Councillor Nick FoggWiltshire Council has sold off four school playing fields and raised £6.875 million in the process but has so far failed to reveal what has happened to the money.
The Tory-controlled authority was asked by Marlborough News Online to provide this information, as there are fears that it has not been added to the council’s budget for educational purposes.
And also because of growing demands, following the success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, that the sale of sports facilities must be legally stopped.
Former Tory minister Lord Moynihan, about to step down as the British Olympics Association chairman, has called for the first ever Government audit of the number of leisure and sports facilities in the UK amid evidence of an alarming decline.
He wants the government to introduce legislation forcing councils to protect their leisure and sports facilities.
“I wasn’t’ aware of Wiltshire selling off playing fields,” Councillor Nick Fogg, who represents Marlborough on Wiltshire Council, told Marlborough News Online. “I know this selling off of playing fields is a bit of a scandal nationwide. And I find that regrettable.”
A Wiltshire Council senior press officer told us: “It appears there are only four. And these mainly relate to school playing fields for schools which have amalgamated or moved.”
“I am unable to give to individual amounts as we understand some are the subject of confidentiality agreements. The public details are available through the land registry.”
“Wiltshire Council received somewhere in the region of £6.875m for their sales.”
The specific sales were as follows:
* Wilton former Middle School Site - Thistledown. 04/06/2010. Thistledown Educational Trust. Wiltshire Council received 50 per cent of price, rest paid to the diocese.
* Wootton Bassett Rylands Stoneover Lane Land. 10/10/2011. Rugby pitch replaced with new club facilities.
* Melksham Queensway Site - Sold to Sarsen Housing for social housing - December 2011. Playing field provision no longer required as sale arose from merger of two schools.
* Salisbury Fisherton Manor site - to Taylor Wimpey - February 2012.
This site is at least 80 per cent building or tarmac playground, being the former Highbury First and Fisherton Manor Middle School buildings. Field retained as site of Manor Fields Primary School.
“There may be a reason for the sales in some cases,” added Councillor Fogg. “But the general process is to be regretted particular given our wonderful performances in the Olympic Games.”
“Obviously it is quite crucial to the health and welfare of the nation that playing fields are available to all schools.”
The Daily Telegraph has launched a campaign called 'Keep The Flame Alive' to boost school sport after the Olympics’ success and to encourage more volunteering.
“When we see facilities being cut back then those who have been inspired by the Games don't get the opportunity to really engage in sport,” Lord Moynihan protested. “We should be looking at changing the law to make provision of sport and recreation opportunity a statutory requirement.
“At the moment in England it’s discretionary and once it’s discretionary it’s inevitable that councillors will be looking for discretionary cutbacks first.”
Sports provision is currently a legal requirement in Scotland and Northern Ireland but not in England and Wales. However despite this, a survey found that councils across the UK had cut back on sports facilities.
Out of the 369 councils that took part in a survey, 126 – some 36 per cent – admitted they had reduced sports provision for local people. They included 70 authorities which said they had closed one or more facilities, and 82 councils which had cut hours at on or more of its centres.
Just 33 councils had added new sports facilities or increased opening hours.
St John’s School, Marlborough, has finally been granted academy status by the government , a move that will give it significant independence and a boost in the school’s annual budget of £8 million.
Headmaster Dr Patrick Hazlewood has told parents: “This represents a very important step for the school and secures a considerable higher level of funding that will directly benefit our students.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that St John’s will operate on this basis as from September 1 this year – and the internationally acclaimed school already it has changed the school’s logo to announce the fact.
The decision comes some 20 months after a school deputation headed by Dr Hazlewood met Lord Hill, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary for Education, in London, together with the school’s governors, who include local Tory MP Claire Perry.
It was then reported that academy status will give the school extra government funding of about £450,000 and allow St John’s to return to being an independent state school able to control its own curriculum for its 11—18 year old students.
A statement on the school’s website recalls that between 1993 and 1998 St John’s was a grant maintained school and during these years was directly funded by central government, making it independent of local authority control.
Since 1998 the school has had foundation school status, which gave it independence in most respects other than funding.
And it adds: “The academy status will allow St John’s to return to an independent state school status and will bring significant benefits. A letter from Dr Hazlewood has gone to parents to explain the new status.”
Marlborough ended their season with a comfortable victory over Marshfield, a victory which means the Savernake Forest side finish 5th in the final league standings.
Winning the toss and batting first in the game kindly sponsored by OJB Plumbing Services Marlborough got off to a bright start with openers Nick Crabbe 25 and Tom Norris 38 sharing an opening stand of 62.
Youngster James Richardson (61) and John Carroll (29) built on this solid start as Marlborough reached 204-6 off their 50 overs.
In reply Marshfeild crumbled to just 102 all out with Marlborough star all rounder Ben Head taking 4-14 with the ball.
Marlborough skipper Nick Crabbe was delighted with the win and pleased with his sides end of season form" it was a great way to finish the season, it was a solid batting performance and it was great to see James Richardson score 61. Ben bowled superbly again and it's been a good effort to win the last 4 games and finish 5th"
However humiliating the Cabinet reshuffle was for Andrew Lansley, the coalition government’s major re-configuration of the NHS is moving forward in Wiltshire. October 1 will be an important day for the GP’s of Wiltshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG): in all but name, they will be taking over commissioning responsibilities from the Primary Care Trust (PCT) which will be abolished at the end of March 2013.Deborah Fielding
As Deborah Fielding, the CCG’s Accountable Officer or chief executive, told Marlborough News Online, the GPs are ready for the challenge. But as yet it’s not all cut and dried.
When they get “operational responsibility” for commissioning Wiltshire health care, they will still have the guidance of the PCT – like those dual-control cars the driving schools used to have with the second ‘driver’ only using his controls in emergencies. And although the PCT will retain “statutory responsibility” until the end of March 2013, the new and mammoth quango, the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) will be taking over from some PCT’s officers.
This, in turn, is so that senior people in the PCTs can themselves be freed to join the NHSCB and its local offices. Complicated? Riding roughshod over people’s careers? Perhaps that’s partly why the Prime Minister has moved Mr Lansley from the Department of Health. His timetable for the changes has come a bit unstuck.
Deborah Fielding: “Some things are out of sync producing some difficulties for us. But I feel comfortable with the progress in Wiltshire. We are being well supported by the PCT.” She has worked at senior levels in the NHS, knows a great deal about neighbourhood health services and is especially experienced at integrating teams and organisations.
The timing is tight. The CCG will not be “authorised” until January and has to submit its application on November 1. This will include its three-year plan which is at present in draft form. The plan will take into account the broader perspectives from the shadow Health and Wellbeing Board run by Wiltshire Council, and the views of a wide range of “stakeholders” – including those involved at every health care level in the NHS and the voluntary sectors.
The GPs’ main aim is to ‘Bring care closer to home in Wiltshire’. They want to see more specialist services in the neighbourhood teams and to strengthen community services and help people manage and improve their own health. They have already launched some pilots to put these ambitions into effect.
The GPs’ ambition is to keep people out of hospital. As Deborah puts it, “If there are hospital beds free, you can guarantee they’ll be filled.” Will this hurt the finances of Great Western Hospital? It need not as they run the county’s community health services which will be prioritised and get new investment under the CCG’s policies.
Above all they want to be fleet of foot in making changes to commissioning and to the pathways through treatments that patients are sent on. Going through all the consultations and governance rules, it can take a year to change commissioning priorities: “They want”, says Deborah Fielding, “to be able to change services quite quickly and make them better for their patients.”
And how are the GPs organising themselves? At the CCG Board level it “is very much a similar governance arrangement as the PCT – but with members taking shared responsibility.” They will have the same committee structure as the PCT: Finance, Quality and Clinical Governance, Remuneration and Audit and Assurance. The clinicians on the CCG board will have a nine-to-four majority over the non-clinicians.
Southgate House, DevizesThe CCG will be based in the PCT’s headquarters – Southgate House in Devizes – but their team of about seventy people won’t fill it. For some of its back-office services the CCG will use one of the Clinical Support Services that are being formed around England. But that’s still being negotiated. The CCG will receive from the government about £11,380,000 for its administration and salaries.
Some CCGs are saying they won’t manage on the notional £25 per head of their populations they get for administration costs. Deborah Fielding judges that “We won’t have much to spare.” This means that they will be more costly to run than the PCT and will not have such a wide area of commissioning – their total budget will be about £150million less than the PCT’s.
Below board level the CCG looks very unlike the PCT indeed. When the government first published its ideas for changing the NHS, GPs in Wiltshire wanted to have three CCGs for the county. They were told this would not be sustainable and so had to merge into one CCG. But they are determined to continue with much more local arrangements.
Wiltshire CCG has the seventeenth largest population of all the 212 CCGs in England. The GPs have decided to divide the CCG into three “localities” each with its own board, GP chairman and its own director. Some “localities” will split even further into “more local groups”.
Our area will be covered by NEW (for North and East Wiltshire) chaired by Corsham GP, Dr Simon Burrell. This is putting a new layer into the system and it’s not yet fully finalised.
It remains to be seen whether the governance for these localities and their relationship with the main board will be robust enough to gain the necessary “authorisation” by April 2013. Deborah Fielding says that these localities will be subject to Freedom of Information requests, but it is not clear whether they will hold open, public meetings.
Deborah Fielding still has no news on the future ownership of Savernake Hospital – now owned and its PFI charges paid for by the PCT. And the minor injuries unit? “I don’t see a minor injuries unit back there any time soon.” But with more emphasis on local and community care, there will undoubtedly be opportunities to keep Savernake Hospital very busy.
Ethan JohnsWith a reputation for showcasing up-and-coming bands, Marlborough record shop Sound Knowledge will be playing host to a far more established artist in November.
Ethan Johns is a Brit Award-winning record producer, engineer, mixer, musician, and songwriter who has worked with such artists such as Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne,The Vaccines, Laura Marling, Tom Jones and Crosby, Stills & Nash to name but a few.
Having worked alongside some of the biggest names in music, Ethan has been drawing inspiration and decided to put out an album in his own right.
Twenty years in the making and produced by his legendary producer father Glyn Johns – who has worked with Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan – the album is keenly anticipated in the music business.
Ethan will be performing songs live in Azuza and signing copies of his album in Sound Knowledge on Friday, November 16 from 6.30pm.
Lucy RoseMeanwhile, Lucy Rose – a regular guest vocalist with Bombay Bicycle Club – will be playing a live show and signing copies of her new album, Like I Used To, on Friday, September 28 from 6.30pm.
Vogue magazine has described Rose as “One of indie music’s breakout stars for 2012”.
Attendance to both gigs is free by registering on the Sound Knowledge Facebook Page