Major government cuts in Britain’s Army by more than 11,000 soldiers is “good news” for the Devizes constituency of Tory MP Claire Perry, which includes five army bases.
It will have a minimal effect, she revealed today in a statement to Marlborough News Online.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox revealed in the House of Commons yesterday that the effect will reduce the size of the Army to its lowest level since Victorian times, the aim being to pay for an extra £3 billion of new equipment.
And the effect in Wiltshire will also be affected by the government’s decision to take over the now vacated Lyneham air base as a new multi-service training base instead of selling it off for commercial development.
“ The statement was good news for Wiltshire as it will be the base for one of the five main brigades and the Lyneham takeover will happen quickly,” said Claire Perry.
“The proposed losses are to be phased in over next 10 years so, hopefully, the impact will be minimal. The Army and Wiltshire Council are working on how to retain army leavers locally so they can work and continue to live in Wiltshire.
“The investment of £1.5 billion, £400 million in this Parliament, in building up territorial and reserves is especially welcome.”
What will be the effect on domestic Army life?
“I was also on my feet for most of the session trying to ask about impact of all the moves on spouses,” she added. “I had to grab the minister in the lobby and he reassured me that extra support with housing etc would be provided.”
Wiltshire Police have launched a Summer Rape Awareness Campaign aimed at encouraging victims of sexual assault, who too often keep the attack a secret, to report incidents to the police.
The week-long campaign is also seeks to reinforce personal safety messages and promote the role of support agencies throughout the county.
Detective Superintendent Sarah Bodell revealed that police figures indicate that there is often a spike in reports of sexual assaults during the summer months compared with a total of 52 reported in the first three winter months of this year.
“This could be due to a variety of reasons, for example the lighter evenings encouraging people to stay out drinking for longer, or the increasing number of young people socialising during the summer break,” she said.
“Whatever the reason, we want to provide people with the information to help prevent them from becoming a victim, encourage those who have been sexually abused to report it and give details of where to go for help and support.”
And she pointed out: “Victims may be worried about contacting the police to report sexual assault and we understand that it can be very difficult to talk about something like this.”
“However I would like to reassure victims that anyone who reports a sexual assault will be treated with dignity and respect, we take all reports very seriously and you will be dealt with in a sensitive, professional and non judgemental way.”
“It is very important that the victim, male or female, feels safe and able to trust us and we have dedicated Sexual Offences Liaison Officers (SOLOs) who will spend time with the victim, explaining the procedures, keep them updated on the investigation and ensure that they are supported throughout the process.”
“We work very closely with other agencies that can give specialist support such as counselling.”
Most victims already know the identity of their attacker. Stranger rapes are rare but it is always sensible to take personal safety measures when out and about, particularly if you are on your own, and to ensure that someone knows where you are and when you expect to return. Using a mobile phone helps to do this.
Superintendent Bodell added: “If at any time you feel concerned for your safety or the safety of others please dial 999. We would rather attend a call and find that it was a false alarm than not be contacted and someone suffers a sexual assault.”
“Our crime prevention officer will be providing advice on personal safety on day three of our campaign but in the meantime if you would like any further advice or you are at all worried please call 0845 408 7000 or visit our website www.wiltshire.police.uk and click on the Safety Advice logo.”
“A sexual assault can be reported at any point but we encourage victims to do so as soon as possible, this helps us to ensure that the proper support can be provided.”
“If someone has been sexually assaulted and doesn’t want to tell the police we urge them to tell a trusted friend or family member who can then report it on their behalf. Tell your GP or contact the Sexual Assault Referral Centre.”
The SARC helpline 0808 168 0024 is available 24 hours a day, all year round.
Proposals to turn Marlborough's Ivy House Hotel into a boarding house for pupils at Marlborough College have been rejected by county councillors.
At a meeting last night (Thursday), a majority of members of Wiltshire Council's eastern area planning committee voted to turn down the proposal.
However, the final decision is no longer theirs to make – the applicant, Marlborough College, had already appealed against the council's failure to make a decision within the statutory eight weeks.
The means that Wiltshire Council's official decision, along with the views of Marlborough Town Council, which also opposes the application, will be taken into consideration by a government planning inspector, who will sit in judgement later this year.
The council's planning officers – the paid officials who advise elected councillors – had recommended that the application be given the go-ahead.
The papers put before last night's committee meeting supported Marlborough College's application, concluding: “Although in some respects the loss of the hotel use may be regretted, this is more a commercial matter than one that can be opposed in planning terms as the development plan does not have any policies that would support a refusal.”
But councillors voted six-to-one against the application, citing the impact on tourism, the lack of competition in the hospitality sector that would be created if the Ivy House were no cease operating as a hotel, and the knock-on effect to other businesses in the town, who benefit from the patronage of the visitors who stay at the hotel.
The third group of St John’s students to complete their international baccalaureate (IB) diploma have won a top place in the official league tables. Their IB results put St John’s as the highest scoring non-selective school in the United Kingdom.
The school was at eighth place in the national table with only six independent fee-paying and one selective grammar school above it. This year two St John’s students achieved the results they needed to go to Oxford, but one of those has decided to take up a place at Southampton University instead.
Two IB students had results in the top five per cent worldwide. One of them, Rachel Butler, follows her brother Stephen who gained a similar success at St John’s two years ago.
Half the St John’s students completing the diploma this year gained the highest grades of 6 and 7. And the year’s average of 34 points gained was four points higher than last year’s results.
The headteacher, Dr Patrick Hazlewood, (shown in the photo with IB co-ordinator Gary Patterson on his left and IB students) has spoken of his pride in both students and staff: “This is our third year of IB diploma results and I am delighted St John’s is now established as a successful IB school. As the ‘top’ state school we are expecting to increase the number of IB students significantly.”
The IB diploma is an increasingly popular alternative to A level courses. Over two years students have to study six subjects from a wide range of options – three of these are at the equivalent of A level and three at the equivalent of AS level. They also write an extended essay based on their own research – helping prepare them for university study; and they must do 150 hours of ‘creativity, action and service.’
St John’s was the first state school in Wiltshire to offer the IB diploma. Recent research has shown that students with the IB diploma are more likely to gain a place at top universities and to go on to highly paid careers than those taking the normal examined courses.
The future of Marlborough's Ivy House Hotel will be considered by planners yet again on Thursday evening (July 14).
The owners of the hotel, originally built as a private school in 1707, want to sell the facility to exclusive public school Marlborough College for use as a boarding house for fifty sixth form girls.
But the contentious proposal has divided town and gown for months.
Back in February, Marlborough College had applied to Wiltshire Council for permission to change the use of the Grade II listed building – and the application to change the use of the 28-bedroom hotel looked set to be granted permission.
North Wiltshire Economic Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce stepped in after representations from the business community about the likely impact the hotel´s closure would have on the town´s economy.
NWEP´s representations, which broadly echoed the points made in a letter by the Chamber of Commerce, were:
1. The loss of an amenity for business and leisure use.
2. The loss of income to the local economy – the hotel´s B&B package means visitors generally dine out in town, and are known to contribute to the retail economy too.
3. The loss of a potential future employment site, and the scarcity of alternative sites in Marlborough for a hotel or employment.
Councillors were asked to delay a decision while an economic impact report was prepared. However, when the committee reconvened in April it was discovered that the consultant instructed by the council's Economic Regeneration Team had a potential interest in the property himself, and that - according to council papers - parts of the report lacked an evidential basis.
The application was therefore removed from the agenda and the Economic Regeneration Team sought a fresh report.
In the interim period, however, the Marlborough College has appealed against the Council’s failure to determine the planning application within the normal eight week period, which means the matter must now go before a government inspector, who is seeking views before July 27.
On Thursday, the council's East Area Planning Committee will decide whether to approve, or oppose, the application.
Planning officers are recommending that councillors give the application the nod. In a written report, they say: “The proposal will provide a viable and suitable use that will preserve the listed building and enable it to remain in good order.
“It will have no adverse impact on the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.
“Although in some respects the loss of the hotel use may be regretted, this is more a commercial matter than
one that can be opposed in planning terms as the development plan does not have any policies that would support a refusal.
“As the figures indicate, it is also evident that the College itself is an important part of the vitality and viability of the town and this proposal will enable this local business to continue to develop its facilities.”
However, objections are expected to be raised once again and, whatever the decision of planners, the final decision will rest with the government inspector.
A parking discount scheme based on how much you spend in the shops is now being considered by Wiltshire Council in a bid to stem the rising anger – and a threatened revolt -- over increased parking charges.
The county has decided to carry out a major review of its decision in February to bring all the charges into line with those operating in Marlborough and put an end to its one-hour free parking concessions.
And they have hit on the idea used in Hungerford whereby parking charges are discounted according to how much shoppers spend in their local High Street.
Nick Fogg, one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, has revealed the possibility to Marlborough News Online, pointing out: “Everyone nationally is upset about being fleeced by parking charges – absolutely.”
“Most of the county has now been brought into line with Marlborough. Some towns like Chippenham are really up in arms and down in Salisbury there’s actually a revolution going on about the rise in parking charges -- because they are really hitting trade.”
“One idea they are considering, which I think is a very good idea, is this scheme whereby if you can show that you have shopped to a certain level then you get cheaper parking, as they already do in Hungerford.”
“The council is thinking of a county-wide scheme affecting all the towns. They will have to persuade the shops to take part but I would have thought it is in the shop’s interest, especially if supermarkets like Waitrose agree.”
He used to make a weekly trip West Byfleet, in Surrey, and, at Waitrose there, if you spent £3 in the store then you were allowed 90 minutes free parking, a scheme that is also used in other towns.
“It is that kind of thing that is being considered,” he added. “And I hope it will work.”
A special maternity care team from the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, was presented with a prestigious award at a special ceremony at the House of Commons last week.
The restructuring of the complex pregnancy clinics at the hospital, led by consultant obstetrician Dr Harini Narayan, was named the winner of the “Best example of a service for women with complex medical needs in pregnancy” category at the awards, which acknowledges inspiring or innovative work in improving local maternity services.
“We are delighted that the ante-natal team at GWH has won this prestigious award from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health,” said Dr Narayan. “We have worked hard over the past few years to change radically the service we provide to women with high risk, complex pregnancies.”
“This restructured way of providing antenatal care has meant that we are now able to offer a patient-centred service focusing on the individual conditions that make a pregnancy complex.”
“The typical system used in the NHS has not changed in over 50 years. So the changes we have made are a completely new way of delivering care for this group of women who represent over 40 per cent of all pregnancies we see at the Great Western.”
“We expect that the innovative changes we have brought about in the delivery of antenatal care to women with complex pregnancies will be adopted by other maternity units in the country.”
The change in the way care is provided means that women with high risk pregnancies are cared for in one of our condition-based clinics, for example, dedicated clinics for women who are expecting twins or triplets, women with diabetes, epilepsy and heart problems or those women who have experienced problems in previous pregnancies.
This new model of care means women can build a much stronger relationship with the team caring for them throughout their pregnancy.
The award was presented to Dr Narayan and her team by Anne Milton MP, the parliamentary under secretary of state for public health.
Marlborough UK welcomed Marlboro US when Fred and Jill Elsass from Marlboro Township in Stark County, Ohio paid a visit to the Town Hall.
Marlboro is a Marlborough of which most people in this town are unaware, but we should now be better acquainted as the Mayor, Cllr Alexander Kirk Wilson was treated to a history of the township and given a guide which had been prepared in 2004 to mark its 200th anniversary. In return the Mayor gave Fred and Jill an inscribed paperweight, a history of our Marlborough, and a copy of the photo book ‘Marlborough and the Kennet.’
Fred, a retired Master Sergeant in the USAF, knows this area well having served at RAF Fairford and later at RAF Greenham Common when the cruise missiles were introduced. During that time he met Jill – his ‘English rose’ – when she was working in Swindon.
A passionate historian, Fred hopes to restore the missing ‘…ugh’ to Marlboro which disappeared during the 19th century, and to raise local awareness of the Marlborough/Churchill link to this area. The high school (American!) football team is called the Dukes and has a cavalry sabre on its crest, so a start has been made.
The Elsasses were shown the secrets of the Town Hall and the civic maces and chains, by David Sherratt, the Mayor’s Ceremonial Officer, before taking tea and scones with the Mayor and some of the councillors.
Tourists will be left to aimlessly wander Britain's widest high street the summer after civic leaders decided not to hand over the mayor's robing room to create a temporary tourist information centre.
Despite voting to issue loans valued at £6,240 to create an emergency TIC just two weeks ago, councillors have now voted against establishing the temporary outlet in the newly-refurbished Town Hall.
The decision will come as a blow to Marlborough's beleaguered traders, restauranteurs, publicans, and hotel and B&B owners.
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce had backed the proposal, saying visitors should be encouraged to extend their visits to the historic market town, which would generate income for the local economy.
Although at a previous meeting the mayor, Alexander Kirk Wilson, had conceded that he may have to surrender his robing room – the small room in which he and his entourage don their traditional garb for official occasions – on a temporary basis, the plan was scuppered at a town council meeting on Monday evening.
The reason given was that councillors did not want the activities of the tourist information centre to conflict with wedding receptions, which are held at the 109-year-old building.
The vote came as a blow to councillor Richard Pitts, who had spearheaded a campaign – and formed a working party – alongside fellow councillors Andy Ross and Guy Loosmore, community campaigner Val Compton and the two former TIC staff who were employed by Wiltshire Council before the authority pulled the rug on tourism provision in the town.
Cllr Pitts, who sits on the committee of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, said this week: “It's a disaster really. We are deeply disappointed.”
Cllr Pitts said plans to create a Marlborough guide – which could be issued to tourists via hotels and B&Bs – was still on the cards, but as work had not even started on the project it was unlikely to see the light of day before the end of this year's tourist season.
Devizes MP Claire Perry raised the future of Savernake Hospital and its finances during health questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday, July 12. She asked the Minister for Health, Simon Burns, “to look at all hospitals labouring under an uneconomic PFI burden and will he meet with me to discuss the Savernake situation specifically.”
In his reply Mr Burns said: “Can I tell the honourable lady that work is going on on the whole issue of PFI and the NHS to ensure value for money and given her concern, if she’d like to come and see me about this particular case, I’d be more than happy to see her.”
[PFI or Private Finance Initiative is widely used to fund schools, hospitals and other infrastructure projects. Repayments generally cover capital building and fit-out costs as well as maintenance over a contracted number of years. It’s rather like taking out a mortgage and has the advantage of not increasing the government’s debt.]
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Perry said: “Tax payers are now shelling out almost one million pounds a year in PFI unitary charges for the Savernake redevelopment and yet we have seen a big reduction in our local services including the loss of our minor injuries unit.”
She went on: “The future for hospitals like Savernake is quite uncertain given the size of their PFI commitments…I am determined to get local services back in our local hospitals and we need to get them on a sound financial footing for this to happen.”
The uncertainty about the future of hospital PFI contacts has arisen because of the coalition government’s major restructuring of the NHS. At present the primary care trust (in this case NHS Wiltshire) pays the PFI charges.
Under Mr Lansley’s plans the primary care trust will disappear in 2013 and those costs can hardly be passed directly to the new GP-led clinical commissioning groups. The Department of Health has so far given no indication as to which of the new or existing NHS bodies will pay these costs.
From 2005 the annual PFI charge for the new Savernake development was just over three-quarters of a million pounds a year. For the year 2011-2012 it has risen to an estimated £925,000. This does not take into account payments to NHS Wiltshire by other health bodies that use the buildings.