Deputy Chief Constable Mike VealeWiltshire Police have announced the appointment of 47-year-old Mike Veale as Deputy Chief Constable in the county force following his role for almost 12 months as the temporary deputy chief constable.
Interviews for the permanent post – a challenging role with police budgets under pressure and morale depressed -- were held yesterday (Monday) at the police headquarters in Devizes.
Chief Constable Pat Geenty told Marlborough News Online: “The interview panel were very impressed by his engaging and motivational leadership style and his awareness of the substantial challenges facing the wider police service over the coming months and years.
“I very much look forward to continuing to work with him.”
Mr Veale, a policeman since 1984, responded: “I am really proud and privileged to have been selected. I do not under-estimate the significant responsibility this exciting and challenging role brings.
“The force continues to be one of the top performers in the country, not only in terms of reducing crime and anti social behaviour but also being one of the least costly and providing value for money.
“The force priorities over the coming months are to maintain that success, continue to prevent crime, protect the most vulnerable in society and improve the high quality service we provide to local communities.”
And he added: “We will build on the continued support of the people who live and work in Wiltshire and listen to their views so that we are able to tailor the service to meets their needs and expectations.
“I would also like to pay tribute to our officers and staff who remain dedicated to public service and, despite some of the daily challenges they face, continue to be selfless in their endeavours to keep people safe.
“Leadership is made slightly less challenging when you are amongst so many who are so courageous and committed to their local communities.”
Mr Veale, married with one son, joined Wiltshire Police in 2005 as a Detective Superintendent from Avon and Somerset Constabulary. He was subsequently promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent as the head of CID, before being promoted to Assistant Chief Constable in 2011.
With housing high on the agenda, Marlborough estate agents Smith Gore are staging two more Evening Property Forums at their High Street offices – with a glass of wine as an added attraction.
The forums have been designed to give you ideas, inspiration and technical help on all property related matters. They are for anyone with an interest in property, and are designed to open the hatch for you to see and understand the market.
The next forum, on April 11, is part one of a two-part series on energy conservation and efficiency with a panel of professionals on hand to provide specialist advice on Reducing Energy Bills at Home.
Then, on June 6, the second forum will highlight green/alternative energies, as well as subsidies, both events taking place between 5 and 7pm at 42 High Street, Marlborough.
“We suggest that people who want to attend the evenings register their interest with us, just so we know how many people to expect and how much wine to buy,” says organiser Shona Ford.
“There are no tickets and no costs involved. You don't have to be a client of Smiths Gore, it is just for anyone with an interest in the subjects under discussion.”
We may hate it with Spring and the clocks going back only days away, but snow in March is not that unusual as you might expert.
Eric Gilbert, Marlborough’s weather man, who woke up yesterday (Saturday) to find the return of snow, reports that ot was due to an air temperature of around three degrees centigrade dramatically dropping to 0.3 degrees at 6.50 am.
“It had been indicated by the Meteorological Office that we were on the edge of such precipitation,” he points out and adds: “Although we are officially in the season of Spring and Summertime starts within a week, snowfall in March is not that unusual for Marlborough.
“It has occurred in eight different years since my records began1984. There were four days in 2004 when snow was noted and the highest incidence was five days in 1987. “However, the latest calendar day for March snowfall was March 23, that occurred in 2008, so Saturday’s snow equals the record.”
Measuring the depth of snowfall has always presented problems due to the effect of any wind, he reveals, a location where the snow appears to be near its average depth must be found, avoiding drifts or valleys, being the ideal place.
“A flat, somewhat open area away from buildings and trees is required,” he adds. “Some trees in the distance may be helpful in making a windbreak, preventing drifting, and thus providing for a more even distribution of the snow.
“The depth of snow is calculated using a snow measuring stick, usually the common household ruler, at several locations and an average computed.
Traditionally, 10 measurements are made and the average value is the snow depth. But this is time-consuming and becomes a tricky operation when snow gets particularly deep.”
However, modern technology has now produced automated snow sensors that measure snow depth with a laser signal. A piece of artificial turf is the preferred surface below the laser, as it doesn’t grow and therefore doesn’t complicate readings as grass might.
“The Metrological Office has fewer than 50 of these fairly technical pieces spread out across the UK,” says Mr Gilbert.
“Hydrologists need the equivalent moisture content from snowfall rather than snow depth. In still wind conditions the snow that has fallen into a standard 5 inch copper gauge can be taken inside and slowly melted to give water equivalent. “But this is not particularly accurate as three such gauge readings need to be averaged. However, this is often not possible due to the depth of snow overwhelming the gauge or dry, powdery snow being blown around.
“Therefore using the average depth of snow can be an alternative, though this is not precise. The ratio of snow depth to water content varies from 10:1 to 5: 1 from wet to dry snow. “Some meteorologists use a rule of thumb of a ratio of 8:1.Snowflakes vary in size but exceptionally large flakes have been reported in the UK such as those seen by a scientist from near Chepstow in 1888, which were 3.5 inches across.”
One UK meteorologist in 1951 described flakes that were “about five inches across”, a figure way below the largest snowflake in recorded history.
“This was reported at Fort Keogh, Montana, on January 28, 1887, according to the Guinness Book of World Records,” he recalls. “The snowflake was reportedly 15 inches wide and eight inches thick.
“The person who found the snowflake, ranch owner Matt Coleman, described it as ‘larger than milk pans’."
Neil HamiltonChancellor George Osborne has been accused of “fiddling the figures” in his latest Budget and to have used dodges and stunts to try to baffle the voters while even his austerity policies are not working.
The charge comes from Neil Hamilton, chairman of UKIP in Wiltshire, as his party’s surge in the polls after overtaking the Tories in the Eastleigh by-election is heading towards 20 per cent -- with the Tories only at 30 per cent.
Hamilton, the 64-year-old former Tory MP and barrister with an expertise in taxation law, has made a clinical analysis of the Budget and issued the results in a mocking statement to Marlborough News Online.
He declares: “Wasn't there a whiff of Harold Wilson and Denis Healey about the Budget? Wheezes, dodges and stunts to please sectional interest groups like potters and beer drinkers. Meanwhile, George Osborne ignores the elephant in the room -- the vast and growing financial deficit."
“He says he has reduced it -- but that's by 'one-off' fiddling of the figures -- by transferring the Post Office pension fund assets to the Treasury and shunting QE electronic cash-creation balances from the Bank of England to the Treasury."
“Here's the reality: the government borrowed £100 billion in the year ended 1 January, which was £8 billion more than last year."
“In 2010, Osborne said he would cut State spending by four percent by 2013. In reality his so-called austerity policies have pared a pathetic one per cent.
“He also forecast a budget surplus by 2015. Ha! Ha! That was always unrealistic because it depended on growth of nearly three per cent a year -- higher than the British average in our lifetime.”
Far from creating a surplus, according to Hamilton, the deficit is £120 billion this year and the Treasury now forecasts it to be the same in 2014 and 2015. The deficits will almost certainly be higher still, as the economy goes into triple, then quadruple-dip quasi-recession, he suggests.
And he adds: “In 2010 Osborne also forecast the National Debt would peak at 85 per cent of GDP in 2012 and then fall. The reality? He now predicts it will peak at 97 per cent of GDP in 2015 - making Britain equal to the Eurozone's Club Med countries."
“The fiddling about in the budget does nothing to address the economy's real problems -- public sector spending out of control -- NHS, Education, social security all ring-fenced -- overseas aid set to rise still further, rising green taxes making energy dearer and exporting British jobs etc. etc."
“Oh, and how does scrapping beer tax increases fit in with Dave's plan for minimum alcohol pricing? Answer: "Er, um, hmm........"
What of the Budget's two big ideas?
“Subsidising house-purchases will only push up house prices and transfer default risks from banks and building societies to the Treasury,” insists Hamilton, who has announced that UKIP will contest the local Wiltshire Council elections in May and all Wiltshire’s parliamentary seats at the next general election.
“Has Osborne learned nothing from the US sub-prime disaster – remember Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- which triggered the banking crisis in 2008?"
“Cutting employers' National Insurance is good but inadequate. It is a tax on jobs and should be abolished by merging it into income and corporation taxes."
“Fiddling with tax breaks for specific industries is a mug’s game. There is no way the government can know which industries to promote, and these projects inevitably collapse into a mess of over--complicated grant schemes and politics-driven bailouts of failing firms. Only consumers can pick winners.”
Hamilton believes that Osborne still doesn't understand supply-side economics -- cutting taxes and current spending to boost growth.
“The Government admits the 50p tax rate lost the Exchequer £7 billion a year, as very high earners quit the country -- as in France now,” he says. “Tax revenues generally are below forecast due to slower economic growth."
“By 2015 tax receipts are estimated to be £62 billion lower than forecast in 2010. So borrowing will be much higher."
The National Debt was £750 million when Osborne took over. “It will be £1,500 million when he is chucked out in 2015 -- £25,000 for every household in the country."
“Public spending has risen 53 per cent in the last 10 years. Osborne has heroically cut it by one per cent in a series of 'austerity budgets'. He has become the Viv Nicholson of Whitehall."
"Spend, spend, spend". Cyprus, here we come!”
Tory MP Claire Perry has revealed that her marriage to her New Zealander husband Clayton has broken down and that the couple are about to split amicably after 17 years together.
The dashing MP, who has three children, tells her local newspaper that she is announcing the news to avoid any gossip or wild speculation that someone else is involved.
“Our marriage has become increasingly difficult for several years,” she says. “It’s nobody’s fault, no one has behaved badly, we have just grown apart.”
“We both have extremely demanding jobs and for some time we have been going our separate ways. But we still live under the same roof in Wiltshire and in London.”
“Just because you break up with someone, you don’t stop loving them. It’s hard on the children. They all know the situation and they are very sad about it.”
“Most children want mum and dad to be together, but it is just not possible.”
The couple, who are both 47, met in New York when they were both involved in the banking industry and married there. They later settled near Salisbury, when they returned from America. Mr Perry worked as an asset manager in financial services.”
Their three children, Sophie, 16, Eliza, 13, and Hector, who is 10, are all at boarding schools.
Mrs Perry, who became MP for Devizes at the 2010 election, tells the Devizes Gazette and Herald that discussions are continuing between her and her husband about the next stage of their lives prior to seeking a divorce.
“It is completely amicable,” she adds. “this is not the War of the Roses. There has been wild speculation that one or other of us is involved with someone else, but I can assure you that is not the case.”
“Although this is a private matter within my family, I wanted my constituents to know the facts from me through their local newspaper and not from gossip or tittle-tattle.”
“I can assure them that this will not affect the way I represent them in Parliament.”
Mrs Perry, who worked for Chancellor George Osborne before entering politics, succeeded Michael Ancram, the Tory Cabinet minister, as MP for Devizes after he retired from politics.
She is currently PPS to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
Praise from Claire Perry for the Chancellor’s budget decisions
Claire Perry has given her support to Chancellor George Osborne’s budget, praising in particular “many good things especially the cuts to corporation tax and the huge reduction in employer National insurance costs.”
She adds: “With inflation going up and wage growth subdued, it was great to hear that you will raise the tax-free personal allowance to £10,000 by next April, which will mean on average that our local families pay £700 a year less in tax than they did in 2010, and three million people across the country will pay no tax at all, including more than 4,000 people in the Devizes constituency.
“We need our cars in rural Wiltshire so once again your freeze in fuel duty will be a great help. For an average local driver this means a tank of petrol is £7 cheaper than it would have been if you had carried out all of the fuel duty rises proposed by the last government.”
And Mrs Perry points out: “We love our local pubs in Wiltshire and are proud to be known as ‘Wadworthshire’ after our famous local brewery and so many of us raised a glass to celebrate the cut in beer duty (one penny) you announced – we have campaigned hard for this.”
“I have suggested – not entirely seriously – that we re-name one of our famous dray horses after you, but my constituents said they would rather stick with Prince, Monty and Max, if you don’t mind.”
Mayor Edwina FoggEdwina Fogg, Marlborough’s elegant Mayor during a highly successful royal diamond jubilee year, is standing down as a town councillor -- because she has been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.
The news was given to her on Thursday following tests for cells on her lung, which proved to be for a treatable form of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“So it could be worse really,” 71-year-old Councillor Fogg told Marlborough News Online. “But it nevertheless came as a shock. What is really worse is breaking the news to your kids.”
She and her husband, twice Marlborough Mayor Nick Fogg, have six children, as well as numerous grandchildren, and are among Marlborough’s most prominent and active citizens.
“I'm to see a haematology consultant shortly and will begin chemotherapy sessions after Easter,” she said. “I hope to fulfil as many mayoral engagements as I can in the next few weeks.
“I'll probably lose my hair so I might get a red wig, I've always fancied being a redhead!”
But after six years as a town councillor – the normal four year period was extended to six years when Wiltshire Council was created as a unitary authority – Councillor Fogg will not contest the council elections in May.
“I can’t stand,” she explained. “I am going to have months of chemo so it won’t be possible. When I campaigned six years ago now I hand delivered leaflets and knocked on as many doors as I could. That’s the way I like to do it and obviously I can’t do that now.
“Lots of good things have happened during my year as Mayor and you have covered them all. I’ve got good memories of that and good print outs.”
She deliberately decided to announce her illness because “the Marlborough grape vine moves so fast,” Councillor Fogg explained.
“I want to tell people about it. If you are a public figure you just want to get it over with so that people need not worry about whether they can approach you.”
LATE NEWS: On Tuesday (March 26) PULSE claimed that the launch of the NHS 111 service has been delayed in more than half of the country - with existing our-of-hours services and outgoing NHS Direct staff providing emergency cover or back-up.
As Marlborough News Online reported last week, the launch in Wiltshire of the new NHS 111 urgent care hotline replacing NHS Direct has been postponed for a month so that serious problems with the service can be ironed out. It is now clear that it may not be just the private care company Harmoni that’s at fault but the system itself.
The triage programme has been designed centrally and signed off by the Department of Health. It relies on a computer-based system of keywords which will tell the telephone operator what sort of response is needed to the symptoms a caller describes.
During the ‘soft’ launch or live testing of the service in Wiltshire there were numerous examples of ambulances being sent out needlessly to patients by NHS 111 operators. And it is clear also that at the start of the test period the target period of time in which calls should be answered was achieved only in a great minority of cases.
The report on the service’s failings in the doctors’ journal PULSE at the end of last week was headlined: “NHS 111 implodes as GPC withdraws support for urgent care hotline.” The ‘GPC’ is the General Practitioners’ Committee of the British Medical Association (known more generally as the BMA.)
Pulse reported problems in South London (a ‘shambles’), Manchester (the out of hours service took the calls back from NHS 111 during its ‘soft’ launch) and Birmingham. Their report attracted four pages of comments from Pulse’s readers.
According to one anonymous post: “It is a dangerous disaster waiting to happen” and it was taking up to an hour to triage complex cases. The complainant explained that with the computer formula: “If certain 'key words' are used by the callers such as ' I've been coughing and have a TIGHT chest' this will trigger a 999 call. The Ambulance Service will grind to a halt.”
This post ended “I retire early in two weeks time. Good luck to those left to carry on.”
An anonymous doctor wrote: “The final level of abandoned calls last night in the North West 111 service was 69.7 per cent!!! This is against the average 1-2 per cent experienced by local out-of-hours providers for years. We used to pick up calls within sixty seconds and identify life threatening conditions within three minutes. Again standard for out-of-hours providers. Last night [a Thursday] the 111 provider was not answering for 45-90 minutes at times. What will happen on a Saturday morning or a fourth day bank holiday?”
As the contractor for Wiltshire’s NHS 111 service, Harmoni will have to sort out the problems before the service in our area can be launched safely. Since the contract with was signed, Harmoni has been bought out by Care UK and it is understood that Jim Easton, Care UK’s
Managing Director of Health Care, is taking a personal interest in the problems in Wiltshire. Mr Easton was previously the Department of Health’s National Director of Improvement and Efficiency.
One correspondent reacting to the report in PULSE asked why this situation was not being reported in the national press.
Hundreds of rail customers are responding to a survey launched by Pewsey Train Watch to prove the economic need for the extension of the electrification of the First Great Western service to London Paddington.
And with the closing date for responses 9am on Sunday, you too can add to the growing pressure for the Department of Transport to extend electrification beyond the currently proposed cut-off point of Newbury.
“We're having a fantastic response to the survey and, at time of writing, we have over 1,600 responses,” Pewsey Train Watch spokesman Karl Lloyd told Marlborough News Online today (Friday).
“We need to keep the numbers climbing, though, as the more responses we get the more robust and credible our data will be when we present it to ARUP, the consultants the Department has appointed."
“In particular we need more coverage in the Hungerford and Kintbury areas as, with no user group in Kintbury and only a very small fledgling group in Hungerford, it's proving a little more difficult to get the message through there."
“To an extent we also need more coverage in Westbury as this is quite an important station in the mix. I'm frantically digging out as many media outlets as I can in what little time we have left to try and get the message through.”
Typical of the responses and ideas being promoted is one rail user who wrote: “Importantly I use the link for access to Europe via Eurostar. Without the service, or with a change at Newbury, I would fly instead - thus adding to road traffic, increasing my carbon footprint, and reducing train service use.”
Another pointed out: “Leisure use would be much higher with more weekend and late services. For example, on a Saturday I can get from Pewsey to Hungerford, but not back!”
Business users with clients in London find the rail service “unreliable and problematic,” as well as trains so full there are no seats while the First Class carriages are virtually empty.
One respondent said: “We run a B&B dependant on guests arriving on good public transport, preferably train, as we have Green Tourism Awards.”
Said another: “I would travel for leisure more -- but the lack of late services mean we are unable to go out in London, for example to the theatre,” and yet another pointed out: “Travel twice a year for business but would use it more if there was a better service and I had a seat.”
Mr Lloyd, overwhelmed with the replies, added: “We've rather thrown ourself to the wind with this as, having promised ARUP that we'd contribute figures to the process, we're now committed to doing so whatever the number say."
“Luckily, so far, the responses are all trending in the right direction and we should be able to make a serious contribution to bolstering the economic case for extending electrification.” Various options being considered, which cover the stations at Kintbury, Hungerford, Bedwyn, Pewsey and Westbury, will lead to improved rail services with electrification.
The Pewsey Train Watch survey is aimed at quantifying the value that the trains contribute to local economies served by Kintbury, Hungerford, Bedwyn, Pewsey and Westbury stations.
“Please take this opportunity to help ensure your county gets the rail services it deserves by completing the survey and tell others about it,” said Dr Sam Page of Transition Marlborough, which is also urging people to play a part.
Click here to complete the survey
Closing date for survey is at 9am this Sunday!
All submissions are anonymous.
Dr Steve Rowlands is a GP in Trowbridge – but his main role just now is to be an important link between the current NHS and the one the coalition government has created after its radical, top down reorganisation. He’s the man who will tackle the dilemmas the new NHS system faces – among them the new NHS 111 service, more privatisation and squeezed finances.
Sometime during the night of March31/April 1 he will change from having two jobs - Medical Director of the outgoing NHS Wiltshire (PCT) and Chairman of the incoming, GP-led Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – to being the leader of the CCG.
In fact, of course, the CCG has been operating in shadow form – while NHS Wiltshire has remained ultimately and legally responsible for patient safety and the bank accounts.
The CCG is already involved in the current problems thrown up by the government’s decision to replace NHS Direct with the NHS 111 telephone triage service. The contracted private company, Harmoni, should have already replaced NHS Direct, but the live launch had to be delayed as tests were unsatisfactory – some very unsatisfactory.
[See News in Brief for latest development.]
Dr Rowlands told Marlborough News Online: “It isn’t going well”. But as the PCT had scheduled an emergency meeting on the contract that afternoon, he could not say much more except to emphasise that “The most important thing is the safety of the public.”
One of the last minute issues dogging the imminent change-over has been the raft of regulations from the Department of Health making CCG’s put services out to competitive tender. This can only lead to fragmentation among a multitude of private providers: what one former NHS official for the south west called ‘the demolition of the NHS and the public health system’.
The first regulations were withdrawn after protests – from CCGs among others. The new lot of regulations appear to be little different. As one lawyer puts it, they ‘are likely to have the effect of both permitting and promoting the transfer of NHS services to the private sector.’
Dr Rowlands says this is “A nightmare. It’s crazy.” When the reorganisation began he took “The Machiavellian view that they’d give the job to the GPs – who’d fail – then they could privatise it all.” Now he’s changed his mind.
Having seen the GPs in action he believes “The great strength of the GPs is that they’ve the vision to challenge what’s going on – and to make the system work.”
He knows these new regulations will bring problems: “It’ll be very expensive for us. Competitive tendering is becoming a growth industry and it’s mostly lawyers involved.” He thinks the Wiltshire CCG is big enough and with the resources to be sustainable and take on those bills.
Although the Wiltshire CCG was formed after they were told three smaller CCGs covering the county would not pass the authorisation process, they have kept the locality structure. So three semi-autonomous groups (in our area it is NEW - for North and East Wilts) will have devolved budgets so they can, up to prescribed spending limits, introduce innovation from the bottom up.
In the past, GPs ideas have often got lost as strategic decisions take priority: “Now they can say – let’s try it out.” As MNO has reported, one of the first ideas out of the blocks has been a new regime of dementia diagnosis.
The locality structure does leave GP’s with an awful lot of meetings to attend – and only the central board meeting will be open to the public. Dr Rowlands frowns a little: “As an individual I want to be absolutely as open as possible.”
No one wants the CCGs to be accused of being unelected people making decisions behind closed doors.
Dr Rowlands knows about making unpopular changes. He survived the closure of Trowbridge Hospital. He thinks people can get too attached to buildings: “I fully appreciate the emotional attachment to buildings, but it’s the services that matter.”
Wiltshire CCG’s unique selling point is its intention to bring health care ‘Closer to Home’. The cynic might think this just means GPs commissioning more treatments in their own surgeries – and so getting richer.
When Marlborough News Online asked Dr Rowlands what ‘Closer to Home’ means he gave an example that’s already being worked on: “The way I see it working, your GP will have a risk management tool – he can call up a Mr Smith on his computer – and he’s your fifty-first most high risk patient – ranked in terms of likelihood of ill health from present conditions and taking into account existing records.”
If this Mr Smith moves up the list – perhaps his chest gets weaker – one of the new CCG’s Case Managers will ‘actively manage the patient’. If he’s in more danger of falling in his home, the Case Manager will get him the appropriate help and aids – getting him occupational therapy, physio or whatever.
There may be technology to use too. Dr Rowlands has seen remote tele-surveillance in use in the United States and thinks it could count as a useful ‘as-well-as-not-instead’ tool - not a total replacement for meeting the GP face-to-face. The GP is integral to this teamwork – and in our area, the team can call on the advice of a gerontologist from the RUH in Bath.
“We want to provide a wrap-around care service to fit the individual - of which the GP is a central part.”
The process of this huge reorganisation has been tough and chock-a-block with corporate, personnel and personal dilemmas: “There’s been bereavement and uncertainty” as people leave, teams are broken up and new jobs are advertised.
Recently, Dr Rowlands been through three checks: as an individual by a national body, he helped the CCG through authorisation and he has just been revalidated as a GP – “Quite good for an old man!”
He says: “Both the PCT’s interim Chief Executive, Ed Macalister-Smith, and its Chairman, Tony Barron, have been most supportive of the new CCG – and of me personally – and have left us in a good place financially.”
Now the finishing line and the starting line are just days away, he’s excited: “We’re ready to run. And we’ve got a tremendous team – a really, really good team.”
Willie McIvor of Marlborough Mobility Store at the controls of a top of the range scooterMarlborough’s impressive new Mobility Store opened its doors yesterday (Wednesday), just a stone’s throw from the tiny extension to the Kennet Pharmacy premises launched last September on the other side of Figgins Lane.
With some 2,000 square feet now available to display a vast range of products and services – from a top of the range scooter costing £5,000 and electricity-operated reclining chairs to wheeled walking frames and traditional commodes – it has an expanding market in which to operate.
That was the vital message as Chancellor George Osborne announced a no growth budget – it’s “all goodies tomorrow, not today,” as one critic put it.
“We may have opened at a tough moment economically but, at the same time, we have great mobility as the population is ageing and in need of our help and advice,” Willie McIvor, one of the three directors behind the enterprise, told Marlborough News Online.
“Eighty to 90 per cent of our customers are, of course, age related. So we have an expanding clientele – and with this, our third mobility store, we have the experience to provide for their needs as well as servicing their scooters.”
With an upmarket population, the new Marlborough Mobility Store is able to provide a pick-up service facility for scooter users in the community as well as seven dedicated free parking spots outside the spacious new premises.
“We take a van with a ramp to people’s houses and bring their scooters here – and then take them back again – as part of our servicing facility,” explained Mr McIvor.
“We were unable before to show the full range of mobility scooters and reclining chairs now available. Sales were low because we just didn’t have the floor space, and all the scooter servicing was done at our Mobility Store in Wroughton, near Swindon.”
And he added: “The joy of the job is to see the smile on people’s faces as they drive off for the first time on their scooters. But we do screen our customers carefully to ensure that they are capable of controlling them.”
“When somebody buys a scooter we take it to their house and give them a test drive in their local area just to make sure they are safe and know what they are doing taking them on the pavements of the town.”
Prices for scooters range from £300 for second-hand machine to £5,000 for a top of the range machine with, at £2,500, a big three-wheeler machine that looks like a Harley Davidson motorbike.
People with a social need for such machines can apply for grants from Wiltshire Council for scooter. “As long as they have a chronic condition such as arthritis, it’s a self-declaring scheme – you don’t have to be diagnosed – and you don’t pay VAT on the machines,” revealed Mr McIvor.
But scooters are but one part of the business.
Stair lifts, seats you can fit in your shower, disposable bed protectors, wheelchairs and even little hooks you can put on an electric plug to make it easier to pull out, pliable cutlery, hearing aids are all available.
“And for people who have just come out of hospital there are commodes,” said Mr McIvor. “If you can’t get from your bed to the toilet, then commodes are important. “They have always been there is history – along with chamber pots.”
A poster with a difference – its like probably never seen before – is being used by Shelley Parker, Marlborough’s new town clerk, to seek out residents willing to stand for election to Marlborough Town Council.
With nomination day for the May 2 elections just a fortnight away, Mrs Parker believes not enough people realise that they can play a vital part in the local community.
You don’t have to be a member of a political party or even a community organisation to become one of Marlborough’s 16 councillors. All you need is the enthusiasm and desire – and drive – to help others.
What’s it all about?
“Well, our local councillors, who, let’s remember are all volunteers, not only represent their residents, they also help to make and shape the policies of Marlborough Town Council,” Mrs Parker told Marlborough News Online.
“They work towards providing better services at a local level and decide what projects to take forward. Councillors attend various meetings, usually held in the evening, and many represent the council on other organisations like local charities and community groups."
“So, there’s usually quite a bit of reading involved to help keep up to date on things.”
And she adds: “Local people will look to councillors for help in dealing with their problems, even if sometimes these don’t directly involve the council. Despite the hard work, it is a chance to make a difference to the quality of other people's daily lives.
“Your town councillors are elected to represent their communities and to make sure that residents’ opinions are heard on the things that matter to them."
“So, if you enjoy being involved and are ready to speak up and help make a difference then please consider being a councillor.”
The deadline for submitting nominations is noon on Friday, April 5.
Telephone the Electoral Services Team at Wiltshire Council for a nomination pack (0300 456 0112) or download one at
James Kreiling is looking forward to playing in St Peter’s Church (April 14) - the fifth recital in the ground-breaking Brilliant Young Pianists series. He’s played solo piano in the Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms, but the smaller venue appeals to him more.
As he told Marlborough News Online: “I prefer smaller, more intimate venues for solo recitals - it is nice to feel that the audience is close, so a venue like St Peter's is ideal for me. The Albert Hall was an incredible experience, though it is much harder to communicate with an audience you can barely see!”
When James was growing up in London his musical fare ran from classical to heavy metal – it’s Marlborough’s good fortune he chose to follow his great grandmother and play piano rather than bass guitar: “Both my grandmothers played the piano a bit and my great grandmother was a piano teacher, so I suppose the piano playing gene has always been there.”
Now he’s teaching piano and music theory at Eltham College in London, studying piano with Ronan O’Hora, performing and writing his dissertation. He’s in his second year back at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and studying for a doctorate on Scriabin’s late piano sonatas.
One of James’ teachers has been Charles Owen – well known to Marlborough for his many and dazzling recitals here: “Every time I perform I feel indebted to his help and support over the years, and am lucky to have been able to study with him. He has a wonderful musical imagination and his approach to sound at the piano has been very influential - the ability to make the piano not sound like the piano and to truly sing.”
James Keiling & Janneke BritsIn the summer of 2011 James married fellow pianist Janneke Brits. They had studied at the Guildhall at the same time and she had also studied with Charles Owen. But they only met at a chamber music festival in the Swiss Alps in 2005.
Janneke was then studying in the United States: “. After two years of long distance, Janneke came to Guildhall to do her Masters and we have been together in London ever since. She teaches at Eltham and Langley Grammar school, as well as performing - we often play together as a two piano/four hand duo.”
“One of the most memorable concerts was a performance of the Bartok sonata for two pianos and percussion that we gave with David Corkhill - the principal percussionist with the Philharmonia Orchestra, who had previously recorded the work with Solti and Perahia.”
They steer clear of practising together: “It is generally not a good idea to get involved in someone's practice so we don't really help each other practice - other than when we rehearse together and perform for one another.”
Janneke specialises in early music – studying the oboe and harpsichord. A few years ago she was given permission to perform a recital on Joseph Haydn’s own fortepiano.
Between them, Janneke and James are kept very busy indeed.
James does not really have a favourite among the works he will be playing at St Peter’s Church, but finds there’s an excitement in performing them all: “Every performance is very different and so you can play the same programme five times in a row and each time something new happens and each time you might feel that a different piece has come off better. That is what is so exciting (and difficult) about the nature of performance - it's different every time, depending on circumstances, the piano, the acoustic etc.”
“In some ways the Beethoven [Sonata in C minor op. 111] is the hardest to interpret as it was written by a composer towards the end of his life and has a wisdom and profundity that is a challenge to communicate - it's a piece that you live with your whole life and your interpretation evolves as you do.”
If Janneke is able to come to the Marlborough recital perhaps they could be persuaded to play a four-handed piece as an encore. Two years ago she played the Bach Goldberg Variations on St Peter's fine piano, so she knows the instrument very well indeed.
For updated details of James Kreiling’s programme and information about times and tickets click April 14 on our What’s On calendar.
Val ComptonSome justice is in sight for Marlborough town councillor Val Compton, who organised a boycott campaign against Caffe Nero opening without planning consent in the High Street and then being revealed as paying no corporation tax in the UK.
The company, which legally used avoidance on its last known profits of £39.9 million by being registered in the tax haven of the Isle of Man, is to be hit by Chancellor George Osborne’s budget.
He revealed in the House of Commons on Wednesday that the government had come to agreements with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands to put an end to international companies using them to avoid their tax obligations.
And that has delighted Councillor Compton, an independent co-opted member of the town council, whose boycott campaign last year highlighted a Sunday Times story that exposed the tax loophole used by major firms.
She said at the time: “I will never support businesses I feel are immoral or downright selfish money grabbers. I will never drink Nero coffee and I urge other people to just consider, before they go into Caffe Nero, if there is another business where there money could be better spent.”
In a statement to Marlborough News Online, she now adds: “What angered so many people, when Caffe Nero opened its doors in the High Street, was the arrogance with which they did so, deliberately not seeking planning consent until the last moment, then the subsequent revelation that they are one of those offshore companies that apparently pays no corporation tax in the UK."
“I am delighted to note that their arrogance, as far as taxation is concerned, has blown up in their face, with the agreement the government has reached with the Isle of Man, to end the tax avoidance of companies like Caffe Nero, who are based there."
“Caffe Nero may have won their retrospective planning application appeal, much to the chagrin of many, but at least there is some form of justice on the financial front”.
And she added: “There may not have been much in the budget to shout about, but when it comes to genuine justice for the big multi-nationals – I do have a tendency to simply shout Hurrah - very loudly!”
Flag of the Archbishop of Canterbury flying over the Town HallThe Papal flag that flew over Marlborough Town Hall to mark the election of Pope Francis was replaced today (Thursday) with that of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to mark his formal enthronment.
Justin Welby, who is 57 and a former oil company executive, is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and serves as head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the world's 77 million-strong Anglican Communion.
The event took place at Canterbury Cathedral, which dates back to the year 597, before more than 2,000 people, among them Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, plus Prime Minister David Cameron, and numerous religious leaders.
For the first time in history, a woman, the Venerable Sheila Watson, Archdeacon of Canterbury, carried out one of the two enthronement ceremonies.
She firstly installed the archbishop on the diocesan throne in the cathedral, before he was then sworn in as the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Dean of Canterbury, the Very Rev Robert Willis, on the marble chair of St Augustine.
Some people protesting against government welfare cuts gathered outside the cathedral before the ceremony began.
The Archbishop’s flag flew in Marlborough on the instructions of the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, a member of the Catholic church, who ordered the Papal flag to fly over the town hall for the first time since the Reformation.
The Mayor told Marlborough News Online: “The churches in Marlborough embraced the ecumenical movement many years ago and the relations between the congregations are harmonious."
“On certain occasions, as with the celebration of the Queen's accession in February, there is shared worship. The clergy meet together for prayer on a regular basis, where they bring the concerns of the community before God."
“The Chaplain that I chose is the Rev. Heather Cooper, a Methodist minister, who has been a great support during the year. The Mayor and councillors visit all the churches for civic services, welcoming this dialogue and well established link. There are obviously few people of other faiths here but the expressed views of Christian leaders are of respect and promoting harmony amongst peoples.”
Marlborough’s Rector, the Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, who watched the enthronement event on TV, told Marlborough News Online: "I valued the new Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon for its clarity and confidence and I instinctively warm to his approach."
“Of course from a human point of view, his is an impossible job but luckily he is not asked to carry it out in his own strength but in God's, and with the prayers and good will of millions of Christians not just in this country but around the world."
“Whilst welcoming him and the sense of excitement that his appointment has created, it is important to be realistic with our expectations. The well being and flourishing of the Church depends on all Christians not just those in positions of leadership!"
“At my own ordination, I remember someone praying 'May your first mistakes be small ones'. I hope Archbishop Justin will not take it amiss if that is my prayer for him at the beginning of his archiepiscopacy."
The Electoral Commission has gravely criticised last November’s first ever elections for new Police and Crime Commissioners, declaring the low poll of 15.1 per cent the lowest recorded level of participation at a peacetime non-government local election in the country.
And in a hard-hitting report issued today (Tuesday) it revealed that in Wiltshire the total number of spoilt ballot papers was such a high percentage of the overall votes cast that handling them cost the taxpayer £30,000.
Only one in five people had enough information on their commissioner candidates to make informed decisions, the Commission points out and calls for significant changes to be made before the next PCC elections in 2016 and for future referendums.
Labour have demanded an apology from the home secretary for the "serious failings" her department made in holding the "shambolic" elections.
Jenny Watson, who chairs the Electoral Commission, revealed: "There were many different reasons why people didn’t vote last November and like any election there’s a limit to how much these can be addressed by decisions Government can make. But one of them was not knowing about the candidates and something can be done about that."
“It’s not enough to think that simply holding an election will inspire participation. That's why at the 2016 PCC elections a candidate information booklet must be sent to every household."
And she added: “Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. It’s vital that the rules surrounding them are clear, workable and in place in good time. The rules for these elections were confirmed unacceptably late causing confusion for candidates and electoral administrators."
“The Home Office doesn’t have experience in preparing for elections and they need to be better supported in future by the parts of Government that do.”
The independent elections watchdog discovered that the most common reason for not voting was a lack of awareness about the polls (37 per cent).
Circumstances, such as a “lack of time” followed at 31 per cent. Another eight per cent said they were uninterested, seven per cent thought the elections were not important.
Over a quarter -- some 28 per cent -- of people said they knew “nothing at all” and 48 per cent knew “not very much” about what the PCC elections were about.
More than half – a total of 55 per cent -- of respondents found it difficult to access information about the candidates standing in the election.
The Commission also found that the government order setting out how much Returning Officers could spend to run and promote the elections locally came into force on 13 September, just three and a half weeks before the start of the election period.
Guidance on funding from the Home Office arrived only four working days before the election.
The Commission also conducted a survey of candidates that stood at the elections. It showed that almost half (44 per cent) said it was difficult to get the 100 signatures required for their nomination to stand while 74 per cent of independents agreed / tended to agree with this.
Thirty nine per cent of candidates also said it was difficult to raise the £5,000 deposit required for their nomination, which compares with the £500 deposit and only 10 signatures to secure a nomination for parliamentary elections.