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Misleading town hall leaflet may deprive six councillors of their right to vote

 Six members of Marlborough town council may have prejudiced their right to vote on the project to revamp the town hall by issuing a misguided leaflet that undermines the council’s consultation process.

Wiltshire Council has been asked for guidance on whether the leaflet breaks the councillors’ Code of Conduct and, if so, could bar the six Tory councillors from voting on the scheme after the consultation results have been evaluated.

That is on the basis that they have prejudiced their right to play a part in any future decisions on the outcome of the consultation by giving their pre-determined views and by putting out information that is considered false and misleading.

 The code, which upholds the need for democratic debate on issues, does inform councillors: “Dishonest and deceitful behaviour in your role as a member may bring your authority into disrepute” is not sanctioned.

Nor is predetermination if it can be proved that councillors have “a closed mind when making a decision.”

The six councillors who have signed the leaflet imploring residents to “say No to the scheme” are Stewart Dobson, Tony Spranger, Margaret Rose, Robin Notton, Noel Barrett-Morton, and Marian Hannaford-Dobson.

Their leaflet, on pale blue paper printed by Devizes Conservative Association, is being distributed through letterboxes well ahead of the end of the consultation period, which lasts until December 31.


It declares: “We, your Conservative councillors, believe you should know THE FACTS.”

Now they have been challenged in a statement issued by Councillor Richard Pitts, who told Marlborough News Online: “The claims made in the leaflet are rubbish.”

“There is no intention whatsoever that any increase will be made to the town council’s precept, due to the town hall project.”

“The project will cost £11,000 a year and that sum is totally accounted for within the council’s annual budget of £400,000.  The project costs are offset by savings of £38,000 that will be made.  So the fears being raised are without foundation.”

He also points out that the town council is not a business and should not be treated as if it makes a profit or a loss.

 “If we considered the running of the town hall on that basis, then it would not be viable and if it was a business then you could say we ought to pull the place down and invest our money elsewhere.”

Mr Pitts is a member of the 10 CanDo group of town councillors who reject the negative attitude of the six Tory members, who have campaigned against the town hall revamp since it was first mooted.

“Whilst the CanDo group welcome open debate, this leaflet is factually incorrect,” he declared.  “I cannot stand by and allow this to go un-corrected, as it is so wrong and will impact the public consultation if ignored.”

And in his detailed rebuttal of the leaflet (see below) Mr Pitts accuses the Tory councillors of creating a “fog of confusion” by “force-feeding” residents with misinformation.

“As only one out of six the facts in the leaflet are correct, and one is not a FACT at all, this town deserve the real facts.”

The Leaflet claims:

“FACT 1 CARRY OUT NON ESSENTIAL ALTERATIONS, that is not a fact that is an opinion.  Since, this council was elected in 2007 the town hall had grown to be a 60,000 a year index-linked white elephant, and doing nothing to make better use of the building will not change that.”

“The do nothing option favoured by these councillors will cost the taxpayers even more money.  The work that has been carried out so far by the CanDo councillors on this council have improved access to the court room, by gaining grant funding and increased over all use of the town hall.”

“FACT 2 The £1 Million is only an estimate and does not include professional fees.  WRONG! The costed project of £1,007,000 does include professional fees.”

“The figures quoted in the consultation document have been professionally produced by an independent qualified quantity surveyor, and fully include the industry standard allowance for professional fees.”

“FACT 3 Loan repayments are approximately £50,000 for the next 50 years.  CORRECT! At an interest rate of 4.35 per cent.  The project costs are offset by the savings made, therefore reducing the general operating costs of the council.”

“Do not forget the £49,000 annual loan repayments are offset by £38,000 in savings achievable through the proposals, meaning a net cost to the taxpayers of £11,000 (fixed) per year.  This will diminish over time as inflation reduces its net effect.”

“FACT 4 The town hall makes a loss.  WRONG! The town hall is a public building it does not make a LOSS it costs at present £60,000, as I said it could be considered a white elephant.”

“However, it is run for the good of the community, the town hall is an asset that the town council has to manage on behalf of the people of this town, managing historic buildings costs money.  This proposal is about making better and more efficient use of a building that will be here for the next 100 years, at an increased cost to run.”

“The do nothing option is the financially irresponsible option.  If we can rent it out to recoup some of the operating costs all to the good.  Every community body who wants to use the town hall never wants to pay for it.”

“Applying a business model in the traditional sense does not make sense, making full and regular use of an energy efficient cost effective building does!  Public Works Loans are designed to provide affordable finance to councils to allow them to develop their communities.”

“This project will simulate and enhance employment and local business in the area.”

“FACT 5 The loan repayments will only add to the annual loss and reduce other spending.  WRONG! The council has given a clear commitment that it will accommodate the financing of this project within existing council tax levels.”

“There will be no council tax increase as a result of this proposal.  It will not impact on other services that the council may wish to pursue, for example the flood alleviation scheme.  “Next year’s council tax proposals will allow the council to proceed with this project should it chose to do so and subject to the consultation, as well as the Flood Alleviation Scheme without increasing your council tax.”

“FACT 6 No Detailed business or financial viability plan has been produced to justify this loan.  WRONG! These councillors treat the public with contempt by force feeding them misinformation.”

“I am sure the public see through this fog of confusion and understand the CanDo councillors are acting in the best interests of the town.  The council has published the headline figures in the leaflet and the bottom line repayment costs.”

“The CanDo councillors would not be such Muppets as to not have these headline figures underpinned by real data.  There is a detailed document produced by an independent qualified quantity surveyor which supports the whole proposal, it is lengthy and complex, but freely available on request.”

“The CanDo councillors have attracted over £250,000 in project grants since the council came to power in 2007.  The list of successful projects completed, are matter of public record.”

“The package of work to the town hall will dramatically change the way the council functions focusing on the town hall and makes available to the community the full facilities of the building.”

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'Appy Christmas – from all at Marlborough News Online

Readers of Marlborough News Online are being presented with a Christmas gift by the web development team behind the site.

From today (Wednesday, December 7) Marlborough News Online is available as a free App for iPhone and iPad users.

Peter Davison, one of the founders of Marlborough News Online, said: “A fair number of people are using their mobiles to follow the local news while they're on the move, so it made sense to offer this resource.

“We're extremely grateful to Tim and Nicola Ashton, and the rest of the team at Mole Productions, who have continued to support the site they developed for us by writing the Apps.”

The launch of the App was the cause of a double celebration for video and web production company Mole, who have recently moved from their offices in Hughenden Yard to 1 The Green, a striking Georgian house that was once the town's registry office.

Tim, from Mole, said: “Increasingly, we're being asked by clients to design Apps to compliment their websites.

“Although we've already created Apps for niche products and services, this has been our first App with mass-market appeal.”

The Apps are available to download by clicking the App Store button at the bottom of this article from your mobile device. Don't forget to give the App a good rating if you find it useful!

Need an App for your business or organisation? Log on to www.moleproductions.com

Pictured: Tim Ashton of Mole Productions and Peter Davison of Marlborough News Online try out the Apps

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Grim statistics of 31 fatalities in Wiltshire as drink drive campaign is launched

Every week 11 people are killed by drink drivers, and more than 400 every year.  In addition, every year around 80 deaths are caused by drivers who are under the drink-drive limit but who have some alcohol in their blood.

So far in 2011 there have been 31 fatal collisions in Wiltshire resulting in 32 fatalities, nine were within the 17-25 age group, which represents 28 per cent of total fatalities.

They are the grim statistics as Wiltshire launches its annual Christmas drink drive crackdown over the festive period, when every resource available will be used to catch guilty motorists.

And that those that drive the next day while still unaware that they under the influence of alcohol.

Ian Hopkins, road safety development officer at Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, told Marlborough News Online: “Firefighters are called to hundreds of road traffic collisions every year in Wiltshire, and we do everything we can to reduce the number of people who are killed or injured in this way.”

“We want people to enjoy Christmas – a drink or two may seem fun, but it could lead to a hospital stay or, worse, a fatality if you then drive.”

People are encouraged to leave their cars at home, and those who need to drive the following morning are also being asked not to drink.

The problem is that if you have been out drinking, you may still be affected by alcohol the next day -- sleeping, eating, having a shower, drinking a cup of coffee or other ways of sobering up do not help – it just takes time.

Nearly one in five people who are convicted of drink driving are caught the morning after and do not realise that they can still lose their licence if they are over the legal alcohol level.

Road shows are being held in Devizes, Chippenham, Salisbury and Trowbridge, during December to highlight the issue.

Drivers visiting them will be able to see the remains of a car actually involved in a crash, and there will be a chance to speak to people who have been affected by fatal crashes, as well as Wiltshire Police officers.

Dick Tonge, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for highways, said: “This is not just an event for drivers or learners, but for everyone, as we all need to be more aware of how drink driving can ruin lives.”

“We want to show the consequences of drink driving, and how it can destroy the lives of families and friends of the victims and the drink driver.”

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Meet the mystery man who drops unsigned leaflets through your door

The mystery man who has been distributing unsigned leaflets calling on residents to reject Marlborough town council’s revamp plans for the town hall has been identified as Steve Pascall.

I tracked him to a house on The Green after he popped one of his misguided leaflets through my letterbox claiming to represent the views of an anonymous organisation called Marlborough Concerned Citizens but giving no contact details for himself or the group.

He can now be revealed to be the former chairman of West Berkshire Council, a former member of the Lib-Dem party from which he has quit because it has “lost the plot”, and a defeated candidate in a Marlborough town council by-election last year.

And he admitted: “With hindsight, it would have been a good idea if we had signed the leaflet. I agree that we could have put an address on it so that people could make contact.”

Will he do that in future?

“I am not going to tell you what our future plans are,” he insisted.  “It is our intention to find out exactly how many people in Marlborough know what is gong on.  And as a result of that we shall probably call a public meeting, whether the town council like it or not.”

That is despite the fact that a four-day consultation exercise on the £1 million project was staged at the town hall last week and since then every household has received a detailed multi-coloured leaflet with complete architectural drawings and costings.

While Mr Pascall, now retired from the property maintenance company he ran for 30 years, demands that the town council be open and accountable, he refuses to reveal the identity of some 20 “concerned citizens” who make up his group, which he accepts has no constitution or officers.

He appears confused in his mission, refusing consent for me to photograph him, and failing to offer any phone number or email address for future contact.

Nevertheless, he says the group is getting “a good result” by posting the leaflet but gives no indication as to how that is possible without any identification of Marlborough Concerned Citizens.
Former Marlborough mayor Andrew Ross, a retired qualified accountant who chairs the council’s finance committee, ran after Mr Pascall after he saw him put one of the leaflets through his letterbox.

“I chased him up the street and confronted him,” Councillor Ross told Marlborough News Online. “I said, this leaflet is absolute rubbish and I demand you stop telling blatant lies.’

“He said, ‘ There’s no fire escape.’ I said, ‘We have an architect working on the improvements, there will be a fire escape.’ Then he said, ‘Get a better architect’ and walked off.”

Mr Pascall accuses the town council of deliberately keeping residents “in the dark” about its plans but refuses to “name names” of those responsible for this policy, and claims the council has consistently rejected demands for a public meeting to be held.

Yet no such demand has been made at any of the full council and committee meetings I have attended over the past six months, during which Marlborough News Online has reported on the town hall scheme at least five times.

When asked if he read the Marlborough News Online website, which has 1,400 unique visitors a week, he at first said “No”, then claimed he was aware of its coverage of a number of major issues affecting the town.

But then he persistently changed the subject when asked detailed questions, apparently unaware too that the town council, which has an annual budget of £400,000 compared to Wiltshire Council’s £800 million, has few executive powers to tackle some of the town’s problems.

He denies that his leaflet is in any way misleading or inaccurate, declaring: “People don’t know about the proposals.  I have made it my business to see that they do.”

He describes Marlborough, where he and his wife, Jennifer, first moved to 10 years ago, as “a fantastic place”, but sees the town council as “something like the Vicar of Dibley”.

He declares: “Now I’ve lived amongst it, I have realised it is not fun or entertaining,” but adds: “There are aspects of the town hall plans that are positive.”

“After all, we have been desperate for public toilets for years.  We need public toilets here. But that’s not going to cost a million quid and put the residents in debt.”

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Bishop of Salisbury steps into dispute over College takeover of Ivy House Hotel

The Bishop of Salisbury is attending a meeting today (Saturday) of the council of Marlborough College, which is still embroiled in the controversy over its bid to buy the Ivy House Hotel and convert it into a hostel for female students.

The Rt Rev Nick Holtam last week turned down a request from protesters to intervene in the dispute over the grade II listed Marlborough hotel in his capacity as ex officio president of the council.

But he appears to have changed his mind after receiving the views of the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, rural dean and rector of St Mary’s, Marlborough, himself a former College student, who is prepared to chair a public meeting to debate the issues.

The newly-enthroned bishop has also received a second letter from Gordon Olson, whose own two sons were students at the College, pointing out that the current tensions would be defused if the hotel purchase didn’t go ahead.

“There is a strong feeling in the town that commercial considerations are now uppermost in the College’s agenda for this purchase,” Mr Olson, a retired company director, wrote.

“After its public relations disaster in the matter of the Trevalga village sale, we now have another example of the pursuit of a business objective to the likely detriment of a local community.”

“I should point out, once again, that there is no net economic benefit to the town from an expansion of pupil numbers, which simultaneously reduces the tourist spending deriving from an hotel.”

“If the College wants more boarding house places it should be building on its own land.  Doing that, and allowing the commercial property market to take its course in producing a new owner for a refurbished hotel would, conversely, produce an economic upside for the town.”

Mr Olson accepts that while the College may be legally entitled, after the planning appeal decision in its favour, to complete the hotel purchase, it nevertheless “does not make it right that it should do so.”

And he adds: “The appeal decision was reached without oral representations.  It overturned the written objections of Marlborough Town Council, Wiltshire Council, some thirty local residents and an unfavourable economic impact report.”

“It can only be challenged on points of law. So much for the democratic process.”

He also reveals that an attempt by the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy to arrange a meeting between the College and the objectors has been rebuffed.

“I agreed with him that such a meeting would be helpful,” Mr Olson informs the Bishop.  “I would now respectfully request that you talk to Sir Hayden Phillips (chairman of the College council) to see if you can facilitate it, on a “no prejudice” basis if that is what is required to meet objections from the College’s solicitors.”

Meanwhile, Wiltshire Council is still being pressed to answer “irregularities” in the planning appeal process, in particular the part played by planning officer Mike Wilmott, whose original recommendation to allow the change of use for the hotel was rejected by the area planning committee

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Claire Perry demands Commons debate on women in the prison system

Tory MP Claire Perry is pressing the government to stage a debate on women and the prison system.

As it grapples with the economic crisis, Marlborough’s MP told the House of Commons on Wednesday: “Mahatma Gandhi said that a society can be judged by how it treats its first, its last and its lost.”

“It is my strong belief that women in the prison system and the 17,000 children a year who are separated from their mothers as a result of incarceration are among the lost.”

“Can we have a debate in Government time to review that important problem?”

Sir George Young, leader of the House, replied: “I welcome my hon. Friend’s interest in that important subject.”

“I very much hope that our new approach to the penal system of payment by results will also benefit women in prison, that new contractors with an interest in finding long-term, secure employment and accommodation for those leaving prison will come forward.”

“And that we will be able to improve our record so far and help those women rebuild their lives after leaving prison.”

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New NHS minor injuries info booklet is “as clear as mud” protests Tory MP Claire Perry

As clear as mud – that was the blunt comment today from Marlborough MP Claire Perry on a 12-page multi-coloured NHS Swindon booklet delivered throughout the town and headed “NOT an emergency?”.

It purports to tell residents where to go directly for treatment following the demise of the Savernake Hospital’s minor injuries unit and, on its back page, declares: "When it is anemergency" – the last two words without a space between them.

And it appeared inappropriately as Health Secretary of State Andrew Lansley issued a list of 60 new goals to hospitals designed to save more than 20,000 lives a year through improved quality care for patients.

“Having read the relevant instructions in the leaflet, I think they are as clear as mud,” protested Mrs Perry. “The advice now goes something like this…
“Treatment for non-urgent cases (what are they?) will now take place in the Carfax NHS medical centre in Swindon (where?) but as this has no X-ray facilities and very limited parking please go to the Clover Centre at the Great Western Hospital if you are an urgent case or think you have broken something – and you have to be the judge of that.”

And she added: “The sooner we get our doctors commissioning local services for local people the better.”

The booklet, which compares in no way with the defined minor injury unit treatment available to Marlborough residents on a 24-hour, seven days a week basis, issued four years ago,  dumbfounded Savernake campaigner Val Compton (pictured).

“I am horrified that NHS Swindon think they can send out a booklet to Wiltshire patients with no liasion taking place and filled with wrong information,” she told Marlborough News Online.

She complained that the leaflet was causing considerable confusion in the treatment of “non-urgent minor injuries”, which is no longer be available at Clover Centre, based in Great Western Hospital (GWH).  

The information, clearly stated in a jokey “Mister Men style” booklet produced by NHS Swindon and delivered by post, is “absolutely contrary” to last year’s NHS Swindon’s own annual report of 2009/10, said Mrs Compton.

“This states that the Clover centre offered ‘treatment for minor injuries and minor illnesses without an appointment, 24 hours a day and seven days a week’,” she declared.  

“It is also contrary to NHS Wiltshire’s leaflet on Minor Injury Units (MIU) which states Clover Centre can be used if it is more convenient to attend there rather than Chippenham or Trowbridge MIUs.”

 And she pointed out: “It would seem now, that only ‘urgent’ cases will be seen and treated in what is now called the Urgent Care Service at GWH – everyone else will be re-directed to the Carfax NHS Medical Centre or their GP.”

“The booklet fails to tell you how to find this obscure centre in Carfax Street, fails to tell you it has about three car parking spaces and also fails to tell you if you have a suspected fracture, there is no X-ray facility on the premises, which would be required for a diagnosis.”

“In my book, the withdrawal of a standard minor injury service, such as we used to receive in Savernake Hospital, is a substantive change – and that requires a public consultation to be held.  Did I miss it?”

NHS Wiltshire responded:  “NHS Wiltshire understands that some of the information contained in the leaflet will be confusing to people living in Marlborough and the surrounding areas.”

“As commissioner of minor injuries services for Wiltshire, NHS Wiltshire recommends that people in the SN8 postcode area should continue to use the Urgent Care Centre based at Great Western Hospital if it is more convenient for people to attend there rather than Chippenham or Trowbridge MIUs.”

“Patients who present at the Urgent Care Centre will be triaged according to their level of need; people with a suspected break or fracture, for instance, would certainly be treated there rather than at Carfax Street.”

“Indeed, the Urgent Care Centre provides direct access to X-Ray services which is an improved service to that provided previously at the Clover Centre.”

And the statement went on: “However, it’s important that patients understand how to use NHS services properly so that the Urgent Care Centre is used appropriately; we have had cases where people have turned up with broken nails, small insect bites and minor grazes, in which case patients are re-directed to their local pharmacy, GP etc.”

“People in the SN8 postcode area who require out of hours services or urgent medical advice when their GP practice is closed should continue to ring the Wiltshire out of hours number, which is 0300 111 5717.  Lines are open from 6.30pm to 8am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on public and bank holidays.”

“If a medical situation is life-threatening, you should always phone 999.  A medical emergency is a life-threatening situation such as serious injury, loss of consciousness, chest pain or suspected stroke.  Do not hesitate in these circumstances – call the emergency services on 999.”

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Wiltshire police authority appoints new deputy chief constable

Patrick Geenty has been appointed as Wiltshire Police’s new Deputy Chief Constable by the Wiltshire Police Authority (WPA).

And Mr Geenty, who joined the police service in 1983, is no stranger to the post nor to the cuts the county police force is facing under government restrictions.

Having served in Gloucestershire and Humberside before joining Wiltshire Police as Assistant Chief Constable in April 2009, he has been Temporary Deputy Chief Constable since the sad death of David Ainsworth, the previous Deputy Chief Constable, in March this year.

Christopher Hoare, WPA chairman, told Marlborough News Online: “We’ve worked closely with Patrick on the plans to remove £15 million from the police budget over the period of the government’s spending cuts whilst maintaining the service to the public.”

“We now look forward to working with him on the transition to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire who will be elected in November 2012.”

Chief Constable Brian Moore said: “I am delighted to see Patrick substantively appointed to the role of Deputy Chief Constable which allows us to continue the very solid progress we are making in improving performance whilst reducing our costs.”

And Mr Geenty responded: “I am delighted to have been appointed as Deputy Chief Constable in a force that has made such excellent progress over the past few years.  I am looking forward to working with the Chief Constable and the Police Authority over the coming months to develop our service to the public even further.”

“We will need to continue making significant savings and prepare for the arrival of the new Police and Crime Commissioner, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

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Thames launches vital Care for the Kennet campaign to save water

Britain’s first awareness campaign urging people to use water wisely to protect their local river – and targeted at the River Kennet that flows through Marlborough – is being launched today (Monday) by Thames Water.

Care for the Kennet, directly aimed at communities along the upper reaches of the world-renowned chalk stream, is the first in a series of seven Thames regional river protection campaigns following a year of exceptionally low rainfall.

Billboard posters have already gone up at Hungerford train station, and others are to go up in Marlborough in the New Year, urging people to use less water in order to leave more in the Kennet, currently also clogged with fallen leaves because of its poor flow.

Thames Water poster urging less use of water
 

The campaign is backed by Marlborough-based ARK (Action for the River Kennet) and by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-UK, the environmental groups, who have criticised Thames for pumping too much water out of the Kennet to serve households in Swindon.

And support has come too from local MP Claire Perry, who is pressing the government to help the Environment Agency pay the £10 million cost of a new pipeline to take water from the River Thames at Farmoor Reservoir, halving Swindon’s reliance on water from the Kennet.

The campaign also offer customers free water-saving gadgets – good Christmas presents -- via Waterwisely, www.thameswater.co.uk/waterwisely, the company’s online water-conscious community, or they can be ordered by calling 0800 358 6665.

Richard Aylard, sustainability director for Thames Water, told Marlborough News Online: “We are adding a new dimension to encouraging water-wise behaviour by making a direct link between the water we use and the local river it comes from.”

“In the case of Marlborough and Hungerford, the less water we use, the less we need to take from the River Kennet, and the more there’ll be to go around.”

“Although we had a very grey summer, 18 of the last 20 months have seen below-average rainfall in the Kennet area, which has led to low flows in the river.”

“And there is a very real threat of a drought next summer.  This is not just our problem – it’s everyone’s problem.”

“While we have got leakage from our network down to its lowest-ever level, we are also calling on customers to use water wisely – not leaving taps running while we brush our teeth can save six litres a minute, and one minute less in the shower can save 10 litres.”

ARK director Charlotte Hitchmough said: “The River Kennet above Marlborough looks like a footpath this week.  There is no water in the river, and hundreds of fish have died.  Further downstream the river is shallower than we have ever known it.  Water is a precious resource -- the less we use the more will be left for the river and its wildlife, so we are pleased to be working with Thames Water to help everyone to value every drop.”

Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, who has championed the work of ARK, pointed out: “Anything that reduces the stress on the vulnerable River Kennet is to be warmly welcomed, and Care for the Kennet has my full support.”

“We now need to hear that the plan for a pipeline to take water from the River Thames at Farmoor Reservoir is moving ahead as that is the best long-term solution for the river.”

So far this year only 468mm of rain has fallen compared with the annual average of 739mm in the Thames Water region, classed by the Environment Agency as “seriously water stressed”.

That means all available water-abstraction points are already being used.

Thames needs around 80 percent of its long-term average winter rainfall to rule out the likelihood of drought-related water-use restrictions next year.

Richard Aylard added: “We are watching the situation very carefully and if we have another dry winter then we could face a drought next summer.”

“Winter rain is vitally important -- more so than summer rain, which tends to be used up by plants and lost to evaporation -- because it recharges the underground aquifers which drive flows in the rivers across the region throughout the following year.”

“One dry winter does not necessarily lead to problems but two in a row can, which is why we are hoping for decent rainfall this winter, as well as urging people to be water-wise.”

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Marlborough events raise £1,657 for the mayor’s two favoured charities

Marlborough's Mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson with international soloist Andreas Boyde
 
A flurry of fund-raising events for this year’s Marlborough mayoral charities -- the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and Helen and Douglas House, the children’s and young adults’ hospice –- has brought in £1,657.

Marlborough’s civic dinner last month, hosted by the Mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson, collected £732,  all the town councillors including the mayor buy their own tickets.

The weekend Christmas Craft Fair staged in the town hall by Fred Wilcox raised £512 in donations at the door.   Then last Friday’s piano recital given in St Peter’s Church by international soloist Andreas Boyde raised another £413 for a charities total of £1,657.

“Andreas is more used to playing with the Berlin Philharmonic and other such world-renowned orchestras,” Councillor Kirk Wilson told Marlborough News Online.  “So St Peters was a modest venue.”

“It does not even have a back-stage piano on which a pianist can warm up on.   But the programme of Brahms, Haydn, Liszt and Schumann, which would challenge even to the most virtuoso pianist, was rapturously received.”

“It defied belief that Andreas’ fingers could move so fast.”

And the mayor, who was Andreas’ landlord in London when he came to study as an unknown student from his native Germany, added: “It has been a great coup for such a distinguished player to come to Marlborough, and a memorable evening for those at the recital.”

“And a privilege to help to raise money for such important charities.”

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Strike day gloom brings a boom in shopping to Marlborough

Marlborough enjoyed a boom in trade like shopping centres round the country yesterday (Wednesday) when thousands of Wiltshire public sector workers staged a one-day strike in their fight for fairer pensions.

And it was a boom that was expected, as far as Andy Davies (pictured), ebullient manager of Marlborough’s Waitrose store, was concerned, despite his fear that 30 per cent of his part-time partners might not come to work because their children were at home from closed local schools.

But he doesn’t know as yet whether it was additional money for Christmas that was being spent or the same amount being expended early.

And the same pre-Christmas spending spree was also felt by optician Paul Shimel, president of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, who has the Specsavers franchise, and is asking other retailers how they fared.

“We had a very good day with people really spending money,” he told Marlborough News Online.  “And our bookings for eye tests just shot up and up.

“We all thought that any spending in our store would come to an end last week.  But now I’m booked up from 9am to 7pm for Friday.  Yesterday was a really positive event, a real buzz.”

The strike day surge was certainly expected at Waitrose and similar supermarkets.

“We planned for it,” said Mr Davies.  “And we did a double digit increase on the same day last week.  It was a very busy day that produced a real lift in Christmas stock products that gave everything a real buzz.”

It was a real challenge for the store, where 30 per cent of the 250 mainly casual staff might  not have been able to work if they had children to care for.

“But not one of them failed to come in.  It was a real team effort.  We knew that it was clearly a day which people would use to go shopping – and a lot of them brought their children with them.”

“I am really pleased with the increase in trade, but I am not sure yet whether it was just pushing money around that would be spent anyway. We will have to wait and see.”

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