Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
My roles on Melksham Town Council
Elected to represent South Ward, May 2021. At the first Town Council meeting thereafter, roles were allocated. A very busy meeting - here is a summary of the various groups and committees I'm on. For those I am NOT on, please ask and I can redirect you or represent you to relevant people.
With 13 out of 15 councillors new to the council, and 11 out of 15 never having sat on any council, with a meeting information pack of 95 pages and an agenda or 25 items, much of it (in spite of reading up ahead of time) felt like being a deer caught in headlights. There is a need for the new council to hit the ground running on some aspects, but those are hard for the new arrivals to tell apart from the things that should not be rushed through.
Anyway - here are the roles I came away with, and the roles I do not have:
YES ... and I am happy to have been included in each of these
1. One of ten councillors who can sign cheques
2. On the CIL funding projects joint working group
3. On the economic development and planning committee
4. On the "Priority for People" working group
5. On the joint group with Wiltshire Council on "Campus leftovers"
6. The Town Council representative on the Melksham Council of Community Service
(Had to press hard to get both 4. and 5.)
I know this list is a bit dry - will explain each item as it comes up
NO ... and I am happy with most (but disappointed at a handful) of these
1a. I am NOT one of the five councillors who audits the cheques
1b. I am NOT one of the councillors who signs deeds and legal documents
3a. I am NOT on the Asset Management Committee (which is where KGV has gone)
3b. I am NOT on the Community Development Committee
3c. I am NOT on the Finance and Admin Committee
3d. I am NOT on the Staff Committee
4a. I am NOT on the Business Review Working Group
4b. I am NOT on the CCTV and Town Safety group
4c. I am NOT on the Neighbourhood Plan Group
6. I do NOT represent the Town Council at ... Air Training Corp, CATG, Dementia Friendly, Melksham Adventure Centre, Chamber of Commerce, Melksham Charities, Melksham League of Friends, Melksham Trust, North Operational Flood Working Group, Rachel Fowler Management Committee, Rainbow Day Centre, Riverside Club, TransWilts, Melksham Rail User Group, Wiltshire Council Area Board, Wiltshire Association of local councils, Wiltshire Swindon and Oxfordshire Canal Partnership, nor as a Governor at The Oak School.
Decisions were DEFERRED on the following working groups:
4e. Environment and Climate
I am disappointed the Environment and Climate was put on hold - raised my hand to speak against the suggestion that it be put on hold, but was not called by the chair. But then no-one else indicated any immediate interest and I guess it would have been silly to set up a working group with just myself. I do believe that the environment and climate are important; whilst they are things that effect the longer term, it is not something that should be put off; at the very least, the Town Council should have a group to make its position of principle clear and consider its various actions against those principles NOW and not when the mayor gets round to it.
I am concerned that we appear - to all intents and purposes - to have a party system running rather than a council of independent thinkers discussing things at open council. The new mayor was clearly a foregone conclusion, and within his own team ("to help speed things along" I think he said) he has lists of people with whom he had discussed and pre-considered appointments. The Conservative group are also, sure, a group - prediscussions cleary there, but less blatantly taken to a deFacto conclusion even before the new council met for the first time.
Published Tuesday, 18th May 2021
Strategy and tacticsSet a strategy, and the tactics will be clear
"It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies." ... actually, it means much more than just recognising. It means ensuring even, fair and positive treatment of and opportunities for every individual irrespective of those differences.
* Climate future
Zero Carbon, Clean Air, Peak Oil, Noise, Habitat and planet diversity. Ensuring that we work towards and provide a sustainable planet with an excellent life / economy / setup for our children and their children. And while we're at it, clean up the dirty air, congestion, etc, for ourselves as steps in the direction we need to head towards a healthier lifestyle
This is a shorter term one. Bring back better. As we pick up the pieces after the storm called "Coronavirus" than has swept through, see how we can make best use of those peices and construct something better. To some extent this overlaps with the diversity and climate future agendas, but it widensd and broadens it too.
So - how on earth does this relate to Melksham Town Council? Setting a strategy helps those smaller decisions - be they tactical or day to day - be made in line with what will work in the longer term. For sure, there are times that a council / govermental body needs to take a calculated risk - trying something leading edge that turns out to have been bleeding edge, but with a longer term view of things in sight, we should be able to help make decisions which bring about small but long term changes, and reduce "sillies" where something put up in 2021 (at great expense) needs taking down or is redundant and a drain on the taxpayer (further expense) by 2023.
Published Sunday, 16th May 2021
Early days - now a Melksham Town Councillor"A week is a long time in politics". It's not quite a week since the results of the Melksham Town Council election were declared, and I have had a lot to learn.
I stood with every intent of doing my best to be elected within what I consider to be best practise. And also with every intent of doing my very best over the coming four years, perhaps beyond, for the electorate of the ward and the town, whether or not they voted for me should I have been elected. And that intent / committent remains.
Melksham's Town Council now consists ...
8 Councillors elected for the "Together for Melksham" team
5 Councillors elected for the Conservative Party
1 Councillor elected for the Liberal Democrat Party
1 Councillor (myself) elected as an independent
We - the councillors - should all work together for the common continued provision of excellence that we inherit, and for the forward progress and development of that and other provision.
Our first Town Council meeting is on Monday - in person, and a long agenda. That agenda shows a great number of appointments to subcommittees and outside bodies, and I have to believe that each of the groups and parties will come to that meeting with ideas formed. It will be an interesting evening. There are also a couple of councillors who were on the last council, and a couple of others who have been there previously, who ill be able to start from a position of prior experience. I look forward to taking advantage of their experience, while adding a fresh new independent voice to help robustly test and develop for the future.
I am publishing this on my online diary (blog) and it will remain in place; minor edits may be made to make it clear if anything goes out of date, but my nature is such that I will stand by what I write. I have done for many years, and - thank you - that continuing record is one of the things you tell me is what brought me your vote. I hope to not let you down, but I must continue to stress that in this Town Council role I'm just one in fifteen and do not want to build false or unrealistic visions of influence of activity. The Town Council has big powers to influence, but very few statutory powers. But positive development can come from persuasion, partnership and a darned good case.
Published Friday, 14th May 2021
Graham Ellis - elected to Melksham Town CouncilA huge "Thank you" to everyone who voted for me last Thursday. Results out yesterday (Sunday) have me elected as one of the four councillors serving for the SOUTH WARD for the next four years. I am independent of all groupings, but look forward to working with councillors of all other parties and teams for the mutual progress and development of matters in Melksham for all residents of the ward and the wider town.
Independent for South Ward
I live on Spa Road in the ward; my address, phone number, etc, no secret and people are very welcome to get in touch. I am here primarily for the people of Melksham South, no matter who you voted for, or whether you voted. But in so much of what goes on there is common interest, so really I'm here for Melksham as a whole - and where it's appropriate the catchment beyond the town.
The Town Council and councillors have great powers to advise and suggest; they carry the power of the electorate's vote and in many cases the weight of many years experience. However, many issues important to you are decided by our Unitary Council, or even subRegionally or nationally, or are in the hands of other bodies. As the only councillor out of 15 elected on an unaffiliated platform and as such I will have the ability to question, encourage, tune and support positive moves, but no real voting power to overturn anything should either of the two major teams decide on a course of action (or inaction). There is already talk of suspending standing orders ... and I need to understand what that means.
Much more to be written over coming days.
Congratulations to all the other successful candidates too - the hard work begins!
Here are the full results for all wards of Melksham Town Council
Published Monday, 10th May 2021
Thank you for voting - How I reached youGraham Ellis - Campaign for Melksham Town Council, South Ward.
1st April to 6th May 2021.
Some stats for the record:
First leaflet - every available door (say 2200)
Second leaflet - almost all doors (say 2000)
Melksham News - all candidate data, almost all doors (say 2400)
37 blog articles written / topics addressed
892 users - 1st April to 6th May, 1869 page views
12 unboosted posts > 10 engagaments 5645 reach, 588 engagements
4 boosted posts, 4417 reach, 692 engagements, 192 link clicks
Topics raised with me most frequently face to face:
* Race / equality / diversity
* Bus to station; empty double deckers
* Traffic around schools at let out time
* Too many takeaways and too few "real" shops
* Mistrust of [others, to my face!] candidates / politicians
* Always vote for xxx party or never for independent
* Person knows me as having been consistently around for years
Published Saturday, 8th May 2021
Thank you for voting - results awaitedThank you for voting - by post, or in person, yesterday - whoever you voted for.
The more votes cast, the stronger mandate those elected will have.
Today - Friday 7th May 2021 - Postal Votes will be opened and verified
Tomorrow - Saturday 8th May 2021 - Count for WILTHSHIRE COUNCIL Divisions
Sunday 9th May 2021 - Count for contested TOWN COUNCIL (and parish) Wards
Monday 10th May 2021 - Count for the POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER
Once the result is published for Melksham Town Council (South Ward), I will follow up on this blog. That much is for sure. Then it's "Plan A", "Plan B", "Plan C" or "Plan D" depending on whether I'm elected by a long way, just elected, have a near miss, or have been trounced. I'll tell you about the plan that's activated early next week.
Published Friday, 7th May 2021
Election Day!Please vote for me - GRAHAM ELLIS, for Town Council - if you're in Melksham South Ward. Your polling station will be at the Assembly Hall, Canberra (on Spa Road) or Queensway Hall.
I'm an independent candidate - not linked with any political party or grouping, so that means I can think for the electorate where I live, without being directed by third parties from outside. I've lived in Melksham for many years, run a business in the ward itself for 16, and live here in the ward. It's my first time standing, but I have done a lot of work volunteering and supporting community development and activities, so I know a bit about what goes on, what needs cherishing and what could do with updating. And in those activities, I'm so familiar with working with others to persuade the community and wider authorities to do what works for us, and makes sense for them. I would much appreciate your vote so that I can continue to work for the community with an electoral mandate.
All through April, I wrote a daily piece covering everything from personal details to what a town council does and where it spends its money - all accessible via http://grahamellis.uk - though as it's now voting day, you will have little chance to read and absorb before you go down to the polling station. But that's important stuff, both for now and for the future. I'll keep you informed after the election too.
Published Thursday, 6th May 2021
Please vote - here are your polling stations
Some readers of this note will have voted already (*), by post, here in Wiltshire. Others will be visiting polling stations to vote tomorrow (6th May 2021). And, sadly, the majority of people who are registered to vote won't do so.
Can I ask you, especially if you live in Melksham (South Ward), to vote tomorrow for between one and four Town Councillors. You have a choice to make between seven candidates. And I suspect it will be a pretty close run election with a narrow margin between those elected and those not elected. Your vote will count and the more votes a candidate gets, the stronger his or her mandate to represent the electorate.
(*) - edit/update. I understand that some postal Votes have only just arrived - too late to be sure of getting them back. You may take them to any polling station in your ward on election day. Rather nullifies the point of having a postal vote, but Wilts Council assure us that the "vast majority" went out in time, and that the usual reason for late returns is that people leave them "sitting on the kitchen table" for too long.
Polling Stations in the South Ward are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on 6th May as follows:
• The Canberra Centre, (To The Rear of The Front Building), 56 Spa Road (FM1 - 1687 voters))
• Melksham Assembly Hall, Market Place, Melksham, Wiltshire (FM2 and FM3 - 1205 voters)
• Queensway Hall, Queensway, Melksham, Wiltshire (FM4 - 726 voters))
Your polling card will have a voter number starting FM1 through FM4 telling you which is your place to vote. If you sent in a postal vote, you cannot vote in person, but if you had and did not return a postal vote, you can take it, completed, to any of the three polling stations and hand it in during voting hours.
My information is online - perhaps in more detail than is good for me - at http://grahamellis.uk
Published Wednesday, 5th May 2021
Graham Ellis - your candidate revealedI feel uncomfortable being addressed in personal (or Zoom) conversation as "Mr Ellis" or "Sir". I'm Graham and happy to be called / addressed as "Graham" routinely; that indicates a discussion and a level playing field, or at least that the person I'm talking to isn't putting me on some sort of unwarranted pedestal.
But I have become aware in the last few weeks, while campaigning for election to the Town Council, of some embarrassing "pedestal" appearance. Look, I'm just another person. My advancing years may have given me more of life's education than you have had, but they have also started to reduce my energy levels and I need to be efficient in what I do and take on new things carefully - which is what I am doing; Town Council only.
I am a person - with life experienced and background, just as anyone has. They may differ, but they are there; I have not been through what some of you have, but I have been through some things you have not. I have had my rights read to me including a threat of six months in jail in front of my customers. I went through a marriage breakup after 17 years; I should point out that was not the horror that I see others have. I met Lisa after that divorce went through, and we're still happily married nearly 23 years later; "damned geography" as we describe it, with Lisa's original sole nationality being outside the EU and outside the Commonwealth. We know a little about the immigration process, pitfalls, acceptability into certain parts of our society. Health-wise, a few issues (knees, back, shoulder) that were cured with time, and a hearing and balance issue which will never be cured and leaves me at around 75% activity / capacity. I have had a real enjoyment and pleasure in almost every job I did in my working life, but it did include being declared redundant twice - on one occasion with a young family to support. BUT ... these things try us at the time, yet build us as people and build empathy for others.
At our age in life, we have had children, brought them up and been through all the experiences of that. We are now grandparents. Delighted with how they have turned out and that we brought them up to be thinking and self-sufficient. Indeed so self sufficient that it brings both a pride and an element of pain that we don't see them enough - and of course the last year has been an exceptional one. Parents, bearing in mind our age, have naturally passed on - but being natural did not make it any the easier, and we're now seeing friends and colleagues of our own generation pass on too.
Headline picture - our dog Billy; our family. Billy is happy to be seen and posted whereas I respect the family wish for privacy and I do not post pictures of them. Pet pictures generate interest and I note that at least one other candidate has used a picture of herself and her Labrador to help position her. Billy is a greyhound (well, mostly) and came to us via a rescue; both he and "Gyp" (who we lost two years ago this week) were extreme cases and we have learned a lot about how cruel the human race can be, and how forgiving, loving and faithful animals can be even after what they have been put through.
Sanity returns in a week ... elections on Thursday, results on Sunday. Realistically, as the only independent first-time candidate in a large field, I need every vote you can give me to have a chance. Should the unexpected (but possible) happen, I look forward to the role. I am committed to it for the next four - and if re-elected eight - years, and I will NOT change my allegiance aftet Thursday. I have the time and I have the desire. I'll leave the reader to decide if I have the knowledge and vision, and the marketing ability over these few weeks to do that strange thing of selling myself!
Published Tuesday, 4th May 2021
Cycling (and signage, safety and security) - MelkshamIllustration - that's me having my bicycle marked by The Police at Melksham Station on 1st May. Thanks for the picture, Bob.
I didn't cycle for many years until 2020. Medical issues which left me completely deaf in one ear also destroyed my sense of balance. It happened overnight - I went to sleep normal, woke the next morning, and was immediately "sea"sick. It's never going to get better - but it's something I have learned to live with; by some measures I am technically disabled (I qualify for a disabled railcard, for example), but I don't feel disabled, nor in most circumstances do I need to point out the shortcoming. Here, however, I'm doing so, so that readers understand why I'm a new cyclist.
Last year, I needed exercise. And I needed to get around locally. So (during one of the inter-lockdown periods) I hired a bicycle to take along the canal and see how I would get on. Suffice to say I didn't end up in the water. I am now the proud owner of a bottom-of-the-line folding electric bike.
From my home, I usually walk into town - really I live too close in to get the bike out. Headed for the Railway Station, it cuts a 25 minute walk to a cycle ride of less than 10 minutes, and I can take the bike on the train and use it at my destination too - indeed I prefer to do so rather than risk it being stolen or damaged, and cycles on trains are free of charge. It also saves me the cost of parking at Melksham Station, and should I find myself with a long wait for a connection back from either Trowbridge or Chippenham I can (and have) cycled.
Now - I find  I have to know where I'm going to cycle around Melksham and  I find there are certain routes which don't feel as safe as they should be. There are also  some routes that go a very long way round. Examples:
 Need to know
- Coming out of the Underpass from Melksham Station, headed for Murray Walk
- No clue at the top of Hazelwood Road as to how to get out to cross the river
- Coming into Snowberry Lane / The Spa Roundabout - which way to cycle for the town. Also to sign to Town at Heather Avenue - see cyan pins on map.
 Is this safe?
- Town Bridge; if you walk over, you can't pass someone coming the other way, and if you cycle over you may be fearful of motorists trying to sneak past.
- Challeymead Bridge - fast traffic and no safe walking or cycling route.
- Lower Woodrow - part of National Cycle Route 403 and a ratrun of fast cars passing close.
- Most Town Centre approaches (problem with lack of road space)
 Long way round?
- National Cycle Route 403 goes around 3 sides of a square from one end of Lowbourne to the other. You may argue that the direct road is major (the A3102), but then so is one of the sided of the square you are sent around.
- Inwards from Bowerhill - see map; blue line is the recommended way, magenta is direct.
- Try the Railway Station to McDonalds!
A lot of our local signage IS good - it's just that one missing sign can lead to confusion for newcomers / visitors (and, surely, signage is for them!)
These are just examples from personal experience in the last year. The encouragements to cycle that I've taken up should help encourage more people, and locally there's so much we can do to encourage cycling. Good to see the hoops in the Market Place to secure your cycle, and they are there in Avon Place too. Perhaps we need more, and it would be useful in making total journeys if we could take our cycles on the bus ... it's not a new idea - I came across this example from the Isle of Wight when searching for an example I've heard of in Devon ...
Published Monday, 3rd May 2021