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Pewsey Parish Council's campaign to lessen use of plastics

21-09-2018

On Saturday (September 22) Pewsey Parish Council is launching a campaign to encourage people in their area to use less plastics.

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Marlborough Rugby: Nomads sweep Corsham 2nds aside with a thirteen try performance

21-09-2018 marlborough.news rugby correspondent

Nomads 85 - 5 Corsham 2nd XV   The Nomads - Marlborough 2nds - assembled a large squad on a perfect day for playing rugby for the first home league fixture on the Common and delivered a result against Corsham 2nd XV with a score that wouldn't have been out of place...

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The Man Booker Prize is 50 years old - you can help choose the best ever winner at Marlborough LitFest…

20-09-2018

For authors, publishers and readers alike, the Man Booker Prize is probably the most prestigious prize in English literature. This year it is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary - but which is the best of all the Booker winning titles?

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Tourism: the Great West Way is already being marketed by international travel agents

20-09-2018

The Great West Way, the tourist initiative that is being led by VisitWiltshire, launches officially in November - but travel agents such as the Dutch company House of Britain, are already marketing tours Great West Way tours - so long as their tours start after launch date.

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'Englisches Frühstück' in Westphalia, courtesy of Marlborough's Sumblers butchers

19-09-2018

Like carrying coals to Newcastle, taking british sausages back to Germany, the land of the Wurst is an unlikely concept.  But this is exactly what Uli Offerman from Westphalia is now doing since he discovered the delights of the sausages and bacon created by longstanding Marlborough family butchers, Sumblers.

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Modern Slavery: Two arrested in a High Street Nail Bar following proactive patrols by Police

19-09-2018

  Two people were arrested in Marlborough yesterday following patrols relating to modern slavery.  Officers have been conducting patrols of the High Street over the past day looking out for signs of exploitation.  At 5pm yesterday, 18 September, they attended a nail bar on the High Street and located a 17-year-old...

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Author William Boyd at the Marlborough LitFest: his reading list gives extra context to his new novel

19-09-2018 Angus MacLennan

To celebrate the publication today (September 20) of his new novel Love is Blind and his imminent appearance at the Marlborough LitFest, we asked William Boyd to offer a list of suggested reading on the themes and places which appear in the book - and he kindly obliged.

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Why leave the bus diesel engine idling when stopped at a main bus stop for a long time? Turning…

18-09-2018

Diesel engines, especially the large ones that power the buses around here do emit plenty of noxious emissions including particulates and nitrogen dioxide, and when left running in a confined location those toxic emissions build up and become a health risk.  Transition Marlborough have been campaigning for the past two...

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Administrator (Maternity Cover) - Omicron Research (Hungerford)

18-09-2018

  Administrator   (Maternity Cover)     We are a small company in Hungerford looking for a part time Office Administrator to support the team in the office. Preferred hours are approximately 30 per week, Tuesday to Friday, dependent on candidate availability. This is a fixed term maternity cover post of one year.The purpose of the...

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Marlborough Rugby: Three out of three for impressive Marlborough away at Wimborne

18-09-2018 Mike Banfield

Wimborne 21 - 51 Marlborough   Marlborough continued their good start to the season with an impressive performance away to Wimborne.  The visitors showed no effects from the long travel to the South coast and started the game well.  They were soon on the attack and winning some good ruck ball, a...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take your pick!

Mildenhall BridgeMildenhall BridgeStitchcombe RidgeStitchcombe Ridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Vast crowds gather for the Christmas lights and a taste of the Communities Market

Emma, Tai and Ian plunging the plungerEmma, Tai and Ian plunging the plungerUpstairs in the Town Hall Father Christmas received a seemingly endless stream of young fans.  Downstairs there was a craft market to appeal to every pocket.  In the High Street there were stalls selling food and gifts – and as much hot food as a very cold evening demanded.  

Everyone we spoke to said it was Marlborough’s biggest crowd ever for the switching on of the Christmas lights.  It was exhilaratingly cold and an exhilarating evening full of fun and good cheer.  

Louisa Davison of We Love Marlborough (organisers of the upstairs happenings) assured us that this was the one and only Father Christmas, not just some passing stand-in.  Having seen the great man, children were busy making Christmas crowns and Wiltshire Wildlife Christmas cards.

The Community Choir sang and the Phoenix Brass Band played.  A very loud Martin Cook warmed up the crowd and Mayor Edwina Fogg introduced the switch-on.  At or about seven o’clock the big plunger was finally produced on the Town Hall steps and young Tai Hopkins and Emma Blunden joined Marlborough’s Citizen of the Year Ian Philpott to plunge the plunger.

The lights duly came on – to general applause and some gasps. Tai is from St Peter's and Emma is from Preshute School, and Ian was one of the founders of the Marlborough Players and is a leading light (pun intended) in Marlborough of the Devizes Conservative Association.

On such a very cold evening what probably stole the show was the amazing array of hot food and drink available along the High Street among the more than forty stalls assembled by the Communities Market – not forgetting the Sausage and Mash stall inside the Town Hall.

You could – and many people did – buy barbecued-on-the-spot Hinton Marsh Farm sausages, festive cones from Mr Roast Potato, chicken and veg biryani from the Oxford Delhi (obviously another intended pun), hot roast chestnuts, hot coffee from the Coffee Gang, mulled apple juice (non-alcoholic) from My Apple Juice, mulled cider (less non-alcoholic), churros, beef chilli from Charlotte Anne, hot chocolate from Sweet Hearts catering…and some other treats that probably escaped attention as the crowds surrounded the market’s stalls.

To add to the occasion there were a couple of young students selling mince pies and goodies to raise funds for their gap year turtle guarding in Costa Rica – they won’t need their scarfs for that trip.  Also out on the High Street there were light sticks, flashing ears and balloons.

Away from the High Street there was a bouncy castle and fun for the smaller members of the crowd outside Ducklings toy shop – complete with a bevy of ‘swanlings’ dressed for Christmas.  We did overhear one young person say she wouldn’t take her shoes off to go on the bouncy castle because her feet would get too cold.  Really!  The younger generation…all she needed was a cup of hot chocolate.

Father Christmas in his grotto in the Town HallFather Christmas in his grotto in the Town HallMaking CrownsMaking CrownsSchools Choirs peforming in St Mary'sSchools Choirs peforming in St Mary's

Phoenix Band performing outside the White Horse bookshopPhoenix Band performing outside the White Horse bookshopSwanlings outside DucklingsSwanlings outside DucklingsTim and Honey waiting to visit SantaTim and Honey waiting to visit Santa

Mayor Edwina addressing the gathered throng outside the Town HallMayor Edwina addressing the gathered throng outside the Town HallHot chestnuts on a cold night Hot chestnuts on a cold night Pigeon's eye view of Communty Choir performing on the Town Hall stepsPigeon's eye view of Communty Choir performing on the Town Hall steps

 

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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:

WHILTSHIRE CONSTABULARY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Generous shoppers donate to Food Bank

Hazel Jennings and Christopher Sloane of Devizes Food Bank with Claire Perry MP (centre)Hazel Jennings and Christopher Sloane of Devizes Food Bank with Claire Perry MP (centre)Generous shoppers donated hundreds of items from their trolleys to help Marlborough and Pewsey's most desperate families on Saturday.

Devizes Food Bank set up shop in the Marlborough branch of Waitrose to collect food, and to raise awareness about the hundreds of people caught in food poverty in the area.

And volunteers from the Trussell Trust, which runs the food bank initiative, were joined by MP Claire Perry, who had set out her own stall in Waitrose's cafe as part of her series of 'supermarket surgeries', to meet and talk to the electorate.

Waitrose manager Tim Pike told Marlborough News Online: “Waitrose's festive campaign is 'give more this Christmas'.

“We're giving more through our Community Matters 'green token' scheme – £3,000 a month in November in December instead of the normal £1,000 – and branches across the country are supporting their local food banks, giving our customers a chance to support the most needy people in their communities this Christmas.”

Mrs Perry said: "I think food banks are an amazing initiative. They help people in crisis; it fills a need.

“Especially at this time of year it's a great opportunity for people to express their compassion.”

Devizes Food Bank volunteer Christopher Sloane explained: “All of the donations will be sorted into food parcels, which will be given to individuals or families in desperate need.

“Each box feeds a single person, or a family, for three days. Typically the people we help have been effected by cuts to their benefits, payment cheques not coming through, or because they are in serious debt.

“In 2011 we were able to help 204 families and 284 individuals in the Kennet area, and by October this year we had surpassed that figure.

“We have more and more people coming to us for help every year, and when the Welfare Reform Act comes into force in 2013, and benefits are cut further, we expect even bigger problems.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 www.transitionmarlborough.org

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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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