An aerial view of High St from St Peters ChurchThe name might be boring, but a recently-published document gives a fascinating snapshot of life in Marlborough and the surrounding villages (including Ramsbury and Aldbourne, but excluding Burbage and Great Bedwyn, which fall under Pewsey).
A Joint Strategic Assessment has been conducted for each of the 17 local areas (most centred around market towns or large villages) in Wiltshire.
Looking at areas over which Wiltshire Council - which compiled the statistics - has influence, it compares the quality of life in a community to its county neighbours.
Here are some of the findings:
- The Marlborough Community has an estimated population of 18,120 people, 21 percent of whom are aged 0-17, 57 percent of whom are of working age that’s 18-64, and 22 percent of whom are 65 or over.
- Life expectancy is slightly higher than the Wiltshire average: 82 for men (against 81 county-wide) and 85 (against a county average of 84) for women.
- According to the report, although four percent of Wiltshire residents live in some of the most deprived areas in the UK none of them are in Marlborough.
Health, wellbeing and leisure
- Our children are, by and large, a healthier-than-average bunch: 22 percent of 10-11 year olds are overweight or obese, compared to 33 percent county-wide. That’s still one-in-five junior school kids who could stand to lose some weight, though.
- In 2014/15 92 percent of five year olds in the Marlborough area had received their second dose of MMR jabs. While this might sound impressive, it needs to be around the county average of 95 percent to reduce the risk of a measles outbreak – and that’s making health officials nervous.
- On top of that, only 36 percent of people at particular risk from the impact of flu received a vaccination shot in 2015-16.
- Fifty-nine percent of infants in the Marlborough area were partially or totally breastfed at 6 to 8 weeks – four percent higher than the Wiltshire average.
Children and young people
- Seven percent of children and young people live in low-income households – lower than the Wiltshire average of 10.6 percent.
- In 2015, the percentage of children achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary school was higher in the Marlborough area (85 percent) than across Wiltshire as a whole (80 percent).
- And in the same year, the percentage of young people achieving five r more GCSEs including English and Maths at A* to C was 64 percent, compared to a county average of 61 percent.
- In 2015-16 the rate of reported anti-social behaviour in the Marlborough area was eight reports per 1,000 people – lower than the county average of 19 per 1,000.
- In the same year, the rate of reported domestic abuse in the area was four incidents per 1,000 people, against a county average of seven per 1,000.
- Is the percentage of households in socially rented accommodation higher or lower than the county average? Have a guess. It’s higher: 17.3 percent against a county average of 14.7 percent.
- The average house price in Wiltshire is £230,000. Guess what it is in Marlborough? £315,000.
- Guess how many affordable homes were built in the Marlborough area between 2013 and 2016. Six. SIX! No wonder there are currently 54 families waiting on the social housing register.
- Four percent of A roads and two percent of B roads were identified as requiring treatment in 2015-16, against a Wiltshire average of three percent (A roads) and four percent (B roads). This will prompt a lot of readers to ask at what point is a road ‘identified as requiring treatment’?
- Average daily traffic in the area has increased by two percent since 2007.
- The usage of car parks owned by Wiltshire Council in the Marlborough Area is 69.8 percent – higher than the county average of 52.9 percent.
- The largest two employment sectors in Marlborough are education and retail – thank you St John’s, Marlborough College, and our High Street traders!
- 0.6 percent of working age adults in the Marlborough area receive Jobseekers Allowance - slightly lower than the Wiltshire average of 0.8 percent and a third of the UK average (1.8 percent).
- One percent of 18 to 24 year olds in the Marlborough area receive Jobseekers Allowance - which is lower than the Wiltshire (1.7 percent) and England (2.5 percent) averages.
- 5.3 percent of the local population area employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector.
- Forty percent of residents in the Marlborough area are members of the local libraries – which, surprisingly, is one percent lower than the county average.
- 53,067 library visits were recorded in the Marlborough area in 2015-16.
- There are 835 listed buildings and 17 venues hosting cultural programmes in the Marlborough area.
For ease of reading we’ve been selective with the statistics we’ve reproduced. You can view all the stats online at http://wiltshirejsa.org.uk/community-area/marlborough/
President Barrow speaking at his ianuguration Dr Nick Maurice has been back to Marlborough's long-standing link village of Gunjur in The Gambia to see the return of 'democracy, peace and harmony'. As the leader of an opposition coalition, Adama Barrow was elected President in elections on December 1. After six weeks of tension and the threat of violence, the defeated president - the despotic Yayha Jammeh - was finally forced to leave the country. Dr Maurice reports:
All the signs in The Gambia from the many people I have spoken to are of relief, peace, joy, true happiness as expressed in all conversations, and a desire to move forward and forget the past.
The post election impasse was ended on January 20 following the armed intervention by troops from Senegal. This was not before Jammeh had called a state of emergency, sending many people fleeing the country fearing conflict and violence.
The violence thankfully never happened, the troops 'walked into' The Gambia in the presence of three Heads of State from surrounding countries and Jammeh was persuaded to leave State House. But not before he had 'lined his pockets' with millions of dollars, leaving the country destitute - according to all I spoke to.
He is now in Equatorial Guinea as a 'guest' of that nation's equally notorious dictator. Friends tell me Jammeh will almost certainly face the International Criminal Court once sufficient evidence of his many human rights abuses has been gathered.
President Borrow's inauguration took place on the day Gambians celebrated their 52 years of independence from the British colonial rule. It was a nine hour gathering in the National Stadium attended by 20 Heads of State, representatives of the armed forces of The Gambia and Senegal and a crowd of 25,000 adoring and wildly enthusiastic subjects.
One could not but feel what a privilege it was to be present at this extraordinary turning point in The Gambia's history. It was clear from the atmosphere in the stadium that there was an overwhelming feeling of relief and optimism and universal support for President Adama Barrow
The return to freedom of speech and the ability to talk freely to anyone, expressing views which might be controversial, but in the knowledge that one is not going to be reported to the National Intelligence Agency, is fundamental. One becomes aware that the breakdown of trust between individuals permeated every aspect of life under the Jammeh regime and this is now rapidly dissolving.
While President has limited qualifications for running a country (does this remind one of anyone else?) it is clear that he is gathering around him a team of Ministers with the right background, experience and qualifications who are clearly already guiding him.
Among the Ministerial team is Dr Isatou Touray who spoke at the 2015 Marlborough Brandt Group AGM in Marlborough Town Hall, on the problem of female genital mutilation She is now the Minister of Trade and Industry.
Dr Isatou Touray The Marlborough link delegation meets President Barrow Dr Maurice presents the President with the gift from Marlborough's Town Mayor
Two days after his inauguration, I had the privilege of a private meeting with President Barrow in the company of three Gambian friends from Gunjur, Madi Jatta, Mankamang Touray and Nabani Darboe all of whom had received training in Marlborough in the late 1980s and early 1990s and now hold senior positions in the country.
The President was aware of the 34 year relationship between Marlborough and Gunjur. We were able to describe the impact it had had on the two communities - not least on those young people from Marlborough who had lived and worked in Gunjur.
The President was full of praise for what had been achieved and expressed his determination that his government should support the relationship in whatever way possible.
I was able to present the President with letters of congratulation and good wishes from Marlborough's MP Claire Perry who had spent a week in Gunjur in 2013 and from the Mayor of Marlborough, Councillor Noël Barrett-Morton, with a present from the latter in the form of a very fine paper weight containing the Marlborough crest.
I had been on the same flight to Banjul as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. The British Ambassador, Colin Crokin, who had been with Johnson at a meeting with President Barrow, told me the Foreign Secretary had expressed the desire of the UK Government to work closely with The Gambia not least in ensuring that The Gambia is welcomed back into the Commonwealth at the earliest opportunity.
In discussions with friends and colleagues on the change of regime it seems likely there will only be a small reduction in the flow of migrants taking 'the back way' from The Gambia to Europe. Indeed, I was told of young men who had left since the appointment of President Barrow.
This is something that the Marlborough Brandt Group is helping to address by providing loans for young entrepreneurs in Gunjur to set up businesses - a highly successful programme which is creating wealth and employment. Such schemes need to be rolled out across the country to give young people hope for the future.
However, I returned to Marlborough with a great sense of optimism on behalf of our many friends in Gunjur - and more widely in The Gambia - and the hope that the international community will recognise the new regime and give it all the support that it deserves after 22 years of cruel dictatorship.