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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Who should the Town Council help with a grant?
Giving voice to the public
Revisiting "Melksham South Ward" Group
An end to the Town Council soliciting public input?
Painting the town pink.
Melksham Town Council Play Areas
Re-hi - and an introduction for new readers
Annual Town Meeting - happening in Melksham
Four years on from Covid - Assembly Hall
(Back to top of page)
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.

Remembering Dad who would have been 100 today

10th April - Dad would have been 100 years old today; sadly, he passed away in January 2017 - a shock to us all when it happened but peacefully, unexpected and overnight in his sleep at home having gone to bed, everything ready for the morning. That's the way to go, and we have the joy of remembering him as he was right to the end. And today will be a day of memories.

In early life, Dad talked of having been something of a misfit at school; bright but not aligned with the education system, perhaps, and he left school at what would be an early age these days to join the Midland Bank as a clerk. He was shortsighted (physically) in the extreme - though he made up for that it being extraordinarily far sighted about life and times. As a result of his sight, he was not called up to serve in the forces during World War II, but rather was an air rid and fire lookout officer in Liverpool, under determined attack from the Luftwaffe as a vital sea port facing the Atlantic.

Mum and Dad worked together, and got married in 1948 [ck]. In those days, married couples couldn't work together (so it was a heck of a decision to get married!) and Mum left to help at her parent's grocery shop. Some sad times there, with the grocery business failing but that's rather Mum's story than Dads - but he was very much there to support by all accounts, and I came along in 1954.

I'm not sure if it was cruel or a kind statement of a hard truth, but Dad was told he should manage his expectations in the bank - he could not be considered for a management role because of his birth mark. As far as I was concerned, it was just Dad - supremely irrelevant but clearly not to others - "customers wouldn't like it". But this was Dad - loyal to the bank, and yet also no wanting to just "clerk" for 40 years plus.

A lecture attended about the new fangled machinery for automating the records and calculating of banking - the "Punched Card Accounting Department" lead him to express an interest, apply to join, and be appointed to this part of the organisation, based at an office on the corner of Holborn Circus in London - between the City of London and the West End, with the Central line rattling by underneath. I remember that building with its sorting and tabulating machines, wires feeling for holes in punched cards and very much mechanical computing operated by a team of staff who were very much responsible for the data handling. And remembering too the young (they mostly were) ladies (I think they all were) who spend their day operating keyboards to punch the cards, with a second person rekeying on a verifier machine that added an extra nick on the card. Ah, I digress!

The office moved to Finsbury Square and got its first Computer - an IBM 360/20, and Dad got very much into helping with the programming, both in doing so himself (in RPG) and with a staff to help - for he rose to be Manager of Punch Card Accounting which after a reorganisation turned into Card Serviced Department. Staffing rose for a dozen or so at the lowest point to around 150, and doesn't that go to show that even if one career path is blocked there's another there. But I know Dad - his progress was on merit and he ran an effective but very fair ship with much of his day to day work being involved with Human Resource issue. Let's face it, it required a certain type of staff member to spend all day, every day doing data entry and some were not the world's brightest bunnies to look after themselves.

In case you wonder why a little department grew so big, it became the forefront department for the production and recording of plastic cards - initially cash cards which issues you with £10 each time you put them in the first ATMs, then cheque guarantee cards and so on. The department moved from being a quiet little office to a much bigger and more secure one, though still well hidden, with a thumping great vault for things like blank (unencoded) cards in Worship Street.

When we moved from Liverpool, my dad's new boss took a day to drive us round and look at various places we could live, and gave his thought on the options. Thank you, Mr Edwards - my Parents selected Petts Wood and we lived there from 1959 - myself until 1976 and my parents until Dad retired from The Bank - by now HSBC - a few years later.

I had a good childhood, but Dad found the pressure of work and his determination to do an excellent job in what had grown into a massive role told very much on him - he took it personally and life wasn't necessarily easy at home. A difficult period, which much of the frustration of work being expressed verbally (never physically) on the family.

We had no car in Petts Wood. We didn't need one; the train to Holborn Viaduct (and later Cannon Street) dropped Dad off a few hundred yards from his office in London, and from an early age I was commuting by school to Sydenham Hill and after the age of 11 to Sevenoaks. Dad could drive but didn't enjoy it; mum learned and much later that most families we had a vehicle.

But there comes the rail travel. I confess I enjoyed it and Dad did too. At the weekend, we would book on a "Merrymaker" trip from London to some place that the rail people thought would fill a train and we - all three of us - saw places fa and wide. From Northampton (for Stoke Bruerne) to Llandrindod Wells, from Sheffield to Morecambe, overnight to Oban or Fort William. Good times; and we looked and studied and learned. It's a love of rail travel that never really passed away; in the final year of his life, we did a Melksham to London day out and how proud I was to use that new service with him.

Dad (and Mum) moved to Devizes when her retired, and had an active and long second lifetime there. They were always taking photographs, and darned good ones too and indeed became fellows of the Royal Photographic Society, and went round taking audit photos of treasures for the National trust, and also presenting AV (Audio Visual shows) in the days of two projectors to crossfade and a sound track that "bleeped" the projectors forward. Typically ahead of their time and making the very most of life.

Whilst they drove (or rather, Mum drove) of necessity to the AV shows and so forth, they retained an interest in public transport ranging from the local bus into Devizes to a cruise to the Amazon and I could always trust dad to keep me informed on what was happening on the ground.

Dad had strong views but never pushed them on people; he was an effective communicator and worked from the strength of an understanding of his subjects and not from an oratory that pressed his position. He looked the outcome he was wishing to achieve, and the personalities involved in the making it happen - both in terms of lining up there desires and always giving an acceptable way forward.

There are so many things that I look at and admire in Dad that I see to some extent reflected in myself, and I like to think that much of his wisdom lives on it me. Whilst we are not the same person, but you were certainly my father; there is so much that we are alike in. We all have an aroma and I grew to know and love Dad's - and I notice more and more as I age that I mirror him in this too.

As I come to a conclusion, I note it's been "Dad" all the way through. For the record, Norman John Egan Ellis, born 10th April 1924 in Crosby, Lancashire, only son of George Ellis and Nellie Dora Ellis (nee Egan) - a.k.a Gran.

Dad - 100 years to the day and I will be celebrating and remembering you today - as always. I'll be taking an unusual train ride in a place where I'll be learning how it's done. I'll be taking photos - hundreds (and no need to wait for them to come back in the post in bulk). I'll sit down somewhere for a rest and a quiet and reflective cup of coffee and watch the world go by. And I will thank you for all those happy memories; you live on in me - and indeed I see you living on in Chris and Kim too. Gone, but never forgotten - remembered with great love and fondness.

Published Wednesday, 10th April 2024

Who should the Town Council help with a grant?

Making decisions as to how much money to levy as the precept on each council tax payer in Melksham Town to then give to help support good local causes (including through them the local economy) and then deciding how to pass on your money to the right groups / people are two very hard decisions for your Town Council.

There is a checklist of over 20 criteria against which applications are judged - and they include things like "will it benefit local people" and "should it be funded from elsewhere" and "is it good value"; your Town Council has laid down things like this to ensure that the money we take from you is used to your benefit and not just putting money into a bigger and wider pot that other who tax yoy 10 or a hundred times more should be funding, or should be selffunding. There's a hidden cost to grants too - the cost of preparing the applications on the organsations that ask, and on the council in evaluating, awarding, and following up; on a totally different aspect of council work (our LHFIG - Local Highways and Footpath Improvments Group) the cost of actually buying materials and installing them is just a tiny fraction of the total council spend on process to get it right.

In past years, I have been involved with making grant applications to both Melksham Town and Melksham Without. For some organisations, the application has them give worthwhile thought to "why are we doing this" and "how do we engage the public". And having an award given brings a vote of support often as valuable as th award itself. For a grant to be awarded, someone needs to apply, and one of the most common reasons given to the question "why did you not fund x" was because x did not apply. It may be they didn't know they could. It could be that they did not need the funding. It could be that they have other funding sources they are using. It could be that the benefit, whilst great, would not be to local people. Where an application is not made, the Town Council cannot formally help (though councillor can offer informal suggestions). Where an application is refused, it is almost always with good reason in the eyes of the decision makers, and with an explanation - often accompanied by suggestions as to how an updated application would likely be accepted on a future date.

I would encourage all grant applicants and recipients to provide good information as they apply, attending the decision meeting to give a brief intoduction to why they are applying and what a grant would do for them, and to provide feedback at later meetings (and the annual town meeting) to help the wider people not involved with the group be aware of the wise decision to fund and to show it's really made a difference. It is daunting to stand up and say a few words and council, but typically the councillors involved will help people who are nervous, and also be able to resolve any unanswered questions straight away that could make the difference between a grant being awarded and not.

Illustration - grant application evaluation chart (here) from the draft minutes of 11th March meeting of the finance committee which may be found (here). The minutes also include links (for anyone who wished to read) to the further monitoring data for our major ongoing grant recipients.

Published Monday, 8th April 2024

Giving voice to the public

Addendum - suggested principles to act as a foundation for standing order changes - Saturday 6th April at 15:30

We are not alone in looking for new ways to invite residents interaction - the piture alongside is from an article from Peace River, Alberta, Canada.

Principles for everyone

* Members of the public (and Town Councillors are members of the public too) should regularly and with reasonable frequency be given the opportunity to raise questions and make comment to the Town Council in a public setting. There should be no age limit.

* There should be no expectation of an immediate response to matter raised; it would be unreasonable to expect there to be an expert available to answer a question that came out of the blue. However, a substantive written response should be provided and published within a reasonable period.

* Where an input is of a complex or technical nature or has backing documentation, the person asking the question is encouraged to submit that to the Committee Clerk to help inform the written response. Note that such data may be published together with the response.

* Time is limited, and to ensure it is best used people should keep there questions short and not address a topic than another person has already addressed. The public input session is not an invitation to debate, and the chair will normally move on quickly. It may be that an issue is such that an item raised in public contributions come to the council as a subsequent agenda item.

* It is understood that it is intimidating for many people - newcomers especially - to ask questions and the chair and officers at the meeting should make them feel welcome before and during the meeting.

* It is also understood that members of the public may not be clear on council responsibilities, and responsibilities within individual committees and working groups. Members of the public should be advised where to address their input if outside the council, or have there input referred on to more appropriate groups.

* As for any meeting inputs, what's said should be kept polite, legal, and should to the best of the knowledge of the person asking the question be factually correct.

Additional for councillors (on this council)

* Councillors may also submit written questions to full council or the appropriate committee five clear working days ahead of a meeting, for a written response to be provided as a minimum of 24 hours before the commencement of the meeting.

* These questions and their written responses will be published.

A thought - why am I suggesting this just for councillors? Perhaps because the procedures could become impractically long and overrun the business of the council; at a first step, the "Principles for everyone" takes us a lot further than we have been before, and should a member of the public wish they can ask a councillor to take matters further.

Another thought - should there also be a mechanism for asking questions and getting published answers without appearing in person at a meeting to put the question?

Original Article

The standing orders of Melksham Town Council allow a member of the public to raise a question or make comment on an item on the agenda prior to the meeting, but this has become the opportunity for members of the public to raise matters of concern.

On Tuesday, the chair of the committee that met that evening pointed out the rule, and said that it would be applied at subsequent meetings.

On Wednesday, I reported my concern at the closure of the only opportunity (apart from the annual meeting) for people to ask a question in public of the Town Council. Was I being unduly concerned, or should this matter be considered an erosion of democracy that IS a worry - leading on to wonder what should be done about it.

I got a flurry of response - aghast at change of the way the rules are to be applied; that's an excellent confirmation that I've identified something that's an issue for concerned members of the public and not just for me.

By Thursday, your inputs have been noticed, and you can celebrate the success of the informal public input triggered by your comments, as the proposer of the standing orders as they were adopted by full council in September 2021 has now said that they are out of date and need updating, rather than being applied as was decreed on Tuesday. Thank you all, and thank you Jon Hubbard for being the big man and admitting that the current rules are no longer fit for purpose.

The question - which I did not address on Wednesday - is what should apply in place of an enforcement of the current rules. "If something ain't a problem, don't try and fix it" is a good motto at the present time for a Town Council that is stretched having lost all its full time admin staff in the last 15 months and is still in the process of replacing them - and I wanted to be sure that I wasn't a lone voice calling for change. I am now satisfied that this is of sufficient general concern for a revision to be given some priority in our council's workload.

There's a need to balance the ability for the public to make inputs with the time that's available for questions and comments. There's a need to ensure that sessions are not taken over by a single contributor or group / cause to the exclusion of others. There's a need to manage expectations - people cannot realistically expect an answer to a question asked out of the blue, and perhaps to the "wrong" council meeting". There's perhaps a need to codify a timescale for a response back from the council. There's also an opportunity here to include councillors - previously excluded from "public questions" - to be allowed to ask on similar terms. And while we are at it (and if we are changing our rules) we should perhaps also codify matters relating to written questions from councillors.

Before Friday (and I am writing this on Friday), Jon Hubbard had produced draft changes which at a first reading reflect most, if not all, of the concerns. They are wordy - two pages replacing two paragraphs - and I'm now reading them with a clear head, at Jon's suggestion and invitation, to see whether I can suggest any changes to his text. I'm especially bearing in mind that the members of the public who come to address us at our meetings for the first time find it daunting , and anything we can do to help them is appreciated and widens our public involvement.

By Monday, I'll have had a chance to have some further thoughts. Jon is correct in that justified criticism of the current system and how it was to be enforced needs to be followed up by suggestions of a (better) alternative. But I do feel that my action plan
1. Assess whether the public think there is a problem
2. If so, get some idea of what all the issues are
3. Then move on to a solution
was appropriate. Jon has rather jumped the gun by offering his solution before the issues to be addressed have been defined, and I think it is does him no credit in being critical of me for looking into the problem before offering a solution. As it is, we are starting from a point of what Jon wants, and I have learned in the past (be it staffing, Assembly Hall pricing, station buses, combining mayor and leader roles) that Jon's views are not ones I necessarily feel are right for Melksham.

Image - an example of how another council has tackled this issue Source - - interesting how even in the one sentence it comes up with another element, relating to the age of the questioner.

Here is the text proposed - here for comment

Motion to amend how Public and Member Questions are managed by Council Meetings.

Amend section 3
3.e Members of the public may make representations, answer questions and give evidence at a meeting which they are entitled to attend in respect of the business on the agenda.

To read

3.e Members of the public may make representations, answer questions and give evidence at a meeting which they are entitled to attend in respect of the business on the agenda (subject to the conditions set out in Section 3)

Remove the following items from current standing orders:
3f - The period of time designated for public participation at a meeting in accordance with standing order 3(e) shall not exceed (15) minutes unless directed by the chair of the meeting.

3g - Subject to standing order 3(f), a member of the public shall not speak for more than three minutes.

3h - In accordance with standing order 3(e), a question shall not require a response at the meeting nor start a debate on the question. The chair of the meeting may direct that a written or oral response be given.

Add new Section 3

To insert a new section 3 called “Questions to Council” and then renumber remainder of document accordingly.

3. Questions/Representations to Council

Method for asking questions.
There shall be a period of no more than 30 minutes at the start of all meetings of the Town Council for members of the public and Council to ask questions and/or make representations. This time should, at the discretion of the Chair, be split 20 minutes for public questions and 10 for member questions.
Where there are a number of people who are wanting to speak, these will be taken one at a time.
The Committee Clerk will, prior to the formal opening of the meeting, ask all members of the public and councillors who wish to ask a question or make a representation to indicate and note their names for the record.
Each member of the public will then be invited to ask their first question or make their representation. Once all members of the public who wish to speak have been given the opportunity then a second round of questions can begin for those who have additional questions. Such a process to be continued until there are no more questions or the maximum time limit has been reached.
The same process to be followed for Member questions if required.

Members of the Public
Members of the public are encouraged to attend meetings of the Town Council and to raise questions of public concern at any meeting of the Full Council. At these meetings the public may ask questions or make a representation relating to any issues of council business.
Members of the public are restricted to making one representation at a meeting and should speak for no more than 3 minutes (including any question they may have relating to their representation).
Where questions are asked at committee or sub-committee meetings these should be restricted to the subject area covered by the committee/sub-committee’s Terms of Reference. Where a question is asked that is not relevant to the committee/sub-committee then it should be passed on to the relevant officer for the correct committee and a written answer provided or, at the questioner’s request, asked at the next meeting of the appropriate committee.
All questions should be directed to the Chair of the meeting who will either respond or request another councillor or officer to do so on their behalf.
Where possible all questions should be submitted in writing not less than 5 working days before the council meeting to allow the appropriate officer/councillor to prepare a proper written response which should normally be published at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. There may be occasions where this is not possible and in these cases such notice will be given to the person submitting the question and a verbal response will be given at the meeting.
Members of the public may ask questions without having given advance notice but must be aware that a detailed answer may not be possible with the opportunity to research the matter. In these instances, a written answer will be provided after the meeting, normally with 7 working days.
Where a written or verbal answer is given the original questioner may ask ONE supplementary question.
There is no debate on public questions and, unless otherwise invited by the Chair, no member of the pubic, elected member or officer should speak to an issue raised.

Elected Members of the Council
Members of the council are welcome to submit questions for inclusion on the agenda of a meeting no less than 5 working days before the date of the meeting.
Where is question is submitted within this deadline but after the agenda for a meeting being published the question should still be considered as valid and published as a supplement to the agenda.
Any questions submitted as above should receive a substantive written response at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
Members are entitled to ask questions at the beginning of a meeting without prior notice but must accept that a detailed answer is unlikely, and a subsequent written answer will be provided within 7 working days.
Where questions are asked at committee or sub-committee meetings these should be restricted to the subject area covered by the committee/sub-committee’s Terms of Reference. Where a question is asked that is not relevant to the committee/sub-committee then it should be passed on to the relevant officer for the correct committee and a written answer provided or, at the Member’s request, asked at the next meeting of the appropriate committee.
All questions should be directed to the Chair of the meeting who will either respond or request another councillor or officer to do so on their behalf.
There is no debate on public questions and, unless otherwise invited by the Chair, no member of the pubic, elected member or officer should speak to an issue raised.
Where a written or verbal answer is given the original questioner may ask ONE supplementary question.

Published Saturday, 6th April 2024

Revisiting "Melksham South Ward" Group

I am posting to clarify what the "Melksham South Ward" Facebook group is about, partly in answer to a fellow councillor who says he is "Genuinely confused", but also to help others who may also share his confusion. It also helps me clarify in my mind what we are doing and why we are doing it - thank you for the question.

This is a community group for Melksham's South Ward. It covers what goes on in the South Ward - for residents, businesses, visitors, etc. It's like other groups covering other parts of Melksham (see list 1 below) and it was never intended or advertised to be Melksham-wide - there are many other groups that do that and I have no wish to compete with them (see list 2 below). People looking for somewhat wider area content, or to advertise what's going on in the wider Melksham area, have that plethora of excellent groups they can also subscribe to.

The group description says "For friendly discussion and information about the South Ward of Melksham Town. This group is open anyone with a positive interest in Melksham Town's South including residents, businesses and visitors.". The announcement of its creation, when there was no other operational ward-specific group in the area, may be found at

* List 1 - some other Facebook area groups in Melksham
Melksham East Residents Group
George Ward Gardens Melksham Residents Page
Woodrow Road and Local Community
Shurnold and Roundponds, Melksham
Berryfields, Melksham community group
DWH Hunters Wood Melksham Community Page
The Acorns, Melksham

* List 2 - some other Facebook groups covering the wider Melksham area
Melksham Community Group
Shout Out Melksham
Spotted Melksham Town
Melksham Discussions
Melksham Bargains
Historic Melksham
Melksham Seniors
Melksham and area LOCAL EVENTS and THINGS TO DO!
Melksham and area FOR SALE
Melksham Town Centre Businesses
(and the list goes on with lots of specialist groups)

As an example of where posting boundaries lie, I will post from time to time about something going on at the Assembly Hall which is within the ward. I also have an interest in public transport activities and post a lot - but never on this group - about Melksham Railway Station and out train services, which is within the north ward.

Full Group announcment and guidelines at

Published Thursday, 4th April 2024

An end to the Town Council soliciting public input?

Did I hear this right last night? Did the chair of the council meeting announce that henceforth contributions from members of the public will be limited only to items on the agenda for that meeting - quoting standing order 3(e) on page 6 of the Standing order adopted on 27th September 2021. Fair enough, I suppose - thems were rules that we passed, but it removes the opportunity for concerned members of the public to raise matters with the council directly, except at the annual town meeting which happens in March each year.

Public participation - with a small minority making use of the opening they have had at council meetings to make comments limited to three minutes IS uncomfortable at times, but is seems to me in my personal view that it's a "price" worth paying for us to hear the grass roots inputs. There may be just one or two who are considered by those seeking to enforce this rule to be vexatious, but that is no reason for us to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Image - standing orders - September 2021 - as adopted by your council - our "rules of engagement". Click on the image to download a copy, or you can find the original on the Town Council web site at

Published Wednesday, 3rd April 2024

Painting the town pink.

Being the morning of 1st April, I ask you to consider these proposals for the future of our town.

1. The Town Hall will be painted pink

2. Statues of little people playing musical instruments will be placed around the town

3. All Town Councillors will have their formal portraits on the web site replace by informal pictures

4. Open carriages at affordable fares will be provided on all trains

5. A room tax on visitors staying in Melksham overnight will help pay our town's local government costs, and the guests paying the tax will be issued with a guest card which lets them ride for free on local public transport

6. Town centre redevelopments will be multistory in order to provide additional affordable (really affordable, not just described as such) homes.

7. Our High Street will be pedestrianised with just pedestrians, cycles and steam trains allowed to use it

8. Our station platform will be extended so that trains can call in both directions at the same time, with a loop letting the first train to leave get past the other one.

9. The Melksham News, and red wine to purchase, will be available on trains.

10. Smoking in public will only be allowed in designated areas (as shown here with the yellow box)

Even out-of-the-box ideas are worth a quick "should/could we do this?" thought. If nine get rejected as being inappropriate and one gets taken up, that's a success. And before you rule out the ideas above, note that they have mostly been done in this part of Germany that I'm posting from this morning. And at least one of them would make very serious sense for Melksham.

Published Monday, 1st April 2024

Melksham Town Council Play Areas

As Spring comes, our play areas and outdoor facilities across Melksham come back into sustained use. There are fifteen of them (I think) owned and maintained by Melksham Town Council, ranging from smaller facilities such as this neighbourhood one to the play and recreation areas in the KGV park. The Spalshpad re-opens today for the Easter school holidays, then will be open again from half term in May right throught the summer.

In additions to the Lewington Close play area, there are four other in South Ward each serving their own local neighbourhood. Common / central / older plays such as the skate park, zip wire, bigger slide and so forth are to be found at the riverside and in KGV, where facilities such as public loos are available to older children and young adults that use them, and the youth can be there for longer periods without any concerns of them distrubing close by residents.

There is talk of a BMX track being supplied, funded and maintained by the Town Council and I am minded to think this is a good idea. For older children and youths, it's probably sensible for it to be sited either in KGV or in Melksham Forest, perhaps near the Forest Community Centre. Much as I would like the facility in my own ward, I don't think we have any site that's appropriate and has that infrastructure and neighbours to support it. I suppose the play area that adjoins The Campus might be considered, as being close to the facilities there, but I think I prefer other sites outside the ward.

Published Friday, 29th March 2024

Re-hi - and an introduction for new readers

Introduction - by Graham Ellis (in his role as Melksham Town Councillor)
Written 27th March 2024 to help inform new staff on the council team.

* Elected as an unaffiliated (independent) Councillor in May 2021 - one of four Town Councillors representing the South Ward, where I live. That was the first (and only thus far) time I ever stood for election to any government body.

* Moved to Melksham in 1999, where I ran an IT training business, hotel and meeting and business event venue until I retired shortly before Covid. Our success was largely down to our excellent, motivated, customer caring and stable staff.

* My key council areas of interest are transport, communications, the environment, facilities such as The Campus and the Assembly Hall, and strategy. I tend o work from strength of technical knowledge rather than marketing rhetoric, though I understand that both approaches are effective.

* I'm 70 now, and my hearing and balance is not what it used to be and limits what I can do, especially in noisy environments and physically; at council meetings I sit towards the rear on the far side of the room to enable me to manage.

* Outside interests include wider public transport improvement and use across Wiltshire (I would describe myself as a partnering advocate and campaigner) and support for the Homes for Ukraine program. Married; Lisa, my wife, is very close and supportive. Children long since flown the nest; replaced by two greyhounds.

* I am motivated by making a positive difference for others - in their environment and life, in equality and fairness, and helping keep them fully informed.

* I am available to help the council and staff and public as best I can - just ask at any time. This spring, while I still can, I am taking the opportunity to travel widely - HOWEVER I am still reachable by phone and email, and able to attend and participate in meetings via Zoom to the extent that is arranged and permitted.

Published Wednesday, 27th March 2024

Annual Town Meeting - happening in Melksham

An excellent Annual Town Meeting last night - the one time in the year when the Melksham Town (Parish) comes together to receive updates, ask questions, and where community groups are given the opportunity to tell others about their activities. 10 (out of 14) councillors, 4 staff members, and 14 members of the public attended. Unusual for a council meeting to be seated around the room at tables, and four of us councillors (myself, Andrew Griffin, Jacqui Crundell and Jack Oatley) chose to sit at tables shared with members of the public, as I personally believe we should at such events.

Although the published agenda included a link to the meeting online, I was advised just as the meeting was about to start that this would not be possible due to the health and safety concerns of running microphone leads amongst the tables. My apologies

Between twenty and thirty organisations in the Melksham Area apply for grants each year from Melksham Town Council to support their community activities and initiatives, and it was good to hear from eight of them - from a representative of the Food and River Festival for their major grant, and from the Cactus and Succulent Society, the Cats Action Trust, the Melksham Garden Society, the Melksham Lions, Melksham Remembers, the Melksham and District Historical Association, and the Wessex Multiple Sclerosis Centre. From my view point, by coming along to tell us about what they have done with the funding, they are showing their appreciation and saying "Thank you" and that would make me more positive to future applications; there is no requirement to come along though.

I would also caution the reader of this item - there are many, many wonderful community organisations in Melksham who don't ask the Town Council for financial support, and so their names are not listed in this post.

Thank you to Jack Oatley - Wiltshire Councillor for Melksham Forest - for giving us his update from that council on the activities in his ward for the year, and to our mayor - Councillor Simon Crundell for a council update, and to Councillors Tom Price and Saffi Rabey updating from the various committees of which they are chair. I noted thanks to the Melksham News and Paul Weymouth for park lights, to Colin Goodhind and Jon Hubbard for their work on the council's end of the getting the Cafe in the park operational again. There were thanks to Hugh Davis and David Elms on our team for their work at / on the Splashpad last year. And a big "thank you" to the community in The Forest for their support especially in light of recent events there.

Gemma Rutter of the Wiltshire Police gave a thorough briefing on community policing and whilst there as issues in Melksham, they are not unusually so in Melksham. There were questions asked and a good discussion and explanations and background given.

The Mayor looked forward to the next year, looking ahead to work on a BMX track, to council sponsored work on Sandridge Road to widen the pavement by the path to Maple Close, and to ongoing work on the Neighbourhood Plan, taking it through to a local referendum so that we have a supported strategy for the development of our town in the future.

Simon Crundell is coming up to the end of his second year as mayor and is openly making it clear he does not wish to continue in the role. In answer to a question from a member of the public asking if the council would benefit from a leader in post for more that a year of two, Simon firstly clarified that the mayor's role is not that of a leader, but rather as first among equals. As a voluntary role with a major committent, it means to a great extent that life and family need to be put on hold, and that two years is plenty. Indeed, huge thanks to Simon for all his hard work in what has not been an easy two years. Simon spoke that a better continuity would have been possible had the strategy work that we did soon after being elected had been taken to adoption and implementation.

This post so far is a report on what happened at last night's meeting, and not what was not said or done. I will just add a personal comment that I was disappointed in the absence of reference to the Assembly Hall, Blue Pool, and the Environment and Climate work that has been undertaken and needs to be continued. It could have been that brief reference was made when I was out of the room (called out re: Assembly Hall fire alarm) but I doubt it.

Finally, a "thank you" for all the work that Simon has put in, voluntary, over the last two years, and to the hard work and committment to the town that's been and being shown by other councillors and by staff

Published Tuesday, 26th March 2024

Four years on from Covid - Assembly Hall

Four years ago today, the UK entered lockdown and how things changed for us here in Melksham, as indeed they did across the country and the world. It was wonderful to see all the people at last night's mayor's reception making full use of the Assembly Hall that's provide by the people, through the people and for the people. And what wonderful people we have in Melksham.

Covid was cruel - very cruel - to us getting out, being social, and meeting, learning, exercising, buying and selling, supporting one another, eating and drinking and being entertained. And it was cruel on our venue such as the Assembly Hall too - on its uses and finances. There were some extra uses as we supported our communities from there and held distanced council meetings in the much larger space than the Council Chamber, but the cost to tax payers was significant, and decisions made might have been appropriate for the short term, but have hindered recovery.

What a variety of uses - Thursday night the Melksham Historical Association. Last night (Friday) the mayor's reception. Tonight, the Rock and Roll club. Tomorrow (Sunday) the West Wilts Model Car Club Championships, and so it goes on. It's good to see so many events busy at the Assembly Hall. Post-covid it has kicked back hard - full houses, day after day uses, and so on. There's still a lot of work to be done to maintain the supply of bookings, bums on set seats at these bookings, staffing to support the mix of uses which are predominantly out of normal 9 to 5 hours, and a pricing model to make sure that prices are fare to bookers and to the Town Council and its ratepayers, and with payments (where we collect them on behalf of events) promptly paid.

We're in a very interesting position now - we're getting very high booking rates. It's been pushing staff resources, of which we have been very short, as well as venue space. Better staff availability will allow us to make better use of the venue space and set up up well to grow.

Published Saturday, 23rd March 2024

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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