This week with Brian 31 August to 7 September 2023

Further Afield the week according to Brian Quinn

This Week with Brian

Including a feisty letter, a dark story, zombies, cricketing equality, BA.2.86, £175,000, $20 million, RAAC, the latest coup, free compost, nutrient neutrality, back to the bins, a front-seat bull, Spinal Tap, the second-widest street, two coastlines and it makes no difference.

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

• So, Nadine Dorries has finally resigned as an MP, after several promptings from people ranging from Chris Bryant MP to the members of some of the councils in her Mid-Bedfordshire constituency which they claim she has only nominally been representing. All other defences about waiting for non-peerage explanations, accusations of conspiracy and political ill-will fade to nothing compared to this. All MPs are elected to serve their constituents. It doesn’t seem that she had this at the top of her list.

[more below] 

• Resignation

Her resignation letter to the PM was a feisty piece of work. You can see the whole text here, the website of the Daily Mail being an appropriate platform. A few points struck me…

In her first sentence she refers to having served “the good people of Mid Bedfordshire” as their MP. Call me cynical, but this seems a little bit like someone referring to “the little man from the village who comes to do the lawn.” Also, she was elected to serve all the people of Mid Bedfordshire, not just the good ones.

She went on to list her various ministerial appointments and a selection of her achievements. I haven’t had time to check if all these are correct or fair but hats off to her if they all are.

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were referred to as having been “taken down”, as if both had been assassinated. She also asks why “we have had five Conservative Prime Ministers since 2010, with not one of the previous four having left office as the result of losing a general election?” She’s referring to Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and Sunak himself. She describes this as a “democratic deficit”. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of recent current affairs will know that Cameron, Johnson and Truss left office because of finding themselves in untenable positions which they themselves had created. May was merely unable to deal with the post-Brexit toxicity.

It also appears that “as you and I know, is the result of the machinations of a small group of individuals embedded deep at the centre of the party and Downing Street.” Was this secret cabal responsible for all four resignations?

It also seems that she has uncovered “a dark story” with “forces ranged against her” and the spectre of “the most powerful figures in the land.” There are then some specific allegations about the Cabinet Secretary which I have no knowledge of. It all seems a bit Illuminati-Trumpian so far.

She then accuses the country of having a “Zombie parliament”, whatever that means, and Sunak himself of having no electoral mandate. Nor did May or Johnson until they held an election, while Truss did not hold one at all. That’s a problem that she needs to lay at the door of our system that permits people to skip into office at the whim of members of the ruling party.

There then follow some observations about what being a true Conservative means. I can’t really comment on this as there seem to be as many views as to what Conservatism is as there are Conservatives. Suffice to say that her views and Sunak’s do not appear to co-incide in several important areas.

She also forecasts “an electoral tsunami’ (not perhaps the happiest phrase) in which 200 or more of her MP colleagues might “lose their livelihoods”. Aside from this being a depressing (for the MPs) and perhaps self-fulfilling electoral prediction by a former cabinet minister, I take issue with the “losing their livelihoods” claim. I’m not aware of any Conservative MP who has, on being defeated, not gone on to garner greater wealth and power elsewhere. Indeed, many have other jobs at the moment. Are we meant to be feeling sorry for them?

She then says that “I shall take some comfort from explaining to people exactly how you and your allies achieved this undemocratic upheaval in my book.” I imagine she means “I shall take some comfort from explaining to people in my book exactly how you and your allies achieved this undemocratic upheaval.”

Finally, she observes that “I shall today inform the Chancellor of my intention to take the Chiltern Hundreds, enabling the writ to be moved on September the 4th for the by-election you are so desperately seeking to take place.” Well, not just Sunak. When you said you’d resign back in June you promised this would be with immediate effect.

“History will not judge you kindly,” she remarks toward the end. I’m not sure many of her constituents or fellow MPs will judge her kindly either. Mind you, she’s always done her own thing and defied convention and expectation and there’s something to be said for that. However, as Shakespeare (sort of) observed, nothing in our life becomes us like the leaving of it. Nadine Dorries’ leaving of her immediate political position seems to be characterised by an uneasy mixture of bile, revenge and ambition.

• Equality

It’s been announced that “with immediate effect” England’s women cricketers will receive the same fees for international matches as do their male counterparts. The Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket reported, as quoted by the BBC, that “women were paid 25% of men’s fees for white-ball and 15% for Tests by the England and Wales Cricket Board.”

The success of the Hundred, which I’ve banged on about several times recently, was part of that: although that’s not an international event. The Ashes took place this year and the women only played one test match (whereas the men play for five or six). It was a gripping encounter (despite England losing), the stand-out of which was England’s Tammy Beaumont’s innings of 208. The whole point of a test series is that they ebb and flow – look at the way the men’s series played out – and are not just reduced to one premier encounter followed by a number of white-ball fixtures. Let’s see a bit more ambition next time.

The real test, of course, will come when the footballers’ salaries start achieving parity. Internationals account for a fairly small share of the mens’ incomes: its the clubs that provide the real dosh. Perhaps, in the light of recent developments, we need to wait for the inauguration of the Female Saudi Premier League for any chance of parity. Odder things have happened.

• Evidence

In a not-very-surprising U-turn, it was announced on 30 August that the enquiry into the murders committed by Lucy Letby will, rather than just being independent, be made statutory. This means that witnesses will be compelled to attend and the proceedings will be presided over by a judge: it will therefore be much like a trial, rather than a series of questions of people who may or may not choose to rock up. The inference from this decision is that it was feared that some might not do so without this compunction. One of the potential key witnesses is apparently no longer resident in the UK but this new status should not prevent his being made to attend even if he would prefer not to.

I wouldn’t like to have to rake over in public every decision I made five years ago: but then I’ve never been paid £175,000 a year and I’ve never had a job that involved looking after the people who look after the lives of new-born babies. I appreciate there are tough calls to be made. It may take a bit of time but this might suggest if the managers in charge made the right ones.

And now it seems, more than a year after the alleged crime, there’s a similar case, in Birmingham. This at least was looked into rather more quickly than seemed to have happened in Chester.

• Inoculation

Lest we forget, lasting infectious diseases are still with us. The BBC reports that “vaccines to protect at-risk people against Covid and flu this winter will be rolled out a month earlier than planned in England, because of the emergence of a new Covid variant.” This is known to its friends as BA.2.86. It sounds like something you might see in the flight-number section of an air ticket but it’s yet another variant of our old friend. It’s not yet one “of concern” but that could change.

It seems impossible that we won’t have more and more infections similar to Covid 19. Nothing – apart, one hopes, from our governmental and scientific preparedness – has changed since then. We’re still pressing up against the the natural world, travelling all over the planet and intensely socialising, just as we were back then. It’s what we do. As we sow, even shall we reap.

• And finally

• There’s been yet another coup in a former French colony in Africa, this time in Gabon. This small (2.5 million population) but oil-rich nation has been ruled by the same family for 55 years: that’s as if Harold Wilson’s descendants were still calling the shots over here. A soldier involved in the coup said that they had “put an end to the current regime” because of “irresponsible, unpredictable governance resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos.” The same could be said of many other places.

• The latest acronym we might have to learn to fear is RAAC – Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete – which was used in many public buildings until the 1990s. The Health and Safety Executive has warned that it’s now past its natural lifespan and buildings that use it “could collapse at any moment.” Oh, great. It appears that this includes parts of over 100 schools which will now not be open to pupils next week. Isn’t fixing these kind of things what the summer holidays are for?

• Ex –and the way things are looking – possible future US President Donald Trump has managed to raise $20m for his election campaign in the last three weeks, over a third of this since and as a direct result of his indictment and resulting mugshot in Georgia. Mind you, can this figure be trusted? He’s been accused of lying about his finances before. Looking back to the extraordinary events of January 2021 at the Capitol this seems beyond bizarre. Proof if proof be needed that sharing some of a culture and all of a language with another place gives you absolutely no insight or understanding about how it functions…

Across the area

• Free compost

On Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September 2023 there will be a give-away event at the Padworth Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF), Padworth Lane, RG7 4JF, between 10am and 4pm where residents will be able to pick up Veolia’s locally produced soil conditioner for free. The soil conditioner is produced at Padworth from food and garden waste collected across West Berkshire and is being provided free of charge to West Berkshire Council residents through its partnership with Veolia.

Residents must bring along their own bags or boxes to load the compost into their vehicles and will be responsible for collecting and loading the soil conditioner from the site to their vehicle.

No booking is necessary, however WBC will be asking that attendees bring along ID or a bill with them to prove they are a resident of West Berkshire. Depending on demand there may be a need to queue for the soil conditioner. We also ask that attendees only collect a reasonable amount to ensure everyone has an opportunity to make use of this offer.

There will be vehicle restrictions in place. Vehicles listed as prohibited in the Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) user guide on page 12 will not be allowed. No commercial vehicles will be admitted; this is for householders only. 

In addition, free compostable food waste caddy liners will be available to West Berkshire residents between 4 and 30 September 2023 from all West Berkshire Council Libraries and from the Council Office reception at Market Street in Newbury, while stocks last. Note that you don’t have to use these in the caddies: these will still be collected even if the food waste is placed in loose.

• Nutrient neutrality

In the last eighteen months we’ve heard a lot about these Natural England regulations which were introduced in several parts of the country including the River Lambourn catchment area (which includes a good chunk of West Berkshire and also extends into the Vale of White Horse and Wiltshire) last year. The intention was to reduce the amount of phosphates and nitrates which entered our waterways; and the number-one target was held to be new housing developments of any size.

Trying to implement these new regulations caused local planning departments considerable headaches and certainly caused delay to decision-making. Now, just when officers seem to have got their heads round the issue, the government has said that it wants to do away with the whole thing. This will, Whitehall’s rationale runs, remove another EU-imposed shackle on national growth and help ensure that we get our house-building targets back on track.

In this separate post, we take a look at what the nutrient neutrality policies are (and are not), why they are in several ways misguided and what positive effects they have so far had. We also consider the political time and the legal implications of the announcement and wonder if the environment has, as campaigner and musician Feargal Sharkey suggested, “been left to fend for itself.”

• The bins again

There’s a letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News which says that “it’s laughable to read Councillor Adrian Abbs blaming the previous Conservative administration for West Berkshire Council moving to three-weekly bin collections.” He didn’t do either of these things.

As he mentioned in a letter sent to us and the NWN, he pointed out that the consultants who’d presented the report had been commissioned by the previous administration. However, there’s no issue about blame or otherwise for the decision as no decision has been taken. It is merely an idea that has been proposed. The new administration said that they would open up these advisory groups so that people could see what advice was being provided to the Council before any policy was decided upon.

Given the comments that have been made about them so far, they might now be wondering if this was such a good idea. Perhaps a bit more communication will be needed before the next advisory group meets (I think it will be transport) so people are clear about what these do and don’t do.

The letter writer expresses irritation that WBC has not consulted on the pedestrianisation in Newbury. I suppose it might now that the project has been delayed but I’m not sure it would do much more than confirm that some people like the idea and some don’t. The only way is to try it and then see what people think. There was a good deal of support for the idea when the work was being done on the town-centre strategy in 2021-22.

• A job fair

A jobs fair in Newbury next month will bring together employers and organisations that are able to offer work and training opportunities with local people who are seeking employment, a change of career or career advice. In attendance will be West Berkshire Council and other organisations from a wide range of sectors – from health and social care to construction, banking, telecoms, retail and hospitality. Other local employers attending including Vodafone, Metro Bank, AWE and Sovereign Housing. It’s been organised by Laura Farris, MP for Newbury, with the support of Newbury Jobcentre Plus.

This will take place on Thursday 28 September from 10am until 1pm at the Northcroft Leisure Centre. Admission to the jobs fair is free, but places must be booked for a specific timeslot via email or by calling 01635 551070.

• Residents’ news

The latest Residents’ Bulletin from West Berkshire Council covers the annual electoral canvass, Ukranian Independence Day, Faraday Road, career opportunities, exam results, return to work, active consultations, a summer fair, home-to-school transport and on the buses.

• 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

Click here to take part in the consultation about West Berkshire’s bus services (closes 10 September).

• 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 is this large and horned bull in Nebraska which was pulled over by the police – or its driver was – because it was strapped into the front seat of a car which had had half its roof sawn off to accommodate the animal. “We had some citable issues with the situation” one of the traffic cops remarked. The driver was let off with a written warning.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News includes, as well as ones referred to elsewhere, communications on the subject of kind words on the Lido, not the best way, censorship and listening to the experts.

• 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

• So already we’re at the Song of the Week. Thanks once again to Prof JC for drawing my attention to a beautiful song I hadn’t heard for ages: It Makes no Difference by The Band. Many versions are available: this one is from the Scorcese film about them, The Last Waltz. What a voice Rick Danko had.

• So next must be the Comedy Moment of the Week. Let’s have a quick burst of Spinal Tap. In this scene, the band’s manager Ian Faith explains why their album cover artwork for Smell the Glove needed to be pulled.

• Which only leaves us with the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: Which is the only county in England with two coastlines? Last week’s week’s question was: Stockton-on-Tees has the widest high street in England. Which town has the second widest? The answer is, from a dozen miles down the road from here, Marlborough.

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 link.

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