Local News 2-9 April 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including a briefer than usual survey of the news around the towns and parishes, Hungerford’s newsletter, Chaddleworth’s enclosures, Newbury’s virtual meeting, Henwick’s pitch, Denchworth’s chips, Wiltshire’s letter, Wantage and Grove’s pulled plug, testing problems, patient zero, getting the R0 down, CV-19 myths, begging the bankers, 1940, 1945, essential journeys, local newspapers, cats off the hook, an apparent cougar, faffing about, Newspeak in action, parking charges, 80 episodes, the little ships and a Spanish weeping willow.

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.

Police, transport and council contacts

Information on police, transport (including roadworks) and district councils can now be found on a separate page here.

Links to the websites for town and parish councils can still be found in the appropriate sections below.

Across the area (and further afield)

• So – where are we? The lockdown in the UK seems to be having some results though it’s too early to tell for sure. Most now agree that the government should have acted earlier (see below). The numbers of infections and deaths are rising but it remains to be seen if any pattern is going to be sustained. Statistics like these from John Hopkins University show confirmed cases increasing in what looks to me to be an exponential way. These figures perhaps tell us at least as much about the increase in testing, which was not happening nearly as widely (and in many countries at all) two months ago. Coronavirus probably jumped species in China late last year. A couple of months elapsed before any real notice was taken, during which time it would have been spread but its unknowing carriers. This article in Medical News Today suggests that Coronavirus’ serial interval – the time between an infection and the infectious person displaying symptoms, at which point their chances of passing it on vastly increase – is about four days. This is quite short, similar to that of colds and flu which in this way (though not in all ways) CV-19 closely resembles. The shorter the serial interval, the less time there is to trace and quarantine possible contacts. The article contrasts this with Ebola, which had a serial interval of several weeks. An analogy might be dealing with a car accident at 110mph compared to one at 25. The problem it’s causing us largely stems from this aspect; and the fact that as a new and cross-species virus, there was no human resistance to it.

All of this makes the the UK government’s response particularly disappointing. The aspect that they’re really getting in the neck concerns testing. There are two companies in Northern Ireland which were shipping testing kits to Germany on January and February. It seems that they had by then received no orders from the the Department of Health. Some of the the newspapers on 2 April use words like ‘shambles’ and ‘chaos’ and it’s hard to disagree. One article in The Lancet calls the delay ‘a national scandal’; another details some specific and authoritative advice which was tendered in late January, no aspect of which was followed. Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of the Francis Crick research institute, is quoted on the BBC website as saying that situation needs a Dunkirk-like effort. He’s not referring to the spirit and attitude associated with that event – though that will be needed too – but the fact that small specialist organisations have a total role to play as well as the government’s ‘big destroyers’. The current government target is for 25,000 tests a day to be done from this week and four times that number by the end of the month. The Francis Crick institute says it will soon be able to perform 500 of these. Meanwhile, a company associated with the University of Cambridge had developed a testing kit which can produce results 90 minutes.

With regard to ventilators, the government was accused by the Financial Times on 28 March of having been deficient in its response, and has rebutted this. This article from The BBC website suggests that that the private sector may provide at least part of the solution by creating open-source design for ventilators. As for protective equipment, there are numerous stories of NHS staff having to adopt a ‘make do and mend’ – or ‘buy it yourself’ – approach. This article in The Guardian claims that staff are being pressured by the NHS – which has form on this – not to speak out about shortages of equipment or precautions. And yet we know that such shortages exist. The BBC website, quoting figures that I’ve not seen contradicted, claims  that fewer than 4,000 front-line NHS staff had been tested. The NHS employs about 1.7m people. Not all of these are front-line but, even so, 0.2% of staff tested seems like an alarmingly low figure for the sixth richest county in the world with national experts on hand and a storm warning that must surely have been available to those who were paid to interpret its message. The message from the WHO has been clear enough for some time: ‘test, test, test.’

It’s very easy to criticise governments. It’s also very easy for governments, at times of national emergency, to claim that what they are doing is beyond criticism. This government may now be doing the right thing but too late. Post-Brexit fatigue, the general election and Christmas could all be offered as excuses. However, there are officials and experts on every ministry whose ears ought to twitch at the slightest sound, regardless of the background noise. The UK is an island state that is rich, well organised and relatively socially obedient. We’re not South Korea or Singapore, where the virus has been almost suppressed, but we’re closer to that end of the stick than are a lot of other places. These advantages have been partly frittered away by inaction. No rational person is going to question the wisdom of measures such as social distancing. What we do need to do is to remember the fairly rapid sequence events that have unfolded and see if matters could have been better arranged. This important because what is happening now will almost certainly happen again. Our current Prime Minister is a fan of Winston Churchill and has cast himself in something of the same role: to be fair, as soon as he started listening to scientific advice he has discharged his oratorial skills well. He might be reflecting on what happened to Churchill and his party in the 1945 general election. Certainly if those who made (or failed to make) the necessary decisions are not held to account afterwards then there is something badly wrong with our system of government.

• Moving back to the virus itself rather than the response to it, there’s still a lot of uncertainty, though less so than a few months ago, as to the speed and principal vectors of its spread. The average number of people that each infected person infects is called the R0. This was in the 2-3 range but recent measures have reduced this to about 2. The difference between an exponential spread at R0 of 2 and at R0 3 is vast. The aim is to get it to less than 1, at which point the epidemic effectively collapses. Most people circulate for most of the time within fairly small groups, a pattern which will contain the infection. The main agent of more widespread transmission is a super spreader. In less mobile times there would have been very few of these, mainly merchants. Today there are 10s of millions of super spreaders, hopping on and off planes and trains every day. To some extent, as the global spread proves, they have already done their damage. However, any reduction in contact is still vitally important: for every human contact that would have taken place and now does not, the R0 is pushed fractionally lower.

This also needs to apply to interactions with objects. It seems pretty certain that the virus can survive on cardboard for 24 hours and stainless steel for up to three days. Encouragingly, however, the research also suggested that the number of viruses declined quite quickly: after a certain time, the number left on a particular object might no longer be dangerous. Director close  human contact seems to be the main method of transmission.

There’s also uncertainty as to whether, or to what extent, asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people are infectious. Current research seems to suggest that in both cases they are but to a lesser extent. Nor is it yet clear if the severity of the symptoms are linked to the number of viruses one is infected by, the ‘viral load’. With flu and SARS, there was a correlation but it with CV-19 there might not be. 

Another difference between CV-19 and flu, revealed as a result of numerous scientific groups tracking the virus in real time, is that it that CV-19 seems to be mutating more slowly. This should enable vaccines (when these arrive – candidates are being tested already) to be more effective. Viruses mutate all the time: although in general this makes them less virulent, the point can be reached when our antibodies no longer recognise it. There can also be benefits from mutations. During the H1Ni outbreak 11 years ago, the virus mutated into something with a very similar DNA to an earlier flu to which many people over 50 had already been exposed and against which they therefore had some immunity. 

This visual animation clearly and effectively shows how the virus has spread since late January.

The epidemic has spawned an incalculable number of articles on the subject (including this article) which are sometimes overtaken by events even as one is pressing the ‘post’ button. There are also a large number of phrases and words which might in some cases have, or appear have, a scientific basis but which often do not. One of many examples is the term ‘patient zero’, a dramatic and seemingly specific expression which this article does a good job of debunking. Myths, rumours and bogus claims on social media can reproduce very quickly (there is probably valuable work to be done on whether there’s any similarity between the spread of viruses and of internet lies). This post on the BBC website deals with myths involving lemon juice, mosquitoes and blood donation.

How are other countries dealing with this? China has recently admitted that it had been under-reporting cases, including all asympomatic ones. The President of Brazil described CV-19 about 10 days ago as ‘just a little flu and sniffles’. Saudi Arabia has asked Muslims to reconsider plans to travel to the Hajj. The Cook Islands have reported no cases but that’s perhaps because the government doesn’t appear to have tested anyone. Sweden has had the most relaxes attitude in Europe. Turkmenistan has learned the lessons of Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984 better than those of the scientists in 2020 and declared the word ‘Coronavirus’ and the wearing of face masks illegal.

CV-19 is likely to thrive in a country with a large population, a slow response to introducing social distancing, a broken public-health system, a federal structure which makes it hard for nationwide policies to be enacted, a high incidence of travel both internally and internationally and a leader who seems unwilling to follow, or perhaps even to understand, scientific advice, who is obsessed with soundbites and who has half an eye on a forthcoming election. The USA satisfies all these conditions and is, according to recent estimates and as a result of a delay even more culpable than the UK’s, on a course similar to Italy’s. This will cause longer-term problems. The USA is still the world’s largest economy. The old phrase that ‘when the USA sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold’ has perhaps never been more true. 

• The Coronavirus Act 2020 received royal assent on 26 March. It confers a wide range of powers on the government, some available immediately, some whenever a minister switches them on by issuing a regulation. The act will last for two years (though some provisions will outlast this) and will be reviewed by parliament every six months. You can read a summary here and the government’s detailed description of its aims here. One of the many clauses involves removing the obligation for local councils to provide the previous level of social care.

• The two local newspapers I’ve seen (the Newbury Weekly News and the Wantage & Grove Herald) are slimmer than usual. Most of the content is, as one would expect, concerned with cancelled events, the local impact of government regulations and initiatives and the work done by local volunteers and other groups. There are also several references, particularly in the Herald, to the fact that local journalism has never been so important. This is true: the problem is that, at present, there’s really only one subject to write about and every aspect of every story is changing all the time. As suggested above, there are a number of questions that need to be asked and hopefully the local papers will be able to play their role. Many may not survive the crisis. The industry has been suffering problems for some time, The Guardian reporting last year that there was a net decline of 245 local news titles between 2005 and 2018 and that nearly 60% of the country is now served by no local newspaper. Those which do survive will also need to retain their journalists in sufficiently large numbers: a local paper which merely re-cycles press releases and doesn’t ask any questions is of very little use to anyone.

• To repeat what I said last week, our parish and town councils are assuming an important role in fighting this war. Your district council is doing what it can and should, or so we all hope, but the parishes are in this emergency of particular importance. A number of ad hoc and often informal volunteer organisations are being set up all across the country. In general, parish and town councils cannot run these but they can help co-ordinate activities. The Councillors and the Clerks will also probably know more about what is going on in their area than any other group and will probably also have contact details of people who either need help or are able to provide it. If you’re thinking of setting up a voluntary scheme for, for instance, arranging shopping deliveries or merely checking in on people, then I’d advise that your PC or TC should be your first port of call. it will be able to advise what local services are available and may be able to contact these on your behalf.

• As mentioned last week, it’s easy to forget that life goes on in many other ways. So far as councils are concerned, there are several things such as planning applications which started their journey through the system some time ago and in some cases it’s unclear if the process has been paused. Irksome as it may be, parish councils (statutory consulates in this) will still somehow need to scrutinise these lest an unwelcome or problematic application slips through the net. West Berkshire Council’s decision a couple of years ago to provide all documents digitally rather than on paper, though introduced for financial reasons, makes this much easier. Councils are also obliged to hold meetings with certain levels of frequency but this is clearly not possible at present. Discussions are obviously taking place virtually but under current legislation voting can’t take place except in person (this is about to be changed). 

West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon Councils have, of course, set up their own web pages relating to the outbreak. It seems pointless to summarise what advice each is giving or to provide more than the highest-level links, so click here depending on what area you’re in: West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon.

• On 19 March West Berkshire Council set up a Community Support Hub. Like so many things in these times this is constantly evolving but its main aim at the moment is to provide support and information for people who need advice. Click here to visit the website. You can also call 01635 503 579 to speak to the the Building Communities Together team. Much of the information may be available elsewhere: this service is helping to pull this together and provide a single point of contact. 

• One of the reasons people have been contacting the Hub has been because they wish to offer their services as volunteers. West Berkshire is fortunate in that it already has an excellent and well-established organisation to co-ordinate this, the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire (VCWB) – click here to visit the VCWB website. One way that you can express your interest is to complete the VCWB’s online form

• In addition, a large number of volunteer organisations, are springing up to address the particular needs. If these are in West Berkshire, there’s no obligation that they contact VCWB but we strongly advise that they do. This will not result in VCWB controlling or regulating its activities. If the VCWB is aware of your group’s existence it will, however, be able to advise on any other groups doing a similar job in your area and will be able to point any volunteering offers it receives your way. Also, if your group needs any advice on matters such as insurance or data protection, the VCWB will be able to help provide this. See also this article on the Penny Post website which provides information about local volunteer groups. If you know of any others that should be added, please let us know.

• We also have a post about the financial support available to businesses as a result of the virus, which is amended as necessary – click here to see it. Many thinks to Charlotte and Tim from Monty Accounting in Hungerford for helping to keep this up to date. 

• There are numerous reports of a pretty big gulf between what the Chancellor has promised that the banks will provide and what the banks are actually offering. Even though 80% of the debts are being guaranteed by the government, the loans seem to be as unprocurable as ever. The Business Secretary wagged his finger at them yesterday and was even reduced to asking them to ‘repay the favour’ of the 2008 bail-out. I doubt that appealing to morality will work. I spoke to Tim Cundy of Monty Accounting in Hungerford about this. “Getting a business loan is hard at the best of times,” he said. “The people who are applying are suffering hardship and uncertain cash flows. Businesses need to provide a tremendous amount of financial information, projections and business plans if the bank will consider their position and most firms do not have these. It may be that the system needs tweaking in order to get the banks to change their behaviour.” Another problem is that our old friend the law of unintended consequences may kick in. As often happens (and happened with solar-panel feed-in tariff) the scheme may end up benefitting less needy organisations, such as large landlords which can insist that their rent still be paid while the business is closed. Premier league football clubs – not noted for their liquidity problems – have taken advantage of the wage-support scheme by putting their players on furlough. 

• And click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. As with the volunteers’ post above,  if you are aware of any others, let us know.

• There seems to be some confusion as to extent that travelling by car in order to take exercise is regarded as one of the ‘essential journeys‘. The matter, as it affects our area, is covered on the from page of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. The article explains that the Thames Valley Police ‘s position has been that such travel is not permitted and have closed several car parks near commons which remain open. However, local politicians have pointed out that the new regulations permit leaving your home to take exercise but are silent on the means by which you may get there. Friends of ours in the Forest of Dean have reported similar policies there. Now the College of Policing has said that it doesn’t want the public to be sanctioned for travelling ‘a reasonable distance’ to exercise, a statement which goes on to imply that the previous interpretation was ‘disproportionate’ (which it was). Many people, even in our fairly rural counties, live in towns which are only a short drive from open spaces where even if you do run into other people it’s easy to avoid them. Furthermore, taking a walk in a locked-down town is a deeply depressing experience. The countryside, on the other hand, seems much as normal: and a dose of normality, as well a dose of exercise, is surely what the doctor ordered. There’s also a longer-term benefit: as Councillor Tony Vickers pointed out in this week’s NWN, the issue of climate change will still remain after CV-19 has receded. Establishing a bit more of a connection with, and a personal appreciation of the value of, the great outdoors will be helpful in this next battle.

• I don’t know about you but I’m finding it incredibly hard to concentrate on anything. My concentration span seems to have shrunk in line with my geographical range. I feel mentally on a par with the butterflies that are starting to appear. Perhaps the word will end neither with a bang nor a whimper but just with a lot of faffing about.

• Away from Coronavirus, West Berkshire Council is consulting on its Housing Allocations Policy, which details how it will allocate social and affordable rental properties in its area. Click here to take part. Comments must be made by 3 May 2020.

• West Berkshire Council has suspended parking charges ‘until further notice’ in a bid not to attract casual shoppers but to make life easier for key workers and for those who need to visit shops for essential supplies.

• The animals of the week are cats, everyone on you, as this article suggests that – contrary to some reports in Belgium – they cannot transmit CV-19.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes, as well as the one about driving to visit a place of exercise referred to above, praise for Tyler NHS, advice about handling supermarket trollies and a list of some of the things that one correspondent has learned (including that it’s possible to make a cake with only one egg and that dogs will eat almost anything) .

• A number of good causes have received valuable support. We’re not going to single anyone out – there are too many to name at present – but, once again, instead just give a general shout-out for all the volunteer groups in the area which have sprung up like the daffodils to provide assistance to those in most need of it. We’ve listed some of these here. This also seems like a good place to mention Greenham Trust which has set up a Coronavirus Emergency Fund for donations to local groups with full 1:1 match funding for all sums received.

Hungerford & district

• Latest news from Hungerford Town Council, Kintbury Parish Council, Shalbourne Parish Council and Inkpen Parish Council

• There are currently three vacancies on Hungerford Town Councilsee here for the official notice.  

• We’ve published our monthly Penny Post Hungerford as usual and you can click here to read it if you didn’t receive it. It takes a look at the way the work of the Town Council and the Town and Manor has altered in the last few weeks, has news from Hungerford’s retailers (many of which are still trading online), reports on the progress made by the Self-isolation Network and interviews Disco Dan. We also have news from a number of local organisations, travel advice, book reviews, our monthly racing column and an interview with a woman from the Department for Transport which, given yesterday’s date, may or may not be trustworthy.

Click here for information from the Hungerford Boots store regarding opening hours, prescriptions, recruitment and online services.

• We normally include a link to the monthly newsletter from Barr’s Yard but this on this occasion we published before they did. You can read it here. Barr’s Yard has closed but, as with the high-street retailers, many of the shops are still trading online.

• A few things to single out…Click here for information on the Hungerford Self-isolation Network which has recently been set up in the town by local resident Geordie Taylor. 

• …and click here for important information from Hungerford Town Council about what it is and is not doing at present and the ways in which it’s able to offer help and advice.

Lambourn Valley

Latest news from Lambourn Parish CouncilEast Garston Parish CouncilWelford Parish Council and Great Shefford Parish Council.

• On Friday 13 March Lambourn Surgery announced that due to the Coronavirus outbreak, with immediate effect all appointments would be changed to telephone ones – please do not come into the surgery. You will instead be called by a GP or nurse at your allotted time and triaged over the telephone by a doctor. More information is available here. (It’s likely that other surgeries have or will be adopting similar measures.)

As mentioned last week (and for several weeks before that), the sewage problems in and around Lambourn continue. Last week I received some further information from Thames Water which has been added to this post in which we’ve pulled together a number of comments, opinions and suggestions from various organisations and individuals. We welcome further comments on this: please see the post for how to get in touch. 

Click here for the latest news from Lambourn Surgery

Eastbury’s flood alleviation scheme seems to be doing its job – click here for further information.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on continue broadcasting during the CV crisis – click here for more

Newbury & district

Latest news from Newbury Town Council, Chieveley Parish Council and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

• Click here for some recent announcements by Newbury Town Council.

• We’ve mentioned elsewhere about the many voluntary groups that have been set up to offer support and help to those who need it. One problem is that some people, and particularly many of the people who most need help, are not online so leaflets are generally dropped through letterboxes. Not everyone notices what can look like junk mail (though on this occasion certainly isn’t). One such group we’ve recently found out about is in organised by the Clay Hill Community Association. If you need any assistance, or know of anyone who might, or if you want to offer yourself as a volunteer, please call 01635 33270 or email chcaRiverside@gmail.com.

• West Berkshire Council is looking to introduce a new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for Newbury town centre and a consultation has just been launched about this. Further information can be found here. You have until 6 April to contribute.

• Newbury Town Council is running a consultation on the Skyllings Playground: click here for details.

• This week’s NWN reports on p20 on the proposal from the Newbury and Thatcham Hockey Club to increase the number of pitches at the Henwick Worthy playing fields.

• The same paper reports, on p19, on the first virtual meeting of Newbury Town Council.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2020 campaign is now underway (and should be one of the events that the virus will not affect). More information is available from the Town Hall in the Market Place; by emailing towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk  or by visiting the Town Council’s website. Keep your eye on this as the situation may obviously change.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the villag (including recently-updated information about the village’s new volunteer group). It also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet – if you’d like subscribe (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net

• Click here for the latest NTC News from Newbury Council.

• Click here for the latest information from Growing Newbury Green.

Compton & Downlands

Latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council, Compton parish Council, Ashampstead Parish Council, Chaddleworth Parish Council, Brightwalton Parish Council, West Ilsley Parish Council and East Ilsley Parish Council.

• Back in 1813, a charity called the Poors’ Land Fuel Allotment was set up in Chaddleworth to help the many people of the parish who were affected by the results of the Enclosures Act (by which landlords could acquire property rights to land that had previously been held in common and which were used for public grazing and the like). An enclosure of a different kind now threatens us all, landed and unlanded alike: to reflect this, the name and the purpose of the charity has been updated. It is now known as the Chaddleworth Hardship Fund and welcomes applications for help. Please contact the Parish Clerk at Clerk@chaddleworth.net for more information.

• The March 2020 issue of West Ilsley Parish News can be found here.

Thatcham and district

Latest news from Thatcham Town Council, Cold Ash Parish Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Brimpton Parish Council and Woolhampton Parish Council.

• If you want to nominate someone for the 2020 Thatcham Town Council Civic Awards, click here for more information. You have until 3 April to make your nomination.

• Thatcham Town Council is looking for ambassadors, aged 16 and above, to help in a number of ways, promoting events, assisting with welcoming artists, suppliers and audiences and assisting with stewarding. Click here for details.

Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.

Theale and district

Latest news from Theale Parish Council, Aldermaston Parish Council, Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, Englefield Parish Council and Burghfield Parish Council.

• The District Councillor for Theale, Alan Macro, covers some virus-induced changes to local services and summarises the current local planning matters in his April newsletter which you can read here.

• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.

Marlborough & district

Latest news from Marlborough Town CouncilAldbourne Parish Council and Great Bedwyn Parish Council.

• Information here from Aldbourne Parish Council about what to do in case of flooding.

• Click here for a statement from Wiltshire Council about financial grant support for small businesses as a result of Coronavirus.

• A teacher at St John’s is using the school’s 3D printer to make face masks for the NHS.

• We’ve heard that business owners in Wiltshire should recently have received a letter from the council to do with CV-19. It seems that this has been particularly poorly written, even by the standards of such things. The person who told us about this had put it to one side and forgotten about it until her accountant called her and asked if she’d heard from Wilshire about getting a grant. ‘Oh, is that what it was about?” she asked. So, if you get a letter from Wiltshire Council that makes not a lot of sense, pass it on your accountant. (We’re not for a moment suggesting that the letter has been made deliberately obscure to put people off applying, though it may have that effect.)

• A very useful article here from Marlborough News about preparations at the Great Western Hospital for the expected peak of the Coronavirus cases.

• The same source has an article about Kevin McNamara, the newly-appointed CEO of the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. What a time to start a job like that…

• Wiltshire Council is running a consultation on Green Infrastructure and Open Space.  As part of this consultation it is asking all households to complete a short survey.  The survey can be found by clicking on this link

Homestart Kennet is looking for volunteers to help with its projects in the area – click here for more information.

Wantage & district

Latest news from Wantage Town Council, Grove Parish Council and Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

• I read the headline of this week’s Wantage & Grove Herald too quickly and thought it said ‘Cougar sent to jail for police attack.’ Interesting story, I thought. Then I realised that the first word was ‘Cougher‘, referring to a peculiarly moronic crime which took place in Wantage last week. The editorial column on p10 pulls no punches in its reference to this before going on to look at some more encouraging aspects of human nature which the crisis has revealed.

• As in West Berkshire, residents of the Vale have been volunteering their time to help support those who need help during the Coronavirus outbreak. Few organisations in the area provide better examples of this kind of attitude than the Ray Collins Charitable Trust which along with the Town Council and other groups is engaged in co-ordinating volunteering activities in and around the town.

• The Herald reported last week on the story of a local philanthropist who has paid the local pub to provide fish-and-chip dinners for all 171 residents of Denchworth every Friday for the next three months. I’ve since seen this mentioned on national websites. Lucky Denchworth.

• The Vale Council is inviting people to make comments on a draft Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) on how it gathers feedback from the public, businesses and other organisations on its planning matters. The consultation will run until Thursday 9 April.

• The Wantage Independent Advice Centre office may have closed but it  can still provide advice on a number of topics including benefit entitlement, DLA and PIP applications, Universal Credit, employment rights, consumer rights and debt management on the telephone. It can be contacted on 01235 765348 any time between 10.00am and 3.30pm Monday to Friday.

• The fire stations at Wantage and Farringdon are appealing for more recruits. Click here for more information.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald refers to the recent decision to pull the plug on plans for the proposed new Wantage and Grove leisure centre and takes a look at other planned sports and recreation facilities in the area.

• Information here from the Vale Council here about waste collection services in the area.

• The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group’s public meeting with David Johnston MP, Yvonne Constance, and Emily Smith which was planned for 22 May has been cancelled: however, the group has added a discussion forum to its website so that we can discuss the issues with you and then send our questions to these people. Anyone registered to receive the W&GCG’s emails should be able to join in – click here to sign up for these.

• The same organisation reports that ‘many people have contacted us asking why the Wantage Community Hospital hasn’t been reopened in the current crisis and our County Councillors (Jenny Hannaby, Jane Hanna and Paul Barrow) have written to the Chief Executive of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust Stuart Bell asking why they aren’t using the hospital. If they don’t get a reply quickly then we’ll all have to write to both him and David Johnston MP and see if that does any good.’

• All charges are suspended in the District Council car parks at The Beacon and on Limborough Road until 1 June and during this time you do not have to display a ticket. Any outstanding car park permits, recently expired or due to expire, will also be honoured until that date – permit holders therefore do not need to take any action before then. This has been designed not to encourage unnecessary trips into town but to enable key workers and essential shoppers to park.

Click here for other news from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group

• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted. The organisers are currently appealing for help to keep the service going – click here for details.

• Click here for information on the location of defibrillators in and around Wantage.

Swindon & district

Latest news from Swindon Borough Council.

Click here for information from Swindon Council about how Coronavirus is affecting its services as well as other useful information. 

• Swindon Borough Council will prioritise certain waste collections over the coming months amid the continuing Coronavirus crisis.

• Swindon businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality industry which are eligible for the Government’s 12-month business-rate holiday will see it reflected in their bills from April 2020.

• Bus-pass restrictions have been lifted for older and disabled people in Swindon.

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song and the quiz

The Song of the Week is Willow Weep for Me, a piece of top-notch jazz from Èlia Bastida and the Sant Andreu jazz band.

• And so the Quiz Question of the Week brings things to a close. This week’s question, like last week’s, looks back at an earlier national emergency and is as follows: How many ‘little ships’ took part in the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940? Last week’s question was: How many episodes of Dad’s Army were recorded? The answer is 80, each one brilliant. Three were lost but have since been re-created with a new cast. 

Brian Quinn

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