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Marlborough area likely to lose one Wilts Councillor in Electoral Review, and maybe an effective Area Board

23-10-2018

At an Extraordinary Meeting of Marlborough Town Council last night (22 October) Councillors discussed how to react to the proposal to lose one ward (West Selkley), one County Councillor, and possibly, as a result, an effective Area Board.

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Marlborough's next NHS dentist will not be in the George Lane surgery

23-10-2018

Further inquiries by marlborough.news have revealed some clarifications of the issues surrounding the ending of the current NHS dental contract for Marlborough - the Kennet River Dental Practice. 

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Marlborough Rugby: Seven out of seven away at Witney

23-10-2018 Mike Banfield

Witney 12  -  40  Marlborough   Marlborough recorded their 7th win in 7 games with an away victory over Witney. This keeps them just behind league leaders Newbury Blues.  There were a number of positional changes due to unavailability for various reasons and also the returns of Garth Bari, Will Grant and...

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New Bishop of Ramsbury appointed

22-10-2018

The Queen has approved the nomination of Rev Dr Andrew Rumsey, Rector of Oxted in Surrey, as suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury in the Diocese of Salisbury.

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Bringing history alive at Kennet Valley School, with a bit of time travel inspiration from Dr Who

22-10-2018 Sue Round

Pupils and their teachers at Kennet Valley School in Lockeridge have been travelling back in time for an eight day history extravaganza.  Inspired by the new series of ‘Doctor Who’, pupils have been visiting several different eras of history.

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Cheese and wine tasting at Redrow’s Marleberg Grange

22-10-2018 A Correspondent

Redrow Homes is holding an open cheese and wine tasting at its Marleberg Grange development.   It is part of the housebuilder’s commitment to support thriving communities where it builds new homes.

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Autumnal launch for 'The Lucky, Lucky Leaf' at the White Horse Bookshop

22-10-2018 Sue Round

The Lucky, Lucky Leaf  - a new picture book aimed at three to seven year olds - was launched at the White Horse Bookshop at the weekend (October 20). 

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Shopping and voting to aid digital learning scheme

21-10-2018

Marlborough Area Development Trust's Digital Making programme - developing skills in digital systems, design and coding especially for the under-18’s - has been chosen as Tesco's 'Bags of Help' grant scheme for November.   This scheme relies on Marlborough shoppers' votes to decide how much funding applicants receive.

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Cleaner jailed for two and a half years for stealing from workplaces

18-10-2018 Court Reporter

A cleaner has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after he pinched jewellery from two houses he was working at.  Danny Avis was on his second day in the role for a friend's family business when he helped himself to the gems.    

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Photographs ‘From Wiltshire woods to the Cornish coast’: a White Horse Gallery exhibition

18-10-2018 A Correspondent

An exhibition of pictures by Hilary Stock, a local fine art photographer, will be showing in November at the White Horse Gallery in Marlborough. ‘From Wiltshire Woods to the Cornish Coast’ will include a range of new work that celebrates Savernake Forest and Westwoods, as well showcasing Hilary’s well known...

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Local evidence shows transparency is giving way to secrecy in the restructured NHS

Marlborough News Online has been alerted to hard evidence that the re-designed NHS will become less transparent as more services are put out to tender and contracted to commercial companies, charities and not-for-profit organisations. This has already been happening in Wiltshire under the government’s policy for the out-sourcing of specific services to ‘Any Qualified Provider’.

With less than one month to go before the 212 new NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) take over £60 billion of England’s healthcare budget, the government was forced yesterday (March 5) to withdraw and rewrite regulations already before Parliament which implement parts of the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act.

These regulations were said (as MNO reported) by many doctors, health care professionals, lawyers to require that unless there are exceptional circumstances, all services would have had to be put out to tender. This, it was said, would lead to the privatisation of much of the NHS and put unacceptable tendering costs and work onto the GP-led CCGs.

It remains to be seen whether the government’s rewrite will change the regulations significantly – leaving the CCG’s to take the heat when they decide move parts of the NHS from the public sector to private companies and charities.  Alternatively the government may simply order a speed up of moves to privatisation under the Any Qualified Provider programme.

What is certain is that the government’s new NHS is becoming less transparent. This was shown clearly when Marlborough area GP practices were approached – using the Freedom of Information Act – for figures to show how local surgeries’ finances work and how much they benefit from dispensing drugs.

In papers now in the public domain, the Information Commissioner has ruled that the surgeries do not have to provide information that may help anyone wanting to set-up a rival surgery or start a chemist shop which could dispense drugs and so impact on their financial sustainability. However, the rules say that a new dispensing chemist can only be authorised if there is a proven un-met need for one.

The Commissioner did require the Marlborough practice to release a little more data than it had wanted to – about the numbers of staff it employed. But said the total salary bill need not be revealed because that would indicate the profitability of the practice.  At the time of the request the practice had seven partners paid out of profits and two salaried GPs.

In the ‘Decision Notice’, after considering the public interest value of disclosure, the Commissioner finally came down on the side of the practice: “…the Commissioner finds the public interest in avoiding unnecessary and unwarranted prejudice to the commercial interests of the Practice particularly weighty.”  Here, ‘public interest’ seems to be taken as supporting the continuing health care service by the existing provider.

However, the real interest in the Information Commissioner’s decision is in the wider picture he draws of the current state of the NHS.  He is “aware that primary care health service contracts are currently being granted to private companies...” and argues this means the “...the Practice is operating in a competitive commercial environment”.  

Or again and more bluntly: “Given the increasingly competitive market that the Practice is operating in, the Commissioner is satisfied that the disclosure of information that would allow competitors insight into the profitability of the Practice, and its dispensary, would be likely to prejudice its commercial interests and may result in the closure of the Practice.”

This means commercial interests will generally trump the public interest in greater transparency where a service is seen as part of a ‘competitive market’.  Even charities which win these contracts will be able to claim ‘commercial interest’ in avoiding the Freedom of Information Act and choosing to limit the information they provide about their operations and finances.

There seems to be a distinct miss-match developing between the government’s policy and its consequences.  The coalition government’s White Paper published in July 2010 which was the basis for the Health and Social care Act, promised an NHS that “Is more transparent, with clearer accountabilities for quality and results.”

It is now clear that the more services are contracted out to the private sector, the more commercial interest will rule and transparency will be curtailed.
               

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Bishop of Salisbury reveals the harsh truth of unsustainable pockets of poverty in Wiltshire

Bishop Nick HoltamBishop Nick HoltamThe gap between rich and poor is at its widest now for 30 years with pockets of poverty in some parishes in Wiltshire hitting 25 per cent of children, says the Bishop of Salisbury.  And it is has reached a stage where it is neither just nor sustainable, the harsh effects of how poverty is hitting and hurting people revealed by new figures for the diocese.

The Bishop has spoken of concern for the poor in his Thought for the Month in the Sarum Link newspaper, pointing out that tackling poverty ought always to be on the church's agenda.

“This is especially true in what might be a triple dip recession,” he writes in his poverty trap warning.  “According to the Church Urban Fund, if you live in the poorest areas of England you are on average likely to die 26 years earlier than those living in the richest areas.”

“In life the poorest are two or three times more likely to have a mental illness than the richest.  They are also more likely to be disabled and to suffer other physical illnesses.”

“Our country as a whole has become more prosperous.  We generate more wealth but distribute it increasingly unequally.  The gap between richest and poorest is greater than it has been for over 30 years.”

“During our years of growing prosperity, the vast majority of our increased wealth went to those who were already rich -- while the poor actually became poorer.  This is neither just nor sustainable.”

The Bishop points out that last month’s Diocesan Synod received a presentation on the counties of Wiltshire and Dorset, adding: “Average wages in our counties are below the national average -- North Dorset £351 per week compared to a national average of £412 per week.”

“Money isn't the only way to measure wealth. This is a lovely place to live.  It counts for a lot if people are happy and content.  By and large people in Dorset and Wiltshire are healthier than the national average.”

“Poverty is sometimes hard to see.  Maybe that makes it harder to see that in Dorset there are 19,160 people claiming out of work benefits.  That's 7.7 per cent of the working population.  Our children are more active and healthier than the national average, but even here 14 per cent of children in Dorset and 12.6 per cent in Wiltshire live in what the government identify as poverty.”

“There are local pockets of poverty with some parishes where the percentage of children living in poverty is 25 per cent.”

Because the area was a good part of the country in which to retire, it meant the local counties had a far larger proportion of elderly in the population.

“This means we also have a higher proportion of age-related illness, like dementia and significantly more carers who are looking after members of their family,” says Bishop Holtam. “That can be a demanding, tough and lonely role. We also have a high proportion of people living on their own.”

“At Diocesan Synod we saw some great examples of how local churches are involved in caring for those who are at risk of being left out, good neighbourliness and community development.”

“We are less good at putting the picture together and seeing what is going on overall. We are better at caring for individuals than for asking why some groups and communities are in need, at providing food for food banks than asking why they have so quickly become an essential provision for so many people.”

“Christians have a special responsibility to care for the poor, especially in an economic downturn.  It is not just that Jesus cared for the poor and outcast or that the more you give the more you receive.”

“The greater challenge to those of us who are comfortably settled is that Jesus made his home among the poor.  That means the poor have something to give to those of us who are relatively wealthy.”

“In Christ we really do belong with one another.”

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Skate firm is on a roll, thanks to Marlborough business coach

Charlie Allen of Shiner and Nigel Scott of ActionCOACH with Shiner's award for Best Customer Service ResultsCharlie Allen of Shiner and Nigel Scott of ActionCOACH with Shiner's award for Best Customer Service ResultsA Marlborough business coach has won a major award for the way he helps his clients to become more successful. 

Nigel Scott scooped the award for Best Client Results from ActionCOACH, the world's number one business coaching firm.

And one of the firms that has benefitted from Nigel's expertise has won a European award from the same coaching firm.

Charlie Allen, director of Bristol-based action sports goods distributor Shiner, was presented with the award for Best Customer Service Results at the 2013 ActionCOACH Business Excellence Awards in Portugal earlier this month, seeing off competition from more than 100 other firms from the UK and Europe.

"When I met them three years ago they were a great company with a healthy turnover, but there were process and procedures that could help them to offer their customers an even better service. That in turn helped increase sales which are now at around £10m." said Nigel.

“Taking an outsider's view of the business, Nigel helped us to establish structured management plans, in order to do things more effectively,” said Charlie, who runs Shiner – a leading importer of importer of skateboards, roller skates, scooters and BMX bikes – with his brother, Chris.

“The watchword now is IFOTIS: in full, on time, in spec. We have processes to ensure that orders placed by our retailers by noon are dispatched on the same day – even during our busiest times.

“We now enjoy a customer satisfaction rating of 99.6 percent.”

In 2012, as part of its focus on customer service, Shiner relocated from its cramped home of 76 years – where, at one point, stock shared floorspace with a vintage MGB sports car and roller skate spares were stored in a toilet – to a modern 76,000 sq ft building at Aztec West, which offered the firm ample warehouse space and a showroom. 

At the same time the firm created 16 new jobs, bringing its workforce to 41.

Shiner experienced a 10 percent increase in turnover last year, and profits look set to double in 2013. The UK is in the grip of a cyclical skateboarding and scooter boom, but the growth market is in a product the firm first started importing in 1978: roller boots – or quads, as they're now known.

“Roller discos are becoming increasingly popular, and we're working with Bump, based at the Trinity Centre in Bristol, who are taking our quads to roller discos and music festivals all over the UK,” said Charlie.

“Youth fashion brands are embracing them too. Eight pages of the Urban Outfitters look book feature models wearing our quads.”

And it was quads which won Shiner its first award of 2013, back in January. “We turned our stand at The Toy Fair at London's Olympia into a roller disco, with glitter balls, flashing lights and pumping music,” says Charlie.

“We feared we'd get kicked out. Instead they awarded us the trophy for Best Designed Stand!”

For more information about Shiner, go to www.shiner.co.uk For details about Nigel Scott's business coaching, and how ActionCOACH can help your company, go to www.actioncoach.com/nigelscott

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Caffe Nero adds Marlborough to its list of victims as it wins another appeal to stay put

Planning Inspector Phil GraingerPlanning Inspector Phil GraingerThey have done it again.

Caffe Nero Holdings, which has launched coffee shops in towns across the country without first seeking planning consent and then successfully appealing against councils' refusal, has added Marlborough to its list of victims.

The international company that pays no corporation tax in the UK -- and which did not act illegally in any way -- has now won 17 such appeals, only ever losing one battle against local councils who opposed expansion by the foreign-based company.

Planning inspector Phil Grainger, who conducted a public inquiry at Marlborough town hall over two days, has quashed an enforcement notice issued by Wiltshire Council against Caffe Nero Holdings’ operation in the High Street and given the company permission to continue to trade.

He has done so on the basis that there was no evidence submitted to him, no report by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, to show that their take-over of the former Dash fashion store last year has caused any harm to the vitality and viability of Marlborough or its individuality.

In doing so, he has basically rejected Caffe Nero’s claims that its unique presence in market towns inevitably boosted trade, stating that the extensive survey evidence it produced was confused.

And adding that, if anything, Caffe Nero has had a minor influence on High Street retailers, the more so as its position is in the heart of the shopping centre, adjacent to Waitrose and the town’s car parks.

Mr Grainger states: “I conclude as follows.  Looked at in planning terms the change of use from a retail shop to a coffee shop with a retail element has only a limited effect on the individuality of Marlborough.”

“Moreover, there is no policy seeking to protect individuality that might allow other considerations to be taken into account.”

“As for the vitality and viability of the centre, no real evidence of any actual harm has been provided although the coffee shop has now been operating for about nine months.  Whilst the case put by the council and many others may seem common sense, all the hard evidence points in a different direction.”

He adds: “The appellants’ surveys may have their faults and the results may be less clear than suggested.  Nevertheless, in the absence of any contrary evidence other than anecdotes they suggest that on balance any effect of Caffe Nero is more likely to have been beneficial than harmful, albeit only modestly so.”

“On that basis, and having given due weight to policy ED18 (a planning policy), I consider that there can be no serious conflict with development plan policy.  Moreover, even if the benefits were to be regarded as too small or uncertain to comply with policy ED18, then in my view other considerations, in particular national policy as now set out in the Framework (the new government relaxation of controls), would indicate that permission should still be granted.”

In any event, he points out, that if the appeal was dismissed there seems to be a credible fallback position, that Caffe Nero would continue to operate the premises on a Class A1 retail basis only without any prepared food being sold in the premises or for take-away.

The company had claimed it has 3,000 customers a week and that fact made its presence sustainable without serving drinks and food to takeaway customers.

“The council appeared to accept that this would be no more beneficial than the existing operation and that their argument was that such use was not viable,” the inspector adds.

“I therefore intend to quash the notice and grant planning permission in respect of the deemed application.”

Full report and reactions to follow.

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“Buy fresh, buy local” campaign to be launched in the wake of the horse meat scandal

A local campaign urging people to “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” from suppliers on their doorstep is being launched in the wake of the horse meat scandal by the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Beauty organisation (AONB).

It is inviting catering, accommodation and retail suppliers to attend a meeting at the Bear Hotel, Hungerford, on Tuesday, 12 March (10.30am) to hear of the success of the creation of 'Hampshire Fare'.

It has brought together Hampshire’s county council, Chamber of Commerce, CPRE and the National Trust, the NFU, local radio and newspapers to urge people to use local meat producers, shops, pubs and restaurants dedicated to offering high quality meat and game.

Hampshire Fare, one of the partcipants at the Hungerfood food summit, have more than 200 supplier members, 11,674 customer subscribers and last year attracted 295,000 visitors to a Hampshire Food Festival.

All that generated almost £6 million for the Hampshire local economy, which is why AONB wants to encourage buying meat directly from a local butcher, farm shop or farmers’ market, reducing the food chain and boosting the local economy.

It is estimated that farmers in the North Wessex Downs area could supply 90 per cent of the current demand for meat.

Ken Westall, communications officer at North Wessex Downs AONB told Marlborough News Online: “This is absolutely the right time for retailers, tourism and catering suppliers throughout our area to concentrate on buying local produce.”

“We already maintain a local products directory and this will be developed further.  Many suppliers now offer online shopping and home delivery.  Ready meal options made on the premises using locally sourced unprocessed meat are also available.”

“All of this, of course, applies to individual consumers as well. Many of our local butchers enjoy talking to customers about the local origins of the produce they are buying. We will encourage certificates of provenance to be displayed behind the counter to give customers further reassurance about where the meat has come from.”

For more information, please contact

Ken Westall on 01488 680450 and 07785 931549

Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Consumers want more home grown meat on supermarket shelves

As frozen burger sales plummet by 43 per cent and frozen ready meals by 13 per cent, a National Farmers’ Union survey reveals that consumers want more food from British farms being offered for sale on supermarket shelves.

Some 78 per cent of 1,000 people polled said supermarkets should sell more food from UK arms and 43 per cent said they were more likely now to buy traceable food from local farms.

And farmers themselves called for more transparency and an end to “short-termism” in some sectors of the food supply chain with better labelling so that consumers can choose what they buy.

NFU president Peter Kendall believes that shorter and more traceable supply chains would alleviate the crisis over horse meat, declaring: “Farmers have been furious about what has happened.”

“They have spent many years working to ensure the British supply chain is full traceable from farm to pack, and have upheld strong principles which are embodied in assurance schemes like Red Tractor.”

“For me, this is fundamental for consumer protection.”

Another survey by MoneySavingExpert.com produced the fascinating fact that a significant number of consumers would be happy to eat horse meat providing it was “safe” and properly labelled.

This covered almost 14,000 people who are meat eaters and found that 51 per cent would buy horse meat as long as they knew it was bred for eating and was therefore safe.

However, of that figure, 29 per cent said horse meat would need to be cheaper than beef.

Nevertheless, 48 per cent said they would refuse horse meat outright, even it was offered free.

 

 

 

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Callous road crash killer from Baydon who fled abroad is gaoled for eight years

Paula Barnes, now serving eight years for causing death by dangerous drivingPaula Barnes, now serving eight years for causing death by dangerous drivingDescribed by police as a “callous and manipulative woman” who fled to Holland, Paula Barnes, 45, of Aldbourne Road, Baydon, was today (Tuesday) sentenced at Swindon Crown Court to a long prison term.

She was gaoled for eight years for causing death by dangerous driving plus a further five months for bail offences, the sentences will run consecutively.

She was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.

A statement issued by Inspector Steve Cox, Head of Roads Policing for Wiltshire Police, said: “We are pleased with today’s sentence as it reflects both the seriousness of these crimes and the anguish that Paula Barnes has put her victim’s family through.”

“This case has been a long and complex one after Barnes tried to evade justice by fleeing to Holland where she hoped to remain undetected.”

“The fact she was caught, arrested, extradited and has now been sentenced is testament to the hard work and dedication of the Wiltshire Police serious collision investigation team.”

“Barnes was arrested after being released from hospital on November 4th 2010 following a two vehicle collision in Foxhill, Baydon, on September 23 2010.”

“During this collision, the driver of the other vehicle involved, Diane Wright, sadly died from her injuries at the scene.  Barnes was then bailed to attend court on April 15, 2011, but failed to show.  Nothing was seen or heard from her again.”

He added: “After an intensive search involving the Zephyr Regional Financial Investigation Team and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Barnes was arrested in Holland on November 9, 2012, and we were successful at an extradition hearing which led to her being brought back to the UK.”

“Barnes has proved to be a callous and manipulative woman who thought she was above the law.  We hope that today, Diane’s family can feel that justice has finally been served.”

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Singing sensation is a step away from stardom

Rachel AllderRachel AllderTeenage singing sensation Rachel Allder is just one step away from performing onstage at the 02 Arena in London, in a competition which aims to find Britain's next big music star. 

But it almost didn't happen: Rachel lost her voice just days before the auditions for the TeenStar competition, and was reduced to passing handwritten notes to friends and family to spare her vocal cords. 

Luckily, she had sufficiently recovered by the day of the auditions – held at Ferneham Hall in Hampshire – to impress the judges with her stripped down acoustic version of Bon Jovi's rock anthem Living on a Prayer, arranged with the help of Rachel's singing teacher, Aldbourne-based Anna Page.

Now the 13-year-old, who saw off competition in her audition from a rival who is appearing in the musical Cats at the NEC in Birmingham, will be returning to Ferneham Hall on April 14 to compete in the regional final.

And if she makes it through, the St John's School pupil – whose musical heroes include Newton Faulkner and Brit Award winners Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé – will perform at the 20,000-capacity 02 Arena in front of a judging panel made up of big names from the music industry.

“When I told the judges I would be singing Living on a Prayer there were some raised eyebrows,” admitted Rachel, who lives in Burbage. “But they really liked my take on the song.”

And she has another surprise in store for the judges at the regional final – an acoustic version of the dance track Titanium, by vocalist Sia and producer David Guetta, which reached number 1 in the charts in 2011.

Friends of Rachel can support her bid for stardom by joining the audience at Ferneham Hall on April 14. Tickets cost £8. For details email Dean Allder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Protests follow Claire Perry’s claim that mollycoddling parents seriously harm their children’s lives

Claire Perry hit the headlines again today (Sunday) after she criticised mollycoddling parents in a major newspaper interview for filling children’s lives with too many organised activities.

UK children are being "babied" by overly-intrusive parents, leaving them unable to cope as they grow up, claimed the Tory MP for Devizes, who is a special adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron the commercialisation and sexualisation of children.

Mrs Perry, mother of three, said the over-parenting was stifling children’s ability to fend for themselves, adding: "We've created a treadmill, it's usually the mother that is orchestrating all of that and doing all the driving."

"We worship this feminine motherhood thing and I don't think our children have benefited actually.  They're babied a lot."

 She also hit out at parents were failing to lay down the law and set "limits", she said.

But Mrs Perry, who chaired an inquiry of cross-party MPs into the effects of TV and the internet on children, was herself criticised and told to focus on improving schools, child care facilities and policies to find jobs for teenagers.

Mrs Perry, who is the PM's adviser on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, said over-parenting was stifling children's ability to fend for themselves.

She explained that mothers often became part of the problem because their own work-life balance struggled when starting a family.

"A lot of it is women who, because it is difficult to get on, subjugate their own ambition into their kids,” she insisted.  "That makes it harder when they get to university and realise they haven't got a mother to help them with their homework, watching their every move.  We've all done it."

Mrs Perry revealed that she once tended to "hover" over her children, pointing out: "Now, I just can't, so I don't, and I think they're probably better off as a result."

At the same time, 48-year-old Mrs Perry warned that children were not being taught about the real dangers in life, especially the internet – she has campaigned for TV service providers to to enable parents to block pornography from their bedroom TV screens – pointing out that most parents were either too busy or ignorant about what their children were doing online.

"Good parenting isn't just about making sure they come top in maths, but all the difficult stuff too,” she declared.  “If they don't learn the limits from us, who will tell them?  They are living in a digital oblivion," she protested.

But Mrs Perry’s were immediately challenged.

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts insisted parents were "doing their best" and were "knackered most of the time".

She told BBC News: "Mothers are, sadly, used to copping a lot of blame -- but being charged with being over-protective, cupcake-baking helicopter parents at the same time as being feckless, couch potatoes who let their children have unfettered internet access is a bit rich."

As to “treadmill” children, Mrs Roberts added: "Of course there are some 'tiger mum' types who are micro-managing packed improvement schedules for their children."

“But on Mumsnet certainly, they are far outweighed by others who share Clare Perry's view that unstructured time is really important."

Ms Roberts also protested: "Politicians could more usefully perhaps focus on improving local schools, job prospects, childcare options and flexible work solutions than telling us how to be better parents."

Children psychologist Dr Jack Boyle said: “Politicians shouldn’t feel the necessity to give parents lectures when there is no evidence whatsoever to back up what they are claiming."

“This is simply a broad, sweeping assertion without justification for making it.  If she wrote a university essay to this effect, she would be failed."

“Most young people are robust enough to meet the challenges of life at home, at school and in the community.”

Labour MP Frank Field, who advised the coalition government on children's foundation years, also criticised Mrs Perry's comments as "amazing".

He highlighted the "desperate" situation for many disadvantaged children in the UK, urging the Mrs Perry "not to attack those parents investing heavily in their children, but to find out why the vast majority of young people want to be good parents and yet a very, very, very substantial group of them fail to do so".

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Another 200 jobs to go on Wiltshire Council despite loss of 600 so far following funding cuts

Six hundred people have lost their jobs with Tory-controlled Wiltshire Council as a result of government cuts in local government funding, council leader Jane Scott has revealed.

And another 200 posts would go in the coming year, she announced, pointing out that schools too were facing a difficult future.

Making her “frozen” budget speech on Tuesday, she announced: “We have reduced the workforce by 600 posts, including more than 200 managerial roles and the post of chief executive in the last four years.”

“Our back office or support function costs were 19 per cent of our total budget in 2009 – this is now nine per cent of our budget and we intend to reduce this further.”

“We will continue to review the use of consultants and our management structures.  The aim is to further reduce duplication by reviewing some corporate support services to deliver more savings.”

“We aim to reduce by an additional 200 posts next year.”

As to schools, Councillor Scott said: “This year has been a difficult year for schools.  The funding for schools is currently allocated from central government for us to reallocate based on local and national formulae.”

“Overall Wiltshire’s funding allocation remains below the national average in terms of spend per pupil.  In line with national requirements, we have worked with schools and revised the formula to deliver a new scheme that reflects local priorities.”

“The total estimated dedicated school’s grant for 2013/14 is more than £302 million before the adjustment for the impact of academies.  No school will receive a reduction in budget of more than 1.5 per cent per pupil, before any pupil premium is added.”

The council is planning to allocate £38 million into schools to invest in new fit-for-purpose buildings and to carry out maintenance works on existing buildings.”

“It is vital that we continue to protect our frontline services and those who are most vulnerable in our communities and that we support economic growth to create and protect jobs through investment in infrastructure, and support for local businesses and inward investment,” she added.

“We need to continue to work with our local communities to do more in 2013, such as local events to help boost our market towns and city.  We know that stronger communities that come together are better able to tackle issues that affect them.”

“We also know that Wiltshire is a great place in which to live and work – in fact it’s the fourth happiest county in the country and we want to keep it that way.”

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Four weeks to go until Wiltshire gets its new NHS commissioning regime

Fragmented NHSFragmented NHSThe transition process set in train by the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act has entered its final month.  From April 1 NHS Wiltshire (the Primary Care Trust or PCT) which has commissioned NHS services for the past six years, will give way to the GP-led Clinical Commissioning Group or Wiltshire CCG.

This transition has involved an amazingly complex programme of handovers as the PCT’s staff, contracts, buildings and desk-top computers are divided up among a number of new bodies.  It’s also involved a good amount of lawyers’ hours.

At the PCT’s penultimate board meeting (February 27), the Trust’s Chairman, Tony Barron congratulated the staff for their hard work – especially has many of them have already started new jobs and are having to do up to three jobs at the same time.

One of the key concerns has always been the future of the staff employed by the PCT.  On 1 April 2011, before the provision of community care was contracted out to Great Western Hospital, the commissioning staff at the PCT numbered 241.  By 31 August 2012 the commissioning staff head count had fallen to 200.

Of those seventy will be employed by the CCG from 1 April 2013.  As of Wednesday (February 27) just six NHS Wiltshire employees had not found new jobs elsewhere in the NHS or left to take up other jobs.  The Board congratulated the PCT’s HR team for handling this part of the transition so successfully.

The situation across the NHS in the whole of the south of England is not so good.  As of Tuesday (February 26) six hundred employees of PCTs and Strategic Health Authorities had still not found other employment.  If this number remains the same on 31 March, there will be a redundancy bill of many million pounds.

Wiltshire PCT has worked closely with the shadow CCG and Tony Barron praised the CCG’s ‘exciting plans’ to change care and treatment pathways: “I am optimistic that it will work.”

It has not all been easy and peaceful.  Members of the CCG were cross that the PCT had extended the contract for Wiltshire’s GP Out of Hours Service.  Wiltshire Medical Services (WMS) signed a contract with the PCT in November 2009 for a five year period with a first option to extend for a further three years.

The PCT took this option up and the contract was renewed to 2018. WMS has a primary care facility at Savernake Hospital with a fully equipped doctor’s response car based there during daytime.

One of the CCG’s lead GPs said they had been working on plans which interlinked with the provision of the Out of Hours Service: “The contract extension had detrimentally affected these plans impeding future service commissioning for the CCG.”

In the wider picture the plans of CCGs across England have been thrown into some disarray by the government’s publication of regulations under the Health and Social Care Act that mandate commissioners to put almost all services out to competitive tender.

At the PCT board meeting Christine Reid, one of the CCG’s non-executive directors, raised the difficulty the CCG will face in dealing with the proliferation of organisations supplying services.  Oversight of contracts needs transparency: “We will have difficulties with all these private companies.”

The organisation representing GPs active in CCGs says that these regulations will involve the commissioning groups in large and unexpected costs of tendering and leave them open to legal challenge by providers which they will not have the staff or funds to cope with.

Dr Michael Dixon, interim president of the NHS Clinical Commissioners, told the GPs’ journal PULSE that some GPs ‘will walk’ if the regulations are not withdrawn: “Unless the commissioner is king, the system is going to fall down. And worse still, the clinicians will walk and feel the whole thing has been a complete waste of time.”

The regulations go before the House of Lords early next month.  Pressure is building on the government to withdraw the regulations, but in the end it may come down to whether Lib Dem peers will back them.

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Wiltshire claims a “legacy of outstanding achievements” as it freezes next year’s council tax

Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire CouncilJane Scott, leader of Wiltshire CouncilDespite the government’s slashing attack on its funding, Wiltshire Council, launched four years ago as the only shire unity authority in the country, has built a good and solid foundation.

And it will hand over to the new council, due to be elected in May, a legacy of outstanding achievements and innovative programmes, delivering improvements wherever possible.

This was the message from Jane Scott, leader of the Tory-controlled council today (Tuesday) when it it froze council tax for the coming year against the odds.

She told the council: “In the four years we have made many changes and we have delivered a great deal.  Our focus has always been to do what we believe is best for the people of Wiltshire.”

“We have had to change, do things differently, adopt new and innovative ways of working and not be afraid to take tough decisions.  We have done this so that our front line services can be protected.”

“Four years ago we had the opportunity as a new unitary to make efficiencies and save money and this has undoubtedly helped us.  We knew that the demand for some of our services was increasing, particularly those for adult care as the growth in the number of older people in our county was exceeding the national average, also that more children were coming into care as was the case across the UK.”

“We also recognised that investment was needed in the county’s roads and the waste and recycling collection services.”

And, she added:  “I hope you will agree that we have built a good and solid foundation ready to hand over to the new council in May, and that we leave a legacy of outstanding achievements and new innovative programmes of work, that will continue to deliver improvements and savings long into the future.”

But, she revealed, the council had faced some perils from the start with a significant reduction in funding from central government outlined in the comprehensive funding review of 2010 as a result of world wide economic decline.

“The Chancellor announced that local government funding would be reduced by 28 per cent in real terms and 21 per cent in cash over the next four years,” said Councillor Scott.

“In the autumn of 2012, this reduction in cash was extended by a further two per cent to apply in 2014/15.  For Wiltshire this means our funds from central government have been reduced in cash terms by 22 per cent but in real terms, when factoring in inflation, the reduction is closer to 37 per cent, which is nine per cent more than we predicted in 2010.”

“Added to that our financial challenge is tougher in Wiltshire.  We receive an average of £224 in government grant per head of population – that is almost £94 less than the English rural average of 318 pounds.”

“Plus - the population of the county aged 65 plus is 15 per cent higher than the national average and this will rise to 18 per cent by 2015.”

“This means we need to invest more than £3 million in services for older people next year just to stand still.  Keeping the local economy vibrant has always been a priority.”

She continued: “In response to these challenges, three years ago we published our first business plan.  It set out that we would invest in key frontline services, protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and, save money to enable us to do this.”

“And, it also stated that we would keep any increase in council tax low, and we would protect our frontline services.  I think it’s important that I update on whether we achieved what we set out to do.  It’s easy to set goals but far more challenging to actually achieve them.  These achievements are key to the decision on the budget proposals for next year 2013/14 and what we agree in readiness for a newly-elected council.”

As to the future, Councillor Scott revealed: “I am also planning to invest almost £146 million into services and capital schemes.”

This will include an additional £3 million on roads maintenance reflecting local feedback that we need to spend more on highways and potholes including £300,000 more into flood alleviation projects.

“Plus £16.6 million on affordable housing and social housing highlighting the demand for good quality affordable homes and reflecting our new powers to spend more money to improve the condition of our council homes in Salisbury.”

“And almost £39 million to provide the first seven community campuses in Corsham, Melksham, Salisbury, Calne, Cricklade, Pewsey and Tisbury.  This will deliver sustainable savings through more efficient, modern buildings as well as providing enhanced facilities for our communities.”

“In the longer term, the plan is to create 18 campuses in each of the community areas.  The campuses will bring police, health, leisure, other council and public and voluntary services together in one location, in modern, efficient facilities, based on what each local community says it needs.”

“We will continue to invest in the local economy with the roll out of superfast broadband.  This was planned to reach 85 per cent of Wiltshire homes and businesses but will now reach 91per cent.  We allocated £16 million and we received a government grant of £4 million to deliver this project.”

“Our base budget reflects a £1 million growth each year to support the local economy.  This includes help to provide incubation units across the county, as well as local initiatives in market towns such as underwriting the Christmas market in Salisbury.”

“And support for the apprenticeship scheme which aims to have 1,000 people placed in apprenticeships by July this year.  Currently more than 770 have been placed in apprenticeship posts in local businesses.”

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Good Neighbours help for the elderly and vulnerable who are home and alone

Both the Marlborough and the Pewsey community areas now have Good Neighbours co-ordinators to help the elderly connect to services which can maintain their health, improve their quality of life and allow them to stay longer in their own homes.

It’s a confidential and free service fully funded by Wiltshire Council and delivered under contract by Community First, the Devizes based charity that works to strengthen and establish communities, and tackle disadvantage across Wiltshire and Swindon. The Wiltshire Good Neighbours scheme is run in partnership with Age UK Wiltshire and Age UK Salisbury.

Mary Soellner and Lucy HawkinsMary Soellner and Lucy HawkinsLucy Hawkins is the co-ordinator for the Marlborough area – all seventeen parishes.  Her part-time, flexible hours work began in December. She’s completed the training and is now getting the scheme known throughout the area.  Before taking this job, Lucy worked for fourteen years first as a district nurse and then with the Wiltshire neighbourhood care teams.

Mary Soellner covers the even larger Pewsey area – including the Bedwyns and Burbage.  Before she took time out to have children, Mary was a social worker specialising in children and families.  She started with the Wiltshire Good Neighbour scheme in December 2011.

Older people living in rural communities who are vulnerable or likely to become vulnerable can be referred to Lucy or Mary by their GPs or their neighbours providing they have the client’s consent.  Or people can refer themselves.

The broad aim is to encourage self-reliance rather than create dependency.  And as Lucy says: “We don’t turn anybody down.”

The whole of Wiltshire is now covered by Good Neighbours co-ordinators.  In 2012 they made 1,247 contacts across the county.  The issues the co-ordinators can help with include personal finance and benefit problems, social isolation, home safety, social care, health care needs, home maintenance and transport: “There’s very seldom just one issue for each client.”

There’s a ‘Winter’s Journey’ scheme that brings increased contact with the clients – and help on such winter problems as minimising fuel bills: “If anyone’s got old curtains in their attics they can be a real help for those with single glazed windows.”  And there will be extra checks to make after heavy rain or snow.

Some of the benefit is simply in giving older people, many of whom live alone, friendship and a contact point for when things get beyond them.

If you know anyone who needs this sort of helpful service the contact for the Marlborough area is 07557 922030.  And for the Pewsey area it is 07557 110418.  Or you can make a first contact via the Wiltshire Good Neighbours Team on 01380 732828 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Claire Perry comes under UKIP fire in the wake of Tory Eastleigh by-election humiliation

Neil Hamilton, chairman of UKIP WiltshireNeil Hamilton, chairman of UKIP WiltshireDevizes MP Claire Perry has been accused of slavishly following everything David Cameron says by Wiltshire’s UKIP chairman Neil Hamilton in the wake of the Tory party’s Eastleigh by-election humiliation.

Mr Hamilton and Mrs Perry surprisingly found themselves sitting side by side on the BBC TV Question Time programme, which went on air after the polls had closed in Eastleigh but before the Lib-Dem triumph was known with the Tories forced into third place by UKIP.

And Mrs Perry found herself admonished by Question Time chairman David Dimbleby for continually interrupting other political members of the panel.  He added the jibe that, while she might be well known to House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, he was the Question Time chairman in charge of the programme.

Today (Friday), Mr Hamilton, who didn’t get to bed until 6.30 am following the boost in UKIP’s vote to 28 per cent, its highest ever, told Marlborough News Online: “Eastleigh is a watershed for UKIP. This election was a peasants' revolt.”

“We are no longer also-rans.  If the Tories had not split our vote we would have romped home last night.  But for the Liberals' fantastic local organisation -- they hold all of Eastleigh's council seats -- which got the lion's share of the 10,000 postal votes, we would have won.”

“UKIP's vote was not a protest.  It was a positive vote for taking control of our country back and ending the Lib/Lab/Con policy of open-door immigration from eastern Europe at a time of rising economic difficulty.”

Referring to the Question Time programme, he said: “Claire Perry slavishly supports everything David Cameron wants.  When he says 'Jump', she just says 'How high?'”

“As David Dimbleby discovered on Question Time she doesn't listen.  She just talks over you.  We don't need lectures from MPs.  They should listen and respond to real people's hopes and fears - which UKIP does.”

Mr Hamilton, a former Tory MP, campaigned in Eastleigh for the UKIP candidate, Diane James, also a former Tory, who polled 11,571votes to find herself 1,771 votes behind the Lib-Dem winner Mike Thornton, Eastleigh’s new MP replacing resigned Cabinet minister Chris Huhne.

“If David Cameron thinks UKIP's success is just 'mid-term blues', he is even more out of touch with reality than I thought,” he declared.  “People are fed up to the back teeth of him and his condescending metropolitan liberal elite friends.”  “They are more interested in gesture politics on irrelevances like gay marriage than bread and butter issues affecting real people.”

UKIP is now seeking to increase its membership and improve its branch organisation as a new political force, now due to contest local government elections in June and next year’s EU elections.

Mr Hamilton added: “As chairman of UKIP Wiltshire, I say  l say ‘Save the £53 million a day we send to Brussels, end open-door immigration, end Euro madness, fight political correctness, stop wasting money on overseas aid and boost our defences.  Come and join us.’

“Eastleigh shows we take votes from all the old parties and are breaking through to win.

“We shall be fighting as many Wiltshire Council seats in May as we can but we need more active supporters, especially in the Devizes constituency.”

 

It’s time for more women to make their voices heard

– Claire Perry

More women need to make their voices heard and to become involved in politics and other institutions, Tory MP Claire Perry told the BBC Question Time audience in Eastleigh.

She was answering a question as to whether the British political system was a safe place for women to work, a reference to the allegations against Lib-Dem former chief of staff Lord Rennard.

And she declared that if the accusations had been made against a woman, then the focus would have bee on her appearance and age, and subsequently agreeing with a point made by Labour MP Angela Eagle that the media were to blame for casting woman as Blair’s Babes and Cameron’s Cuties.

“This chap is not a looker, let’s be clear, and nobody has mentioned that,” said Mrs Perry. “I completely agree with Angela that this is an endemic problem in all institutions that don’t have enough women in them.

“Ladies, please, I don’t care what political party you are part of, what level of politics you get into, just get involved because if our voices aren’t there, then nobody else is speaking up for us.

“I think the problem is we don’t have women coming through the political system, of all ages, of all types, and that is where we have to do something.

“Yes, it is safe to go into politics. I’d rather be a female MP in Britain than I would be in Italy of Afghanistan, but we could do a lot, lot better than we are doing now.”

On other questions, Mrs Perry admitted; “I completely accept that politics is broken. All these people (the other panellists) have been in Parliament a much longer time than me.

“What we need is people to come in who are committed to transparency, who absolutely want to fix Britain. If you look at what’s happened between our two parties (Tories and Lib-Dems), who have come together in the national interest, things are improving. And it’s tough, tough medicine.”

But Mrs Perry familiar mantra that the deficit had been cut by a quarter and that unemployment was down with a million new jobs created in the private sector were shot down by others taking part in the programme.

Angela Eagle pointed out that while creating jobs, many of them part-time, the Tory cuts had resulted in 520,000 redundancies, and Neil Hamilton revealed that government spending had increased from £670 billion in 2010 to £737 billion this year, the deficit of £190 billion three years ago reduced by only £60 billion.

“These are colossal sums,” he said. “We cannot go on burning money in this way.”

Mrs Perry apologised to Eastleigh residents for the amount of “rubbish” put through their doors during the by-election, adding: “You must be very happy that the caravan is moving on.”

“We overwhelmed the electorate with information. There were some great leaflets out there, one said, ‘I’ve made my mind up, just go away!’ I thought that was excellent.”

“The lesson we should take away is that if we’re trying to talk about the big important stiff like fixing Britain, we have to keep making it relevant.”

“No-one here tonight is going to go home and say, ‘Hurrah, the deficit is down by a quarter. Isn’t the government doing well.’ You are going to go home and think about filling up your car tomorrow and what is going to happen to fuel duty in the Budget.”

“We have to keep getting out of Westminster, getting to our constituencies, and just being normal -- listening to what people are saying.”

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Avebury will Rock again in 2013

Dave Frampton and Bob Barrett of Marlborough and Swindon Thamesdown Rotary Clubs (in costume) presenting cheques to  Sheryl Crouch and Amy Fisher from Prospect Hospice, with  Richard Crowley and Mark Lenton-Jink of CALM, and little leukemia survivor Alyssa Lenton-JinkDave Frampton and Bob Barrett of Marlborough and Swindon Thamesdown Rotary Clubs (in costume) presenting cheques to Sheryl Crouch and Amy Fisher from Prospect Hospice, with Richard Crowley and Mark Lenton-Jink of CALM, and little leukemia survivor Alyssa Lenton-JinkCharity music festival Avebury Rocks will be back in 2013, the organisers announced this evening (Wednesday).

The news came as members of the Thamesdown and Marlborough Rotary Clubs handed oer £20,000 to the charities that benefitted from the event: Prospect Hospice, which received £14,000, and CALM, which was awarded £6,000.

The 2012 event was hailed a great success, despite appalling weather conditions. The event was headlined by The Levellers. This year's acts have yet to be announced.

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Litigator joins Marlborough law firm

Anthony ReevesAnthony ReevesMarlborough law firm the Merriman Partnership has appointed chartered legal executive Anthony Reeves to develop its civil litigation work.

Anthony specialises in the disciplines of debt recovery, contractual disputes, employment law, inheritance claims, harassment claims by debtors against large institutions, judicial review, and professional negligence. 

In his spare time, Anthony, who lives in Devizes and worked at a Westbury law firm before joining Merriman's, writes law books for the lay person.

His published titles include Give Me Your Money! A Straightforward Guide to Debt Collecting and See You in Court! How to Conduct Your Own Case in the Small Claims Court.

Senior partner Tim Cameron said, “It will be good to have someone to handle litigious matters for our clients. We believe the area will benefit from this firm being able to offer additional services in civil disputes.”    

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Kids urged to aim high at basketball camp

SlamdunkzSlamdunkzKids who want to aim high during the Easter holidays will have the chance to do just that at in Marlborough – at a basketball training camp.

The Wiltshire Council-run SlamDunkz camp is open to boys and girls aged between eight and 14, and will take place at St John's Academy from Wednesday to Friday, April 3 to 5.

Camps run from 10am to 3pm each day and cost £30 per child.

Each day will see skills and drills developed in the morning in age appropriate groups with activities provided to support passing, dribbling and shooting. In the afternoon, players will be assigned to teams and various matches will be played utilising the full length of the court.

SlamDunkz is part of a development plan to encourage the game in Wiltshire, set up and led by Wiltshire Council’s Sports Development Team and supported by local clubs.

Council sports development officer Alex Muse said: “This is a great opportunity for young people to get into the game, or develop existing skills, and hopefully will lead to more people involved in basketball in Wiltshire.”

More information on the Easter camps is available at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/slamdunkz or contact Alex on 01380 826315.

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