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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Wiltshire Rail Station Progress
At council next week
Celebration - late train back
Comment and feedback - lifeblood
Trip report - Weymouth
Arranging facilities for Melksham
Questions to Council
Assembly Hall - rates unchanged
Why has the station planter gone?
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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.

Which articles are you reading?

Stop Press - Wiltshire Council have just written formally to Melksham Town Council with regard to the Town Council's formal offer made in April to purchase Melksham House. See (here) where I have mirrored the letter. I will follow up further tomorrow on what this means. Clue - I am encouraged, especially by the final paragraph.

Back on topic for today ...

Feedback is my lifeblood - so I look at tools like Google Analytics to see which of my pages people are clicking through to - "voting with their feet" if you like. In the last 4 weeks, some 1,114 pages have been read by 488 users and here are links to them in the order of the number of reads. These are "click throughs" - they are people accessing at the next level deeper than seeing a Facebook summary. I am listing only pages logged as read a significant number of times.

Melksham Town Council - who's who
Arranging facilities for Melksham
* Wiltshire Council - Homes for Ukraine Policy
Melksham House - for SEND
Stepping back from chairing
Why has the station planter gone?
Minutes and resolution - proposed Melksham House purchase
Comment and feedback - lifeblood
Trip report - Weymouth
% Celebration - late train back
% At council next week
Headline look ahead
Questions to Council
38 years ago today
Assembly Hall - rates unchanged
* My personal short cuts
What it's like to be Independent
Assembly Hall hire rates 2023/24
Bank Holiday thoughts
% Wiltshire Rail Station Progress
Coronation of King Charles III
* Melksham Assembly Hall

Notes -
% - these are very recent posts and will have ranked lower in this list because they're still pretty active
* - these are articles are over 4 weeks old and will have ranked lower because they are now past their peak interest.

Published Friday, 2nd June 2023

Wiltshire Rail Station Progress

Today - 1st June - marks the anniversary of the opening of the station at Dilton Marsh in 1937. Incredibly, no other new railway stations have opened in Wiltshire in the 86 years since, though the station at Melksham was closed in 1966 and reopened 19 years later.

Dilton Marsh and Melksham stations have a great deal in common. Both offer limited passenger facilities, and both have suffered since they (re)opened from a sporadic service. Neither has a decent bus connection, and passengers using the station tend to walk or cycle there. Both have a significant local catchment and their rail use (passenger numbers per head of population) are way lower than other stations in the area - so they represent levelling up opportunities.

Although I write of currently poor services at both stations, both have moved forward in recent years. "Poor" is good compared to what it used to be; looking back a decade, both services were virtually unusable, with the stations provided with train services to meet legal requirements, and not to meet the needs of passengers. The Melksham joke was "Two trains a day - too early and too late".

At Dilton Marsh, a new southbound train added last December at 08:04 has made a school flow to Warminster and a commuter flow to Salisbury and Southampton a reality (already a success), and timetable changes with a handful more services and more through trains to Trowbridge, Bath and Bristol will make another big difference.

At Melksham, our useless service was increased to a sprinkling of services through the day with a dedicated carriage shuttling back and forth between Westbury and Swindon. As a three year experiment, that outperformed industry forecasts and was continued and continues to this day, now as part of the general GWR service contract. The single carriage train has been replaced by trains of 2 or 3 carriages in length, and the platform at the station has been increase in length to be able to handle those trains.

Things do not stand still, and various adjustments have been made to the services at Melksham since the experiment started. A Sunday morning train in high summer has been made permanent all year and now forms a vital part of our service. A demonstration that we ran with the West Wilts Rail User group of a late evening Monday to Friday service was added to the timetable just last month, and we now (at last!) have an all day, every day service. For this summer (only) we have a late train on Saturday evening too - but we are hopeful that the next step will be to have that or the equivalent run throughout the year. And not just "hope" in that we are making the operational and business case to GWR and suggesting it run in such a way that it's robust and efficient. Watch this space.

Looking further forward at Melksham, with the service running all day, every day the next step is to increase the frequency / fill in gaps. With a service every hour rather than every two hours, modelling suggests that passenger numbers would more than double, and early gaps that need to be filled include southbound departures from Melksham between 06:36 and 09:10, and again between 15:39 and 18:03. Both of those will be significant steps, requiring an extra train and perhaps extra capacity on the line such as a passing loop, as well as (maybe) a re-instatement of the 4th platform at Westbury and/or the third platform at Chippenham, both of which are still there but don't have a track alongside.

Onward connections at both Dilton Marsh and Melksham also need attention. I know Melksham well; we need a bus connecting with trains and servicing the Town Centre, East of Melksham, Bowerhill, Hampton Park and Berryfield before running back to the station to catch the next train is a next stage "road side". We demonstrated this during ClimateFest last year. Opening a foot and cycle way from the Station to Foundry Close - a few yards of path connecting very end of Station Approach to the already-placed roundabout near McDonalds, with land cleaning, footpath grading and removal of a fencing panel.

Last night, Bryony Chetwode of TravelWatch SouthWest came and gave us an inspirational talk at the West Wiltshire Rail User Group meeting in Trowbridge. At times, it feels like we are battling desperately hard against a storm of resistance, but in practise we are working alongside the "powers that be" in that same storm, and we are in partnership making significant long term change.

Published Thursday, 1st June 2023

At council next week

Next Week's Assets and Amenities (5th June 2023) - my briefing for the Environment and Climate Working Group. I have added a little more text here than usual, to explain procedures for any wider circulation.

I have noted items of potential interest on the agenda below. The really BIG one is item 10 which is a suggestion that we look to the Town Council taking over the Blue Pool as our replacement maintenance building, museum, and extended reception area for the Assembly Hall. There would be significant environmental risks and opportunities. As well as the agenda pack (link at the end), the background to this suggestion is at

My view is this proposal makes sense. There is a lot of work to be done to progress it, and that needs to be done in a short time frame bearing in mind the stated alternative plans.

The meeting starts with "Public Participation – To receive questions from members of the public." And that's an opportunity to ask about the environmental aspects of the items on the agenda (or anything else). Once the main meeting starts, it's "listen only" for members of the public, unless the committee decides to "suspend standing orders" to invite others to speak. Typically that happens where we have experts / well informed people in the room who can help us make a better and broader based decision. The meeting concludes with a confidential session on workstreams - I have copied the published agenda explanation onto the base of this message by way of explanation.

Agenda items of potential interest to ECWG members (IMHO)

4. KGV Park

- 4.1 KGV Lighting
To note the following update. A Variation Order has been received from the successful tender. The project is still over budget.

- 4.2 KGV Maintenance Building
To note the following update. Repair & Demolition Report prepared. Awaiting final Bat Survey, which is expected by August.

- 4.3 KGV Fencing
Members to resolve on taking the project forward. Installation and budget agreed but not yet signed off.

- 4.4 ECO Loos
To note the following update. Self-locking timers purchased and installed, but not yet invoiced. Timers set to be open 7am-7pm.

- 4.5 Shambles Festival. The Festival took place on Saturday 20th May 2023. Head of Operations will give a verbal report.

7. Awdry Avenue Play Area. Proposal to invest up to £50,000 in replacing all equipment and designing a new park for the forest ward. Environmental comment - "Are there any environmental concerns which should be considered? Very little when digging up the ground but we can use responsibly sourced material to combat this"

8. Goal posts for Foresters Park. Proposal to remove the existing football goal post as it is in poor condition and replace it with a new post and a second one the other side of the field to help utilise the area better. Environmentak comment - "Are there any environmental concerns which should be considered? Very little when digging up the ground to install the goal post"

9. Resurfacing of Hazelwood Court. "Councillor Price is requesting the committee has a discussion on the resurfacing of Hazelwood Court." I am (sorry) trying to work out "Hazelwood Court". I have Hazelwood Road in my ward ...

10. Public Owned Assets in and around the Town Hall. "We have a number of potential risks and opportunities at present, relating to the future of the infrastructure of Melksham House, The Blue Pool, The Assembly Hall, and the Town Hall. We also have a number of desires or requirements on the service provision by the Town Council, such as council offices, a council chamber and meeting rooms, a community venue, a museum, parking, and a maintenance depot for our parks and gardens team." ... "Depending on works needed, the works would be environmentally considerate - for example any reroof could be open to solar panel roof which would also cut the energy running costs of all the buildings."

11. Confidential Session. Members are requested to discuss the following in Confidential session pursuant to Section 1 (2) of the Public Bodies Admission to Meetings) Act 1960; the Council, by resolution, may exclude the public from a meeting (whether during the whole or part of the proceedings) whenever publicity would be prejudicial to the public interest by reason of the confidential nature of the business to be transacted or for other special reasons stated in the resolution and arising from the nature of that business or of the proceedings. In view of the sensitive nature of the business about to be transacted, it is advisable in the public interest that the public and press be excluded, and they are instructed to withdraw.

- 11.1 Work Stream and Priorities. Members have been issued with two Private and Confidential documents which are to be discussed and priorities are to be settled on for the coming work stream outlined. Consideration can be given to outsource some of the projects to enable completion if this option was felt suitable. For Decision.

Inputs welcome. Councillors on this committee: T Price (Chair), C Goodhind (Vice-Chair), P Aves, G Cooke, S Crundell, G Ellis, C Forgacs, J Hubbard, J Oatley if you want to get in touch with any of us ahead of time. Full agenda pack at

Published Wednesday, 31st May 2023

Celebration - late train back

For the first time in nearly 17 years, we have a late evening train to bring people home to Melksham - it arrives at 22:55.

The implications are massive. For the first time in the memory of many people, a full day out and getting home afterwards is now possible - this is the final piece of the jigsaw that we have been putting together with our campaign for years.

A big "thank you" to everyone who has helped get us to this point - to the managers and train planners who have set it up, and the staff who will be running the train every Monday to Friday.

A very low-key evening - a Bank Holiday and a Monday, no special advertising, but never the less three people arrived on the train into Melksham (and other were travelling on through). One of the people who got off stopped and chatted and told me what a godsend this new train is - it already made a difference for him tonight. It will never be the busiest of trains, but it fills a real need and I doubt it will ever be empty either. I look forward to working with GWR and with our Community Rail friends to make in work.

The late train leaves Swindon at 22:30 and Chippenham at 22:45 and arrives into Melksham at 22:55. Connection from London Paddington at 21:31 and from Bristol Temple Meads at 22:00.

In the opposite direction, the train runs from Westbury at 21:16 and Trowbridge at 21:22, arriving into Melksham at 21:32; connection from Southampton at 20:10 and Salisbury at 20:42.

Published Monday, 29th May 2023

Comment and feedback - lifeblood


I took a phone call from a fellow councillor the other day, to alert me to concerns from other parties that I'm following up comments on social media that are posed by people who perhaps are commenting under a "nom-de-plume" and perhaps have unclear motives to be asking.

The "alert" was described as being to help me avoid getting into awkward situations, and I appreciate that, but at the same time I got a distinct feeling that I am being "strongly encouraged" to write less and keep much more to myself.

My Answer

Thank you for the alert. As it happens, I'm aware of risks involved in answering posts, especially doing so in public. That is especially where the questions or comments I'm answering are made anonymously or by someone who is not who they claim to be. Modern parlance is "risk assessment" and "risk mitigation" and I think along those lines as I post.

I was about to say "I have been doing this for 20 years, so I know what I'm doing", but that's not quite right. For sure, I have been doing this sort of thing for 30 years, starting with online newsgroups before we even had the worldwide web, and gopher before Google. But as I say, that's not quite right; times and technologies change, and anyone who says "I have been doing it this way for 25 years, I have always done it this way and I know what I am doing" worries me.

The benefit of long experience held be older councillors and staff is priceless, but so is the ability in those people to tune and modernise - think about what they do and how they do it. We should all remember that; a question the other day asked my "why do the people who have been in this for a long time still need training" and the answer is "to help them be fresh and effective in current times".

I read something and listen and learn something every day. Delighted to do so. And I spend time thinking and "playing" with ideas. Much of what I do is by "rote" from experience - knowing what works and has been done before, yet I try to keep an eye open to see if it still works, or to take account of changing circumstances and always have objectives in mind. And I don't like thing that are repetitive and achieve nothing real. Perhaps that's why I'm not into games (playing them, at least!)

So - I will keep answering. It make me think and helps me formulate and update my views. And it helps keep anyone who cares to read in the picture. I really appreciate feedback too - tell me where you agree, and if you disagree tell me why, and suggest alternatives, so I can tune views and better represent you. Together, we have strength and fully informed we can do better. This way, my strategy, the greater benefit and quality of life, information, equal opportunities and environment in Melksham, in understood and we can all work together in that same direction.

Small print

1. I do not "do" unattributed quotes or deliberate leaks. Where such things have been suspected in the past, it's turned out to be someone else!

2. Personal privacy and confidential documents / discussions are outside my openness policy

3. What I've written and say remains in the public domain. The few edits you'll find are corrections to facts and updates to stories to ensure that stuff found via searches is better than historic (but it WILL report how it's been updated)

4. I understand that my approach can make people nervous to work with me, and harder to progress projects. To some extent, so be it; I would far rather have open discussion and a team effort to get the very best results but there's a risk in everything and sometimes the approach does not pay off.

5. You are probably wondering at the cover picture. It's me, thinking and also having an ice cream yesterday in Weymouth. Doing lots of things at once - thinking, eating, catching up with friends and our community members, encouraging public transport use, see what has changed in Weymouth (and Swanage), updating my photo library, and getting fresh air and exercise too.

Published Sunday, 28th May 2023

Trip report - Weymouth

A wonderful seaside trip today (27.5.2023) - on the direct Saturday train from Swindon, Chippenham and Melksham to Weymouth. I joined the train with 50 other people at Melksham, on time at 09:10, and we picked up more along the way - train was pretty well full but not uncomfortable by the time we reached Weymouth at 11:10 - a few people choosing to stand, but then a few open seats too - so 300 people all of whom melted into the vast enjoyment that is Weymouth.

The return train was less busy - almost certainly because many of the people we picked up on the way down at intermediate stations had enjoyed their days out and returned home on earlier services. We left on time at 19:40. A delay at Yeovil Pen Mill (trespassers reported on the line ahead of us) meant we didn't pull in to Melksham until a quarter past ten (rather than twenty to ten); I counted 98 passengers on the final stretch from Trowbridge to Melksham, of whom 49 got off at Melksham. Big "thank you" to the train manager who kept us informed, and to passengers for their patience during the delay - most of you were tired, but stoic about it and were relaxing or snoozing after a great day, and from Melksham station almost everyone walked home - a couple of groups being picked up, and a couple of cars parked at the station.

The train runs next on 10th June - same time, same fare of £21.50 return, or £14.15 per person in a group of three or more or on a railcard, or £10.75 for a child aged 5 to 15 - buy on the day at the station (on the train if you're doing a "groupsave" or paying in cash) or ahead of time online; GWR run the train and the tickets can be purchased from commission and delivery charge free.

I (personally) love going to Weymouth. Yesterday, I took the trip partly to update my seaside pictures, but got enjoyably sidetracked and ended up with just a few - so I'll be going again next month. In the meantime, sharing just a few of the quick snaps I took later in the day (the headline picture taken on my sidetrack to the heritage railway from Wareham to Swanage!)

There is an important story here - the train service is key to Melksham. Not just seaside trips but our daily travel. There are 9 trains each way per day, and thousands of other stations you can reach - it's our link to the network. Download the summer timeable here. Yesterday's passengers were not just to Weymouth, and the trains were bringing people in for the day as well as taking them out. Even when we got back, there were people joining the train towards Chippenham and Swindon.

Just arrived in Weymouth - crowds off the train and it's just 100 yards to the beach!

The beach at Weymouth is huge and sandy, with sheltered bathing and all the fun of the seaside

The harbour is picture-postcard pretty, and the are lots of places to eat, drink, sit out, go crabbing, walk and take it all in ...

Traditional "rompers" on the sea front, as well as a penny arcade and rides for the tinies and also the more robust

Ice cream, Candy Floss, Fish and Chips - or a pie and a pint (or two) if you prefer

And so boarding the trains home, under the watchful eye of the train manager to ensure you're on the Melksham train.

Published Saturday, 27th May 2023

Arranging facilities for Melksham

Looking at Melksham House, the Blue Pool, the Assembly Hall and the Town Hall, I think there is space for the Town Council offices (A), a council chamber (B), a venue where it is at the moment (C) with an enhanced access and facilities, a museum (D), a maintenance shed for the Town Council (E), and also SEN / SEMH needs in Melksham House (F), where work is underway to, in seems, make it suitable for that use. It will all fit, and indeed it would allow Melksham Town Council to move its amenities base and store from the rented unit on Bowerhill, and also to demolish the maintenance shed in the KGV park without building a replacement.

The goal posts were moved in February with Wiltshire Council's responsible officers giving the SEN team "favoured bidder" status and hindsight that since that time, works at fitting out Melksham House have been with their use of it in mind. What was a bit of a shock was that this moving of the goal posts wasn't picked up by the Town Council who were encouraged to put in a serious bid for it, to avoid it being "lost to the community" and at an extraordinary meeting at the end of March voted to do so. Personally, I'm learning that Melksham House might be a pretty darned right place for the SEN facility, leaving the historic building in public care are providing for the people who need it in our area's society. It's almost a blessing we don't have to "find" £2.1 million to buy it for the town and then find a use for it and money to maintain it, when we may well have what we need available close by anyway.

So - what do we do? We leave the Town Hall as it is. We take the old Blue Pool reception and one of the changing rooms and make in into a much bigger reception for the adjoining Assembly Hall. The former gym in the Blue Pool becomes a museum and exhibition area with a shared reception with the Assembly Hall. The former pool becomes the maintenance store / shed. Click on the plan to see it full size

OK - that's the broad brush strokes - now let's look at the associated works. The start of this was introduced by Howard Jones in a public question at the full council meeting (22.5.2023) and handed around. It's on line at http://Melksham.Town/BluePool

• The wall from the Melksham House Gate separating the Assembly Hall and Blue Pool from the Melksham House grounds can go, apart from a small section that protects the electric substation. And that will give a great open frontage to the Assembly Hall - both pairs of the double doors to the back of the hall and the new reception replacing the current one wedged between parked cars and the Town Hall.

• The Blue Pool water tanks upstairs in the Assembly Hall need to be removed and / or made long term safe (and while I'm asking, have Wiltshire Council been paying to rent the space from the Town Council, and if not, why not?)

• I do not know about the condition of the main building housing the pool itself, and some sort of decking or infill would be needed.

• Extra parking could be provided in the former outside terraces of the Blue Pool

• The Assembly Hall bar and lounge area could be extended into the old reception - it's been tight for space

• The Cheese Store building, currently holding the water tanks and caretaker cottage could - well - provide a caretaker cottage.

• Plenty of roofs that may well be fitted with solar panels; the immediate work needed on the main hall is probably not a complete reroof.

Much work remains to be done to fill in these very broad outlines, and to work out who owns what, and how any assets are transferred. But looking forward to having it operational, it makes huge sense for all six of SEN, for the Town Council's main offices, for their amenities team, for councillor meetings, for the Assembly Hall and for the museum.

Published Thursday, 25th May 2023

Questions to Council

UPDATE - 6th June 2023 - Answers to Rob Carter at /lib/may23_ftc.pdf

Before each meeting of Melksham Town Council, there is an opportunity for "Public Participation – To receive questions from members of the public". The opportunity is not frequently taken up - there's the occasional question asked from time to time. Typically, the chair and / or lead council officer at the meeting will promise a written response; that's perfectly reasonable as the typical request is looking for a considered answer. This not a circus of the form of PMQs (Prime Minister's Questions) for the entertainment and motivation of the party and public - it's a real opportunity for the public / electorate to reach the town's leaders and get a response.

I am delighted that question were asked by speakers both last week and this at full council.

From the (now) approved public notes on the meeting of 15th May 2023:

Mike Saunders remarked on the fact that a couple of officers have left the council who were part of the Environment and Climate Working Group. He was disappointed that the wider membership had not been advised. He asked if it was possible to have a list of officers’ names and contact details.

Terri Welch wanted to bring to council’s attention the situation with the Weir gate which is currently owned by Cooper Tires. Terri reported that the Environment Agency were not willing to take on the responsibility. Terri thought the town council should be aware as it is a key element in preventing the town centre from flooding.

Robert Carter asked some questions on responsibility for:
* Footpath clearing
* Events and carnivals, particularly the Jubilee Celebrations and the Coronation Event, asking how events were planned
* Public consultation
* The decision to cancel the Sunday (Coronation) event
* Ceremonial aspects of the town
* The union flag on the Town Hall not fitting for the Coronation, adding that it is important that the Town Hall is kept looking at its best
* The planting on the roundabout
* Weeds in the Market Place
* Decisions on weeding and trimming
* The budget spent on lights in the park
* Engaging volunteers to assist with events etc

From my notes on the meeting of 22nd May 2023:

Lisa Ellis asked, bearing in mind rumours that are rife:
1. Can it be confirmed that the purchase of Melksham House by Melksham Town Council is now off the table because of Wiltshire Council’s decision to accept their internal offer by SEND on the 14th of February 2023?
2. Can it be confirmed that the Melksham Assembly Hall will remain at its present location, with necessary repairs made urgently to fix faults?
3. Can it be confirmed that Melksham Town Hall will remain an asset of the Town Council?
4. Will the Town Council work with interested community members in an open way to help take forward the town’s assets for the benefit of our community including establishing a policy of having at least two members of the public on each working group?

Howard Jones asked
1. Through asset transfer or other means if required, would the Town Council consider acquiring the Blue Pool building in order to enhance the attached Assembly Hall with facilities such as:
• a suitable entrance and reception area
• increase the number of available men’s and women’s toilets, add an accessible toilet
• establish a museum
• provide dedicated parking to ease the strain on the parking in the Melksham campus?
• add an additional emergency exit
2. Can you include the suggestion being handed out into the minutes of this meeting so that it can be given full and serious consideration at the next meeting of the appropriate committee?
3. Can I also ask the three Wiltshire Councillors, representing Melksham, take this request to Wiltshire Council, for their consideration?
4. Why was my Freedom of Information request (mid April) passed on to an organisation that is not subject to FOI when I chased it up having had no answer in mid May?

Mike Saunders asked about the councils' real committent to the environment and climate, bearing in mind its failure to call the scheduled meeting of that working group, or to provide support for the informal event then set up by members. Also bearing in mind the officer's advice to that meeting "ClimateFest wasn’t a confirmed event for this year, due to shortage of officers to plan and organise this event. The complement of available officers and their capacity is currently vastly limited."


Although Howard's third question asked something of the three Wiltshire Councillors who also sit on the town council, only one of them was actually present. Two other councillors were also absent - so that was 10 out of the 14 of us there.

The document that Howard handed around is at http://Melksham.Town/BluePool

I do not normally name people in my blog. However, the above reports what they said in public, and they may be seen online asking these questions.

I am not going to pre-empt the written replies that have been promised at both meetings. I did ask that the minutes from 15th May 2023 be amended to include that promise to respond in writing to the official record, and that was agreed but with the proviso that the public questions are not a part of the meeting - they precede the meeting - and so do not actually form a part of the minutes of the meeting.

Once I have the promised written answers, I will share them

Published Tuesday, 23rd May 2023

Assembly Hall - rates unchanged

Headline conclusion / vote at the Town Council - hire rates for the Assembly Hall are UNCHANGED for the next year.

The difference between expenditure and income ("support cost" or "loss" depending on how you look at it) has shrunk from a feared amount north of £140,000 to around £70,000 (target was £80,000) and hall usage has been good though patchy as we recover from Covid. The raw finances are only a part of the story - the hall is there for PEOPLE and not for its financial consequences. And we hear of staff busy with customers and looking at the bookings, we see that most of them do require a larger hall such as ours - events would simply not fit into alternative venues.

The financial success was attributed to the top management of the hall and, yes, they have kept a tight ship. But it's also due to others. To the excellent hard work done by the staff on the Assembly Hall team, and their very positive interaction and can-do attitude. To the volunteers and casual team who do so much to help with events, both on-the-day and in promoting what's going on, on line, around the town and door to door, and to those back room supporters who put the materials they use together. Also due to you, the public, who have been using the call. Good to see how, exceptionally, we've had staff on the door counting people in and out because it's so popular.

With inflation at around 10%, one councillor suggested we consider raising prices, though perhaps not as much as that 10%. This suggestion was considered and rejected after debate, with "unchanged" passed unanimously. We have been through significant storm on prices and usage over the last year, with the price setting model last summer being an untried new algorithm with little real data - just arithmetic modelling to see how it would work. The algorithm and rule were found to have some rough edges and a number of regular users walked away based on affordability under new rules. With users voting with their feet, the pricing rules have been fine-tuned (yes, I have been party to helping with that) and most but not all of the usage is back or in the process of restarting, with the model and attitude being "steady as she goes".

One of the reasons that there was such a "crash" in the finances in recent years was Covid, another the loss of our event manager in May 2021, and a third was the fact that prices had remained unchanged for a decade. We cannot get into that stagnation of income again, and next year there will be a stronger case to look at for a price rise bearing in mind inflation of our costs, raising the money required to cover maintenance, and also looking at alternative venues, competition, what the market will stand, etc.

And I mention "maintenance" there. As a headline "the hall leaks"; if it were my home, I would have been looking to get it fixed PDQ, bearing in mind that not only do the people inside get wet, but also the fabric of the building that is not intended to get wet gets damaged, and the problem rapidly gets bigger. The council HAS passed a motion allowing for the leaks to be fixed - a bit late IMHO, but it has been passed, but then these things tend to move so slowly as the council officers find time to get competitive quotes, evaluate those quotes, recommend to council, get the go ahead, etc. It's frankly frustrating and chances are than the damage gets worse as the process proceeds, with extra costs being in excess of the difference between the quotes. And the council is looking at all repairs to all of its buildings with a surveyor telling us what we need to make sure that the spending is in line and necessary and (presumably) best done as a separate job. My own view - we should use JFDI ("Just ******* Do It") in this case. At this cycle, catching up in fixing the roof is coming from a reserve, but over time it needs to be considered in the bottom line of that hall, with notional funds building up so that we don't find ourselves in a "near to breaking point" position again.

So - summary - prices unchanged; steady as she goes; roof to be fixed "urgently" and pricing and repair stability to be looked at over years ahead. With thanks to the team who look after the hall, the volunteers who support it, the people who hire it, and all those people who use it for having us in that position.

Published Monday, 22nd May 2023

Why has the station planter gone?

I have been asked why the planter at Melksham Station has been removed and tarmacked over. This planter brought a welcome touch of green to the station, which is now devoid of anything natural; the planter was also a loving memorial to Gordon Dodge who looked after it for so many years.

The first pictures are from Spring 2020, showing the planter in use and bringing a burst of spring colour to station, and helping bring us local pride and volunteers into caring for the place.

The following picture shows the planter, now with a TransWilts poster board in font of it; a useful board which is being used to show the line timetable now that GWR no longer provide a conventional timetable - though I do question why it was sited directly in front of the planter. The board is double sided for some reason, and sited abutting the planter was difficult to access and change the displayed poster in, and visibility of the poster in there was limited due to the natural growth of plants.

I understand that a Department for Transport official audit checking how GWR are looking after their stations highlighted the access and visibility issues, and an out of date poster in their lead to questions being asked. And as a result under health and safety concerns for the person changing the poster, the decision was made and implemented to remove the planter. I confess I am disappointed, both at the decision and the lack of any feedback to the stations friends group - it just happened. Considering that the display on the back of the board has never been anything more than a generic poster extolling community rail, might it not have been sensible to simply replace the poster with a blank panel, and leave us with our memorial garden?

Published Saturday, 20th May 2023

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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