Including local NHS reform plans released, last chance on Sandleford, councillor numbers, two fat ladies (or perhaps Danny la Rue) in East Garston, Newbury Town Plan, a 15-year-old film-maker, more waste wars, free parking days, advice for carers, good causes celebrated, traffic and fire-service news, local police updates for November, crowdfunding, careers springboard, registering to vote, hare coursing, library review, fugitive odours, Santa’s beard, Swindon’s fringe, Frayn’s Spies, Wantage’s costumes, Marlborough’s lights, Thatcham’s vision, a cat up a pole (but not for 47 years), the next letter and the late Mr LC in full cry.  If you would like to add your thoughts to anything in this post, please use the ‘Comments’ box at the foot of the page. Once moderated, your comment will be visible to other users.  Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.  • Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Note in particular that September will see a number of closures in West Berkshire as a result of bridge maintenance works by Network Rail.  If you use M4 J16, be prepared for major junction improvement roadworks starting in mid-October. Lower Denford Road in Hungerford will be closed between Monday 7 November and Friday 2 December while fibre-optic cable is installed. Expect delays at Greenbridge Roundabout in Swindon until early December.  • Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (November’s update here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury Town Centre; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here (October) for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire (Marlborough’s page here).  • A reminder that the future of the libraries in West Berkshire is currently being consulted on by West Berks Council (closes 11 December). Also relevant to this is the report commissioned from Red Quadrant and West Berkshire Council’s interim summary of this. You may also want to see what groups such as the Friends of Hungerford Library, and the Friends of Lambourn Library have to say about this. Both organisations hold meetings from time to time which are publicised on the above Facebook posts and elsewhere (including here): the next Friends of Lambourn Library meeting, for instance, will take place at 5,30 on Friday 2 December in the Memorial Hall.  • A reminder about the crowdfunding campaign for The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat. You can also read about the pub, its owners Lauren and Ollie and their many plans for this delightful venue in this month’s Out & About magazine (available with this week’s Newbury Weekly News).  • The same magazine also has an interesting article about that seemingly quintessentially English form of seasonal entertainment, the pantomime, and shows that its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy.  • Two developers are contesting West Berkshire Council’s refusal of permission for a plan to build up to 720 homes between Thatcham and Cold Ash. The dispute seems partly to turn on how many new houses the area is expected to provide by 2026.  • Friday 25 November is the last day to have your say on the proposed large development at Sandleford. Visit the West Berkshire Council website for more information.  • Last week we mentioned a report in the Newbury Weekly News about a proposal to reduce the number of councillors in West Berkshire from 52 to 40 and to re-draw some of the ward boundaries to reflect recent and likely future demographic changes (similar changes are planned for other areas). You can click here to read the official announcement from West Berks. I’m unclear whether the main reason is administrative efficiency, consistency with other councils or cost (NWN estimates the move will save about £70,000): a combination, perhaps. This mirrors similar changes planned for the number of MPs. My only slight concern about all this is that reducing the number of elected representatives can have the effect of reducing their ability effectively to scrutinise measures proposed by the executive or organisations like the NHS (see below). Fewer representatives also makes it easier for such organisations to get their own way, there being fewer MPs or councillors to lobby. I’m making a general point, you understand, not any specific accusations.  • A final reminder that you must be registered to vote. Everyone should have received a form: in West Berkshire at least, this must be returned by Monday 28 November. Responding to this form is a legal requirement.  • The Swindon Fringe Festival is seeking additional sponsors for its annual event.  • We’ve referred to Hungerford’s Drew Casson’s prodigious film output (and you can read a review of his latest movie, The Darkest Dawn, here). An even younger film-maker is 15-year-old Jake Olive from Swindon (who made his first film when he was six, if you please).  • We mentioned last week about leaked plans for the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for NHS services in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. The document itself can be seen by clicking here (scroll to foot of page for the PDF link). Early on, the document speaks of three ‘gaps’ in the areas of Health & Wellbeing; Care & Quality; and Finances. It lists the familiar challenges of increasing demand for services particularly from the elderly, infrastructure repairs and the difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff. ‘If we carry on as we are,’ the section concludes, ‘there will be a financial gap of £479m  by 2020.’ To put this in perspective, this is about the same as the entire budget for West Berkshire Council over this period. The health budget for the area as a whole is £2.5bn so this is close to a 20% shortfall (or overspend). The NHS employs 37,000 in the area (rather more than the population of Newbury) and sees 18,000 patients a day. This is just in these three counties. Overall, 1.7m people are employed by the NHS: worldwide, only the US Department of Defence, the Chinese Army, Walmart and McDonalds have more staff.  These are staggering statistics.  • The report lists in detail a large number of challenges and their proposed solutions. On page 97, the document explains the background to the creation of the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plan geographical areas, or ‘footprints’, of which the Bucks, Berks and Oxon footprint is but one. ‘In December 2015,’ the section begins, ‘the NHS outlined a new approach to help ensure that health and care services are built around the needs of the local population,’ a slightly ambiguous phrase that leaves open the question as to whose needs they’d been catering for previously. Many of the sections that follow this discuss slightly slippery concepts such as ‘working with communities to inform and engage,’ ‘cross-organisational working,’ ‘communication and engagement channels’ and ‘maximising local insight’. Reference is also made to a number of specific local programmes like the Berkshire West 10 (p110).  • According to many estimates, and perhaps particularly in light of yesterday’s rather gloomy Autumn Statement from the Chancellor, the country can no longer afford the NHS in its current form. The sheer scale of the task of reform is dizzying, a fact the document recognises. At the very end, it lists possible obstacles to the reforms (‘issues which present risks to its successful delivery’). These include public sensitivity and cynicism, transparency around decision-making, political involvement, fear of change, lack of stakeholder buy-in, inconsistent communication and consultation fatigue. The comment following ‘political involvement’ seems particularly revealing: ‘the closure or perceived reduction of services has already resulted in the formation of campaign groups with MP and local-councillor support.’ This is hardly surprising as both MPs and councillors are elected to represent the interests of their constituents. Both will increasingly find themselves in an invidious position: if they get involved in such activities they could be accused by Whitehall of impeding necessary change but if they don’t they’ll risk losing their seats. Obviously the slimmer the majority the more these pressures will tell. I don’t know if there’s a link between the size of an MP’s majority and the extent to which he or she tends to respond to local interests rather than those of their party or the government. It’s certainly to be hoped that, as this section of the document goes on to say, the local politicians will be ‘as informed as possible.’ I think we would all echo that sentiment.  • It’s not just the local NHS that is mapping out its future, Newbury Council is inviting residents to contribute to the Newbury Town Plan Steering Group. This is intended to help shape the development of the town over the next 20 years, a time-scale even more ambitious than that of the above-mentioned STP. ‘The purpose of the plan,’ Newbury Town Council’s Chief Executive Hugh Peacocke explains, ‘is to provide our ideas on how Newbury might grow and develop over that period (2019-36) and the opportunities, issues and constraints which we foresee.’ The Plan will include ten or so topics including planning, transport, recreation and education. The details of this are currently being finalised and as soon as anything is offically announced we’ll let you know.  • Meanwhile, a similar plan concerning Thatcham created by Thatcham Vision was endorsed by West Berkshire Council this week.  • Also seeking your input is Mid & West Berkshire Local Access Forum which offers advice to Reading, West Berks and Wokingham Councils on improving access to the countryside and outdoor recreation.  • And slightly further north, a preliminary draft of the Vale of White Horse Council’s Local Plan has recently been published.  • The Christmas lights in Hungerford, Newbury and Swindon will each be switched on on Sunday 27 November. Residents of Thatcham and Wantage will have to wait until Friday 2 December to see theirs.  The lights in Marlborough experienced some weather-related problems but these have now been fixed.  • These events make it a good moment to mention the fascinating  dark skies maps of our local AONB area (North Wessex Downs).  • An official review into the A34’s worsening safety record is going to take place soon according to NW Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse.  • There have been several cases of hare coursing and lamping in the Marlborough area. Quite apart from any ethical considerations, the activity is illegal and causes a good deal of damage. Have a look at the exchanges on this post which include advice about what to do if you see any evidence of this.  • The controversy about the proposed knacker’s yard and incinerator near Great Shefford has, as reported in this week’s Newbury Weekly News, resurfaced after the developers resubmitted plans to the Council. As usual with such schemes there are widely differing claims about the impact of the scheme, the developers asserting confidently that there is ‘no risk of groundwater pollution’ (no risk at all? Really?) and that the ‘fugitive odour…should not be a reasonable cause for complaint,’ while various local groups including race horse trainers, the AONB, the NAWT, the Environment Agency and some local councillors think otherwise. Click here to view the application on West Berkshire Council’s website.  • There’s a by-election on Thursday 1 Dec to fill the two vacant seats on Greenham Parish Council. See this week’s Newbury Weekly News (page 12 in the Hungerford edition) for information about all four candidates.  • The Chaddleworh and Shefford School Christmas Fair, organised by the school’s PTA, will take place in Blakeney Fields in Great Shefford from 10am to 2pm on Saturday 26 November.  • The Quality & Care Commission has lifted its warning notice on Great Western Hospital after noting ‘further and sufficient progress’ in meeting the regulator’s requirements.  • Click here for information on a proposed new music festival in Marlborough from 2018.  • The so-called waste wars are back in the news with a report in today’s Newbury Weekly News that Veolia is considering seeking permission to expand the Padworth site to take household waste from West Berkshire residents. Meanwhile, click here for waste and recycling reforms proposed by Oxfordshire County Council.  • Alarming news in from Great Shefford about the possible threat to Santa’s beard (and what you can do to help).  • There will be some free parking days in Newbury in the run up to Christmas. Click here for more information.  • And the same deal applies in Marlborough, with free parking on Thursday 1 December.  • Most generous seems to be Vale of White Horse Council which will have free parking in Wantage every Friday in December before Christmas (similar arrangements apply in Abingdon and Faringdon).  • A reminder that Bluebird Care is offering Community Grants to groups which work with older people in Swindon and the surrounding area.  • According to Carers UK, each day 6,000 people start caring for a friend or family member. In many cases this eposes the carers to a wholly new set of challenges, one of which is being aware of and obtaining all the help, advice and support to which they are entitled. Click  here for details of an Carers’ Rights event on Friday 25 November at the Royal British Legion in Pelican Lane, Newbury – a number of specialist organisations such as Age UK, Citizens Advice and the social-care departments of West Berkshire Council will be on hand  to provide a range of valuable information on these points.  • If you’re looking for work, Careers Springboard West Berkshire (CSWB) is an executive job club run by volunteers to help redundant and unemployed managers and executives in the Newbury area find a new position. It meets on Wednesdays in Broadway House, near the Newbury Clock Tower from 1.45 to about 4.00 pm. Each meeting includes a workshop or presentation on a job search topic such as CV preparation, interview skills and networking.  The programme cycle runs three times a year, starting in January, April and September, but candidates can join at any time.  Volunteers can also provide individual one-to-one coaching on any aspect of the job search.  There is no charge for the services and it operates as a charity. For further information click here or e-mail enquiries@careerswestberks.org.uk.  • Residents and stallholders in Wantage are being urged to turn out ‘as Victorian as possible’ for this year’s Dickensian evening on Friday 2 December.  • Some of the nicknames used for bingo numbers are obscure enough to be the clues in a seriously cryptic crossword: Doctor’s orders is, apparently, nine, The Lord is my Shepherd is 23 and Shott’s Bus is 56. Probably there are local variations as well. If there are any terms specific to the Lambourn Valley then you can hear them at the East Garston Prize Bingo Event at the Village Hall on Sunday 4 Dec (1.30pm for 2pm).  • Various agencies in and around Swindon are uniting to help highlight and combat the problems of domestic violence and abuse.  • If you’re looking for some reading ideas then we suggest you visit the Hungerford Bookshop’s Book of the Week. A new title and a brief review will be added each week until Christmas at least. The latest recommendation is a wonderful novel by Micheal Frayn (then again, all his novels are wonderful).  • Next week’s Penny Post will see the launch of the Penny Post Christmas Quiz – watch this space (You said that last week – Ed. I know I did but there a just a few little tweaks and…Well, get a move on – Ed.)  • No reputable summary of the week is complete without some footage of a cat rescue: here’s one of black and white moggy Fat Boy being hauled down from the top of a telegraph pole in California (I know that’s not very local but it could happen anywhere). Reminds me of Simeon Stylites, the fourth-century Syrian saint who lived on the top of a pillar. Fat Boy was only on his pole for eight days: Simeon was up on his for 47 years.  • A number of good causes have received valuable financial support recently, including: Mencap (thanks to the recent quiz at The Starting Gate in Newbury); Children in Need (thanks to local fundraisers too numerous to mention, including Newbury Big Issue salesman Kevin Collick and Wantage mum Catherine Lee); members of the Lambourn British Legion (thanks to Graham White and the staff at The Plough in Eastbury); Young People and Children First (thanks to Tesco); Time 2 Talk (thanks to Greenham Common Trust);  Cards for Good Causes (thanks to Barclays Bank); Unicef (thanks to the recent coffee morning in Newbury);  Save the Children (thanks to the bake sale in Newbury); Farm Africa (thanks to pupils at Down Infants School); Macmillan (thanks to staff at Stacatruc in Thatcham); the Bone Cancer Research Trust (thanks to the recent bake off at The Swan in Kingsclere); Prior’s Court (thanks to the Lambourn Horse Show); Hungerford’s wonderful Christmas lights (thanks to many organisations and individuals)  • And so the Song of the Week craves your attention. Leonard Cohen died this week. He’s turned a few gorgeous phrases in his time: where does one start? Well, Dance Me to the End of Love is as good a place as any. Moving, catchy, beautiful. Pure class.  • And finally the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question comes from a list of possible questions for a possible future Penny Post quiz suggested by Julian Rota of Bertram Rota booksellers: What is the next letter in this sequence – A E F H I K? It might help if I revealed that the fact they’re in capitals is important. Last week’s came from a quiz I went to last year or something I read somewhere or perhaps even something I made up, I’m really not sure, and is as follows: What is the only word in English that contains all six vowels in alphabetical order? Well, it seems there are two (thanks also to Julian Rota for pointing this out): abstemiously and facetiously – two useful words to bear in mind as the season of over-indulgence and pantomimes approaches.   For more news follow Penny Post on Facebook and Twitter  Brian Quinn Local News November


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