This week with Brian 22 to 29 February 2024

Further Afield the week according to Brian Quinn

This Week with Brian

Your Local Area

Including a special coating, limping along, distrust, exceptional circumstances, a difficult by-election, plastic people, a long greenwash, where it goes, the news spin-cycle, the Jackie Weaver Line, 4mph, £17m lost at sea, people power, budget time, the CIL debacle, a new seat, the officer in charge, from our Hamburg correspondent, nine inches, two songs in common, two opposable thumbs and two teas.

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

I’ve suggested before that PM Rishi Sunak seems to be coated with a material the direct opposite of that which people like Blair, Johnson and Trump use. With them, bad news rarely stuck, a proposition which in Trump’s case is currently being tested to destruction. Poor old Sunak, on the other hand, is clad in a very different cloak. To this, nothing good will adhere. Lower inflation, a fall in energy prices, reductions in the channel crossings – nothing seems to have given him any advantage. He’s also had genuine failures, such as missing the NHS waiting-list targets, the North Sea oil drilling contracts and several humiliating by-election defeats. A couple of months ago, though, he played what seemed to be a trump card. This wasn’t one he’d finessed out of the back of the pack but dealt to him by the ITV drama department. Now that seems to have been screwed up too.

[more below]

• Compensation

The Post Office scandal has been rumbling on for years – pretty obliviously to most politicians, despite what many are claiming – and it was seemingly Sunak’s good fortune to have Mr Bates v The Post Office aired when it was. He sprung into action, promising legislation, compensation, justice and transparency. The inquiry has continued, producing increasingly harrowing tales of corporate defensiveness and mendacity by senior PO staff, many of whom seem wholly unfit to hold public office or even be at liberty. It’s not done yet.

This had, for Sunak, had an unfortunate result. For many people, including me, the evidence has demonstrated a state monopoly drunk on its own sense of rectitude and invulnerability. In this the government is implicated. There have been ministers involved in the issue from all three main English parties since the nightmare erupted, two of whom are now the leaders of Labour and the Lib Dems. However, it’s always to the rulers of the day to whom the ordure adheres. By promising a resolution in double-quick time, Sunak is being judged on the standards of a 100m race rather than a marathon.

This leads to his second problem. The legislation is still grinding its way through parliament. Compensation offers have been tardy at best and on 31 January Alan Bates suggested that his suggested settlement was “cruel and derisory.” Like a long-promised push for victory in WW1, the advance has got stuck in the mud. By associating himself with the issue – which six weeks ago was a no-brainer – poor old Sunak is now paying the price for his magic wand not having worked with Gandalf-like speed.

It gets worse. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and the PO Chair she sacked, Henry Staunton, are locked in a toxic war of words. The Guardian reports that Staunton alleges he “was instructed by a senior civil servant to delay compensation payouts so the government could “limp into” the general election. Baddenoch retorted that these were “completely false” accusations, telling MPs on 19 February there was no proof that Staunton had been told to delay payments and that such an approach would be “mad.”

Well, perhaps it would. And yet, payments do seem to have been delayed. I get it that there are legal and procedural hurdles to cross but the fact that the accusation was made, and needed to be so trenchantly defended, suggests a deep division which goes beyond just pique at a sacking. Something is rotten in the state, we are all feeling. As usual, it’s the government of the day the has to take the blame.

• Trust

The trouble is that we’re dealing here with a spat between possibly the two most distrusted organisations in the country – the Post Office and the government.

Lack of trust in the Post Office has become endemic. Any question, ranging from “will you give fair and prompt compensation to the Postmasters?” to “will this first-class letter definitely arrive tomorrow?” is asked, at best, with a cynical raising of the eyebrow.

As for government, people distrust it most of the time. Just before an election during a period of various crises after fourteen years of whole or partial power when it’s led by someone who was, for the second successive time, appointed as PM by a vanishing small proportion of the population, is a likely time for distrust to be expressed. How will Sunak put out this latest fire?

• Precedent

There are other worries. Sunak’s promise of legislation – the politician’s solution to every problem – has uncomfortable implications. The first is that on 10 January, The Independent quoted Postal Minister Kevin Hollinrake as saying that “the law is ‘unprecedented‘ but that the situation requires ‘exceptional circumstances.’” This is a very manipulative and insidious idea. For my next witness on this point I’d like to ask the country’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) – now called National Landscapes –  to take the stand.

Development in these is prohibited except in the case of “exceptional circumstances”. The problem with “exceptional” is that the word means it hasn’t happened before and so can’t be defined. Any circumstance that’s unique, as most circumstances are, can thus be regarded as “exceptional” and so pass the test.

In the case of the NLs, the definition of “exceptional” appears to be that which is expedient, that which helps the local planning authority meet its housing target and that which involves an application which is adjacent to an existing development rather than an island in an otherwise undeveloped area. This is some protection though perhaps not what was intended. The vagueness of the criteria and the increasing number of precedents could make exceptional seem like the new normal.

Another concern is whether the legislature should be intervening in the judicial process at all given that there’s already a remedy that can be provided through the Supreme Court to quash convictions. This article in The Guardian supports this view.

Former Judge Isobel Plumstead claims that “exoneration by act of parliament is a dangerous path to go down. It is overriding the whole judicial system. It will inevitably lead to pressure for action in respect of other findings in criminal cases where a sort of moral right to exoneration is urged. In my view, it’s an open door for anybody to come along later and say ‘Well, what I’m doing isn’t really wrong either’.”

Another retired Judge, Nicholas Cooke, makes the different point that he is “very concerned that the proposed legislation will have the effect of covering up the extent to which failings in the criminal justice system allowed this appalling miscarriage of justice to occur.” He refers not only to the “consequences of underfunding” but also “prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate disclosure”. This seems to be a recurring theme in the sorry tale and one which, given plentiful evidence of its having happened in the past, “should have been at the forefront of the collective judicial mind”. He adds that “it does not seem that it was.”

We therefore have a situation where we’re accepting a text of “exceptional circumstances” for allowing legislative (or governmental) influence in judicial decisions; that we’re allowing such interventions at all, despite the dangers; and that this solution risks covering up faults in the judicial system. These objections seem in many ways irreconcilable.

The whole episode has proved that every aspect of the way in which our “establishment” works is flawed. This includes the government, parliament and effective monopolies like the Post Office (and others, in separate issues, like Thames Water and HS2). Trust in any of these is low. The government is at the top of the pile and so is reaping the bitter harvest: which brings me back to where I started.

• Elections

The BBC reports that the PM “faces the prospect of another difficult by-election after an independent panel upheld a 35-day suspension of Blackpool South MP Scott Benton.” The word “difficult” in this sentence seems unnecessary and can be taken as read. Even if the Conservative candidate were to stand against a notorious drug baron, Prince Andrew and a polar bear, I wouldn’t want to place any money on a Tory victory. Being selected as a Conservative by-election candidate at present must be rather like volunteering to go over the top in the Flanders trenches.

Scott Benton was caught up in a lobbying scandal and has as a result been banned from the Commons for 35 days, enough to trigger a recall petition which might (or might not) force his resignation. This adds a new item to the list of recent reasons for MPs moving on earlier than expected: these include death, sexual impropriety, Covid breaches, policy disagreements and personal pique. There have been 21 by-elections since the 2019 election (all since May 2021). Since July 2023, the Conservatives have lost six seats. That looks like relegation form to me.

There may not be a by-election, however. The recall petition may not succeed and, even if it does, the UK Parliament website provides a couple of escape clauses. “A new Writ is usually issued within three months of the vacancy,” it explains. “There have been a few times when seats remained vacant longer than six months. Seats will be left vacant towards the end of a Parliament. They are then filled at the general election.” Sunak may decide the whole business is not worth the candle. Benton’s majority in 2019 was only 3,690, which doesn’t look nearly enough. The smaller parties may also welcome not further depleting their war chests in order (possibly) to gain an MP who will only have a few months before they have to go again in a national contest.

• Recycling

Every time I sort the different kind of plastics that, despite our best efforts, we still purchase, I find myself wondering what will happen to them. I have, perhaps, become conditioned into believing that this is the least bad option which makes it possible to convince myself that this is all OK. Roger McGough’s poetic observation that “There are fascists pretending to be humanitarians, like cannibals on a health-kick eating only vegetarians” springs to mind. Have I been duped into thinking recycling is an acceptable solution?

A bit of research suggested that I might have been. Read more in this separate article.

• And finally…

• On the subject of recycling, plastic isn’t the only rubbish that gets repurposed. This article from Full Fact neatly examples the circular economy that also exists with dodgy information. A political party gets a statement on a particular matter into the press, either by making an allegation against the other lot or by arranging to write an opinion piece. This is then reported, with the explanation that this was attributed to or authored by a politician or party. A few months or even years later, the party then dusts off the quote and prints it in a leaflet with the paper’s masthead but without the qualification. Bingo – it suddenly seems that The Daily Mail or The Guardian or whoever has made the statement, so moving it from political opinion to news. Full Fact points the finger at both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems on this one. The article adds, with barely concealed distain, the the Tories’ claim was “presented as a local magazine.” Fake news in a fake newspaper, in other words.

• One of the places I lived in in London was on what was then called the East London Line. It’s been through a few name changes since then, the most recent of which was this month when the confusing spider’s web of the Overground network was split into six separate colour-coded lines. Some people have complained but I think it’s a massive improvement (as well as creating the illusion that south east London is now fully integrated into the tube network). One of the lines is the Weaver which, TFL explains, “runs through Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green and Hackney – areas of London known for their textile trade, shaped over the centuries by diverse migrant communities and individuals.” Other theories exist, including that it was in fact named after Jackie Weaver whose performance at a parish council meeting became a lockdown sensation.

• Encouragement for those who lobby for 20mph zones has recently come from Wales, with a report claiming that the controversial zones there have reduced speeds by an average of 4mph. Officials said they were “not expecting a strict adherence to the 20mph limit from everyone immediately and a change in behaviour and reduction in speeds might take two years or more.” Not everyone agrees, the Welsh Conservatives claiming that the move has “sacrificed billions of pounds from the Welsh economy.” The Commons Library says that the scheme has cost £34.3m to date. The “billions” comes from its estimate that “the economic impact of the policy to be a “negative £4.54 billion” over 30 years.” Proponents claim that this will be offset by other benefits including lower emissions and a reduction in NHS costs as a result of fewer or less serious accidents.

• We try to keep our cats in at night but I often forget that, for this to happen, we need to keep the downstairs bathroom door closed. The thing is, once they get into the bathroom, they can open the window which has a pull-down handle : then, like Keyser Sose, they’re gone, off racketing about the village before straggling back at what-time-do-you-call-this smelling of mice, woodsmoke and unfamiliar perfumes. The irony is that a few months ago I tried to get through the bathroom window – admittedly travelling in the opposite direction – and it took about fifteen minutes, nearly wrecked the basin unit and left me with a sore back for several days. There are times when having two opposable thumbs doesn’t give you the edge in dexterity. Claws, perhaps, are the way forward.

• An example of people power comes from Germany, provided by our ever-vigilant Hamburg correspondent Owen Jones. German football seems to be organised on more rational and equitable lines than it is in England but this was under threat as a result of investment proposals from the sport’s governing body. A wave of protests (often involving throwing chocolate coins onto the pitch) followed, as a result of which the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) has backed down, admitting that “continuation of the process no longer seems possible.” Our correspondent is a supporter of St Pauli, a club whose fundamental principles and sense of social responsibly – coupled with a fondness for heavy metal anthems and piratical logos – makes it without parallel in the English game (though Forest Green Rovers may disagree). St Pauli fans opposed these plans particularly strongly and the club itself was one of the twelve from the 36 in the top two divisions that took the same view.

• A rather embarrassing moment for the Royal Navy on 30 January when, for the second time in a row, a test Trident missile failed. The BBC quotes the Sunday Times as saying that “the Trident II D5 missile was intended to be fired 3,700 miles to a sea target off the west coast of Africa but veered towards the US,” before flopping into the ocean near where it was launched. Aside from the £17m price tag, the incident provided an opportunity for Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to have a play around with logic and the English language. “An anomaly did occur” during the test but Trident was “the most reliable weapons system in the world.” I don’t see how both these statements can be true. The system remained, he added, “effective, dependable, and formidable.” Well, yes: it would be all these things if you were a dolphin unfortunate enough to be coming up for air near the submarine at the time. Perhaps we should get the North Koreans to build the next lot for us…

Across the area

• Budget o’clock

On Thursday 29 February, a full meeting of West Berkshire Council will be considering the 2024-25 budget. As has been widely reported, all councils are preparing their against a backdrop of uncertainty caused by rising prices, rising demand for services such as social care and what many see as luke-warm government support. West Berkshire is no exception.

Last year’s meeting was a slightly odd one. Taking place as it did on the eve of the election, the opposition Lib Dems decided not to move any budget amendments, perhaps wanting to keep their powder dry for after their anticipated victory in May (which came to pass). The Greens did, however, propose some: and to the surprise of many, including perhaps the Greens themselves, three of these were accepted. The foot now being on the other horse or whatever the phrase is, both opposition groups (the Conservatives and the red/green/grey alliance known as the Minority Group) will be putting forward their plans. There will doubtless be more revealed on the night, but these are the ones I’m aware of.

  • The Conservatives will be proposing that the green bin charge, rather than being cut (and costing WBC £100,0000) should be frozen or even increased. I’m completely with them on this, and argued this point in this column on 1 February (scroll down to “The green bins.”)
  • The Minority Group will be looking at £3.5m that it claims could be saved from the capital budget in areas such as IT systems, full-fibre to schools and document archiving. It will also propose advancing the work on improving the classrooms at Falkland School and returning this to the 2024-25 budget. I understand that is likely to be seconded by a Conservative to demonstrate cross-party support.

We’ll take a look at the discussion and the outcomes in this column on 7 March 2024.

• People power at the dump

In his latest newsletter, Nick Carter (one of the WBC Councillors for Burghfield and Mortimer) addresses an issue with the booking system at the Newbury and Padworth recycling centres. The problem was that, for no obvious reason, one couldn’t book a slot less than ninety minutes in advance. The system (like those in the leisure centres) was a Covid innovation. Most people are now pretty happy with them: but this strange anomaly persisted,

This point had been made to Nick Carter by Jeremy Sharp, a Newbury resident and Kennet Radio presenter. I know that he holds firm views about this as I do a slot on his show on Friday afternoons and he’s expressed these several times on air. It now seems that a chat between Nick Carter and WBC’s waste team has let to the agreement that “if capacity exists, there’s every reason to allow short notice bookings and changes.”  Nick Carter added that the online booking system has been amended to work this way.

I have only a very hazy idea of what an online system can and can’t do as I’m not a computer programmer. Jeremy Sharp, however, is and this may have increased his irritation. The time restriction was probably felt to be a good idea at the time (though it’s hard to see why) and never changed. There’s a strong tradition in this country of our being forced to submit to a series of minor inconveniences. For decades, banks used to close at 3.30pm and pubs at 11pm and we accepted these restrictions, hallowed as they were by custom, as being just the way things were. This is a small but satisfying example of the adage that if you think something’s wrong, complain about it. You might not win but certainly nothing will change if you don’t.

“A spare half hour or so (due to a last minute cancelled meeting or whatever), is the perfect time to nip to the recycling centre with that box of stuff that’s been waiting for just such a moment,” Jeremy Sharp told me. “I found it pretty frustrating that there seemed to be a minimum wait time, which could be up to 90 minutes, which would prevent this. I was certain that others must have felt similar annoyance. I’m so pleased that we have something a little more sensible now, and am grateful to Nick for bringing this up with the relevant people.’

I look forward to congratulating Jeremy on his victory on-air on Friday. I also look forward to learning what he feels is the next local matter that requires attention. “I wonder,” he mused, “if we can look at retrospective bookings, for things that we should have got round to some time ago…” That would require some clever programming and a time machine, which perhaps he can design. There is a precedent for this, of sorts, as the planning system is full of retrospective applications…

• CIL questions

During the election campaign 2023, the Lib Dems included the pledges that they would sort out the wrongly charged CIL payments and ensure that, in the time-honoured phrase, lessons were learned. Both these pledges are being kept.

I’m aware of the progress on resolving some of the cases. As with the Post Office scandal – the similarities between the two issues seem to increase each time I think about them – the compensation and refunds are proceeding more slowly than many would wish. In WBC’s defence, it was first necessary to go through all the applications involving CIL since the levy was introduced in 2015 to establish how many such cases there might be.

The second part of the pledge, a long hard look at the systems, is now under way as well. WBC has appointed POS consultants “to provide an independent external review of the customer journey for CIL.” It will be looking at five areas: internal processes on collection, enforcement and communication; the views and experiences of home owners, self-builders and developers towards CIL in WB; the views of the elected members; a comparison with other similar authorities; and how the “customer journey” can be improved.

The consultants have stressed that they have not been commissioned to look at or comment on individual cases although an understanding of the main issues these have thrown up will clearly be important. To this end, some of the CIL victims have recently met with POS. If you have a complaint pending and were not invited to attend, this does not mean that your case won’t be considered. Two separate processes are at work.

The report is expected to be completed in about six weeks. I spoke to WBC Acting Leader Jeff Brooks on 21 February and he said that he was preparing a statement on the progress on the CIL issue which he expected to release some time in March. By the end of next month we therefore should have a clearer idea of where matters stand.

Yet another similarity CIL shares with the PO is that, after years of living largely in the shadows, the problem is now far more public: and, indeed, has been accepted as being a problem at all. One of the possible extra spotlights that could be shone on CIL would be a trip to WBC’s Scrutiny Commission. This was due to have met on 29 February but the meeting has now been postponed until the following month. When it does meet, the matter of CIL will only be discussed to the extent of deciding what further investigations are merited. It may well be that, if things proceed as at present, it might hang fire. It is, however, an influential body and has the power to summon any current members or officers to give evidence: former ones can be invited to attend but are not obliged to attend.

In a related matter, one resident who has been particularly battered by this put in some freedom of Information (FoI) requests about CIL. One of these asked about the costs that WBC had incurred in dealing with the disputed matters, including officers’ time and external legal representation.

On the latter point, the reply said there had been one instance where barrister’s costs of £33,825 were incurred but which were recovered from the developer. No mention was made of the £3,850 of legal advice it sought in order to have an aspect of its constitution explained which was incurred in advance of the car crash of a Full Council meeting on 17 March 2022 which culminated in the defenestration of then WBC Councillor Claire Rowles. None the less, I concede that this expense was perhaps not covered by the phrasing of the FoI question as it was not directly the result of a specific CIL case. None the less, I mention it. If the issue hadn’t still been rumbling on (and had Claire Rowles not decided to make a stand on it) this money would not have needed to be spent.

More revealing was the response about the internal costs, supplying the details of which were refused as being “manifestly unreasonable.” In the process, WBC admitted that there were “about 5,000 items of correspondence.” That kind of tells us all we need to know about the scale of the problem. It’s worth adding that, until all the cases have been resolved, this number is only going to rise.

It would be interesting to know what figures a similar request would reveal if asked of the Post Office’s costs. Corporate defensiveness is everywhere and tends to kick in after the point has passed when it’s possible for your average politician or corporate boss to hold their hands up and say “we got it wrong.” People tend not to notice this line has been crossed until it’s too late.

I’m more confident than I’ve been at any time in the last four years that, on CIL, things are moving towards a conclusion. I hope I’m not disappointed.

• A new constituency

The Reading West and Mid-Berkshire seat (a snappy name, as I’m sure you’ll all agree) is a new one. It was created as a result of the tighter rules of the Boundary Commission that all constituencies (with a few exceptions where islands are involved) be plus or minus five percent of the population of the average (between 69,724 and 77,062). Five of the eight constituencies wholly or largely in Berkshire were within this range so it was decided to create a ninth one using parts of the Reading West, Newbury and Wokingham seats.

About 30% of the population are in the Borough of Reading with the rest in the largely rural eastern part of West Berkshire. The West Berkshire wards of Aldermaston, Basildon, Bradfield, Bucklebury, Burghfield and Mortimer, Downlands (polling district BC), Pangbourne, Ridgeway, Theale, Tilehurst and Purley, Tilehurst Birch Copse, and Tilehurst South and Holybrook will be in this new seat. Everywhere west of here will remain in Newbury.

For West Berkshire, one of the main results of the change will be that for the first time the district will have substantial representation by more than one MP. Hitherto, the seat of Newbury has, except for some parts in the east, been co-extensive with the area of the local authority. This will be good for the area: perhaps particularly if, as seems possible, more than one different party is represented. As to who the MP for the new seat might be, there are currently four declared candidates that I’m aware of: Helen Belcher of the Lib Dems, Carolyne Culver of the Greens, Ross Mackinnon of the Conservatives and Adrian Abbs who’s standing as an Independent. The last three are current WBC councillors.

• Flood reports

Again as mentioned before, residents are encouraged to report any recent flood damage to their properties. There’s a government scheme which needs to be triggered by a certain number of responses in each district if it’s to apply there and West Berkshire’s has currently not quite been hit. To make a report Weill thus not only potentially trigger compensation for you but also for the others in the district who’ve applied. Also, the more reports WBC receives, the more it can put pressure on the relevant bodies to get better measures put in place to help deal with future incidents.

You can read more in this separate post. Other districts such as Swindon, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire may be in a similar situation. Contact the appropriate authority (see list below) for more information.

• Residents’ news

The latest Residents’ Bulletin from West Berkshire Council includes active communities, postal voting, alcohol and drug use, e-magazines, meet the artist, public meetings, library news, Saw House, a mini messy museum and MMR jabs.

• 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.

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

• The Let’s Get Active Fund (LGAF) is back, with £40,000 available to improve access to physical activities in West Berkshire.

• West Berkshire Council is urging residents to responsibly recycle textiles by donating saleable clothing items to charity shops or by using registered charity collection banks or Council provided collection points across the district. The emergence of several unaffiliated textile banks across the district are being investigated due to suspected false claims that they “support people in need.”

A statement from West Berkshire Council says that “proposals to create a new Berkshire Prosperity Board to help drive forward and deliver future economic success across the county are set to be endorsed by all six Berkshire Councils.”

• West Berkshire Council has announced a “comprehensive support package for residents facing winter challenges.”

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.

• The animals of the week are any of the ones featured in this stunning collection of pictures from the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition.

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

The quiz, the sketch and the song

• So we’re at the Song of the Week. I’ve never been a huge fan of Level 42 but have always liked Running in the Family, mainly because it has one of my favourite lyrics: “Dad rang the officer in charge, a man so large he barely fit his circumstances.”

• And coming up right behind it is the Comedy Moment of the Week. The grumpy, deluded and malapropism-prone Count Arthur Strong cracks me up every time. Here he is trying to order Two Teas.

• And stumbling along in the rear is the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: What do Flowers in the Rain by The Move and Video Killed the Radio Star by Buggles have in common? Last week’s questions was: What is the approximate diameter of a blue whale’s aorta? The answer – for your average blue whale, if such a thing exists – is about nine inches.

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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