Local News 9-16 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 first, Chaddleworth’s fund, Lambourn’s sewage, Wantage’s lorries, Newbury’s apprentices, Marlborough’s books, Wiltshire’s beauty spots, Thatcham’s parking, reverse pandemics, missed emails, logistics experts, unexpected beneficiaries, a look at regulation 6, testing kits, half-lives, case studies, conspiracy theories, planning processes, volunteers, bottoms up, take aways, deliveries, getting a loan, splitting a molar, milling the flour, the virtual Grand National, 660 parties, 850 ships and the return of the sun.

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)

• The health of the PM has dominated the news stories this week and he seems to be on the mend. I don’t know the man – though Penny was at university with him and has a few tales, though this is hardly the time or place – do not always find myself in agreement with his political views and am not overwhelmed by his government’s recent response, but we could do without a leadership struggle at the moment. All the talk of power vacuums and arcane explanations of the precise chain of command in the PM’s absence has faint echoes of the stultifying constitutional discussions surrounding Brexit. Mind you, I bet we wish we were back in the times when the backstop, Bercow and Brussels were dominating the front pages. The B-word was a lot better than the one that’s followed it.

• The question of testing kits has come up before and will come up again. These figures suggest that the UK had, as of 8 April, tested about 3.5 people per thousand: about the same as France but some way behind Italy and Germany. This could have been more. In early January, the Department of Health contacted a number of specialist organisations such as hospitals, universities and institutes to ask how many testing kits each could provide. Many replied with the information but I understand that none of these were subsequently followed up. Fortunately many of these organisations have pushed forward their plans themselves. If this foul-up did indeed happen, one possible explanation is that whoever was receiving these responses wasn’t aware what they ought to do about them or perhaps not even told to expect them. At the time, the threat might not have seemed that real. It’s possible that the recipient assumed that this was another attention-grabbing initiative launched by a minister which would fizzle out and that doing nothing was an appropriate reaction. I really don’t know. Clearly something went badly wrong.

Last week, in a reference to Dunkirk, the Francis Crick institute referred to the ‘small ships’ that would be needed to provide the necessary testing facilities, these being provided by organisations such as theirs in addition to the ‘battleships’ provided by the government. The small ships seem to proving rather more effective. The target is currently 100,000 tests a day although PoliticsHome reports that on 7 April only 14,000 tests took place and this was about 2,000 down on the day before. It’s also not clear how many of these tests will be for the virus and how many for the antibodies (which will indicate if someone has been exposed and has recovered), which are in some ways more useful. With a few exceptions, no country has come out of the testing race that well. ‘Race’ seems to be the mot juste, as governments are falling over themselves to claim that their tests are more numerous, faster and better than anyone else’s.

• One of the morals of the story seems to be that governments are not that good at organising large-scale logistical projects, particularly where these require specialist knowledge. The NHS’s National Project for IT and HS2 – the first a fiasco that has been abandoned after dropping £10bn, the second being one that is still very much alive having already cost at least that much – are two excellent examples. One could cite several others. The original ‘top-down’ NHS project has since been replaced by a ‘bottom-up’ approach whereby the various trusts have co-operated to knit together their existing systems. This has now been completed in Scotland and is about 65% done in England. On April Fool’s Day, I facetiously suggested that this kind of approach was being considered by the government with regard to the replacement of cat’s eyes in the roads. A week on and this is seeming like a slightly less bonkers idea. Quite how the vastly superior and faster logistical skills of organisations like Amazon and the Army could be deployed at a time of national emergency is unclear. One useful first approach would be for governments to involve those with the necessary logistical, medical and scientific skills in the decision making. I’m not interested in a government of national unity but would welcome seeing a some proper experts sitting in on cabinet meetings and perhaps taking charge of departments. 

One sees the same thing at a local level. The number of volunteer groups which have sprung up to assist vulnerable and isolated people (who are no even more so), and those self-isolating, is remarkable. This is a genuinely ‘bottom-up’ development and has been performed by individual communities, sometimes assisted by the parish councils, and not by the district or county councils. Each volunteer group is a unique reflection of that community’s particular characteristics such as its size and population density. No system imposed by a higher council could have hoped to have accomplished anything as effective, nor as quickly. It’s true that a number of shortcuts have been taken. There has not, for example, been the time or the resources to perform the usual checks and implement the compliance procedures that such groups normally require. This is, however, very much the lesser of two evils.

The district council clearly has a role to play – West Berkshire, for instance, working with Volunteer Centre West Berkshire, has set up a Community Hub to help co-ordinate (but not to control) this work. The district council also has legal responsibilities (though these have been somewhat diminished by the recent emergency regulations) to monitor particularly vulnerable (‘shielded’) people who are now being looked after by voluntary groups. West Berkshire (and doubtless other councils) has produced guidance for parish and town councils and volunteer groups on these points.

The main issue is obviously dealing with the immediate need. The time demands action rather than due process. It’s hard to imagine that any of these groups would have emerged from any kind of ‘top-down’ initiative; just as many NHS trusts must now be wondering why it was ever felt to be a good idea that the government should be in charge of a vast nationwide IT project on their behalf.

• Changes in the way certain things are done and organised may be one of the results of CV-19. It’s also the case that global disasters generally produce one lot of beneficiaries. Such groups were not responsible for the problem and were often particularly repressed in the decades leading up to it. The main beneficiaries of the Black Death, for example, were the landless poor; of WW1, women; and of WW2, the working classes (I’m dealing in very broad brush-strokes here, you understand). It’s been pointed out by a friend with whom I shared these thoughts that this is not an original thesis. None the less, I find myself wondering who or what the CV-19 beneficiaries might be. Local food suppliers? Bottom-up hyper-local organisations? The environment? Front-line NHS staff? It seems already a given that large organisations with a powerful online presence, deep pockets, a robust supply chain and a dominant market position seem set to have their primacy cemented. They hardly fit into this pattern as no one could describe them as repressed at the moment. I think you know which ones I’m talking about.

• There’s still uncertainty about many aspects of the virus, such as how long it survives for on various surfaces and what it might think about warm weather. It does seem clear that transmission from person to person via water droplets presents by far the highest risk. Contamination via surfaces is a factor but, were it to be a major one, the infection would probably have spread far more widely. The various maps and graphs tend to suggest that people rather than things are the main agents. We also know that the virus decays over time at different rates on different surfaces: it lasts about three times longer longer on plastic than on cardboard, for instance. Every eight hours or so, the number of viruses on a piece of plastic will halve (the half-life). The point will arrive – but it’s not certain when this point is – when the number of remaining viruses is inadequate to trigger an infection. Some viruses require only a few to accomplish this; other require millions. It also appears that its survival rates are drastically reduced when on materials which are organically or chemically complex, such as food (rather than stainless steel). Like all viruses it doesn’t mind the cold, or even being frozen, but disintegrates when heated (certainly when boiled). Finally, it also seems likely that this is graduated, not a sudden result when a given temperature is reached, with the half-life decreasing as the temperature rises. This leads to the question, explored in this BBC article, as to whether the summer might produce a respite. Again, it seems too early to tell. Sadly, this is still the response to many questions, although the answers are being provided more quickly than has ever been the case before.

• As to what might happen next, you might be interested in having a look at this article which I’ve recently written with a friend of mine who is a Professor of Computer Science and much involved in the scientific response to the issue.

• Finally, where would we be with out the conspiracy theories? Chinese germ-warfare, the CIA, 5G masts and God have all been cited as the cause. Don’t worry if you’ve missed one: there’ll be another along in a minute. There’s also the predictable crossfire of allegation and counter-allegation such as that currently raging between Donald Trump and the WHO and the competing claims and counter-claims about the efficacy or otherwise of official or unofficial cures ranging from re-purposed malaria drugs to raw garlic. All in all, the airwaves are pretty noisy at the moment…

• There’s a long letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News about the interpretation of regulation 6 of the recent Emergency Coronavirus Bill which describes, inter alia, the reasons people may leave their homes. You can see the relevant section here. I am not a barrister and the correspondent is but I’m not sure I agree with his view. He says that travelling ‘is only permitted in accordance with 6, 2 (f) (‘to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;’). In fact there are 13 separate reasons listed, 6, 2 (b) being ‘to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;’. 

The Thames Valley Police, which was forced last week to clarify its own advice, includes the following information on its FAQs about where people can go for their daily exercise: ‘Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily.’ There is nothing in this about not driving. The writer concludes that the list is neither egalitarian nor fair for all, particularly not those who do not have gardens. It’s worth stepping back from the legal issues and reflecting on the purpose of the regulations. The over-riding aim is to reduce transmission of the virus from person to person. If this is less likely to happen by people driving to a nearby open space and staying a long way from each other, rather than walking in a street where there is  more human proximity and less air movement, then the spirit of the law is being adhered to. Nor do I see that this is infringing the letter of the law either. 

• In any case, it’s possible to cause a vast amount of havoc by staying in your own home and inviting some mates round. Greater Manchester Police broke up 660 parties last weekend, some of which had DJs, fireworks and bouncy castles. It’s hard to know where to start with this kind of idiocy. There will be a time for fireworks and DJs but it isn’t now. Returning to the above-mentioned regulations, 6, 2 (a) permits leaving the home to ‘obtain basic necessities, including food.’ What is not, however, permitted is licking your hands and then rubbing these on food and fridge handles which, for some inexplicable reason, two men decided to do in a Morecambe supermarket last Saturday. I’m really struggling to understand the mental state that might have made this seem useful or fun at any time; also the intelligence level of doing it in a place notoriously full of security cameras and currently with a high staff-to-customer ratio.

• 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.

• Once again, the two local newspapers I take (the Newbury Weekly News and the Wantage & Grove Herald) are slimmer than usual. Also as before, 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. The NWN also has some eye-catching photos of the eerily empty roads and streets in the area. The Herald has some equally eye-catching photos with an aerial photo quiz. 

• 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.

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.

• 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 or the Hub but we strongly advise that they do. This will not result in either body controlling or regulating its activities. If they are 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. We also have similar advice here from Karen at Marlborough Law.

• 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. This week’s NWN has an article focussing on the problems facing West Berkshire’s brewers and includes a memorable observation from David Bruce of West Berkshire Brewery that ‘the only way to get a loan is to be able to prove that you don’t need one.’ There are signs that the message is getting through (see link in the paragraph above).

• 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 are a number of regulations surrounding the conduct, procedures and key dates for the work of local councils of which most people will completely unaware of. Many of these have been rendered temporarily impossible to abide by. hey, one might say, it doesn’t matter if matters are just left to drift, with elections and filing deadlines ignored, voting procedures ignored and due process forgotten about?

Wrong, in my view. One result of not changing the regulations might be a slew of later legal challenges to decisions that have been taken in technical breach of the law, with councillors and senior officers being in some cases personally liable to surcharges. So, the regulations are being amended: it’s amazing how quickly this kind of thing can happen when it has to. The National Association of Local Councils has been much involved in this – as you might expect from its name –  and in a recent newsletter has highlighted several such issues. You can, for instance, read here its response to the issue of delaying the filing of statutory accounts, and here about similar discussions concerning the conduct of meetings. Most councils are now conducting meetings virtually and have the competence to do this: and, crucially, to vote other than in person, previously the only way that was recognised.

• The same organisation has also published some case studies showing how local councils at all levels have responded to the crisis.

• There’s been uncertainty surrounding how the planning process will be working during the emergency, this being in each case a slow conveyor belt of consultation involving several organisations which can take, in some cases, years to complete its journey. It appears that, now that councils can conduct meeting virtually, these will probably proceed as normal, though perhaps more slowly, as long as they’re uncontroversial. If, however, they are ‘called in’ as a result of sufficient objections or concern from local councillors they then need be decided at a planning committee. As these deliberations generally involve a site visit, it’s likely that these will then pause until restrictions are lifted.

• 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 all the birds we see on our regular walks up and down the River Lambourn. Are there more of them than usual or do we just notice things like this more at the moment?

• 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, appeals to continue to support local charities, a latter in praise of doodling, another in praise of the waste-collection staff and some thought about tree felling and planting .

• A number of good causes have received valuable support. Yet again 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

Hungerford Town Council will be holding its first virtual meeting on Tuesday 14 April when the Environment and Planning Committee convenes. You can read the agenda here, which also includes the link to log on if you wish to observe the meeting (as was and remains your right). I don’t think I need to mention the name of the software providing this service as the company has been on everyone’s lips recently. I can, however, excitingly reveal that it starts with a ‘Z’ and is also the name of a tri-coloured rocket-shaped iced lolly launched in the 1960s.

• Hungerford Town Council has announced that Hungerford in Bloom is open for (slightly different) business this year and hopes that more residents then ever will support this competition in the current circumstances.

• Most of us have a box or similar, in the attic or the top shelf of a cupboard, which is filled with old family stuff sometimes dating back several generations. This article from the Coin and Stamp Centre in the High Street suggests why this might be quite a good time to what might be hiding there.

• 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.

• A few things to single out from this – 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.

• Some good news for the racing industry – it was agreed on 9 April by West Berkshire Council that the sector will be treated the same way as retail and leisure in terms of Business Rate holidays and Government Grants.

• And speaking of racing, click here to read local trainer Pat Murphy’s report on the 2020 virtual Grand National.

• As mentioned last week (and for several weeks before that), the sewage problems in and around Lambourn continue. Last month 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. More recently, Lambourn Parish Council has been in touch with Thames Water and asked some further questions so which answers have been received: these have been added to this post. We welcome further comments on this: please see the post for how to get in touch. 

• There’s never a good time to split a molar but this last Monday morning was worse than most. A phone call to Lambourn Dental confirmed that all surgeries were closed but fortunately the call diverted to Dr Fatima Talhi. I described which tooth is was. ‘Oh, that’s OK, that one’s root filled,’ she told me. I was impressed that she had perfect recall of all her patient’s jaws. Despite this, it was important to keep it clean and prevent the sharp edge cutting y tongue. She suggested BabyBel wax. At first I thought my hearing had packed up, but she explained that the red wax covering this rather disgusting foodstuff can me moulded into any shape and stays in place surprisingly well, though it does need replacing a few times a day. She’s also written a post about dealing with other dental issues during the emergency which you can read here

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.

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

• One of the problems with immediate emergencies is that the policies designed to solve or alleviate them can have undesirable results, much as powerful drugs often have unpleasant side-effects. The concentration is overwhelmingly on the short term. This is understandable, but the future must not be ignored either. This week’s Newbury Weekly News has highlighted just such a problem which is likely to affect private companies that provide apprenticeship training –  an obvious example of something that requires a long-term view. The West Berkshire Training Consortium in Newbury is one example and its Managing Director Matt Garvey has pointed out that the Department for  Education is continuing to financially support further education colleges but not the charitable or private-sector providers ‘even though we are both doing the same thing.’ A number of CV-19-related government initiatives have needed to be refined. This may be one that is awaiting its turn. The economic prospects are already quite bleak and a lack of suitably trained people a few years down the line will not improve them.

• 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.

• In 1813, a charity called the Poors’ Land Fuel Allotment was set up 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 unhanded alike: to reflect this, the name and the purpose of the charity has been updated. It is now known as the Chaddleworth Hardship Fund. Please contact the Parish Clerk at Clerk@chaddleworth.net for more information.

Thatcham and district

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

• 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.

• Few stories are more calculated to provide a short-cut to fulminating rage than one involving someone getting a parking ticket while performing a charitable deed. This week’s NWN reports on p19 how the Thatcham Memorial Foundation opposite the Boots in Thatcham has recently found itself in this invidious position due to people using the car park while picking up prescriptions for elderly and vulnerable residents. It’s done the decent thing (cancelled the two tickets) and the sensible thing (introduced an hour of free parking).

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.

Marlborough News reports that the Marlborough LitFest has launched its Love Books Competition something which, as the article points out, ‘aims to celebrate a love of reading amongst teenagers and adults, is perhaps even more important in these uncertain times.’  The original deadline of April 24 has now been extended to July 17. Click here for details.

• The same website explains how Wiltshire libraries are encouraging children and families to create colourful Easter eggs to display in windows.

• A reminder that 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 so you might be tempted to ignore it. In fact (if it’s the one I’m talking about) it’s about grants so pass it on your accountant.

• 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. 

• 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.

• The sewage problems Lambourn (see Lambourn Area section above) are also impacting on life in Wantage as that is where many of the tankers from the Valley are ending up, particularly in Ham Road and probably Denchworth Road. The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has been in touch with Penny Post about this and we’ve directed them to our post and the contact at Thames Water we were talking to. Apologies on behalf of Valley residents for the inconvenience. Trust me, it’s necessary: the option, if the pressure isn’t removed, is raw sewage in the roads. We could do without another health emergency at present.

• An issue which the W&GCG has been much involved over the years is the ‘temporary’ closure of Wantage Community Hospital. There wouldn’t appear to be a better time to re-open it but so far this hasn’t happened. Keep your eye on the W&GCG website and also the Herald for more information. This is the subject of the editorial in this week’s edition.

Click here for information about online entertainment available from Cornerstone and The Beacon. 

• The Vale Council has three important messages for the bank-holiday weekend.

• The same 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.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald pays tribute to the town’s volunteering response to the CV-19 crisis, organised by the Ray Collins Charitable Trust, the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce.

• 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.

• Hats off to local business owner Anna Richards of Maymessy and Garland’s Barn who has been volunteering her time to deliver snacks and treaty care packages for critical care Covid-19 staff at John Radcliffe Hospital. The staff are isolating themselves away from their families and are in desperate need of snacks on the go during their 12 hour shifts. The Manager of Respiratory team said “I can’t even tell you how grateful the staff were this morning for the delivery care packages. We even had tears.”

• Meanwhile, another local business has been pressing ahead with the day job – Wessex Mill in Wantage is running a 24-hour operation for the first time in its 125-yeart history.

• 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.

• The Wiltshire and Swindon Local Resilience Forum (LRF) has a clear and sensible message as people are urged to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel over the Easter bank holiday weekend – ‘Wiltshire’s beauty spots aren’t going anywhere.’

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 Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles: because (a) it has come, literally; (b) it will come, metaphorically; (c) it’s a damn fine song.

• And so the Quiz Question of the Week winds us up for another half-fortnight. This week’s question is: 2021 will see the 300th anniversary of the first holder of what office? Last week’s question looked back at an earlier national emergency and was: How many ‘little ships’ took part in the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940? The answer is (about) 850.

Brian Quinn

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