Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
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• Carnival and PiP - why not?
• Local News, 1.3.2023
• Environment - 3 years on
• Town Council - Who tells you?
• No Party-in-the-Park 2023
• Away, but still here, for March
• A week in the life of ...
• Offer guests a future
• Street Cleaning - myWiltshire
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Melksham trains - CHANGES from May
Train Services - Melksham - from 21st May 2023. There will be a slight increase - from 116 to 118 trains per week. The big news is a new later evening service which we have been requesting for a long time. Whilst we will miss the trains we lose on Saturdays, there is an alternative to each of them no more than an hour different, and this change can be described as a tidying up exercise.
Overview of major changes:
On Monday to Friday
* we lose the service at 05:33 to Swindon
* we gain a service at 21:55 to Swindon (all year)
* we gain a service at 22:55 to Westbury (all year)
(17 calls until May, 18 calls after May)
* we lose services at 08:50 and 15:22 to Swindon
* we lose services at 10:00, 16:30 and 21:32 to Westbury
* we gain a service at 21:34 to Swindon (for the summer only?)
* we gain a service at 22:37 to Westbury (for the summer only?)
(17 calls until May, 14 calls after May)
There are no major changes to the Sunday timetable
(14 calls until May, 14 calls after May)
Summer day trips to Weymouth will be encouraged with a through train at 09:10 on Saturdays, and a through train back getting into Melksham at 21:34. However, there will no longer be a connection at Westbury on Monday to Friday morning to Weymouth so these day trips will be weekend only. Sundays are often affected by engineering works and I will comment further (weekend by weekend) as we get towards summer.
Overall, positive news for Melksham. Confirmed by GWR as the plan within the last week.
It should be noted that other stations in our area have done far better - Westbury, Trowbridge and Bradford-on-Avon now have 3 trains an hour rather than 2 into Bath and Bristol, and from Chippenham, some of their Bristol trains are extended to Weston-super-mare (every 2 hours). There is a welcome return of the through morning service from Chippenham to Plymouth and Penzance.
Calls at Dilton Marsh increase from 23 to 31 per day - filling significant gaps - and there are more services at Warminster, with many carrying on south to Salisbury.
Published Friday, 10th March 2023
Carnival and PiP - why not?On the cancellation of this year's Party in the Park, and Carnival - answering a question on "Sham Shoutouts" asked by a someone prepared to actually ask what other might be thinking: "Where is the councils input to fund these events. Similar to the KGV no interest in bringing people to the town." My answer is (I think) something might want to come back to later, so I'm repeating it here for posterity.
Holidays & Cruises Travel Experts - I'm writing in answer as an individual volunteer and organiser; I'm a councillor but not speaking officially for the council, which I have no authority to do. Volunteer organisers, administrators and lead motivators are in short supply. Not just a Melksham issue. Rules and regulations and red tape grow, and the calls on individual personal lives to make money to maintain themselves and their families grows. Active ladies and gentlemen who got involves with this as their families grew and flew are getting old and stepping back. Others not getting involved - no new generation coming as life has changed, far more people are likely to be going home after work / watching hundreds of TV channels when we had 4 in my youth, online, etc, and in second jobs too. Far fewer down the pub or the social club which is the traditional seedbed of these activities.
Volunteer organisations and their outputs tend to be cyclic. Where you news is the loss of PiP and Carnival this year is sad, we have a blossoming Food and River Festival (pictured), and something else planned, I think. Wider, while we have a hole at the local Railfuture branch, we have a blossoming at the West Wilts Rail User Group. Some receive an element of public funding, others not. Some receive a small public grant, others a larger one. Almost all receive encouragement and advice if they garner it and let things be known from the Town Council. But that often comes with an extra cost of paperwork, early engagement and hoops to jump through at a very time that the group is really thin on the ground to undertake those extra activities. This (2021) Town Council in set its major grants for the whole 4 year term at the start, with the very intent of setting some stability right through the council's term. Minor grants come and go, and indeed the budget for them for next year is cut by about a third as part of the council's move to keep the precept we charge are residents unchanged - open to criticism perhaps, except that we are underspending this year so it will not be a cut in what we are distributing.
There are people around who are dubious of the ability of volunteers to be continually effective - to take on a project and stick with it (and I will point out that your TOWN councillors are volunteers and get the same doubt). And that means that some people in paid positions tend to take on jobs themselves where volunteers could be encouraged and help. It can be said that their salary and the need of it gives a continuity, and conditions of employment direct them much more that the loose cannon of just working to the 2025 re-election or their own personal interests. I have personally been an employer of staff, a paid organiser or volunteers, an organising volunteer and a grass roots volunteer and have a view of all sides of this - it's complex.
I have a lot of time for "Holidays & Cruises Travel Experts" because I believe it is the political handle of one of my opponents in the standing for the Town Council in 2021. Good on you for putting your time and intent into standing up and saying "I can help" where so many, frankly, grumble but do not offer themselves up to help. But I do wish that you would come along to council and put your views ahead of meetings of the elected decision makers; do that and you'll find in Melksham that you'll get heard, considered, and get that early influence. If you are passionate about Party-in-the-Park, that extra input and your active early admin information and promotion just might lead to a different outcome. BUT consider that against changing times, activities coming and going, and greater waves around that effect the world around us under which groups run - take your choice of Covid, Brexit, Ukraine, the economy and squeeze, changing social background, and the environment and climate.
P.S. I have not mentioned the bypass and other future stuff. That is done and should be done in parallel, and it not the case the the Town Council is considering EITHER / OR - it is doing both. Actually thought very little on the bypass - that is Wiltshire Coucil's and a regional baby and all the Town Council can do is gently blow some breaths into the sails of the project to help the outcome be best for the town.
Published Thursday, 2nd March 2023
Local News, 1.3.2023Wednesday, 1st March 2023 ... An incredibly full council agenda on Monday night, attended by eleven of your fifteen councillors, and an internal panel meeting last night. Today it's a meeting with GWR and this evening the AGM of the West Wiltshire Rail User Group. Some local news ...
Loos in the park - due by the end of February, but now postponed and we have a final date of 28th April.
Tree Planting - the major program for this winter has missed the target date and the work postponed until the autumn. There is little point in planting trees this month as they would be unlikely to do well, needing watering through the summer and then forming shallower route trays.
BMX Bike Track - A councillor proposal to replace the play area at Burnet Close with a BMX track at a cost of £62,000 was taken forward, though with a view to looking at other sites; a suggestion that Methuen Avenue might be more appropriate curried strong favour.
Assembly Hall - The April to June program and newsletter is out. New highlights include Roller Disco returning mid March, Peter Rabbit in April, Coronoation in May. Quiz nights continue, and watch for much else too.
Town Centre Masterplan - a long discussion as to whether we should "waste our money on reports that will sit on shelves" versus we should "make it clear what we would like to see to that planners and developers know where to head". Te latter prevailed, and it has some legal backing via the neighbourhood plan, and well as being sensible for developers to consider what we want and work side by side with us.
Environment and Climate Working Group - I commented yesterday http://grahamellis.uk/blog789.html about this important group and will be back on this topic in coming days. At Monday night's meeting, the agendaed items were skipped over
GWR / trains - we should be back to published timetable next weekend - for a couple of weeks - but then various industrial actions through the rest of the month. I have a meeting with GWR late this afternoon about the May timetable and will be reporting back tonight.
Cooper Tires Working Group - not sure how this came up and got approved as it was not on the Agenda - however, good call. Looking at three things:
1. Preservation of history and relics / museum
2. Helping displaced staff move on to new jobs or their chosen next phase
3. Working out what happens to the site.
Councillors Hubbard, Price, Rabey, Ellis, Mortimer and S Crundell.
Other updates - goodness knows what's happening with splashpad opening into long summer evenings, on the Town Hall being open one evening per week, on the investigarion of the East of Melksham Hall / investigations for Verbena Court - all overdue on news. Last night was the meeting for presentations by potential catering providers for the park - I will let you know when I hear back; whoever is selected will need to move quickly to provide something by 1st April - however, the final bidders will all be aware of this need to sprint into action if selected. UPDATE, 11 a.m. - Decision made and exciting news to follow.
And finally today - a massive amount of my time is going into internal working panel meetings - three last week and another yesterday, and the preparation and following up of these sessions. Really important stuff to help ensure you have a town council that runs like a well oiled machine, effective for Melksham and motivational for staff and councillors, over the two remaining years in office of the currently elected representatives.
In the picture at the head of this article from Monday's Facebook feed
On left: Councillors Alford, Price, Houghton, Aves and Ellis
At head: Hugh Davies (Head of Operations), Councillor S Crundell (Mayor), Linda Roberts (Town Clerk) and Councillor Mortimer (Deputy Mayor)
On right: Vaughan Thompson of Place Studios (talking on Town Centre MasterPlan) and Councillors Hubbard, Oatley,Goodhind and Rabey
Foreground: Chairs for the public
Published Wednesday, 1st March 2023
Environment - 3 years onThree years ago today I was in Bristol to see Greta Thunberg speak to the rally in Bristol.
The BBC Reported ""Greta Thunberg has warned "those in power" she will "not be silenced when the world is on fire". The teenager was welcomed by chants of "Greta, Greta" as she addressed some 15,000 people at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) event. She accused politicians and the media of ignoring the climate emergency and "sweeping their mess under the rug".""
Proud to have been there - not that my presence made the day any different, not that I burned less CO2 that day, but to say "I think this is important too, and I am going to stand up and say so". I have said so locally too - we have both a worldwide issue and a local issue. The environment - which includes climate -was one of the three strategic pillars I set when I stood for council - Openness, Equality and the Environment.
Three years ago, I listened to Greta. She did not "convert" me - I was already on board. But happy to be there and with so many young people who will inherit whatever we leave behind.
Two years ago I stood for Town Council with my three pillars starkly on my soapbox and somewhat against the odds got elected.
Last year, the council's new Environment and Climate Working Group (ECWG) was up and running and with a humongous spreadsheet of things and projects we could look at.
This year (this month), sad to say our working group chair who has been driving the group has stood down. If she's reading this, "Thank you" for your piloting of the group through its creation, definition of the task and leading into initial projects. No-one said it would be easy, and you have created the foundation of a group which needs to help take local account, and join the far wider influence too. I hope you'll continue to assist the grouo as I know you will the wider community with your own area of expertise.
Our working group has a core of dedicated, active support, and I am delighted. We have a mix - of experts, of campaigners, of unitary councillors as well as town councillors and support staff. Some attending each month to help pilot projects through and provide inputs towards other council activities, others able to make it from time to time. The bud from the year just gone is now well placed to bloom into a very visible flower, not only undertaking activities ourselves, but informing and encouraging others to do so in a way far beyond (and far quicker) than the ECWG team can do on its own.
I look forward to posting further on this topic at the end of February 2024 and telling you of the next step. Time is not on our side. The world is on fire.
Published Tuesday, 28th February 2023
Town Council - Who tells you?Someone wrote that they read my blog as it tells them what's going on much more than / instead of the other councillors. Thank you for that - I take it as a complement, but not as a criticism of other councillors.
You have 15 volunteers who, unpaid, work for the town and each of the 15 of us does it in our own way. Some of us are retired and can give the role plenty of time, but others of us have paid employment, additional elected roles. And we each choose to do what we feel is appropriate - championing causes from the platform we were elected on, but also taking into account the extra understanding of how certain things work, both from prior experience and what we have learned during and after election.
Yes, one of my "pet projects" is keeping people informed, but that's my "bent" and I would not expect everyone to do it. Far better to have [***] concentrate on finances, [***] specialise in security, [***] lead on play areas and young people, and so on. And my "pet project" of writing things up takes a lot of time - willingly given, and I have the luxury of having some time, and the "way" of having an active mind which motivates me to write, and to answer any resultant queries as a pleasure that helps inform me and make me think further.
* The picture of all 15 councillors at the head of this article is from the Town Council Web Site and there are details there telling you how to contact any of us. And links from there to other council resources.
* My blog is can be read (here) - you'll see the latest 10 articles. I have written about 250 articles in 2 years and you can search through them from that link above, or see them indexed (here). Views are my own
* For a regular, general information feed if you're on Facebook, you'll find my personal Councillor page (here) - typically links to blogs with a short summary, but also day by day stuff and an opportunity to discuss. The Town Council has a Facebook page (here) and I am delighted that it's now much more active than previously - big "Thank You" to staff feeding it.
Published Monday, 27th February 2023
No Party-in-the-Park 2023Sharing with you a letter received by our Town Clerk yesterday from Mark Stansby, Chairman, Party-in-the-Park, and circulated to all councillors.
|Cancellation of Party-in-the-Park 2023|
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you that our organising committee has taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event.
Like many voluntary groups we have struggled to recruit new members with the skills and the experience required to organise an event of this size. For those of us currently on the committee, we simply do not have the necessary resources to plan and to generate sufficient funding for the event to meet expectations.
To put this into perspective we currently have vacancies for the following key roles:
Treasurer / Finance officer
Sponsorship & Marketing officer
Contract Tendering officer
Publicity / Event Programme Administrator
Our committee has held regular meetings since the end of the lock-down period and, moving forward, we will look to arrange some smaller events, such as the Monster Ball which returned last year at the Assembly Hall. We will also strive to fill the vacant positions within the team, as it remains our ambition to hold a revised, and possibly rebranded event, in the park in 2024.
We know this announcement will disappoint many who have attended and supported our event over the years, but this is the correct decision under the present circumstances.
We hope to announce more positive news in due course.
Published Friday, 24th February 2023
Away, but still here, for MarchFrom early March until just before Easter, Lisa and I will be away from Melksham - still reachable on social media and via the email addresses and links in this blog, and still reading, thinking and writing.
Please email me or get in touch via Social Media while I am away - whilst this is a holiday, life and events carry on; this an opportunity for us to see a different part of world while still sprightly enough, and the internet reaches just about everywhere these days even if the bandwith will limit dynamic meetings, and the English law prevent me as a councillor for participating in that role at Town Council meetings. I am unlikely to be able to pick up phone messages.
Here is my (temporary) email signature and details:
Melksham Town Council, South Ward
Blog at http://grahamellis.uk/perm.html
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Graham4Melksham/
I only visit other social media occasionally.
I will be away from early March until Easter 2023.
I remain available by email
I remain available on social media
I will not be available by phone or in person
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Phone: 01225 708225 / 0797 4 925 928
Home: 48 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY
Published Thursday, 23rd February 2023
A week in the life of ...In answer to a question "what do you do now you are retired" I bring you a list of things in my diary for this week - from last Saturday (11th) up to and including tomorrow (17th):
11 10:00 Neighbourhood Plan public consultation
11 14:30 xx @ Home - Bus, Rail and other matters
emails - SN12 = 0; Council = 0; blog = 1; posts = 6;
12 16:00 to Birmingham Airport
12 19:30 Pick up xx arriving from Ukraine
12 22:00 Get Home
emails - SN12 = 2; Council = 3; blog = 1; posts = 4;
13 18:30 Town Hall / prep meeting with staff
13 19:00 Economic Development and Planning at Town Hall
emails - SN12 = 2; Council = 3; blog = 1; posts = 5;
14 14:30 Library Lecture - British Newspaper Archive
14 17:00 WWRUG (West Wilts Rail User Group) Committee, Trowbridge
14 20:00 Mexican meal
emails - SN12 = 1; Council = 2; blog = 0; posts = 7;
15 09:00 Zoom with some other Councillors
15 12:00 Phone Shop / SIM / Chippenham
15 12:30 Bank (appointment, Chippenham)
15 19:00 ECWG (Environment and Climate Working Group) at Town Hall
emails - SN12 = 7; Council = 2; blog = 1; posts = 10;
16 14:00 BBC recording interviews for next week
16 15:30 ECWG / xx meeting
16 18:00 Civic awards at Town Hall
emails - SN12 = 4; Council = 10; blog = 1, this, very end of day; posts = 6;
And coming up tomorrow (or "today" by the time you wake and read this)
17 11:00 WWRUG at home
17 14:00 xx at Campus - Neighbourhood Plan
17 18:00 Family Meal
Emails are numbers I have sent from firstname.lastname@example.org (personal) and my council ones. The blog is what you are reading. And the "posts" is the number of messages I have put up at the Great Western Coffee Shop forum where I am webmaster. I have not gone back and counted things like Facebook responses and posts, phone calls, messages. And there is a lot of prep for some of these things.
Picture - the latest picture on my phone. I take dozens of pictures, typically in spurts. A lot of the Melksham Campus earlier in the week; none in the last couple of days.
Published Thursday, 16th February 2023
Offer guests a futureIt's mid afternoon. I have spoken in person today with people living in the UK who were born in the USA, in Gambia, in Spain and in Ukraine.
The people from Ukraine came here, perhaps, in greatest need - refugees from war under the Homes for Ukraine scheme last year, and yet they are the folks of all the people I have spoken with today are here "in limbo", with no assurance or plan in place for what they'll do or whether they may stay hear the year after next. We have given them humanitarian refuge, and it would now be only humane for us to reassure them that they will not face an uncertain future - rather that they can plan their lives.
And so, very unusual for me, I have signed the petition on the UK Parliament Website asking "Give Ukrainians on humanitarian visas rights to extend stay and settle in the UK". And I encourage you to do the same, please. And ask friends, colleagues, neighbours ... https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/632761
Some further background - our guests from Ukraine have arrived over the past year, fled from various degrees of danger in there home country. First intent for most of them is to return home as soon as it makes sense to do so - to help to rebuild their war-torn country. "Three years" felt a long time as they travelled to a safe haven, and in the hope of there being some sort of settlement at home fairly soon. With the war grinding on, though, and no sign of any sort of political or military solution soon, the remaining time on visas seems perilously short, and the lack of a route forward should they need to be in the UK 30 months from now is worrying and is preventing them from planning their lives. If you doubt this, think how YOU would feel if you had to plan to move to a new country in a couple of years.
For readers of this who have not been involved in Homes for Ukraine at the "Coal Face", the bulk of the guests when they first arrive need significant support as they settle in here, get into "the system" and find their feet. But that changes quite quickly as they want to be useful here, and find gainful employment; instead of helping our own guests with the basics, we now find ourselves explaining Income tax, National Insurance and NEST pensions. Default enrolment in that latter makes no sense, of course, if they don't have indefinite leave to remain!
I have been asked why we did not do the same for people seeking refuge from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. We wish we had, but there was no scheme that enabled us to do so. We can't put that wrong right now, but we can do it right this time. It's not proven perfect - of course not, but we are doing a lot of good for a lot of good people, it's no skin off the nose of our economy and it's just plain right.
Published Wednesday, 15th February 2023
Street Cleaning - myWiltshireWiltshire Council, rather than the Town Council, are responsible for most street issues in the town. Until now, they have been guided by inputs to the Parish Stward and Sparkle teams which have been directed on a monthly cycle by the Town Council, informed by councillor inputs at "Econ Dev". We also have had a general street cleaning presence, and an ability to report extra issue via myWiltshire.
The teams are currently busy filling potholes so not available for general street and path work ... and come April the staff doing these tasks will be directed only by inputs on myWiltshire.
So - please use myWiltshire to report and follow issues in future. We are told that street tidy service level needs will be monitored - so if nothing is reported, nothing will be done and the team available will shrink. It may make sense to pick up your own neighbourhood litter and weed the gullies in the road outside your home (a lot of this goes on already) but beware that if we as a community take on more of this, there will be no going back.
We are often asked "but what about people who are not online?". As you (dear reader) are reading this online, it does not apply to you - but it might to your friends and relatives. Or what about if you're stuggling. As a learning thing, please feel free to ask Town Council staff or me to help show you how. As a more general thing, there are computers you can use in the library, and during staff hours people who can give you guidance.
Finally - a "thank you" to those who have, and will in the future, helped keep our streets tidy and clean. There may be a new way in how you are directed / organsed, but we really appreciate the work done.
Published Monday, 13th February 2023