivery driver for nearly six years, told Marlborough News Online. “It’s all about working together.

“And singing together definitely lifts the spirits in these difficult times and makes you feel good.”

He and three female members of the local Waitrose staff have joined 16 members of Partners Aloud drawn from John Lewis at Home Swindon and John Lewis Outlet Swindon to take part in the competition on April 14.

They are Jane Rowland, on the staff of Waitrose for 15 years, Rose Bennett and checkout staff member Ann Young, who have been there more than five years.

The idea of forming the choirs was revealed in February by Manvinder Rattan, musical director of the John Lewis Partnership, who was one of the judges on the BBC’s Singing in the Workplace initiative.

The Swindon/Marlborough choir, now being tutored by Lisa Williams, musical director of the Occasions Choir from Royal Wootton Bassett, will be singing Somewhere Only We Know composed by the alternative rock band Keane, a must for all the competing choirs.

“We’ll be singing that in three-part harmony like a barber shop performance,” explained Ian. “We’re also singing an old hymn called All Through the Night and probably Sing a Song of Sixpence.

He has a tenor voice and believes it comes from his Welsh background – his family dropped the E in their name Davies – while his three female compatriots are all altos.

“My great grandfather came from Wrexham and my great grandmother was quite musical,” he said. “I did some singing when I was a very young choirboy and also in a big choir at Marlborough College’s annual summer school.

“A few members of the choir can read music and play a musical instrument, but most of them are first timers. We’re all enjoying it thoroughly, especially as Lisa Williams, who is teaching us, is a real find, a great motivator.

“And that makes it all fun.”

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Claire Perry praises Lady Thatcher while pointing out her mistakes from which we need to learn

Politicians need to learn from history – and that includes the unprecedented reign of Baroness Thatcher as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, which produced good and bad results.

So says Claire Perry, Tory MP for Devizes, one of the newly-elected female members of the House of Commons, who pays tribute to Lady Thatcher, who has died, aged 87, in her local newspaper column.

She points out that there has been much discussion of Lady Thatcher’s impact and legacy, and writes: “She brought a clarity, conviction and commitment to Britain that politics badly needed while her achievements as Britain’s first female prime minister are even more remarkable given that she was a woman from an ordinary background, who valued family life."

“She will be remembered for the big political battles she fought, rescuing the economy that was propped up by IMF handouts, spreading home ownership, winning the Falklands War, and helping to win the Cold War."

“Her championship of Britain’s interests in Europe was legendary.  It is worth noting that the rebate she secured for Britain is bigger than our defence budget.”

But Mrs Perry, who is PPS to Philip Hammond at the Defence Ministry, and last month announced that she and her husband have parted, then adds: “But there were some mistakes made. The biggest of which, in my view, was to lose sight of the fact that behind the militant leaders of Britain’s unions, who were hell-bent on stoking up a divisive class war, were millions of hard-working people who wanted work, strong communities, and a good future for their children."

“Furthermore, that if the necessary industrial restructuring from those years was not backed up with investment in infrastructure, housing stock and education, then new industries could not replace the old."

“Politicians need to keep learning lessons, from history, and this is an important one that we should never forget.”

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Record Store Day will be celebrated with film and, of course, music

Graham Jones, author of Last Shop StandingGraham Jones, author of Last Shop StandingThe rise, fall and rebirth of the independent record shop will be charted during a screening of the film Last Shop Standing next week.

There were 2200 independent record shops in the 1980s, by 2009 there were only 269 left.

Last Shop Standing features the likes of Johnny Marr, Paul Weller and Fatboy Slim as it attempts to find out why so many shops have closed – and how those last remaining stores are managing to survive in the age of the digital download.

The documentary – the official film of Record Store Day 2013 – will be shown at Marlborough Town Hall on Wednesday, April 17 as part of wider celebrations by record store Sound Knowledge to mark the occasion.

And meeting music fans to sign copies of the book and DVD, and to answer questions about the documentary, will be Graham Jones, the Chippenham-based Liverpudlian music fan who wrote the 2009 book that inspired the film.

Doors open at 7pm and tickets cost £5 from Sound Knowledge, which is located in Hughenden Yard, Marlborough.

Roger Mortimer, owner of Sound Knowledge in his shopRoger Mortimer, owner of Sound Knowledge in his shopSound Knowledge will be opening from 8am on Saturday, April 20 to sate the appetite of vinyl fans – a selection of limited edition records have been pressed to promote the day.

And on Sunday, April 21, from midday, a festival atmosphere will come to Hughenden Yard, with live performances from Nick Harper, Port Erin, Tallulah Rendall, The Suburbians, and Peter & the Mountain. Attendance is free. 

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Local Tories pay tribute to Thatcher, the 'Marmite' prime minister

Margaret ThatcherMargaret ThatcherBaroness Thatcher, the former Conservative Prime Minister who has died at 87, was a Marmite leader – the voters either loved or hated her.

That is a view of John Thomson, Tory-controlled Wiltshire Council’s deputy leader, who has declared: “I think she was rather like Marmite: you either loved her or hated her, but you can’t help but admire her strength of conviction.

“She was a politician who you really knew what she thought and what she believed in, even though you may not agree with it.

“You may not have liked what she was saying, but at least you knew what she was thinking. We don’t have that clarity in our politicians at the moment.”

Offering his tribute to Lady Thatcher, he adds: “It’s history now, the world has moved on. She was probably right for her time, but the world has changed a lot since those days.

“Her legacy is we still have the Falkland Islands, and she did enable a huge amount of people to become property owners.

“She may not necessarily have got it right on her industrial base, moving us more towards a service economy, but we are working now to correct that.

“She changed the laws with unions, and handed more power back to individuals rather than the union barons.”

Jane Scott, Wiltshire Council’s leader, points out that her death is not only a sad day but the end of an era, declaring: “Margaret Thatcher was a great inspiration and has changed the perception of women in politics and what they can achieve.”

Conservative MP for North Wiltshire James Gray, who worked for a short time as her special adviser, says he was inspired to become a politician by her leadership of the party.

“I owe my entry to politics to her, she inspired me in the 1970s,” he reveals. “The nation owes her a great debt. She made an enormous mark on Britain, which was the sick man of Europe at the time.

“Britain was bankrupt and she turned it around to the benefit of all. Many people are in their houses thanks to her. The Falklands remained Britain thanks to her.

“There are a lot of freedoms and prosperities we enjoy thanks to the bold, brave and tough things she did. Though controversial, she was nevertheless a truly great leader.”

And Stewart Dobson, branch chairman of Marlborough Conservative Association, said: "I was very saddened to learn of the death of Baroness Thatcher. She became Prime Minister at a critical time in our country's history and showed tremendous vision and leadership in those difficult times.

"What ever one may think of some of her more controversial decisions, I believe that no one can ever doubt her patriotism and sincere belief in trying to make Britain great.

"Her lasting legacy must be that she proved once and for all that women could and should be able to achieve the highest office in whatever career they chose."

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Lord of the Flies to make its debut as a major musical at the Oxford Playhouse in July

Sir William GoldingSir William GoldingThe Lord of the Flies, the first novel by Nobel prize-winning author Sir William Golding, who grew up in Marlborough, is to become a major musical due to be given its premiere at the Oxford Playhouse in July.

It is a significant and exciting event for admirers of Golding, a pupil at Marlborough Grammar School, where his father was a teacher, since it has immaculate talent behind the Playhouse initiative.

The musical, which calls in students from Magdalen College School in Oxford to play the roles of the boys stranded on an island, is being directed by Adrian Noble, former chief executive of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the winner of numerous theatrical awards, receiving some 20 nominations for Olivier awards during his career.

He has also worked for the noted Peter Hall Company, The Manhatten Theatre Club, Kent Opera and directed a productions of Giovanni in a Paris circus tent.

And the music for the production, co-directed by Joanne Pearce, is by the award-winning Irish composer Shaun Davey, who has composed for the concert hall, the stage and TV, his work performed round the world.

His compositions have included the theatre scores for The Lion, The Witch And the Wardrobe, and the TV and film scores for Ballykissangle, The Tailor of Panama, David Copperfield and Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night.

He received the People of the Year award for his contribution to Irish culture, an Ivor Novello Award for his score for The Hanging Gale, and this year was nominated for a Tony award for his music for the hit Broadway version of James Joyce’s The Dead.

The Oxford Playhouse production of Lord of the Flies – the novel about a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results was a flop when it was published in 1954 – will run from July 5 to 7.

The novel subsequently twice adapted as a film, in 1963 and 1990, and became an international best seller, chosen by The Times newspaper as third in the list of the greatest British authors since 1945.

And Golding, who lived on The Green, in Marlborough, in his early days – there is a commemorative plaque on his home there – went on to win the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage in 1980, was made a Nobel laureate for literature in 1983 and knighted in 1988.

He died in 1993, aged 81.

The Lord of the Flies musical Oxford Playhouse tryout could become a significant West End and international production if it proves a major success.

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Major roadworks mean long diversions for A4 drivers

Major roadworks on the A4 between Beckhampton and West Kennet will mean overnight road closures and long detours for night time commuters, Wiltshire Council has confirmed.

Contractors are due to start work on the road on Tuesday, May 7 and a road closure will be put in place to allow workmen to resurface the carriageway, instal new road markings, and adjust surface ironwork.

The road closure will be in place until Wednesday, May 22, and are scheduled to last from 7pm until 6am, although commuters are warned that a delay in competition may be experienced due to unforeseen circumstances, such as late delivery of materials.

The main diversion route for all ‘through’ traffic whilst works are undertaken will be via A4 Beckhampton Roundabout, north on A4361 to B4005 (Wroughton), east on B4005 to A346 (Chiseldon), south on A346 to A4 (Marlborough) & vice versa.

A council spokesman confirmed: “The contractor will endeavour to maintain vehicular access for the duration of the works; although due to the nature of the works minor disruption is inevitable.

“It is essential that the road remains un-trafficked until the new material has set, as early trafficking could lead to premature failure. 

“Dedicated traffic management operatives at the extent of the works will monitor access and give motorists assistance.

“Signing will be in place advising that local businesses will be open as usual.”

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