Shut the Front Door and Catch a Bus Month with Wiltshire Council!

The lunacy, much less the audacity to suggest it, of Wiltshire Concillors, and their inability to accept reality, is highlighted in September by the singlemost insane campaign to-date; Catch a Bus Month.

A double-decker bus can take up to 75 cars off the road and switching just one journey in 25 to the bus would save two million tonnes of CO2 emissions,” the article on their website begins, because everyone in Wiltshire has been waiting for them to tell them this.

Assuming it’s us neglecting environmental concerns as the reason we don’t take the bus, as opposed to the utterly appalling and unaffordable service available to us, in their infinite wisdom they’ve invented “Catch the Bus Month,” where “Wiltshire Council is taking part to encourage more people to change their travel habits by taking the bus and celebrate it as a sustainable, inclusive and accessible form of transport.” Seriously promoting this hairbrained scheme on social media seemingly without the foggiest notion of the backlash of criticism anyone with a working brain cell would’ve forseen.

A flourish of negative responses errupted, some stating how their village bus service was cut, others complaining it’s simply not affordable or accessible. Others telling stories of being thrown off buses before their stop to make way for other passengers, being rudely addressed by drivers and their issues not being dealt with by the bus companies.

Personally I’ve found bus drivers of extremities, they’re either exceptionally happy and willing to please, or grumpy as sin; there is no middle-ground. One once sped off before I could get my daughter seated, and her pushchair collapsed in time, a toddler at the time, resulting in her hitting her head. My complaint fell on deaf ears. Now they’re at senior school the bus fee would be over a thousand pounds each, annually; a journey I can drive for far less. And that is the unfortunate reality.

Everyone knows if you’re relying on the local bus service you’re best taking a tent, and for shift workers the bus simply wouldn’t get them to work on time, even if they were reliable to turn up. Forgo reliability for a second and consider the timetable, imagine a night bus, but keep your disillusionment, most stop running by 5pm at the latest; everybody, tea and time for bed.

The Department or Transport’s (DfT) National Bus Strategy requires local authorities to form enhanced legal partnerships with bus operator,” it says, “and the council is working on a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to achieve a vision for a better bus network.”

Cllr Laura Mayes, Deputy Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the bus companies with a combined aim of increasing usage and improving the service across Wiltshire.”

Here’s a thought, and it is just a thought, then, not that I’m the expert, but how about Wiltshire Council actually improve the service first, then have this “celebratory” Catch the Bus Month when it’s done and it’s actually reasonable and affordable to catch the damn things?! Unless, of course, you’re collecting laughing emojis on your social media posts… I know I am, but that’s intentional.

Catch the bus month, oh, my years. It’s Wiltshire Council who need to take a bus journey, to another county, and see how much better they’re doing!

Waxin’ the Palace; Chatting to the Man Who Convinced Wiltshire Council to Have a Rave!

All the local mainstream are on it like a fly on a turd, and the negativity of keyboard warriors is flowing fast and furious. Who am I to steer off the bandwagon, yet you know we’ll handle the news Wax Palace obtained permission for a “rave festival” to happen near Erlestoke with a slightly different angle……

An angle much less based upon the fact your esteemed editor had a youth some indeterminable time yonder, where he gyrated in muddy fields with eyes like saucers, masticating the shit out of a Wrigley’s Doublemint, and more on the notion, I hope, that while we have a great music scene in these backwaters, there is little to tickle our younger resident’s tastebuds. This then, is great news, surely?

But is raving still a progressive thing, or does it dabble largely in retrospection? And what exactly will this Wax Palace provide in the way of entertainment? Harry, one of the organisers, a man who unbelievably convinced Wiltshire Council, conservative at the best of times, to grant them permission to hold what’s best described, to avoid media confusion, as a “rave festival;” can he sell ice to Eskimos, or what?! In a short chat with him, I suspected he could.

He giggled at the question, “we’d do our best, that’s for sure! It’s been a bit of a task, but we got it through, and they seemed very with it, during the hearing.” Throughout Harry projected himself as level-headed, reliably assured of the achievement of Kaleidoscope, the name of the event.

The first myth from the Gazette’s report to dispel is that these guys are bundling down from Yorkshire to ruin our peaceful community, when Harry explained the company is only registered there, and he lives close to Erlestoke himself. “The group who first run it were students in Leeds,” he explained, “but we’re very much Wiltshire born and bred.” Herewith the reason for bringing it to Devizes.

Promoting this today is neither here nor there, they’ve a solid base and early bird tickets have already sold out for the estimated 800 strong event. “This is our third edition of the festival,” he said with me interrupting about how to define it, “it is very much a festival, but we hope it has the apogee of a rave, though licenced, as the articles have focused on. It started as one night event, next time it was two, now we’ve got the full weekend, and our largest line-up yet.”

To spoil my queries of disambiguation, musically, Kaleidoscope will offer the whole range of rave subgenres, from house and disco to techno to drum & bass; “you name it will be there!” But this only got me pondering the setup, if it would, as legendary pay-raves like Universe’s Tribal Gatherings once attempted, to host each subgenre in a different tent. Because much as this appeased the then evolution of the diversity, it tended to clash into one immense noise when central! “We don’t have genre-split tents,” Harry clarified, “they’re split more-so by their set design. We’ve got three stages, one indoors, another outdoor, in which we’re shaping out an old school bus for the DJ’s, which should be really fun.”

Harry jested jealously at me rapping about raves of yore like Universe, “we missed that golden era, but we very much like to be inspired by the ethos.” This is great, though I’m trying to avoid an Uncle Albert moment where I preach on memory lane, but it does bring to question how niche is the market, does Harry think rave is either coming back, or it never really lost its appeal?

“I think it is coming back, commercially, perhaps it did lose a bit of what it was meant to be. In the last few years, I’ve heard people referring to their club nights as raves. I think the term rave now covers something broader and less political than it did, originally.” Harry hopes it does come back, encouraged to bring back those original values.

Though I’d suggest, rave was apolitical, it wasn’t until government interjected with the Justice Bill post-Castlemorton which both forced it underground and for ravers to think politically. Originally it was solely a celebration of life, and to party, and that really was our only objective. Which neatly covers another misconception; we raved everywhere and anywhere, if it meant standing in a muddy field, or if it meant going clubbing, location was irrelevant, so long as we could blow off steam and dance!

And herein lies my pitch at why I think this is a fantastic addition to our local events, because if you’re the first to complain about this, I sure hope you’re not the same one whinging about acts of anti-social behaviour in youth culture. If Wax Palace can provide a safe haven for young to go and enjoy themselves, it’s surely a positive.

Wiltshire Council were keen to label this a festival rather than a rave, as rave connotes to some to be an illegal, uncontrolled gathering. I say, this is the name of the genre, and doesn’t relate to illegal gatherings at all. After the Justice Bill the scene became anarchistic in frustration to the restrictions, but it never began like this. There was a sense of one big family, a tribal movement, and it was all about smiles. This, I feel is an important point to reduce this common misconception, and something Harry was also keen to express. “We’ve worked really hard to build a real sense of community,” he explained.

Today, of course, the original ravers have come of age, and organisations like Raver Tots have marketed retrospection in the form of taking your kids to a rave, but throughout our chat I got the feeling the ethos of Wax Palace was much more progressive, about introducing “rave; the next generation,” and that’s good to hear. “We like the idea through the way we organise events and our approach will introduce the idea of raving to a market who are only just coming to an age where they’re able to go to clubs. So, it’s nice to think we have the chance in shaping that impression they have. For a lot of people, this could be their first music festival, and for it to be local and described as a rave would be really exciting; exactly what I’d wish I’d have had in my village when I was 18.”

Tickets are here, Kaleidoscope takes place from 2nd-5th September.

Avoid negativity of misconceptions bought about by a bygone era, well organised and safe pay raves have happened since day dot, and providing youth with entertainment is paramount to building bridges; Wax Place, I salute you!


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Citizen’s Advice’s Plea for Funding From Local Councils as Wiltshire Council Slash Their Budget

Do you take Citizen’s Advice for granted? For many it’s a lifeline, the first port of call for any issues rising from legal, debt, consumer, and housing, yet Wiltshire Council has slashed £100k off its funding, about one-third of their budget. Makes you wonder why they ever dropped their slogan, “where everybody matters,” really, doesn’t it?!

The independent organisation has been rallying local town and parish councils for support. A spokesman from Citizen’s Advice was heard at the Devizes Town Council Committee Meeting on Tuesday 16th August, to plea for financial help.

The trade publication Third Sector states around 60% of Citizens Advice funding comes from government sources, but Citron contends there’s tension between Citizens Advice and the government, because while the charity relies on government funding to survive, it’s most effective as a high-profile critic of government policy. As if the government has any policies worthy of criticism! But cuts like these forces the bureau to seek much more funding from other sources. Locally, they’re approaching major towns and parishes for support.

As well as rising prices, Devizes Town Council explained the spokesperson was keen to point out this was “unfortunate in timing as they anticipated a rash of applications for help when the next raise in energy caps occurs, as well as coping with the other challenges of inflation.”

Councillor Ian Hopkins rightfully criticised the savagery of the cut and the timing, suggesting the town council “were not the authority to whom they should be appealing but, in suggestion a more rational approach, suggested an application in the autumn, prior to budget setting.”

Our local branch is situated in New Park Street, yet serves a wider community across villages and other local towns, so, Councillor Burton’s enquiry if funds would be spent on supporting Devizes people only could not be reassured by the spokesperson. She did however confirm they had received some responses offering various sums.

Councillor Hunter asked whether any other of their services could be redirected back to Wiltshire Council or other agencies. The representative confirmed that Age UK has been supportive but CAB remains the first port of call during which they hope to empower clients to follow up themselves, leaving it unlikely that Wiltshire Council would be impacted.

There was a surge amidst Devizes Town Council of favouring grants which would be kept for local use, but the councillor Hopkins suggested that £1,500 should be given, pending a more formal application for better funds, a proposal that was carried unanimously.

So, well done DTC, you’re officially in my good books (were you ever not, you need ask?!) No, really, I’ve applied some Lynx Africa and I’m coming in for a group hug, asap! Citizens Advise is a sustenance for so many, providing free advice and help is essential even more in this day and age, yet it’s a sad reality of a failing government when Citizen’s Advise needs its own advice on how to fund itself.


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Weird, I Find Myself Agreeing With Danny Kruger Over Station Road Carpark Closure!

It’s quite alright, you’ve not entered the Upside Down from Stranger Things, or another theoretical parallel universe. Station Road carpark in Devizes will be closed overnight to cars, effective immediately. MP for Devizes Danny Kruger pushed for this Wiltshire Council order, and in hindsight, I happen to agree with them and wished it had come proir to the terrible incident which spurred the notion….

Wiltshire Council has today (11th August) obtained a Closure Order for the carpark to help prevent anti-social behaviour in the area. It will mean the car park is closed between 6pm and 6am every day for a period of three months, for anyone other than season ticket holders, buses, lorries and coaches.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said “This will be enforceable by the police, who will be regularly patrolling the area to ensure that people are abiding by the Closure Order.” And yes, that’s the same police force recently put into special measures, red in all areas. One cannot help but think about the word “proactive” here, and perhaps regular monitoring of the carpark should’ve been a priority before said terrible incident.

Sadly, if it has to be, and does what they suggest it will do, “help prevent anti-social behaviour” in the area, then I agree. Yet I cannot help but feel they’re putting a plaster on a severed limb, and this will only push activities elsewhere. Proactive policing, engaging with youth, providing facilities they want, and building trust with them is a better way to deal with the situation than bricking them in.

And no one shrugs at the hypocrisy, where an MP takes a stand on youth crime yet backed a criminal Prime Minister. So you may’ve raked back a few popularity points with the constituency after using your political position to voice your relgious beliefs on abortion, Danny K, but to be honest it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, really, now does it?!


Sad Day for Melksham Assembly Hall

The stalwart venue of Melksham is being viewed more like just a wart by town councillors, in a sad day which could see the closing curtain for the Assembly Hall.

Melksham News reported on the rumour I’ve been trying to hold back on, hoping the day wouldn’t come, that Melksham Assembly Hall and the Town Hall could be sold off under controversial plans being considered by Melksham Town Council.

More than once, Conservative Councillor Phil Alford contradicts himself in conversation with Melksham News, in the very same sentences!

Here he defends his case by telling the newspaper, “the Assembly Hall needs £400K for refurbishment,” but adds “we should build a new facility.” Is it just me being thick, I mean I’m no building contractor, but wouldn’t building a new facility cost more than repairing the one you’ve got?!

And does it even need this colossal cost for a refurb at all? It looks fine to me as it is, lick of paint, job done. Face it, Melksham, other than a handful of excellent local pubs, like the Pilot and Foresters supplying the town with live music, you’ve hardly any few entertainment venues as it is.

The Assembly Hall is a pillar to the community, with a brilliant programme and variety of events to suit everyone. From top class tribute acts, massive fundraising events such as the legendary Female of the Species gigs, which had to be shifted to Seend, to regular clubs such as the twenty-five year strong Rock n Roll Club drawing crowds from across the country, and even the popular male stripper nights. Perhaps it’s the latter offending Mr Alford; feeling somewhat inferior?!

Has the smokescreen got in your eyes yet? The new campus project has seen closure of the library and historic Blue Pool too; how many eggs does this Councillor want to put in the same basket, I sigh. “We now have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something about it,” he continues his pitch, why is it “a once-in-a-lifetime chance?” is there no chance of a backhander in the future?

He said this, He. Actually. Said. This. “Now is the time to be creative, trust residents, decide on a plan and move forward for the benefit of the town,” regardless of the simple fact, next Tuesday’s meeting to decide upon the fate of the hall has the proposal it should be held as a closed session, preventing the press and public from attending. If that’s the best method of involving public opinion then I’m the Queen of Sheba.

It’s begger’s belief how closing a venue would “benefit” a town, but the cavalry comes in the form of independent councillor Jon Hubbard, who told Melksham News, “we don’t know the details of the options yet, but the Assembly Hall is a massive asset to the town.

It’s one of the largest halls in Wiltshire, there is nothing else that can compete with it in terms of capacity and I think we would be quite mad to even contemplate getting rid of that without replacing it with an equivalent facility.

All of the plans I have seen have been talking about significantly smaller facilities and Melksham already has a wealth of smaller halls and I see no reason why the town council should invest taxpayers’ money into facilities which will compete with existing assets that the town has.”

Well said Jon, it goes in line with the original rumour circulating, that some councillors wanted the hall to be only for events which they feel benefitted the community, in which case they’re in the wrong job and should be an events coordinator rather than a councillor. The Assembly Hall is the brilliant venue hosting self-propelled events I wish we had here in Devizes. The running at a loss argument is piffle in a peroid of economic decline, they all are unfortunately. Especially when said peroid is a direct result of appalling national decisions of the political party Mr Alford himself supports.

The irony is blinding, but folk have hijacked the Facebook post to express their disappointment and point out the significance of the Assembly Hall. One said, “The Town Hall is the very fibre of this town’s history. Its location at the heart of Market Place is the embodiment of the pride we have for our town. To sell the building for private ownership is beyond conscionable.”

Another said, “The town hall is the focal point for nearly all the town events. Selling it off is 100% short sighted. People travel for miles to see melksham Xmas lights and other events, if the town hall goes we would lose those or they would move to melksham house which doesn’t have the same focus in the town.”

The post is here, you can comment, but I’d advise to take your opinion to Mr Alford himself, his email is: Phil.Alford@wiltshire.gov.uk


Swings and Roundabouts; Hope for Dilapidated Playgrounds in the Devizes Area?

A lengthy but worthwhile report on the state of our playparks and those intending to do something about it….

August 3rd 2019, and I’d had enough of marching to parish council meetings, emailing Wiltshire Council and talking to brick walls, unsure if I did the latter, but it certainly felt like it. So, I published my rant about a village playpark left to dilapidation for well over three years.

Both swings had been taken down, and a dangerously sharp metal baseplate is all that remains of a broken bouncy chicken, the want of repairing these, what’s essentially half the play equipment in the community playpark, has been lost in a tangle of red tape. Wiltshire Council own the site, and in their so-called “transfer of assets,” which roughly translates to passing the buck to local busy-bodies, Rowde Parish Council asked they repair the broken equipment beforehand, and because of the delay the playpark was conveniently brushed under the carpet.

February last year I bugged Councillor Laura Mayes with it, who claimed to have secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground, despite all I wanted was them to fix the existing equipment, and she ran with it as a major pledge for her election campaign.

Am I here to bring you a fairy-tale ending? Only on paper.

It sprinkled optimism, the children who originally played here have grownup and had children of their own in the time it has taken Wiltshire Council to fix a swing and replace a bouncy chicken, and they’ve STILL not done it; you hold out hope they’ll build you a whole new railway station?!

I’m told the transfer of assets is just weeks away, but after six years of waiting, ranting and election pledges as broken as the bouncy chicken, I’ll believe it when I see it.

All about priorities, isn’t it? Swings and bouncy chickens aren’t going to get Mr Kruger to Westminster any faster. Playparks hold no interest to me personally either, councillors; my children long grown out of them, but maybe there’s something wrong with me, the part that gives a hoot.

The part which recalls the joy my children once had, the joy I once had, playing in the park, that most other adults seem to have so easily forgotten; particularly those who seem to consider those little people are not of voting age. Aside, playparks provide essential wellbeing and psychical education for our youngest, they learn social interaction there, dexterity and balance.

My brother and I on a 1970s style health & safety inspected slide!!

They need prioritising, particularly if you enjoy a Facebook rant on how teenagers are terrorising your neighbourhood. Tenaciously they’re linked; literally swings and roundabouts, I’ve heard some residents in Devizes want their community parks to be closed as they attract rowdy teenagers. There’s anti-social behaviour because nothing is provided for them to do, and by cutting off activities for the youngest you believe will solve it for the next generation? Why not cut off your nose in spite your face too?!

Not all Doom and Gloom

Devizes Lions supported this new playground at All Cannings School last year

Enraged residents taken to local Facebook groups is a near everyday scenario, last one I saw was the fence and climbing equipment behind the old barracks had been removed, but as usual such threads only produce a barrage of speculation, whereas at the beginning of the month, Councillor Jonathan Hunter was encouraged by my grievance on the issue, and set up a report to investigate the state of all playparks in Devizes. These minutes are published, but as with most Council meetings, who really trudges through billions of insignificant applications for an extension to a greenhouse or a churchyard which needs its weathercock cleaning?!

So, here’s the results of Devizes Town Council findings, you need to tell me if they’re accurate, because I get confused with so many playparks which one is which. Hearsay tells me Dowse Road is in desperate need of repair, Wadworth and Spitalcroft Roads are still chained up, and one on Festival close is closed too.

We all should note with importance, again it’s this transfer of issues argument, where the Town Council have taken responsibility for a number of playgrounds and the report explains, “at the time of the transfer, many of the areas were closed due to maintenance issues and the Open Spaces team have been gradually working their way through the list of closures to reopen them where they can. The sites that have not been opened have more serious safety concerns and need a decision by this committee how to proceed.” So, should you choose to go through the proper channels rather than whine-hole on Facebook, this is the reasoning you’ll likely get, if any.

Okay here we go, just give me second to correct the councillor’s basic grammar and don’t forget to call them out to me, if they’re tugging their own tugboats!

The report flagged three playgrounds in need of major attention. Wadworth Road, they say is currently closed because during the last inspection much of the equipment was flagged as unsafe. Part of the issue with the equipment on this site is its wooden construction as there is some rot. However, to undertake core test sampling with reports is about £250 per sample and each piece of equipment will need to have several tests and there is a high probability it will fail; therefore, in officers’ opinion, given the costs to simply test for something that is likely to fail, officers suggest that there is some local consultation with residents as this is another site where young people gather and have been involved with anti-social behaviour.

Festival Close was closed when it was taken over from Wiltshire Council as it has failed safety inspection as a result of shrinking safety surface. The cost of replacement is £11,269. However, a number of residents are not in favour of the playground being reinstated and therefore the site may benefit from some local consultation.

One of three on Massey Road was closed when Devizes Town Council took on the site, with all of the wooden equipment beyond cost of effective repair. Given the proximity of this play area to the two others on the estate, officers decided to remove the equipment and return the area to a green space, which was welcomed by the residents.

The others are apparently open, some with advisories.

Alan Cobham Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is some shrinkage of the play safety surface, but at this time no action is needed.

Avon Road: Recreational Field Avon Road

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Some equipment has been replaced over the last few years and there are no outstanding issues.

Bellvedere Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Brickley Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Last year some of the safety surface was replaced with a loose rubber crumb. It was the first time the Council had trialled these systems and officers are not fully convinced it would work on all our sites where a safety surface is required.

In recent months the issue of dogs being exercised in the area has come to the fore as owners are not clearing up. Signs have been put up a couple of times, telling owners not to bring their dog into the recreation area and therefore tensions are running high from both sides, with dog owners who say they have used the area for years without incident and parents of children complaining they can no longer let their children use the area.

Editor note: Hi me here, just to point out, this is down to community and moral obligation, rather than council responsibility, like having a conscience and not allowing your dog to shit where children are playing; basic manners and stuff like that!  

Byron Rd:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Cowslip Close Cowslip Close:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers poor play value with just two pieces of equipment. The play area was closed for a while and during this period officers did not receive any complaints.

This site may benefit from local consultation on its future, with local residents. An estimated cost of a small play area is £60,000.

Dowse Road Wadworth Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. The safety surfacing is at the end of its life and does need to be replaced this year. The cost of this is £13,675.

Dundas Close:

This barely a play area as it consists of a single metal hoop. The area provides little in the way of play value and there is a good quality Aster owned play area. There was an approach a few years ago to turn the area into a community garden, but the project was never taken forward.

Fruitfields:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Hillworth Park:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is one piece of fitness equipment that failed last year and this is due to be replaced in the summer.

Massey Road 2:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers limited play value with just two pieces of equipment.

Massey Road 3:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Newman Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Osmund Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Palmer Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding maintenance issues but over the last year the site has been a centre of young people to gather in the evening, resulting in anti-social behaviour.

Palmer Road2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk1:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Skate Park Green Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

The Small Green:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. In the not-too-distant future, the safety surfacing will need to be replaced as it is starting to break up, no price has yet been obtained for this work.

White Horse Way:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

So, there you have it, maybe you know different. The Council goes on to say, the budget for playgrounds has been doubled to £40,000, but it will only cover ongoing repair cost and improvements rather than finance of new play areas.

Encourage your kids to look after what they’ve got. It only partially falls on the council, another major part is to be played by the residents too, to respect others. If you’re dog owners have some respect for parents, if you’re teenagers hanging out in the park, I know what’s it’s like, I’ve been there too; but try to remember what it was like when you were little, how much you enjoyed the playparks. Should you now prefer the odd spliff there after dark, all’s fair in love and war; but respect the area for the little ones too, by not creating a ruckus and drawing attention to yourselves by net curtain twitchers. Everyone, in my opinion, needs to allow some give and take; kids will be kids, and we were all one originally!


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Time to Squash Your Wheelie Bin Down!

If 2020 was the year your wheelie bin went out more than you; times are a changin’……

Early in January Wiltshire Council’s proposed budget for this financial year was published, explaining how they’d bridge a budget deficit of over £27m, but ensured residents “business and communities still get access to vital and high-quality services.” Chew on that while you stand in your recycling bin crushing down the contents for a further two weeks longer than the anticipated GMB Union strike.

WC announced today that due to further industrial action they’ve decided to extend the suspension of recycling collection until April 4th. Seek an alternative method to deal with your recycling, and be warned, you are responsible and liable for any mishap which may occur, from a dodgy fly-tipper to if the wheelie bin cascades down your steps with you in it!

Take to social media and ask if you’ll get a council tax rebate for free laughing emojis; welcome to broken Brexit Britain; hyperinflation, fuel and food shortages, inadequate services, pressured health system to the point of breaking, complete disregard for environmental processes we need to pursue. No, you’ll get a hiked-up council tax rise to pop atop your mounting exorbitant household bills and think yourself lucky you’re not fleeing a war-torn country.

I’ve been waiting seven years for them to fix a broken swing in a playpark, still no sign other than a fibbed election pledge, recycling for a few weeks is just a tiny factor to a bigger picture of total egocentricity in the powers that be.

Wiltshire Council condemned the actions of the GMB union at its depots. Leader of Wiltshire Council Councillor Richard Clewer said “we completely respect people’s right to strike,” but went onto say “these actions are leading to an even more adverse impact on our waste collection services and further disruption for our residents.” You’ve got to ask yourself, is there a point to strike action which doesn’t cause disruption, and how effective would that be?!

Isn’t this the same train of thought which said you can protest, but if we hear you protest and we don’t like it, it’s banned?

Clewer waffles the picket lines were unsafe, the leader of Wiltshire Council’s Labour group Ricky Rogers retorted its political spin. Jolly Rogers suggests “Cllr Clewer should put more effort into getting this dispute settled by asking that the years of annual contract inflation extra public money given to Hill’s is shared with their staff, or better still bring this contract back into public control.” Good on you, hopefully you’ve got the Tories bleating like Bianca from EastEnders; “Riiii-ckaaay!!!”

Does “build back better” mean we start in the 1970s and recede to the Victorian era fron there?

And so it goes, to-and-fro around a county hall, looking good on paper. Another fine example of the benefits of conservative privatisation; mega-profits for the wealthiest, stuff the peasants. Note the Hills family have made no public statement. Perhaps it’s time someone nipped over to Cert Octivan, pulled up some of that private tax-free liquid asset, and share out the gold and silver evenly. Then we can all get along and look forward to the Festival of Brexit without worrying what decade the next recycling collection will be in…. I’ve got a Nigel Farage to dump, can I put it my black bin or would he be offended?


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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Opera Is Back! – The Elixir Of Love! – Go See This Show! by Andy Fawthrop We’ve said it before, and we feel no shame … Continue readingPREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Devizes Town Council Seek Road Improvement Plans from County Hall

It’s the satirist in me which smirks at the audacity of placing a right-sided “road narrows” roadwork sign on the last bend before Potterne, up Whistley Road. In all actual fact, the road widens at this point, rather it’s potholes the size of moon craters, on both sides of the road, which cause it to be an ineffectual passing place, unless you own one of those American monster trucks, and if you do, navigating the B-road in question wouldn’t be advisable.

In fairness, for your car’s protection, gradually sinking traffic cones have been strategically placed in the singularities (that’s what physicists call the centre of a black hole, by the way; a point where extremely large amounts of matter are crushed into an infinitely small amount of space, such as your alloys and bumper.)

Secondary fairness, the dilapidation of tarmac is as never-ending as washing dishes, and extreme weather conditions are like your kids, bringing dirty crockeries to the kitchen when you thought you’d just finished. Washing up is a perpetual task, but if you don’t persevere it accumulates, to the point you’re eating breakfast from the dog bowl; see where I’m going with this, Wiltshire Council?

The problem remains, Whistley Road is not the exception to the rule, rather the standard these days in our country lanes’ decrepitude; take a journey up The Kings Road in Easterton, hardly fit for a king at all, and a wonder why on earth it needs speed bumps when natural depressions in the road bigger than the actual village itself, you’d like to think, should prevent anyone in their right mind from speeding.

One would like to imagine accelerating over fifteen miles an hour might yet be a very real possibility once you’ve boarded our main roads, only to find their condition is hardly better. Yet, at Tuesday’s Devizes Town Council Meeting, Councillor Jonathan Hunter pointed to his understanding that for the financial year 2021-22 Wiltshire Council was awarded 22,924,000 smackers from the Government’s Highway Maintenance Fund to pay for a range of highway improvements, begging the question why our local roads still make the Giant’s Causeway look like an autobahn.

Brickley Lane

Johnathan, the kind of Conservative which makes you realise not all of them would piggyback their crippled grandmothers to reach a bottle of Bollinger from a top shelf, put forward a proposal to inquire how the money has been spent. Putting to DTC, “it would be helpful to understand how this funding has supported highways improvements in the county; if any substantive project in the last twelve months have been undertaken in Devizes, and if this government funding was used to deliver them.”

“Furthermore,” he added, because councillors tend to go on a bit, “Devizes Town Council seeks visibility regarding the plan for this year’s road improvement programme within the Devizes area, and what are the local priorities.” And it would seem the Council agreed.

Cromwell Road

“With the poor state of the local road network,” Jonathan told Devizine, excited by his proposal being met, “including many sections of surface degradation and dangerous potholes, it is encouraging that this proposal was fully agreed by Town Council members.”

“For reasons of road user safety, travel inconvenience and the cost of vehicle maintenance it is important that local road users and pedestrians should be able to receive a full progress update on the current roads programme and importantly receive clear visibility about tax payer funded plans for the local road network that serves Devizes.”

“Currently, to find out anything about road repair plans, you have to don some deep-sea-diving apparel and search in the very deep and murky waters of the online kingdom, even Jacques Cousteau would find that a challenge!”

Very well, Johnathan, well done, but we do the funny bits if you don’t mind! But it would be good to know, in this era whereby you can triple the value of your car simply by filling it up with petrol, that you’re not going to forsake your tyres on the next bend, unless you’re a Kwik-Fit manager.

We look forward to the possibility of seeing the plans by Wiltshire Council; roads don’t fix themselves and no one said it was going to be easy, but you choose the bloomin’ job! For everyone on Facebook, you can join in the fun at the Devizes Pot Hole Spotter’s Club, here!


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Does Wiltshire Council’s Climate Strategy Lack Ambition and Commitment?

A month after Wiltshire Council’s Climate Strategy was criticised by the Wiltshire Climate Alliance for lacking “ambition and commitment to achieving its goal of seeking to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030,” I’m horrified, yet not surprised to see social media pages still maintaining climate change is a hoax, when I thought all was pretty much conclusive, and a majority, aside political opinion, accepted that climate change is real, and is happening.

I was checking out a Facebook page called “Climate Change is a Hoax,” because, for the same reason I occasionally click on the fascist GB News site, I enjoy deliberately annoying myself with the stupidity of far-right illogic! With a laughable forty-one “likes,” it hardly carries much clout, neither many of its shared articles remained live after factchecking algorithms stripped them bare. But one YouTube video by Canadian conspiracy theorists, The Climate Discussion Nexus does give sensible argument against climate change, just when I tarnished them with the same brush as flat-earth theorists.

The content of the video portrays Michael Mann akin to a narcissistic nerdy schoolkid, who assumes his homework is superior to everyone else’s, simply because he did it, and claims other researcher’s papers have been poo-pooed by the IPCC in favour for Mann’s. While I shrug, the United Nations owns the IPCC, and is an intergovernmental body, it’s not completely impossible climate change has been exaggerated for this supposed purpose of “controlling the masses,” or for any other bizarre reasoning they invent, I have to question, what if they are wrong? Furthermore, quotes from the “about” section of the Facebook page such as “don’t let the globalists and socialists destroy our lives,” is so chockful of falsehoods and propaganda I don’t know where to begin. Least not when the majority of the world today seems to politically side on the right, who commonly seem to debunk climate change, and so-called globalists and socialists are not in power anyway. Hence the reason the world spins on its axis and nothing much appears to get done to tackle the issue.

Come in, let’s squabble, oh, apologies, just step over that cataclysmic natural disaster someone left out asking to be tripped over, there’s a good fellow.

So, what if either side of the argument is wrong? If those who believe in climate change are wrong, we’ve been duped and possibly even burdened by a bunch of passive reformist lefties, which sounds far better than previous historic oppressing by purists and conservative philosophies, which always seems to result in bloodthirsty wars. So, we dust ourselves off, mix plastics with household waste again, break out our diesel Chelsea tractors and drive to the abattoir for steak pie.

However, if those who believe climate change is a hoax are wrong, we’ve either caused the extinction of all life on earth, including ourselves, or least ignored the chance to slow or prevent it from happening. Seriously, you have to ask yourself which possible outcome you’d prefer. Personally, I’m thinking being oppressed by lefties, which equates to eating lentils and maybe listening to Buffalo Springfield, then allowing everyone to die in catastrophic disasters, is the better option of the two, but hey, that’s just me.

Therefore, it goes without saying, on a local level, I’m keen to hear what climate change specialists think of our county council’s climate strategy, being they’ve a majority conservative seating, and by my reckoning, seems while not every conservative is a climate change denier, all climate change deniers seem to have a conservative ethos. Suspicious some lurk in Bythesea Road, I asked the Wiltshire Climate Alliance, who formed from a meeting of over twenty interest groups from across Wiltshire a year after the moment Wiltshire Council acknowledged that there was a climate emergency and set themselves a target to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. Which was in 2019, even though a seminal paper by Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius first predicted changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and noted they could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect, in 1896, you know, these things take time.

Wiltshire Climate Alliance (WCA) welcomes the fact that Wiltshire Council is developing a Climate Strategy but laments its lack of ambition and commitment to achieving its goal of seeking to make Wiltshire carbon neutral by 2030. Bill Jarvis of WCA’s Steering Group described it as, “recognising that major changes are needed but lacking any commitment or timescale for reducing emissions outside of the Council’s own operations,” adding that “there is little sense of the urgency needed for taking action, and a dependency on future plans and policies that may take us in the opposite direction.”

And there was me thinking they didn’t bother trimming the hedgerows of the A361 because of “reforestation,” our minute contribution to a worldwide area the size of China which needs to be restored to forest before it having much effect. The WCA continue, about the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, predicting the world is likely to exceed 2C between the early 2040s and 50s, and while UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable,” The WCA extends this locally by saying, “this renewed urgency doesn’t come across in Wiltshire Council’s Strategy, which speaks of ‘exploring’ and ‘investigating’ the kinds of policies and actions that should by now be in place and well underway.”

The Tyndall Centre calculated, in 2019, that “with no change to current emissions Wiltshire would use up all its budget [to 2050] within seven years.” Ergo, I have to agree, if it seems there will be no significant change to policy or action for at least another two years, where is there any sense of urgency? Apply this ludicrous lucidity to a did I leave the kettle on moment, and your house is potentially toast, my friend.

‘Future delivery plans’ are the order of the Council, yet the WCA explain, “stabilising the climate requires rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions. It is particularly concerning that the Strategy provides no detail of how its objectives will be delivered.”

They worry Wiltshire Council’s decarbonisation objectives will be no more than a ‘wish list’ in the Local Plan, Local Transport Plan and other plans, most of which have completely contrary objectives and will not be in place for at least two years. WCA would like to see the Strategy go further, and recommend a moratorium on implementing climate destructive, high emission plans and policies until such time as detailed carbon reduction delivery plans have been adopted, and it has set out its concerns.

Wiltshire Climate Alliance is keen to continue to support Wiltshire Council and its councillors in taking the urgent action that is now required. “The solutions are clear,” they say, “achievable and a large number are touched on in this document. However, they require political will to make them happen. There is limited need for more evidence gathering, investigations and assessments. But there is an urgent need for more ambition and immediate action in areas in which others are already showing leadership.”

Okay look, I’m no tree hugger, love a bacon butty, and, I’m willing to admit, my presumptions climate change deniers lurk at county hall is a scare story evolved from the content of worldwide keyboard warriors, adamant on spreading myths. But it is exasperating, becoming tiresome, and dreadfully perilous to assume they’ve no influence at any level of politics. Here’s hoping the WCA can urge Wiltshire’s residents and its elected representatives to join in demanding better, as the steering group say, “climate denial must not be replaced by delaying climate action.”

Their website is here, Facebook page here, there’s a petition; Wiltshire Council should make Carbon Reduction a top priority in every Council decision, a Facebook discussion group too, and a demonstration this Tuesday (19th October) at Trowbridge Civic Centre.


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Opinion: Kruger Perpetrates Local Rise of Condemnation for Travellers, Focused in Bromham

In a press release dated 24th September 2020, MP Danny Kruger claimed Boris Johnson had called upon him to report for government calls for a new era of ‘community power.’ This included “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown.” He christened his paper, “Levelling up our communities,” a vision for “a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.”

As shpil it sounds a-okay, a far cry from a Conservative Party of yore set against the people it’s supposed to serve, a Conservative Party which, on 1st June 1985, ordered police to viciously attack a Peace Convoy, setting up the 1985 Stonehenge Free Festival. History recalls it “The Battle of the Beanfields,” any witness could better perceive it as a politicide massacre. Its aim, to eliminate categories of people who either chose to live their life on the road, happened to stumble across this way of life by unpreventable circumstance, or grew up nurtured in such an environment, for political advantages. As a blanket term we call them travellers.

But that’s all it is, a blanket term, there is no organised grouping anymore than people who own a home are assembled, therefore there is no reason to presume any individual classed as such is part of a joint ethos, a collective philosophy or tenet. Attitudes and opinions of such a grouping differ as vastly as those who live in a house, or a bungalow, or a flat. To note someone who lives in a flat breaking the law, is ludicrous for bungalow dwellers to make a sweeping generalisation that, ergo everyone who lives in a flat is therefore a law-breaker. Yet prejudge typecasting seems to be systematically accepted, ingrained and encouraged when focussed on travellers.  

Hard to define exactly as an ethnic group, as while Romany Gypsies are bound into the stereotype, not all are such, so, calling the racist card is unwarranted, but it is a definite form of prejudice, which aimed at other groupings would be frowned upon. Yet how does Danny Kruger remember the Battle of the Beanfields on its anniversary this week? His office, fronted by, I might add, Rebecca Hudson, the journalist who first broke the news of the Salisbury poisonings and therefore a far more articulate professional than the mere meanderings of a milkman, put out a Facebook post condemning the actions of a traveller site in Bromham. Despite Bromham isn’t his jurisdiction, it is in the division of Wiltshire councillor Laura Mayes, though.

I asked Laura why it’s necessary for Danny Kruger to get involved with, what seems to me, to be a simple planning permission issue. After all, planning permission disputes must be a regular occurrence in the county, and there’s never a need to involve an MP. Laura responded, “the problem is that the planning activity is illegal – there is an Enforcement Notice and an Emergency Stop Notice and the owners have ignored them.”

Danny’s post included the explanation, “deliveries of hardcore were made to the field, breaching the Enforcement Notice. The clear expectation is that an illegal Traveller encampment is being created and an influx of caravans is now expected.” Hardly an “expectation,” rather speculation; a big difference. A speculation driven by the aforementioned ingrained prejudge, is my “expectation.” Fair game by his own criteria?  

In discussion with Gazette & Herald reporter Kirsten Robertson, The Ward family say the delivery of hardcore is to form a bund, an embankment to control the flow of water. Face it, evidence that it’s not a plan to expand the site or allow more travellers onto it. In a heartfelt plea for peace Bridget Ward, 21, told the Gazette, “We just want to live in peace and become part of the community.”

Yet negative, often offensive comments and name-calling slurs flood social media coverage of the simple planning dispute. It doesn’t help bridge the divide when the council “recommends the public stay away from the site.” Neither does it help when an MP lashes out, the post calculatedly shared on only one local Facebook group, known for an absence of admin regulations and therefore being a highly opinionated group.

We should note, they are not residing illegally, the land was bought in 2014, with an article 4 direction on it, which makes it unsuitable for development anyway. Any attempt to improve the site has been refused permission, the adding of fences, planting of trees and creation of an equestrian area. Constant refusal of simple improvement plans, the hostility against them verbally, constitutes the notion they’re simply not wanted there. Where in Wiltshire would they be welcome?

Wiltshire Council own and manage just three residential Gypsy and Traveller sites, with a total capacity to accommodate fifty-one families, who, in contrary to popular belief, are subject to rent charges, Council tax and service charges for site, water and electricity. Across a whole county, it’s a failure compared with Essex, with twelve sites accommodating 188 families, Somerset has eighteen sites, seven sites in Berkshire, the list continues not forgoing Wiltshire Council looks to possibly sell the three sites they do own under part of the recently concluded Regulation 18 consultation to prepare a Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document.

While we should respect permissions for planning need to be made, and upheld, little is done to provide a legal alternative for travellers in the county. Coupled with the ramifications of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which could see travellers facing a fine or prison if they set up unauthorised encampments rather than currently being a civil offence, Danny Kruger’s “levelling up our communities,” constitutes of the eradication of a way of life which has operated for centuries. In fact, pre-Neolithic age, we were all nomadic. Chew on that fat for a moment.

One comment added, “we don’t live in a lawless country,” yet when Danny illegally posted his campaign posters around polling stations, when he ignored lockdown regulations by failing to wear a mask on the train, when he allowed his dog to attack deer on Richmond Common, we brushed them under the carpet, I even defended the latter as an accident.

What about when the High Court said government acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of more than 500 Covid contracts, or abolishing the permit-free training scheme for doctors who qualified outside the United Kingdom or the rest of the European Union without proper consultation, or the case where it departed from the UK’s longstanding policy on opposing the death penalty in all circumstances? Need I continue? Why then, can we not give a little leeway here? Is a delivery of some hardcore to create a bund somehow more damaging to society as the examples given above?

The fact Danny’s offending Facebook post had a grammatical error I’d forgive a primary school pupil to overlook, “and a influx of caravans,” suggests this was not the calculated penning of a skilled journalist, rather a knee-jerk reaction handsome-faced Danny K needs to take a chill pill from before the silver spoon launches from his mouth.

And I say this because, the issue at hand is clearly overexposed by our prejudice, a presuppose striking fear into a family with a young child, for crying out loud, take a look at yourself! I plead you put the political matter aside for just a moment and think outside the box, would you try defend yourself given such hostilities towards you? Is it any different from Afrikaans erecting steel gates and barbed wire to protect their property in apartheid-era Johannesburg? How you can expect travellers not to be slightly anarchic when faced with such exacerbation against them?

Especially in this, quite honestly, trivial instant, far from the given stereotype, where we have a local family simply pleading to blend in and be part of a community. Bridget tells me, “I asked him [Danny Kruger] to stand up for us, against the hate and racism, and to sign the pledge card, but he has just ignored that. We just feel helpless.” This isn’t about hardcore delivery at all, is it?

What do you get out of this Danny, a permit to touch Pritti’s petticoat?! Hardly the “proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown,” is it, mucker?!


Wiltshire’s Most Expensive Laugh; Seedy Out of the PCC Race!

Two opinion pieces from me in as many days; you lucky, lucky people! What I wouldn’t give to have two lofty opinion pieces from Devizine thrown at me once in a while!

As the news circulates that hunting bonkers Conservative PCC candidate for Wiltshire, Johnathan Seed is out of the race, we all can have a belly-laugh, especially Basil Brush. But rules are rules, and at this stage, seems WC will need to hold a second election, rather than the obvious, just pick the second-place candidate and roll with that.

I mean, if a horse falls out of the race, the race continues. You wouldn’t stop the race, pick another horse and rerun it, would you?

Without quoting sources at this delicate time, word on the street is another election will cost a cool million squid; who picks up this bill, the taxpayer?

Hinging on two conflicting allegations as to how this story came to light, one being Seedy declared his drink driving offence and suddenly decided he should pull out because of it, and the second that he was ousted when the offense came to light, one could argue if the latter, he, or the Conservative party should be liable for the bill, whereas the first means the electoral roll should’ve picked this up before running the election. Being Wiltshire Council is Tory run, you can bet your bottom dollar, the dollar is coming out of your pocket. In essence, it’s Wiltshire’s most expensive laugh.

Whatever, this does mean there’s time for the Conservatives to draft in a new candidate, which they can do. One who without even having to campaign, will, by current trends walk the show without the slightest insight or experience of the roll. So, if you thought every cloud has a silver lining, no, not in our Tory haven. But I must stress, that’s speculation.

Boom Boom!

If the race is yet to be won, there’s as much convincing as I can to be done, to sway you to consider voting elsewhere. We’ve interviewed Lib Dem Liz Webster, and we’ve interviewed independent Mike Rees. We ran out of time to chat to Labour’s Junab Ali, for which I apologise, but with this news, and depending on the date of the election, perhaps this is still on the cards, and I welcome Junab to chat with us.

Anyway, tonight will see the news break the local social media sites, where’s there’s a general feeling of relief. Johnathan Seed’s campaign has not been particularly popular. And if that has reflected in the current polls, who knows, we may not have to go through all this again.

Here’s what some people are saying online, which is what the Gazelle & Herod do for a quick article, I know, and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us!

“I’m sorry, but I’m losing no sleep over this one!”

“Apparently they’re going to put up a garden gnome with a blue rosette on it, they’re still convinced it will win.”

“It’s very frustrating, especially as it’s nothing new. He doesn’t seem to have been a popular choice so fingers crossed he doesn’t win and we can bypass another vote.”

“Good. Will Wiltshire Council send him the bill for having to rerun the poll?”

“This will give him more time to spend with the hunt and hounds..”

Right, that’s enough of that, this isn’t a public forum! Go figure!


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Wiltshire Lays all its Eggs in the Same Basket

You’ve done it now, it’s too late for reason. My reaction to the local election results coming in; you really want to hear it?!

It’s not really news, and altogether unsurprising to see early results to the local town/village elections coming in, proving generally the majority population of Wiltshire is unable to consider change, and doesn’t much care for their neighbours. Yep, if you proudly tow the national party line, or if you waffle how the sheer ignorance, dishonourable and incompetent of the Conservative Party nationally doesn’t reflect your own opinions and views, if you painted your election leaflet blue, you more than likely won it by a country mile. Did we seriously expect anything less?

Face it, any other party, or independent candidate wouldn’t have stood a chance even if they offered everyone a free fish finger sandwich for every vote, and everyone, tory or sensible, loves a fish finger sandwich. To those who lost, it’s not a reflection on you, rather the ignorance of the silent majority. Not even mayo on the sarnie would’ve worked.

As impartial as I get, I offer my congratulations to the winning candidates, but it is with great concern for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable, the youth, the working class and usual victims of this totalitarian regime. Even if many themselves fail to see past their Daily Fail, fail to comprehend the buck stops at the top, and their neighbours, or their mass-media driven forged enemies are not to blame for the current balls up this country finds itself in, it is, nonetheless, proof Wiltshire loves to lay all it’s eggs in the same basket.

It’s not even a shiny new basket, it’s the aged wrecked one, where guaranteed the eggs drop out of the bottom and an expectant fat cat waits to lap them up.

I cross my fingers and toes that this sheer stupidity will not elevate to the Police Crime Commissioner role, due to be announced on Monday, but reflecting on today’s results, I’m not holding my breath. The most controversial and malevolent of all tory candidates standing has raised interest in this debatably inconsequential job. It all hinges on what we want from a PCC; a dedicated experienced man in the field, a politically-minded victim’s mother of a callous and brutal attack with an argument to boot, or a one-policy suspected criminal themself, with the financial backing of the wealthiest felons of blood sports in order to encourage police to turn a blind eye to brutally attacking wildlife for twisted kicks. Seriously, you think you’ll get justice for a burglary, an assault or theft, from a fellow whose only objective for the role is to turnaround the hunting act and roam the countryside on horseback yelling tally-ho and smearing the blood of slaughtered foxes on their face? Is that really the future prospective for policing in the county you crave?

Give me strength. There’s a level of blind folly which astounds my tolerance, it really does. Yet historically it’s a given thing, Wiltshire is Tory, always has been since the Cavaliers whipped the Roundheads; you face it head-on and bite your lip, or you follow suit, opt for the selection which takes no brainpower, and place your cross where you always do. Unreasoning contemporary alterations is a dangerous game, having an opposition is vital to democracy. I’m no politician, don’t pretend to be, don’t wish to be, but that much I do know.  

As this reflects national trend, I hope every successful candidate adheres to the lofty pledges and promises of change, rather than submits to the corrupt ethos of the current cabinet. Okay, so you used the blue platform to get to this point, despite bits of Bojo’s rash and forbidding outbursts, like the watermelon smiles, the post boxes, and now the bodies piling higher, don’t match your sentiments, but the motivation is surely to climb further up the ladder, that’s the philosophy of modern conservatism, and for which you need to kiss the rings of those in charge, and they do not accept a midrange, centre-right standing; you watched them get ousted in favour of far right and nationalists from other parties, remember? You are buying into oppression, whether you want to, or not, like it, or not.

There’s nothing wrong with Conservatism per say, as a theory, and one, possibly two Tories I can stomach, for they seem to have morals on the surface. Yet, it’s when there’s a, whatever the collective noun for self-centred arseholes is, they tend to bounce inconsistences to what’s righteous around, garnish them with wonky and selfish agendas, and generally, fuelled by expensive tax-free wine from daddy’s collection, conjure a plan to maintain the wealth for the wealthiest without concern for the trickling down of any leftover faeces for the common man to lap up.

This is good news for most of us here, this is an affluent area. But I urge you, when you next roll your 21reg Land Rover Discovery off your extensive loose chipping track and drive into the real world, stop to observe not everyone’s silver spoon is quite as polished and orally positioned, and everyone who serves you in Marks and Sparks, everyone who delivers your bespoke Lexington four-draw chest for your next refurb, or collects your recycling bin surely warrants a better day too. Enough to go round, isn’t there? Monkeys live in this jungle too, not just organ grinders.

Ah, same shitshow different day. For me it’s a no news day, and I’m waffling. I can’t even raise my optimism for the news the controversial head Wiltshire councillor Phillip Whitehead has resigned, for it’s easy to suspect another one will be along shortly, equally as vexed. I’m more flabbergasted, and slightly upset the sequel to my fictional story series needs a new thinktank, as those comical and sensitive Tories say!


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Wiltshire Council Leader Advises Tory Candidates to Block Correspondence With Save Furlong Close Campaign

It has been some time since we’ve covered the disgraceful fiasco at Rowde’s Furlong Close, where residents with learning disabilities face closure of the HFT site, their home, and undefined, separated relocation.

The reason being, the situation had fallen into a political stalemate, as HFT ceased all dealings with Wiltshire Council. It seems HFT are no strangers to closing sites down, and equally Wiltshire Council’s reaction is lacklustre. I cannot decide who is really to blame in all this, but something certainly doesn’t add up; perhaps they’re both as bad as each other, and the clock is ticking for May 19th when closure is planned. You know me, I’ve been concerned my anger at this issue will lead me to publish speculation, and the last thing I want is put forth misleading information.

Now, it seems, via a Tweet from The Save Furlong Close campaign group, in a memo released on Easter Sunday, Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead advised councillors and future Conservative candidates to block all correspondence with Save Furlong Close Campaigners, in fear it’s being used as “an election matter.”

This is very concerning, while both sides battle the politics out, the Save Furlong Close campaigners are merely worried for the future prospects for the residents there, and least deserve a voice. So, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article, by Mark Steele, a member of the campaign’s steering group, which outlines the history and current situation.

I merely offer to endorse their rightful campaign and promote it as much as possible. If then, residents of Furlong Close are indeed moved out, it will be a terrible day for Wiltshire, and a shameful reflection on a county council, but if this happens and I stood there and did nothing, it’s a shame I would partly bear too, and I have no intentions of that happening. I hope our readers and supporters will agree, and I fully believe, with the permissions of the campaign group, we need to arrange a socially distanced peaceful protest, as soon as feasible. So, WHO IS WITH ME? Watch this space, but here’s Mark’s outline of the happenings in Rowde.


SAVE FURLONG CLOSE

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

(Mahatma Ghandi)

Save Furlong Close

For the last 30 years, Furlong Close has been home to 36 vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism and epilepsy.  The residents live in 5 bungalows in a cul-de-sac at the edge of the village of Rowde, sharing a community hall, workshops and gardens (including a market garden and pens for sheep and rabbits).  It is a short walk to the centre of Rowde and a short bus ride to Devizes.  Many of the residents have lived at Furlong Close for more than 20 years.  They are happy and settled, have formed life-long friendships and are a close and caring community. 

In October last year, however, it was announced that Hft (the charity which owns and operates the site) and Wiltshire Council (which funds the majority of the residents) had “jointly” decided that everyone was to be “moved on” by June 2021, the site shut down and the land sold off for development.  The shocked families were told that there would be no consultation or discussion; it was a “done deal”. 

Already reeling from the emotional impact of the pandemic and cut off from the support of their families, the residents were fearful and anxious.  Their disabilities make change extremely stressful for them and being forcibly evicted from their home of 20+ years would cause them great trauma and distress.  For some, the trauma would be life-shortening.  My cousin, David, who has lived at Furlong Close for 18 years, was left in fear of the future and telephoned his 95-year-old mother, Audrey, many times a day, often in tears, to ask her where he would go and who would look after him.  Sadly, Audrey passed away in March, spending the last months of her life wracked with worry about what would happen to her beloved and vulnerable only child (https://twitter.com/savefurlongcl/status/1374671484187242507).

So, why is Furlong Close facing closure?  At first, Hft and the Council said it was “not about money”, but was only about doing the best for the residents.  It was said that “moving them on” from their settled and happy homes would be an “exciting opportunity” for them, but no-one could quite explain how breaking up a happy community and scattering them to new and strange places would be either “exciting” or an “opportunity”.   Certainly, it was an “opportunity” which none of the residents or their families wanted.  Subsequently, it became clear that it was in fact “all about money” after all, with Hft accusing the Council of grossly underfunding the site over many years and refusing to pay the full costs of care.

Faced with this cruel threat to the well-being of our vulnerable relatives, the families organised and the local community rallied to our cause.  People became angry.  43,000 people, from Wiltshire and beyond, signed a petition.  Legal proceedings were commenced by the family of one resident, to seek to have the decision set aside as a breach of her human rights.

Faced with this local anger, Wiltshire Council promptly threw Hft under the bus.  It claimed that the “joint decision” was nothing to do with it, but solely a matter for Hft.  Hft responded angrily, accusing the Council of “lying” and trying to “hide behind” it, and gave notice that it was withdrawing services, not just from Furlong Close, but from Wiltshire as a whole.  With Hft and the Council each pointing the finger at the other, the situation deteriorated into what has recently been described by a judge in the pending legal proceedings as “a shambolic mess”.

As the clock ticks down to the termination of Hft’s contract for the site on 19 May, the residents and their families fear that we are being hung out to dry.  Hft has offered the Council the chance to buy or lease the site and bring in another operator, but neither has taken decisive action to make this happen.  Many suspect that the Council is just playing for time, to try and kick the can down the road until after the Council election in May.  Meanwhile innocent and vulnerable people are suffering and the families are calling on Hft and Wiltshire Council to act now to save Furlong Close. 

Please, if you want to help:

Thank you


Protect Drews Pond Wood Area

Local enviromental campaigners are calling on Devizes Town Council to designate ten areas of land around Drews Pond Wood as Local Green Spaces due to their importance for wildlife, health and wellbeing as well as historical significance.

Please sign the petition, here.

Drews Pond Wood Project has looked after the Local Nature Reserve since 1990 to keep it as a special place for wildlife and a resource for local people. They are asking for your help to get more protection for the wood and its surroundings.

The Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan are being reviewed. These plans will decide where to put hundreds more houses in Devizes. These plans shouldn’t just be about where to put development – they also need to identify areas that are special and important for people and wildlife so that they can be protected for the future.

The National Planning Framework enables communities to identify and protect areas that are of value to them through Local and Neighbourhood Plans by designating Local Green Space. This designation ensures strong development restrictions on an area. 

Make no mistake, Drew’s Pond Wood has been earmarked for development, though the application has been rejected, this doesn’t protect the area should future applications are made.

Thanks goes to local environmentalist, Joe Brindle and his team for creating the campaign and raising awareness of this. It is supported by the Drew’s Pond Wood Project.

Please sign the petition, here.


After 2 Years: Silverlands Playpark Update

August, two years ago I got on my high horse and exposed the dangerously damaged playpark equipment in Rowde‘s Silverlands Road.

Sadly, over this time the main remaining piece of equipment, the climbing frame, was taped off, leaving the children with one “wobbly” bench left in working order.

Also wrapped in red tape was the Rowde Parish Council’s ability to do much about it, being owned by Wiltshire Council. Unfair to hand over such an asset in such a state of dilapidaton, the issue was lost in limbo.

My emails to Wiltshire Council and in particular, Cllr Anna Cuthbert fell on deaf ears. Seemed despite the article recieveing over 3k hits, it was still superficial to bother to reply.

Enough to leave a soul feeling despondent towards any realisation complaints have any effect on the progress of our county council.

But today I’m glad to be able to update it with positive news. After one final push, contacting councillor Laura Mayes, who promised to “look into it,” an agreement has been met, and working with Rowde Parish Council Clerk, Laura has secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground. Please contact her with ideas on what could be included.

So a massive thanks goes to Rowde Parish Council and Cllr Laura Mayes this week for their sterling efforts. Thus proving, over time, a long time abielt, things can be put into action!


Wiltshire Council to spend £1.1m on digital devices so struggling families can access remote education

Wiltshire Council is allocating £1.1m of government COVID-19 funding to buy laptops and digital devices for disadvantaged pupils who currently can’t join classmates learning from home.

The decision to allocate the funding to buy around 2,500 devices means these children will be able to access their school lessons from home rather than have to attend school to do so.

Currently pupils who do not have a laptop can attend school alongside children of key workers and vulnerable students. The new approach will help manage school spaces and continue to help prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills, said: “It is essential our children and young people can continue to be taught and have an education in these difficult times as well as being able to maintain links with friends and have face to face contact with their teachers. With the news this week that schools will close we are aware there are families and young people out there who are left without the means to access that education and this is not acceptable.

“By using our government COVID-19 funding in this way we are ensuring families are not disadvantaged and can join their peers working from home. We will be working with our schools to ensure those children who need devices can access them.

“I know schools have already been receiving many requests for laptops and some are sending children into school as under the new government rules you can attend. By providing additional laptops we will be freeing up those school places for other pupils who need to be in school.

“Across Wiltshire we have some great charity work happening with many community minded charities offering to recycle second hand laptops so they can be used in schools and I would like to thank them for this extraordinary effort.”


During the summer term Wiltshire Council distributed 1,232 devices provided by the DfE across 138 schools which were designated specifically for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people. Currently secondary schools are accessing further allocated devices directly via the DfE and the council is reviewing opportunities to ensure a further reach so children in need have access to the tools for remote learning including tablets, laptops and wifi and data. The DfE has also announced that all primary schools will be able to order laptops and tablets by 15 January and the DfE will contact all primary schools by that date to invite them to order devices.

Wiltshire Council will also be working with schools following the government news that schools, trusts and local authorities can request mobile data increases for disadvantaged children and young people who do not have fixed broadband, if they cannot afford additional data for their devices and are experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education.

Schools are also working with families directly to ensure Free School Meals continues. For those families who are not sure if they are eligible for Free School Meals they can check here.  


Wiltshire Council Ask Gecko For Road-Crossing Song.

Not to make you feel old or anything, but Tufty, the safe road-crossing squirrel turns sixty this year, the Green Cross Code Man is not far behind at 51. Not too long before they’ll need some assistance crossing the road themselves, I don’t doubt!

Popular as retrospection is, Wiltshire Council have rightfully recognised a CJI Tufty makeover might not be best, and the Green Cross Code man is fighting his own conflicting interests between the Sith and Jedi.

How to teach kids to cross the road safely, needs a fresh approach….

They assigned Creative Studios to come up with this little masterpiece of a green cross code safety vid, and I couldn’t think of anyone more apt than the mighty Gecko to produce the song.

Yep, this works on so many levels. “I loved being a part of this project,” Gecko said, “I love the variety that this music life brings.” Well done Gecko, and a great choice by Wiltshire Council.

Wiltshire Council’s Live Covid Update

Wiltshire Council are hosting a live public COVID-19 update on Tues 3 Nov at 5pm.

The online broadcast will feature Wiltshire Council Leader, Philip Whitehead, Chief Executive, Terence Herbert and Director of Public Health for Wiltshire, Kate Blackburn.

They will be providing an update on the latest number of positive cases and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Wiltshire, and the arrangements in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. There will also be details on how schools, care homes and council services are responding to the situation and planning for the coming weeks.

They want to hear from you.

You can submit your questions about COVID-19 and the local response in advance by emailing communications@wiltshire.gov.uk, no later than 5pm on Sunday 1 November.

Full details: http://orlo.uk/szlOg

Wiltshire Council Welcome Proposed Road Signs

Since a Wiltshire Council highway engineer advised Devizes Town Council that a sign at the High Street junction with Long Street is not big enough or in the right position last week, the highway engineer has been around our area suggesting other improvements which must be enforced for safety purposes.

 
Devizes Town Councillors were warned people might not spot the present ‘No Entry’ sign, and that it needs to be 600 CMs wide, wider than the road itself. “Maybe even larger, the bigger the better,” said a Wiltshire Council spokesperson, the one who really has the mentality to grasp simple English. “If it means we have to knock down a few historic buildings to make room, then we will.”

 
“We’d really favour,” the spokesman continued, “that the sign is lit with flashing neon letter-lights and overhead floodlights, twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps, it could also repetitively play a Bonnie Tyler song, or even the soundtrack to Rocky 4, to raise awareness of it too.”

 
“Devizes Town Council is clearly not accounting for the prerogative of speeding businessmen in BMWs belting through Devizes without a finger of fudge to road safety. They may have important calls to make on their phones, be preoccupied trying to locate a Starbucks, or generally too busy eyeing up totty to notice the clearly one-way street has standard no entry signs.”

 
The Wiltshire Council spokesperson, who cannot be named because their nametag fell out of their work jumper, because their mum didn’t iron it on well enough, stated, “those who think there’s no accounting for stupidity are wrong. One blast of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or ‘Holding out for a Hero’ will alert the most insensitive arsehole; it’s certainly one of my favourite songs.”

 
With this apparent compete lack of competence of town councils to identify these issues, the Wiltshire Council highway engineer has proposed a new selection of signs be erected in obvious danger areas, using visual aids rather than a report, as he can only write in emoji.

 
Devizine has received these exclusive graphic representations for residents to swoon over in delight. I asked the Wiltshire Council spokesperson if he thought they were slightly aesthetically intrusive. “No,” he replied, “I think athletes will love them too.”

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