Local News April 8 – 15

Local News

Including Tutti Day, Kintbury Jubilee Centre, Newbury Car Club, service closures, Build Community Together, a quiz night, the bard, potholes, bees, libraries, festivals and a song from an elusive 70s maverick.

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Congratulations to all those involved in saving Kintbury’s Jubilee Centre. You can read more about this community enterprise here. There seem traditionally only three options for operating services: (a) have the council do it; (b) out-source it to a large specialist company; (c) close it. The problem with (a) is that some councils lack the necessary expertise and economies of scale, and sometimes the will; the problem with (b) is that the companies are sometimes more concerned with making a profit than anything else (which, if they have shareholders, is understandable). There is another route, community ownership, of which we’ll probably be seeing a lot more of in the future. The problem is the time or lack of it that these periodic funding crises seem to allow for any handover to be made in an orderly way. The two big risks for community enterprises, as I know from my experience of the community shop in East Garston, are that the initial wave of enthusiasm isn’t maintained and that the organisation lacks the capital to make necessary investment. I very much hope the KJC will be able to survive and thrive. This and any other similar project in the area will be supported by Penny Post.

I’ve lived near Hungerford for almost 20 years and have a degree in Medieval History but I still can’t quite get my head around all the aspects of Tutti Day which took place this week. You can read more about this remarkable ceremony (the last such surviving in the country) here and see a number of photos of the event on the Hungerford CHAIN site and in this week’s Newbury Weekly News.

The subject of bees has come up here before and here it comes again. The government is once again threatening to introduce neonicotinoid pesticides, banned elsewhere in Europe. Some research suggests that these are a cause of the startling recent decline in the bee population. Given this uncertainty and the fact that bees are, because of their pollination work, one of the most vital creatures on the planet, this doesn’t seem worth the risk. I’m not aware of any looming food crisis here which only the use of these pesticides is likely to solve. If you want to join the 115,000-plus people who’ve so far signed a petition on the subject, you can do so by clicking here. You can also read Jan Doyle’s article on beekeeping here.

Whilst on the subject, a strange story from Germany caught my eye this week. St Pauli in Hamburg is, as I know from a friend of mine who lives there and supports them, a truly remarkable football club. It seems to be as much a local political party and community group as anything else, in stark contrast to most of their rivals in Germany and elsewhere. Why am I telling you this? Well, this week St Pauli has, in response to the declining bee population, become the first club in Germany (and, for all I know, in the world) to install beehives and make its own honey. Residents near the stadium are being encouraged to grow bee-friendly flowers in their gardens and window boxes. You can read more here. Any local sports club here want to follow suit?

On this subject, Newbury in Bloom 2016 has been launched: click here for more on this.

And sticking with wildlife, conservationists are delighted that there’s evidence that otters are still living on the River Kennet, this after one was found dead recently after having eaten rat poison.

Impossible not to give some mention to the Panama papers. This has implicated several usual suspects whose reputations for probity could hardly sink any lower – Chinese party bosses, Middle-Eastern dictators, western plutocrats and, as ever, FIFA, an organisation searched and raided by tax officers and investigators so frequently that I wonder why they don’t just leave the doors open every night. I’m unaware of anyone involved from this area although one well-known family with local connections has been furiously defending itself recently.

The public toilets at The Wharf in Newbury and the Newbury Visitor Information Centre have now closed. Further results of the various cuts are expected to follow over the4 next few weeks and months.

A similar story in Marlborough where the George Lane car park and Chantry Lane toilets will close, although the plan is that the first of these will only be temporary. The future of the Youth Centre there is also uncertain.

The cuts are also likely to affect private businesses as well as public services: The Kennet Pharmacy in George Lane, Marlborough, is one of the 3,000 pharmacies the DoH wants to close over the next nine months.

Confusion still continues about how much some of these axed WBC services cost when split down into their individual parts. This applies particularly to the libraries. You can keep up to date with developments at Hungerford and Lambourn libraries through their ‘Friends of…’ pages.

The library crisis is not restricted to West Berkshire: in Swindon, 14 out of the 15 libraries currently have some or all of their services threatened. There will be an open meeting on the subject at the Community Centre in the Old Town, SN1 3HB. Click here for more information,

A reminder about the Build Community Together (BGT) fund which is designed ‘to strengthen communities across the district and to help them do more for themselves as austerity measures have an increasing impact on services.’ A range of grants and other assistance will be available for local projects. Click here for more information.

Residents of Great Bedwyn and the surrounding villages can click here to have their say on how their communities might change and develop over the coming years.

Following the good turnout at a recent defibrillator training session in Brightwalton by the Oxfordshire Ambulance Team, there are plans for another one. If you’re interested, please contact Sarah at brightwaltonpc@btinternet.com or 01488 639 487

The new Newbury Car Club is now operational – click here for more information.

Please click here for more information on the various reactions to the cuts in West Berkshire, including links to some of the organisations which have been set up to oppose or mitigate these.

What is the capital of Angola? Who won the FA Cup in 1957? Who kept Moët & Chandon in a little cabinet? These are three questions which might (but almost certainly won’t) crop up at the annual East Garston Quiz on Friday 29 April. Some spaces are still available for teams of up to six – contact EdJames@sportingagenda.co.uk to book your table at what is always a great evening. (Answers to the above are Luanda, Aston Villa and the Killer Queen, as you well knew.)

Advance notice of Lis Allen‘s forthcoming Talking Bollocks event  (not to be confused with her recent successful Vagina Dialogues) at Hungerford’s Herongate Leisure Centre on Thursday 28 April.

The recently renovated Shaw House in Newbury is hosting a month-long season of Shakespeare-related events and activities during April.

As mentioned previously, we’re well aware that West Berkshire is not the only council in the area which is facing Westminster’s demands for draconian cuts. Click here to find out more about similar issues in the Unitary Authorities of Wiltshire, Swindon, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, the District Council of Vale of White Horse, and the Town Councils of Newbury, Marlborough, Hungerford and Thatcham.

It seem as if councils in other areas are being hit even harder than West Berkshire – or they aren’t, depending on whether you believe the Labour or the Conservative spokesman in this article from the Yorkshire Post.

Click for this month’s neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (March update here) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire.

West Berkshire’s Library Fest  continues and there will be a wide range of activities in most of the libraries in the area until late April.

West Berkshire Council has formally submitted its Housing Site Allocations Development Plan to the government: subject to approval this will be adopted later this year. For more information, including links to the full document and the consultation responses, click here.

The government has recently announced over £50m worth of funding to fix the potholes in Britain’s roads, of which there are estimated to be over a million, About 3,000 of these are in Swindon, whose council will receive £153,000. I don’t think it’s physically possible to count how many there are in West Berkshire. The only other thing I know about potholes is that, according to John Lennon, there were four thousand in Blackburn, Lancashire; and though the holes were rather small they had to count them all. At least now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Mind you, that was in 1967.

Good news also for residents of Thatcham: West Berkshire Council has been allocated £4m to spend on flood defences for the town.

Volunteers are needed for the Swindon & Cricklade heritage railwayclick here for more.

And still in Wiltshire, click here for details of the wide range of summer festivals in the county.

Several good causes have received valuable financial support recently, including: The Fire Fighters Charity and Cancer UK (thanks to the car wash at Newbury Fire Station); Little Princes Trust (thanks to Victoria Bullock); Marlborough’s Community Youth project (thanks to Waitrose); Bowel Cancer Research (thanks to Anna Jenkins and her six-month-old son Edward); Comic Relief (thanks to students and staff at Bradon Forest School); Wantage Health & Wellbeing Centre (thanks to the Ray Collins Charitable Trust).

  And so the Song of the Week arrives to pour its balm upon our troubled brows. Most people haven’t heard of Bunk Dogger who produced a series of deeply odd songs and a couple of fairly odd albums in the 1970s. His real name was (perhaps) Tim Phillips, a session musician and member of a short-lived band called Spreadeagle who had one album in 1972. He was (maybe) also a rock music writer. I’m not even certain if this Tim Phillips (if he indeed was Bunk Dogger) was American or British, or what. In recent years he seems to have completely disappeared from view although there is a website with some perhaps not totally reliable information about him: and it’s here that you can listen to various songs including Don’t Say it Never Happened with its delicious bass line and its wry and slightly sinister reflections on the well-worn theme of the emotional break-up. It’s odd, it’s home-made and it would certainly never get played on Radio One, now or in any other age. This seems on its own to be a suitable reason for listening to it.

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Brian Quinn

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