Councillor (still) Nick FoggWiltshire came close to experiencing its own La La Land / Moonlight Oscars moment last Friday when an admin error in the count put Nick Fogg, long standing Independent Wiltshire Councillor for Marlborough West into a narrow second place behind Tamara Reay (Conservative).
“I’d even congratulated Tamara on her victory” explained Nick. “If any apologies are due it is to her as she believed that she had taken the seat”.
“It was bizarre and unprecedented” he added. “A genuine administrative mistake, but could have had severe consequences if the error hadn’t been picked up”.
Wiltshire Council apologised for the error, returning officer and Wiltshire Council corporate director, Carlton Brand issued a statement saying “….Unfortunately, there were a couple of errors on the day which were quickly rectified and anyone who was affected was apologised to immediately.”
Thankfully Councillor Fogg’s ‘Moonlight moment’ arrived, albeit later than sooner and he was able to deliver the victor’s address to the count, and be reappointed to represent the residents of Marlborough West division on Wiltshire Council for a further four years.
Nicholas Fogg (Independent): 754 votes
Tamara Reay (Conservative) 507 votes
Sylvia Card (Labour): 121 votes
The day before they openPreppy outfitter Jack Wills is to open a new outlet in Marlborough tomorrow (Wednesday).
The store will be the brand’s 76th in the UK, and its second launch of 2017. It will be opening in the Grade II listed building vacated by independent home decor trader Charlotte Quest last Spring.
Over £2m of top end retirement apartments were sold off-plan at an English cream tea event-themed event in Marlborough last week.
Renaissance Retirement’s Fleur de Lis complex – under construction at a former builders yard off London Road – will consist of 28 one- and two-bed apartments, priced between £295,000 to £630,000.
The event attracted 30 prospective buyers, and the developer was keen to stress that moving to its retirement complex does not necessarily mean downsizing, as one of the apartments boasts 1,500 square feet of space – about the same as a three-bedroom house.
Sales manager Matt Smith said: “We are delighted with the start of our sales launch. Who says you need to downsize when you want to move out of the family home? We have some very spacious apartments on sale.
“Our message is not to think ‘downsizing’ but ‘rightsizing’.”
Chris Wotton, marketing director at Renaissance Retirement added: “Prospective buyers were very encouraged with how the apartments will look inside. It will be one of the major new homes’ launches this year in the region and not one to miss.”
Ideally suited to those seeking to maintain a quality standard of independent living, each of the properties is connected to emergency call systems and 24-hour security, as well as an on-site concierge who is on hand to assist owners and oversee the development’s daily operation. A stylish owners’ lounge and guest suite are also accessible to all owners.
The first residents are expected to move in in the Autumn.
The chap in the photo (right) is Ramsbury resident James Higgins - and he is enjoying a well-earned pint of Ramsbury Gold in The Bell after completing the Marlborough Downs Challenge - an 'ultra marathon' across the downs held this year on Saturday, May 6.
He chose to run the 33-mile version of this trail race, which includes 3,000 feet of climbs. And he chose to run it to raise funds for the Ramsbury based charity Action Through Enterprise (ATE) which helps the people - especially children - in Lawra one of the poorest parts of Upper West Ghana.
He completed the run in six hours twelve minutes and thirty-six seconds - putting him fiftieth out of the ninety-six runners. So far he has beaten more than the 33-miles - he has beaten his original £300 target. He has raised £755 (including Gift Aid) and his fundraising page is still open for donations.
ATE's Chief Executive, Sarah Gardner, told Marlborough.News: "All the funds James has raised will be used to provide free school meals for hungry children in Lawra. His fantastic total (so far) will buy 3,775 lunches."
"James's huge success today is particularly impressive as he sadly lost his grandfather, Dr Trevor Tiplady, last weekend."
The Marlborough Downs Challenge is organised by the Marlborough Running Club and entrants can choose to run the 20-mile version of the trail race. It attracts runners from all over the south of England including London.
The route of the long version takes runners past some of the Wiltshire's best loved countryside: The Wansdyke Path, Tan Hill Way, White Horse Trail, and Mid Wilts Way with superb views across the Vale of Pewsey West Woods and Gopher Wood, with its wild garlic.
Runners take on two of the highest points in Wiltshire: Knapp Hill and Tan Hill, where the long and short courses diverge. Runners on the long route follow The Kennet & Avon Canal into Devizes, take in Roundway Hill and Morgan's Hill, Cherhill Monument and its white horse.
Finally, the routes re-join to pass through Avebury with views of Silbury Hill, then go via Overton and Fyfield Downs back to Marlborough Leisure Centre for showers and refreshments.
For the record, the long route of the Marlborough Downs Challenge was won this year by Edward Knudsen of the Avon Valley Runners in a time of four hours twenty-one minutes.
Before the race: James with his mother Sara Thompson - a long term ATE volunteer
Just before the notion of General Election 'purdah' apparently put a stop to everyday policy implementation - as opposed to everyday electioneering promises - Great Western Hospital was listed to get a share of the first £56million of capital money from NHS Improvement to help hospitals ease the nationwide A&E crisis.
GWH will receive £899,661 towards a scheme they put forward to make building alterations integrating their Emergency Department and their Urgent Care Centre. The latter is now being run by GWH as part of its new responsibilities for Swindon's community health services - making these changes feasible.
This will have an impact on the flow of patients through the emergency department. But the problems in meeting the national target for 95 per cent of patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, have many other wider causes - causes that this novel 'bricks-and-mortar' plan cannot cure on its own.
So at a time of ritual claims and counter claims about the Government's treatment of the NHS, let us look at some facts.
In March 2017 the total number of emergency attendances at GWH's A&E was 6,893 - that was an increase of twelve per cent on February's figure and showed a decrease of 6.2 per cent against March 2016 - though February is, of course, a shorter month.
With that slightly better news came more serious news: there were 3,430 emergency admissions to GWH during March. That was 15.5 per cent up on February, but also 7.3 per cent up on March 2016.
The 95 per cent A&E target was missed at GWH in March with 83.7 per cent of patients within the four hour target. The figure across 2016-17 was 86.6 per cent. The main cause for these figures is simply that GWH - which has too few acute beds for the huge growth in the population it serves - has problems with the flow of patients through its wards. Most of these problems are not of its own making.
We are back to 'Delayed Transfers of Care' (DTOCs) - known also as 'blocked beds'. The number of bed days lost at GWH to DTOCs in March was 810 - up more than 30 per cent on February, but up by a whopping 36 per cent on March 2016.
Of those 810 bed days, 345 were Swindon patients (up 50 per cent on February) and 259 were Wiltshire patients (down marginally on February.) (The other 206 bed days lost were patients from outside the Swindon and Wiltshire areas.)
Additional beds have been made available at Savernake Hospital. But as patients are moved out of GWH's acute beds, blockages are occurring further down the line: with community hospitals' beds blocked because patients cannot be moved back to home or to rehabilitation.
As the report to the GWH board meeting (May 4) says: "...Community services report that community hospital and intermediate care beds for GWH patients have been difficult to access due largely to placement and Help to Live at Home delays..."
One of the many ways GWH are seeking to minimise DTOCs is through their Home to Assess service. This began in November as a pilot scheme funded by Swindon CCG. Although somewhat undermined by staff shortages, it has had successes - saving about 111 bed days during the pilot.
Now the pilot is over, Swindon CCG are funding it month by month. "But", the report to the board states, "certainty is required if the service is to reach its full potential." To which GWH Director of Finance, Karen Johnson, added: "Swindon desire to make it work - but there is a gap in funding."
The building work must start soon as under the rules for this £899,661 it must be complete by October - before the 'winter pressures' kick in.
NHS Improvement are demanding that recipients of this money reach the 95 per cent target by the end of the year. And GWH has to present a plan on how that will be achieved - as Karen Johnson told the board: "It's got to be a credible plan."
NHS Improvement may be able to magic-up cash, but they cannot magic-up staff. The next hurdle will be for GWH to recruit staff - including GPs - to work in their newly integrated A&E service. But - as with recruitment - many of the problems around A&E waiting times and DTOCs lie outside GWH's remit.
It is not yet clear how - or even whether - shares of the government's £1bn to help local authorities meet their social services responsibilities that go to Wiltshire (said to be £5.8m) and to Swindon will help GWH get patients back home faster.
Will, for instance, Wiltshire Council use part of this money to upgrade and fully staff its Help to Live at Home service to help with DTOCs? That is something you can ask your new Wiltshire councillor.