Including library needs assessments, Brexit fallout, good causes, HADCAF, community opera in Swindon, police and roadwork updates, RIP Newbury Magistrates’ Court, RIP (for the moment) Sandleford Park consultation, saving money on water, the thwarting of a charity fraudster, a sheep-herding suggestion, Ringo, Tom Jones and Iceland’s parliament.
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• Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Click here for news of the planned road closures in Marlborough during next month’s jazz festival. Click here and here for updates on the delay to the major roadworks planned for Akers Way in Swindon. Click here for details of road closures in Marlborough as a result of the Jazz Festival on 16 July.
• Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (June update here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire. See also here for specific advice on what’s known as courier fraud.
• West Berkshire Libraries has launched its Roald Dahl-themed ‘Big Friendly Read‘ Summer Reading Challenge.
• Also up and running is this years Hungerford & District Community Arts Festival (HADCAF) – click here for details of the wide range of events..
• In addition, the following weekly events take place at the Lambourn Library: Kit and Natter, Tuesdays 2pm to 4pm; Art Group, Wednesdays 10am to 11.45am; English Conversation Group, Fridays 2pm to 3pm; Book Group, second Tuesday of the month at 4.30pm. For more information, contact [email protected] or call 01488 71350.
• The Wantage Carnival, organised by the indefatigable Ray Collins, takes place this Sunday, 10 June.
• A reminder that the bus services in the Lambourn area are changing later this month – click here for details.
• The fur continues to fly in the dispute about the closure of Wantage Community Hospital with a local councillor criticising the scrutiny committee which is holding talks with the Oxford Health NHS Foundation over the matter.
• And another swipe, this time from a West Berkshire Lib Dem councillor concerning West Berkshire Council’s handling of the confusions at the Padworth and Smallmead recycling centres.
• If you’d like to save money on your water bills (perhaps up to £180 a year), Thames Water is offering Newbury residents free visits from its water-saving experts.
• I’m a little bit confused as to what is going on with the Sandleford Park Consultation. An article in this week’s Newbury Weekly News says that the public consultation event for this large development has been cancelled ‘due to unforeseen circumstances.’ I then had a look at the Bloor Homes site for this project but couldn’t see anything about this. In any event the site was almost impossible to use as every time I went forward or backwards a page popped up asking me to provide my email address. I couldn’t see anything about this on the Donnington New Homes site, either (whose main interest also seemed to be in my email address, albeit less intrusively).
• The library needs assessment commissioned by West Berkshire Council requires that the appointed management consultants visit each library in order to obtain the views of its users. Click here for details of dates for visits to your local library. If you use these services at all or know anyone who does or if you worry that your children or grand-children might be deprived of the mind-expanding opportunities that libraries provide then do your best to be there to make you views known.
• With regard to this needs assessment, note the following important points. If you are unable to visit the library yourself you can still make your point of view heard by emailing[email protected]. Even if you have already made your views known, such as in the recent consultation organised by West Berkshire Council before the cuts were announced, you need to do so again by contacting Red Quadrant.
• Please click here for details of a petition which will seek to ensure that the results of the needs assessment are fully published and discussed and that other supporting information is made publicly available.
• Good news for those who believed they were donating clothing to the British Heart Foundation but in fact were handing it over to a fraudster: he’s now been convicted and the 250-odd bags have been delivered to the BHF as you intended.
• If you are a sheep farmer and having trouble finding a suitable animal to protect and round up your flock, have a look at this clip for a possible solution.
• I’ve never had to appear in court, thank goodness, and hope I never shall. Those who are, wrongly or rightly, accused of a crime or are witnesses to one will now have further to travel as the Newbury Magistrates’ Court has closed its doors for the last time. The decision, announced some months ago amongst so many other cuts, left me with a vague feeling of unease. I don’t know enough about the matter to say whether it’s better that justice be provided in the community where the offence took place or if removing the judgement elsewhere will make the decision more objective. I can see there are arguments both ways. What’s for sure, though, is that the closure of the Newbury Magistrates’ Court has not been for reasons of legal excellence but for financial expediency. The legal system underpins the entire fabric of society. There are plenty of depressing examples from the past and the present as to what happens to a country where the legal system has collapsed or is, or is even perceived as being, dysfunctional in some way. I don’t think this decision takes us to this point but it seems to be edging us slightly in that direction.
• About 10 ago there was a BBC vote for the greatest ever Briton. I think Churchill (a man who on his own admission was inspired by a mixture of ‘brandy and crisis’) came first. I’m also fairly sure that Isambard Kingdom Brunel (what must his parents have been think of when they christened him?) came second. His architectural and engineering achievements, often in the teeth of fierce opposition, are staggering, particularly in this part of the country, and most particularly in Swindon. An community opera by the Janice Thompson Performance Trust celebrating his life – The Little Man in the Tall Hat – is being performed this weekend in the appropriate setting of STEAM’s Great Western Hall in Swindon on Saturday 9 July and Sunday 10 July. Click here for more details.
• The Canal and River Trust is looking for volunteers to help improve the bank of the Kennet & Avon Canal in and around Kintbury. Click here for more information on the organisation or email [email protected] if you want to help with this specific project. The work will take place on Monday 18 July and Wednesday 17 August.
• This weekend sees the 150th Swindon Traditional Children’s Fête takes place on Saturday 9 July at GWR Park.
• There’s been a lot written and spoken about the recent EU Referendum recently. The turmoil in our political parties exceeded anything that any of us expected. I’ve given my own summary of this in ten (rather long) sentences here. What’s going to happen next is anyone’s guess. Divisions have been opened up which will take some time to heal and things have been said that can’t be unsaid. It struck me the other day that the extraordinary behaviour of most of the senior politicians since the vote all makes perfect sense if one assumes that (i) most of them, except for Farage, were for reasons of their own saying the opposite of what they believed and (ii) that none of them believed that the Leave campaign would win. The problem with seemingly simple questions like the one posed two weeks ago is that it’s hard to divorce specific feelings about the EU from ones about one’s own circumstances and the state of the country. As the Leave option involved taking action and the Remain option involved taking none, there was always going to be an element of protest vote attached to the former. The result is the result and we all have to accept it but there was certainly a lot of background noise. I can’t help thinking, for instance, that were the vote to have been held before and not after the announcement of the budget cuts the result would have been different. Anyway, we are where we are (wherever exactly that is).
• A final thought, taken from this fortnight’s Private Eye (which, as might be expected, is in particularly cracking form, helped by most of the political parodies it excels in creating being presented to it more or less fully-formed by real-life events): the margin of victory was 1,269,501, rather fewer than than the 12,923,225 eligible voters who didn’t bother to vote at all. I don’t think making it illegal not to vote, as in Australia, would be a good idea (sounds a bit bossy to me). What might be worth doing is saying that if you don’t vote then you’re regarded as having voted for the status quo – the sitting MP/councillor or, if they’re not standing, their replacement from that party, the do-nothing referendum option and so on.
• Once again, a stroll through the letters’ pages of the Newbury Weekly News provides some fairly trenchant suggestions as to how we can, as the politicians say, move on from and draw a line under and learn lessons from the current uncertainty.
• One large local company which has said that it won’t be leaving the area as a result of the vote (though, like everything else on the subject, this could change tomorrow) is Vodafone. Personally, I’m less concerned about where they are located than the quality of their customer service which is in my experience completely (The last word here has been removed on legal advice – Ed)
• Many organisations are hoping that some practical, beneficial and long-lasting change out the current turmoil and uncertainty. One such is Greenpeace (whose leaking of documents in May seems to have done much to publicise the appalling implications of the proposed TTIP deal): click here for details about their current campaign.
• For any Welsh Penny Post readers out there, your lads did brilliant. Better, perhaps, to lose to Portugal in the semi final than to lose to Germany in the final. I know that Germany haven’t got to the final yet but, Francophile though I am, I think they will. Later this month will be the 50th anniversary of the last time England won anything. This match is mentioned at every opportunity, no anniversary too tenuous to avoid printing a picture of Nobby Stiles dancing around Wembley without his false teeth. They think it’s all over – I don’t think it ever will be. The prospects of another final for England are remote indeed.
• A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: The Lewis Moody Foundation (thanks to Lola and Tyron Mills of Kingsclere); Kennet Valley Carriage Driving for the Disabled (thanks to the open gardens in Lockeridge); Cancer Research (thanks to the blue-haired William Thomas and Ethan Weir from Kennet School and also The Newbury & Districy Amateur Radio Society); Ark Cancer Centre (thanks to the recent Music in the Garden event at East Woodhay); Christian Aid (thanks to householders in Newbury)
• So to this week’s Song of the Week: keeping the Welsh theme going, here’s a strange little gem from the wonderful band Space: The Ballard of Tom Jones from their 1998 album Tin Planet. Although they aren’t from Wales, Tom Jones certainly is, as is Cerys Matthews who performed on this. A lot of people (but not me) think the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is a great song. This one is better and certainly has more intelligent (and, as Shane MacGowan’s not involved) more comprehensible and tuneful exchanges between the two singers, who spend most of the song saying in no uncertain terms what they really think about each other. Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf is another song that tries this trick. Can’t think of any others.
• This week’s Quiz Question of the Week relates to a birthday (it’s Ringo’s today, 7 July) and is this. Ringo Starr aka Richard Starkey received sole writing credits for two Beatles songs: name either of them. Last week’s Iceland has the world’s oldest what? Iceland has the world’s oldest parliament, dating back to the 930s. Claims for the oldest continuous parliament might be made by the Isle of Man; but as that is not an independent state (though perhaps, after the Scots have another go at leaving, they may be next) I’m not counting it. If you want to query my judgment then please sue me, in Iceland or the Isle of Man, as you prefer. For reasons described above, any hearing will not take place in the Newbury Magistrates’ Court. Actually, there’s a thought – perhaps our entire legal system could be outsourced to an Icelandic company based, for tax reasons, in the Isle of Man. Don’t snigger at the back, there – it could happen…
Local News July