This week with Brian 10 to 17 August 2023

Further Afield the week according to Brian Quinn

This Week with Brian

Including an undeliverable project, a fat bonus, water action, expecting more and getting less, a GDPR fine brewing up, buying teaspoons, Chinese aviation, skinny dipping, declared interests, this season’s tips, a four-pointed letter, a missing inventory, more slots, cucumber cats, greenlash, everything is fine, a unique word, the usual suspects and an unfaithful servant.

Click on the appropriate buttons to the right to see the local news from your area (updated every Thursday evening).

If there’s anything you’d like to see covered for your area or anything that you’d like to add to something that we’ve covered already, drop me a line at brian@pennypost.org.uk

Further afield

• It’s never a great look when you have a multi-billion pound project that’s already gone more than twice over budget and you’re told by an official body responsible for just such judgements that achieving it – which will cost yet more money – is effectively impossible. That is the situation that HS2 finds itself in with the 2022-23 Infrastructure and Projects Authority annual report stating that the rail line is “undeliverable”. Just to be clear, there are five grades for ongoing projects and this is the worst. Even Ofsted only has four. Imagine something that’s one worse than “inadequate” and you get the idea.

[more below] 

• Trains

• There must have been good reasons for HS2 but I couldn’t remember what any of them were. I had a look at HS2’s website to remind myself. Under the heading “Why HS2?” (a question many might be asking), three were suggested.

“It will transform Britain’s railways, creating capacity for more local services and freight trains.” That may be so on the area that it affects but I’m struggling to see how it can do any of this on the the stretches of the GWR main line that we live between. One, to the south, has these last few years had a drastically reduced service between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of IET trains being redeployed elsewhere. The line to the north suffers from having no longer any stations between Didcot and Swindon at all, despite calls for at least the Wantage Road Station in Grove to be re-opened. Quite how the extra capacity in the HS2 area is going to help us here is a mystery. Every area of the country could point to a similar story.

Even the alleged benefits in HS2’s backyard don’t seem to justify the cost and disruption. In 2019, Midlands Engine suggested that 73 stations on the national network would “benefit from improved passenger services as a direct result of the capacity released by HS2.” There are about 2,700 railway stations in Great Britain, so that’s about 3% of them. This doesn’t seem like a great return for the sharp end of £100bn.

“It will be a zero-carbon alternative for long-distance travel.” Well, yes, it might be, if you regard London to Birmingham as “long-distance” and if all the electricity used to power it comes from renewable sources. The same could be said for other railway lines were they to be electrified. The International Railway Journal said that, in 2019, only about 42% of the network was electrified: and also claimed that a cost of about £1m per single track kilometre was possible. There is about 32,000km of track in the UK, so that leaves about 19,000km still to be electrified. That’s about £19bn. Let’s double it, to allow for what HS2 describes as “prolongation and delay costs.” Let’s double it again, just in case. That’s still cheaper than HS2.

“It will help spread prosperity and opportunities to the midlands and the north.” I find the last part of this hard to follow given that it will not, for now at least be going to “the north” unless you have a very flexible definition of what “the north” means.. An interesting feature of HS2 is that the shorter the route has got, the more its costs seem to increase. Phase 1 now will now see the line link a currently non-existent station in north west London to Birmingham.

Something has clearly gone very wrong with this project. As with a high-stakes poker game, the time has passed when it can be pulled back from. One thing’s for sure: the management consultants and construction companies have done very well out of the line, and will continue to for many years. So too have the staff at HS2. Private Eye 1604 tells us that despite the IPA’s lamentable judgement and the fact that on HS2’s own admission in July seven of the 12 key performance indicators had not been met, the CEO’s £636,000pa salary was recently supplemented with a £40,000 bonus: “Why,” Lord Gnome adds, “is not explained.”

• Water

The BBC reports that the UK’s six biggest water firms are facing legal action over claims they underreported pollution and overcharged customers. “The claims are being brought,” the articles explains, “by Professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant represented by Leigh Day Solicitors. Leigh Day says it is the first environmental collective action of its kind.” Thames Water is one of the water companies being sued.

This is no surprise to me. Information provided by the excellent East Garston Flood and Pollution Forum in our village suggest that the monitoring equipment that’s used to measure discharges from our pumping station into the SAC and SSSI River Lambourn is defective. The fact that on at least one occasion this resulted in Thames Water reporting that discharges were even higher than the reality makes no difference: wrong is wrong and the figures therefore can’t be relied upon.

Again with Private Eye 1604 on my desk, as it was for the above section, I learn that the main owners of Yorkshire Water, another defendant in this case, are the investment arms of the governments of Germany and Singapore and a New York-based private equity firm. It’s hard to believe that the investment motive for any of these was clean rivers. We are where we are with the ownership of water companies. As with HS2, this has perhaps gone on too long for any major change of policy to be easy.

• Services

• I could go on. The railways and the water are two aspects of life where it’s beyond all doubt that the quality of the service falls way beyond what we were promised and what we might expect to receive. One could argue the problem with both was privatisation: that false markets were created in sectors where no competition existed or could ever exist in order to seduce us into believing that the private sector could solve the problems state ownership couldn’t. Whatever the merits or otherwise of this, there are also deeper points at work.

Railways and water are only two aspects of public life which are in some form of crisis. To this we could also add, in no particular order, our energy infrastructure, the NHS, social care, the legal-aid system, recycling, local-council finances, housing, defence spending, arts provision and potholes. All of these have suffered, so we are told, from decades of under-investment. The inference is that by pouring money into them we can fix the problem. As HS2 has shown, however, money on its own is not the solution.

The question turns on what we expect to receive from life by right, here in the UK. Between the late 1940s and the early 1980s there was a compact in place that if we paid our taxes and played the game then we’d be looked after in our later years or in times of hardship. A number of alterations to this status quo have since intruded themselves into this, including longer life expectancy (so creating more complex needs and so higher costs), a shift from progressive to regressive tax, the complicating effects of privatisation on many services, ever-increasing expectations of what we expect to provided with by right and the ever-increasing realities of climate change.

These extra demands have made meeting these obligations impossible. They are also incompatible with the reluctance of governments to accept that we need to pay centrally for services that we all enjoy and which benefit society as a whole. We either have to accept that we get less, or that we pay more (either through taxes or charges) and get something better.

There’s also a huge problem here. As the experience of HS2, and also of our water companies, have shown, paying more money doesn’t guarantee anything in the way of returns. What’s therefore needed is a complete reform of the way that contributions to these are made.

Let’s have a quick look at three areas; the above-mentioned water and rail companies and also our local councils, which provide (often as agents of the government) a number of services on which we all rely.

  • Water is, aside from air, the one thing that we can’t do without. The UK’s drinking water seems to be generally OK (though we shouldn’t be complacent) but the waste system is not working. Again forgetting all the water bills we’ve paid before, should we prepared to accept charges higher than the regulator’s maximum to get something better? Some would say we should. Others might say not. However, I don’t trust the water companies to use this extra money to do the right thing. Can some informed but dispassionate authority be established to ensure that extra sums raised are sent on the investment that’s needed rather than on dividends? To do so would rather undermine the point of having private water companies at all. None the less, perhaps we should try this. We have regulators. They should be made to do more regulation, which might include taking control of some of the expenditure. Burt can we trust them?
  • Railway privatisation seems to have been an even greater catastrophe. The complexity and the expense of the fares alone put many people off. Re-nationalising it presents headaches, particularly given how awful BR was and how profligate the government-controlled HS2 has been. Can we accept we have learned from past failures? But who would run the nationalised rail system? Could they be accountable? Would it be better than the muddle we have now?
  • Local councils seem to operate on a much more accountable system. They provide most social-care and education provision, road maintenance, recycling, refuse collection, planning control and environmental protection amongst a host of other services. The main direct way they raise this is through council tax (the percentage of the total revenue each council receives from this varies widely), generally limited to a 2.99% increase each year, with an additional 2% for social care if the authority is responsible for this. There’s a fairly direct connection between the population and the councils, not least through local councillors and elections every four years, which ensure some kind of accountability, although councils can’t charge more with the promise of better services and make their pitch at election time. I can’t, however, vote for the board of HS2 or Thames Water unless I buy shares, in which case my influence will be proportionate to my investment (ie pretty small).

Do we feel that most services we currently receive are as good as they claimed to be?; and do we think the current arrangements will ensure this can be fixed? Most of us would answer “no” to both, which shows we have a pretty serious problem on our hands, both in terms of expectation and of governance. We can influence our local councils but their own power and finances are controlled from SW1. HS2 and the water firms, and many other organisations besides, seem to be subject to no such control.

The best we can do is get involved in any local groups or charities in areas like flooding, pollution, rail services, social care, education or health and lobby like hell for changes that affect us and thus, in time, others. Think globally but act locally, as the saying goes. There’s a lot to be said for focussed local action: in many ways both state-controlled and privatised solutions have let us down.

• Responsibility

• It seems that two popular ways of getting secret documents into the public domain are by publishing them online by mistake or having them stolen from the boot of a car. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has recently managed to employ both of these methods, with the result that the details of everyone who works for the PSNI, including what they do, has been released. This would be bad enough on the mainland but across the water these matters are obviously even more sensitive. A big fine under GDPR rules (up to maximum of £17.5m or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater) seems possible. The problem is that the PSNI might then say that, because of the fine, it needs to cut back on anything that isn’t a front-line service, including IT security.

Much the same could be said of the fines given to water companies. If the money is taken out of the sector which has infringed it’s likely to make the situation worse. Perhaps the answer is to expect a bit more personal responsibility and sack or fine the people at the top who earn the big bucks and should make sure these things don’t happen.

Few such approaches match the perfection of the idea hit upon by the Chinese government in the late 1990s when the world was living in fear of everything computerised packing up on the stoke of midnight on 31 December 1999. Aviation was felt to be particularly threatened. Beijing decreed – as only Beijing can – that all employees of the state airline above a certain rank should be in the air at this time. Talk about focussing the mind.

Perhaps in the case of data breaches, the directors should be forced to publish all their personal numbers and passwords and, in the case of pollution, the directors should be obliged to spend half an hour skinny dipping just downstream of the leaks. In the same way, footballers who pull their tops off after scoring will be obliged to play the rest of the match with their shirts pulled over their heads. There’ll be a number of little changes like this introduced when I take over…

• And finally

• Another high-street name seems about to vanish, with Wilko announcing on 10 August that it’s gone into administration. The store in Newbury has been more and more empty these last few months so I’m not that surprised. This reduces by one a shop where you can buy things like teaspoons without having to go online.

This article on the Reuters website suggests that there’s a “greenlash” going on: a back-tracking on climate policies in Europe, despite record-breaking summer temperatures and the fact that most countries have passed laws mandating action. The main problem is the cost, or the perception of it, which have been seized upon by right-wing parties.  Many of these day that climate change is caused by humans in the first place. If you start off from that point then it’s easy to see the whole reaction as state-sponsored intervention in our lives.

• Speaking of which, an excellent letter in the Newbury Weekly News this week from John Downe of Hungerford who criticises some regular correspondents on this subject for not declaring what are sometimes “strong vested interests.” He cites the instance of Hamish McCracken, quoting from his LinkedIn page a cv which includes a career spent in the oil and gas industry. John Downe wonders if the paper might publish some fact-check articles alongside future similar letters. This seems unlikely as such things are not quick or easy to write. Another suggestion he makes, by implication, is that correspondents should be more honest about their backgrounds. That seems unlikely as well.

Some volunteer this anyway: a few letters further on, Dr David Cooper declares him to be from the Say no Sandleford campaign, which leaves no one in any doubt as to where he’s coming from. Ross Mackinnon’s letter (which I’ve looked at above) volunteers the fact that he’s a Conservative Councillor.

The paper is certainly to be congratulated for publishing letters on a wide range of matters, which are often in stark contradiction to each other, and which effectively make up the NWN’s opinion column. Clearly we all need to exercise healthy scepticism and check the backgrounds of those who write in. Thomas Jefferson is credited with having told us that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” This is also, perhaps, the price of truth: as these days might also be a subscription to LinkedIn.

• The football season is about to kick off. My view is that other 19 teams are playing for second place as it’s hard to see past Manchester City. If they do win it again this will be the first time in the leagues 135-year history that a team has done this four times in a row. This is something we should celebrate as in many other countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Scotland, this is commonplace and thus rather boring, unless you happen to support Bayern, PSG, Celtic or whoever. My tips are Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd in that order, Wolves, Palace and Luton going down, Villa winning the League Cup and Brighton the FA Cup. Place your bets accordingly…

Across the area

• “You don’t know what you’re doing…”

This is generally heard at football grounds when a manager has made a bewildering substitution. It’s appeared more recently in the Newbury Weekly News letters page. The author is West Berkshire Conservatives’ leader Ross Mackinnon and his target, not surprisingly, is the new Lib Dem administration and four aspects of its current policies.

As regards the headline, do any of us know what we’re doing? So many things are started off with vigour and enthusiasm but a combination of gravity, rust, inertia, unforeseen problems and unintended consequences can undermine or pervert the best intentions. Bold reforms and initiatives can rapidly deteriorate into fire fighting and general damage limitation. The previous administration had its own share of these.

Anyway, that slightly depressing observation aside, what were the four things that Councillor Mackinnon was taking shots at? All were mentioned in the Lib Dem’s manifesto.

The first is the pedestrianisation in Newbury which has been paused. He claimed that this was because of “extensive roadworks” which the Executive should have known about.(I’m not sure if it would have been at the time the manifesto was printed). The administration also cited delays from Whitehall.

Anyway, it has been paused. The question is whether or not there will now be a public consultation before the pilot scheme starts. The Tories believe there should (I’m more doubtful as it wouldn’t tell us anything much and there has to be one at the end anyway). As regards the next steps, portfolio holder Denise Gaines told me on 10 August that “we will take advice as to the most appropriate way forward now that the project had to be delayed.”

Several questions were asked about this at the Full Council meeting on 20 July (from 1 hour 54′ 20″). In the supplementary to question (d), Denise Gaines said, talking about emergency services, “that any changes…will be looked at with officers and residents…as we go through this process.” The supplementary of question (e) essentially was essentially the same as (d) and demanded the same answer; which she referred the questioner to. However, she then summarised it but on this occasion saying that “we will talk to local businesses and local residents…before we put this process in place.” (My italics.)

That sounds like a consultation to me. However, to be legalistic about it, perhaps once a member has referred the questioner to a previous answer, that’s the end of the matter and what’s said afterwards should be ignored. It certainly shows that, in trying to be helpful when answering a question, one can sometimes say too much: also that if you ask the same question several times you may eventually get the answer you want to hear.

The second was the green bin “charge” (as the Tories call it) or “tax” (as the Lib Dems prefer). Councillor Mackinnon feels that there is a slow retreat being adopted from the previous position to abolish this, the current plan being that it will, he claims, “eventually phased out”. I never understood what the problem was with this charge. Why should people with no gardens subsidise the waste collection of those who do. It also raises £1m-plus in revenue.

The third was the local plan. Councillor Mackinnon says the administration is “in a real mess.” If it is, this is only because the draft plan was submitted to the Inspectorate as almost one of the last acts of the old administration, despite it being clear that it was divisive. Nor am I sure that the new administration went as he claims “begging” to the Inspector to have a pause, though this request was granted. About forty questions have been posed to and answered by WBC which the Inspector is considering before deciding if the changes proposed can be accomplished without needing to start the whole plan process again (which he would probably not permit).

Councillor Mackinnon also says that the clock is ticking on the district losing its five-year housing supply. The significance of this is if the figure falls below this, applications are more likely to succeed on appeal, particularly if there is no up-to-date local plan in place. However, WBC’s supply was estimated by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2023 to be about 6.4 years: the ticks are therefore not that loud. In any event, the Lib Dems have never denied that a new local plan is needed

In his answers to a question at the above-mentioned Full Council meeting (from 2 hours 02′ 44″), portfolio holder Tony Vickers provided what seemed to be a reasonable summary of the process thus far and pointed also to the considerable uncertainty caused by new national legislation which may (or may not) be resolved by September, when consideration of the WBC plan is due to re-commence. All in all, a pause seems like the best plan for the plan.

The fourth was the vexed question of the Faraday Road football ground which will be the subject of the first Community Forum on Thursday 17 August. (iI you wish to attend in person, please email executivecycle@westberks.gov.uk to confirm your attendance. If you wish to attend online please register by visiting this link. They will also be recorded and put on YouTube to view during and after the event.).

As Councillor Mackinnon points out, the decision to return football to there has already been taken: so why, he appears to wonder, is it necessary to have a public discussion on the subject? The answer may be that the new administration has found it harder to accomplish what it wants to do that it had thought; and that matters such as its relationship with the Newbury Community Football Group, which had lobbied so hard for the re-opening, are in a state of flux. If so, it’s probably wise to go public on the matter.

As with the local plan, however, the Conservatives are implicated in what’s now happening. If the local plan hadn’t been submitted in March, amending it to reflect the clear local will would have been easier: while if the disastrous decision hadn’t been taken to close the ground in June 2018, Faraday Road wouldn’t be an issue at all.  The Lib Dems said they would re-introduce community forums and they have. It’s therefore a bit unfair to criticise them for doing this. They’ve certainly picked quite a weighty and emotive matter for the first edition. I’m sure that Councillor Mackinnon and his colleagues will have something to contribute to this next week.

• Nothing to see

One of the many problems that emerged when the time came to sell the Millennium Dome in London was that there were no clear record of what was in, or on, the building, who owned them and what obligations attached to these. The due diligence and record keeping had been rushed, and in some cases not done at all. There was, obviously, a fairly large ticking clock demanding that the thing be opened on time: but even so…

Much the same thing, admittedly on a rather smaller scale, appears to have happened when the Faraday Road ground was closed in June 2018. This was a WBC asset, although some things may have been owned by others, such as the football club. Knowing what’s there and to whom everything belongs at any change of tenure seems a pretty basic requirement of any organisation. The place was, so the wisdom then ran, to be mothballed and eventually bulldozed, so perhaps this wasn’t seen as important. Matters did not, however, develop remotely as the administration had planned.

Surely the officers should have anticipated this. “What you want to do may happen but it may not. Either way, we need to have a record of what’s there.” Items such as the stand (now in Hungerford), the permitter fence (whereabouts unknown) and the club house (demolished after an arson attack) could have been crossed off the list as they vanished. As it is, we don’t know exactly what was there.

All this became even more important because of the debate about whether or not Monks Lane would be a replacement facility. Sport England’s guidelines are clear that a facility at least as good as that closed has to be provided before development starts (a point WBC did not recognise at the time, but does now). If Monks Lane is not to be built, then Faraday Road needs to be restored to at least the condition it was in before in every significant respect. Not having a single and authenticated point of reference for this makes this task harder. If there is such a document, it’s never been cited in the numerous exchanges on the subject in which different people have claimed different things about the place. There’s also the wider point that for a council not to keep such a record is, at best, insouciant. Might this also have happened elsewhere in the district?

• Recycling slots

West Berkshire Council has announced that the availability of appointments at our Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) across the district will increase.

“This collaboration with our waste contractor, Veolia, will provide more flexibility and capacity during the most popular time slots for residents,” the statement says, “and comes just in time for the summer season and the upcoming bank holiday. Additionally, to better serve the community, our Newtown Road HWRC has extended its operating hours on Thursdays, closing at 8.00pm until September. With a total of 628 daily appointments now available at Newtown Road and 488 at Padworth Lane, we aim to accommodate more residents and make recycling more convenient than ever before.”

• Residents’ news

The latest Residents’ Bulletin from West Berkshire Council covers a fostering football sponsorship deal, recycling, the Lido, career opportunities, a search for poets, the Wizard of Oz, consultations, a summer fete, a community garden and the Festival of the Moon.

• News from your local councils

Most of the councils in the area we cover are single-tier with one municipal authority. The arrangements in Oxfordshire are different, with a County Council which is sub-divided into six district councils, of which the Vale of White Horse is one. In these two-tier authorities, the county and district have different responsibilities. In all cases, parish and town councils provide the first and most immediately accessible tier of local government.

West Berkshire Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council.

West Berkshire Council is looking for your views on local bus services. To take part in the survey (which closes on 10 September), please click here.

Click here to sign up to all or any of the wide range of  newsletters produced by West Berkshire Council.

Click here to see the latest West Berkshire Council Residents’ Bulletin (generally produced every week).

Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.

Vale of White Horse Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by the Vale Council.

Click here for latest news from the Vale Council.

Click here for the South and Vale Business Support Newsletter archive (newsletters are generally produced each week).

Click here to sign up to any of the newsletters produced by the Vale’s parent authority, Oxfordshire County Council.

Wiltshire Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by Wiltshire Council.

Click here for the latest news from Wiltshire Council.

Swindon Council

Click here for details of all current consultations being run by Swindon Council.

Click here for the latest news from Swindon Council.

Parish and town councils

• Please see the News from your local council section in the respective weekly news columns (these also contain a wide range of other news stories and information on activities, events and local appeals and campaigns): Hungerford areaLambourn Valley; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Burghfield area; Wantage area

• Other news

• A reminder that  West Berkshire Libraries has challenged primary age children to read up to six library books in the Summer Reading Challenge until 15 September and to collect free incentives from their local library for their achievements as they read, with medals and certificates for everyone who completes the challenge. More details here.

Click here for information about help available with the cost of living crisis in West Berkshire, the Vale and Wiltshire.

Please click here for information about what local councils are doing to help support refugees from Ukraine and how you can help.

Click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. If you are aware of any others, let us know.

• The animals of the week are these cats that (unlike ours) are very scared of cucumbers.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News includes, as well as ones referred to elsewhere, Newbury Wharf, bollards, pollution, overgrown paths, cycles of violence and trains to Oxford.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently: see the various news area sections (links above) for further details.

 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

• Nothing to see

One of the many problems that emerged when the time came to sell the Millennium Dome in London was that there were no clear record of what was in, or on, the building, who owned them and what obligations attached to these. The due diligence and record keeping had been rushed, and in some cases not done at all. There was, obviously, a fairly large ticking clock demanding that the thing be opened on time: but even so…

Much the same thing, admittedly on a rather smaller scale, appears to have happened when the Faraday Road ground was closed in June 2018. This was a WBC asset, although some things may have been owned by others, such as the football club. Knowing what’s there and to whom everything belongs at any change of tenure seems a pretty basic requirement of any organisation. The place was, so the wisdom then ran, to be mothballed and eventually bulldozed, so perhaps this wasn’t seen as important. Matters did not, however, develop remotely as the administration had planned.

Surely the officers should have anticipated this. “What you want to do may happen but it may not. Either way, we need to have a record of what’s there.” Items such as the stand (now in Hungerford), the permitter fence (whereabouts unknown) and the club house (demolished after an arson attack) could have been crossed off the list as they vanished. As it is, we don’t know exactly what was there.

All this became even more important because of the debate about whether or not Monks Lane would be a replacement facility. Sport England’s guidelines are clear that a facility at least as good as that closed has to be provided before development starts (a point WBC did not recognise at the time, but does now). If Monks Lane is not to be built, then Faraday Road needs to be restored to at least the condition it was in before in every significant respect. Not having a single and authenticated point of reference for this makes this task harder. If there is such a document, it’s never been cited in the numerous exchanges on the subject in which different people have claimed different things about the place. There’s also the wider point that for a council not to keep such a record is, at best, insouciant. Might this also have happened elsewhere in the district?

 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

• Recycling slots

West Berkshire Council has announced that the availability of appointments at our (HWRCs) across the district will increase.

 

Household Waste Recycling Centres

“This collaboration with our waste contractor, Veolia, will provide more flexibility and capacity during the most popular time slots for residents,” , “and comes just in time for the summer season and the upcoming bank holiday. Additionally, to better serve the community, our Newtown Road HWRC has extended its operating hours on Thursdays, closing at 8.00pm until September. With a total of 628 daily appointments now available at Newtown Road and 488 at Padworth Lane, we aim to accommodate more residents and make recycling more convenient than ever before.”

 

the statement says

 


 


 


 


 

• Residents’ news

The from West Berkshire Council covers a fostering football sponsorship deal, recycling, the Lido, career opportunities, a search for poets, the Wizard of Oz, consultations, a summer fete, a community garden and the Festival of the Moon.

 

latest Residents’ Bulletin
 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

• News from your local councils

Most of the councils in the area we cover are single-tier with one municipal authority. The arrangements in Oxfordshire are different, with a County Council which is sub-divided into six district councils, of which the Vale of White Horse is one. In these two-tier authorities, the county and district have different responsibilities. In all cases, parish and town councils provide the first and most immediately accessible tier of local government.

 


 


 


 


 

West Berkshire Council

• for details of all current being run by West Berkshire Council.

 

Click hereconsultations

West Berkshire Council is looking for your views on. To take part in the survey (which closes on 10 September), .

 

local bus servicesplease click here

• to sign up to all or any of the wide range of   produced by West Berkshire Council.

 

Click herenewsletters

• to see the latest West Berkshire Council (generally produced every week).

 

Click hereResidents’ Bulletin

• for the latest from West Berkshire Council.

 

Click herenews

 


 


 


 


 

Vale of White Horse Council

• for details of all current being run by the Vale Council.

 

Click hereconsultations

• for latest from the Vale Council.

 

Click herenews

• for the South and Vale  archive (newsletters are generally produced each week).

 

Click hereBusiness Support Newsletter

• to sign up to any of the produced by the Vale’s parent authority, Oxfordshire County Council.

 

Click herenewsletters

 


 


 


 


 

Wiltshire Council

• for details of all current being run by Wiltshire Council.

 

Click hereconsultations

• for the latest from Wiltshire Council.

 

Click herenews

 


 


 


 


 

Swindon Council

• for details of all current being run by Swindon Council.

 

Click hereconsultations

• for the latest from Swindon Council.

 

Click herenews

 


 


 


 


 

Parish and town councils

• Please see the section in the respective (these also contain a wide range of other news stories and information on activities, events and local appeals and campaigns): ; 

 

News from your local councilweekly news columnsHungerford area; ; ; ; ; ; . Lambourn ValleyMarlborough areaNewbury areaThatcham areaCompton and DownlandsBurghfield areaWantage area
 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

• Other news

• A reminder that   has challenged primary age children to read up to six library books in the until 15 September and to collect free incentives from their local library for their achievements as they read, with medals and certificates for everyone who completes the challenge. .

 

West Berkshire LibrariesSummer Reading ChallengeMore details here
 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 

Click here for information about help available with the cost of living crisis in West Berkshire, the Vale and Wiltshire.

• about what local councils are doing to help support refugees from  and how you can help.

 

Please click here for information Ukraine

•which are offering a . If you are aware of any others, let us know.

 

Click here for a post listing the various places takeaway and/or delivery service

• The   that (unlike ours) are very scared of cucumbers.

 

animals of the weekare these cats

• The of the includes, as well as ones referred to elsewhere, Newbury Wharf, bollards, pollution, overgrown paths, cycles of violence and trains to Oxford.

 

letters section Newbury Weekly News 

• A number of have received valuable support recently: see the various news area sections (links above) for further details.

 

good causes 

The quiz, the sketch and the song

• Lordy, it’s time for the Song of the Week. The great Robbie Robertson of The Band has recently died. There are so many wonderful songs he wrote that one hardly knows where to start. My favourite is The Unfaithful Servant (though I’m not exactly sure what it’s about, which is perhaps half the appeal).

• So next up must be the Comedy Moment of the Week.  Few people do weird, dark satire better than Chris Morris. Here’s a wonderful message to the nation taken from The Day TodayBritain is OK, Everything is Fine.

• Which only leaves the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: What is unique about the word “facetiously”? Last week’s question was What phrase links Rick Blaine and Keyser Sose? The answer is “the usual suspects”. The final scene of the peerless Casablanca includes the famous line “Major Strasser has been shot – round up the usual suspects,” which is followed by Claud Raines’ and Humphrey Bogart’s characters (Louis Renault and Rick Blaine) doing a flit. The phrase inspired Christopher MacQuarrie to write The Usual Suspects, the sinister and elusive bad guy in which was Keyser Sose.

For weekly news sections for Hungerford areaLambourn Valley; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Burghfield area; Wantage area  please click on the appropriate li

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale