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Grade improvements for St John's 'A' level students in spite of tougher exams


St John's Year 13 students achieved grade improvements in this year's A-level results against a background of toughened up courses.  Whilst the average grade per entry showed a slight year-on-year increase over the previous year, even more students have achieved the top A or A* grades.  

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Pewsey Vale's tourism initiative takes further steps forward in support of the local economy


The Pewsey Vale Tourism Partnership (PVTP) has opened another of its Tourist Information Kiosks - in a disused public telephone box. 

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Marlborough Cyclocross - third event in the Summer 2018 series

15-08-2018 Cycling Correspondent

The third round of the Marlborough Bike Company Summer Cyclocross was held at Marlborough College on Sunday 12 August. 

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Breakfast Assistant: Morris House (Saturdays part-time) - Marlborough College


  Breakfast Assistant:  Morris House (Saturdays part-time) (Commencing September 2018)      We require a Breakfast Assistant to join our team within Morris House (a girls’ boarding house).  You will be responsible for assisting with the provision of a light breakfast in-house, setting up, clearing away and monitoring supplies.   Saturdays, 7.00am – 10.00am (Term Time only approx....

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House Domestic Cleaners - Cotton House: (part-time) - Marlborough College


  House Domestic Cleaners - Cotton House (part-time)      We have two vacancies for reliable and enthusiastic cleaners to join our team of House Domestic Staff.   Working within a Cotton House (a mixed Boarding House), and reporting to the Dame, you will be required to assist with the day to day cleaning operation of the House.   You...

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Catering Operations Manager - Marlborough College


Catering Operations Manager   Competitive Salary       This is an excellent opportunity to enhance your catering career in a prestigious environment.  As Catering Operations Manager, you will be responsible for all of the Catering Services at Marlborough College.  Working with your management team, you will ensure the provision of exceptional customer and catering services through the...

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Commis Chef (Catering) x 2 - Marlborough College


Commis Chef (Catering) x 2       An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Commis Chef at Marlborough College, one of the biggest and best Independent Co-educational Boarding Schools in the country.Working with the Head Chef and an experienced Brigade you will be involved with the preparation and cooking of fresh food for...

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Domestic Cleaner – Facilities - Marlborough College


Domestic Cleaner – Facilities   (Commencing September 2018)      BWe require a reliable and enthusiastic person to join our team of Domestic Staff in General Services.  Working within Facilities/Offices and reporting to the Domestic Services Manager, you will be required to assist with the day to day cleaning operation. You should have the ability to work...

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House Wardrobe/Domestic Cleaner: Mill Mead C3 - Marlborough College


House Wardrobe/Domestic Cleaner:  Mill Mead C3   (commencing September 2018)      We require someone who is reliable and enthusiastic to join our team of Boarding House Staff within Mill Mead, reporting to the Dame.  You will be responsible for the day to day Wardrobe and Laundry Services within Mill Mead and also some cleaning duties.   You may...

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House Wardrobe/Domestic Cleaner: Turner - Marlborough College


House Wardrobe/Domestic Cleaner:  Turner   (commencing September 2018)      We require someone who is reliable and enthusiastic to join our team of Boarding House Staff within Turner, reporting to the Dame.  You will be responsible for the day to day Wardrobe and Laundry Services within Turner and also some cleaning duties.   You may be requested to assist...

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Activists demand a 'Churchillian response' to climate change

Activists from Transition Marlborough demand a 'Churchillian response' to climate changeActivists from Transition Marlborough demand a 'Churchillian response' to climate changeEnvironmentalists were out in force in Marlborough High Street today (Saturday), demanding a “Churchillian response” to the threat of climate change.

Members of Transition Marlborough were collecting signatures for a petition which will be presented to MP Claire Perry, a self-confirmed green Tory, demanding greater action from government.

The petition reads: “Climate change now threatens a future of ever more storms, floods, droughts: threats to our food, health and safety. A shift in energy policy could save us from global catastrophe.

“We call on our government for a truly Churchillian response to this emergency: to commit to a target to decarbonise electricity by 2030, as advised by its own Committee on Climate Change.”

Activist Judy Hindley said: “We're here to raise awareness about the government's shift in energy policy. We need to keep these targets, which the government is starting to slide away from.

“We're looking for what we call a ' Churchillian response': some real leadership to the threat of climate change.”

For more information about Transition Marlborough, and to make a pledge to reduce your contribution to climate change, log on to

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Former soldier attempts to smash treadmill record in memory of wife

Andrew and Carys HughesAndrew and Carys HughesA former soldier from Broad Hinton is today (Monday) attempting to smash the British record for running non-stop on a treadmill, in memory of his late wife. 

Andrew Hughes (43) is attempting to clock up more than 135 miles in 24 hours – and is guaranteed a place in the record books if he does it.

The marathon feat is underway at Broad Hinton primary school where his daughter, Carys (5), is a pupil.

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.

Claire HughesClaire HughesBy the start of his run, Andrew had raised over £1,000 for charity, and hopes to reach a fundraising total of £2,000. Three quarters of the total will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support, who supported the family during Claire's illness, while 25 percent is earmarked for school funds.

Donations have included pocket money from children at the school.

Andrew said: “After witnessing how Claire coped with such dignity through all her treatment I am sure I can run for 24 hours.”

To support Andrew's fundraising appeal, go to the JustGiving page.  

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One-one-one: will the countdown to NHS Direct’s replacement finish on time?

As the coalition government’s restructured NHS comes closer to its 1 April 2013 D-Day, NHS risk registers are splashed with columns of red – red for risky times ahead as new organisations take over.  The latest risk to alarm Wiltshire’s Primary Care Trust (PCT) and the new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the NHS 111 freephone service for 24/7 urgent care advice.

Wilthsire’s service – replacing NHS Direct – will be provided by Harmoni HS Ltd which has won eleven other 111 contracts across England.  Harmoni styles itself as ‘the largest independent provider of urgent care in England’ and earlier this month it was bought by Care UK for a reported £48 million.

Asked by Marlborough News Online about the Care UK takeover, NHS Wiltshire says that over the next year Harmoni’s operations will be integrated with Care UK, but “local operational services and delivery will not be affected by these changes in structure.”

The Wiltshire contract with Harmoni is for five years from 2013 with variation and change of control provisions. And if Harmoni do not pass ‘strong performance monitoring’ and meet ‘agreed key performance indicators’,  a quarter of the money due to Harmoni for Wiltshire’s 111 service will be at risk.

NHS Wiltshire do not intend to undertake a further risk assessment of the Harmoni contract as it has been assured that the contract ‘will continue to be held by Harmoni HS Ltd.’

But worry as to whether the new contract will be ready for its ‘soft launch’ in February does show very red on the transition risk register drawn up for NHS Wiltshire and the CCG. It is flagged up as a ‘key service implementation’ on a ‘tight timeline’ involving ‘multiple interdependencies’.

Since October 24 the PCT has employed a full-time project manager to ‘bring more resource to the problem’: “However, this project is still high risk with challenging work schedules and deadlines.”

In blunter terms: the local NHS budget has to bear the costs of ensuring a non-NHS contractor can fulfil its contract. This is probably something that will happen more often as NHS services are put out to ‘any qualified provider’, but the CCG remains responsible in law for their efficient and safe running.

NHS 111 poster from a pilot areaNHS 111 poster from a pilot areaThe main area of concern across the 111 contracts is the recruitment and fast training of appropriate staff in the necessary numbers.
And when the contract is fully launched, what are 111’s prospects? The final report by Sheffield University evaluating the early pilot sites found good levels of satisfaction with the new service.

But NHS 111 – one of the coalition’s flagship programmes – was supposed to make savings for the NHS budget. The report found wide variations between the pilots in terms of costs with overruns partly caused by a rise in ambulance call-outs and more visits to accident and emergency centres once the 111 service was in use.

The average increase in costs compared to those for the old services was an additional £307,000 per month.  But the pilot sites varied between one contract a saving of £118,000 a month and another with extra costs of £733,000 a month.

Dr Peter Holden, a negotiator for the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told the GP’s journal Pulse that the roll-out of the new 111 service was ‘unproven’: “We are concerned at the speed of the roll-out, which means taking some big risks. The cost savings are mind-blowingly small.”

His committee’s view is that the roll-out should take place ‘over an extended number of months, if not years.’


[In June 2012 Marlborough News Online published a letter that foresaw many of the problems with 111 that are now emerging.]

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New police commissioner takes first halting steps to appoint Wiltshire’s next chief constable

Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire's new Police and Crime CommissionerAngus Macpherson, Wiltshire's new Police and Crime CommissionerWith Chief Constables standing down following the election of controversial new Police and Crime Commissioners, Wiltshire’s PCC Angus Macpherson, has announced he wants to “move quickly” to seek a new Chief Constable for the county.  

His embargoed statement came three working days after Marlborough News Online requested basic information on any appointment since Mr Macpherson has only nine weeks to carry out the task and also agree a budget with a new chief officer.  

And at the same time promote his ideas with public meetings in Wiltshire’s main towns but not  meeting in Marlborough.  

Patrick Geenty, Wiltshire's temporary Chief ConstablePatrick Geenty, Wiltshire's temporary Chief ConstablePatrick Geenty has been the temporary Chief Constable of Wiltshire since March when Brian Moore, a Queen’s Medal appointment, was seconded to the Border Agency, then facing serious criticism on its failure to control airport immigration.

The PCC office has appeared unprepared to answer questions over the appointment process, which, like the whole operation of the new police commissioners, has been declared by the Home Office to be open and transparent to the public.

We asked in particular on Friday whether any advertisements had been placed for the post, but it is now revealed that the first advertisement will appear tomorrow (Thursday).

Today (Wednesday) Mr Macpherson announced that he is beginning the process to recruit the next Chief Constable for Wiltshire Police, and in a statement said: “An advertisement for the role will be published in the Police Professional magazine on Thursday 29 November.”

“There will also be adverts from Wednesday 28 November on the Police Professional, Wiltshire Police and PCC websites.”

Mr Macpherson added: “I want to move quickly to secure a substantive appointment to the position of Chief Constable.  There are a considerable number of vacancies nationally, and I want Wiltshire and Swindon to have the largest possible pool of candidates.”

“We have therefore advertised early, and will be one of the first to recruit.”

As part of the process, 59-year-old accountant and former councillor Mr Macpherson will chair a recruitment panel, which will comprise leaders of both Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council and an experienced member of the voluntary sector.

“It will be a rigorous process,” he told Marlborough News Online. “The important dates are closing date for applications -- 19 December 2012 and 7 January 2013 when we will interview.”

But visitors to the Wiltshire Police website will be confused by Mr Macpherson’s statement that the Chief Constable post can be viewed there.

The website currently states:

“We are sorry to have to inform you that the advertisement of Police Staff vacancies will now be limited, and therefore many have been removed, due to budgetary constraints.

To ensure our force can maintain our public services it may still be necessary to recruit to a limited number of posts that are deemed critical by our senior management.

Vacant posts are reviewed by our Chief Officer team to determine if the posts will be released from the recruitment freeze and therefore shown above.  

These posts will be recruited to but applicants must be aware that due to the proposed scale of changes by the Vision programme these, as all force posts are, may be subject to change.”

The statement adds:

“We will be reviewing the decision to recruit these business critical decision on a regular basis and we will reflect any update to this situation by the posting of a revised message on this page.”

Police Professional magazine is available only to subscribers and there is no information available about the appointment on the PCC website, which went live last Thursday.

A PCC spokeswoman told Marlborough News Online this morning: “The advert is now on the PCC website (via a link in the news section).  It will also shortly be on the Force website.”

Mr Macpherson, from Wroughton, Swindon, was the first PCC to be elected in the country – on a 15.8 per cent vote.

Do you want to be Wiltshire’s new chief constable?

Despite all the pledges of openness and transparency the advertisement for a new Chief Constable for Wiltshire is difficult to discover on the PCC website.

And when you do – at the bottom of a news article headed Chief Constable to be recruited – it says:


There has never been a more challenging time to be a Chief Constable. The social, economic and political environment is changing rapidly, and the policing service is changing with it.

If you have the drive and ambition to thrive in this environment, this position will give you a platform to make your mark.

For an informal discussion, contact the Commissioner, Angus Macpherson, on 01380 734022 or the Chief Executive, Kieran Kilgallen, on 01380 734002.

In small type it adds: Request an application pack from Christine Clifford on 01380 734022 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And it points out that the closing date for applications is December 19, short-listing takes place on December 21 and interviews take place on January 7, 2013.

Marlborough News Online has requested a copy of the application pack.

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Swift Medics fundraising dinner raises £3,000

The Swift Medics team: Dr Jonathan Glover, Dr Sam Bracken, Dr James Dunn, Ruth Willoughby, Dr Dan Bawden, Dr Alex Cross, Dr Ed Valentine, Dr James Mapstone. Picture by Kevin Hall, Hallmark Photography, CalneThe Swift Medics team: Dr Jonathan Glover, Dr Sam Bracken, Dr James Dunn, Ruth Willoughby, Dr Dan Bawden, Dr Alex Cross, Dr Ed Valentine, Dr James Mapstone. Picture by Kevin Hall, Hallmark Photography, CalneWiltshire’s highway heroes Swift Medics raised £3,000 – and launched a lottery with the hope of raising a whole lot more – at a fundraising event on Saturday.

The £3,000 proceeds from an auction and raffle is the equivalent to around a third of the cost of training and equipping a new doctor to the Marlborough-based charity.

The team of volunteer doctors provide potentially life-saving emergency care at the scene of serious road traffic accidents and other life threatening medical emergencies. They receive no funding from local or central government or the NHS.

The fundraising dinner, at Bowood Hotel, attracted 100 guests, who bid for auction lots including a ride in a 193mph Ferrari California, courtesy of Swindon supercar dealership Dick Lovett, a Watlings bracelet, a Pia fresh water pearl necklace, a photo shoot with Hallmark Photographers, drum lessons with musician Tom Wheeler, who has performed on Radio 1s Live Lounge, cases of wine, and paint balling.

Charity trustee Bob Holman also used the event to launch the Swift Medics lottery, part of the UK charity lottery Unity. Participants – who can win up to £25,000 – nominate Swift Medics when they register to play, and 50 percent of the proceeds go directly back to the charity.

For details, log on to To find out more about the work of Swift Medics, log on to or find them on Facebook at

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Deluge will bring new life to River Kennet so long as it doesn’t go on too long declares ARK

Charlotte HitchmoughCharlotte HitchmoughThe West Country floods may be causing heartache for many but they are good news for the River Kennet and its wildlife so long as they don’t last too long or get any worse.

That is the positive message from Charlotte Hitchmough, director of Action River Kennet (ARK), who gave an upbeat report to the organisation’s annual meeting in Ramsbury last week.

She told Marlborough News Online: “It has been great to see so much water in the river after the 18 months of drought.  Stretches of the Winterbourne, which have been dry for over two years now have water in them.”

“All the fallen leaves and algae that accumulated on the river bed is being cleaned out by the fast flows.”

And she added:  “The climate forecasters suggest that these extreme weather patterns may become the norm, with very dry and then very wet spells.  Extreme weather events are not ideal for chalk streams.”

“Flood water brings dirty road and field run off into the river, as well as the contents of overflowing sewers.  The very fast scouring flow is beneficial to clean the gravels river bed ready for fish spawning.”

“But if the floods stay for too long the fish eggs -- and even the fish themselves -- get washed down stream.  Strong winter flows are also essential to kick-start the growth of stream water crowfoot, which is an essential component of the chalk stream ecology.”

“But too much flow for too long and it all gets washed away.  So, we hope that the current weather will settle down, for the sake of the people and the wildlife.”

Speaking at the annual meeting, naturalist Peter Marren challenged the Environment Agency to explain how the upper Kennet, which has no fish in it, could be classified as a river in 'Good Ecological Status'.

River keeper John Hounslow gave an account of the last year on the river, which has experienced above average rainfall in every month except one since April.

While this has helped the river to recover, there has been a steep decline in fish stocks, particularly grayling, and a lack of healthy weed growth.  

He remains concerned that each time there is a drought the river recovers less well, and is in a steady state of decline.

A new electrofishing survey and ARK's regular redd (trout nest) surveys of the river show that the wild trout population in the reach has increased since the last survey three years ago.

“This is especially encouraging at a time when the rest of the river generally declined in health during the drought, and shows the effectiveness of the work we have done,” said Charlotte.

“It's been a good year for us with both the Care for the Kennet Campaign and the Stonebridge Lane wild river reserve projects winning national awards.”

“Our membership has increased, we have more active volunteers and we have run more projects, notably the recently completed ambitious fish pass in Marlborough.”

 “ARK are now 'catchment hosts' for the whole Kennet, and after a successful first year, the World Wildlife Fund has offered to fund us to perform this role again in 2012/13.”

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Plenty of room at the inn for Marlborough's own Mary and Joseph

Bob Holman at The Food Gallery in Marlborough where the Three Kings had stopped for a warming chilli chocolate as part of the Las Posadas celebrationsBob Holman at The Food Gallery in Marlborough where the Three Kings had stopped for a warming chilli chocolate as part of the Las Posadas celebrationsThe 400-year-old Spanish tradition of Las Posadas is being celebrated by traders in Marlborough this month, as characters from the nativity make their way from shop to shop along the historic High Street towards the sanctuary of St Mary's Church.

The procession is a reenactment of the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph's fruitless search around Bethlehem for a bed, before finding shelter in a stable, where Jesus was born.

Loosely translated, Las Posadas means 'the lodgings' or 'the accommodations'. In Mexico, where the tradition remains popular, people play the parts of Mary and Joseph, staying at a different house in a town or village every night.

Fatface manager Helen Buckle and and shop assistant Grace Willens play host to Mary, Joseph and their donkey as part of the Las Posadas celebrationFatface manager Helen Buckle and and shop assistant Grace Willens play host to Mary, Joseph and their donkey as part of the Las Posadas celebrationIn Marlborough, knitted dolls representing the holy couple, along with the donkey immortalised in scripture and carol, will be making their way eastwards along the north side of High Street.

Meanwhile the three kings, or wise men, will be wending their way along the south side of High Street.

The sets will each spend the night in a different shop window, and will be reunited at St Mary's Church in time for the popular crib service at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

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Pressure to reinstate Minor Injuries Unit – for Devizes

Jo Batchelor, William Allen, Claire Perry MP, Elizabeth Allen with the petitionJo Batchelor, William Allen, Claire Perry MP, Elizabeth Allen with the petitionA petition was handed to NHS Wiltshire’s regular board meeting on Wednesday (November 28) calling for the reinstatement of Devizes’ Minor Injuries Unit – an issue which will remind many people in Marlborough of past battles.  The petition with the names of people from 2,562 households was handed by Devizes MP Claire Perry MP to Tony Barron, the PCT’s Chairman.

Mrs Perry was supporting the petition organisers Elizabeth and William Allen, who live in Horton, and Jo Batchelor of Devizes Books.

Mrs Perry started campaigning for the return of MIUs in the Devizes constituency during her election campaign.  She secured a Westminster Hall debate on Devizes’ MIUs in July 2010 during which she was supported by Guy Opperman who, as a barrister, had acted pro bono for Val Compton at the judicial review into the closure of Savernake’s MIU and is now Tory MP for Hexham.

The debate was held a matter hours after Andrew Lansley’s White Paper outlining the reconfiguration of the NHS was published. The then health minister, Simon Burns said he was unable to intervene as the PCT remained responsible for commissioning Wiltshire’s health services.

Now the coalition’s changes have reached a crucial moment and it is a complex time for NHS Wiltshire (the PCT.)   It is still the statutory body for commissioning the county’s health care, but the day-to-day decisions are now carried out by the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which takes over fully in April 2013.  

Tony Barron has passed the petition to the joint (PCT and CCG) commissioning committee, the PCT’s audit and assurance committee and the PCT’s Medical Director.  They will report back to the January board meeting at which the petition will be an agenda item meriting an open debate by the board members.

Deborah Fielding, the Accountable Officer (Designate) for the CCG said both the PCT Board members and the CCG Executive understand the strength of feeling from the signatories of the petition: “The CCG, under clinical leadership, is developing a model for community based care which includes plans for the GPs from the three Devizes practices working collaboratively to provide Minor Injuries services for the town in local settings.”

“We are acutely aware of the issues in Devizes and equally as keen to deliver a solution.  However, a Minor Injuries Unit is not a financially viable option, and the decision taken in 2006 by the Primary Care Trust to close the MIU remains.”

Commenting after the meeting, Claire Perry said:  “I know just how important this issue is to my constituents and I would like to see solutions being considered which will enable people with minor injuries to be treated locally.”

“I’ve recently had a very good meeting with members of the CCG Executive and I’m really encouraged by the proposed strategy for community based care, which is a positive step and a reflection of the NHS reforms for bringing care closer to home.  I very much look forward to working with the CCG from April 2013”.

As Marlborough News Online was told after the board meeting, the circle may be squared when ‘unit’ gives way to ‘services in local settings.’

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Bitter accusations as Chris Humphries stays as Area Board chairman

Councillor Chris Humphries chairing the Area Board meeting at KVHCouncillor Chris Humphries chairing the Area Board meeting at KVHAt a regular meeting of the Marlborough Area Board (MAB) on Tuesday (November 27), Wiltshire Councillor Chris Humphries remained as chairman – despite disquiet expressed from a fellow councillor and from the floor.  And it now looks as though he will stay as chairman until the end of March – the end of the Council’s year.

Councillor Humphries was recently censured by a Wiltshire Council standards hearing over several incidents of bullying towards Mrs Julia Densham, a council officer who was then the MAB manager.   He has since been suspended by the Tory party group on Wiltshire Council and has left the Tory party to continue as an independent councillor.

The chairman’s situation was raised by James Keith of the Parish Forum who had expected Councillor Humphries to make a statement at the start of the meeting.  Councillor Humphries then read out the statement he had made to the parishes he represents.

He said that as far as he was concerned ‘business continues as normal’: “I may not be liked by all, but who is?” And he reiterated his intention to stand as an independent candidate in next May’s elections to represent Aldbourne and Ramsbury on Wiltshire Council.

Wiltshire Councillor Jemima MiltonWiltshire Councillor Jemima MiltonCouncillor Jemima Milton, who had given evidence on Mrs Densham’s behalf, said she was “saddened we have to discuss this”. She reminded the meeting that the Council Leader, Jane Scott, had been urged by the standards hearing to ask MAB Councillors to consider the  ‘appropriateness’ of Councillor Humphries continuing as chairman of the Area Board.

Councillor Milton thought he should resign and said she was “sorry my fellow councillors have not stood up for the council’s staff.”
Marlborough News Online understands that at an earlier meeting Councillors Nick Fogg and Peggy Dow overruled Councillor Milton. They took no decision on Councillor Humphries’ role on MAB and wanted to take soundings amongst MAB regulars.  Councillor Dow was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Councillor Humphries responded to Councillor Milton saying he had been elected for a full term and then launched a bitter attack on her. He said Councillor Milton had a ‘vendetta’ against him and that she was ‘bullying’ him (but he would not report her): “This is not the place to consider your campaign against me. You should consider your electorate and not your views on me.”

Val Compton spoke from the floor in support of Councillor Milton. Councillor Nick Fogg (who is MAB’s vice-chairman) said this was “A very painful issue”. Councillor Humphries had told him he wanted to stay on as chairman and that “he didn’t feel he had done anything particularly wrong.”

Councillor Fogg said he had found it “Difficult to gain a consensus on this.” The advice he had from Council officers was that the MAB chairman is elected for a whole year: “There’s no way he can be taken be taken from the chair by any proper means.”
He added that Jane Scott had referred the matter to the Council’s solicitor so he could advise Councillor Fogg – but he had not been contacted by the solicitor.

After the other business of the meeting was over, several people privately expressed their dismay at the way the matter had been handled by MAB’s councillors and at the attack on Councillor Milton.

Councillor Jemima Milton told Marlborough News Online: “I am saddened that Chris Humphries felt the need to make untrue comments about me.  I wish he would accept and understand how his behaviour affects others.”

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Marlborough Christmas Lights: Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa's GrottoSanta's GrottoFather Christmas will be taking time out of his busy schedule to make an appearance at the switching-on of Marlborough Christmas Lights on Thursday (November 29). 

Santa will be greeting children in his grotto, and will be giving the crowds a wave from the Town Hall balcony just before the lights go on at 7pm.

The countdown to the Christmas lights – funded and organised by the Town Council – will climax with fireworks bursting in the sky as the town's Citizen of the Year – whose identity is a closely-guarded secret – pushes the plunger that will bathe the town in a glow of festive light.

But the festivities start far earlier. Marlborough Communities Market – celebrating a successful first six months – will start trading from 45 stalls at 3pm.

Cllr Richard Pitts, who is on the Marlborough Communities Market committee told Marlborough News Online: “Our traders have got together to thank the folks of Marlborough for supporting them so much over the last six months, and they have pledged a truly spectacular hamper that is going into a raffle that will be drawn at our last market of the year on December 16th, by our lovely Mayor, Edwina Fogg, at 2 o’clock.

“The Hamper Prize will include a turkey, speciality stuffing and award winning chipolatas, venison burgers and organic vegetables, as well as handmade chocolates, cheeses, stollen and sweet treats.  

“On the artisan side you’ll have stocking fillers and presents galore as producers are donating jewellery, woodwork (expect a hand-crafted cheese board from local wood), fabric covered notepad, glasswork, artwork and so much more.

“For a chance of winning this amazing prize, all you have to do is look out for volunteers selling tickets on the night for a £1 each, or pop along to the Transition Stall where they shall be selling tickets as well as handing out our fabulous Bags for Life, that have our Ten Guiding Principles Poster on one side and the logos of our very kind sponsors, Withy King, Brewin Dolphin and David Owen on the other.”

At the same time, the doors of the Town Hall will be thrown open to welcome visitors to We Love Marlborough's arts market on the ground floor, where local artists and craftspeople will be offering handmade gifts, from Christmas tree and table decorations to jewellery, glassware and paintings.

There'll also be the chance to buy tasty sausage and mash, or tea, cakes and mulled wine.

Christmas Lights 2011Christmas Lights 2011And on the first floor Santa will greet children at his magical grotto, while while professional artist James Aldridge will be helping youngsters – and their families – to make Christmas crowns.

For the first time, We Love Marlborough have offered parents the chance to pre-book an appointment with Father Christmas, to avoid lengthly queues for families and children, and the organisers have announced that most early slots (from 3.15pm to 5.30pm) have already been filled.

There will be plenty of action around the town. Marlborough Chamber of Commerce has invited shopkeepers to stay open until 8pm for a Late Night Shopping experience, while Ducklings toyshop will be helping children to write letters to Santa, and take a ride on a bouncy castle, from 3pm. There will also be a charity cake stall outside M & Co.

The High Street’s newest business, estate agents Smiths Gore, are also opening their doors to potential customers tonight.

The company is staging a Christmas lights switch on party and declaring: “Please pop in to warm up and join us for a drink and mince pieces.”

Edward Hall, the man in charge at No 42, announces there is good reason to celebrate. “We have sold or put under offer all the houses on our books,” he says. “On my Christmas list is more instructions.”  

“There are buyers wanting to move to Marlborough, and the surrounding villages, but there is a shortage of houses to see”.

Musical entertainment will be provided by Phoenix Brass Band, and by the Marlborough Community Choir, who will be performing on the steps of the Town Hall from 7pm to 7.15pm. The traditional school s choir compeition takes place in St Mary's Church from 6pm, and children from the winning school will be helping to turn on the lights. 

The Communities Market, Town Hall events and Late Night Shopping all finish at 8pm.  

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Honeystreet’s Barge Inn to reopen on December 14

The canal-side Barge Inn at Honeystreet, near Pewsey, is to reopen on December 14. It was closed in October when the lottery-funded community project that had been running it declared itself insolvent.

The freeholder of the Barge Inn, Ian McIver, plans to have the new tenants signed up in time and is sure the reopening date will be met.

Mr McIver has been completing what the Barge’s quirky website calls ‘Phase 2 of the refurbishment programme’:  “We look forward to welcoming you back for another season, with a whole new cast and set.”

Mr McIver told Marlborough News Online that he thinks the interior will now look more like a pub and less like a wine bar: “I hope people will like it.”

Work is also underway on landscaping the beer garden – though the heavy rains have not been helpful.

Meanwhile new information has emerged on the lottery funding paid to the Barge Inn Community Project (BICP) which covered, among other things, a twenty year lease on the pub which is now void.  When the insolvent BICP had to close the pub, staff were made redundant.  

A Freedom of Information Act request by Marlborough News Online to the Big Lottery has revealed that in total BICP received £488,920 from Big Lottery programmes.

This was divided into ‘Village SOS Round One’ funding which provided £39,930 (on proof of expenditure) for development and a £10,000 advance towards capital costs and towards the salary of the Village Champion.  BICP did not, as MNO had previously reported, receive from the lottery a £50,000 feasibility study.

‘Village SOS Round Two’ funding has totalled £434,010 – which included the Village Champion’s salary of £32,942.02.  In addition there was a £5,000 grant for marketing and, from another lottery programme, £9,980 for a yurt on the Barge Inn’s campsite.

The Big Lottery told MNO: “The Village SOS round two grant is still open as we are still investigating the extent of the breaches of the grant agreement to allow us to take appropriate action.”

They do know, however, that BICP breached two of the grant conditions: ‘the project has discontinued and the grant holder is insolvent.’

The Big Lottery has also confirmed that no lottery funds were used towards some of BICP’s other aims such as building a village shop, a new toilet block for the campsite, site drainage – or for the dismantling and rebuilding of the nineteenth century wooden barn which is going ahead. Mr McIver is paying for this to provide the Barge Inn and the village with an arts and entertainment venue called The Barefoot Barn.

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Wrecked car to be hauled into High Street as police drive home drinking message

Picture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netPicture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netA severely damaged car which has been involved in a drink-driving related incident will be hauled into Marlborough High Street next week, as police drive home the message not to get behind the wheel after a festive tipple.

The car will form part of a police roadshow, which will touring towns in the county and will come to Marlborough on Tuesday, December 11 from 10am to 2pm. 

And the annual Christmas drink drive campaign, which aims to educate drivers about the dangers of drinking and taking drugs before getting behind the wheel, will run for the entire month of December.

Wiltshire Police will be stepping up roadside enforcement throughout the whole of December and into the New Year, in a determined effort to catch those drivers who ignore the warnings and put other people and their own lives in danger.

The campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the consequences of being caught drink or drug-driving which can include a 12-month driving ban, a large fine, a criminal record, and the serious implications for insurance premiums, once the offender can drive again.

It can also have a huge impact on personal lifestyle with people losing their jobs and suffering relationship breakdowns.

Chief Inspector Sean Memory, head of specialist operations for Wiltshire Police said: “The message from us is perfectly clear - if you take a chance on drink driving, you will be caught.

“We are putting a great deal of time and effort into this year’s campaign, with the intention of showing the public that drink driving is completely anti-social, and a grave danger to other road users. 

“Research shows that increased enforcement results in a decrease in the number caught driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.

“Drug-impaired driving is a growing concern and is equally as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“By stepping up enforcement over the Christmas and New Year period, and with involvement and support from the public, our aim is to reduce the number of people caught, and the occurrence of incidents as a result of someone getting behind the wheel whilst under the influence.”

Head of roads policing at Wiltshire Police Inspector Steve Cox added: “Driving whilst under the influence or drink or drugs impairs the driver’s judgments, reaction times and speed as well putting other road users in danger.

“Drug or drink-driving is an incredibly selfish crime as it can have a damaging effect on everyone around the driver – including other passengers, other drivers and pedestrians.

“It is also important to remind drivers that you might still be over the legal limit the morning after the night before – alcohol can remain in the body’s system for a considerable amount of time and that differs from person to person.

“We want people to have fun over this festive period – but not to take any risks when it comes to getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or taking drugs.”

Police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson said: “I’m determined that we will continue to make Wiltshire the safest county in the country, and that includes a further reduction in those who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“The nature of our rural road network increases the risk of accidents and anti-social drink driving increases it more.

“I hope the fact that the police have a robust enforcement plan in place will discourage stupid, and potentially lethal, behaviour over the festive period. I would also encourage the use of the drink drive hotline to report drivers, as we all have a civic duty to help keep our roads and communities safe.”

Anyone wishing to report an incident of drink/drug driving should call Wiltshire Police on 101 and select option 4 for the Drink Drive Hotline.

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Great Western Hospital says it does not record information on complaints about the “death pathway” system

Great Western HospitalGreat Western HospitalGreat Western Hospital, which has been operating the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway system to ensure a dignified death for older people since 2010, does not record any complaints it may have received.

The hospital has adopted the system on “around 1,000 people” in that time, a spokeswoman revealed in answer to question posed by Marlborough News Online.

Asked how many complaints the hospital has received, in particular any where relatives were not informed of the procedure taking place, she replied: “We do not record this data.”

The questions we tabled following public concern in cases where relatives were not informed that their aged parents/relatives were subject to LCP.

Norman Lamb, the Care and Support Minister, has declared that he is aware of too many cases of patients dying on the pathway process while their families were told nothing about the withdrawal of potential life-saving treatment.

“This is simply unacceptable,” he said, announcing a NHS inquiry to examine how hospitals have received millions of pounds to implement the care of the dying system.

He said that the inquiry would “consider the value of locally set incentives, and whether they are leading to bad decisions on practice.”

Asked what total sum has been paid to Great Western Hospital medical staff for using the system, a hospital spokeswoman answered: “As an acute (hospital) trust, medical staff are not given any financial incentives for using this tool.”

Nevertheless, the Swindon-based hospital, which serves patients from the Marlborough area, is welcoming the review ordered by Minister Lamb.

In a statement, Julie Marshman, the hospital’s senior matron, told Marlborough News Online: “We welcome this review and are fully behind the drive to ensure the LCP is used appropriately and as the tool it is designed to be, which is to bring the best hospice care into a hospital setting.”  

“The LCP is designed to provide choice and dignity at the end of life and we carry out regular audits of the LCP to see ways we can improve communication with families at what is a very difficult time for them.”  

“We look forward to the outcome of the review to see what it tells us about how we can provide even better care at the end of life.”

The hospital does carry out regular audit checks on pathway cases.  Marlborough News Online has requested information on the last two audits carried out and is seeking clarification that no data is recorded as to any complaints or claims for compensation that the hospital may have been received.

A subsequent statement from the hospital spokeswoman said: “We do report complaint figures and themes to the Trust Board on a monthly basis.  Levels of complaints on LCP are low, therefore there aren’t specific reported figures.”

The spokeswoman added that she was unable to provide the latest two audit figures requested and that Marlborough News Online needs to contact the hospital’s Freedom of Information team to obtain the information, but no explanation has been received as to why this information is not openly available.

Medical critics have claimed there is no “scientific method” of predicting when death will come, suggesting that the pathway process amounts to a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, too many patients dying before they should.

The suggestion being made is that the pathway system has been implemented as a way of freeing up the beds hospitals have available at any time.

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Mayoral tribute – plus a tot of rum -- for the crucial role military intelligence battalion plays in Afghanistan

Mayor Edwina Fogg presenting Major Simon Puxley with rum deMayor Edwina Fogg presenting Major Simon Puxley with rum dePraise for the “complex and sophisticated role” played by the 4Military Intelligence Battalion in Afghanistan came from Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, at the town council’s civic dinner on Friday.

It was the fourth occasion in honour of the soldiers in the official adopted vital military unit, many of whom have just returned from their crucial role in Afghanistan.

Welcoming them, the Mayor recalled: “Most of you will be aware that, in 2008, Colonel Ben Kyte contacted us to see if we would be interested in forming a link with 4MIB.”

“We were thrilled and honoured to have been thus chosen and the relationship was affirmed when, in 2011, Freedom of Entry into Marlborough was bestowed on the Battalion.”

“Wiltshire has, of course, always had a very close connection with the military.  At Bulford Camp yesterday, a full force gale sweeping over the parade ground made an anecdote from the First World War come alive for me.”

“In 1914-15 some 32,000 Canadians, many of them Newfies, trained on Salisbury Plain.  There was much disruption by floods and gales so that tents were continually being blown down.”

“The Canadians left for France in February 1915 and many of them reported back that conditions in the trenches were not nearly as bad as they had experienced in Wiltshire.”

“Imagine me then, my tricorn hat refusing to stay put, my hair in total disarray, making me the least tidy person at the parade, presenting, with Colonel Nick Baker, company medals.  The weather though, failed to dampen spirits or spoil an occasion which saw the soldiers receive their just recognition of a tour in Afghanistan, in which 4MI played such a significant part.”

“Major Simon Puxley, an honoured guest this evening, introduced me to the soldiers and outlined each individual’s task in recent operations.  This gave me a huge insight into the complex and sophisticated role played by the Battalion and why intelligence units are so crucial to contemporary military strategy.

“There were many proud families on the parade ground.  One of them, the mother of a young soldier, approached me afterwards to thank me and to say how the families valued the support from the town.”

“The relationship between Marlborough and 4MI continues to flourish, as witnessed by the huge numbers who came to the Remembrance Day Parade, long may it continue.”

Including the military guests, more than 100 people attended the town hall civic dinner, which raised £700 for the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British Legion.

It was also a presentation occasion, Mike Fogg, brother-in-law of the Mayor, presenting a litre ceramic Nelson ship’s decanter of Pusser’s rum to Major Puxley for the Officer’s mess.

Mayor Edwina presenting Dennis Compton with a bottle of ABV Blue Label Pusser's rum for  the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British LegionMayor Edwina presenting Dennis Compton with a bottle of ABV Blue Label Pusser's rum for the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British LegionIt was one of two similar presentations to other members of M4 plus the presentation of a bottle of ABV, Blue Label Pusser’s rum to Dennis Compton for the Wiltshire branch of the Royal British Legion.

Pusser's rum is the former daily issue of the Royal Navy, which was terminated, on theJuly 31, 1970, known to the Navy, as Black Tot day.

On board ship, stores are controlled by the purser, but over the years, generations of Jack Tars, corrupted this to Pusser, hence, Pusser's rum.

To compensate the sailors’ for the loss of their daily tot, the Admiralty set up a new charity, the Royal Navy Sailors Fund, otherwise known, as the Tot Fund, to provide amenities, for serving personnel.

Then, in 1979, the Admiralty approved the re-blending of Pusser's rum, for sale to the public and in appreciation, a substantial donation on world wide sales, accrues to the Sailors’ Fund.

To date the Pusser's Rum annual donations have exceeded £1 million.

“It is hoped that both the Officers’ mess and the Warrant Officers & Sergeants mess, will open their Nelson decanters, on an appropriate occasion and that the decanters will then be replenished, annually, in perpetuity,”  Mike Fogg told Marlborough News Online.

“Many brands of dark rum, present a naval or sea faring image, but only Pusser's Rum, can claim to be the original and genuine rum of the Royal Navy.”

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Claire Perry to visit Marlborough’s link village of Gunjur in The Gambia

Devizes MP Claire Perry is to visit Gunjur in The Gambia for a week in January. Marlborough’s link with Gunjur has been looked after for the past thirty years by the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG).  Mrs Perry will be accompanied by her daughter Eliza.  

Dr Nick Maurice, one of the founders of MBG and now its director, says: “This will give great encouragement to our colleagues and friends in our partner non-governmental organisation TARUD, the Gunjur Link Committee and the wider community of Gunjur - and will particularly bring a feeling of solidarity with women in the community.”

She and her daughter will stay with a family in a compound in the village, and will experience Gambian generosity and hospitality as well as the difficulties arising from the village’s lack of running water and electricity.
She will see some of the development projects in which MBG have been jointly involved: the pre-school, the women’s vegetable gardens, the water and sanitation programme, and the anti-malaria and health education programmes.

While in Gunjur she will be formally opening the new market place built this summer by young people from St John’s and Marlborough College.

She will also spend time with the UK High Commissioner to gain an understanding of the region and of the wider political context in which MBG operates.

At Westminster, Mrs Perry chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group which works with government to encourage links between communities in UK – whether towns, schools, hospitals or businesses – and communities in the developing world.

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Centuries old tradition marked at fruit tree planting

Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, Richard Shaw, Philippa Davenport, Kate Hosier, and Janet and Neville Hobson, of the Marlborough Community Orchard committeeJeffrey Galvin-Wright, Richard Shaw, Philippa Davenport, Kate Hosier, and Janet and Neville Hobson, of the Marlborough Community Orchard committeeIn an English tradition dating back centuries, town councillor Richard Pitts planted a plum tree on Sunday to commemorate the marriage of his nephew Charlie Taylor to Fran.

The couple, who live in York but are frequent visitors to the town, took place in August. The tree will form part of the community orchard on Marlborough Common.

A number of community volunteers turned out on the blustery Sunday morning – the second day of National Tree Week – to plant pear, plum, damson, quince and medlar trees, although in nothing like the numbers for last month's planting of the Jubilee apple trees. 

“It's symbolic, isn't it?” said Cllr Pitts as he shovelled the last spadeful of soil around the roots of the Victoria Plum.

“It's an English tradition going back centuries. The tree grows as the marriage grows. And it bears fruit, representing all the children Charlie and Fran will have... maybe.”

Cllr Richard PittsCllr Richard PittsThe councillor then put his spade to good use helping Marlborough Communities Market to plant a Nottingham Medlar.

The medlar is one of the orchard's most uncommon fruits – and not one likely to be found on supermarket shelves today, although the Tudors couldn't get enough of them.

Large white blossoms give way to a rock-hard fruit with russeted skin. Eaten raw they are tart, but once bletted – left to rot until soft and brown – they make excellent jelly with a taste resembling toffee apples, according to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

On the other side of the orchard, the committee of the Community Orchard committee were planting a Merryweather Damson. Native to the UK, the fruit is today less far popular than its close relative, the sweeter dessert plum, but makes tasty jam.

“By the end of the year we will have planted 198 trees in two years,” said Marlborough Community Orchard committee chairman and food writer Philippa Davenport. “We are creating a living larder – local food for local people.”

The trees, and their sponsors, are: Jeffrey and Alison Galvin Wright (Quince 'Vranja'); Charles Taylor (Plum 'Victoria'); U3A in Kennet (Pear 'Conference'); Marlborough Choral Society (Damson 'Merryweather'); Marlborough Community Orchard (Damson 'Merryweather'); Marlborough Communities Market (Medlar 'Nottingham'); Marlborough History Society (Medlar 'Nottingham'); The Trustees of the Merchant's House (Damson 'Merryweather'); North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Plum 'Czar'); Visit Wilshire (Pear 'Beth').

Communities Market committee members Ellie Gill, Alexandra Wax, Gerald Payne and Richard PittsCommunities Market committee members Ellie Gill, Alexandra Wax, Gerald Payne and Richard Pitts Happy couple Charlie and Fran Taylor, pictured at their wedding in AugustHappy couple Charlie and Fran Taylor, pictured at their wedding in August

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