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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
A new personal Facebook profile
Melksham Carnival - review
Small Grant awards - Melksham Town Council
General Election - Melksham and Devizes
Government manifesto and members
General Election - transport policies and my vote
Placing my vote - a chance to listen
Yes, your comments count!
Choosing who to vote for as MP
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Some other pages on this site:

Graham Ellis - blog and • blog index
Graham Ellis - background and • views
Philosophies of working as a town councillor
The Role of the Town Council and Councillors
How YOU can help and • Contact me
Links to other web sites and • pictures
Through April 2021, I posted most days. Thereafter (elected) you hear from me here at least once a week.

Melksham Allotments


An introduction

"In the UK, allotments are small parcels of land rented to individuals usually for the purpose of growing food crops. There is no set standard size but the most common plot is 10 rods, an ancient measurement equivalent to 302 square yards or 253 square metres." (source [here])

"The land itself is often owned by local government (parish or town councils) or self managed and owned by the allotment holders through an association. Some allotments are owned by the Church of England."

Melksham Town Council owns and administers some 149 allotment plots spread around eight different locations within the town. The plots vary in size and quality. New tenants sign an agreement to maintain and cultivate their plot, paying a current annual fee of £40.00 for a full-size plot and £20.00 for a half plot. Read more on the Town Council web site [here] - and you'll find contact details there.

An update

There have been a number of queries to myself and various other councillors concerning allotments - I'm writing this update having liaised with colleagues and may come back over the next weeks (early August 2023) to add data and make corrections.

1. Part of the tenant agreement says that the produce from the allotment may not be sold. It is primarily for personal use, but if you produce more than you need you can now give it to what you feel is an appropriate local charitable cause. That's an addition we (council) made late last year - prior to that, it was personal use only. As the annual fee is very low for the hire of agricultural land, tenants cannot sell produce - it would be seen as competing with businesses

2. On Awdry Avenue, a single tap at the top of the site has made caring for produce by watering - especially at the bottom of the site - a long and tiring process for tenants. We are in process on installing a trough so that buckets and watering cans can be filled quickly, and by using that instead of a tap, water is less likely to be left running and lost. As a further step, a water pipe could be run down the site to a second trough to reduce the long walk for tenants at that end; I'm not sure how we're doing on that - clearly there are costs involved, and of course the income from allotments to the council is not great, so taxpayer subsidy might need to be agreed.

3. Tenants are required to keep their plot tidy, and that includes grass pathways around their plots. That can be pretty impractical, as having everyone needing to bring mowers on and off site or secure them when not in use. The Town Council has been asked if we could take on the mowing of the walkways. No positive answer on that one yet - there could be a significant cost in employee or contractor time.

4. Plots have been described to me as "large" and it's noted that the council also rents half sites - "but they are still big" says my contact. How about quarter sites? I don't know on that one - new question.

5. Whilst some plots are well used and tidy, others are less so. Sometimes the underuse is temporary and sometimes plots or parts may be seasonally fallow between crops, but at times the tenant may be struggling or have taken on more that they can manage, or circumstances may have changed. If a site or part in need of some tender loving care on a long term basis, it may be keeping someone who could give it that TLC on the waiting list, and it could be growing weeds and seeding neighbouring plots too. But on the other hand, these allotment are here to help people, and not to add pressure onto people who may be struggling for a while. The Council is very much aware of the delicate balance here

I find myself wondering (I don't know) about tenants working together and indeed having an allotment club / society. Helping one another when in difficulty, sharing path mowing between them, passing excess produce to one another, perhaps annually hiring a chipper to deal with woody waste. Such a club or society could help lay a pipe down Awdry Avenue perhaps with their volunteers. But I am told that many tenants hardly see any of the others (days are long, and people's weekly schedules don't align) and it would require an element of co-ordination. It might help council staff and councillors too, with a communication route to reach all allotment holders. But yet, it wouldn't feel right to insist that allotment holders were required to take part and certainly not have to pay a subscription.

A suggestion I made the other day - to offer an opportunity. For councillors to set up a get-together of allotment holders, some time this autumn. To ask the responsible town council staff to provide information (updates via councillors or in person) to the meeting, and to gauge feedback and help councillors or staff understand issued that concern tenants. Potentially to set up an ongoing dialogue and perhaps set up some sort of further tenant group (Facebook Group, WhatsApp group, in real life, what ever they feel).


Published Monday, 22nd July 2024

A new personal Facebook profile



I'm getting there! Last week, my old laptop drowned and cannot be restored, and I have been rebuilding. Meet "Cato" - a MacBook Air so small he can be opened and used between the close-pitched seats on a train. I'm writing this on Cato, currently undergoing training to be my effective helper - and that means installing software (at current versions) and restoring files. Yes, I had most things backed up, but rather sadly it's turned out that one or two things were so well secured that I have lost access.

On Facebook - I have a new personal profile at https://www.facebook.com/graham.ellis.melksham/ - set up at the weekend, and already re-connected with lots of friends. But many more to re-link. If you see a request from me, it's probably genuine, though please take a careful look because there have been "cloners" out there too. My Town Councillor page at https://www.facebook.com/Graham4Melksham/ is reconnected as well and to that new profile, as are some groups such as the Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall, the West Wiltshire Rail User Group, and the Melksham South Ward group.

If you are a LinkedIn user / contact - https://www.linkedin.com/in/wellho/ and more connections welcome. The Great Western Railway Passenger Forum and a whole host of other web sites are running and have been without missing a beat, including those which are now more archives like my IT training career pages, hotel pages,"The Horses Mouth" blog that ran from 2004 to 2018 at http://www.wellho.net/horse and the articles arranged by subject via http://www.wellho.net/net/modules.html

Illustrations - my current (new) Facebook profile, and my old laptop in typical use - working with people in and around Melksham while learning about other parts of the world.

Other sites:
* Melksham Enviroment Group
* Option 24/7 Wiltshire Buses
* Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall
* Well House Consultants (IT Training)
* Well House Manor (Hotel)

Published Wednesday, 17th July 2024

Melksham Carnival - review

A wonderful sense of community at the Melksham Carnival yesterday (13th July 2024) ... with thousands of people (literally) lining the streets and perhaps five hundred actually taking part in the parade. To each and every one of you, so good to see you out in town, enjoying the afternoon, and celebrating our town, our people, our activities.

The work that goes into arranging Carnival, and running the event on the day is massive. Without project managers the whole thing could so easily be a flop. That management is a team effort and I'm going to tip my hat with respect and admiration to the team, at the same time as singling out Michelle Brightwell for her lead at the event and on the run up. Michelle has bubbled and smiled all the way through, even in intimidating settings such as coming along to Town Council meetings to ask us (I'm writing as a councillor) to make and clarify grants, support street closures, etc. Well done, and thank you Michelle and the whole team.

Each and every entry - there were around 35 - was in itself a team too. Thank you to each of those teams - both behind the scenes and in the parade - for all the work put in, and the joy brought. There's a joy in taking part (I wouldn't miss walking in support of a local community group) snd so much good from the promotion and fundraising with those groups. Talking to individual groups as we got ready to walk, people were celebrating and promoting their own activities, but at the same time raising funds and awareness for prostate cancer support, for pet food support, for althzheimers, and for other excellent and charitable causes - again I list just a selection I happened to come across.

What about the thousands who saw us walking? An overload, for me, of brief conversations along the way, ranging from people I have known for years though to people I was meeting for the first time. From people who's lives are turning a corner from the gent who's wife passed away recently to our new MP talking about the enormity of the task he has taken on and how he is getting on with it. To people who live in and love the town, but have moved on in their employment and were just in the audience as cheerleaders yesterday, and people who live here and come out and engage with their community just occasionally. I was really touched to see so many people along the way who's health or age limitations restrict them in what they can do - many seated outside or near their homes, and to see some of the groups stopping to give a little performance for them. A "win/win" and a memory that will endure long after the floats have been dismantled and we've all had our summer breaks and are back in the autumn.

And so to the group I walked with - the Melksham Environment Group. A new group and a late entry into the parade. Many readers, I know, feel overloaded with information about climate change, its effect on the environment around us including the natural world, and what we can do as individuals to help ensure a sustainable home, street, town, county, country, planet for ourselves (for aren't we always selfish) our children and our grandchildren. It's an issue we are wrestling with and looking to provide a local focus and switchboard of information - enable and encourage information sharing and good practise by supporting others locally in all the various facets involved.

Yesterday, our objectives were to market the group - have our name start to come onto the Melksham radar, and to inform and give residents and visitors some ideas and thoughts as to what they can do which is both beneficial to their own quality of life, but also kind to the environment. No intent to have a memorable float - just a barrow of literature and co-ordinated tabards in hideous florescent lime green, and information to pass out that's targetted - designed to be read and kept by those who take it.

1. At http://melksham.info/you'll find "Great things are done by small things brought together" - the front and pages of our LOCAL leaflet which includes "Use Public Transport", "Grow your own and share produce", "Generate and use sustainable energy", "Shop, eat and entertain local", and "engage with others". The leaflet also includes a Melksham Train timetable for people to keep and refer to.

2. At http://www.fomah.org.uk/ you'll find a link to the program for Melksham's Assembly Hall until the end of September, backing up the "entertain local" message. Why always travel to Bath, Swindon or London for a good night out when we have local comedians, stars, music and tribute acts visiting us. The "environment" message is "reducing your emissions" but the personal corollary is "and increase your quality of life by cutting travel time, cutting your costs and supporting and making better your own town".

Our team of five from "MEG" (Melksham Environment Group) started with a barrow heavy with literature. Half way round, it was virtually empty and I refilled it from a strategic stockpile I had available if needed. But yet our objective was not to hand out as many as we could - it was to hand out the information to those who WANTED to receive it. We "briefed" ahead of time, and walking along the crowds described what we had and only passed out one, other or both pieces if hands came out. And where people were together in household groups, we typically just passed out a single copy.

It was really noticeable just how enthusiastic many people were to get the information the Assembly Hall leaflet almost universally. With the "use public transport" line, a proportion of people were saying "I look online" and that - let's be fair - is greener than a printed piece. There also remains a significant number of people for whom public transport is so alien that they won't even consider it.

Overall, job well done - very well done by the distribution team of Gill, Caroline, Pat and Mike, and a big and grateful thanks to my wife Lisa for producing two wonderful leaflets. Over 1,000 of each distributed at Carnival, but we intentionally had an overrun and they'll be available at the TIC, and hopefully at the Town Hall too.

Well - that's Carnival done for another year. Next Saturday, Melksham Rock and Roll at the Assembly Hall, or a day trip to Weymouth by train and so it carries on with so much happening through the summer holidays. We are left with memories of a wonderful day in the town, and also with a legacy of it motivating us to look onward, upward and forward.


Published Sunday, 14th July 2024

Small Grant awards - Melksham Town Council

I am no longer on the Town Council's finance, admin and performance committee, but I attended last night's meeting as a "sub" - substitute - for another councillor who was unable to attend.

One of the ways the council can make a very real difference is by making small grants to small community organisations to help them get started, or to help them meet an extraordinary one-off expense. Our community thrives on it little volunteer groups who can "match fund" their volunteers time with some funding from the public purse. But as a Town Council we need to be very careful indeed not to give away public money unscrutinised, nor to give money to worthy causes which however, are properly funded from elsewhere. Of the 17 requests we received last night, we granted funding to 10, and in seven of those cases we only granted part of the money asked for. We were asked for a total of £13,112, and granted £4,000 which is a quarter of the year's budget.

Congratulations to Celebrating Age Wiltshire, Group Five, Melksham Amateur Swimming Club, Melksham Gardners Society, Melksham Lions, The Riverside Centre, That Meeting Space, the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, Wiltshire Search and Rescue, and Wiltshire Mind.

Why did we not provide any funding at all - not even a token amount - to the other seven? Some were not for projects in Melksham Town. Some were from commercial organisations where all we would have done is to boost their profitability. Others were to meet general running costs, or gave the appearance of not making the best use of money. In many cases the paperwork wasn't complete. Not a single applicant was present in the room, nor on zoom, in spite of encouragement to attend. That would have made a very real difference as we could have raised queries there and then rather that saying "come back in the autumn" or "no, because it doesn't appear to add up".

The rejection or partial funding of only 3 out of 17 requests, with all 14 of those scaled back being in my view "worthy causes", indicates a massive investment of time by organisations filling in 5 or 6 page applications, and then by a Town Council officer producing a spread sheet that evaluates each of them against 21 criteria. It's administration gone mad, and burns up what could and should be productive time of officers, councillors and applicants - symptomatic of modern society where there are complex authorisation processes. How do we fix that? As a start, we would do well to have a council officer or councillor talk with / advise applicants so that what comes forward is good, clean, understood and tuned. I would far rather see 7 good applications that we can fund fully that 17, most of which we cut back and I really hope that our partial funding doesn't result in the worst of both worlds - money granted and paid, but not enough for the project to go ahead ... and resulting in the volunteers looking for yet more sources of the rest of the fund, more admin for the volunteers who I would really like to have their time available to do the voluntary work and not the admin.

Iluustration - the left had side of the spead sheet that we considered last night, taken from the public agenda



Published Tuesday, 9th July 2024

General Election - Melksham and Devizes


Congratulations to Brian Mathew (pictured) on his election as the MP for the new Melksham and Devizes seat. Votes cast were as follows:
Brian Mathew (Liberal Democrat)20,031 votes - elected
Michelle Donelan (Conservative)17,630 votes
Malcolm Cupis (Reform UK)6,727 votes
Kerry Postlewhite (Labour)4,587 votes
Catherine Read (Green)2,229 votes

In Melksham, we had a choice between our previous member of parliament, who had a nine year Westminster record to refer to in addition to her local work, and four candidates we knew far less about. I was delighted that three of those four found time to come along to our hustings, and that helped me and a hundred others get to know them a little better. Personally, that evening really helped me and gave me a confidence to vote for a candidate who I had not met before that evening;

A "thank you" is due to Michelle Donelan for her hard work over the past 9 years. She was swept out on a national tide of unhappiness with the Conservative government (for which, hwever, she has an element of reponsibility being a cabinet member) even though she and her team were very responsive and visible locally of late.

Here is a table of constituencies that neighbour ours (*) and all other Wiltshire constituencies, with their new MPs (% - re-elected) and the percentage of the vote they each took
Swindon South 48.4%Labour Heidi Alexander
(*) Chippenham 45.5%Liberal DemocratSarah Gibson
(*) South Cotswolds43.9%Liberal DemocratRoz Savage
(*) Bath 41.3%Liberal DemocratWera Hobhouse (%)
Swindon North 40.6%Labour Will Stone
Melksham and Devizes 39.1%Liberal DemocratBrian Mathew
(*) Thornbury and Yate39.0%Liberal DemocratClaire Young
(*) Wiltshire East 37.5%Conservative Danny Kruger (%)
(*) Frome and East Somerset35.5%Liberal Democrat Anna Sabine
Salisbury 34.1%Conservative John Glen (%)
(*) Wiltshire South West33.8%Conservative Andrew Murrison




Published Saturday, 6th July 2024

Government manifesto and members

With the 4th July election, we have a new Labour government and many new policies. To guide us, and for reference later, here is a summary of their manifesto plicies as compiled by the BBC, the initial membership of the shadow cabinet, and maps and diagrams.

It makes sense as we look to help from within the community to move our country forward to do so in a way that aligns our aspirations to those of both the governing party and to those of our own member of parliament (Brian Mathew, elected as a representative of the Liberal Democrat Party).

Partnership not protest, at times as a critical friend but still very much co-operative working.

For each topic below, click on the image to enlarge it.







I have mirrored the complete manifesto ((here))



And the political colour of the UK and our area:


Published Friday, 5th July 2024

General Election - transport policies and my vote

I attended (OK - helped organise) our Melksham and Devizes Parliamentary Hustings on Wednesday evening, with a climate and nature theme. I am not associated with any political party - will (and do) work with any, so may be considered to be a floating voter. I have a strong interest, and some knowledge, of transport, which accounts for around a quarter of CO2 emissions in the UK and emissions in that sector are stubbornly not falling, and asked a question on that topic. How will I vote? Scroll down to the end of this article to find out.

Candidates:
Jump to Labour
Jump to Green
Jump to Liberal Democrat
Jump to Reform UK
Jump to Conservative

And also:
Jump to Conservative Record
Jump to and to conclude


We have five candidates. Here are their answers / approaches (with my comments) on them, starting with those present in the room.

Labour, for whom we were joined by Kerry Postlewhite. Kerry started on transport by telling us of picking up a friend from Belgium who arrives at Swindon Station, and how that friend was shocked at the car park full of cars there, where in Belgium it would be full of bicycles. Agreed but how, Kerry, would / will a Labour government encourage / make us make the transition? She also spoke of Melksham Station, and how people travel to other stations in the area because the local service there is so poor. Sadly, I agree. Policy: Buses are uncool and should be made cool. Buses and public transport don't run at all times they are wanter and are expensive. Take rail back into public ownership. Melksham trains "always late". Reference to Louie Haigh document.

Green, for whom our candidate is Catherine Read. I had met Catherine previously at our ClimateFest, and I admire and cherish the Green presence of Caroline Lucas that we've had in parliament - not necessarily agreeing with some of the more general left wing policies, but delighted that they are expressed and promoted to a degree in parliament. Policy: Make public transport easier and cheaper. Bring back buses that have been cut locally, and there is is not enough public transport. Under 18s go free. Invest £10 billion. Rapid electrification and reopening of stations. Safe streets.

Liberal Democrat for whom Brian Mathew is standing for parliament. Of the three candidates present, I knew Brian the least. I was not his liaison person for the event, and although the name was familiar our paths hadn't crossed prior to the evening. So let me say that I am relieved at how Brian came across, his manner, his experience, and his good knowledge on the subjects that came up. Policy: Keep £2 bus fare. Cheaper to South West. Electrification. Intro grants. 2030 zero for transport. More money any authority to spend locally. Simplify tickets. More station re-openings on existing current main lines (mention Devizes). Make bus franchising easier.

Reform UK - not present and I have no prior experience of them. But I have been in direct correspondence with our candidate, who sent his apologies. He had prior appointments for all three dates we were able to offer, and they checked out and were no doubt a genuine part of a program. Policy ... ... He sent a statement which I read out to the meeting and in it he spoke of scrapping net zero on the basis of "what difference can the UK make" - while making a point of not denying climate change. The general statement did not reference transport [fair enough - wasn't asked to]; looking through the party's headline policies, I see they want to cancel net zero, and also cancel the remaining section of HS2. I have got on well enough in exchanges with Malcolm Cupis - as a person happy to sit down with him over a pint, but his views including many wider topics than transport are such that I could not personally vote for him.

Conservative - not present. Michelle Donelan has represented Melksham in parliament, as part of the Chippenham Constituency, for nine years and I know her on a "business" level and work with / to inform her on public transport matters. She (and her team) have been responsive locally, and as a constituency MP - especially over the last year - she has been very visible indeed. I will confess to having misgivings as to whether certain things said by/for Michelle, while true, are misleading. That's not just a one-off; an example is her apology for not being able to make the hustings where she writes "Due to the snap election and the very short time frame between now and the election - I am already fully booked up with hustings right across our area" - odd really, as there were only two hustings in the area, taking the electoral commission's definition of a hustings as "Hustings. A hustings is a meeting where election candidates or parties debate policies and answer questions from the audience". Michelle has been very visible meeting with people and asking for their votes and was probably out doing so on Wednesday evening - and that might be considered "husting" people by debating people on their own doorsteps and answering questions from them. I can understand why she may find that a more effective way of increasing her vote, but her explanation just felt dishonest to me.

Policy ... So what can I tell you about Michelle and the conservative's policies on transport? Well - I can look at what the government has done and past record in the absence of big headline policy changes proposed.

As I write this, a promotional video for Michelle popped up ... "Don't trust me for what I say - judge me for what I have done". So these are the sort of things she wants to be judged on ...

Recent years with Michelle

Bradford-on-Avon to London trains. Popular / useful / busy / low cost services lost in spite of a petition with 6572 signatures asking for it to be retained. London travel now involves a change of trains and usually a long wait. Ironically, 18 months after the service was withdrawn to "remove duplication", extra trains were added back in to the paths occupied by GWR, except that they just miss the London connection at Salisbury. Broken for no gain - why? At the time, Michelle wrote to me that she had gone to see the minister and had spoken with him about it. Nothing in what she wrote convinced me that she had made a strong case, and in hindsight it's quite possible that she and the minister agreed that the problem would blow over long before the next election.

£2 bus fare. Yes, this is a good one. Hugely sensible to be encouraging people to use the bus, with fares slashed temporarily to market buses to people after covid, and now extended until December (i.e. after the election). £6 down to £2, Melksham to Devizes single, makes a huge difference. I think I saw a manifesto (or other) promise to extend the £2 for at leat 5 years, and stable public transport pricing (as seen Bristol to Avonmouth and Severn Beach rail line) has made a huge positive difference there. More of this needed.

Rail Franchising and government micro-control of the railway. Rail use has doubled since privatisation and franchising - arguable whether it was the right approach or not, but commonly accepted that significant changes are needed - wheel out the William report and Great British Railways which feel like they have been going on for ever. And in the interim, the Department for Transport has been micromanaging the rail system to the intense frustration of the professionals - "can't let the experts use their expertise"? That said, financial support through Covid gratefully received. Industrial relations have been abysmal, with the passenger feeling, perhaps, like a punchbag between government and unions, at the long term expense of damage to use and development of a rail system fit for the 21st Century.

Open Access rail operations - trains run commercially to fill network gaps - run on the east coast but not at present in our area, although there has been a proposal around for a decade to run Open Access through and serving Melksham. Tory proposal "big" the retention and perhaps growth of Open Access, but I have never seen or heard Michelle comment on it locally. It could make a huge difference at Melksham - positive or negative depending on how it's done

Fare System. Generally acknowledged as being too complex for purpose, and high fares; the proportion of rail costs paid for by the passenger in the UK, and the need for ever-more safety and red tape hasn't helped. And all parties know that simplifying the fare system while maintaining income levels on same passenger levels would result in winners and losers, with winners quickly forgetting and losers remembering at the next election.

Melksham station progress. When Duncan Hames was our MP, services stepped up from 2 to 8 each way per day, and as a result passenger journeys rose from 3,000 to 75,000 per annum. And there it has stuck. Technical work suggests that a service of 16 reliable trains per day would bring passenger numbers up to around 250,000 per annum; as it is, we are now up to 9 (7 at the weekend) and that is too thin for most people. Disappointing that during Michelle's time and with the local Community Rail Partnership having an absolute majority of Tory current and past Unitary councillors on its board that service remain as poor as they do.

BBB - Boris's "Bus Back Better" was / is a wonderful review post-covid. Huge amounts of hard work put in locally - what a pity that it was bid funding and for high profile new stuff. Initial bids - shire counties in the Western Gateway got nothing for all that work ... WECA got £100 million and have spent a lot on WestLink demand responsive transport for three years with many teething problems reported and a difficult future to see.

New stations - Corsham and Devizes - in her old constituency that included Corsham, Michelle has been promoting a re-opening of the station in Corsham. Very popular, but it hasn't happened and there seems little immediate prospect. In Devizes, in the new constituency, there is logic for a "Gateway" station 2 miles from the town on the main West of England line, though the business case for that has just failed.

Electrification - was supposed to have been completed through Chippenham to Bath and Bristol and a lot of money spent on scheme that's been stopped. No electric trains or buses in the Melksham and Devizes Constituency, and no suggestion that a conservative government would electrify any railways here during its next term. Still all diesel, including the heavy freight that pass through and where a real difference could be made.

Reliability - trains, awful, Melksham over 10% cancellation where 2% should be the absolute limit. Lack of staff, lack of working trains. Both issues utterly frustrating to rail management, and IMHO the failure can be largely laid at the feet of the government in which Michelle has been a minister.

Fuel Duty - how ungreen (and populist) to freeze fuel duty in successive budgets and keep stepping up rail fares. Hardly going to help the climate, but it will help maintain the votes of those wealthy enough to afford a private vehicle.

Town Bus - service halved during this parliament, and just re-tendered at what was the "temporary" covid level. Looking very personally at the stop outside my home, around 20 town bus service a day down to 5. And many are empty because it's no longer a service that runs when people want it, nor does it actually connect with (for example) the train or go to the Campus. It goes to the supermarkets, which these days are doing a lot of their business through home delivery

HS2 - continuing with the southern section and cancelling the northern section - a disjointed decision that for the most part gives us the worst of both worlds.

None of these are easy matters, but Michelle does ask us to judge her on her record, and her lack of availability on any date for the hustings has left me with just her statement and that record.




And to conclude

You can watch back the hustings and hear all five statements at
https://www.facebook.com/noel.woolrych/videos/1013704943601722?idorvanity=1589423811847101
also at https://youtu.be/AlyV1nwOvNA?si=uXeqRD_hj4KZ9mD8 if you're not a fan of Facebook


I said at the start of this article I would tell you how I am voting. It's a slight cheat, isn't it, to tell you that I have a postal vote that will be going off tomorrow (Saturday) morning to arrive in good time for next Thursday.

As to which candidate to select, I wish I could mix and match policies and personalities. And I wish I could first and foremost vote for whoever I felt would do the best job, even if that person has no realistic chance of being elected in Melksham, and my vote for [him/her] takes what could be a key vote away from a second choice who has better prospects. I am also aware that it making my decision, I've never met one candidate, have little more that proposals and talk fro three more, and I have deep experience of living in the constituency of the final one, who has been busy for this past year (prior to purdah) paid from the public purse to fulfil her role, which has included being paid to look after her constituency. These factors are far from unique to Melksham; all over the UK they make for a very unlevel playing field. And I then have to guess as to the nationwide result and perhaps consider how we will do hear if our MP is part of the government party, part of the official opposition, part (perhaps) of a coalition if no-one gets and absolute majority, or part of a minority party or grouping.

Unlike so much publicity I see around, I am not suggesting who you vote for. I AM suggesting you vote, and you give serious thought to your vote and cast it with seriousness and care. If it turns out you get the person you wanted as MP, good news for you and the more votes that person has the stronger place they will be in. If the candidate that the vote for does NOT get elected, it is not a wasted vote. That person has your support, and a strength in numbers to carry on within the community with the good work they do.

I could work with any of the four candidates I have met in my community area of interest and look forward to doing so positively into the future. The environment is key to me and within that transport in many ways - be it carbon emissions directly, or by providing better, cleaner, healthier, more efficient ways to get around if, indeed, we need to get around as much.

I will leave with some thoughts of things that did not crop up on Wednesday evening, but may well in the next decade, and I wonder about the position each candidate would take on them.

* Ride Sharing - less than a third of car seats are used - inefficient or what?

* Electric Scooters are illegal in Melksham - and the most friendly powered transport mode that there is.

* Carrots are needed to help encourage the best use of mass/public transport with integrated information, fares and network, and with reliability that has been lacking. Going where people want, when people want, at a price that can be afforded.

* Railway and bus electrification is "obvious" - but electricity is just a means of transmission of power and we have to ensure it comes from sustainable.

* Did anyone mention the Lime Farm solar farm, or the Melksham Bypass?

This time next week, we should have some idea of the shape of our new government and whether our prime minister is Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, Ed Davey or Nigel Farage, or if we are in for a period of horse trading to go between them to establish a government. And we should know if Michelle, Brian, Kerry, Catherine or Malcolm represents us in parliament. That will, perhaps, be time for a further update.

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Published Friday, 28th June 2024

Placing my vote - a chance to listen

I am looking forward to the hustings at Spencers Sport and Social Club on Beanacre Road, Melksham, on Wednesday 26th June 2024. Take your seats, please at 18:00 for a prompt start at 18:15. All welcome. Free Entry. See ((here))

We have five candidates standing for the new seat of Melksham and Devizes - representing Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Reform parties. The choice - in my view - is partly based on the party and policy, and partly based on the individual and how appropriate and effective they would be for our area, and that being as part of the UK and for the world. And with a "first past the post" system, there is a temptation to vote for a candidate we consider second best if the boosts his/her realistic chance of being elected, and our best candidate has no realistic chance.

I have not yet made a final decision on where to place my vote. It's a single vote based on a multitude of factors and policies. Decision to make after the hustings, which have a climate and nature theme; environmental issues pervade all policy areas and it will be very educational to hear what the candidates have to say about how they weave these issues into their plans, and what they say on the night in person (most will be there), or through a representative or statement.

132 MPs from the last parliament are standing down. With 650 seats that means that in 518 seats have an MP standing on a record, and with salary and usually a paid staff to do their job, and also to raise their profile. There is a spending limit during campaigning, but that does not negate the effect of their prior spending paid by our taxes. We are in a new constituency - Melksham and Devizes - with incumbent MP Michelle Donelan standing for the seat, having previously represented Melksham and Bradford-on-Avon as part of the old Chippenham seat, and taking on Devizes from the old Devizes seat. Looking to be MP for the first time are Malcolm Cupis, Caroline Read, Kerry Postlewhite and Brian Mathews and whilst I have observed (and in some cases interacted) in recent weeks, I know them very much less than Michelle - naturally so as they have all had to learn their livings in day jobs rather that being paid £90k per annum to represent us.

I wrote down some factors that I'll be balancing. Honesty. Fully informing. Effective. Policies. Realistic. Listening. Strategic. A pleasure to work with. Knowledgable - from local to the world.



Published Friday, 21st June 2024

Yes, your comments count!



Thank you for your comments on the Joint Melksham Neighbourhood Plan - nearly 1000 of them - late last year. We (the steering group of community members plus 2 councillors from each of Melksham Without and Melksham Town) are currently revising and updating our plan as a result of these. Significant new information is available, and further work has been done to proposed site allocations at Melksham and Whitley. In addition, despite local opposition, outline planning permission was granted through appeal for 210 dwellings and a 70-bed care home on land South of Western Way. Our updated Plan proposes its allocation to make these numbers count, minimise any harm the development may cause, and maximise the community benefits it delivers. The updated plan was approved by both councils at their full meetings on Monday 17th June 2024.

With the updates, there's a further round of consultiatons over the next eight weeks. No need for you to repeat comments made in the last round, but please comment if you wish on the changes. The plan and consultation details may be found online at https://www.melkshamneighbourhoodplan.org

Hard copies may be found:
• at the Town Hall
• at the Parish Council offices on the first floor of the Community Campus
• at the Melksham Library
• at Sprockets Cafe at Spindles Bike Shop, Top Lane, Whitley

There will be drop in events at:
• Melksham Community Campus on Friday 19th July 4pm - 7pm
• Shaw Village Hall on Saturday 20th July 11am - 2pm
• Bowerhill Village Hall on Tuesday 23rd July 5pm – 8pm

All councillor on both parishes have been supplied with full documentation of the neighbourhood plan (it made up most of Monday's Agenda Pack). The four councillors on the Steering Group are David Pafford (Chair), Pat Aves, John Glover and Graham Ellis (vice chair) and in a first instance, I would suggest you ask one of the four of us as we have been "living" this plan and will have most of the common answers. A huge thanks too to the officers, especially of Melksham Without council, who have done so much work on the plan - my personal comment would be "beyond what should have been expected of them" and to the team at Place Studios who likewise have provided superb technical support. To add thanks to the community members on the group (it's a community plan so they outnumber councillors) who have put in so much time, and to everyone who's taken part in the task groups. A monumental job by a lot of people, and I commend the outcome to you. Please do ask, do pop in to the drop ins too.


Published Thursday, 20th June 2024

Choosing who to vote for as MP

Who will our Member of Parliament be for the next five years? What policies will he or she pursue for the sustainability and prosperity of the Melksham and Devizes Constituency and for the UK as a whole?

We have a choice of five candidates, each representing a different political party and each of them very earnest and committed to their approach. But the approaches differ, and over the next five years we need to be bolstering our actions to reduce and reverse climate change ... but at the same time we need to safeguard our economy, helping that refocus rather than break.

Over the past 3 weeks, I have been chairing a group of representatives from across the constituency. We are holding a hustings on Wednesday 26th June 2024 at the Spencer Sports and Social Club on Beanacre Road, Melksham. We have engaged with all five candidates, and the most will be there in person. Your chance to listen, learn about both the person and their policies, and use what you learn to help you make your decision.

Please take your seats at 18:00 for a prompt 18:15 start. All welcome, no charge for entry. More details at
http://www.melkshamenvironmentgroup.org.uk/hustings.html

From Colerne to Urchfont, and from each of the three major towns (Bradford-on-Avon, Devizes and Melksham) in the constituency, and from the Calne ward that's in the constituency and Lavington, our Hustings Organisation Group has come together. We look forward to continuing to work together after the election, and to working with whichever candidate is elected as our MP through the term of the next parliament.


Published Monday, 17th June 2024
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Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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