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Recreational cyclist sets out to ride the 'Ride London' 100 miles challenge for Alzheimer's around the 2012 Olympic course.


Self confessed 'not particularly fit person', 47 year old Mark Waring-Jones will take on the 100 mile challenge on Sunday week - 29 July - in aid of Alzheimer's Society.

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'Bigger & better' trains but a cut & worse bus service: can that be sensible?

19-07-2018 Dr Sam Page

Sirs,  In January 2019, Great Western Railways will be introducing new, five-car, bi-mode, Intercity Express Trains (IETs) running between Bedwyn station and London Paddington. These new trains, capable of running on both diesel and electric, will mean that GWR is able to continue to operate direct services to Bedwyn, Hungerford and...

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Special school holidays event: Swindon Museum & Art Gallery's free family archaeology day

19-07-2018 A Correspondent

If you thought Swindon only started with the railway age, think again!  The town's Museum and Art Gallery holds a rich collection of archaeological finds made in the area from the Stone Age onwards.

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NHS is saving money: some medicines available over the counter will no longer be prescribed

19-07-2018 A Correspondent

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is following new guidance from NHS England that means medicines available over the counter for the treatment of 35 minor, short-term conditions, will no longer routinely be prescribed. 

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Preparations to start at Great Bedwyn for introduction of new trains


For GWR to run their new five-car bi-mode Intercity Express Trains (IETs) between Bedwyn and Paddington, they need to make a short extension to the turn-back siding at Bedwyn. Bi-mode engines can switch from electric to diesel power - and so travel beyond the electrified line, which ends at Newbury.

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St John’s Year 11 Prom - students celebrate in style

19-07-2018 Sue Round

Over two hundred Year 11 students from St John’s Marlborough celebrated finishing their GCSE exams last Friday July 13. 

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Dinosaurs, fossils, rockets and much more at Ramsbury Primary School

19-07-2018 Sue Round

Pupils at Ramsbury Primary School have enjoyed a week of science and outdoor learning activities covering all aspects of the science curriculum.

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Golf, Tennis? Next Murray or McIlroy? Come and try both on Sunday


'Try out Marlborough Tennis' new courts' is the appeal to anyone interested in turning their Wimbledon watching skills into court action.  This Sunday, 22 July, Marlborough Tennis' new courts on Port Hill will be open to the public - wannabe Djokavics or Kerbers, or anyone else who's sights are set...

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Finance Manager - Marlborough College


Finance Manager      An opportunity has arisen for an experienced and qualified Finance Manager in our busy Finance department. Overseeing the day-to-day running of the Finance Department, ensuring that the main accounting records (Payroll, Fees, Purchase Ledger, Fixed Assets, Nominal Ledger, Cash Books) for the College & Enterprise Company are maintained on a...

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Marlborough meeting discusses Wiltshire Council's options for special schools

17-07-2018 A Correspondent

Wiltshire Council are holding a three-month pre-consultation on the future of the county's special schools - for children with Special Education Need and Disability (SEND).  On Monday (July 16) a meeting was held in Marlborough to discuss the consultation and to hear the views of Wiltshire councillors and parents.

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Savernake Hospital’s first Christmas fair raises an “incredible £1,100”

Volunteers Cheryl Elias and Angie WattsVolunteers Cheryl Elias and Angie WattsWhat was described as an “incredible £1,100” was raised at the Friends of Savernake Hospital traditional Christmas fair, the first of its kind organised by volunteers working together under Pat Harper, the Friends’ Shop co-ordinator.

Fears that it would be too far out of Marlborough for people to travel, that car parking would be strictly limited and that it wouldn’t work were overcome by the offer of free mince pies.

“And we ran out of them,” Pat told Marlborough News Online. “We were all completely dumbfounded as the whole day worked like a dream and was simply lovely.”

The Friends’ Shop volunteers baked, knitted, crafted, planted, weaved and sewed for months in advance to provide the Christmas goods for sale and also on sale as a stocking filler was the Friends’ Nosh Recipe Book, price £5.

“The takings for the day were an incredible £1,100,” added Pat.

Among those present was Val Compton, who campaigned for a judicial review when Savernake came under threat.

“For me it was a lovely reunion with nurses, doctors, therapists and staff, many of whom I hadn’t seen for some considerable time,” said Val. “The buzz was great especially thanks to Pat Harper who runs the hospital shop set up after the judicial review on behalf of the Friends.”

“I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see something start from day one then stand back and watch it fly ahead with such success.”

Joan Davies, a member of Savernake Parish Council, organised free parking for those who attended and Richard Garland at the hospital allowed the Friends to take over the reception area in which to stage the fair.

“Next year we might need the entire ground floor,” said Pat Harper.

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What a card! Sam the horse to deliver Christmas mail

Sam with rider Ginette StewartSam with rider Ginette StewartMeet Sam: the horse with the festive outfit, his own social media accounts, and a very important job to do next weekend (December 15 and 16).

For Sam, with a little help from his rider Ginette Stewart, will be delivering Christmas cards around their village of Burbage.

Sam has been wearing his Santa hat and blanket every Christmas for five years, and became well known in the village as a result.

So this year, Ginette decided to put his celebrity status to good use – launching a charity Christmas card delivery service.

The money raised from the stunt will go towards the village defibrillator campaign, in memory of White Hart landlord Richard Flint, who died of a heart attack.

And villagers who missed their chance to post cards at the popular Christmas Tree Sale this weekend, still have a chance to buy and post cards at the pub.

“It costs £1 to have your own a card hand-delivered by Ginette and Sam, or £1.50 for the delivery of a special card featuring Sam on the front,” said Ginette.

“It's been really popular, so I hope we can keep it going and support a different charity every year,” she said 

Meanwhile, Tweeters can follow Sam at, where his small but loyal following includes MP Claire Perry.  

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Fire fighters take safety message on the road

Wiltshire Fire Service are bringing their safety message to Marlborough High StreetWiltshire Fire Service are bringing their safety message to Marlborough High StreetFirefighters will be holding a special event in Marlborough High Street next Friday to focus on fire safety in the run-up to Christmas.

Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service will be in the town centre between 9am and 3pm on December 14, meeting with shoppers and making sure everyone is thinking about safety at home and on the roads.

Crews will also be visiting commercial premises in the town to ensure that fire exits aren’t blocked by festive stock, and that other regulations are being met.

Station Manager Dave Geddes said: “As part of the Wiltshire Community Safety Partnership’s Christmas campaign, we thought it would be good to spend some time meeting with as many local people as possible, so we can highlight some of the risks that cause us concern during the festive period.

“In addition, we are always looking for new on-call firefighters in Marlborough, so it is an opportunity for anyone interested in joining the Service to come along and have a chat.”

He added: “We will be promoting home fire safety visits, making sure that people have working smoke alarms, and encouraging drivers to take extra care when out on the roads.

“We want everyone to have the best possible Christmas by staying safe wherever they are!”

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Wiltshire bookworms are also keen recyclers

Bookworms Juniper Bracey and Alexander Kirk Wilson making use of the book collection container at Marlborough's household recycling centreBookworms Juniper Bracey and Alexander Kirk Wilson making use of the book collection container at Marlborough's household recycling centreWiltshire bookworms have shown that they are also keen recyclers, according to Marlborough-based Hills Group.

Figures released by Hills Waste Solutions show that close to 50 tonnes of hard and soft covered reading books have been recycled over the past 12 months.  That's enough books to fill an average sized classroom.

Over the past year book collection containers have been installed at all 11 of the council’s household recycling centres and demand for the service has been high.

“The book recycling service has proved so popular, that some of the sites have more than one container to keep up with the volumes we are receiving,” said Cliff Carter, recycling manager for Hills. 

“Wiltshire residents have shown once again that they are keen to recycle as much as possible and reduce waste to landfill.”

The good quality of the books collected means that only a small percentage are sent for reprocessing. “The majority of the books we receive are perfect for reuse,” says Ruth Derham of Recycled Reading, the company responsible for collecting the containers which she runs with her husband, Ian.

“Our partnership with traders across the UK means that many of the books we collect from the recycling centres go back into general circulation to be sold online and in a variety of retail outlets”, explains Ian.  “In addition, some of the books are sent abroad or to schools and nurseries within the UK.”

Whilst this has been an impressive start, the volume of books Wiltshire recyclers are able to save is set to rise over the coming year, particularly in the south of the county where the containers have only recently been installed. 

“We have been amazed by the response to our venture and are frequently approached by members of the public while we are on site to be told how pleased they are to have this service”, says Ruth.  “We continue to be grateful for their support.”

For more details on household recycling centres, including locations, opening hours and materials that can be recycled see

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Welfare provision under the coalition government – a local case

In his autumn statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has outlined a further round of real term cuts to welfare budgets.

This is the story of one person in the Marlborough area and her struggle with the new rules and cuts in welfare payments. Her story is anonymous because she fears being victimised for giving Marlborough News Online her story.  We will call her F.

F is around forty years old and a single mother.  She is partially sighted.  Her teenage child acts as her ‘young carer’ and is at school in the area.  Because of her eyesight, she has not been allowed to drive for almost four years.

Last year F’s benefits stopped and she was told she had to get work. She went twice to be checked to see if she should be at work – and so lose her Disabled Living Allowance.  The first time the tester stood at the far end of the room and asked how many fingers were being held up.

The second time F was accompanied to the testing centre (and the person who took her there was told to claim mileage for the journey.)  When F was collected from the reception area, she followed the tester to his office.  She was told that if she could follow him along the corridor she was fit for work.

At the testing centre “They don’t say anything final to your face – the results come by post.” She had to find a job.

As getting proper magnifying aids and so on, to enable her to see to work has, in F’s experience, put employers off, she decided to be self-employed.  In January this year F started work for a well-known national company.  

As she suffers from intermittent depression, F thought this ‘freelance-type’ work would allow her to make up her hours when she felt able: “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

But three weeks ago F was told that this work was ‘not viable’ – she was earning well below the national minimum wage.  She would lose her tax credits.

Not only lose them, but she would have to pay back what she had received - the ‘tax credit people’ sent her a bill for several thousand pounds.  Why they had not spotted the problem in the nine months and more she was doing this work remains a mystery.  They were sent all the information about F’s work that they asked for.  (Somebody is helping her appeal against this demand for re-payment.)

When the tax credits stopped – so did her housing benefit.  She has not been told why.

Now she is existing on payments for child credit, family allowance and what remains of her Disability Living Allowance.

F has been to a Job Centre Plus and may get Job Seekers Allowance.  But this will take between ten days and four weeks to sort out.  F hopes to get careers advice and be helped to find a job to suit her disability.

Before she had to get paid work, F did voluntary work at a local drop-in centre for the elderly.  She really enjoyed the work.  But when she asked whether she could go on doing voluntary work, with the number of hours she did being signed for, F was told “You can’t live on fresh air, can you?”  So that ruled out any Big Society solution.

She finds heating her two bedroom home very expensive. And the cost of food is going up.  Five weeks after she put in an order for everyday groceries (“We don’t eat much meat – it costs so much”), she put in the same order again:  its cost had gone up by £15.  So she cancelled the order.

What worries F more than anything at the moment is the uncertainty of all the government’s changes.  And added to that at the moment is the uncertainty of whether she will get Job Seekers Allowance and if she does what she will have to do to prove she’s looking for the work she wants to do.

The uncertainty of the weather is always there - F hopes it won't stay too cold for too long or the electricity key will have to take precedence over nutritious food on the shopping list.

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Students at St John’s hailed as a “shining light” in the help they give to the community

IB students at St John’s recently put on the play ‘Mort’ by Terry Pratchett which raised over £1,200 for Alzheimer’s ResearchIB students at St John’s recently put on the play ‘Mort’ by Terry Pratchett which raised over £1,200 for Alzheimer’s ResearchA report from the International Baccalaureate Association has praised the links forged between the IB students at St John’s School in Marlborough and the local community.

The students’ involvement in volunteering with community groups and charities was described in the report as “meaningful, and with significant outcomes”.

Gary Paterson, IB co-ordinator at St John’s, told Marlborough News Online: “I am pleased to see that the review acknowledges St John’s as a shining light of how education can and should engage with its community.”

The IBO report followed an audit of sixth form students’ creativity, action and service (CAS) activities, which form an integral part of their IB diploma studies.

The authors praised St John’s for its consistent and well-structured CAS programme, commenting that “a broad and interesting range of activities are available in which students can participate, many of which require a welcome level of involvement within the local community”.

As part of the service element of the two-year programme all IB students participate in a range of community-based activities which frequently make a real difference to the effectiveness of community groups and charities.

Some students choose to spend many hours volunteering at a favourite charity, some organise and run fundraising events, and others are involved in a range of smaller projects.

Many organisations have benefited from IB student volunteering, including the Bruce Trust, a disabled boating charity based in Hungerford, the Prospect Hospice, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, local Scout and Brownie groups, and Savernake Hospital.

In addition, students have been involved in activities including putting on a production of Terry Pratchett’s play Mort to raise over £1,200 for Alzheimer’s Research UK, charity bag-packing for Save the Children, helping the Marlborough Lions Club with their annual Christmas Santa Sleigh fundraiser.

They also took part in the Prospect Hospice Starlight Walk, and organising a fundraising evening for the Marlborough Brandt group.

Additionally, students at St John’s, now elevated to an independent Academy, have helped out at a wide range of events, including the Marlborough Literary Festival, the Marlborough Royal Wedding tea party, the annual primary schools Drama Day in West Woods, and the British Legion 90th Anniversary fundraising day.

Co-ordinator Gary Paterson explained: “The International Baccalaureate Diploma encourages students to step outside their comfort zone and take part in activities that are often fun, but can also be challenging for the students.”

“Year after year I have seen how involvement with the wider community not only benefits local people, but also helps our students to grow into confident adults and valuable members of the global community”.

A total of 12 students gained the diploma last year, a number significantly higher than the national average, and this year 40 students will be seeking it.

The IB Diploma is an internationally-recognised alternative to A-levels. Students study six subjects over a two-year course, with an additional requirement to complete a minimum of 150 hours of creativity, action and service (CAS) activities in order to achieve their diploma.”


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Launch for book inspired by Big Belly Oak

Illustrator Chantal Marie Bourgonje and author Barbara TownsendIllustrator Chantal Marie Bourgonje and author Barbara TownsendIt's 36ft wide, over 1,000 years old, and – they say – if you dance around it naked the devil will appear*

Now the Big Belly Oak, one of the UK's most famous trees, has inspired a children's book.

Written by first-time author Barbara Townsend, with pictures by children's illustrator Chantal Marie Bourgonje – both of whom live in Burbage – The Savernake Big Belly Oak is about the woodland creatures who seek sanctuary in the tree's cavernous pot belly, and the tales the tree tells them.

Barbara, who launched her book at the Burbage Christmas Tree Fair on Saturday, where the initial response from customers was “overwhelming” said: “It all started as I drove through the Savernake Forest on a snowy winter’s day 2011.

“The Big Belly Oak was there in my rear view mirror, snow covering his branches his gaping mouth dark against the snow, it appeared to be looking right at me. My mind just went into overdrive.

“My granddaughter had told me some time ago that something lived inside of the tree and thoughts had gone through my head then but just dismissed them. That snowy day, I could not stop thinking about the tree and I just knew I had to write my thoughts down.”

Barbara gave her manuscript to a family member, the head teacher of a school in London, who read the story to a class of six and seven year olds. “They were asked what they like and didn’t like about the book,” said Barbara. “Their responses astonished me. Even their dislikes, for me, were positive, as it had evoked an emotion in them.”

An illustration of the Big Belly Oak from the bookAn illustration of the Big Belly Oak from the bookSince then, the book has received plaudits from the Forestry Commission, which manages the Savernake Forest. Communications manager Heather Lilley wrote: “The Savernake Big Belly Oak is a wonderful collection of tiny stories for tiny people, inspired by one of the most mighty ancient and veteran oaks in the country.

“It gives a glimpse of Savernake Forest through the seasons and the last story leaves us excited to find out more about the “Other Big Oak Trees in the Forest.

“I guarantee that, once you have read the book to your children, the next time you drive past Big Belly Oak your head will be full of fantastic tales and you’ll be itching to take a walk in Savernake to discover other mighty old trees!”

The Savernake Big Belly Oak, which has been produced in a limited edition run of 500, costs £6.99 from White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough or online at

*Marlborough News Online disclaimer: To summon the devil you're supposed to strip off and dance around the tree 12 times in an anti-clockwise direction. But try it, and it's far more likely that you'll summon a policeman, or be squashed by an HGV: the Big Belly Oak is right on the edge of the busy A346.

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Comedy company to perform in Marlborough during Ken’s Christmas Crusade

Actors Thomas Jones and  Nikolai Ribnikov as Ken and SteveActors Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov as Ken and SteveThey want to tread the boards, but first comedy theatre troupe Velvet Trumpet must fundraise one step at a time in a bid to finance their next play.

Actors Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov will be performing in Marlborough on a marathon walk along the A4 from London to Swansea under the personas of an enthusiastic but misguided old man, Ken, and his less eager friend, Steve.

The pair will be undertaking the 200 miles trek – Ken’s Christmas Crusade – in just under a week, in a bid to raise funds for the company's next play, Don’t Disturb the Driver. And they'll be performing, recording and broadcasting comedy sketches along the way.

Don't Disturb the Driver is a comedy set in a Swansea coach station about a young coach driver, Will, who is about to become the UK's youngest driver to reach one million miles of service.

In the play, Will drives the Swansea to London route so Thomas and Nikolai decided to make the same journey.. on foot. Starting in Windsor on December 16, they'll stop in a different town on each consecutive day, including Reading, Marlborough, Chippenham, Bristol, Chepstow, Cardiff and Bridgend, arriving in Swansea on Christmas Eve.

Nikolai told Marlborough News Online the fundraising stunt was necessary in a difficult financial climate.

“The arts are taking a massive financial hit. Those that suffer most are invariably the small independent theatres and companies, ourselves included. 

“Does that make us want to stop producing work? No. Does it make us believe any less in what we do? Of course not.

“Money may be in short supply but the creativity of the theatre community certainly isn't,” he said.

To find out more about Velvet Trumpet and Ken’s Christmas Crusade, log on to

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Christmas exhibition and sale at drawing centre

Work on paper by Breon O'CaseyWork on paper by Breon O'CaseyThe renowned Rabley Drawing Centre, near Marlborough, is throwing open its doors for a sale of artistic Christmas gift ideas until December 18.

The gallery will be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am until 4pm.

Visitors will be able to view the current exhibitions, Night for Day with paintings and prints by Tom Hammick and Significant Ground, glass sculpture by Sally Fawkes.

And there will be unique works of art for sale, with prints and works on paper by Craigie Aitchison, Martyn Brewster, Eileen Cooper RA, Tom Hammick, Sara Lee, Breon O’Casey, Victor Pasmore, Nana Shiomi, Emma Stibbon, and Sandy Sykes, Ceramics by Emily Myers and Joanna Still, and jewellery and silver by Meryl Ainslie and Sheila McDonald.

Prints are available from under £200, and ceramics and silver from £50.

For information and directions, log on to

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Runner clocks up 93 miles in 24-hour treadmill marathon

Andrew and Carys HughesAndrew and Carys HughesHe may not have broken any records, but former soldier Andrew Hughes touched hundreds of hearts as he stepped from a treadmill after a marathon 24-hour run.

He ran 93.28 miles without leaving the confines of Broad Hinton School, where his daughter Carys (5) is a pupil, in memory of his late wife Claire.

And on his journey he clocked up an incredible £1,500 towards a fundraising target of £2,000. A quarter on the final tally will go the the school, while the lion's share will be donated to to Macmillan Cancer Support, who supported the family during Claire's illness.

Andrew, who served with the King's Troop, and Claire Hughes were married in 2007, and learned about Claire's cervical cancer upon their return from honeymoon. Claire died in September 2009.

Among the donations were pocket money pledges from children at the school. And while he was raising pounds in money, he was losing pounds in weight – Andrew shed four stone (25kg)  during training and an incredible half a stone (7lbs, or 3kg) during the run itself. 

After the run, family friend Tory Ashford said: “Andrew went to hell and back in the last 24 hours.

“He didn't beat the record of 135 miles, but his goal was to raise money for Macmillan in memory of his wife Claire which he did with flying colours. 

The run through the night which was the hardest and most gruelling time for Andrew. It was a remarkable achievement.”

There's still time to support Andrew's fundraising appeal. Find out more at the JustGiving page.

ClaireHughesClaireHughesFeeling confident - ten minutes before the treadmill marathonFeeling confident - ten minutes before the treadmill marathonForty-five minutes to go, and the agony is showingForty-five minutes to go, and the agony is showingHe's done it - 24 hours on a treadmillHe's done it - 24 hours on a treadmill

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Mayor to lay wreath on blue plaque to commemorate Civil War siege of Marlborough

Lord DigbyLord DigbyThree hundred and seventy years after the last musket shot was fired, the siege of Marlborough during the Civil War will be commemorated ina wreath laying ceremony. 

On December 5 at 10am mayor Edwina Fogg will lay a wreath at the plaque on the wall of the Castle & Ball hotel.

She will be accompanied by the Officers of the Dignity, and beadle John Yates will read an account of the siege.

The outbreak of civil war in 1642 saw the majority of the town on Parliament's side, although the Seymours held the castle for the King.

Because of its radical reputation, its strategic significance on the road West, and its proximity to Oxford, which King Charles had made his base, Marlborough was one of the first towns to be attacked. 

On November 24, Lord Digby led four hundred cavalry troops to the town, where he demanded surrender. He was rebuffed, and returned on December 5 with an army of 4,000 men.

His attack was resisted by a small force of professional soldiers and a much larger number of local people, Colonel James Ramsey and John Francklyn, one of the town's two MPs – Sir Francis Seymour was the other.

After a three-day siege the Royalists overran earthworks on the Common and then stormed the town through the alleyways leading to High Street, shouting, “A town, a town for King Charles!”

Even as the Royalist troops entered High Street the townsfolk continued to put up a fight, firing muskets from windows.

Looting and pillaging followed, with 53 houses and seven barns put to the torch. Royalist troops rounded up 120 prisoners - including the MP and the mayor - who were marched to Oxford prison, where the MP John Franklyn later died.

Although the town was lost, Oliver Cromwell never forgot the loyalty of the people of Marlborough.

When much of the town was destroyed by a Great Fire in 1653, Cromwell levied a national subscription – to which every parish in the land contributed – to rebuild the town.  

The blue plaque that commemorates the seige of Marlborough was erected in 1995. 

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Claire Perry urged to take up Caffe Nero’s “sad and sick” tax denial with Chancellor Osborne

logo plus stripe1080pxlogo plus stripe1080pxAn urgent plea has gone to Tory MP Claire Perry to highlight with Chancellor of the Chequer George Osborne the “sad and sick situation” of Caffe Nero failing to pay any corporation tax on its current £39.9 million earnings.

In the wake of the American coffee bar chain Starbucks offering £20 million tax over two years, Marlborough’s MP has been told how Caffe Nero is actually costing the community money by its equally arrogant attitude over planning.

The company, as it did when it opened in Marlborough High Street in April, has launched new coffee shops without consent all over the country and then demanded planning inquiries every time it was refused retrospective permission – the latest inquiry to be held in January.

Marlborough town councillor Val Compton, who has been leading a boycott campaign in the local community, today wrote to Mrs Perry seeking her help.

“Not surprisingly, there is public fury over the shenanigans of Starbucks, firstly over the ‘legal’ non-payment of corporation tax and now the ‘think of a number’ method of payment,” she told Mrs Perry.  

“For those that are struggling to make ends meet this is galling, but our sense of fair play has kicked in at all levels.  People turned against Starbucks and it was a most effective way of dealing with it – loss of business and face would affect their profit.”

“Here in Marlborough, part of your Devizes constituency, we are dealing with a smaller version of Starbucks in Caffe Nero, who pay no corporation tax on their last record earnings of £39.9 million because they are registered in the tax haven of the Isle of Man and also in Luxembourg.”

“But their escape from paying corporation tax is equally matched by their arrogant attitude to the planning regulations, opening new outlets without gaining planning consent in advance (it unfortunately happens to be legal) and then seeking retrospective approval once they are up and running and made their mark.”

She significantly points out: “The arrogant attitude means that the community is forced to pay for planning inquiries to be held when Caffe Nero appeals against refusal, in this case for change of use, by the local authority.”

“There have been 17 inquiries in various parts of the country, Caffe Nero winning 16 of them, and now there is to be another inquiry in Marlborough on January 15, the considerable cost of the inquiries falling on the community.”

“While the media is full of reports about Starbucks offering to pay £20 million to the taxman over the next two years, the disgraceful case of Caffe Nero seems to have dropped off the agenda.”

“We need your support in highlighting this disgraceful situation to Chancellor George Osborne as he attempts to bring some equity to the case of morally wrong tax dodgers who are reaping rewards from their enterprise at public expense.”

“Just like Totnes managed to keep out Costa Coffee, I and many others would like to see Caffe Nero ousted. Hence our current boycott campaign.”

And she adds: “I really feel outraged every time I walk past and simply don’t understand how customers can support them – except that they just may not realise what is going on.  We need you to raise your voice on this one, Claire.”

“This sad and sick situation has to stop!”

More than 40 Starbucks coffee shops across the country, including branches in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Cardiff, were targeted yesterday (Saturday) by campaigners seeking the highlight the American-based company’s minimal corporation tax contributions.

Supporters from UK Uncut, in their biggest day of action so far, were protesting against the fact that Starbucks has paid only £8.6 million in tax since Starbucks launched its chain of outlets in the UK 14 years ago.

The coffee shop confrontation went ahead despite the promise of Starbucks to pay voluntarily pay £20 million over the next two years to HM Treasury.

"Our customers have been very vocal over the past six or seven weeks,"  Kris Engskov, Starbucks’ UK chief, told Sky News. "This is clearly an issue which has struck a chord with the country."

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Mother Christmas is star turn at market

Mother Christmas Terri DuddyMother Christmas Terri DuddyThirty seven Wiltshire exhibitors selling everything from liqueurs, fudge and cakes to jewellery, candles and toys made out of socks gathered in Marlborough Town Hall for the first Festive Season Christmas Market yesterday (Thursday).

With local and organic produce, live music and a visit by Mother Christmas, the aim of the market – said Marlborough-based Parisian organiser Saleha Pinhorn – was “to give visitors the chance to shop for Christmas gifts in a relaxed atmosphere.”

Catherine Colyer of Rudolpfs On The MoveCatherine Colyer of Rudolpfs On The Move

 Louise Skeates of RubyDoo GiftsLouise Skeates of RubyDoo Gifts

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Up and down response to Chancellor’s mini autumn budget from Marlborough’s Brewin Dolphin

Stephen DeplaStephen DeplaDisappointment and some delight to Chancellor George Osborne’s bleak mini-budget autumn statement came this afternoon from Stephen Depla, head of Brewin Dolphin in Marlborough.

“We are obviously disappointed to hear that pension savers’ allowances will drop,” he told Marlborough News Online. “But the increased drawdown news is welcome.”

“It will go towards restoring the flexibility for existing pensioners and to those retiring now in these tough times of pitiful annuity rates.”

“We also welcome measures announced by the Chancellor that help long-term savers and encourage greater investment in growing businesses.  Raising of the annual ISA limit and including AIM stocks under the ISA wrapper are both most welcome in that regard.”

He added: “However, the Chancellor could have done more to create a tax system that rewards long-term investors over short-term gamblers.”

“The current system works completely in reverse, where equity investment is subject to 0.5 per cent stamp duty while CFD trading is tax free.  Saving for the future requires long-term thinking and expertise, not the instincts of a short-seller out to make a quick buck.”

“And the Chancellor should have done more to reward long-term investment.  Having said that, this was broadly a much better performance.”

“The Chancellor certainly didn’t pull his punches nor hide in a bush and the long term outlook is very slightly better – so a few plus points were scored particularly with scrapping the 3p on fuel - always a welcome measure outside London.”

The investment management and financial planning company, admired for its sponsorship of Marlborough’s jazz and literary festivals, also revealed its own preliminary results today (Wednesday).

Brewin’s underlying profits rose 8.3 per cent to £42.9 million in the year to September while funds under management rose 8 per cent to £25.9 billion.

“It has been another difficult year for the economy but the markets have held up very well and we are pleased to have made good progress in Marlborough and contributed to the Group's increased profits and funds under management,” said Mr Depla.

“The industry is going through some significant changes and both the team here and our clients have managed this well.  I believe we are set fair to grow the business in the coming year.”

Cautious optimism came from Brewin’s chairman Jamie Matheson, who said:  “Equity markets have remained remarkably resilient and since the summer there have been signs that our clients have started buying more shares although volumes have not got back to their historically high levels.”

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Philip’s passion produces a remarkable debut for the Beautiful Kennet calendar in aid of ARK

Philip PerkinsPhilip PerkinsPhilip Perkins' own passion for photography and admiration for the work of Action River Kennet (ARK) has been combined to create a high quality calendar depicting the delights of the famed chalk stream.

And with Christmas in mind, 67-year-old Philip is now engaged on a solo effort to distribute the 750 copies of the “Beautiful Kennet” calendar he has produced to shops, pubs and post offices in Ramsbury, Hungerford, Marlborough, Pewsey and the villages through which the Kennet flows.

It is very much a labour of love since he thought up the idea in April and then literally bumped into Geoffrey Findlay, ARK’s president, while riding his bike in Ramsbury, where he lives.

He suggested the Kennet deserved its own calendar using a variety of the splendid photographs he has taken of it through the seasons since moving to Ramsbury in 1984, photography having been his hobby since 1964.

And a calendar too that he hopes, if it sells out, will produce a flow of funds to boost ARK’s projects to preserve and enhance the river which is such a vital local resource.

But it is touch and go for Philip, a telecommunications consultant representing two major American companies in Europe, who is conscious that this is his debut in the highly competitive world of Christmas calendars.

“Someone produces a calendar in Ramsbury and it sells about 300 copies,” Philip told Marlborough News Online. “But I am a bit of an optimist and have set myself with something of a mountain to climb by producing 750 Kennet calendars.”

“In retrospect, that’s rather high and now it’s a bit iffy whether we shall sell all of them. I’ve still got nearly 300 I have yet to distribute.”

As with most other calendars on the market, many produced on a grand scale by national companies, he has priced the calendar at £10 – it comes with envelope and protective card to send off as a present -- allowing the retailer to decide the asking price.

However, he is encouraged by the response. “Some retailers want to support a charity like ARK so much that they just want to sell it without taking a commission,” he said. “In that case, they can go down to £8 and in that way help us to produce a decent profit for ARK.”

“That’s really very encouraging with a touch of the Christmas spirit about it.”

In Marlborough the Beautiful Kennet calendar is currently available at the White Horse Bookshop, Mayther’s the Craft Shop at St Peter’s and The Outside Chance pub in Manton.

Inklings, in Hungerford, is also selling it along with Kaleidoscope, the shop known as From the Heart and Cobbs Farm Shop on the A4.

In Pewsey you will find it at the Gallery & Art Centre, as well as Thomson’s Deli, and at Avebury the Henge Shop is stocking it. So too the Post Offices in Aldbourne, Burbage and Great Bedwyn

Ramsbury Post Office and the Crown & Anchor Inn are two other outlets. So too The Red Lion Inn at Axford, the Horseshow Inn at Mildenhall and the Stores & Post Office at Shalbourne.

Take your pick!

Mildenhall BridgeMildenhall BridgeStitchcombe RidgeStitchcombe Ridge

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Will dying ash trees leave as many gaps in our landscape as Dutch elm disease?

If you pay too much attention to newspaper headlines you’ll be led to believe that Britain’s ash trees are about to follow English elm trees into extinction.  The truth may not be so extreme but the disease that’s spread from mainland Europe is sure to change the look of many of our woodland areas.

Chalara dieback – caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus – attacks ash trees causing leaf loss, crown dieback and usually kills the tree.  It has already led to drastic loss of ash trees in mainland Europe and has now been found in the United Kingdom.

Outbreaks are being divided into those among imported plants at nursery sites and recently planted saplings, and outbreaks in the wider environment where the fungus seems to have crossed from main land Europe.  Most of the latter cases are in East Anglia and Kent caused directly by spores blown across the sea.

Until November 27, government experts had found 257 cases in the United Kingdom– 135 of those in the wider environment, mainly in established woodland.  The closest recently planted case to our area is between Bristol and Chippenham.

Symptoms of the disease include browned leaf tips, bark lesions and the dying away of topmost growth.  In spring mature trees can develop dense clumps of foliage below dead growth.

For details go to the Forestry Commission’s website – and especially the pages with photos of diseased ash trees. And there’s a map of the outbreaks that have been confirmed.

So what path might the disease take in our area? Savernake Forest has some established ash trees, but many have been cut down by the Forestry Commission in recent years as they fetch good money for firewood and furniture, and also for export to Ireland where they are used to make hurley sticks.

Over the past twenty years ash trees have been planted widely on Marlborough’s downlands. They are clear of the disease at the moment but ultimately land owners expect to lose those trees.  More generally the spread of ash trees is difficult to quantify.

WILTON BRAIL WILTON BRAIL Wilton Bail wood, just north of Wilton windmill, is heavily planted with ash. About seventy per cent of the mature trees in this wood are ash.  Newer plantings have used other tree species, so ash now makes up about half of all the trees in the wood.  If those ash trees were all lost it would not only have a clear visible effect, but would also have a major impact on the wood’s wildlife.

The spread of the disease will almost certainly re-start next May – the season for active spores from the fungus lasts from about May to early September.  But on the continent some ash trees have proved resistant to the disease with up to ten per cent surviving. So it may not result in the kind of total wipe-out that was caused by Dutch elm disease.

The broadleaf, deciduous ash tree is the third commonest tree in British woods. And while it is sometimes the dominant tree in a wood, the effect of its loss on the landscape as a whole may be very patchy.

Writing about Chalara fraxinea last week, Ashley Brady, the Woodland Trust’s head of conservation, emphasised the complexities of the threat:  “The impacts on ash will be much more complex than the media headlines suggest, this goes well beyond the simple percentages of what will be lost or estimates of how many million trees are at risk. Some landscapes and habitats will be much harder hit than others, and we need to start thinking about how we respond to that now.”

Sightings of diseased ash trees should be reported immediately to the Forestry Commission Plant Health Service: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 0131 314 6414.

Sadly our trees have many other diseases and pests to survive : lots more scary headlines coming our way. Oak trees, horse chestnuts, Scots pine and the London plane tree are among the species under threat or which are so far surviving threats.

How will this view of Wilton Brail look in years to come?How will this view of Wilton Brail look in years to come?

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