Claire Perry MPClaire Perry, Marlborough’s Tory MP, has revealed that she sacked her best friend Penelope Nurick from her constituency office job in Devizes because she was “incapable” of carrying out her role.
Mrs Perry, who has faithfully supported the government’s austerity cuts, had her own one by sacking Mrs Nurick in a “substantial staff reshuffle”.
Mrs Nurick, who lives in Devizes, was one of Mrs Perry’s seconders when she stood as the Conservative Party candidate in 2010 after sitting MP Michael Ancram stood down, and had worked in her office for two years.
She was formally sacked from her administrative role on February 23 when 48-year-old Mrs Perry replaced her with another employee in the constituency office.
Mrs Nurick launched legal proceedings against Mrs Perry following the decision, claiming she had been “unfairly dismissed” by the outspoken former banker MP.
Mrs Perry told a Employment Tribunal in Bristol yesterday (Monday) that she was forced to fire her friend after senior advisor Christopher Jones left his job in November 2011, reports the Western Daily Press and Daily Mail online.
She said she was unable to replace Mr Jones and so decided to split his extensive job role between her London and Devizes offices.
She hired Tamara Reay, who was able to cover both policy and “surgery only” roles, in her Devizes office at the expense of Mrs Nurick.
“It was clear from our early experiences that she [Mrs Nurick] would struggle with more responsibility,” Mrs Perry told the hearing. The claimant required a lot of managing and support, particularly in the IT area, and all of this lead me to believed that this would not be something she would not be able to do, she would be incapable.
“I could not afford to keep Mrs Nurick on doing a surgery only job and employ someone to do a local policy job. I found someone who could do both.”
Mrs Perry said budgetary constraints from Westminster meant that she could only employ a limited number of staff members for her constituency.
“What I had realised was that I needed to have more local policy placement,” she added. “With Mr Jones leaving there was a vacuum at the top of my team and I had decided that there was a restructuring that needed to happen.”
“Everybody’s job has changed in London and the local office, there was a very substantial reshuffle. As a result of all of those changes I realised I couldn’t keep Mrs Nurick on in her role.”
“I can only employ three and a half staff per 100,000 constituents. Everybody’s job has changed in London and the local office, there was a very substantial reshuffle.”
Giving evidence, Mrs Nurick told the tribunal she would have taken a pay cut to stay working for her friend. However, she accepted she would not have been able to carry out the new role created by the MP in the staff reshuffle and would have turned it down had it been offered to her.”
Mrs Nurick said she was unable to undertake employment for more than two days a week at the Devizes office, adding: "I wouldn't have been able to argue with her that she needed to make the change to someone who books in surgery appointments and has a local policy role too.”
“But I wouldn't have been interested in a four-day-week role it would have been difficult. I couldn't have done it for other work commitments.”
Mrs Nurick pointed out that had the four-day-a-week job been offered under a job share policy she may have been prepared to undergo a pay-cut to keep her job.
“Had I had the opportunity to talk with her I would have asked her to think about the structure of the job,” she said. “She could have continued to employ Tamara Reay in a local policy capacity, which is what she wanted, and I could have done the surgery booking.”
“If I had been consulted I would have said I would have preferred to reduce my salary and that may have helped the figures.”
She refused to reveal exactly by how much but stated outright she would not have volunteered or worked for "significantly less" than she had before.
She said: “I have not thought about volunteering, in the circumstances it would be a smack in the face to volunteer in the office with Ms Reay there and being paid to do what I did.”
Mrs Nurick, who worked for Mrs Perry's predecessor Michael Ancram for eight years before joining Mrs Perry’s office, said she had looked for other jobs but had restricted her search to local, part time jobs and was not prepared to give up her time or money to drive somewhere else.
She is claiming compensation from Mrs Perry for loss of earnings until the next parliamentary election in three years' time.
Although the Mrs Perry has conceded that the dismissal was procedurally unfair, she still maintains there was a valid reason for it.
Tribunal chairman Mrs J Mulvaney reserved her judgement.
Jonathan Leigh, new Master of Malborough CollegeJonathan Leigh, Marlborough College’s new Master, has revealed the exciting challenge he faces at the prestigious public school – and his support for the strict new examination proposals of Education Secretary Michael Gove.
In his first interview since arriving last month with his wife Emma, he talked openly about his aspirations for the school where the Duchess of Cambridge is among its illustrious alumni, and his unique opportunity to continue his career having decided to retire.
And 60-year-old Mr Leigh picked up the controversial gauntlet of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s tougher exam proposals – an English Baccalaureate to replace GCSEs with the top grades going only to the brightest students.
“I like to think he’s got some guts and sticks up for what he believes,” Mr Leigh told me. “The move is positive. He is the most exciting man in that position for some time. He’s really got some ideas.”
While unaware that Mr Gove was originally an adopted child brought up by a Socialist family in Newcastle before making a name for himself as a journalist on The Times, Mr Leigh was pleased too that the changes have been enthusiastically backed by Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg.
And he rejected the initial criticism that the new 'English Bac’, though not due for implementation until 2017, was limited to core subjects.
“That is fair comment but I think there is more to be developed further down the line,” he pointed out. “There is a Phase Two which includes important subjects like history, my own subject. Then there are all the vital things like music that need to come into the picture.”
“I like the fact that he thinks of teaching beyond the subject. If you teach too much for the exam, you are actually missing out the fundamental principle of education, which is to inform people broadly. I think he is up the right tree on that.”
Sitting with him in the Master’s study, it is difficult to realise that he is the first head in recent years to invite a journalist to interview him, an indication of welcome changes at Marlborough, where the decision of his predecessor, Nicholas Sampson, to take a new post in Sydney, Australia, left it in a dilemma when a potential replacement rejected the post.
Mr Leigh, who had returned from Ridley College, Canada, where he had been headmaster since 2005, and before that head of Blundell’s School, in Tiverton, Devon, answered the distress call of the governors of Marlborough, founded in 1843.
He knows the West Country well having driven under the Marlborough College bridge on the Bath Road many times, his wife more as she was a student at St Mary’s School, Calne.
“I am thrilled to be here,” he declared. “I wouldn’t have wanted to do it if I still didn’t want to be in touch with young people.”
“Marlborough is an incredible community to join, a lot to absorb. There are many colleagues to get to know, 170 something of them, then just under 900 pupils. So a lot of new names, a lot of new faces.”
At Ridley College, founded in 1889, he started with 650 students, 350 of them boarders, but ended up more when it brought in a local prep school, and at Blundells he coped with 950 pupils. “So I was used to the scale of it and the complexity,” he explained. “But here it is more complex again, yet another layer.”
|No happy honeymoon for Marlborough’s new Master
With Marlborough College attracting national newspaper headlines, Mr Leigh has not had an initial happy honeymoon period, travellers trespassing on the sports field within days of his arrival – “They were the first in 37 years of boarding education,” he admitted. “I only say them from afar until they left.”
Then the Sunday Telegraph revealed that two students had been expelled after being caught flagrante delicto, a decision condemned by the Marquess of Worcester, whose son is a pupil. He described it as a “life-damaging punishment” while other students are said to have petitioned for mercy without success.
While Mr Leigh preferred not to comment on that specifically, he made known his views on a general crackdown on alcohol, drugs and sexual liaisons.
“You have got to have firm principles about these things and trying to live by what you lay down,” he said. “That’s it really. One is sympathetic to the world in which youngsters live, and it is not an easy world.”
That takes in a 25 per cent surge in admission applications despite the recession and a rise in Marlborough’s fees (£31,350 a year for boarders and £26,640 for day pupils) for the 545 boys and 345 girls aged 13 to 18.
One new development is a direct link with Swindon College in a two-way process but not involved with the same exams.
“There are some Swindon students here today,” he revealed. “They are shadowing Malburians around the campus and getting a taste of what the lessons are like here.”
“Then we have various masters involved in helping at Swindon and various Malburians helping primary school children learning to read. Every Monday and Wednesday there is the potential to send a bus, one way or the other, and that is all quite exciting.”
His final thought: “I am hugely looking forward to the time ahead. It is an immense privilege to have this very exciting chance in life at the end of my career and the challenges it brings.”
Business leaders are being urged to support the need for CCTV in Marlborough High Street.
Town councillors will be discussing the issue on Monday (September 24) at the Town Hall, and Marlborough Chamber of Commerce this evening (September 19) wrote to businesses to jolt them into action.
In a letter to business leaders this evening (Wednesday), Chamber president Paul Shimell wrote: “There will be a vote on Monday 24th September at the Marlborough Town Council meeting as to whether the installation of CCTV would be a beneficial development for the High Street.
“Marlborough Chamber of Commerce would like to canvas the feelings of the local business community on this matter (which we support), so that an accurate representation of the views of local traders can be made at the meeting.
“Can we therefore ask you the following question: Are you in principle, in favour of CCTV being introduced into the High Street?
“If you support this idea, can you please reply with the word “YES” in the subject bar of this email. This is your opportunity to make your views known – so please take this chance to go along and voice your support the installation of CCTV in the High Street.”
Bosses are also urged to attend the council meeting, which takes place from 7pm at Marlborough Town Hall.
Marlborough is the only town on the M4 corridor between London and Bristol without CCTV. Police have said gangs of criminals see the town as a "soft target".
Brad Burton, founder of 4NetworkingThe charismatic founder and MD of the UK's largest business network was in Marlborough this week to help the local 4Networking chapter celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Brad Burton's jeans and t-shirt approach to networking was grasped as an antidote to the regimented approaches of associations like the BNI, while his Meet, Know, Like, Trust philosophy to networking and referrals has struck a chord with so many small businesses that the organisation now boasts 50,000 members across 300 groups
The Marlborough branch was established by Brad and Karen Thurley, of RED Virtual Office, in 2007 at the Ogbourne Downs Golf Club, which has been the home of the 4Networking branch for five years
Every other Tuesday around 20 small business owners meet for a 40-second introduction to talk about their own business, three ten minute one-to-one appointments with other members, and to listen to an industry expert give a '4sight' talk.
And Tuesday's meeting attracted almost 30 members, from as far afield as Oxford, Newbury and Bristol.
“One of the great things about 4Networking,” explained group leader Gail Lummis “is that you join the entire network, not just your local group. You could spend five mornings a week networking if you wanted to.”
Guests celebrate the 10th anniversary of 4Networking MarlboroughThe proximity of the golf club from the M4 makes the club attractive to members from Swindon and further afield. Gail works from Calne, while Karen – who still attends Marlborough meetings – is based in Highworth.
“You meet so many great contacts at 4Networking,” said Gail. “And the relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for some people to get into the networking habit. It really gives you confidence.”
Wiltshire Councillor Jon HubbardDemocracy in Tory-controlled Wiltshire is only available to the rich and the retired, the council’s Lib-Dem opposition leader Jon Hubbard claimed today (Thursday).
He declared that the unitary authority needs to reform how and when they hold their meetings to make them more accessible to “real people with real jobs”.
The council holds most of its meetings during the day making it hard for people with full time jobs to find the time to fulfil the role. This is why Wiltshire Council is dependant on employers giving councillors time of for civic duties.
The council has passed new rules which would effect make it impossible for an employee of Wiltshire Council to have enough time off to do the job.
"Wiltshire's democracy is only available to the rich or retired,” protested Councillor Jon Hubbard. "I understand that our own employees are not eligible to stand for the council, but I think it is telling that as an organisation we are not prepared to set an example of what we expect of other organisations.”
"Of course the argument is that in these difficult financial times it is not viable to allow staff so much time off during the day. Well what's different between Wiltshire Council and all of the other employers in the county.”
"Wiltshire Council needs to reform to allow all members of our society to fully participate in the democratic process."
Local Liberal Democrats have called on the council to hold more meetings in the evenings, allowing more accessibility of Wiltshire council to the general public.
Councillor Hubbard also attacked the shock move by the council’s Scrutiny Management Committee to effectively strip 39 of Wiltshire's Councillors from being able to object to bad decisions made by members of the Cabinet.
At present a group of any three of these councillors can “call in” a decision if they have enough evidence to believe the decisions were inappropriate.
After this week not even such evidence will be enough to hold the council to account, as only those councillors on the main Scrutiny Management Committee will be able to call in bad decisions.
"This is the Conservative commitment to democracy in Wiltshire, trying to stifle criticism of bad decision-making,” said Councillor Hubbard.
“Wiltshire Council pays £13,000 per year to councillors, but has removed their power to hold the Cabinet to account for what they are doing. What do they expect these councillors to do now?”
Councillor Hubbard is currently seeking legal opinion on whether the move is lawful.
All the Liberal Democrat councillors asked that their objection to the plan be recorded, including committee chair Trevor Carbin, but the anti-democratic plan was forced through by the Conservative majority.
Marlborough’s former mayor Nicholas Fogg, who is one of the town’s two Wiltshire councillors, told Marlborough News Online: “I have great sympathy with what Jon Hubbard is proposing.”
“Ways should be examined of making the democratic processes more available to more people. In fairness, the current council leader Jane Scott has maintained a commitment to the Planning Committees meeting in the evenings to give more people access. This should be regarded as a precedent rather than a ‘one-off’.”
He added: “I would regard accountability as benefiting most those who are held responsible. Would the current economic crisis have occurred if bankers had been more accountable to shareholders and the public-at-large?”
“Accountability can save people from the worst consequences of their own actions. Every councillor has been given a duty of care over those he/she represents. How can this care be exercised fully if the right to hold decision-makers responsible is denied?”
Derek WolfeDerek Wolfe, Marlborough’s new town clerk appointed in January, who was rushed by ambulance to Great Western Hospital, Swindon, at 7 am today (Monday), has died.
He was 58.
Mr Wolfe had felt unwell after awaking at his studio apartment in the town suffering from chest and stomach pains.
Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, will announce his shock death at tonight’s meeting of Marlborough Town Council. Prayers will be said and then the meeting will be abandoned.
Mr Wolfe was called in as acting town clerk last December following the resignation of Liam Costello, who held the post for two years, to take an appointment nearer to his Northamptonshire home.
London born and educated, Mr Wolfe began his local government career with the London borough of Harrow in 1974 and subsequently worked for other London boroughs, notably Brent, Hammersmith & Fulham and the City of London Corporation.
His first appointment as town clerk was in Keynsham, Somerset, in 1994 and since then has served as town clerk for several town councils, ranging from Helston, in Cornwall, to Barry, in South Wales.
“I regard myself as semi-retired now,” Mr Wolfe, whose home is in Axminster, explained at the time. “But I would be very happy to get back into the fray just to stop brain rot setting in, basically, whether that is for the short term or some longer appointment.”
He had heard of Marlborough’s search for a locum town clerk to fill Mr Costello’s shoes initially through his association with the Society of Local Council Clerks and having visited Marlborough in the past decided to apply for the permanent post too.
Twenty other candidates applied, the staff committee, chaired by current Mayor Edwina Fogg, appointed Mr Wolfe to the post.
Patrick Geenty, Wiltshire’s acting chief constablePatrick Geenty, Wiltshire’s acting chief constable, has declared his opposition to the arming of police officers in the wake of the shattering double death of two women constables shot in Manchester.
He has announced that at least one or two officers on every shift will be armed with a Taser, the high-voltage gun that can stun criminals but is non-lethal.
“After the shootings in Manchester, I put a message out to my officers to say that I will always make sure that they are safe and have the best equipment they can,” said Mr Geenty, who joined the police force in 1982.
And aware of the emotional reaction to the fatalities he is concerned in protecting the force’s officers but is aware what it mean on the ground if all police officers are armed.
“It is clear that I – and I believe the majority of serving officers also – think it would be a backward step, and I don’t think it would improve officers’ safety.”
“We would find ourselves in more armed situations as it would raise the stakes, but I can understand the concern of officers. So I’ve been thinking about alternatives and the Taser is the obvious one.”
“Although there will be an officer equipped with Taser on every shift, Wiltshire is a very rural county and some of our neighbourhood officers are quite isolated, and back-up may be 10 to 15 minutes away.”
“I know that they are concerned about the response of the back-up, so the idea is to get more Tasers out into the rural areas to the officers who find themselves most isolated.”
While there is an issue of the extra cost when the Wiltshire force is under-going £15 million cuts over a four-year period, Mr Geenty points out that Taser guns are used only rarely.
“But officers feel the Taser gives them an extra bit of protection from some of the circumstances they find themselves in,” he added.
“This isn’t a reaction to the tragedy n Manchester, as I was considering this before. But what happened there has thrown it into a new light.”
Left to right in shot: Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, Chairman of the EA; Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of ARK; Karen Simpson, TW Water Efficiency Analyst; Richard Benyon, Water MinisterThe prestigious Best Community Led Project in the UK Water Efficiency Awards has been won by ARK with its 'Care for the Kennet' campaign, which has been running in partnership with Thames Water.
Campaigning to protect the long-term environmental health of the famed chalk stream, 'Care for the Kennet' has helped educate 12,000 people in the upper Kennet area in Marlborough about the link between their tap water and the river it comes from.
This has been especially important during one of the worst drought seasons earlier this year, which has been followed by record rainfall, which has helped to revitalise the river.
Presenting the prize during a ceremony at the House of Lords, attended by more than 100 guests, Defra's water minister Richard Benyon, credited Care for the Kennet with helping to support his department's national 'Love Your River' initiative.
The judges described the project as both elegant and inspirational.
Charlotte Hitchmough, director of Action River Kennet, told Marlborough News Online: "Working with the schools and communities around the upper Kennet has been great fun and I am delighted that so many people took the water saving message to heart and are now using less water.
And also now understand more about their river.”
She added: “I am particularly proud of Ramsbury Primary School whose 'Save Water – Save the Kennet' march through the streets of Ramsbury was an inspiration to us all.”
Richard Aylard, sustainability director for Thames Water, said: "While we may walk or drive across our local river every day as we go to work or drop the children off at school, it is easy to overlook the simple fact that water from that river is what comes out of our taps and showers.”
“Care for the Kennet seeks to remind us of that, and how moderating our daily water use can help protect this glorious river. Come rain or shine we urge everyone to value this precious resource and use it wisely."
Anyone can still sign up for a free water saving makeover by calling 0800 358 6665 and quoting “kennet”.
Anton De Beke in rehearsalWhilst Anton Du Beke will be demonstrating quick feet, elegance, and the full extent of his long-suffering nature in attempting to transform a celebrity into a dancer on 'Strictly Come Dancing', his first foray in contemporary dance choreography will be premiered at The Theatre on the Hill at St John's Academy this evening (Saturday 22nd September) at 7.30pm.
The Yorke Dance Project, under the discerning artistic direction of Yolande Yorke-Edgell will be bringing its new programme, 'Words Worth' to Marlborough and Anton's first work for the company, 'Easy to Love', will be one several works featured. He brings his wit, charm and exceptional talent to a series of duets and double duets inspired by the glamour of old-school Hollywood. Expect a touch of Fred and Ginger…
Words-worth-gallery-5Words Worth is coming to The Theatre on the Hill directly after it’s World Premier at the ICA in Bath and before the shows at Sadler’s Wells, London.
The Yorke Dance Project is building a reputation for ambitious and diverse work and Words Worth also features premieres by John Pennington, Alessio Barbarossa and Yorke-Edgell herself.
Two members of the Company, along with the show’s producer, will be at the school on Friday 21 afternoon running workshops for St John's Dance Students.
Tickets £12.50 concessions £10 available from The Pound Box Office 01249 701 628 or online www.poundarts.org.uk
The government’s decision to hand over tough new banking regulation controls to the Bank of England will help solve the economic crisis, Marlborough’s Tory MP and former banker Claire Perry has declared.
Taking part last night (Thursday) in a TV Newsnight debate on the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Northern Rock, she insisted that this was the right policy being enacted with new legislation by Chancellor George Osborne.
And she rejected calls for a major change in Government policy in borrowing more to boost the economy out of the present double-dip recession, which has created divisions in the Tory party.
Financial Times economist Martin Wolf, with whom Mrs Perry clashed, interjected: “The government can now borrow at the least interest rates in the entire history of the United Kingdom…and you’re telling me that it can’t borrow. That’s completely mad.”
Asked by presenter Emily Maitlis whether the government recognised now that the next generation will be worse off, Mrs Perry replied: “These are all important policy choices we have to make.”
“To go back to the Northern Rock thing again, where was the common sense in government, in the regulators when mortgages of 125 per cent of someone’s assets (were being offered), where did the policies fit, where was the reality?
“Again, you had Mr Darling (the former Labour chancellor, also on the programme) talking about wouldn’t it be lovely if we could be spending more money on fiscal stimulus…where does that money come from?”
“Is it right – and I think Martin (Wolf) is going to disagree with me, as he always does – to burden the next generation with this generation’s debt?”
“It would have been lovely to have money in the bank to do something when a financial crisis hit them but because of the policy decisions of Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown there was nothing left in the coffers, the coffers were bare.”
“So what are the policy choices now?”
“The choices are to make sure the banking industry is safe and well regulated and taxed and that people who have mis-sold pensions or fiddled the LIBOR (lending) rate are prosecuted, which they can be under the present system. And to make sure that that utility works for the benefit of all of us.”
Mrs Perry, who worked for George Osborne before being elected MP for Devizes, ignored the fact that the Tories opposed bank regulation when it was original proposed by the last Labour government.
Asked if the Conservatives had 'completely missed what was happening when she was an advisor to Mr Osborne when Northern Rock collapsed', Mrs Perry said the regulatory system set up by Labour failed to spot what was happening.
“This was a commonsense failing,” she added. “Northern Rock was too good to be true. It was a very small institution that grew very rapidly and had a business model that should have been flagged up as risky.”
“When the crisis hit five years ago everybody went like that (she waved her hands), nobody knew who was going to be in charge and there has been a lot of criticism of that.”
“One of the things we have done is say banking is an important thing, there is this huge need for banking services across the world, it is a very important institution for Britain. It has to be regulated better.”
A group of thirty Marlborough students have set themselves a deadly serious challenge – to put on a theatre performance of Terry Pratchett's Mort in just one month.
In doing so the sixth form students, who are studying for the International Baccalaureate at St John’s, aim to raise funds for an Alzheimer's charity, in recognition of the condition that has afflicted the author.
On 17 October, exactly one month from the first script read-through, the first performance of Mort – which is being directed, produced and choreographed by the students – will be unveiled to the public at The Theatre on the Hill at St John’s.
Published in 1987 as part of the Discworld novel collection, Mort was written by Sir Terry Pratchett and was later dramatised by Stephen Briggs.
The performance tells the story of young Mort who is sent away by his father to become an apprentice with a tradesman, who turns out to be Death himself.
In a twist of fate, Mort decides to save a princess whose time it was to die, drastically altering a part of Discworld’s reality. From this point, there begins a dramatic race against time for Mort to save the princess’s life.
The play offers a combination of comedy as well as a thoughtful insight into human nature. Mort is a production that both children and adults will find compelling and entertaining, with a thought provoking message that will appeal to everyone on a different level.
Mort in a Month rehearsals, day 1Common to all Pratchett novels, Mort contains some wicked one-liners. Certain to get the biggest laugh of the night is: "It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever. Have you thought of going into teaching?"
The idea to produce a play was proposed by Year 13 students Charlotte Farrow and Sam Hutchings and will be brought to life entirely by Sixth Form students at St John’s, some of whom are performing, some taking backstage roles and others responsible for ticket sales and marketing.
International Baccalaureate students are required to complete a minimum of 150 hours non-academic Creativity, Action and Service activities in order to receive their Diploma, and for the IB students involved in the production Mort will become part of their final qualification when the leave the school.
Principal Dr Patrick Hazlewood, who is a strong advocate of the International Baccalaureate said: “I am not surprised to see our sixth form students taking on such a big challenge, and I hope that students and their families will support their aim to raise a substantial sum for Alzheimers Research UK. I have every confidence that they will be able to put on a high quality performance, despite the extremely tight deadline.”
As well as being a huge amount of fun, the aim of this production is to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, a charity for which Sir Terry himself has done a lot of work with over the years.
So why take on this enormous challenge in a month? IB student and Mort press officer Charlie Linney said: “It’s simple: IB students think big, and when we work together, the sky’s the limit!”
The play will have two performances, on Wednesday 17 and Saturday 20 October, starting at 7pm. Tickets are on sale at £6 for adults and £4 for concessions.
The Department for Education has still not given any details or timetable for building the new school that will bring together Marlborough’s St Peter’s junior school and St Mary’s infants’ school. Now a further delay in the project looks almost certain.
It was announced in May this year that the government had approved the scheme and would provide funding.
Marlborough News Online has been told the early indications are that the new Marlborough school to be built south of George Lane will not be in the first tranche of school building that Education Secretary Michael Gove announced.
Disappointingly, this probably means that building will not start until 2015.
The go-ahead for the Marlborough scheme was announced as part of the coalition government’s two billion pound Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) using private finance initiative (PFI) money for the majority of the 261 schools on the list. Forty-two schools – presumably the ‘first tranche’ – were to be started immediately using a £400 million capital fund.
However, the ‘priority’ seems to have gone out of this “priority” scheme. While a rush to kick-start the building of houses and conservatories has recently been announced and Mr Gove’s new Free Schools have got their funding without delay, the PSBP has not yet appointed its ‘funding advisers’. These advisers will “provide advice on the structuring of capital markets or other financing solution for the PSBP”.
So the money for the most of programme is not there – not, it would appear, is it nearly there. The closing date for those interested in becoming ‘funding advisers’ for this programme is midday on Monday, September 24. The PSBP was launched in July 2011.
Wiltshire Council, which is responsible for St Peter’s and St Mary’s, and backs the merger of the two schools in a new building, had no statement to make on this development in the project’s long saga.
Wiltshire Councillor Peggy Dow told Marlborough News Online: “I am bitterly disappointed, how can they justify this decision? We have the plans and the land all ready to go. We have been promised the new school again and again. We think we have got everything in place then the children of Marlborough are let down again.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The appointment of technical advisers has no impact on the Priority School Building Programme. This is a five year programme and the Education Funding Agency is already working with the first of the schools to be rebuilt.
The order that schools will be rebuilt takes into consideration those in the worst condition and ensures that the timing of building work is viable for those delivering and financing the schools.”
A conference is being held in London on September 26 to discuss the future of the PSBP. Among the speakers will be representatives from the Education Funding Agency and the Treasury who have been instrumental in moves to re-design PFI contract terms.
Marlborough News Online is seeking further reaction to this news report.
Michael FraynMisfortune, not fame, is the spur to success – and being a joker is one of the key elements in overcoming the emotional disasters life serves up that leave you gasping.
That, at least, is the roll call for Michael Frayn, now, at 78, a remarkable prize-winning novelist, funny and serious playwright, screenwriter, biographer, and admired translator of Chekov, who arrives in Marlborough at the end of the month -- to make us laugh.
His latest comic novel, Skios, virtually a farce of mistaken identities with bed-hopping delights and hilarious high powered conference confrontations, all set on a mythical Greek island, has failed to make it from the long to the short-list for next month’s £50,000 Booker Prize.
His novel, Headlong, did reach that stage in 1999, but since he has collected almost 20 major prizes in the past, he can shrug his forever charming shoulders to tell me: “I didn’t honestly expect to be on the short list. It’s nice to win literary prizes, not so nice if you don’t.”
He legitimately points out that the Booker concentrates on serious rather than comic novels, hence his lack of expectation. And given that Howard Jacobson, also due at the Marlborough Literary Festival, won last year with his comic novel, The Finkler Question, a second coming for comedy was most unlikely.
He is surprised to discover that Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, took Skios, now doing nicely in the charts, on holiday with him last month. “Oh good, I hope he enjoyed it,” he adds with his typical light touch.
But where did his comic gene come from? That’s what I want to know – only to discover that comedy, as always, is created out of tragedy, ferments in fraught emotions, grows as a panacea to defeat the nightmares moments that haunt you.”
In Frayn’s case it was his early years, his literary-minded father, Tom, suffering from serious hereditary deafness that didn’t exactly help him in his job as an asbestos tiles salesman.
“It was not a good combination,” admits Frayn, who revealed the past in a moving family memoir, My Father’s Fortune, published three years ago. “He used to keep the conversation initiative by telling jokes, by being funny.”
“That’s because either people laugh or don’t laugh, and you don’t have to listen too closely to their replies. So I too was a joker growing up.”
“In my early adolescence I had a rather difficult time because my mother had died when I was 12. And having done reasonably well at school, I then sank to the bottom of the class because I discovered I could amuse the class by mocking the teacher.”
“I’m afraid I chose that easy and somewhat cowardly option for some years before I started to work again. I had been moved a great deal from one class to another and I found it difficult to keep fitting in with a new group of people.”
“I discovered this was the way to do it – by making them laugh.”
He underplays his emotion stress since his father offered no displays of affection, in fact refusing to allow Frayn and his sister to attend the funeral of their talented violinist mother Violet, who had dramatically dropped dead from a heart attack, aged 41.
Post-war national service provided one escape for Frayn because he was trained as a Russian interpreter/translator, as were thousands in all three services, Frayn taking a course at Cambridge, where he spent a year on the fringe of the university, where he later returned to read moral sciences and philosophy at Emmanuel.
That ability to speak Russian came in practical use on the only occasion he visited Marlborough in the past, working as a volunteer, appropriately as the entertainments officer, at a camp set up for refugees from the Hungarian revolution crushed by Soviet tanks in 1956.
“It was quite difficult because I didn’t speak any Hungarian and none of them spoke English,” he recalls. “The only thing that saved me was that their natural leader, who they all respected, had spent the war in a Soviet prison camp and spoke fluent Russian. So we were able after all to communicate.”
It is these insights into Frayn’s past that reveal the reasons for his past novels and plays dealing with subjects such as spies and nuclear weapons, not to mention democracy itself, though he disdains the offer to pronounce on our current economic chasm and its reverberations.
His days, too, as a soft-hearted journalist on the Manchester Guardian, which produced his brilliant satirical novel Towards The End Of The Morning, often compared with Evelyn Waugh’s unforgettable Scoop, have sealed his success.
“There are tough options in journalism, but working on the Guardian was an easier one,” he admits. “I remember once being sent to cover a murder, so ghastly a murder that the news editor said to me, ‘Now Michael please go and look at the outside of the house where it happened, then to the police press conference’.”
“ ‘And then come straight back to the office. Don’t try to steal anyone’s wedding photographs.’
“So I had it very easy and enjoyed it very much.”
That understanding of the harsh world enables him to lift us out of the gloom and in his own disarming way is enjoying a round of literary events promoting Skios.
“Most audiences come to literary festivals because they want to hear the talks and want to enjoy it,” he insists. “So they tend to be frightfully rewarding audience for authors. And it’s great sometimes to get out of one’s study and meet the people.”
As for those who head for Marlborough town hall on September 29, they might a heed a line I found amid the fun and fornication in Skios: “There was a suggestion of gold in the air.”
pic courtesy of Faber & Faber
It was nippy up on the downs at the Sharpridge gallops and trainer Alan King wished he’d brought a jacket. It’s just the kind of weather, a chilly wind and still sunny, that heralds the intense exercise regime ahead of the new National Hunt season – also known as the ‘jump season’.
Alan King has one hundred and fifteen racehorses in training at his main Barbury yard and the nearby Sharpridge yard and they’re mostly hurdle and jump horses. Collectively it’s known as Barbury Castle and is one of the country’s top training establishments.
Alan started at Barbury in 2000, a year after he took out his training licence. In the last five seasons he’s notched up 220 winners over hurdles and 120 winners over the jumps – winning total prize money for his owners of £4,609,575.
Barbury stables have rear windows for fresh air & a good viewHe employs about fifty people – a substantial employer in the area. The horses are ridden out everyday in three batches: 0700, 0900 and 1100. They do some circuits of the paddock – walking and trotting to “make sure everything’s working and to get warmed up.” Then it’s up to the all-weather gallops.
It takes about three months after their summer break to get horses fit to race again – “turning the fat into muscle.” And they’re not cheap to feed – on top of the grass, there’s a daily supplement of fourteen pounds of hard feed.
Keeping a horse in training is expensive – about £20,000 a year. Alan welcomes the partnerships and syndicates among the owners for whom he trains. It means more people can experience the glorious ups (and sometimes the downs) of owning a race horse.
He’s sanguine about the future of Britain’s racing industry. The main problem, he told Marlborough News Online, is that “the prize money in Britain has plummeted. The big races apart, you’re sometimes racing for as little as £1,500 whereas in France it starts at about £10,000.”Young horses gallop in pairs to get them used to racing
Alan heard recently of an agent who bought nine horses at the French sales for British owners and seven have stayed to be trained in France. Alan says it is this sort of development that has given rise to the saying in racing circles “You race in Britain for the glory. You race abroad for the money.”
At least two regional racecourses - Hereford and Folkestone - have been marked down for imminent closure by their owners. He’s backing the campaign to save Hereford – “It’s a smashing track” – and is optimistic it will succeed.
The yard has three regular jockeys: Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton and Wayne Hutchinson. The third, Gerard Tumelty is a conditional jockey – that’s equivalent to flat racing’s ‘apprentice jockey’. There are three more conditional jockeys on the books: Charlie Huxley, Peter Hatton and Ciaran Mckee.
West End Rocker & Hot WhiskeyWhat about the new jump season which starts in earnest in late October? Among the stars at Barbury are: West End Rocker which won the Becher Chase at Aintree but fell at the second in last year’s Grand National. Alan says he’ll never be going back to Aintree but will stick to the courses he likes – flat and left-handed, like Newbury and Warwick.
Earlier this month, the five-year-old chestnut Henry San won at Stratford. Hold On Julio may well get a run in Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup after a successful switch from hurdle to steeplechase races.Medermit
Then there’s the grey Medermit who did well first at the Cheltenham Festival and then at Aintree, coming fourth in the Betfred Bowl Chase.Alan King & Head Lad Paul Duggan keep a careful eye on horses and riders
Quite a lot is riding on another grey, Smad Place who in March came third in Cheltenham’s World Hurdle – behind Big Buck’s and Voler La Vedette: “He’ll get a crack at Big Buck’s - an amazing horse but who’s getting on a bit. Someone has to take him on.” Big Buck’s became the only horse to win the long distance World Hurdle four times running.
Walk On won well at Exeter last December and during the season was placed twice at Newbury, did well at Cheltenham, but was pulled up in the Scottish Grand National in April.
Among the new horses at the yard is the Irish horse Hot Whiskey (note the ‘e’ for Irish whiskey.) He’s a chestnut gelding bought by Alan for the football manager Harry Rednapp after Rednapp’s horse Bygones In Brid was killed in a fall at Taunton in March.
Katchit (left) and GrumetiGrumeti won January’s Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham and two months later came third in the Triumph. He’s the yard’s big hope for the year at Aintree. Katchit won the Triumph Hurdle in 2007 and the Champion Hurdle in 2008 – becoming the first five-year-old to win it since 1985 and the first winner of the Triumph to take the Champion Hurdle crown since 1968.
Or you can keep your money in your pocket. But that’s not anything like as much fun as going to the races and having a flutter.
Click on pictures to enlarge or see slideshow
The first string head for home
When the Lib Dems meet in Brighton this weekend for their autumn conference, the party leadership is likely to get a few reminders that their supporters are not very pleased with them. One such reminder came this month from two local Lib Dem supporters Terry and Neville Cooper.
They got an e-mail from Nick Clegg (via party headquarters) that opened: “As you may have seen on the news, I’ve announced an ambitious package to get growth and housing (sic) building going…When Jo Swinson asked for input from you on growth, house building was one of the top responses. Today’s announcement shows the kind of impact Liberal Democrats are having in the Coalition Government, thanks to our members, on this key issue.”
Terry and Neville CooperThat did not go down at all well with veteran Lib Dem supporters Terry and Neville Cooper of Bottlesford. So they wrote a stiff rejoinder to Clegg – copying it to David Cameron and Claire Perry.
Their letter was headed “Good news for growth? We think NOT” and began: “Dear Nick, Sorry, but I cannot agree with you LESS.” They argued that the new package would lead to stagnation in the housing market – “allowing the property ‘ladder’ to clog up. As individual families grow they will just ‘extend’ instead of moving up.” And this they said will in turn undermine the government’s pledges to make things easier for first time buyers.
They cited a nearby house which had already been extended to twice its size and had recently sold for twice its previous price – at £400,000 “Well outside any younger family’s pocket.”
The Coopers were also concerned that the new ‘growth’ package Nick Clegg was lauding would lead to “the wonderful rural ‘Street Scene’ being ruined for many generations to come, if control is removed on this type of ad hoc development. You and your Conservative colleagues never seem to consider the very long term consequences of your actions anymore.”
Neville retired from the R.A.F. many years ago – he was one of the last pilots to fly operational Lancasters and was a pilot with the R.A.F.’s long range transport. Having served overseas for many years, they settled in Cornwall where Neville used his computer expertise to help Lib Dems in their successful election campaigns – especially those of North Cornwall MP Paul Tyler, now the Lib Dem peer Lord Tyler.
Neville thinks the coalition was wrong to try to pay off the deficit within one Parliament: “It was asking for trouble.” And he’s worried also about the restructuring of the NHS. First it seems to promote fragmentation rather than integration. And secondly:
“I worry that if a GP who’s controlling the budget is faced with two people needing expensive surgery he’ll say ‘Am I really going to allocate the money for a 79 year-old when the other person is thirty-five or forty years old?’”
Neville is also very cross about Nick Clegg's handling of the alternative vote referendum: “I’m mainly a Lib Dem supporter because I don’t believe in the first past the post system. How can we say we live in a democracy if we have first past the post? These Lib Dems made such a botch of the referendum – they were completely overshadowed by the Conservatives. They lost the opportunity of a lifetime to change the system. First past the post is a ridiculous system.”
Terry Cooper first supported the Lib Dems when Mrs Thatcher’s policies destroyed so many industries and businesses. She doesn’t know who she’ll vote for at the next election – it certainly will not be the sitting MP.
Neville says he doesn’t really believe in tactical voting, but he might vote tactically next time and vote Labour. “Vote Lib Dem and you’re wasting your vote."