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Police appeal for witnesses after West Woods altercation

27-05-2018

Wiltshire Police are appealing for witnesses following an altercation between a man and a woman in West Woods near Marlborough. 



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33 Ramsbury School triathletes raise over £5K for charity

27-05-2018 A Correspondent

Thirty-three pupils from Ramsbury Primary School took part in the Human Race Marlborough Schools’ Triathlon on 20 May at Marlborough College.

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Town Mayor opens new clothing shop in Hilliers Yard

24-05-2018 Sue Round

In one of her first official duties, Town Mayor Councillor Lisa Farrell has opened the new Rohan shop in Hilliers Yard (May 24).

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Scouts honour twenty-five years of service - & encourage more volunteers to join the team

24-05-2018 Sue Round

At their AGM on Monday (May 21), the 2nd Marlborough Scout Group showed their appreciation of Andrew Barnett, who has volunteered as a leader with the group for more than twenty-five years.

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The NHS goalposts are on the move again - how will Wiltshire's NHS be affected?

23-05-2018

You wake up one morning to hear the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg telling her sleepy-eared audience that the government are about to 'unpick' some of or some parts of the Conservative-led Coalition's great NHS restructuring. 

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Marlborough St Mary’s gymnasts vault into second place

23-05-2018 Sue Round

What a result! Marlborough St Mary’s Year 4 gymnasts have come second in the Wiltshire Level 3 School’s Gymnastics Competition held at West Wilts Gym in Trowbridge.

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New Town Mayor's call for openness and public participation

23-05-2018

Councillor Lisa Farrell took the chair at her first full council meeting as Town Mayor (May 21) and called for the Council to welcome the public to its meetings.

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Marlborough Golf Club Ladies Captain's fantastic fundraising for Julia’s House Children’s Hospice

23-05-2018

Sue Lyon presented a cheque to Julia’s House at the hospice in Devizes to mark the end of her year as Ladies Captain at Marlborough Golf Club.

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An open letter in response to Wiltshire Council’s increases in parking charges for Marlborough

23-05-2018

David Dudley has written an open letter about the parking situation in the town - with special reference to the large increase in annual parking permit fees which will affect people coming into the town to work.  He has copied his letter to the Town Council.  Here it is in...

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Burbage school mud larks raise money for Cancer Research UK

22-05-2018 Sue Round

Year 6 pupils at Burbage Primary School took part in the ‘Pretty Muddy Kids Race for Life’ held by Cancer Research UK at Lydiard Park, Swindon last Saturday (May 19).

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Another blow for Marlborough College in students’ Puffin safety crossing row

Councillor Richard PittsCouncillor Richard PittsMarlborough College received another slap in the face from town councillors on Monday when a planning application for new gates to be erected in the College’s listed boundary wall in Bridewell Street was rejected. 

Members of the planning committee, who had voted unanimously in August against the College’s plans for a new Puffin crossing at the spot, again turned it down. 

But Councillor Richard Pitts declared that students didn’t use the two existing Pelican crossings, which made another crossing and the new gates unnecessary.

The College’s aim was to provide a safer crossing into the College for students due to occupy its new female hostel in the former Ivy House Hotel, the second application providing attractive new gates for students on the narrow pavement edge.

Committee vice-chairman Councillor Gordon Francis suggested that the new crossing was also for the use of students crossing from the College’s School of Art.

“Nevertheless, this is for a change in their listed boundary wall. This is all subjective and entirely dependant on whether approval is given for the new crossing.”

“There are some photographs of the wall which show that there are two different courses of bricks at the place where they want to put this gate.  That’s what makes it somewhat ugly.”

It will be up to Wiltshire Council to decide the fate of both applications, but Councillor Peggy Dow, who is one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, also objected.

“We haven’t got many walls now that are still listed,” she protested.  “We seem to be losing them all the time.  The wall will lose its attraction.  Personally I’m against this.”

Councillor Pitts agreed.

“The point is that they don’t use the crossings that they have already,” he said.  “There was a point the other day where the kids were running across the road.  There is no reason to have this crossing.  So therefore there is no reason to knock a hole in this wall.”

Councillor Stewart Dobson followed suit.

“I think we should stick to our guns and say there should be no crossing at all,” he said.  “We should go back to our old argument that they have two crossings already in the vicinity.  They are perfectly adequate.”

Councillor Francis pointed out that the application was about a listed wall, not the new crossing.

And Councillor Pitts retorted: “I am happy to propose we should reject this and turn to next business. It is unnecessary damage to a currently listed wall.”

The committee agreed.

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Summer deluge hits an amazing new peak reports Marlborough weather station

The summer rainfall in Marlborough, as you might have expected, has hit a new peak, the highest since Eric Gilbert launched his weather station in 1984.

“ With a total of 328mm, it was 183 per cent of the long-term average, superseding the previous record of 305mm for the summer of 2007,” he told Marlborough News Online.

“The frequency of heavy rainfall is not surprising as with global temperatures rising the air can contain greater quantities of moisture and, I understand, that globally it now contains four per centmore than it did in the 1970’s.”

“Although the wettest months in Marlborough over a 28-year period are November, December and January respectively, the highest daily totals are in the summer when daily temperatures are much higher.”

“With a total of 108.8mm August 2012 was the fourth wettest with 171 per cent of the long-term average, this follows large totals in recent years with 104mm and 108mm in August 2008 and 2010 respectively.”

He added: “The highest daily totals have also occurred in recent years with 41.7mm in August 2012 and the 45.4mm in May 2007. The trend is upward for more modest falls of 10mm or greater by four a year since the 1980’s.

“Records were set in September when the barometric pressure dropped to a very low 984.4Mb and the diurnal maximum temperature (daily range between minimum and maximum) with a difference of 25.3 degrees centigrade."

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Overseas aid destroys the democracy of African countries claims award-winning author

Overseas aid to foreign countries, to which Prime Minister David Cameron has committed millions despite our economic troubles,  destroys their democracy rather than helping them. That was the unexpected message from award-winning journalist and novelist Aminatta Forna (pictured) when she spoke at one of the last events of Marlborough’s literary festival at the town hall on Sunday. 

She is the daughter of a Scottish mother and a Sierra Leone freedom fighter, who spent part of her childhood in Africa as well as in Zambia, Iran and Thailand,  and whose memoir, The Memory of Love, won last year’s Commonwealth Writer’s Best Book Award prize. 

And questioned about her attitude to the UK’s refusal to reduce international aid given our double-dip recession, she confessed that her disenchantment stemmed from the end of the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, when the Revolutionary United Front tried to overthrow the government of president Joseph Momoh. 

At first she welcomed the arrival of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agencies but then dramatically changed her mind when she saw what was happening in the country.

“I thought the arrival of the NGOs was the best thing that happened to us,” she said. “Then I got very disenchanted. I am not at all convinced of the efficacy of aid on the ground. But then I have a much bigger and much more troubling feeling about it, which is that I don’t think it is really meant to work.

“I don’t anyone in western governments care a damn about it. I think aid is really investment for business. Actually aid is completely tied to markets. It’s about opening markets and that’s what developing countries do in order to get the aid.”

And Aminatta then declared: “I think aid destroys democracy because our president in Sierra Leone -- and it is true of very many other countries -- is much more concerned about what the aid donors think than he is to what his electorate thinks.”

She complained that it was the electorate is to whom the president was answerable to, not the providers of aid.

“We here in Britain may think we stand for certain principles and it doesn’t really matter if he answers to us. He is going to be answering to China very shortly. But it undermines fundamental relations in a democracy where he is answerable to his people.

“It is that relationship between aid and trade that bothers me most. In any case, I don’t think much aid is effective, it’s not long term, it’s not thought out.

“Quite often we have discussions like this and people quite genuinely want to help and they become very upset thinking that the help they are giving doesn’t seem to be appreciated by this woman talking to you here on stage.”

There were exceptions, she admitted, and she said she could name one or two agencies who did good work. “But I say to young people, if you want to change the developing world, if you want to help the developing world, please go and lobby for fair trade terms,” Aminatta added.

“That is much more acceptable than spending a year working with an NGO. If you do want to do something, then please switch all your assets into emerging markets.”

 

 Aminatta Forna with Nick MauriceAminatta Forna with Nick Maurice

The need is to help people to help themselves

Support for Aminatta’s views came from Dr Nick Maurice, founder of Marlborough’s famed Brandt Group, which supports people in The Gambia to help themselves.

“She raised a vitally important issue namely the relationship between aid and development,” Dr Maurice told Marlborough News Online after hearing her speak.

“Aid suggests help for the helpless and, as an African, she rightly criticises this approach which takes no account of the extraordinary resourcefulness of African people. It suggests ‘hand outs’ rather than ‘hand ups’ – i.e starting from where people are and working with those that want to bring about change for the better.

“The word ‘development’  comes from the French ‘De-envelopper’ i.e. ‘to remove the envelope’, the envelope referring to the constraints of lack of literacy and education, lack of medical services, lack of access to business opportunities, and thus enabling people to reach their maximum potential.

“It means working with people rather than working for people."

Aminatta is right to be critical of some aid agencies who very often come with their own agendas and pre-conceived ideas of ‘what people need is....’.

“There is a fine African saying, ‘We are given two ears and only one mouth for a purpose, namely that we should listen more and we should speak less!"

 

 

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Howard Jacobson warns Marlborough’s literary festival of a dire decline in reading

Howard JacobsonHoward JacobsonBooker prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson, admired for his black comedy, was in dire mood about the state of literature when he launched Marlborough’s third literary festival at the town hall last night (Friday).  

While the packed house laughed and hooted, giggled and applauded the hilarious stories he told, especially his  encounters with his Jewish mother, 70-year-old Jacobson was in fearful mood about the decline in reading. 

And the rise of a generation of uninformed people, mainly critics and bloggers on the internet, who believed their opinions are as good as any others.  

“Through all the wonders of the internet and computers, one of the terrible things that has happened is that people have been empowered to believe that if they have an opinion they have a right to that opinion -- and that it’s a good as anybody else’s,” he protested.

“It isn’t.   It quite simply isn’t.”

He wowed the audience too talking about Zoo Time, his latest novel about the end of everything, which stemmed from a true story of a depressed author going into a bookshop and stealing his own novel.

He warned them:  “My comedy is very bleak, very black…I remember Ian McEwen once saying the comic author is wrestling you to the floor and tickling you.   I don’t.   I wrestle you to the floor and put a knife in your heart.”

Yet he insisted:  “It is the most terrific fun to feel we are at the end of everything.  I love the feeling that it’s over, it’s finished.  It gives me, for some reason, enormous joy.”

“In this room there is nothing wrong.  In this room the world is fine, beautiful, there is nothing to complain of.   But outside, elsewhere, things are quite dark.”

“Bookshops are closing.   Libraries are closing.   We do not know what will happen to the physical book from the threat of technology, the ebook.”

“I am not horrified of the ebook but I am no great fan of the ebook.  And I don’t know where it will leave us.”

One reason for the worrying decline in reading was poor teaching in schools, where pupils considered “bits of books”, not the whole structure.

“We should say we will not have our children taught like that,” he said.  “We should demand better teaching.  We should be altogether much more demanding.”

I owe so much to your Nobel laureate William Golding

Howard Jacobson, the first author to give a Golding lecture inMarlborough, offered his thanks and told the audience: “I am honoured to be the William Golding speaker. I owe him a great debt.

“First of all, I read him when I was a schoolboy. He was very important to me.  He was one of the writers who showed me how the novel is a serious thing, how absolutely crucial the novel is.

“The other thing I am grateful to William Golding is that without him I would have been the oldest person ever to have won the Booker Prize.  That’s not a distinction one wears lightly.  And I’m glad he’s still got that.

“It is a good thing that older people win prizes.  And I hope as the years go by many, many novelists older than Wm Golding will win the Booker.  You hear a lot about supporting the young.  Let’s support the old.”


He explores in Zoo Time confrontations with reading groups telling authors they can’t identify with their characters.

“I have had this said to me,” recalled Jacobson, who was interviewed on stage by Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent newspaper.  “Every writer living has had it said to them.”

“And when anybody says that you want to kill them.  You want to kill them because it is irrelevant whether you want to identify with someone in a novel. It can be wonderful.  There are wonderful reading experiences when you think I am Jane Eyre.”

“But you can’t demand that because books do something else.  You can’t demand that the characters in a novel be likeable.  That’s the other thing you get – I didn’t like the characters in your novels. So bloody what!”

“What’s so nice about the MacBeths, do you really want to spend an evening with King Lear, where did this idea come from the literature is the story of the people you most like living next door?”

“It’s part of what drives me round the bend.”

So did questions about who were the great novelists, people scoffing when he listed Jane Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

“There is a assumption abroad that the really good stuff isn’t fun, that there is a secret thing that we do at night that we put a torch under the covers and we read JK Rowling,” he declared. “Well, we don’t.

“The most entertaining book you will ever read is always the best book you will ever read.  I am committed to that.”

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Town councillors prepare for New Year public inquiry planning battle against Caffe Nero

Councillor Richard GambleCouncillor Richard GambleJanuary is now the likely date for a public inquiry into an appeal lodged by Caffe Nero against an enforcement order issued by Wiltshire Council for it to stop trading illegally from its prime location in Marlborough High Street. 

Now the appeal has been made, Marlborough town council’s own planning committee will on Monday set out its priorities to present its case to a government planning inspector, seeking to uphold its objections and those of 60 retailers and individuals opposed to Caffe Nero’s presence in the town. 

Those priorities will probably be an initial  plea for the inquiry to be held at Marlborough Town Hall so that traders and residents can attend, the more so as the planning process has been so slow to reach an inquiry stage.  

And the second is preparing its own dossier of evidence to back up its case, a town survey of all existing coffee shops and bars at the heart of it.

This follows the refusal more than three months ago of Wiltshire Council’s eastern area planning committee – on a vote of seven to one -- to grant the international company retrospective change of use permission for the premises.

Caffe Nero opened its coffee shop in a former fashion store in April without seeking permission first, abusing regulations that it should do so in a trade mark decision by the company in similar cafe launches in towns across the country.

They have subsequently still resulted in it winning 16 out of 17 appeals, calls for tougher legislation ignored by the government which has wanted to speed up planning decisions.

“We are only a small town, but unlike others who have capitulated to Caffe Nero, we refuse to roll over and will stand our ground on this major planning issue affecting a site that has A1 sales retail and is in a prime location,” Tory Councillor Margaret Rose, who chairs the town council’s planning committee, told Marlborough News Online.

“I shall be seeking to carry out a survey of all the coffee bars and cafes in Marlborough to see the effect Caffe Nero has had on their trade since it abused the laid down regulations and opened up in the High Street without change of use planning permission.”

“I shall be calling on the Chamber of Commerce to help us with the survey, which will identify those businesses that have suffered from Caffe Nero’s arrival here.”

 “Caffe Nero is in a position to cream off all retail trade that smaller cafes would receive and therefore  small cafes are loosing revenue.  I hope our survey will enable use to assess exactly what has happened since April and enable us to bring those who have been seriously affected on board.”

She added: “Sadly we are now without a  our late town clerk, Derek Wolfe, but with the support of my fellow councillors, the  Chamber of Commerce  and Wiltshire councillor Richard Gamble, who is vice-chair of the area planning committee, we shall be ready  for the fight.”

It was Councillor Gamble who led the attack on Caffe Nero – and Wiltshire’s own planning director Mike Wilmott – at its July meeting that resulted in the seven to one refusal vote.

He virtually accused planning officers of failing to understand the existing planning legislation and the county’s own core planning policies.  And he dismissed as “unproven and unsubstantiated” a survey of customers report Caffe Nero had submitted to the council supporting its claim that it was adding “vitality and viability” to the town.

Councillor Gamble told Marlborough News Online: "I will be attending the public inquiry and hope to be able to speak in support of the planning committee's decision to reject Caffe Nero's retrospective planning application.”

Mr Wilmott told Marlborough News Online : “I can confirm that Caffe Nero have lodged their appeal against the enforcement notice.  The inspectorate has confirmed that the appeal is valid and that it will be determined by a public inquiry.”

“The date for the inquiry is not yet confirmed but is likely to be in January.  The venue cannot be confirmed at this stage as we have no firm date yet.”

He pointed out hat the appeal is being made on two specific grounds.

One is simply that that planning permission should be granted for the use of the High Street premises.  The other is that “the steps required to comply with the requirements of the notice are excessive - on the grounds that there is no policy reason why a mixed A1/A3 use could not be retained on the first floor - so the steps for compliance should only relate to the ground floor.”

Mr Wilmott added: “We will be sending notice of the appeal out to those who made representations on the planning application in due course.”

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Harvest festival at St Mary’s to celebrate the golden haul of Olympic sporting success

Harvest of Sport Poster Sept 2012Harvest of Sport Poster Sept 2012A harvest festival with a difference is being created by Marlborough’s parish church of St Mary’s, one that will celebrate the golden haul of medals won in the triumphant Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

The church will become a showcase of local sporting achievement with more 10 local clubs creating an exhibition that takes in football, rugby, cricket, hockey, tennis, golf, athletics, bowls, angling, fencing and may by cycling too. 

“Two years ago we had a harvest festival in St Mary’s celebrating local manufacturing,” Marlborough’s rector, Canon Andrew Studdart-Kennedy, told Marlborough News Online. 

“There was a terrific exhibition with a sample of what was made locally – the visual highlight of which was a microlight aircraft in the building.”

 “This Olympic Year we are having a harvest celebration of local sport – each of the local clubs providing a display about their sport and details of how to contact them.”

The sort of thing that I had in mind will include rackets, bats, balls, clubs, sticks, pads and also any ‘team strips’ they might have. When seen all together, it should help make a fun display and a striking visual impact .

 “And it will help everyone see how much sport goes on in the local community and also the huge amount of time that volunteers give in helping to run it.”

The aim is to open the doors of St Mary’s throughout Saturday October 6, manned by volunteers from St Mary’s, with the Harvest Festival service following at 10am on Sunday October 7.

The service will be attended by Marlborough’s Mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, and members of the town council, and everyone is welcome to join in, the more so if they are volunteers in the local sporting world or high achievers on the track or with bat, ball racquet, foil or golf club.

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Community Giveaway celebrates Marlborough good causes

Robert Fraser, the  Mayor of Marlborough Edwina Fogg, and Hugh Fraser present a winner's cheque to Marilyn Mason and the children of the Phoenix Brass Band training sectionRobert Fraser, the Mayor of Marlborough Edwina Fogg, and Hugh Fraser present a winner's cheque to Marilyn Mason and the children of the Phoenix Brass Band training sectionMarlborough's grassroots community organisations and good causes were celebrated and rewarded at a special event thrown by new convenience store Budgens of Marlborough on Thursday, September 27.

The store's Community Giveaway saw £3,000 given away on the night with a further £3,000 to follow when the £2m shop, Subway food outlet, car wash and petrol forecourt open on October 18.

Nineteen community organisations competed for a share of the jackpot, with the final nine – chosen by the public on the store's Facebook page – battling it out during the final at Theatre on the Hill, St John's School.

The final decision was left to the public using Wiltshire Council's voting handsets, with the process managed by community area manager Andrew Jack.

Phoenix Brass Band, Savernake Forest Scout Group and Wiltshire Air Ambulance walked away with cheques for £1,000 each after pitching their organisation to the voting audience.

18-year-old Rebekah Tew, one of the success stories of Splitz, which works with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse18-year-old Rebekah Tew, one of the success stories of Splitz, which works with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuseAll of the finalists, who included Carer Support Wiltshire, Marlborough Communities Market, St John's School, We Love Marlborough, Marlborough Brandt Group, and Splitz will get a share of £3,000 through an in-store customer token scheme.

The event, which was free to attend, also gave members of the public the opportunity to meet directors and staff involved with the new Budgens store, look over the plans, and sample some of the wares.

And members of the audience were so moved by one of the presentations that the charity was handed a cash donation by a member of the public straight after the event.

The initiative was well received by members of the public. Kate Major, a supporter of Phoenix Brass Band, said: “It was a fabulous evening; very enjoyable,” while Susan Dickins said: “It was an excellent evening. When I did finally get to sleep after all that excitement I woke up the following morning still smiling!”

Robert Fraser and Nick Fraser, of Fraser Retail Group, with Craig Adams (centre) of Box Steam breweryRobert Fraser and Nick Fraser, of Fraser Retail Group, with Craig Adams (centre) of Box Steam breweryDiane Barkham of Carer Support Wiltshire said: “A big thank you for giving us the opportunity to take part in such a great and generous initiative.

“It is because of kind businesses like yourselves that we are able to raise awareness as well as have the chance to try and gain a little extra funding which really makes a difference.”

Mark Wilson, of Budgens of Marlborough, told guests that Fraser Retail Group had been trying to move into Marlborough for over 10 years. And explaining the thinking behind the Community Giveaway, he said: “We are all about how we can work with the community and become part of the community and rather than just take, give a little back.

“It’s also about working with local suppliers in giving them an opportunity to bring their products to market where otherwise they would struggle and often struggle to even survive.”

The event was officially opened by the mayor of Marlborough, councillor Edwina Fogg, who praised Budgens of Marlborough for their community spirit and welcomed the creation of 50 new jobs in a tough economic climate.

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Lord Cardigan left without legal help as his solicitors withdraw from court case

Criminal charges against Lord Cardigan have been adjourned after Judge Euan Ambrose was told at Swindon Crown Court that he has parted company with his legal aid solicitors. 

He was due to enter pleas on charges of theft and criminal damage but Judge Ambrose adjourned the hearing until November 2 after learning his lawyers have withdrawn from the case.  This will give him time to find a new solicitor. 

Lord Cardigan, of Savernake Lodge, near Marlborough, also revealed that he had to go to America where his wife is due in court seeking custody of her son.

Appearing under the name David Brudenell-Bruce, the 59-year-old peer is accused of damaging a pheasant feeders and drinkers to the value of £66 between June 4 and June 29.

He is further accused of the theft of a battery and electrical power unit worth £80 on Saturday June 23 following  events alleged to have taken place on the Savernake Forest estate.

Marie-Claire Amuah, who had represented him when the case was before magistrates, told the judge on Monday that her instructing solicitors had decided to cease representing him that morning.

Cardigan told the court that he had “heard on the grapevine” that his solicitors, London based J.D. Spicer and Co, were going to cease to represent him.

"I didn't think today would be going ahead because I heard some time ago that they would be walking away from the case,” Lord Cardigan told the judge from the dock.

"I have heard from a mutual friend that they are pulling out -- not very professional.  indeed I was slightly surprised to see Miss Amuah here this morning."

He said he would seek new representation immediately as he was due to fly to Arizona next week as his wife, an American citizen, was due in court on a child custody case.  He hoped to be back in the last few days of the month.

Lord Cardigan was released on bail until November 2 on condition he does not have contact with five named people or go within 50 metres of their homes.

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Marlborough’s third literary festival kicks off without footballers and big boobs

Mavis Cheek Launches the festivalMavis Cheek Launches the festivalMarlborough’s latest literary festival was launched last night (Friday) with a reception at the town hall attended by Marlborough’s own celebrities – and a message from its chairman, the novelist Mavis Cheek. 

“Welcome to our third year,” she told Marlborough’s mayor, Edwina Fogg, and the guests. “The important thing about this festival is that it proves that you don’t have very large breasts or be a footballer to be a success as a literary festival.” 

“We only invite people who write books beautifully.  We only have real literature at our festival and it works every time.  We are living proof that literature soars.”

She revealed that the festival was born out of a meeting in a wine bar with former mayor Nick Fogg, creator of Marlborough’s international jazz festival.  She then went cap in hand to the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society for support.

“And they immediately wrote me a cheque to start this festival,” said Mavis. “So I must continue to thank them because without them we would never have dared sail into the dark.”

She then went on to thank too the festival’s lead sponsors, Brewin Dolphin, and other sponsors Robert Hiscock, whose international company insures the festival, and the family of Marlborough’s own literary Nobel laureate William Golding, who have created a festival lecture in his name.

Sir John Sykes, a member of the Litfest committee, invited all the guests to toast the festival “and all who sail in her.”

Sir John went on to pay tribute to the leadership of Mavis, who chairs its committee. “Thank you Mavis for being inspirational in getting the third festival under way,” he declared.

Boker Prize winning novellist Howard JacobsonBoker Prize winning novellist Howard JacobsonMavis Cheek with Sir John SykesMavis Cheek with Sir John SykesPeter Davison, Marlborough's George Orwell guruPeter Davison, Marlborough's George Orwell guruEdwina Fogg in conversation with journalist Elinor GoodmanEdwina Fogg in conversation with journalist Elinor GoodmanRobert HiscoxRobert Hiscox

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Marlborough Town Mill fish pass project on the Kennet causes a splash of anger and uproar

Workmen standing on  the dry mill raceWorkmen standing on the dry mill raceThe roar of water passing over the weir at the site of Marlborough’s Town Mill came to a halt for possibly the first time in its ancient history this week – to give trout a chance to swim upstream.

A unique fish pass is being constructed on the Kennet and to create it two air-filled barrages were thrown across the chalk stream, the dam exposing the river bed and giving volunteers a rare chance to clean it up.

The exercise is all part of a £35,000 project being carried out by Action River Kennet (ARK) following the worst drought for decades, which wiped out the fish stock in the upper reaches of the river, now ironically flourishing in the latest deluge causing floods across the country.

The aim, in fact, is to change the “waterfall” by the foot bridge between Kennet Place and Town Mill into a series of smaller steps, enabling fish to swim upstream. This will affect the river from the bridge outside the Mustard Seed Café, on the edge of the Waitrose car park, down to Munchies Café.

But the month-long project, paid for by a grant from the Rivers Trust, also produced an unfortunate splash of anger and upset, first from a uninformed passers-by who abused the workmen on the site, then by a visit from Tory town councillors Stewart Dobson and Marian Hanniford-Dobson.

They are said to have claimed the work was being carried out without planning permission and ought to stop, unaware that Wiltshire planning officer Peter Horton had informed ARK that no planning permission was required.

“It’s disappointing that a couple of ill informed members of the town council chose to disrupt the work on site yesterday (Tuesday),” ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough told Marlborough News Online.

“Their input has been entirely unhelpful and has caused an unnecessary delay to the project.”  She pointed out that it was members of the public who had abused those on site adding: “Much of the work is being done by volunteers whose only aspiration is to improve the environment and it seems sad that people who are trying to make a positive difference are treated in this way.”

“The mill itself was demolished in 1950.  ARK fully recognise the historic importance of the site, but not building this fish pass won’t bring the mill back again.”

Councillor Dobson responded:  “Sadly you have been misinformed.  Marian and myself were contacted by members of the public who wanted to know what building work was taking place at the entrance to Town Mill.”

“Following a telephone call to Mrs Sue Fry in the town council offices, she was unable to help but wondered if it was work commencing on the flood wall.

“We therefore decided to visit the site where a very helpful gentleman was able to explain that he was preparing the site for the installation of a fish ladder.”

Charlotte Hitchmough subsequently told Marlborough News Online: “The contractors and ARK’s Don Harris told me they had been told by two men, who introduced themselves as councillors, that they were working without the right planning consent and as a result stopped all work.”

The pollarding of a willow above the mill race and the erection of screens had caused passers-by to abuse the ARK workers, as was discovered by town councillor Val Compton, who lives on the Kennet Place site, where an Environment Agency flood protection scheme has been given the go-ahead.

“I have absolutely no time for the loud mouthed few who turn up when work has begun on a project to harangue the workforce and be generally abusive,” she protested.  

“I find that totally despicable behaviour and have been on the receiving end of it on more than one occasion.  If you care, get involved – if you don’t, then just shut up.”

Once the Town Mill affair had subsided – the Kennet has had a score of mills along its banks in past centuries – Charlotte explained: “The fish pass is an exciting chance to improve the wild fish populations in the Kennet.”

“The weir, which is the only remnant of the site of the old Mill Wheel, is too steep and has too much drop for fish to swim up, which means that the fish at the top of the river are isolated from those downstream.”

“After the catastrophic drought last year, thousands of fish were left dead, and without the fish pass there is no real hope of breathing life back into the upper reaches of the river again.  Creating this passage for fish will help the river to recover naturally.”

She added: “The Mill used to serve a central function in the town and is an example of how important rivers are for both people and wildlife.  ARK are looking forward to working with the town council to bring back some of the mill workings to the site, where they can be displayed to mark the significance of the site in Marlborough’s history.

“The project costs are being funded by the Rivers Trust through the River Improvement Fund.  It is one of hundreds of projects across the country to help to bring rivers to ‘good ecological status’”.

Empty KennetEmpty KennetRolling out the damRolling out the damAs it wasAs it was

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Faith in the ability of capitalism to change for the good takes a dive in Bishop’s debate

L to R: Hugh Pym, Bishop Nick Holtam, Symon Hill, Stewart WallisL to R: Hugh Pym, Bishop Nick Holtam, Symon Hill, Stewart WallisA high profile debate chaired by the Bishop of Salisbury on the question of whether capitalism can be made good has resulted in an increasing number of people believing it can’t be saved. 

More than 100 people attending the event at Marlborough’s St John’s Academy last week were asked to vote on the motion before and after the Bishop’s Debate took place. 

And though it was admitted that the motion was deliberately ambiguous – was it about ethics or economics or both? – the aim was to see whether power of the arguments increased the number of members of the audience changing sides.

On the initial vote 71 to 36 people voted that capitalism could be made good, but more than 90 minutes later the figures changed to 63 to 46, a substantial rise in the number of doubters.

Bishop Nick Holtam and Rosemary CookBishop Nick Holtam and Rosemary CookBishop Nick HoltamBishop Nick HoltamIt was then that Bishop Nick Holtam summed up emphasising the essential need for change.

“There are important questions as to what sort of alternatives there are around and how we begin to imagine alternatives in new possible worlds,” he said. “Are we evolving systems that we have got or actually looking for something quite radically different?

“We have certainly got a problem with companies that are too big to fail. There is a question there about accountability and control.”

He added: “This is not just about how we live with stuff, we all have to live with stuff, that’s half the human condition, whatever the system.  But it does ask questions about how we answer ourselves in God’s world.”

“The question of spirituality and whether we can add alternatives is really important. There’s the question of active citizenship, and the way how we often feel powerless but actually do need to engage in a way most of us don’t most of the time, in order to encourage and help stimulate change.”

Hugh PymHugh PymStewart WallisStewart WallisWill MorrisWill MorrisSymon HillSymon Hill

The overall debate was wide ranging.  On one side were those  who believed that banks were not all bad, that they stimulated wealth creation and enterprise that provided employment, there being nothing at all in seeking profit.   Technology too could solve our global problems, though there was an urgent need for trust to be re-established and a sense of fairness an equality.

On the other side came the argument that world resources could no longer sustain a growing population at a time when climate change was creating impossible problems plus the belief that capitalism was based on debt and idolatry making it, as in the Bible, unfit for purpose.

It was a failure as much as Communism and other economic systems but somehow a belief in markets was allowed to distort a system that believed endless growth was vital to our lifestyle.

Hugh Pym even pointed out that he was pleased to see that enterprise had kept the Sun public house and Polly’s still in business as they were when he was at Marlborough College, though the sweet shop near the College gates had been replaced by a barber’s.

He believed bank regulation reform was essential and that consumer power too must be used to ensure fair trade.

There were suggestions too that the Church of England had failed to take full advantage of the sit-down protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

Stewart Wallis made one passionate plea that may well have changed the views of the audience.

He recalled working for a major banking company with 1,000 employees who wanted to maximise the return on their effort because that was what they believed business was for.

“Sometimes I had to do things I didn’t believe in,” he said. “And I don’t exactly think any more that we look forward to a system that may have done good but in a system that relies in effect on individual selfishness is fundamental.”

“I am not arguing that there aren’t many good people out there. There are lots and lots of good people in banks and businesses and lots of good businesses too.”

“But why is there only one John Lewis? Just ask yourself that question.”

He pointed out that at the top too many big businesses could buck the market while, at the bottom, social enterprise companies such as that launched by Gordon and Anita Rodick always sold out in the end.

The trouble was that people felt trapped in a system that just encouraged growth and profit, always looked after number one.

“I remember how I felt when I went from business to Oxfam,” he said.  “Then I could live my own values for something I believed in.  You talk to many people in business.  They constrained by the purposes around them.  A different system or not, we need to change fundamentally the system we’re in.”

“We need a system that creates much higher well-being.  That doesn’t mean going back to a barter economy.  You can’t get rid of debt, in my view.”

“It’s still going to be a market economy, but it is going to have many John Lewis’ in it and many less of the horrible range of firms you see doing not very nice things.”

“And that system has to start by being based about us, as people, about how we function and how we get well-being. We can have something much better.”

He recalled an Oxfam meeting at the Treasury when he was told by a senior official that ending the sovereign debt of the world’s poorest countries would bring the financial system down.

“As we left the room, one of them said, ‘Go away and play with your toys’.  So rude.  We thought, OK, we will play with our toys.  We’ll play with yours as well.”

“That resulted in the churches worldwide coming together and saying, ‘We want change.’  We’re at that same moment now.  We are running out of planet.  The past economies are too embedded.”

“We need to stand up and say, Enough.  Then we might manage things differently.  We can’t say this is the best we can have.  It’s done lots of good.  But it’s time for a change.”

Those taking part:

Hugh Pym – chief economics correspondent for the BBC, who was educated at Marlborough College. Pym was a radio journalist and producer from 1986 to 1988, then a BBC special correspondent covering economics before being appointed to his present post.

The Rev Will Morris – global tax policy director for General Electric, chair of the CBI’s tax committee and associate priest at St Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square.  A former US Treasury official, he has written a paper entitled “Not just “how” but “why”: a personal reflection on business ethics and the crisis.”

Stewart Wallis – executive director of the think tank New Economics Foundation since 2003 and an advocate for transition to a system for a "new model of wealth creation, based on equality, diversity and economic stability".  He worked for Oxfam from 1992 to 2002, for which he was awarded an OBE.

Symon Hill –  Christian activist, journalist and associate director of the Ekklesia think tank.  He has written The No-Nonsense Guide to Religion.  Last February, he was dragged by police from the steps of St Paul's Cathedral as he prayed during the eviction of Occupy London Stock Exchange. He previously worked for the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Click on any pic to enlarge......

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Council survey of all cafes and pubs goes ahead in planning battle against Caffe Nero

All the cafes, pubs and outlets providing beverages in Marlborough are to be asked to complete a questionnaire on how their business has been affected since the arrival of Caffe Nero five months ago. 

This is being done on the initiative of Councillor Margaret Rose (pictured), chair of the town council’s planning committee, who announced the mission at the committee’s meeting last night (Monday). 

“If this council doesn’t stand up for small businesses then it will be very remiss of us,” she told fellow councillors in seeking their support in joining her conducting the survey, details of which are now being prepared.

The survey results will provide the town council’s evidence when the belated public inquiry into Wiltshire Council’s refusal to grant retrospective planning consent to Caffe Nero, now likely to take place on January 6, is held.

As yet, the exact date and venue of the event has not been agreed by the Planning Inspectorate (based in Bristol), but October 29 has been fixed as the deadline for the appointed planning inspector to receive all objections and comments – in triplicate.

Councillor Rose said that Caffe Nero, which has won 16 out of 17 planning appeals in towns across the country after it had opened for business without planning consent, would provide figures of how well it had done since arriving in Marlborough High Street in April.

“I would like to survey all the cafes to see how many of them have lost business,”  she pointed out.  “I believe Caffe Nero’s decision to cream off customers is detrimental to the town.”

Councillor Peggy Dow, also a Wiltshire councillor, interjected:  “That’s an excellent idea.”  And other councillors too gave their blessing to the survey – there are some 20 outlets in the town -- being carried out.

Councillor Rose added that Councillor Richard Gamble, vice-chairman of Wiltshire’s eastern area planning committee, would be presenting the case on “strong planning issues” as to why Caffe Nero should be denied retrospective consent.

“But as a council we must be concerned by the effect Caffe Nero’s decision has had on businesses,” said Councillor Rose. “If other councillors want to come round with me they can.”

“That will ensure that every café and bar is done.  It is the smaller cafes who are suffering . I want us to cover every outlet that sells beverages.  I thank you for your support.  I appreciate that.”

Anyone may submit their views in writing direct to The Planning Inspectorate, 3/26 Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN, quoting the reference APP/Y3940/C/12/2183497 and E/2012/00077/ENF.

They have to be made in triplicate, any representations made after that deadline not normally being seen by the planning inspector will be returned.

Views expressed will be disclosed to Caffe Nero and are liable to be read out at the inquiry hearing.

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Comic novelist Michael Frayn reveals the art of making fun from mistaken identity

Michael FraynMichael FraynMistaken identity makes the world go round – creating the laughter so traditionally found in comedy and farce dating back to the Greek gods, who reinvented themselves in search of love. 

That was the delightful theme Michael Frayn, the prize-winning novelist, playwright and author of screenplays, as he retold the basic ideas behind his new comic novel called Skios, a totally fictional name for a Greek island he invented. 

Yet, to prove his point, he recalled at the Marlborough literary festival last night (Saturday) that admirers had come up to him on his promotional tours for the book to tell him they knew the island well. 

And that brought down the house at Marlborough town hall where a packed audience succumbed to his exceptional tales of true events that ought to make them wonder whether he was really Michael Frayn and not some commercial franchise aiming to dumbfound them.

He revealed how this was in fact the case with the pop star Little Richard -- and a major Moscow orchestra too -- who appeared in different places at the same time without their audiences being aware they were being cheated.

One man who protested vehemently at a Little Richard concert  some years ago was hauled off by security guards as if he were mental.  Yet 18 months later his claim was proved to be true, people always willing to hide their identities for nefarious purposes.

“How do you know I am Michael Frayn?”  he asked them.  “Who knows, some shaven haired security guards might come and haul me off at any moment.”

Indeed, he pointed out that the festival aide who had picked him up at Swindon railway station had never met him before, as was the case in Skios where his colourful hero, an ebullient Boris Johnson-type character, changes his identity without difficulty.

Having stupidly picked up the suitcase of an eminent scientist on the baggage carousel and seeing a young woman with a placard with the man’s name on it, one of half a dozen waiting to collect people, goes off with her, in more than one sense.

“Have you ever been tempted?”  asked Frayn.  “I confess I have always been tempted to go round and claim I am the name on the card because it would be so interesting to step into someone else’s life and see someone else’s world.”

“Those waiting at airports don’t know person they have been sent to pick or what they look like.  I wouldn’t do it because I’m far too timid.”

But he had a manic depressive friend who was a danger to himself because nobody knew what he might do next.

“He was walking along Fleet Street, he was a journalist, and saw in the slow-moving traffic a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce with white ribbons on it,” Frayn recalled.  “What he wanted to do was to get into the car and tell the bride and groom the story of his life.”

“That’s what he did.  According to him it was a great success because he is such a charming fellow.  And no doubt somewhere today there is the bride thinking how much her life might have turned out very differently if she had gone off and married him.”

Indeed, he pointed out, the masked ball of the 18th century was a perfect ploy for people to have secret assignations thanks to being able to hide their true identity, providing endless possibilities for fun and frolics.

Fact or fiction, it didn’t matter, the laughter from 79-year-old Frayn’s delicious stories undoubtedly adding to the audience’s sheer enjoyment.

As he told them at the start, when he set out on his Skios travels he received an email from the Society of Authors telling him that he needed public liability insurance.

“People nowadays sue their doctors for miss-diagnosis, they sue the council for making them trip up over paving stones, they sue their lawyers for failing to collect damages,” he pointed out.

“But I am not at all clear what I can do to you which will be so awful that it will get you suing? The only thing I can think of is getting a writ from someone who says my beloved mother-in-law passed away following the event the other night because you bored her to death.”

That Michael Frayn failed gloriously to achieve.

See Michael Frayn reveals hidden trauma - September 17

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Wiltshire’s NHS: new GP-led Commissioning Group faces old problem

From Monday (October 1) the new GP-led Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) take over operational running of the county’s health services from NHS Wiltshire (the Primary care Trust or PCT.)  It’s one of the quirks of the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS that statutory responsibility for the service remains with the PCT until the end of March 2013.

One of the major problems the CCG inherits is the seemingly unstoppable drain on the NHS budget for Wiltshire from delayed discharges from hospital – known as DTOCs (for delayed transfer of care.)

This is not only a local problem.  Here’s Katherine Murphy, head of the national Patients Association, getting to the heart of the matter: “At the moment, health and social care are not joined up, so people are left occupying beds in hospital when they could be treated in the community if the right services were provided there – domiciliary care, physiotherapy and so on. That would mean happier patients, less chance of people getting hospital-acquired infections and less cost for the NHS.”

NHS Wiltshire’s Chairman, Tony Barron, puts it simply: “DTOCs are the end product of an appalling pathway of care” – care is not being planned beyond hospital admission and treatment.  The trouble is, as Katherine Murphy underlined, it’s not ‘joined up’ - hospitals are in the hands of the NHS and social care is in the hands of Wiltshire Council.

In Wiltshire the situation is bad and is draining money from a very stretched budget. The latest figures from NHS Wiltshire show that in the week to September 20 there were seventy-four patients in hospital beds who need not have been there – that was ten more than the previous week and sixty-four more than was planned and budgeted for.

Thirty-nine patients were waiting for care homes; nine for assessment as to where they ought to go; seven for a ‘care package’ to be arranged; six for transfer to non-acute hospitals; five were the subject of disputes; and three were waiting for their care home of choice. Over the week there were 414 lost bed says – up forty-four from the previous week – which equates to an extra cost against the PCT’s budget of £100,602 for the week.

They used to be called “bed blockers” – which seemed to imply that they wanted to be in the beds, when in reality it was the social care authorities keeping them there.  So they now called DTOCs – and during that week they were spread across the hospitals used by NHS Wiltshire: eighteen in community hospital beds; thirteen at Salisbury Foundation Trust; twenty-five at Bath’s RUH; twelve at Swindon’s GWH; and six in beds run by the mental health partnership.

It is the view in the PCT that “Wiltshire [Council] have not got the infrastructure in place” to cope with this problem. The Council have made changes and are still making changes - some of these were described recently to Marlborough News Online by the Council leader, Jane Scott.

And there are other changes in the pipeline such as increasing the Council’s teams working within the three acute hospitals (Bath, Salisbury and Swindon) so they can achieve faster assessment of patients’ needs as their treatment ends and they are ready to be discharged.

The PCT have over the past three years passed funding to Wiltshire Council aimed among other things at resolving the DTOC problem.  In 2010-2011 it was £1,420 million; in 2011-2012 it was £7,082 million (including a payment for winter pressures.)  This year it is £4,651 million so far with another £2,268 million in the budget which can be passed on as soon as agreement is reached on how it will be spent.

Some of the results can be seen.  In 2011-2012 the NHS money helped the Council provide 175 extra long-term care home places; more extensive care to support people at home; an extra five social workers in the acute hospitals; and support for a 24/7 telecare response service.

There is also the Council’s STARR scheme which finds short-term beds - on the one hand to prevent people going into hospital because they urgently need social care, and on the other hand to help people coming out of hospital.  This may become part of an urgent social care response service that could be better for patients and for the NHS budget.

Aditional information: Wiltshire Council runs twenty-two re-emablement beds which are at present in the STARR scheme - these will be increased to 'thirty plus'.

In June, Sue Geary, Wiltshire Council’s Head of Social Care Policy, confirmed to NHS Wiltshire that the Council had received extra funds due to the increase in patients being admitted to hospital.  She said there were enough beds available, but thought too many patients were being transferred to residential beds unnecessarily.

In July, Ms Geary admitted that much work still had to be done on the STARR scheme, and the CCG’s leader, Deborah Fielding, urged that the funds should be put to use by the Council ‘as a matter of urgency’.

It was suggested to the Council that they could use an empty ward at Salisbury Foundation Trust hospital as a temporary measure to take patients ready to be discharged. The PCT is firmly against this.  As Tony Barron put it: “I’m totally opposed to a bed-based solution – hospital is not the right place for people to be – to use that ugly word – warehoused.”  This suggestion was quickly turned down by Wiltshire Council.

The GPs and their CCG will have to take this problem on. And it is an enduring problem partly because there is no one solution – as the PCT was told last week: “It needs a multi-pronged approach and we have to keep working on every prong all the time.”

The GPs will find themselves in something of a quandary on this issue because they are both commissioners and providers of health care.  In the former role they have a budget to control and use as they think best. In the latter role they will be told by the executives in their CCG that they have to stop admitting people to hospital unnecessarily – people who when they are ready to be discharged have nowhere suitable to go.  

The transition from PCT to GP-led commissioning that is the foundation of the government’s restructuring of the NHS, has six months to run. As it continues the PCT’s risk register is showing a lot of red ink – and will do so until March 31, 2013.  The red ink that surrounds DTOCs may continue a lot longer.

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Jane Scott to stand for re-election next May: “I want to do four more years”

Councillor Jane ScottCouncillor Jane ScottCouncillor Jane Scott has told Marlborough News Online that she will be standing for re-election next May and if re-elected and if chosen again to lead the Conservative group, hopes to lead the Council for four more years. 

She thinks seventy is a good time to retire and those four more years will take her close to her chosen retirement date.  She has plenty of work to complete. 

The work closest to her heart is to get the Council’s care of vulnerable children back on track – to make it, she says, “good “.  In April an Ofsted report pointed to ‘serious and significant shortcomings’ in Wiltshire Council’s safeguarding of vulnerable children in seventeen of the ninety-two child protection cases they selected at random. 

“Personally, I was absolutely cut-up about the whole thing.  I had thought we had a good system in place.  I’m taking a personal interest in it now.  And I’m very pleased with the work the improvement board is doing and with the people we’re sending out to check things up.”

Ofsted’s judgment was felt especially deeply as before Jane Scott became Council leader in 2003 she held the cabinet post for children’s services.

As Ofsted won’t be back for a while, in the New Year the Council will commission an independent review of their new procedures and staffing:  “I feel more confident now that things are moving in the right direction and at the right pace.”

Another reason for Councillor Scott’s decision to stand again is the huge amount of work the Council has to take on as part of the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS.  The Council will be in the middle of the complex web of new arrangements and the Council’s new health teams will only just be finding their feet when the elections take place next May.

At the centre will be the new Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) which the Council will run. The Board will be responsible for working with the GP commissioners and all the local providers on the annual assessment of the health and social care that Wiltshire’s people need.

Then, Councillor Scott explains, the Board will have two main roles: first to ensure the GPs’ plan delivers – and “challenge the commissioners if the plan or its delivery is not right.”  “Secondly, it must challenge all the health partners and providers to ensure they’re working together.”

“I’m really not sure the Health and Wellbeing Board should be digging into anything else – it’ll be a critical friend. I want to be very clear about what we do and about what we don’t do – for instance the Board won’t be looking at individual cases.”

“But there will be times when we need to challenge, say, on closure of hospital beds – but on the evidence rather than on passion. The Board will have a scrutiny role – but not emotionally based scrutiny.”

Wiltshire’s HWB has held five meetings in its shadow form– meeting in private. Councillor Scott, who chairs the Board, hopes it will start meeting in public before the April deadline when it becomes a statutory body.

The exact ‘cast list’ for this board may change before it becomes a statutory body next March.  At present four senior Wiltshire Councillors sit on the board and there have been moves to have a lay person as Chairman rather than a councillor or a GP.

Another start-up that Wiltshire Council has to get ready for April is Healthwatch Wiltshire – which will take over the “patients’ voice” role.  This was to have been ready by October, but the government postponed it till April 2013. Advertisements for its Chairman and a four or five strong executive board should approved by the Council’s executive within a matter of weeks.

The Council will also become responsible for the public health service with staff moving soon from the Primary Care Trust to County Hall.  But as Councillor Scott told Marlborough News Online, there’s been a Joint Director of Public Health and Protection shared between the Council and the PCT for over four years:  “So we’re already a little way on that journey.  We want to bring public health right into the centre of what we do.  It impacts on almost every other Council service from environmental health to uneven pavements.”

One of the great challenges for the new NHS bodies will be the increasing number of elderly people in the county and the complex interface between health care and social care. And there one of the pressure points is the long-standing and costly problem of those who need to leave hospital but are subjected to ‘delayed transfer of care’(now known by the acronym DTOCs– previously known by the inaccurate, headline-grabbing phrase as ‘bed blockers’.)

The latest figure for NHS Wiltshire’s costs in the unnecessary use of hospital beds due to these delays was £90,000 for one week.  And a nationwide study put the cost of DOTCs to the NHS as a whole at £545,000 a day.

There is no one solution to this problem. Councillor Scott wants to “Work with all the health partners about who goes into hospital – is that the right place for them? We need to give support at home to those who do not need to go into hospital for clinical reasons.”

“The neighbourhood nursing teams work with social care teams, but must work even more closely with them.” And Councillor Scott cites a scheme in Hertfordshire which teams up paramedics and social workers so as to make sure people who do not really need to go into hospital, even for an overnight stay, get appropriate care at home.

“People have the right to say no to a place [in a care home] – and we’re always working with people to tell them we’ll get you where you want to go as soon as there’s a place available.”

“We’ve put a lot of time and effort into helping people get back to their homes – we need to get them out of hospital in a timely way.”  And more and more this will involve specialist placements for those who are physically well but a suffering from some stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

One of Wiltshire Council’s new schemes to alleviate part of the DTOCs problem is to reserve places in care homes to provide a six week  ‘reablement’ course which involves assessment of needs and confidence building so people can go back safely to living at home.

Finally, Councillor Scott points to another problem with the elderly that is starting to cause concern.  In parts of the county, especially in the east and around Marlborough, many of the elderly in care homes are ‘self-funders’ – paying their own care home fees. The Council will probably not have contact with them until their money runs out and they have to be found another care home: “This is crazy – we will work with and give advice to anyone.  People need to make the right decisions about the type and quality of care they need at an early stage. We can even help them make their money last as long as possible.”

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Re-resurfacing work for the A4 west of Marlborough

Early in the summer the A4 between Beckhampton and Overton was closed during the night for more than a week for resurfacing work – with a long diversion via Wroughton and Chiseldon.  From October 15 the closure and diversion will be in force again as the resurfacing work was not up to standard and must be re-done to make the two stretches of road, in Wiltshire Council's words, “fit for purpose”.

The surface that was laid is considered to be too slippery.  The road closure will be between 19.00 and 06.00 from Monday, October 15 to Friday, October 19.   It is hoped the work will not last any longer, but the new surface has to to set properly before traffic can be allowed on it .

The two stretches are: from Beckhampton roundabout east along the A4 for 400 metres; and a much longer stretch from a point east of Silbury Cottages to a point about fifty metres east of the A4’s junction with “The Sanctuary” at Overton Hill.

Access to businesses between Beckhampton and Overton – including The Bell at Overton and the Waggon and Horses at Beckhampton – will be kept open as far as is possible.

Since the work was first done these two stretches of the A4 have had no road markings - and the longer stretch starts just the brow of Overton Hill.

There will also be some disruption from temporary traffic lights on Monday, October 1, between 09.30 and 15.30, when the contractors will be doing tests to see exactly how much of the work done at the end of June will need to be re-done.

The good news is that this work will be paid for by the contractors and not cost Wiltshire’s council tax payers anything.

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