Giles ChichesterGiles Chichester, one of the Tory Party’s senior MEPs, has added his powerful voice to Conservative stalwarts protesting at David Cameron’s insistence on pressing ahead with same sex marriage legislation.
As Mr Cameron and Lib Dem deputy coalition leader Nick Clegg renewed their political “marriage” vows of staying together at No 10 yesterday, Mr Chichester issued his own blast at the Prime Minister.
And the son of round the worlds yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester complained in particular that the equal marriage plans were never party of Tory or Lib-Dem election manifestos.
“David Cameron tells grass roots Tories to stop complaining,” declared 64-year-old Mr Chichester, one of the South West’s MEPs. “But I do complain, and will continue to complain, that the Government’s policies are departing from the promises made in the Conservative manifesto to support families and marriage.”
“I am a grass roots Tory. My membership of the Party spans nearly 50 years, including over18 years as a member of the European Parliament.”
“Throughout my career, I have followed the dictum that “when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change” and believe that we live not just for our own generation but also for those that have gone before and those who will come after us.”
Mr Chichester, a former chairman of the Carlton Club’s influential political committee, went on: “Yet, despite the fact that neither Conservative, Liberal Democrat nor coalition manifestos made mention of proposals to re-define traditional marriage by legislating to establish to right to same sex marriage, the Government has chosen to give this legislation their full and urgent support.”
“I must make clear that I support civil unions or partnerships having equal rights to traditional marriage as to legal status, taxation and inheritance rights, but cannot agree that being equal must mean being the same.”
“They are not the same, for marriage is about a man and a woman joined in matrimony for the procreation of children. However, the current system works well to the benefit of both homosexual and heterosexual couples.”
And he insisted: “It ain’t broke so why spend valuable parliamentary time trying to fix it -- time that is much needed to deal with the economic and social problems we inherited from the previous government.”
“This Government has ignored the views of over 600,000 people who signed a petition calling for the current definition of marriage to be retained.”
“The radical change in social policy which legislation for same sex marriage would bring about requires careful consideration and must be debated thoroughly before the decision to legislate to redefine marriage is taken.”
“Before Parliament is called upon to enact legislation for same sex marriage, it is my view that the issues should be discussed by a Royal Commission or, at the very least, parliamentary green and white papers should be provided to brief MPs on the full implications of the proposed legislation. “To date, the only Government information available is contained in an announcement made at the party conference!”
In the Conservative election manifesto, David Cameron pledged to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe and stressed his belief that strong families are the bedrock of a strong society.
“He promised to support families in the tax and benefit system but the Government’s first efforts to reform child benefit have resulted in widespread anger. The Treasury has introduced a system which ignores the joint family earnings of couples and instead concentrates the benefit cut on a single parent’s earnings.”
“This is patently unfair. It appears that the Treasury claims they need more time to gather this joint family income information so one can only remind them that if you ‘act in haste then you will repent at leisure’.”
Mr Chichester pointed out that he favours reforming the benefits system but it should not nevertheless discriminate against the traditional family.
“We were promised positive recognition of families through the tax and benefit system with the introduction of transferable allowances,” he declared.
“It may well happen but I sincerely hope that it is not handled in the same ham-fisted way as the child benefit reform.”
“I welcomed the 2010 Conservative election manifesto as an honest programme which would provide fairness and opportunity for our society.”
“Its claims to support marriage and the family gave me reason to believe that we had re-established our core political values. Regrettably after two years of coalition government, it appears that the Conservative Party is now following a fashionable liberal political agenda that confuses the electorate as to who or what we represent.”
“I am a disillusioned grass roots Conservative and I will continue to complain.”
Cllr Peggy Dow (left), Claire Perry MP (right)Tory MP Claire Perry has been accused of living in “cloud cuckoo land” together with members of the her party’s hierarchy following the revelation of a radical set of new policies claimed to be the “blueprint” for the next general election.
The attack comes from former Marlborough mayor Peggy Dow, who has quit the Lib-Dems to stand as an independent in next May’s Wiltshire Council and Marlborough town council elections.
And it follows an exclusive report in the Sunday Telegraph outlining proposals from the 2020 Group of 70 Tory MPs who were asked by Chancellor George Osborne to highlight new policies for the next election.
“Cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove and Justine Greening, as well as rising stars within the party such as Caire Perry and Matthew Hancock, the Chancellor’s former chief of staff,” reports the newspaper.
And it reveals that the 2020 Groups’s “Agenda for Transformation” includes the abolition of the retirement age, paying lower welfare benefits according to whether people live in high or low cost areas of the country, extending the school day by up to three hours and encouraging more disabled people to work.
It suggests too that students who fail their exams be made to re-sit them during school holidays, the overall aim of the new ideas being the creation of a “more entrepreneurial economy” that “legitimises wealth creation” by a future Tory government in charge on its own.
Councillor Dow, 64, who has claimed before that Mrs Perry doesn’t live in the real world, told Marlborough News Online:
“This is yet another outrageous example of a government totally out of touch, Claire Perry in particular as she goes round her constituency smiling at people and telling them that all is well.”
“That’s despite the fact that the new tax credit system will badly hit those already in work and who are not the scroungers the Tories seem to believe they are. Indeed, with a one per cent increase in benefits the Chancellor proposes, they will now be worse off and in need of the Devizes food bank, which reports that it has reached a crisis in feeding the hungry.”
She added: “Ending the retirement age, making teachers work longer hours after slashing their wages and pensions, cutting benefits according to where you live, putting pressure on the disabled are all typical Tory ideas of attacking those who cannot hit back.”
“What’s more, the complexities involved in implementation, as has been revealed in ending family child allowance while reducing the tax on the rich will prove, yet again, to be self defeating.”
“If David Cameron – and Claire Perry – think people will vote for them next time round, then they are undoubtedly living in cloud cuckoo land.”
Councillor Dow’s outburst is significant as lack of trust in politicians, apart from the banks and utilities, has resulted in people either failing to vote or transferring their allegiance to extremist candidates and parties.
The evidence for this comes from the 15.8 percentage poll in Wiltshire – lower elsewhere – in the November vote for new Police and Crime Commissioners and the rise to 16 per cent of support for UKIP, which is demanding a referendum on Europe.
Locally in Wiltshire, UKIP has announced it will contest all the Wiltshire Council seats at the local elections in May and also field candidates against Mrs Perry and Wiltshire’s other MPs.
Marlborough News Online has sought Mrs Perry’s reply on this and other issues such as same sex marriage but has received no response.
Peggy DowPeggy Dow, Marlborough’s 64-year-old former mayor, is the first person to enter the 2013 election year fray with an announcement of her intentions having dramatically quit the Lib-Dems and become an independent.
“I am standing as a independent for both Marlborough town council and Wiltshire council,” she told Marlborough News Online after earlier stating that she would wait until after Christmas before making a final decision.
“I have been very disillusioned, with the Liberal Democrats, and the current coalition. They are not working for the ordinary people. As an independent I only have to answer to the people of Marlborough.”
Her stand will create a potential unique situation at the elections in May as retired journalist Nigel Kerton has stated he has quit the Tory Party and will also stand in Marlborough East as an independent candidate for Wiltshire Council.
His decision followed the resignation from the Tory Party of Chris Humphries, Wiltshire councillor for Aldbourne and Ramsbury, and his intention to stand as an independent at the forthcoming elections.
And UKIP too, now standing at its highest rating in the polls with 15 per cent support across the country, has declared it will contest both the Wiltshire council elections and those for all Wiltshire’s MPs at the next general election.
UKIP and Councillor Dow have both been highly critical of Tory MP Claire Perry, whose Devizes constituency takes in Marlborough.
Councillor Dow, in a letter to Marlborough News Online, declared that she and Mrs Perry didn’t “live in the same world” when Mrs Perry claimed that no harm would come to residents in her constituency following the government’s cuts and significant changes to the universal tax credit system.
And she has revealed her own “personal turmoil” in deciding to leave the Lib-Dems after being a member for 14 years.
“I was in a terrible personal turmoil and decided in the end that I have to go with my conscience no matter how much it hurt,” Councillor Dow told Marlborough News Online.
“I feel I can do a better job for the people of Marlborough by joining the independent group on Wiltshire Council and the independents in Marlborough than continuing to be a Liberal Democrat.”
No candidates for either elections have yet been named for Marlborough by the local Conservative, Lib-Dem and Labour parties.
Flooding lapping the edges of Town MillThe paths on either side of the Kennet as it flows through Coopers Meadow are flooded, the water has risen to within inches of the Tower Mill homes and, at Stonebridge Meadow, the islands in the middle of the Kennet have disappeared.
Yet, despite the deluge that has given Britain its heaviest recorded rainfall in the west, Marlborough has in fact escaped the worst of the downpours that have flooded acres of the West Country yet failed to drive intrepid Christmas and New Year shoppers indoors.
The year 2012 has not been the wettest ever in Marlborough, but the rainfall figures collected by Eric Gilbert at his weather station set up in 1984. But it was a close run thing – coming in at second place.
“Rainfall in 2012 was unusual but not exceptional,” he reveals. “With a total of 1112mm -- some134 per cent of the long-term average and plus 279mm, it was the second wettest since my station started in 1984,” he reports.
“2012 bears many rainfall similarities to 2002, which was the wettest year with 1146mm when, as occurred this year, October, November and December totals were similar and well above average.”
And he explains: “During the 1990s, the North European climate entered a warm period with rising sea surface temperatures. Much of our weather arrives from winds travelling over the western sea areas where they pick up moisture and the warmer air holds greater quantities of moisture.”
Islands have disappeared on the Kennet at Stonebridge MeadowCoopers Meadow floodedPath to Town Mill flooded“Experts calculate that we now have four per cent more moisture in the atmosphere than in the 1990. Substantial daily rainfall of 10mm and above occurred 45 times in 2012, a record as the previous high of 41 was set in 2000.”
“The trend has risen by about four occurrences since the 1980s. The incidence of very heavy daily rainfall exceeding 20mm totalled eight occasions in 2012 when the average is in fact four.”
“Further evidence of greater moisture in the atmosphere is the occurrence of wet days when daily rainfall is equal to or greater than 1mm. Again the trend is upward with an increase of 4 occurrences annually since the 1980s.”
“Additionally the trend for annual rainfall is rising giving an annual average increase of around 15mm since 1984.”
A wooden simulated otter truly in the deep following the delugeDecember nevertheless was outstanding with rainfall total of 155mm making it the wettest since 1984. With an aggregate of 28.0mm on December 19, it was the second wettest day in 2012.
In fact, the December daily record for rainfall of 39.5mm was set on December 20 in 1989. The highest daily rainfall for the Marlborough weather station was set on May 27, 2007 when 45.4mm was recorded.
The statistics have provided a fascinating period for 70-year-old Eric Gilbert, who started recording meteorological statistics when a teenager with a simple maximum/minimum thermometer and logging other details from a domestic barometer, graphed on sheets of squared paper.
“Only much later, when my career indicated a longer residence in Marlborough, did I start to build a quality weather station in 1984,which required manual recording,” he says. “Towards the end of my teaching career I spent six years as deputy head at St Peter’s Junior School in Marlborough followed by 14 years as a head teacher in Swindon.”
“In 2009, I installed the most advanced wireless equipment consisting of an extensive range of instruments.”
He is convinced that climate change is now a fact.
“A look on my website at the temperature details for spring, or the annual data, shows quite clearly the rising trend,” he reveals. “There are other rising trends such as rainfall.”
“I enjoy working with statistics and graphs. My recordings now extend to almost 30 years, which makes more useful and relevant comparisons possible.”
And he adds: “The reasons for the disappointing year of 2012 is principally due to the unusually persistent southerly position of the Gulf Stream, the boundary between warm, moist Equatorial air and cold air from the Arctic.”
“Experts are not sure what the reason is for this phenomenon but suggest it might either be due to the warmer surface temperatures of the Atlantic or the melting of the Arctic Ice.”
“My data is forwarded monthly to the Climatological Observers Link that has connections with the Meteorological Office. The readings are taken daily at 0800 GMT. There is also added interest and satisfaction in supplying a range of data for requests from local people, students and businesses – and Marlborough News Online.”
Kennet's Christmas Day flowUPDATE: At 11.15 on New Year's Day, the River Kennet's recorded level at Marlborough was 0.59 metres. That is getting very close to the river's recent high point at this measuring station of .69 metres on 17 March 2008 when flooding did occur.
The level of the River Kennet at Marlborough was recorded by the Environment Agency as 0.48 metres at 12.15 pm on Christmas Day.
While the river was flowing fast and looking very full, there was no sign of flooding (as at noon) – except into adjacent water meadows.
With the heavy rain of the past week the level has hovered around 0.42 metres. During the ‘drought’ earlier in the year the level was hovering around 0.04 metres – though the ‘level’ readings are not the same as the river’s depth at various points as it passes through Marlborough.
The typical river level range at the Marlborough measuring point is between 0.04 metres and 0.37 metres. But even at 0.42 metres the level reaches into the range at which the Environment Agency says there could be flooding.
The Kennet’s highest level recorded at Marlborough is 1.00 metre and its level reached 0.69 metres on 17 March 2008 – when flooding did occur. The new flood defences will certainly cope well with 0.48 metres.Christmas Day sun (just about) on the River Kennet
And though there have been loud complaints about Thames Water extracting water from the Kennet, with this sort of rainfall and at Christmas Day’s level, the more water that is extracted, the less is it likely the river will flood in our area.
You can check the Environment Agency's recorded levels for the River Kennet at Marlborough on their website.
Rebecca Adlington OBE, Ronna Turley, head of conveyancing, at Awdry Bailey & Douglas, Alistair Everett, and Brad Marsh of the Safe Move Scheme
Marlborough law firm Awdry Bailey & Douglas have been named among the best small conveyancing teams in the UK.
The firm picked up the silver award in the category at the Sunday Times Estate Agency of the Year Awards, one of the longest running and most highly regarded events in the residential property industry.
The Conveyancer of the Year Awards are presented in recognition of the vital part that conveyancers play in the process of moving home.
Partner Alistair Everett said: “The success of our conveyancing team is based on their genuine interest and enthusiasm in helping our clients through what can be quite a stressful time.
“We have excellent systems and procedures but great service is really about having fantastic team members who genuinely care about clients and consistently work hard to improve the experience of moving home.”
The award was presented at The Lancaster London Hotel in London by Olympic medallist Rebecca Adlington.
Debbie Chapman of KrumbzTwo months after Munchies closed its doors due to the heat of competition, offbeat café, takeaway and caterer Krumbz has moved into its empty space on the banks of the Kennet -- ready to face the New Year with a new challenge.
For 62-year-old Debbie Chapman it is a bizarre moment as she originally launched the family enterprise eight years ago by moving into the original Munchies premises in The Parade, just round the corner.
And for her too it is a bid to shake off the growing competition of cafes and snack bars by making a bid to boost business in tough economic times.
“It’s quite fascinating following in the footsteps of Munchies again by moving here to Kennet Place,” she told Marlborough News Online. “The main reason is that footfall had really fallen on The Parade and we see this as a new opportunity for us in the New Year.
“When we started we were one of the few sandwich bars in Marlborough. Now there is Costas, Caffe Nero, Waitrose, the Food Gallery, none of which were operating then and they say there are around 20 different establishments.”
Indeed, it was the controversial arrival of Caffe Nero without planning permission – and now to be challenged at a public inquiry – that prompted the decision of Munchies proprietor Clare Thomas to close.
“So it is a worry moving into a site where Munchies weren’t making a living out of it,” admitted Debbie with a defiant smile. “The coming year will be what it will be.
“We will work hard, be open long hours and be here every day. Everything we make is home-made and fresh using local produce. And we hope that people will come to Krumbz to see what we’re like.”
It’s a family philosophy and enterprise that has worked well since Debbie came to Marlborough from Swindon almost 40 years ago. She launched Krumbz – “I like quirky things and quirky names,” she explained – in October, 2004.
She caters too for lunches at Marlborough Business Park while her sister, Hazel Dean, manages a second Krumbz outlet at Marlborough’s Leisure Centre, between them employing a staff of nine.
“That’s doing fine,” added Debbie. “It’s like having a captivated audience down there. You’d be surprise how many people go off to the gym to lose weight, then come out and eat our chocolate brownies.”
Debbie Chapman of KrumbzHer 35-year-old son Martyn and friends totally re-decorated the Munchies riverside premises in Kennet Place before Krumbz opened its doors this week, a new wooden floor was laid by a friend and a Marlborough Stoves installed a glowing fire to keep out the cold.
“Another friend installed new kitchen units and turned the water on so that we could have our coffee machine up and running,” said Debbie.
“People have just been marvellous in helping us get going.
“We shall battle on in these tough times, be as flexible as we can and see if it works. That’s all we can do really.”
Krumbz is open 7.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday and from 8am to 4pm on Saturdays.
Police commissioner Angus Macpherson congratulates Marlborough's special Mike Tupman on his MBEAngus Macpherson, Wiltshire’s new police and crime commissioner, made a personal visit to Marlborough today (Wednesday) to congratulate the force’s very own very special constable Mike Tupman on being awarded the MBE.
Mike, now 70, has served for 28 years as a Special Constable in Marlborough, his immaculate service beyond the customary retirement age earned him his New Year honour.
And Mr Macpherson told him: “I think your achievement is marvellous. Your long service as a special constable is an excellent example to others. I think the special constabulary has got a lot to offer provided it is properly directed, supported, loved, honoured and cherished.”
And the commissioner revealed that part of his future policing plan is to more than double the number of special constables serving in the county.
“At the moment we have something like 120 specials,” he told Marlborough News Online. “I will be looking for 300 altogether, perhaps even more over time.
“There’s so much they can do. In a rural county like Wiltshire you don’t need a standing army all the time. But you do need people who can cover the ground and be visible to the public on the street.”
Greeting the commissioner, Mike – see An MBE for Marlborough’s carry on regardless special constable – revealed that they had met before when Mr Macpherson served on the Wiltshire police authority.
“The last time you said, ‘I have all round the market towns in Wiltshire and you’re the first police uniform I’ve seen out on patrol,’” Mike recalled.
He pointed out that while police training for members of the Special Constabulary was exemplary, there was always the danger of volunteers dropping out because of the time commitment and dedication that was essential.
“People’s lives change too and there come times when they want to move on,” he added.
Mr Macpherson said he realised that to reach a target figure of 300 special constables might mean finding “an awful lot of people,” and added: “We shall lose some on the way, but it is well worth doing if we can increase their numbers in the end.
|A probe into police moonlighting for Wiltshire’s new Chief Constable?
As the appointment of a new Chief Constable for Wiltshire is awaited next week – there are four candidates on the short list --- Police Commissioner Macpherson revealed he was unaware of evidence of thousands of policemen and women now moonlighting.
National press reports have revealed that one in 10 officers in England and Wales – a total of 23,043 officers -- earns a second income from non-police work. And the jobs they have undertaken have included undertaker, ski instructor, ice cream salesman and even as a medium.
“You need to have the Chief Constable’s permission to have a second job,” Mr Macpherson told Marlborough News Online. “I am not aware how many officers in Wiltshire have got it.
“But if it proves to be an issue in Wiltshire, then the new Chief Constable, he or she, will have to take a look at the situation.”
Steve Visscher, CBESteve Visscher, one of Britain’s top research executives seeking a sustainable “green” future for the planet, who lives in Lockeridge, Marlborough, has been awarded the CBE in the New Year honours.
He is deputy chief executive and chief operating officer on the Swindon-based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSC), and receives the honour for services to the support of scientific research.
“It’s a nice day despite the rain, a real pleasure to receive this award,” 57-year-old Mr Visscher told Marlborough News Online. “It came as a real surprise and I am delighted for my wife and family.”
“And I am delighted too for all my colleagues at work. It is recognition of all the tremendous work they do. Sustainable living is so crucial to the future for all of us.”
“ We lead the world in the biosciences. If we had an Olympics in them, then we would end up with a bagful of gold medals.”
Born in Newport Pagnell, the son of a Dutch father and English mother, Mr Visscher trained as an accountant and worked in the civil service before taking on a role with research councils 30 years ago.
He has extensive experience of the UK Research Councils. He has worked for BBSRC since 1994 and previously for its predecessor research councils and associated institutes.
Before becoming deputy chief executive, he was BBSRC's executive director, with particular responsibility for funding policy, including the Research Councils UK project on reform of the dual support system, resource management, large capital projects and operations.
He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a Fellow of the Institute of Internal Auditors.
He has lived in Lockeridge for 20 years with his wife, Ann, and their two sons, Ross and Gregory, both now in their twenties.
BBSC’s work is in a world-class research arena seeking to achieve its full potential for industry, economic growth and society as a whole through the development of new “green” solutions and sustainable energy.
The virtually unknown world of bio-economy, including bio-energy, is worth trillions globally and could bring major benefits to the UK as well as creating thousands of jobs in the coming years by moving us away from fossil fuels and towards industrial renewable energy.
Funded by the government with a budget of around £500 million, BBSRC has announced outline plans to launch two new schemes in 2013 and 2014 to develop the UK's industrial biotechnology and bio-energy research community and to support the translation of new ideas into essential commercial applications.
It achieves this by supporting research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes so that BBSRC research -- and the students and scientists it funds -- can help society to meet major challenges.
These are in the fields of food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives, the investment under-pinning the important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
Mr Visscher accepts that too little is known about BBSC’s enterprise and the vital work it does, the more so as the UK's share of the global industrial biotechnology market is expected to reach £4-12 billion by 2025.
“We try to put out our message as best we can, but we can always do better,” he said.
No doubt his New Year gong will help to spread the story of our supreme biosciences based in Swindon.
Val ComptonAn urgent plea has gone to Chancellor George Osborne asking for the government to publish online a list of all those major companies who pay no corporation tax on their profits made in the UK because they are registered in tax havens.
It is the latest development in the boycott campaign against Caffe Nero in Marlborough launched by independent town councillor and local activist Val Compton in the wake of the outcry against Google, Amazon, Starbucks and others who make multi-million profits in the UK.
Caffe Nero, which made record profits of £39.9 million last year, has come in for even more criticism because of the cost to the community of public inquiries being held after it opens new outlets without seeking initial planning consent, then appeals when permission is refused.
And Claire Perry, Marlborough’s Tory MP, has joined in the campaign against Caffe Nero, who opened in the High Street in April without planning permission, after receiving a letter from Councillor Compton seeking her political support.
Mrs Perry is personally writing to the chief executive of Caffe Nero, which faces a public inquiry at Marlborough town hall on January 15, and has advised Councillor Compton to write directly to the Chancellor.
And Councillor Compton has now told the Chancellor: “The public would benefit from a complete list of companies to be published online by the government, in order that many of us who wish to shop only with ethical, well behaved companies, can easily check.”
“We can then choose retailers who will be benefiting this country by the proper and rightful payment of tax. Other ethical standards such as the sourcing of goods etc, is covered in various publications. It is the use of tax avoidance and evasion that should be made clear.”
And she declares: “The tax situation for the very poorest in the community generally has no wriggle room for non-payment whatsoever. Why should these huge bully empires feed off the expertise of armies of accountants and lawyers who actively search for every available loophole to avoid supporting the country in which they trade?”
“It is so morally wrong and unacceptable that we need, as a nation, to stand together and say, ‘Enough is enough – our business will go elsewhere,’ whilst the government tackle what will be a prolonged process of shutting down loopholes and collecting the tax.”
“In the immortal words contain in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado – I would like to hear you, George Osborne, say, ‘I’ve got them on a list.’”
“The song goes on to mention ‘Society offenders who might well be underground’, I really can’t think of anything more appropriate for 2013. This could be an all time hit with a small amount of re-writing.”
Councillor Compton points out to the Chancellor the fury that has followed the case of Starbucks and that it was only when the public turned their backs on the coffee chain that Starbucks offered £20 million over two years.
She adds: Here in Marlborough, we are dealing with a smaller version of Starbucks in Caffe Nero, who pay no corporation tax on their last record earnings of £39.9 million because they are registered in the tax haven of the Isle of Man and also in Luxembourg.
“But their escape from paying corporation tax is equally matched by their arrogant attitude to the planning regulations, opening new outlets without gaining planning consent in advance (which unfortunately also happens to be legal) and then seeking retrospective approval once they are up and running and have made their mark.”
“The arrogant attitude means that the community is forced to pay for planning inquiries to be held when Caffe Nero appeals against refusal, in this case for change of use, by the local authority.”
On Friday morning (January 11) Devizes MP Claire Perry is flying to The Gambia for a week-long visit to the village of Gunjur which has been linked with Marlborough for over thirty years. Going with her is her thirteen year-old daughter, Eliza. They will live in a family compound in the village.
Mrs Perry first promised to visit Gunjur when she met the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) while she was still a Parliamentary candidate. Dr Nick Maurice
One of MBG’s founders and now its Director, Dr Nick Maurice, is already in Gunjur – his forty-fifth visit to the country. He will be showing Mrs Perry and Eliza what the Group have achieved, its plans for the future and how the link has affected both Gunjur and Marlborough.
Soon after MBG was founded in 1981, the Group inaugurated the link with Gunjur which is in the south of the country, a mile from the sea and although generally called a village is home to about twenty-five thousand people. They have no running water and no electricity beyond a few generators.
Over the years about fourteen hundred people from Gunjur and Marlborough have been on exchange visits. One of those who came on an MBG exchange and studied at Swindon College, Madi Jatta, has just been made head of Gambia’s civil service, and another ‘MBG graduate’, Bolong Touray, is headmaster of the country’s largest primary school.
While she’s on what is a ‘private visit’, Mrs Perry will formally open Gunjur’s new market. The construction of this building was the project undertaken by the group of St John’s and Marlborough College students who spent a month in Gunjur last summer under MBG’s auspices.
Eliza Perry, Claire Perry MP & Jess ShieldsSo it was very appropriate that when Mrs Perry and Eliza went to MBG’s Manton offices last week to be briefed, they met St John’s student Jess Shields. She was one of the summer visit group who built most of the market – and she was able to tell Eliza what to expect in Gunjur.
At the briefing were representatives from the Gambian community in Bristol – two of whom, Lamin Manjang and Malang Dabo, came originally from Gunjur. They told Mrs Perry about the village’s history and its religious communities. Gunjur is very largely a Muslim community.Lamin Manjang and Malang Dabo
Nick Maurice told Mrs Perry he was delighted she had made the time to go to Gunjur – at which point she laughed and added ‘finally’. He was especially glad she was taking Eliza and that she would, as a Governor of St John’s Academy, hear some of MBG’s proposals for future contacts between Marlborough’s international baccalaureate students and the village.
While she’s in Gunjur, Mrs Perry and Eliza will meet Lilli Loveday who’s from Marlborough and now lives in The Gambia. She’s working with a an American charity on education and women’s rights – a topic Mrs Perry has said she is very keen to find out about in Gunjur.
Dr Maurice, Mrs Perry and Eliza discuss the visitMrs Perry said she had decided to make the visit when she realised how important the relationship between Marlborough and Gunjur has been to both communities. She says she’s glad to give her daughter “the chance to experience a completely different way of life” and it would be good to give her time “off the exam treadmill”.
Far from dreading the visit, Eliza said she was excited and thought she was very lucky to be making the trip: “It will be specially interesting to experience life without running water.”
Also at the briefing was a BBC Television News reporter from Bristol and his report is scheduled to go out in BBC Points West (6.30pm – BBC1) on Friday, January 11.Eliza Perry and Jess Shields
Shelley Parker, Marlborough's new Town ClerkShelley Parker, Town Clerk of Cricklade for almost four years, is to be Marlborough’s new chief officer, taking up the post left vacant by the unexpected death in September of Town Clerk Derek Wolfe.
And though it sounds like a parochial Wiltshire appointment – the two towns are just 19 miles apart -- it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Mrs Parker is a former member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service who has had postings round the world – from Moscow, Paris, Bonn and Warsaw to Accra, Jakarta, Islamabad and Lusaka.
And her experience – plus the projects she has promoted in Cricklade – is seen as a real advantage to the town council, which faces elections in May.
“In many ways, I feel privileged that that I am swapping one pretty historic Wiltshire town for another albeit slightly larger one,” Mrs Parker, who is in her early 50s and married to a civil servant, told Marlborough News Online.
"I’m obviously excited about working in Marlborough, clearly one of the county’s most impressive market towns with a vibrant, busy High Street as well as residents with a real sense of community.”
She was in fact runner-up to 58-year-old Mr Wolfe when he was appointed Town Clerk in January after serving as a locum following the resignation of Liam Costello, who left Marlborough for a post nearer to his Northampton home.
“I am only sorry that the Town Clerk’s post has become vacant in such sad circumstances,” added Mrs Parker. “I met Derek Wolfe on a handful of occasions and found him to be helpful, knowledgeable and very likeable.”
Before becoming Town Clerk of Cricklade, the first town on the River Thames while Marlborough enjoys the River Kennet running through it, she worked for North Wiltshire District Council with its democratic services and community teams.
It was from1984 to 2003 that she was with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, serving with HM Diplomatic Service on an international scale.
That also included breaks in service bringing up her two children, as well as political and policy work, dealing with specialised consular and immigration services, and also management and commercial operations.
She and her husband, Robert, have two children -- Seb, 15, now doing his GCSEs, and Sophie,20, who is in her final year at university.
“I am delighted that Shelley is to become our new Town Clerk and will be joining us early next month,” Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, told Marlborough News Online.
Councillor Peggy Dow, chair of the council’s Staff Committee that appointed her, said: “Shelley had all the qualifications that we require and was the best candidate. I am very pleased she will be joining us.”
Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire's recently elected Police & Crime CommissionerA promise not to increase Wiltshire’s police precept to make up for an additional £2 million government cut in the force’s funding has come from newly-appointed Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson.
He proposes to cap the police element of council tax for the coming 2013-14 financial year, which starts in April with Wiltshire Council elections and those for town and parish councils the following month.
The Wiltshire Police budget is made up of two main funding streams – funding from central government and the police part of the council tax from householders in Wiltshire and Swindon.
At the end of December 2012, Mr Macpherson was informed that the central government grant for Wiltshire Police for 2013-14 will be £65.2 million. This is £2 million less than that received for the current financial year.
“The budget we are receiving from central government is in line with what we expected – so there are no surprises there,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“We expected to have to make savings in line with our on-going plans. I am more than aware of the current economic climate and challenges this can give people living in Wiltshire and Swindon.”
“So as promised during my election campaign, I am proposing not to increase the policing part of the council tax for the next financial year.”
The Commissioner will be consulting on his proposal with local Chambers of Commerce and groups in the voluntary community sector.
The Police and Crime Panel, the body that scrutinises the decisions of the Commissioner, will also discuss the proposal at a meeting on February 6 before Mr Macpherson makes his final decision.
If the police council tax cap goes ahead, householders in a B and D property will pay £157.77 for policing services next year. This is the same as last year, and the year before that.
Council tax bills are distributed by local authorities to households in March for the start of the next financial year from April.
Mr Macpherson added: “Wiltshire Police has a deserved reputation for giving residents a service which is good value for money. I am keen to continue to keep the cost of policing down while maintaining an effective frontline service.”
“This means doing more for less. This will involve working more closely with the voluntary and community sector, supporting initiatives such as Neighbourhood Watch, Street Pastors and organisations which support victims of domestic abuse and tackling offenders who are drug and alcohol dependent.”
2013 is local election year in our area and in a little over three months’ time we will be voting in our councillors. All Wiltshire Council seats and about 2,000 parish and town council seats will be up for grabs on Thursday, May 2.
If you want an entertaining taste of town and parish council politics you’d better start reading your Christmas gift copy of JK Rowling’s first novel for adults: The Casual Vacancy. It’s all about what one of her less than public spirited characters thinks of as “the smallness of local politics”.
On her first page, Ms Rowling explains that a ‘casual vacancy’ on a council “is deemed to have occurred (a) when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or (b) when his notice of resignation is received; or (c) on the day of his death…” And her book opens with a very sudden death.
Back in the real world, the election of unitary councillors – councillors elected to Wiltshire Council – will be especially important for the Marlborough area. Not least because once installed they are there for the duration – unless they cause a ‘casual vacancy’.
Following the controversy over the Chairman of the Marlborough Area Board, Councillor Chris Humphries (Aldbourne and Ramsbury), who was censured for bullying a female member of Wiltshire Council’s staff, suspended from the Tory group and then left the party and became an Independent, the question was raised at the Marlborough Area Board as to when a Wiltshire councillor could lose their seat or an Area Board Chairman their chair.
The first answer is that under present rules there is no provision in Wiltshire Council’s constitution – nor under law – to remove a unitary councillor from office.
Under the previous standards regime, Wiltshire Council’s Standards Committee could suspend a councillor for up to six months, and the Standards Board for England (killed off by the coalition government) could disqualify a councillor for up to five years. These powers were removed by the Localism Act 2011 which took effect early in 2012.
It is, of course, still possible for a councillor to disqualify him or herself. They can be convicted of a criminal offence carrying a prison sentence of three or more months; they can take a paid job with their local authority; or they can simply not turn up to meetings for six months – unless given exemption by the full council. And, as we have seen, they can resign their seat, fail to take it up at all, or die - causing one of those casual vacancies.
So the only real sanction against a Councillor rests with the political parties who can remove a member of their group from a committee, suspend members from their political group and, in extremis, call for them to be ejected from the party. Those who label themselves ‘independents’ do not even have those sanctions to fear.
It is tempting to imagine all sorts of far-fetched scenarios that could make these rules look a trifle silly. Someone on an accelerated path to dementia but who remains undiagnosed and turns up once every six months could still be considered to represent their constituents as a Wiltshire Councillor…and so on.
The answer about Area Boards is even stranger. There is no procedural method of removing the Chairman of an Area Board. They - and their deputy - are chosen for a full one year term by their fellow Wiltshire Councillors for that area.
The appropriate paragraph of Wiltshire Council’s constitution states: “With the exception of an election year, the chairman and vice-chairman of an area board shall remain in post until their successors are appointed.” The rules make it clear that these are not elected positions, but are appointed positions – despite the fact that the constitution also lays down a voting procedure for Chair and Deputy Chair. The positions are not voted for by ordinary electors.
These rules are specific to the Area Boards. All Wiltshire’s Area Boards are generally considered to be committees of the Council and have to run their meetings in accord with Council rules.
But the Area Boards are unlike any of the Council’s other committees in that a member of a regular Council committee could be removed from that committee by their political group or by a vote of the full council.
This means that the ‘Independent Person’ at the Standards Hearing Sub-Committee which censured Councillor Humphries, was unwise or simply wrong to recommend that Jane Scott, the Council’s Leader, should “request the Marlborough Area Board to consider the appropriateness of Councillor Humphries continuing as chairman of the Area Board in the light of these findings.”
Even if the other three Wiltshire Councillors on the Marlborough Area Board had considered the matter, even if they had agreed it was inappropriate for Councillor Humphries to continue as Chairman, they could not have done anything about his position as the Area Board’s Chairman.
Swans on the KennetWith almost 500 sold so far and hopefully more as the New Year approaches, the Beautiful Kennet calendar produced by Philip Perkins is set to raise at least £1,000 for Action River Kennet (ARK).
His passion for photography and support for ARK have produced too a wave of admiration for his unique enterprise, although the 67-year-old telecommunications consultant from Ramsbury remains critical his own possible over-optimism by producing 750 calendars in total.
“But it’s been fun and I’ve learned a few tricks by becoming something of a retailer,” he told Marlborough News Online. “It’s been really motivating to help ARK in this way.
“If only we can find a way of selling another 100 or so by the end of January, that would be wonderful. And if we make £1,000 profit at the end of all our efforts, then I shall be very satisfied.”
Mr Perkins has been on constant patrol of the shops, post offices, pubs and inns topping up their supplies of his iconic calendar, and with his wife, Chris, took a stall in Marlborough town hall at the last Communities Market event.
“We sold 10 calendars, making a further £80 for ARK,” he revealed. “Everyone who has seen the calendar has remarked how beautiful it is. And I am amazed at the difference it makes to talk to people about it.”
“A lovely lady from Clatford hadn’t heard of the calendar but as soon as I mentioned it and showed her a copy she purchased six of them on the spot. I find it helps to mention too that there is a full-sized mailing envelope enclosed, so that copies can be sent to friends and family.”
The solo effort is also being used by Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, to give as a gift to its key supporters, calendar sales also being boosted by display on ARK’s own newsletter.
In Marlborough the Beautiful Kennet calendar, priced around £9.99, is currently available at the White Horse Bookshop, Mayther’s the Craft Shop at St Peter’s and The Outside Chance pub in Manton.
Inklings, in Hungerford, is also selling it along with Kaleidoscope, the shop known as From the Heart and Cobbs Farm Shop on the A4.
In Pewsey you will find it at the Gallery & Art Centre, as well as Thomson’s Deli, and at Avebury the Henge Shop is stocking it. So too the Post Offices in Aldbourne, Burbage and Great Bedwyn
Ramsbury Post Office and the Crown & Anchor Inn are two other outlets. So too The Red Lion Inn at Axford, the Horseshow Inn at Mildenhall and the Stores & Post Office at Shalbourne.
Take your pick!