New Zealand Flag flying over Town HallThe Acting New Zealand High Commissioner, Rob Taylor, came to Marlborough on Thursday (February 14) to make an official presentation to the town of a huge oar. This is a very special oar – it is the steering oar used by the young crew from Marlborough Boys College, New Zealand who rowed the replica whaling skiff, the Swift Sure, in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames last summer.
Mayor Edwina Fogg officiated at the ceremony saying she was deeply honoured to receive the steering oar on behalf of the town and that it holds out the hope of bringing greater ties between the two Marlboroughs.
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Rob Taylor with Mayor Edwina FoggMr Taylor spoke about the Swift Sure’s crew and said he was ‘totally in admiration of their endurance’ – as the rain lashed down and the tide turned against them on their way along the Thames. He said he was glad the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee event had produced this legacy which would strengthen ‘people to people links’.
There was also a message from the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Vicki Treadell: “There is so much we share with New Zealand from the names of our towns, cities and regions, to the strong people to people links.”
To make her point the guests at the ceremony included members of the New Zealand eventing team who live locally: Sir Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and Clarke Johnstone. (Jonelle Richards from Minal was unable to be there.) They are based in the area: Sir Mark Todd, who was knighted in the New Year Honours, moved last year to Badgerstown near Swindon and Andrew Nicholson is based in Lockeridge.
Other New Zealand links in the Town Hall to witness the official handing over of the giant oar included Cheryl Shevket whose family were originally from Devizes. Now she and her husband divide their time between Wiltshire and New Zealand.
Another guest was New Zealander Beaney Davidson runs the Bow Belles shop and café at the western end of the High Street. And the President of the Marlborough Golf Club, Malcolm Hardstaff, was there to mark the club’s links with the Rarangi Golf Club near Blenheim in the Marlborough district of New Zealand.
Inscription on the oarMegan Richardson and William Hendry, students at St John’s Academy, told the assembled guests about their video-conference chats with pupils at Marlborough Colleges in New Zealand. These are due to resume shortly – with St John’s talking at 8pm to very early rising students in New Zealand.
Councillor Nick Fogg, referring to himself as the ‘Mayoress’, told guests that he thought he was the only mayor to visit all three towns linked to Marlborough: Marlborough in Massachusetts, Marlborough in New Zealand and Gunjur in The Gambia.
Three Gambians and Dr Nick Maurice from the Marlborough Brandt Group were present at the ceremony to mark the town’s thirty-five year link with The Gambia. And Nick Fogg spoke about his visits to Gunjur – with the first group of visitors from Marlborough; to America for the 350th anniversary of that Marlborough’s foundation; and to New Zealand for a visit that included a short tour of just some of its two hundred and twenty-three vineyards.
There were also greetings from Alistair Sowman, the Mayor of Marlborough, New Zealand, who pointed out the historical significance of the whaling industry to the link between Britain and New Zealand. In days gone by whale oil ‘lit the street lamps of Britain and lubricated its machinery.’
He thought it very fitting that the replica of the Swift Sure had been part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And no one was forgetting the young crew who by their amazing efforts had raised $NZ100,000 to bring the Swift Sure and its crew to London and sweated their way along the Thames – perhaps giving the occasional envious glance across to those boats in the pageant which boasted motors.
The oar will be on show when the Town Hall is open to the public on Saturday, February 16.
You can read our original report from May 2012 about the Swift Sure – written for us by Steve Mason, Editor of the Marlborough Express of New Zealand.
Links to Speeches:
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner, Rob Taylor
Marlborough's Mayor, Edwina Fogg
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Rob TaylorActing New Zealand High Commissioner Rob Taylor presenting the oar to Mayor Edwina FoggCeremonial Officer David Sherratt reading a message from the British High Commissioner to New Zealand Vicki Treadell
Councillor former mayor and 'current mayoress' Nick Fogg addressing thse presentjpgSir Mark Todd of the New Zealand Equestrian Team with Mayor Edwina FoggAndrew Nicholson of the New Zealand Equestrian Team and also of Lockeridge
Megan Richardson of St John's Academy presenting a ceremonial paperweight to Acting High Comissioner Rob TaylorIzzy Clark and Helena Smith (with flowers) waiting to make a presentation to Acting High Commissioner Rob Taylor and his teamPlaque accompanying the oar
Megan Richardson and William Hendry - students at St John's Academy with mayor Edwina FoggIzzy Clark presenting a ceremonial paperweight to a member of the New Zealand High Commission team
Plans of Whaleboat Swiftsure
Claire PerryTory MP Claire Perry, the PPS to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, has described her two-day visit last week to Afghanistan as “humbling and encouraging.”
She has five Army camps in her Devizes constituency and was alongside Mr Hammond in the Afghan capital Kabul and Helmand Province
And Mrs Perry told Spire FM in Salisbury that with a number of south Wiltshire soldiers due to be deployed to Afghanistan later this year, seeing what the conditions were really like was reassuring.
"I often meet wives, girlfriends or husbands of those who are out serving and we have a conversation about what conditions are like,” she told the radio station.
“The good news is that in many ways, the conditions are very good -- there is excellent equipment, the food is very good, I had lamb curry and sponge with custard for supper in Camp Bastion, and even the conditions out in the patrol bases are very good."
"It's a huge contribution that we've made, obviously there have been some very tragic losses of life, but we should feel proud both nationally and locally about what we've achieved out there and what we continue to do."
“I think we've got the best armed forces in the world and I saw nothing to change my mind over the last couple of days."
John Kirkman, chairman of the Kennet branch of CPRE,Surveys made by Caffe Nero experts, which it claims prove it attracts additional visitors to town centres like Marlborough and increases retail trade, are claimed to be totally unreliable.
The data presented to the adjourned hearing of the planning inquiry at Marlborough town hall that will decide the café’s fate was told on Thursday that they amounted to estimates and generalisations open to challenge.
The methodology of Allegra Surveys was revealed to be without any known or accepted margins of error or bias that invalidated its conclusions.
“I am making the accusation of total unreliability,” declared John Kirkman (pictured) , chairman of the Kennet branch of CPRE, after his interrogation of planning consultant Chris Green, the main witness for Caffe Nero Holdings.
Mr Green, whose paper submission of evidence itself weighed five pounds, six ounces, accepted that his statement that an Allegra survey showed that 25 per cent of the visitors to shopping centres was due to the attraction of coffee shops was incorrect.
The 25 per cent figure related to the food industry as a whole, restaurants, pubs and other such establishments.
He also admitted that his statement that there had been a 13 per cent increase in footfall related only to the area adjacent to Caffe Nero and not the whole of the High Street.
It was on this point that Mr Kirkman asked how could any such comparison be made when there were no footfall figures prior to Caffe Nero’s arrival in April last year?
“Your claims are without foundation because we have no pre-Nero data to compare with post-Nero data,” he pointed out.
Mr Green: “That’s not true. Caffe Nero’s attractiveness in its own right is evidence of that.”
Mr Kirkman: “But they may well be people who previously frequented the town centre, not necessarily additional customers.”
One earlier witness had said specifically that he came to Marlborough to visit Caffe Nero while another, who made the same statement, said there was already a Caffe Nero in his home town of Swindon.
“Yes, Caffe Nero attracts customers bit you have no evidence to show that they are additional,” insisted Mr Kirkman.
Mr Green: “Many people use coffee shops to meet friends and this attracts other people.”
Mr Kirkman. “This is generalisation again, it doesn’t tell us what is happening in Marlborough.”
He also protested that surveys based on five-minute samples of the number of Caffe Nero customers had been “grossed up” and were basically estimates.
Mr Green replied that the coffee shop’s retail receipts provided an accurate figure until accepting the answer of Mr Kirkman, who himself sat inside the café to see the facts for himself, pointed out that he did not know if a receipt for a coffee and a glass or orange juice referred to one person or two.
“When you gross up counts you introduce a margin or error,” he told Mr Green, who replied: “They survey remains a benchmarking exercise of the situation.”
Mr Kirkman referred to survey counts taken in June and November of customers entering seven adjacent shops, which showed that four had increased their total, which was claimed as proof that Caffe Nero added to the vitality and viability of the town.
“Are we to infer that the presence of Caffe Nero influenced the trade of those seven shops?” he asked.
Mr Green: “Our presence attracts more visitors as a whole, that provides an opportunity for other shops to benefit from that.”
And when pressed further Mr Green said: “We are not suggesting that is the benefit from the influence of Caffe Nero. I am talking about the town centre of Marlborough as a whole.”
There were further clashes over the survey claim that 13 per cent of customers said they would return to Marlborough more that Caffe Nero was there, Mr Kirkman pointing out that industry-accepted standards for marginal errors reduced this to only six per cent, which was another example of the unreliability of the surveys.
Marlborough is not special after all, says Caffe Nero’s planning expert
Chris GreenPlanning consultant Chris Green, presenting Caffe Nero’s case, claimed that the coffee house was a destination in its own right, part of the now accepted as an accepted extension of the shopping experience.
It generated more customers than traditional retailers with a high volume of repeat visits and was in no way detrimental to the vitality and viability of the town centre.
Thirteen per cent of those interviewed in a Caffe Nero survey stated that they would visit the shopping centre more often because of the presence of Caffe Nero.
He pointed out that core local development plans on which Caffe Nero’s retrospective application was rejected were out of date and no longer relevant following the publication of the government’s new planning framework.
According to Wiltshire Council data, Marlborough, where Waitrose was the “key anchor”, had lost ground and could be considered to be “struggling.”
Mr Green said the closure of the Dash fashion store that occupied the site was evidence of that, its decline taking place despite the fact that a revamp of the shop had taken place.
His own evidence was that the heavy reliance on high quality fashion shops, as in some other towns, failed to provide the diversity the shopping centre required and revealed that Marlborough’s number of individual shops was in fact three percentage points below the national average and five percentage points lower than Devizes.
“To my mind the individuality of Marlborough is much wider, principally it’s concerned with its environment,” he said, adding: “Marlborough’s retail functions are similar to many other market towns and it is a mistake to consider it is unique or even significantly different to other similar centres.
“Marlborough is not that individual in terms of retail, the above average number of clothes shops are at particular risk at this time of ever increasing internet shopping.”
In his final submission, James Findlay QC, counsel for Caffe Nero Holdings, said there was no evidence presented to show that its presence had caused any dis-benefit to Marlborough.
“No single shopkeeper has given evidence that his/her trade has been adversely affected,” he told the inspector. “No survey evidence of shopkeepers or footfall put forward to justify the concern as to this alleged phenomenon, which is unsupported by any retail analysis.”
He added: “Ultimately, the council’s case as presented rests on unspecified future harm that is not yet evident which will arise, it is said, because Caffe Nero is simply too attractive and prevents people from journeying to others parts of the town centre – honey potting it might be called.”
“But ay coffee drinker exiting can see almost every location on the other side of the street and that they may wish to visit and will be aware of those on the same side.”
“Moving from Winnie the Pooh and the attractiveness of honey pots to toy-storing venturing to the outer reaches of Marlborough’s town centre is hardly to infinity and beyond.”
“This is a case built upon sand.”
"Caffe Nero evidence should be thrown out because it “blatantly flouted” planning rules, public inquiry told"
"Caffe Nero should be applauded for giving potential to an under-used vital site, says estate agent"
"Caffe Nero encouraged customers to sign their petition more than once planning inspector told"
"Caffe Nero’s claims of boosting visitors to Marlborough town centre declared “misleading and unfair”"
"Caffe Nero is 'the cynical cuckoo sitting in the heart of Marlborough’s successful High Street'"
"Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future"
"Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged"
Claire PerryTory MP Claire Perry has revealed her reason for not voting in the gay marriage debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday because her “urgent government business” was a trip to Afghanistan.
“I was due to go to Afghanistan with the Secretary of State as per my twitter comments this morning,” she told Marlborough News Online today (Friday). I've just returned.”
She revealed that she is in fact a supporter of same sex marriage, adding: “I intend to support the legislation at the third reading subject to scrutiny of the amendments.”
And as a committed Christian she pointed to the fact that the new Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, is a supporter too.
Mrs Perry, MP for Devizes, who lives near Salisbury, explained that she didn’t vote in Tuesday’s controversial debate in the House of Commons because “urgent government business required me to miss the vote.”
She was listed as one of the Tory MPs who did not vote on the legislation, which resulted in more of her Conservative colleagues voting against the gay sex marriage Bill than for it. The vote in favour secured an overwhelming majority.
Marlborough News Online asked her to explain her position but she did not respond, and did not post a statement on the issue on her own constituency website.
Then, in a local newspaper column, she explained: “It comes down to fairness and I think it is fair to allow as many people as possible to marry regardless of race, colour or sexual orientation.”
“Marriage is the bedrock of our society and anything that strengthens it is to be supported and this move will strengthen, not weaken, marriage.”
“I reach this view as a practising Christian and it is one shared by our Bishop, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam.”
Mrs Perry, married with three children, adds: “I support this legislation, although the irony of the matter is that urgent Government business required me to miss the vote on the second reading to the Bill on Tuesday.”
“I have appreciated the communications from my constituents on this issue – both sides of the argument have been represented without rancour and helped me to reach my decision.”
Paul Turner Wiltshire pianist Paul Turner will play Gershwin’s ever-popular Rhapsody in Blue with the North Wiltshire Orchestra on March 9 – and the conductor will be a fellow member of the Marlborough College music staff, Alex Arkwright.
The concert, in St Andrew’s Church, Chippenham, will include Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No 2 for Variety Orchestra.
Paul Turner studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music where he won many prizes and awards culminating in the Queen’s Commendation for Excellence and the Peter Pears Accompaniment prize which was adjudicated by Peter Pears himself.
Paul specializes in chamber music and has worked with many eminent musicians and has appeared in many leading concert venues both at home and abroad.
Beside his appearances as a performer, Paul is widely known for his work promoting and organizing concert series including one at St. John’s Smith Square London. Closer to home he is also the inspiration behind the Swindon Recital Series.
Paul teaches music at Marlborough College, where he collaborates in chamber music with Philip Dukes, the College’s Artistic Director and internationally acclaimed Viola Player who will be appearing with North Wiltshire Orchestra this summer.
The well-known trumpet player Alex Arkwright was appointed NOW’s conductor last year. He is not only a very sought after performer, but is a conductor, adjudicator and teacher - he is currently head of woodwind and brass and head of performance at Marlborough College.
Founded in 1966, the North Wiltshire Orchestra is one of Wiltshire’s oldest and finest amateur orchestras. In 1998 the NWO started its relationship with St Andrews Church Chippenham – its current concert venue.
It does a great deal of community work and raises funds for local charities – at the end of this concert there will be a retiring collection for the Dorothy House Hospice.
And if you can’t place the Shostakovich piece, its ‘Waltz 2’ was heard in the haunting opening music to Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut.
To see the full programme and find out how to get tickets – click the date on our What’s On calendar.
Councillor Richard BrittonThe decision of Wiltshire’s new police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson to freeze for the third year running its police rate precept has come under fire from his own Wiltshire Police and Crime Panel.
Their examination of his report showed that the police held £10 million in its reserves, part of which might have been used to reduce the police precept in the coming financial year.
The panel is required by law to review the Commissioner’s proposed precept for 2013-14, which he has held at £157.77 for the average Band D council taxpayer.
The panel, chaired by Wiltshire Councillor Richard Britton, noted in particular the brevity of the Commissioner’s report, which highlighted the fact that figures for previous years had shown a budget under-spend.
This resulted in reserves forecast to increase to circa £10 million by the end of the financial year. Concerns were raised over the lack of detail and the difficulty in understanding the proposal in the absence of a Police and Crime Plan.
The panel had the opportunity to question Mr Macpherson on his report, during which he recognised the panel’s frustrations. He confirmed that the costs of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner had been kept in line with costs of the previous Wiltshire Police Authority.
He stated that there had been only brief consideration of a reduction in the precept and explained that future reductions in police funding required the retention of healthy reserves. The panel expressed the following concerns:
· Disappointment over the limited amount of information provided
· The panel strongly recommends that in future it should not be put in the position of having to consider the setting of the precept in isolation from the police and crime plan.
· Regretted the absence of any information about alternative levels of precept.
· Unease over the size of reserves and the absence of detailed explanation of the justification for them.
Notwithstanding these concerns -- and in the interests of introducing some certainty into an otherwise uncertain financial situation -- the panel reluctantly agreed to approve the Commissioner’s proposal for a zero percent increase in the police precept.
Edward Hall of Smiths GoreOptimism in the market for the coming year is rising, according to the latest official figures, and the trend set is to continue, Edward Hall, head of new Marlborough agents Smiths Gore reports.
With a survey of lenders showing they expect demand to rise “significantly” in the first part of 201, he told Marlborough News Online.
HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed house sales rose by five per cent last month over the last year’s figures with 932,000 completed sales. This is the highest total 2007.
“Further good news has followed today (Wednesday) by the the Bank of England’s confirmation that the number of mortgage offers in December had almost mirrored the January 2012 figures, being the highest since 2009,” said Mr Hall.
Smiths Gore -- the new face of the housing market on the Marlborough High Street -- held the first of its Property Forums last week to put vendors and sellers in the picture.
A strong mix of well-informed professionals and members of the public held wide-ranging discussions about the process of selling your house.
Guest speaker, solicitor Sara Lovesey of Awdry, Bailey & Douglas, gave pointers on the legal system to an attentive audience.
“I think we all agreed that ‘personal touch’ is important in every element of selling a house and ‘personal touch’ was certainly the spirit of the whole evening,” she said.
The Property Forum is to be a regular date in the Smiths Gore calendar and anyone interested in learning about the housing market can contact them to be invited to the next event in March.
White smoke soon to be seen again from the Vatican chimneyA much younger new Pope, one possibly coming from Africa or South America, may well result from the surprise resignation yesterday (Monday) of Pope Benedict XV11.
That is the view Edwina Fogg, Marlborough’s Mayor, who is a Catholic and a former head of religious studies at St Mary’s School, Calne, where she took students on trips to Rome on three occasions.
“I would not be at all surprised if that happened,” she told Marlborough News Online. “It is something that has been speculated on in the past.”
“There has been an enormous growth of Christians in Africa and other burgeoning populations. So, yes, it is quite likely.”
“As well as being a sad time, it is also one of challenge.”
“It is always an extraordinary occasion when the Cardinals come together and everyone waits for that white smoke coming out of the chimney. It’s a very dramatic moment when we have a new Pope.”
Mrs Fogg was equally shocked when Pope Benedict made his announcement – in Latin – at a meeting of the Cardinals in Rome, no suggestion that it was going to happen being leaked in any way.
“Most people felt that shock because not only hasn’t it happened in one’s lifetime, but it is something that hasn’t happened in 600 years,” she said.
“The papacy has been so transformed since Pope John Paul. People want to see them – and images of them – in their own countries round the world. The present Pope has travelled and been on Twitter.”
“At the age of 85, he has just been an extraordinary Pope. He had a hard at to follow the previous Pope. And he has done it extremely well.”
“He has held things together – he was previously known as the Rotweiller. He has had awful things to combat like the sex abuse scandal. He has obviously thought about his position and realises that modern Catholics probably demand a lot more than ever before.”
The Mayor added: “In the past, you could just sit there in the Vatican amid all your officials and you could do all the masses, even if you were old and doddery.”
“However, what is required now is something very, very different. He was certainly the caretaker Pope. So I imagine we might be looking for a younger candidate for the next one.”
“Someone from Africa or South America is very likely to be a possibility.”
Prayers for Pope Benedict at St Thomas More, Marlborough
Marlborough’s Catholic priest, Father John Blacker, praised Pope Benedict as a man of faith and courage who had taken a brave decision.
Prayers were said for him at St Thomas More, Marlborough, and special services are to be held there and at The Holy Family, the Catholic church in Pewsey – the two churches have a combined congregation of 180 -- to recognise his papacy.
Father Blacker revealed too that he had lobbied Claire Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes, who is a committed Christian and has given her support to the government’s legislation for gay marriage.
“We wish the MPs hadn’t voted that way,” he said. “We believe marriage is between a man and a woman and you can’t change the holy scriptures and the meaning of language in that way.”
Bishop Nick HoltamGrown Up Christianity is the title of an exciting series of events organised by Marlborough Churches Together to mark Lent with the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, among those taking part.
He is to lead a discussion on The Gospel and Sex – he is a supporter of gay marriage -- while David Campbell, Chaplain at Marlborough College, will take on The Gospel and Social Media with former prison governor Tim Newell tackling The Gospel and Restorative Justice.
“Just over 10 years ago, shortly before it was known who was to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, a journalist commented that one of the great strengths of Rowan Williams was that he could remind us all that Christianity is ‘interesting, important and grown up’,” Marlborough’s rector, the Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy told Marlborough News Online.
“Somewhere in this should be mention of fun, but even so this is a useful list of qualities which church life should try and reflect.”
“One of the criticisms often made about the church is that it spends too much time pre-occupied with its own affairs and is therefore irrelevant to most people. Certainly some of the recent publicity of the Church of England at a national level leaves it open to just this kind of criticism.”
“That’s why Marlborough Churches Together has put together a Lent programme that is seeking to explore what the Christian Gospel has to say about some of the major factors in contemporary life.”
And he asked: “What might the gospel have to say about the ever increasing use of Social Media? Can Christianity dethrone the power of Money? Jesus preached both mercy and justice; might this help us place Restorative Justice at the centre of our judicial system?”
“Why did Jesus talk about money much more than about Sex? How can the gospel enrich Everyday Life?”
“These are the subjects that our Lent talks are going to explore and we are very fortunate to have some outstanding speakers who are going to guide us in our thinking.”
The talks are on five successive Wednesday evenings (7.30pm) at Christchurch Methodist church.
The full list of events:
20 February - The Gospel and Social Media led by David Campbell, Chaplain at Marlborough College.
27 February - The Gospel and Money led by Robert Willoughby, Lecturer at London School of Theology.
6 March - The Gospel and Restorative Justice led by Tim Newell, former prison Governor, now working with Restorative Justice.
13 March - The Gospel and Sex led by Nicholas Holtam, The Bishop of Salisbury.
20 March - The Gospel and Everyday Life led by Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology and Religion at Lancaster University.
Sir John Sykes with Susan and Andrew Pearson dressed in 17th century costume as Thomas and Katherine BaylyThe success of The Merchant’s House, the historic 17th century home in the High Street of silk merchant Thomas Bayly, is due to the work of the volunteers who take part in the project.
So said Sir John Sykes, chairman of the trustees, when he welcomed some 70 volunteers to a presentation and reception, to tell them of last year’s achievements and plans for the future.
“The historic Merchant’s House is slowly revealing more of its secrets and there is still much refurbishment to do,” he told them. “Volunteer help is vital, so do encourage your friends and relations to get involved to. Volunteering brings its own reward of satisfaction.”
He pointed out that the work done by volunteers, individually and as part of a team, is absolutely essential.
“A year or two ago we estimated that something like 200,000 hours of volunteer work had been expended on the restoration project since it was started in 1991,” he added. “Multiplied by an average minimum wage of £5 an hour, that equates to over £1million worth of volunteering”
With the first two phases of the development plan now complete, the third phase, to raise a five-year target of £250,000, is in full swing. During last year £65,000 was raised.
Treasurer Anthony Cohen reported that the Trust and Trading Company were holding their own in difficult economic times.
The wonderful costumes, researched and made by historic costume designer Angela Munn, for Mr. and Mrs. Bayly were modelled on the evening by Susan and Andrew Pearson and demonstrated how the Baylys might have appeared in 1690.
Trust vice chairman, Clyde Nancarrow summarised the planned fund raising events for 2013 starting with the spring lecture on March 7 being given by Jon Cannon, on the development of the English Cathedrals.
He referred to a new educational initiative, featuring an exciting programme for primary school children to visit the house and learn about life in the 17th century. A number of schools have already booked a place.
To find out more about volunteering at The Merchant’s House contact Sophie Costard 01672 511491
Wiltshire Council wastes £180,000 of tax payer's money by ignoring Lib Dem calls for an hour's free car parking across the county in towns from Trowbridge to Marlborough.
A newly released council agenda has revealed the true scale of car parking mismanagement in the county as Wiltshire Council Parking Services overspent by £180,000 on predicted targets for the last financial year.
Historically, the county has enjoyed a policy of “one hour's free parking” in all towns. However, the Conservative-controlled council have repealed this system to the detriment of local town centres.
And they have repeatedly ignored requests by Liberal Democrats for a return to one hour's free car parking, which would be an incentive to shoppers to support their local town centres and greatly enhance the local economy.
The benefits gained by introducing an hour's free car parking were shown clearly during December 2012 when the council trialled a month long hour's free parking scheme, during which trade boomed in town centres and the council accrued £58,000 of additional car parking revenue from the increased footfall.
“It is evident that Wiltshire Council is discouraging shoppers from frequenting towns by charging exorbitant car parking rates,” Lib-Dem leader Jon Hubbard told Marlborough News Online. “Our proposals to provide one hour's free parking in our town centres has been proven to encourage more shoppers to shop locally and support our businesses and our local economy.”
“Wiltshire Council is losing taxpayers' money by not providing an hour's free parking.”
Independent Marlborough town councillor Val Compton agrees. “The mishandling of the parking situation in no way surprises me having watched the ridiculous state of affairs in Kennet Place car park which stood empty for a year,” she told Marlborough News Online.
“Wiltshire only seem to regard parking in terms of generating maximum revenue for themselves, without looking at the bigger picture. In Kennet Place, they wanted to generate so much, that they shot themselves in the foot and lost the lot.”
“Anecdotally, they are making voluntary work very difficult in the town centre, those on minimum wages can hardly be expected to bother getting out of bed if they have to pay out at Wiltshire’s rates, and they are also driving residents away because of their huge resistance to residents’ parking schemes.”
“Our visitors are astounded when they realise the lengths we go to in order to leave our cars somewhere. If you are wealthy and living here, it is not a problem, but just when are Wiltshire going to understand that a significant proportion of us are simply unable to pay.”
She added: “I was once told by a councillor I shouldn’t have moved to a house without parking if I couldn’t afford to pay for a car parking space – the better off are just so sympathetic – I find that attitude appalling.”
“The fact is, when I came to Kennet Place, we had nine-car parking spaces here and a great deal more places on land in Angel Yard.”
“Gradually, over-development, with too little parking – for instance the social housing in Angel Yard with insufficient car parking, has squeezed us all to breaking point. The reasoning behind it was apparently ‘Green Policies’.”
“That was, in my opinion, utter rubbish. The reasoning behind it was, in fact, more likely to be greed in land and car parking revenue.”
Organisers hope their forthcoming event won't go with too big a bang, as thousands of adults and children have fun with chemicals and lasers.
More than 2,00 people are expected to descend on St John's Academy for its fourth annual Science Fair on Saturday, March 16.
Run as part of National Science Week, the inaugural event in 2010 won an award from the British Science Association for the best school fair in the country.
The event offers families the chance to join in with experiments in the science labs, get their brains working in the maths puzzle zone and explore the latest gadgets in the technology zone.
Children are also encouraged to take part in a code breaking treasure hunt, Lego robotics, and rocket making with Cats House Observatory.
Better still, most of the events are free, while a small charge is made for some spectacular events, for which pre-booking is required.
Scientist 'Dr Mark' Biddiss will be bringing two shows to the show: The Cool Science and Maths Show, featuring exploding water, belching balloons, levitating balls, flying fish and vanishing loops is aimed at children aged four and upwards.
And his Tricks of the Mind Show show promises magnetic fingers, antigravity arms, handy force fields, and coloured ghosts.
Attendance at each show costs £4 for adults and £2.50 for children.
The Amazing Planetarium will be making a return visit to the event, with six shows over the day and a charge of £3.50 per person.
And the chance to engrave a glass using laser cutters takes place twice during the event and costs £4.
For more information, or to book a place at one of the special shows, log on to www.stjohns.wilts.sch.uk/html/calendar/nsew/nsew.html
The costs of running the coalition government’s new system of commissioning health care in Wiltshire will be much higher than for the current system. The GP-led NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) takes over from NHS Wiltshire (the Primary Care Trust or PCT) on April 1.
The Department of Health has set management or running costs at £25 per head of each CCG’s population. And Marlborough News Online has learnt that running costs for Wiltshire CCG will be £11,600,000 for their first year (2013-2014) of operation which is right up to the £25 per head limit.
The equivalent costs for the PCT were £19 per head – making the CCG almost one third more costly to run.
These costs are being budgeted for despite the fact that the CCG has responsibility for fewer services than the PCT. The CCG will not be commissioning primary care (the doctors themselves) or dentistry. Responsibility and costs for public health have been transferred to local authorities. And the CCG will have no buildings to look after.
The PCT’s total budget for 2012-13 was £690 million. Wiltshire CCG has been allocated a budget £503 million for 2013-14.
It is not clear how far the CCG’s complex constitution and structure (which we have already reported) accounts for this increase in management costs.
Marlborough News Online also understands that there are two nearby CCGs where running costs will be even higher than those for NHS Wiltshire CCG.
The coalition’s White Paper of July 2010 which outlined the restructuring eventually passed into law as the Health and Social Care Act, stated its aim as ‘radically simplifying the architecture of the health care system’. In doing so it promised to reduce NHS management costs by more than 45 per cent over four years and asserted the aim of ‘strengthening democratic legitimacy’.
Supporters of the coalition’s restructuring have emphasised how the Health and Social Care Act removes the PCT ‘layer of administration’ and that savings on management costs will go to fund front line services.
Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Rob Taylor will be the guest of honour when Marlborough’s Mayor Edwina Fogg holds a reception at the town hall on February 14 to celebrate Marlborough's international links.
The town has links in particular with Marlborough in New Zealand and also Marlborough in America, but the presence of Mr Taylor has special significance following the Queen’s diamond jubilee pageant on the Thames last year.
Taking part in that was a team of six students from Marlborough Boys College, who rowed a replica model of the Swift Shaw whaler boat as part of the royal flotilla using a huge oar to steer the 9.7 metre long boat.
And that very same steering oar is now to be a jubilee gift to Marlborough, where it will be on display in an exhibition at the town hall after being officially presented to the Mayor by Mr Taylor.
He is a career diplomat who, from the Commission in London, is also Acting Ambassador to Ireland and Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria.
The presentation takes place at 12 noon.
Wiltshire PCC, Angus MacphersonWiltshire Police’s precept as part of next year’s Wiltshire’s council tax rate has been frozen, which means that the average Band D household will pay £157.77 for it services.
So far the only other increase announced is a nine pence in the pound rise for the same band ratepayers in Marlborough, where the town council has approved a 3.73 per cent rise for the coming year.
And Wiltshire Council itself will reveal its budget – and the overall total precept – on February 19.
The proposal for the police freeze came from newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, and was formally confirmed by the Police and Crime Panel on Wednesday.
The £157.77 sum is the same amount as last year – and the year before that too.
“I am very pleased that residents will benefit from this cap on the policing part of the council tax, especially in the current economic climate,” Mr Macpherson told Marlborough News Online.
“I am confident that we can keep the cost of policing down for households while maintaining effective frontline services.”
The Commissioner promised not to increase the policing part of the council tax for the 2013/14 financial year during his election campaign.
He has now consulted with the business sector, via chamber of commerce groups, and the voluntary community sector on the proposal. He is also continuing to consult with the voluntary community sector on his forthcoming Police and Crime Plan, with a wider public consultation on the plan due to start later this month.