Scouting-for-Girls7
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News

Christmas drink drive campaign reveals one per cent increase in offenders

Drivers testing positive for drink or drugs increased by one per cent on last year during the Christmas drink drive campaign carried out across the count by Wiltshire Police.

And too many of them were found to have “consciously” decided to take a gamble by driving while they were probably unfit.

Of a total of 2,760 drivers who were breath tested, 85 either tested positive or refused or failed to provide a sample of breath, some three per cent of the total.

Some 541 of the tests were conducted following road traffic collisions and of those, 25 either tested positive or refused or failed to provide a sample of breath, equivalent to four per cent.

Tests carried out on drivers under 25 totalled 618, of which 26 either tested positive or refused or failed to provide a sample of breath.

Officers also arrested 10 people on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs.  Six of these arrests were made following road traffic collisions.

Steve Cox, Inspector of for Roads Policing and the Serious Collision Investigation Team, told Marlborough News Online:

“This year’s figures show a one per cent increase in the number of those testing positive or failing to provide a sample of breath compared to last year.”

“Drink or drug driving and the possible consequences that can result have a devastating effect not just on individuals but on families, friends and entire communities.”

And he added: “Despite this, there are still those who consciously decide to take a risk and that is unacceptable.”

 “People can be assured that we will always take action against those who choose to take this risk and officers continue to test people every day of every week, not just at Christmas.”

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Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson heads this year’s Marlborough litfest stars

 

Two star performers – Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson and novelist/playwright Michael Frayn – have already been signed up for the third Marlborough Literary Festival, which is due in September.

And there will be more big names to be announced soon, says Mavis Cheek, the author from Aldbourne whose determination created the festival, now going from strength to strength.

This year’s festival takes place on the weekend of 28 to 30 September and, announces a litfest leaflet: “The range of writers, subjects and events continues to be of the highest quality. In 2012 our festival will concentrate on fiction – with a few little interesting asides on the way.”

Howard Jacobson heads the list so far. He won the Man Booker in 2010 for The Finkler Question, the first comic novel to scoop the prize since Kingsley Amis won it in 1986 for The Old Devils.

He has a new novel due out from Bloomsbury in the autumn called Zoo Time, which is set in doomed literary London and stars a downtrodden protagonist with a red-haired, highly strung wife plus a troubling mother-in-law too.

Former journalist Michael Frayn, whose much celebrated play Noises Off is currently running at the Old Vic in London, is one of only a handful of writers who have hit success writing both novels and plays.

He is a remarkable hard worker, who has created no fewer than 10 novels, 14 plays, seven translations, three films, as well as a clutch of TV documentaries and an opera libretto, which have won him international acclaim.

Also signed up for September is Aminatta Forna, born in Glasgow and raised in Sierra Leone and the UK, who is the award-winning author of The Memory of Love, Ancestor Stones and The Devil that Danced on the Water.

Her latest novel The Memory of Love, is a story about friendship, war and obsessive love. It has been selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by the Sunday Telegraph, Financial Times and Times.

The Devil that Danced on the Water, a memoir of her dissident father and of Sierra Leone, was runner up for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003, chosen for the Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers series and serialised on BBC Radio and in The Sunday Times newspaper.

And another name just announced is classic crime writer Nicola Upson, who has also worked as a journalist – she was the New Statesman’s crime reviewer - and in the theatre.

“There are many more to come, plus writing workshops, a poetry café and children’s events,” adds the litfest.

Brewin Dolphin are the festival’s lead sponsor.

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Ideas wanted for Friends of the Railway Path open meeting

The Friends of the Railway Path are holding an open meeting on January 25 to help firm up on plans for developing the Railway Path between Coate Water and Marlborough.  

Ideas and suggestions regarding the potential of the path will be invited from walkers, cyclists, horse riders and others at the meeting.

It aims to identify priorities for what the Friends we should aim to do and what to raise funds for, and it discuss the best ways to involve the community in helping to make it happen

“The meeting is open to all,” says chairman Dick Millard.  Everyone is welcome to come along and help us develop our vision for the future of the path.”

The meeting takes place between 7 and 9pm on Wednesday, January 25 at Calley Memorial Hall, Draycott Road, Chiseldon, SN4 0LS.

www.friendsofthepath.org.uk/index.htm

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Wiltshire’s full time workers suffer the south-west’s worst drop in living standards

For the past three months Marlborough News Online has been reporting the worsening unemployment figures for the Devizes constituency.  Now the GMB union has used official earnings figures to show how those in full time work across the whole of Wiltshire have been hit by falling living standards since April 2007.

The GMB’s analysis used earnings and inflation figures from before the banking crisis and the recession, into the first year of coalition government’s cuts programme right up to September 2011.  This showed that in Wiltshire the real value of earnings has fallen over the period by 14.3 per cent.

The equivalent figure for the whole of the south west area was a drop of eight per cent. And across The United Kingdom the fall was 5.9 per cent.

These percentages are reached by measuring the increase (or in some cases, the decrease) in each area’s mean gross annual pay levels between April 2007 and September 2011 and then seeing how far that increase was eroded by inflation.

In 2007 Wiltshire had the second highest mean gross annual pay level of the fifteen areas in the south west - £30,789.  By 2011 Wiltshire was sixth in the list with £31,102.

The difficulties in recent years experienced by workers at the Honda plant in Swindon are not to blame for Wiltshire’s poor figures.  Swindon was measured separately and showed a drop in the real value of earnings of just 1.1 per cent.

In two areas of the south west the GMB’s research showed up unusually stark results: in Cornwall the mean gross annual full time pay rose from £23,533 to £28,831 and saw a drop in real value of 8.8 per cent.

The lowest mean gross annual full time pay in the survey’s fifteen areas in the south west was Torbay: £21,969 in 2007, but up to £25,562 in 2011.  This gave Torbay the only rise in the real value of earnings over the period – a rise of 1.1 per cent.

The GMB’s Regional Secretary for the south west, Richard Ascough, said the government’s strategy for an economic revival was “in tatters”:  “Two thirds of the economy is consumer driven and [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Osborne must be the only person who does not get it. Squeezing wages, pay freezes and cutting jobs will not restart the economy.”

“Using the International Monetary Fund measures, his cuts will reduce real private consumption by 4 per cent and GDP by 3.4 per cent over the next few years.”

Wiltshire was fifteenth in the GMB’s table of the United Kingdom’s worst affected areas.  Hardest hit of all were the full time workers in Fulham and Hammersmith – the real value of their ages has dropped by a staggering 28.6 per cent. 

Next hardest hit was another rural county, Herefordshire. There the drop in the value of full time earnings was 22.7 per cent.  Among the fifteen worst hit areas across the nation, twelve showed decreases in mean annual pay between 2007 and 2011 – even before inflation had taken its toll on the value of that pay.

Responding to these new figures, Claire Perry, MP for the Devizes constituency, told Marlborough News Online: “I don’t recognise these figures at all and they totally fail to take into account the historically low interest rates the government’s economic policies have delivered that benefit every mortgage holder in Wiltshire, as well as the benefit of the council tax freeze, and the relief on fuel duty that benefited everyone filling up their cars.”

“Everyone knows we have to deal with the debts of the last government and get the economy growing again by helping businesses. It’s time the unions dragged themselves out of the past and dealt with the realities of today.”
 

[NOTE: the published (Office for National Statistics) figures for earnings ran from April 2007 to April 2011 and the GMB analysts uprated those earnings figures to take account of wage rises to September 2011.]
 

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A final positive plea goes out to boost Marlborough town hall revamp project

A final plea seeking support for Marlborough town council’s imaginative plans to revamp the town hall has gone out to residents with just days to go to the end of the official consultation period.

New Year’s Eve is the last day for the return of comments on the project by taking advantage of the detailed leaflet delivered to every house weeks before Christmas outlining the proposed future for the 1902 town hall that stands at the top of the High Street.

The aim is to make it more the focus of Marlborough life and to save money by moving the town council offices back into the building and raising revenue by either letting or selling the current offices.

But the plan has been bedevilled by six Tory councillors who have been accused of issuing a “misleading” leaflet listing six allegedly vital facts - only one of which is true, and claiming that it will create a “massive debt” burden, though the costs are well within the council’s £400,000 annual budget.

And also by launching a petition against the scheme, some Tory councillors standing outside Tesco to seek shoppers’ signatures.

These events stem from the fact that the revamp is being financed by a low interest rate public loans board loan, which will cost £1 million overall but whose annual repayment is well within the council’s budget resources, as repeatedly set out by retired accountant Councillor Andrew Ross, chairman of the council’s finance committee.

“What is remarkable and strange is that the so-called campaign flies totally in the face of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s own policy of investment and job creation, which is exactly what the project will bring to Marlborough,” Councillor Richard Pitts, another committee chairman, told Marlborough News Online.

“This is a typical of the positive ideas the coalition government has been urgently urging local councils to take on to boost the economy in these difficult times, and all part of David Cameron’s big society stimulus.”

“Why these six councillors think they supporting their own party by their actions is, quite honestly, bonkers.  They are simply renegades who continually criticise and knock down most of the positive ideas the council proposes.”

In any case, Marlborough town council is not registered as a political authority under local government legislation, its members acknowledging the needs of the town coming before any party political affiliations, as is the case in most parish and town councils across the country.

The council has already attracted more than £250,000, some towards the cost of the revamp of the Edwardian town hall, high tech facilities now available in the vaulted assembly hall for a range of events, and the town hall entrance improved with new steps.

“It is very disappointing that these councillors have been collecting signatures for a petition,” added Councillor Pitts.

“It would have been far more sensible to urge people to fill out the official town council survey forms and return them instead of being so negative.”

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Never mind the Christmas tinsel, watch the body language

 

A Christmas message from the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, Rector of Marlborough

The news this week before Christmas has been dominated by the deaths of two hugely contrasting political leaders -- Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong II.  Whilst one was a fearless fighter for freedom and truth, the other appears to have been merciless in his suppression of both.

In death as in life, the contrast continues.  The public response to Havels’ death has been restrained and dignified, but above all credible.  The lighting of candles in Wenceslas Square beneath a large Czech flag seems wholly apposite.

In North Korea, the public manifestation of grief feels entirely untrustworthy, an example of the kind of Kitsch that Havel and fellow Czech dissident, Milan Kundera, wrote about so compellingly.  It is an indication of the level of corruption in a state when the histrionics of grief take on a competitive quality.

Generally we believe that actions speak louder than words, but in North Korea it would appear that they are equally misleading.  Body language has ceased to communicate truth.

One of the features of being human is that we know the fragility of the words we utter; often there is a gap between what we say and what we do, between what we profess to be and how we actually behave.

The Christian story in general, and the Christmas part of it in particular, is based on the conviction that God’s Word does not have this kind of gap.

For God -- to speak is to do and to promise is to fulfil.

God’s word tells us that he loves us; God joining our human race in the form of a baby is the action that complements the word. The ‘body language of God’ is not misleading.

Love can never force its own way and is always open to the possibility of rejection. But it is also open to everyone and is therefore endlessly accessible.  For these reasons the Christmas story has a truth all of its own because there is a theological necessity that Jesus is born in the way that he is.

Love makes it reasonable that God’s human shape should be that of a new born child and not an earthly king.  And love makes it possible to believe that God’s coming is not some contract but a free gift.  It allows us to know that we are not cut off from the source of our life.

But God’s coming among us is not intended solely for our comfort; it is intended, too, for our transformation.  And here again, God’s ‘body language’ fits its task – for a new born baby is difficult to ignore and commands our attention.

So as we celebrate Christmas once more, as we celebrate God’s body language, let us also respond and allow such love to change us.

With best wishes for a very Happy Christmas and a New Year that is kind to us all.

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Popular village pub closes

Popular village pub The Three Tuns at Great Bedwyn called last orders for the final time on New Year's Eve, despite a campaign to save it.

Residents were shocked an dismayed when, it September, owners Jason and Amanda Gard announced their intention to seek to decommission the pub and convert it to residential use.

In a statement, the couple said: “We accept that this is a real blow to those who use the pub regularly and those who have been great supporters.

“The simple facts are that that pubs are finding it extremely difficult to survive. Thousands are closing all around the country as recession bites.

“The smoking ban, drink-driving, cheap supermarket booze all contribute to the reasons why less people are going to pubs but the overriding reason is that, in this economic climate, people just do not have the spare cash to spend it going out.

“We have put tens and tens of thousands of pounds every year for the last four years into keeping The Three Tuns afloat – we simply cannot continue to do so.

“We have tried to sell it as a pub but again nobody is buying them and at the present time the banks will not lend against pubs. People will fund loss making businesses for a while but, depressingly, the prospects look worse and not better for the next few years.”

The pub, which has been selling beer to thirsty residents since 1756 and was named by the Daily Telegraph as “One of Britain's best pubs”, remained open until New Year's Eve and closed as the last revellers left in the early hours of New Year's Day.

A campaign to stop conversion at GoPetition, started in November, attracted 207 signatures.

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An optimist who wants to help seeks to become Marlborough’s town clerk


 

An optimist who wants to improve Marlborough for its residents – that’s the description Derek Wolfe (pictured), the would-be new town clerk, gives himself.

He takes over as acting town clerk when Liam Costello leaves on Friday, a locum post that lasts for nine weeks until a new town clerk is chosen from nine candidates by the town council’s staff committee.

And 57-year-old Mr Wolfe, who has had prodigious experience in local government for 35 years, will be one of those seeking to become the permanent holder of the office.

“There will be five or six others involved, so my chances are only 20 per cent,” he told Marlborough News Online.  “You will have to wait to see what happens.”

“But I am definitely on the hopeful side for the future.  I am an optimist.  And at the end of the day I can only really work effectively somewhere where I believe those around me want improvements and future enhancement for the good of the local people.”

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,” explained Mr Wolfe, who lives in Axminster with his wife, and one of two step-children.  “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 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.

And he is fully aware of the cost-cutting and reduced services pressures under which local government is currently working. “Mainsteam local government has been badly hit,” he said.

“But the one big difference with town and parish councils is that they are not subject to rate-capping or expenditure restrictions by government.”

“In theory, town councils can precept and spend what they believe is best for the community.  If they can show they are acting responsibly and using the money for a good beneficial purpose it gives them a certain freedom that doesn’t exist for other tiers of local government.”

Mr Wolfe’s experience in handling budgets worth tens of millions to others as low as £80,000 will enable him to assess local needs.

“Here in Marlborough the town council does all manner of things for the benefit of the local population and, obviously, its annual expenditure of £400,000 is commensurate with that,” he added.

“So I am happy to come here and help in whatever way possible.”

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A giant cheque from the Chamber to boost Wiltshire’s air ambulance service

Giving rather than spending on glitzy presents galore was the order of the day when Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson (pictured right), received a giant cheque for £1,416.20 on the steps of the town hall.

The pre-Christmas presentation was the outcome of the charity fashion show staged in the town hall last month by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce in aid of Wiltshire’s air ambulance.

And there to present it were Chamber president Paul Shimell from Specsavers and Effie Robins, manager of the Joules store in the High Street, who organised the event in which local fashion stores and Waitrose all played a role.

The air ambulance is one of the mayor’s two dedicated charities during his year in office, and it alone has already benefited from his interest by £1,500.

“So with almost £1,500 from the fashion show we have always raised £3,000, which is great,” Councillor Kirk Wilson told Marlborough News Online.

“It was a wonderful event and speaks so well of how the Chamber, the fashion stores and all those involved worked so hard to boost the community and this particular charity.”

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It’s new year jobs – and all that jazz – for two working mums

The new year brings new chances and in the office of Marlborough’s international jazz festival its time for job swops for mums seeking back to work opportunities.

Mother of two Kirsty Murphy, 36, who has been the festival’s database administrator for three years is on the move.  Her task takes but one day a week but with her second child now at school, she is seeking extended employment.

And into her shoes has stepped 39-year-old Lorraine Perry, another mother of two, who is seeking a gentle return to work after more than five years away from employment bringing up Isobel, five, and Edward, who is four.

“Now my youngest is also at Preshute school I have more time to work,” she explains.  “So I need to ease myself slowly back into a working life and one day a week to start with is very attractive to me.”

Lorraine worked for Vodaphone for almost eight years – her husband David still does – before taking a job in marketing and internal communications.  Now she is looking forward to life in the festival’s High Street office.

“I used to really enjoy the festival before the children arrived,” she admits.  “I like a bit of all sorts of music. Robbie Williams has to be a favourite.”

“I suppose I used to be a bopper but children don’t allow too much bopping these days.”

For Kirsty, mother of Libby, four, and Annie, seven, her task in the festival office has grown and become more and more interesting. “It’s been lots of fun,” says Kirsty, whose husband Martin works for Xerox.

“I’ve enjoyed the experience very much, but now I have more time to work and the festival being a charity couldn’t offer me any more hours than the one day I was doing.”

“So that’s the only reason why I’m leaving and Lorraine is taking over from me.”

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GWH support workers say they are prepared to take strike action

Support workers at Great Western Hospital employed by the contractor Carillion, have declared overwhelmingly that they are prepared to take strike action in a dispute over alleged bullying of staff.  There was a one hundred per cent ‘yes’ vote in the consultative ballot, on an eighty-nine per cent turnout of the GMB union’s one hundred and fifty members.

Andy Newman, the local branch secretary, explained: “Staff feel very strongly that they are being harassed and bullied, that the system for booking holidays is unfair, and they are angry that Carillion will not talk to their chosen union, the GMB.”

The GMB will now move to a formal strike ballot in the New Year.

The GMB alleges that an attempt was made by Carillion to prevent staff from voting in the consultative ballot.  Andy Newman says: “Carillion wrote to GMB falsely claiming that our ballot was illegal, so we brought in a solicitor to act as a legal observer.  We know that Carillion tried to prevent staff from speaking to us, even on their break times.”

The GMB trade union which represents 150 of Carillion’s 200 strong workforce at the hospital is proposing industrial action over allegations of bullying, discrimination and harassment.  They have presented Carillion management with a formal complaint signed by over a hundred staff.

Mr Newman is calling on Carillion to negotiate to prevent a strike.  “No one wants a strike in the NHS” he said, “but currently Carillion are refusing to talk to us.”

GMB wants the NHS Trust to intervene, and investigate the claims of bullying.   GMB’s local organiser, Carole Vallelly said: “The relationship between the NHS trust and Carillion is due to the private PFI funding of the hospital, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Carillion are the supplier, and the NHS representing the general public, are the customer.”

Ms Vallelly added “If there is a strike, then Carillion will not be providing the services that the NHS trust is paying for.  So the trust does have an interest in resolving the dispute.  It is a scandal that Carillion will not talk to the union to try to avert the strike, and the NHS trust should tell Carillion to get their act together.”

Oonagh Fitzgerald, GWH’s director of workforce and education has said that she was sure that Carillion would investigate any complaints openly and fairly with any complaint, but that it is a question for the contractor, not for the NHS trust.

The GMB believes the NHS Trust’s position is mistaken.  “We are keen to avoid a strike, but we have to emphasise that Carillion are not dealing with the issue at all, and are currently refusing to sit down and talk with us.  So staff who are being bullied feel they have no alternative other than to consider industrial action.”

In their only statement on the dispute, Carillion said they had not received the allegations to which the GMB has referred.

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