Claire Perry, Marlborough’s outspoken Tory MP who has demanded that the Fawcett Society appoint Conservative trustees, has been rebuffed by the liberal feminist group that promotes women’s rights.
The society, founded in 1866 by early suffragette campaigner Millicent Fawcett, and largely led the feminist movement in the 1970s, has a board of trustees dominated by left-wing activists.
And it has been seeking a judicial review of the 2010 coalition government Budget on the basis that it did not fully assess its impact on women, many hit by tax credit and benefit changes.
Now Mrs Perry, chairman of the Conservative Women’s Forum, has joined the society together with other leading Tory female MPs, among them Home Secretary Theresa May, are calling for it to appoint Tory trustees because, under charity law, it has to be politically neutral.
“We believe in more female participation,” declares Mrs Perry in an interview in the Daily Telegraph. “We have suggested to them that they look for some Conservative representation.”
“We have said to them, ‘ it is very interesting that you consider yourselves to be a charity because as far as we can see none of your trustees are anything other than lefties – labour or liberals. Have you ever had a Conservative trustee?’ ”
“If you look at the literature it is drawn straight from the TUC’s ‘Bash the Tories’ pocketbook. It is rubbish and it is factually incorrect.”
But the society has pointed out that all its trustees are elected by a ballot of the full membership.
“Any Fawcett Society member may stand for election to the board,” replies Ceri Goddard, the society’s chief executive. “We make a point of publicly advertising vacancies, and actively encourage applications from all political backgrounds.”
“The board are asked with ensuring the society is effectively managed and also hold certain legal and financial duties. Whatever the government of the day, it’s our role to hold them to account on women’s rights, but as a charity we are strictly non-party political and non partisan.”
Mrs Perry says her colleagues have objected to the fact that the society “defined women as victims, who are entirely dependent on the state for their well being”, and “never talked” about successful women.
You need humility to be a good Tory MP says Claire
Claire Perry has called on Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps to continue forcing constituency parties to ensure that women account for half of the shortlists for new parliamentary seats.
“Fifty-fifty was great,” she tells the Daily Telegraph. “It works really well, It shows if you have got enough quality candidates, you can get them to the finals.”
And she suggested that some female Tory candidates, who were successful in business, were not humble enough to be good MPs, humility being a requirement for all MPs
She points out: “It is a very multi-faceted job and you have to be prepared and there is a lot of humility that comes with it.
I think often for women, who have been fighting their way through their careers and are very high powered, they often forget how to be humble.
“You can be too strident, too impressive in the selection process.”
The Fawcett Society had, for example, ignored the fact that the Coalition had for the first time funded victim support and rape crisis centres for three years.
“This was completely unreported by the Fawcett Society,” she declares. “We have said ‘do you support this, why do you never talk about it?' ”
"It is because you can’t bring yourself to talk about it. This is not about women, this is about Labour, you are a mouth piece for the Labour party. They are so uncomfortable.”
Her outburst follows the surprising fact that, though Prime Minister David Cameron promoted four women MPs in his government reshuffle, the overall impact was that women had lost out with leading women Tory MPs being either sacked or demoted.
The long-running dispute over the treatment of support workers at the Great Western Hospital is to go to a full employment tribunal.
Carillion who employ the workers – many of them are cleaners and they are mostly from Swindon’s Goan community – announced the decision late of Wednesday (October 10.) It came after the GMB trade union reportedly closed down talks at the conciliation service ACAS which had begun last week.
During the dispute the GMB has called the forty-nine workers out on twenty-one days of strike action.
Carillion said they wanted to ‘continue dialogue in the interests of all its workforce at Swindon’: “The GMB’s actions in making inflammatory statements in direct contravention of ACAS protocol are deeply regrettable. Their behaviour stands in complete contrast to that of our two recognised union partners at Great Western Hospital, UNITE and Unison, who represent the majority of our workforce.”
The Carillion statement went on to accuse the GMB of using the dispute as “nothing more than a massive recruitment drive”. Carillion works at GWH as a contractor under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme with which the hospital was built and continues to be maintained and serviced.
It was clear last week that GMB and their solicitors, Bindmans, thought the ACAS talks might fail and that the dispute would end up with a tribunal hearing of the workers’ complaints against Carillion’s management.
A statement (October 2) from Bindmans quoted a national GMB officer: “We have fifty-seven strong discrimination cases ready to be heard at the Employment Tribunal, and we fully expect to get fifty-seven findings of discrimination.”
And the solicitors’ statement made clear that if the talks were to fail to resolve the “Claimants complaints, there will be a Pre-Hearing review at Bristol Employment Tribunal in December 2012.”
Emma Webster, solicitor at Bindmans, said: “We hope that Carillion will acknowledge the complete lack of basic respect which has been displayed towards the Claimants and will realise that the Claimants’ vulnerability as low paid immigrant workers has been completely abused.”
If you’re reading this you’ve already cleared the digital literacy hurdle. So much so that you could become a volunteer champion to help those in the Marlborough area who are still behind the digital start line.
Wiltshire Council, through Wiltshire Online, are setting out to help the estimated three thousand plus people in Marlborough and its surrounding villages who have not yet used a computer or the internet. The Council wants to get them up to speed so they can be part of the digital world and enjoy its advantages.
Some people may have computers and broadband and just find it all too complex and frustrating. Others will be starting from scratch.
As its recent meeting, the Marlborough Area Board was told about Wiltshire Online’s pilot digital literacy scheme in Melksham. A volunteer coordinator matches volunteer ‘digital champions’ to those who want to get started – some will, of course, need more basic advice and instruction than others. Since March they’ve successfully helped eighty people.
For the Marlborough programme – in the first phase of the county-wide project – they are looking for two volunteer coordinators and twenty volunteer champions. They’re also working with the Marlborough Area Development Trust (MADT) to add the area’s Wi-Fi hotspots to their map – their online map.
And through MADT‘s Martin Cook, the scheme has the offer of assistance from St John’s school – including, as timetables allow, the use of one of the school’s ICT computer suites.
Martin Cook, who is a senior teacher at the school, emphasises that St John’s believes in education in its widest sense: “The volunteer programme seems to cover all bases – facilitating learning for those people who constantly miss out on new possibilities. We are excited by the prospect of encouraging this worthwhile venture and look forward to helping it succeed.”
Wiltshire Online project manager, Sarah Cosentino, believes this will be a great help as some people need a space away from their homes where they can meet and gain the necessary confidence. However, for most people the help can be given at home. And in the New Year a pilot scheme will start to provide low cost, re-cycled computers for vulnerable people.
If you want a first-hand testimonial of how the scheme can help, you can do no better than to ask Betty – an 86-year old grandmother who lives in Melksham. You can watch and listen to her on the Wiltshire Council site. And, in case she doesn’t tell you, she’s on Facebook too. (Right click and you can see her full screen.)
Jenny Wilcockson, who is coordinator for the whole digital literacy scheme, told Marlborough News Online that she’s delighted with the offers of help since the Area Board meeting: “Marlborough is very well known for having a strong and capable community spirit so please help us by spreading the word to recruit volunteers and reach out to the most vulnerable members of the community who may benefit most from free computer support.”
Aside from the digital literacy scheme, Wiltshire Online’s main task is to improve the coverage and speed of broadband throughout the county – and this will take up most of the £16 million the Council is investing and the £4.7 million top-up the government has added from its superfast broadband fund.
Wiltshire Online has teamed up with Swindon and South Gloucestershire to select a commercial broadband infrastructure provider under the government’s Broadband Delivery UK project. A preferred bidder will be selected by October 12.
As this will be state funding for an industry that is currently run exclusively by commercial companies, the scheme must get approval from the EU before it can be signed early next year. The Council estimate nearly half the county’s premises will not be able to receive a superfast broadband service by 2015 without support from Wiltshire Online and most of these are in rural locations - support for rural communities is a high priority for the programme.
They aim to be able to publicise the roll out plan in early 2013 and let people know about its progress. Watch this site for further information.
The target for 2015 is to get the standard (that’s a minimum of 2 Mbps) broadband to every premise and superfast broadband (that’s a minimum of 24 Mbps) to at least eighty-five per cent of premises and possibly even to ninety-five per cent of premises.
This is a major and ambitious programme which will have great benefits for medium and small businesses, for families and for home-workers – and, of course, the elderly and those living alone and those suffering from rural isolation. Sarah Consentino sums it up: “It’s a fantastic project to work on.”
Apple that were brimming with fruit last season are barren this yearYou wouldn't know it from looking at the supermarket shelves, and some local gardeners are pooh-poohing the headlines, but officially we're suffering from the worst apple harvest in 15 years.
Branches that were last year buckling under the weight of fruit are bare. It's the reason, say organisers, why the Marlborough Community Orchard initiative and this month's Apple Day are so important.
“This is a wake-up call,” says respected food writer and broadcaster Lynda Brown. “We need to encourage the growing of different varieties of native apples, so that when one crop suffers, others will provide us with a crop.
“We have become used to buying the perfect cosmetic fruit from the supermarkets. There are early, mid and late blossoming apple trees and some will fare better than others from season to season. Variety is the spice of life, and we shouldn't put all our eggs – or, in this case, apples – in one basket.”
This year's harvest has been hit hard by the wettest summer on record. “The cold, rainy summer discouraged the bees from flying at crucial periods,” says Lynda, “while the lack of sun has meant that apples haven't ripened on time
“And for the past couple of years we've had bumper crops, so yields have been worse as trees recover.”
Marlborough's community orchard scheme – conceived in 2010 with the ambitious aim of creating a town in an orchard – has already seen 35 trees planted around the town.
Ninety-one pre-ordered Wiltshire variety apple trees will be arriving on Apple Day and between 30 and 40 others will be planted in and around the town before next spring.
The showcase Apple Day event will be held in Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday, October 14 from 11am to 5pm. One of the leading experts on English apples, Dr Joan Morgan, will be on hand to identify apples for gardeners who have a tree, but have no idea what variety it is. Identification costs £15.
Other attractions include:
Opening welcome ceremony with cornet fanfare to greet the Mayor and 'Wiltshire Maidens': rare Wiltshire apple tree saplings specially grafted for Marlborough Community Orchard by Barters Nursery.
Announcement of the winners of the A4 Apple Art Competition and prize giving by Juliet and Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm.
Apple pressing outside the hall, so everyone can enjoy freshly-squeezed apple juice.
Pip planting, face painting and other activities for children.
Fabulous retail line-up: local food and produce and hand-made preserves; local apple juice, honey and real cider; bee-beautiful local beauty products; bird boxes, ladybird houses, apple trugs and other bespoke woodwork ; hand-stitched linens and hand sewn gifts; Sarah Raven’s bee-friendly bulbs and seeds, gardening accessories and kitchenalia; Marlborough Community Orchard’s new series of limited edition apple cards; Apple Day treats for dogs, and much more.
Sumbler’s ‘Best -Ever Hog Roast’ with windfall apple sauce plus, new this year, scrummy cakes and drinks provided by Bow Belles@ Little Apple Café.
Gloucester Old Spot competition, sponsored by Haine & Smith, starring a sow and her piglets, specially filmed for Marlborough Community Orchard by Orchard Pig.
Display and tasting of rare native Wiltshire apples, growing advice from experts and Wiltshire apple saplings for sale.
The opportunity to sponsor orchard fruit trees for the new Diamond Jubilee Plantation on Marlborough Common and other sites around town.
Four-star luxury raffle brings the chance to win: Four tickets to a special performance of the Nutcracker, followed by afternoon tea at Sheepdrove Eco-Centre and Organic Farm; a case of fine wine from Waitrose; a three-course dinner for two at The Bell at West Overton; an hour long aromatherapy massage at Indulgence Beauty salon.
Derek WolfeTribute to Derek Wolfe, Marlborough’s late town clerk, is to be paid at Sunday’s communities market in the High Street when stallholders and visitors will be asked to stand for a minute’s silence.
As it is to be a Harvest Festival Market, the event will take place following the civic harvest festival service at St Mary’s, which will be attended by Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, and town councillors.
At the close of the 10am service, the mayor and councillors, joined by the Rector, Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, and Mr Wolfe’s widow, Lynette, will walk in procession to the High Street. There the Town Crier will ring in the minute’s silence, to be be followed by a blessing on the market and all those involved.
“Derek was a director of the communities market and someone who was incredible supportive of the whole ethos of what we are doing,” market organiser Ellie Gill told Marlborough News Online.
“He was a great help to us and his presence is going to be sadly missed.”
The market will start earlier than the normal 11am start because the Mop Fair will have been operating in the High Street the night before.
Stallholders in the covered town hall section are expected to be operating by 8am.
A new estate agency has made an audacious appearance on Marlborough High Street by taking over the former offices of top agent Carter Jonas.
And Edward Hall (pictured), the man in charge of Smiths Gore, who was once a tank captain in the armoured Royal Hussars, told Marlborough News Online: “Yes, I really have put my tanks on the lawn. I mean Carter Jonas, Chesterton Humberts and Hamptons are here for me to take on. That’s the exciting challenge.”
“Carter Jonas didn’t know they were letting in the opposition at the time, though they were surprised when there was a new tenant and they were asked to do a structural survey for Smiths Gore, the new tenant.”
Already Clare Manley, from Downer & Company and formerly Strakers, has joined 52-year-old Mr Hall, who quit agents Strutt and Parker in Newbury to take up his new role, and his aim is to increase his staff to five in the coming months.
He laughed as he recalled how Smith Gore has thrown down the gauntlet to the opposition at a time of economic turmoil when some agents are drastically down-sizing and others disappearing.
“Strategically we believe there is still a market place for bespoke estate agency that is not involved in stack them high and sell them cheap but to look after your client and use the Smiths Gore philosophy into selling houses,” declared Mr Hall.
“It is quite an aggressive strategy of building a business when most people are declining, consolidating or closing down in the economic doldrums.”
“It’s tough for vendors who are still looking for good value, good prices for their houses. For buyers, they are now much more cautious, they know that they can’t borrow money and are conscious of the cost of running a house.”
“All of a sudden it’s a bit like the 80’s when suddenly the fuel price went up. People are tending to pull in their lifestyle at the moment, introducing double glazing, secondary glazing, woodchip bowlers, things that are cheaper to run are easier to sell at the moment than traditional old country houses or country cottages, which are difficult to maintain and very expensive to heat.”
“We are seeing a shift where newer houses and houses that are well insulated tend are becoming more popular again. Money is actual real money all of a sudden, people are spending a pound, they are not borrowing a pound. And that makes them thing hard before actually committing themselves to buying something.”
But Smiths Gore, who have adopted a progressive policy of investment by buying up other agencies, are not new to Marlborough. For three years they have had an office on the Business Park, but one devoted to land sales and management, as they have been since they were founded 160 years ago.
“We call ourselves the manager of rural Britain,” explained Mr Hall. “But selling houses, which has been my background since 2001, is something we are doing much more actively now.”
Marlborough and the nearby rural villages are the prime target. “As agents this is an opportunity for us,” he added. The market will settle. It is settling.”
“Houses have been over-priced and we are seeing a long overdue correction. Houses will become more affordable but people need to buy and sell because their circumstances are changing. We are in challenging times and that means times when opportunities present themselves.”
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
And he pointed out: “Marlborough is a vibrant town, a town of choice, and there are so many reasons for living and working in the area. We have good pubs, good shops, schools and great walks, good parking and a friendly view for those who are visiting.”
“It is a destination where people want to come and live. A desirable location that has a great feel.”
“And to be based on the High Street in Marlborough – No 42 – is a great opportunity for me to build a new team, a great excitement and, frankly, a great privilege.”
This photograph – taken on October 10, 2012 – shows a sign on the A4 into Marlborough advertising to visitors that the town has a Tourist Information Centre (closed several years ago) or a Tourist Information Point (once in the library but closed over eighteen months ago.)
Can no one find a screwdriver?
Town crier Alfie JohnsonOyez, oyez, oyez, shouted 81-year-old Town Crier Alfie Johnson resplendent in his uniform. He tolled his bell from the town hall steps, where Marlborough’s flag still flew at half mast.
From the harvest festival civic service at nearby St Mary’s, the Mayor, Edwina Fogg, and town councillors in ceremonial dress walked in procession to Sunday’s communities market in the High Street.
And there they offered a one minute’s silent tribute to Derek Wolfe, Marlborough’s town clerk, who died suddenly last month, his widow Lynette and step-daughter Katrina present among them to bow their heads in family love and remembrance.
It was a sad occasion but one too at which Marlborough’s Rector, Canon Andrew Studdart-Kennedy, offered a prayer and blessed the market, which 58-year-old Derek helped Transition Marlborough set up and became a director of its operating company.
“I am simply going to sprinkle some water on the tents and canopies as we go round,” the Rector explained to the crowd of surprised shoppers. “As we do so, it is a way of saying thank you to Derek for all of your skill and your commitment to this place of local produce and local work.
“And also a fitting way of remembering Derek and his commitment to the market and to Marlborough.”
The mayoral party then made its way to the town hall where the market’s arts and crafts extension was in action and the Rector repeated his prayer and blessing.
Derek's widow (centre) with her daughter Katrina alongside the MayorThe Rector blesses the market
“It was a moving and fitting tribute to our late town clerk,” the Mayor told Marlborough News Online. “When I gave my message at the civic service I said there was a gap in the procession here and a gap in our lives with Derek’s tragic death.
“He was so committed to the transition town movement and to the community market. You can see how those involved were so devastated when he died because he was such a huge supporter of the event.”
She recalled how one admirer had burst into tears on hearing of Derek’s death, in the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, after suffering from a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
The mayor added: “So many people have written in to the town council about the shock of his death, written in to say how much he obviously loved the town and how he involved himself during the time he lived here during in the working week.
“He will always be remembered for that.”
The problem of fuel poverty, affecting the lives of hundreds of social housing tenants in the Marlborough area, is set to be solved by making use of the government’s CERT funding scheme, whose existence too few of them know about.
CERT – the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target – ensures that all the major energy providers can utilise generous grants on offer for loft and cavity wall insulation and enables people to switch to more energy efficient and flexible heating systems.
To date this generous funding has been drastically under-utilised in the county, despite Wiltshire Council identifying 985 dwellings in the Marlborough area that have inadequate heating and insulation.
This makes them more vulnerable to rising energy costs, creating fuel poverty if more than 10 per cent of the household income is spent on energy.
Members of Transition Marlborough set up a meeting with town councillors, a local tenant, Wiltshire Council’s SEACS energy ambassadors and Aster Housing Association's energy and asset manager officers, which produced some startling statistics.
They discovered that of Aster’s 911 local properties, some 591 have an average SAP energy rating of 55 out of 100, which means that are moderately to highly inefficient, in terms of energy conservation.
As a result of this meeting and Transition Marlborough’s discussions with families in fuel poverty plus investigations of the most appropriate schemes available, a plan is now being prepared by Aster's energy manager and British Gas to take advantage of the CERT funding, before it runs out at the end of December.
And this will result in all of Aster's local tenants considered to be vulnerable, will have the energy efficiency of their homes improved, free of charge.
“This is an amazing breakthrough,” Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts, who is also a member of Transition Marlborough, told Marlborough News Online.
“People suffering in these austerity times need help and by involving Aster directly in the process up to 600 homes can be insulated, not only saving an average of £175 per year in energy bills but also by contributing to the government’s greenhouse gas emissions saving target of 293 MtCO2e (Metric Tonne CO2 equivalent).”
He added: “It seems that the CERT funding has not been taken up by individual families because of the lengthy form filling process. So we are delighted that Aster managers have agreed to take on this task here in Marlborough, so that we can take advantage of the help that is on hand for those in serious need.
“And that is very much thanks to the determination and effort of Dr Sam Page and the Marlborough Transition group in seeking ways to provide help and support to those under the cosh of rising energy bills.”
Members of Transition Marlborough will be displaying information about the CERT scheme, the Warm and Well Scheme and the Warm Home Discount Scheme, along with free draught-busting kits at Sunday’s communities market in Marlborough High Street.
Councillor Richard PittsMarlborough College received another slap in the face from town councillors on Monday when a planning application for new gates to be erected in the College’s listed boundary wall in Bridewell Street was rejected.
Members of the planning committee, who had voted unanimously in August against the College’s plans for a new Puffin crossing at the spot, again turned it down.
But Councillor Richard Pitts declared that students didn’t use the two existing Pelican crossings, which made another crossing and the new gates unnecessary.
The College’s aim was to provide a safer crossing into the College for students due to occupy its new female hostel in the former Ivy House Hotel, the second application providing attractive new gates for students on the narrow pavement edge.
Committee vice-chairman Councillor Gordon Francis suggested that the new crossing was also for the use of students crossing from the College’s School of Art.
“Nevertheless, this is for a change in their listed boundary wall. This is all subjective and entirely dependant on whether approval is given for the new crossing.”
“There are some photographs of the wall which show that there are two different courses of bricks at the place where they want to put this gate. That’s what makes it somewhat ugly.”
It will be up to Wiltshire Council to decide the fate of both applications, but Councillor Peggy Dow, who is one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, also objected.
“We haven’t got many walls now that are still listed,” she protested. “We seem to be losing them all the time. The wall will lose its attraction. Personally I’m against this.”
Councillor Pitts agreed.
“The point is that they don’t use the crossings that they have already,” he said. “There was a point the other day where the kids were running across the road. There is no reason to have this crossing. So therefore there is no reason to knock a hole in this wall.”
Councillor Stewart Dobson followed suit.
“I think we should stick to our guns and say there should be no crossing at all,” he said. “We should go back to our old argument that they have two crossings already in the vicinity. They are perfectly adequate.”
Councillor Francis pointed out that the application was about a listed wall, not the new crossing.
And Councillor Pitts retorted: “I am happy to propose we should reject this and turn to next business. It is unnecessary damage to a currently listed wall.”
The committee agreed.
Marlborough is to have a royal visit – to unveil a huge hand-painted mosaic of the town’s history to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee year.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will be here on October 19 at the invitation of the Mayor, Edwina Fogg, who has been working behind the scenes for months to organise the event, which will also link up with its sister town of Marlborough, New Zealand.
“It’s all been touch and go, but it’s happening and I am really delighted,” Edwina told Marlborough News Online. “I’ve had to keep everything very secret until the Duchess’s visit became official on Friday.”
“I am very pleased that we are going to have a permanent jubilee memorial of Marlborough, which will hang in the Court Room at the town hall, and that it is going to have a royal unveiling on the town hall steps.”
“It’s going to be a great day for Marlborough and a wonderful moment for me in my mayoral year.”
The Mayor announced at her election in May that a sponsored mural of the town – it will show off all its major buildings and its famous High Street – was being created by Marlborough Tiles, whose hand-painted tiles have won it admiration by owners and collectors.
She has also been in contact with Marlborough, New Zealand, which sent its Swiftsure whaler and crew to London to take part in the Queen’s jubilee pageant down the Thames. The crew was due to visit Marlborough at the time but it unfortunately failed to happen.
Now the giant steering oar from the boat is on its way to Marlborough to become a permanent fixture in the town hall. And it is that too that the Duchess of Cornwall is keen to admire as she and Prince Charles are due to visit New Zealand.
Marlborough’s ceremonial officer David Sherratt suggested using the oar as a way to promote Marlborough, New Zealand, in Wiltshire and the act as a link between the two countries.
Alistair Sowman, mayor of Marlborough, New Zealand, has said the oar would be a fitting reminder in England of what Swiftsure boat builder Ron Perano and the rowing crew from Marlborough Boys' College achieved, rowing the only New Zealand-made boat in the royal regatta.
The oar was sent on September 21 but there is worrying speculation whether it will arrive in time for the visit of the Duchess of Cornwall.
“It may take weeks to get here and then be held up in customs,” said Edwina. “I have written to the New Zealand High Commissioner in London to ask if he will receive the oar when it finally arrives here in Marlborough and I am awaiting his reply.”
Marlborough International Jazz Festival are looking for an Office / and Direct Response Marketing Administrator
This is a one day per week role based at the MIJF offices on the High Street.
We are looking for a self motivated, computer literate individual with drive and personality who wants to be part of the Festival.
Please e mail your CV to
Councillor Chris Humphries, who chairs the Marlborough Area Board, has been reprimanded by Wiltshire Council after a hearing in Trowbridge which he refused to attend. Mr Humphries is the Conservative councillor for Aldbourne and Ramsbury.
The two-day hearing found he was guilty of five breaches of the Council’s code of conduct. He strongly disputes claims that he bullied and made sexist comments about a female employee of the Council. He has been reported to the Standards Committee.
The complaint was originally made in June 2011. The employee - Julia Densham - accused Mr Humphries of sending her inappropriate emails and touching her in an inappropriate way. Ms Densham worked for the Marlborough Area Board in various capacities from April 2009 and became permanent area manager in September 2010. She later left that job.
Mr Humphries’ solicitor, while saying his client ‘strongly disputed’ the evidence, claimed he could not defend himself satisfactorily because the Council had changed its procedures.
The complaint against Mr Humphries, was heard under new procedures which came into effect on July 1. The dispute over the hearing arose when the complainant gave ‘late notice’ that she wished to have legal representation.
Mr Humphries and his solicitor objected. And at a pre-hearing meeting it was agreed she was ‘as a matter of fairness entitled to legal representation’. On legal advice, Mr Humphries decided to withdraw and take no further part in the hearing.
A Wiltshire Council statement explains: “Had he remained in the hearing Councillor Humphries would have been able to challenge the complainant’s evidence by way of cross-examination. By withdrawing he chose to deprive himself of this opportunity.”
“After careful consideration of the evidence the Sub-Committee found that Councillor Humphries had breached the members’ code of conduct in respect of five out the seven allegations before them.”
The investigator's full report has now been published on the Wiltshire Council website. It runs to 199 pages and is redacted in parts.
The big-bang day for the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS is either March 30 or April 1 next year – depending on which side of the divide you are on. But some of the changes are being brought on stream gradually giving us a glimpse of what the new NHS might look like.Dr Celia Grummitt
In Wiltshire there is a single Clinical Commissioning Group, but it is dividing itself up into three ‘localities’ or local areas so as to keep closer to patients – there’s even talk of sub-localities. One of the first practical fruits of the new organisation has come from the GP commissioners Sarum locality which covers the south of the county.
Dr Celia Grummitt from the Cross Plain Practice which has surgeries in Shrewton and Durrington, has been master-minding a pilot scheme to bring the diagnosis of early stage dementia closer to home.
This pilot is for those with moderate and uncomplicated memory impairment where the memory loss is affecting a patient’s daily living. In the past this diagnosis and any prescribed treatment has been done by specialists and may involve an eight or nine month wait.
It is estimated that Wiltshire has about 6,300 people with dementia – and of these only about a third have a diagnosis.
Using money from the government’s push on dementia treatment which was passed to the Primary Care Trust (NHS Wiltshire), doctors in five Sarum practices covering 25,000 patients have been carrying out diagnoses and have got permission to prescribe Donepezil. This drug is one of a group of drugs (called ACIs) that can help memory loss and it’s been on the market the longest, so doctors know a lot about it.
Dr Grummitt sees this pilot scheme as “Bringing care nearer to home with support from specialist teams, but done by GPs.” She is adamant that this is not about taking work away from the centres of specialist care and so destabilising them, but creating a new balance between the GPs and the big hospitals with their specialists: “The phrase the funding follows the patient remains valid.”
It will, of course, take a while for the effectiveness and economics of the pilot to be gauged. It remains to be seen, for instance, how many of those who are diagnosed will take their Donepezil.
Stephany Bardzil, from the independent Wiltshire charity Alzheimer’s Support, told Marlborough News Online: “We are very interested to see the outcome of the pilot and for it to be extended to other parts of Wiltshire. The current waiting times for memory clinics are scandalously long. If some people can get the support and treatment they need more quickly through their GPs that is to be welcomed. However we do have some concerns that not all GPs will have the specialist skills needed to recognise more complex cases.”
In the near future, Alzheimer’s Support will publish a report on the barriers to dementia diagnosis in Wiltshire, based on surveys of patients and health service staff and on focus groups.
Dr Grummitt is very aware of the potential conflicts of interest as the GPs take on more work for which they will be paid. GPs will in many instances be commissioning themselves and their surgeries to carry out work and agreeing payments for that work. And the closer to home treatment comes, the more work the doctors will be commissioning from themselves.
She is optimistic about the future of GP commissioning: “It is going to work because of relationships. Professionals work better in a smaller area.”
“When the[Lansley] Bill was passed there was no going back – we couldn’t just hope it would go away. If we don’t drive it, the government will put someone in over us. So much has been dismantled – there’s only forwards.”
Some people say that the government’s already put that “someone” over the GPs – in the shape of both the Council-run Health and Wellbeing Boards and the NHS Commissioning Board with its local offices acting as a discreet (so far) strategic health authority.
The day Dr Grummitt spoke to Marlborough News Online another practice outside the Sarum area, over in the west of the county, had asked to join the pilot scheme: “The dementia pilot has opened clinicians eyes to what can be done.”
Once the genie is out of the bottle the pressure will be on for more of the same. The GP commissioners will not only have to manage their budget, they will also have to manage expectations.
And there’s a way to go yet. A report in 2011 on the relative rates of diagnosis for dementia put NHS Wiltshire at 161st out of 169 primary care trusts.
The summer rainfall in Marlborough, as you might have expected, has hit a new peak, the highest since Eric Gilbert launched his weather station in 1984.
“ With a total of 328mm, it was 183 per cent of the long-term average, superseding the previous record of 305mm for the summer of 2007,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“The frequency of heavy rainfall is not surprising as with global temperatures rising the air can contain greater quantities of moisture and, I understand, that globally it now contains four per centmore than it did in the 1970’s.”
“Although the wettest months in Marlborough over a 28-year period are November, December and January respectively, the highest daily totals are in the summer when daily temperatures are much higher.”
“With a total of 108.8mm August 2012 was the fourth wettest with 171 per cent of the long-term average, this follows large totals in recent years with 104mm and 108mm in August 2008 and 2010 respectively.”
He added: “The highest daily totals have also occurred in recent years with 41.7mm in August 2012 and the 45.4mm in May 2007. The trend is upward for more modest falls of 10mm or greater by four a year since the 1980’s.
“Records were set in September when the barometric pressure dropped to a very low 984.4Mb and the diurnal maximum temperature (daily range between minimum and maximum) with a difference of 25.3 degrees centigrade."