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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Will Town Council staff be allowed to share in future?
Council Agenda - what may interest YOU
Rail service - meeting with GWR
Faresaver - Whippet to Bath, x31 and 272
Melksham needs appropiate "Siftware"
Blue Pool and Assembly Hall - what YOU want
News Briefs - what's happening where?
What should your Town Council do next year?
JMNPII - Any questions - please ask me
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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.

By-election, South Ward

There will probably be a by-election in the South Ward in the next couple of months. Following Colin Goodhind's resignation from Melksham Town Council, the returning officer for Wiltshire asked residents if we wanted an election and the requisite 10 people signed up to say they did - so that means that the council will NOT be co-opting to fill the post for the remaining term until May 2025.

Very soon, there will be calls for nominations. If just one is received, that person will be elected unopposed. If multiple are received, there will be an election, with voters in the South Ward choosing a new councillor to sit alongside Jacqui Crundell, Jon Hubbard and myself. I look forward to working with the new councillor, whoever he or she might be.

I know of one good candidate already, but I'm waiting to see who else is standing before offering any comment on voting - I'm hoping for multiple good candidates so that I can choose the one I consider best. I am minded that we are voting for a local representative not a regional or national one, and will be making my personal selection based on the individuals local profile rather than the colour of any rosette he or she is wearing.

Published Sunday, 26th November 2023

Will Town Council staff be allowed to share in future?

This FUEL information brought to via the Town Council yesterday may be one of the last pieces of public service information the Town Council shares is the new social media policy is adopted on Monday. A social media policy makes sense, but the one proposed is ill considered. I have been attempting to understand some elements of the proposal and to draw my concerns to the attention of the Town Clerk, but having failed to learn over a number of months, so I have sent the following email and will be speaking against implementing the policy as written. Having been critical of how we've got to where we are, I'm very much looking forward to an opportunity we would have with the right social media policy.

Dear Simon,

Our Town Council needs modern public communication guidelines for the social media and electronic age. A proposal was put forward for a Social Media and Electronic Communication Policy on pages 147 to 150 of the full council agenda published on 10th July 2023. But we did not have time to consider the motion.

Understanding it would come back at a later date, I raised issues of major concern with the clerk, documenting those issues and meeting with her in August to explain and help to improve the proposal. I have asked about the policy progress and how we are moderating social media since, but have not received satisfactory answers or follow up to the August discussions. The policy has, however, returned on the agenda published in the last few days for us to consider on Monday evening. There have been three minor changes made since July (helpfully highlighted) but my main concerns have not been addressed by any changes, nor do I have any explanation behind the clerk's decision to not make updates based on my inputs; she may have good reason, but I would have appreciate being filled in. No answer though from the clerk or locum this week just gone when I raised my concern at the return to the agenda without issues being addressed.

So where are we now?

In July we were asked "To review and adopt a Social Media and Electronic Communication Policy".

In November, we are asked "To adopt a Social Media Policy", now without review.

It is so important we get this right, and I do not believe that the proposed policy does so. That view comes from considerable and current experience. But yet we are in desperate need of a set of published guidelines so that everyone knows where we stand. It is also important that we have a policy that the staff who implement it on a day by day basis, who have considerable social media experience, are happy with. My understanding, though, is that they have not been consulted.


A friendly amendment - that we review (and don't just adopt without review) a set of social media guidelines to be adopted after the staff who will be implementing them have had the opportunity to review their practicality and we update them as we agree.

That in the meantime we look to follow the draft guidelines as a framework. Staff, though, to be aware of issues such as:

1. They should not post material which they know to be incorrect (surely they would not anyway, but this would be a good re-assurance to the public and is not covered by the draft policy)

2. They MAY post material where we are allowed to do so under its copyright, even if we do not own the copyright (the proposal talk of us owning the copyright, and we do not OWN the copyright of anything we share; that rules out many posts in the future)

3. Subject to the necessity to remove or update for overriding reasons (many listed in the proposals), information should not be deleted or materially altered in our social media feed, though it should be made clear where something is no longer current.

Simon, we have a real opportunity to use our social media to help us build positive public links. But by putting the policy as written into place, we risk leaving the public wondering why we are not openly sharing, and we risk imposing rules on our staff that prevent them doing their jobs in a way in which they are motivated.

Graham Ellis

Melksham Town Council, South Ward
Blog at
Email policy statement at
Facebook at
I only visit other social media occasionally.

Email: or
Phone: 01225 708225 / 0797 4 925 928
Home: 48 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY

Footnote - the Town Councils does not own copyright on ...
* Wiltshire Council reports, road closure maps, etc
* Publicity picture supplied to support Assembly Hall events
* Police and other reports that go into agenda packs
* Post / pictures from FUEL, ActivTrowbridge, etc

Further background

My detailed concerns as of 16th August with updates on 21st
at /lib/smec_mtc_notes_2.pdf

Correspondence from Town Clerk (copied to all councillor) explaining deletions of our comments from Facebook
at lib/bgz.pdf

Published Saturday, 25th November 2023

Council Agenda - what may interest YOU

The 82 page agenda pack for next Monday's full council was published yesterday. I have not yet had a chance to fully digest it, but it includes the following line items that may be of general interest - my filtering out of headlines - pack as a whole can be downloaded ((here))

k 7 Virements Requested by Head of Operations
k 8 Budget 2024/2025
* 9 Biodiversity Policy
k 10 East Melksham Community Hall
* 11 Blue Pool/Assembly Hall
k 12 Splashpad
* 13.1 Motion on Social Media Policy
* 13.2 Social Media Policy
u 14.3 Staffing Committee
k 15.2 Recommendation of Environment & Climate Working Group
k 15.3 Terms of Reference
? 17 Melksham Community Support (MCS) Service Project
? 18 Operation Awake
k 19 Melksham Carnival
+ 20 Appointment of a Representative to Wilts & Berks Canal Trust

+ - Know about this; likely to be me
? - What is this
k - I know roughly what's going on / am informed
u - unable to comment; too much information withheld
* - I feel under-informed even though I may have been involved - QUESTIONS!

Not on the agenda - members of the public may wish to ask questions and / or they may have recently been covered in other committees and / or may come up in the mayor's announcements
* By-election in South Ward
* Dog park / agility equipment.
* Assembly Hall staffing, and general staffing update
* Christmas lights / event day
* Neighbourhood Plan
* LCWIP Consultation

Published Wednesday, 22nd November 2023

Rail service - meeting with GWR

Meeting at GWR / Tuesday 21st November 2023 ... things do not move quickly on the railways (some trains excepted) so please read this as a status report rather than something to be followed up with answers to everything by Christmas. BUT some things do get updated and it's a miracle to look back and see how much has changed in the last decade, and look forward to the next decade.

My objectives / personal notes (though nothing confidential in here)

a) To learn and be informed with the intent of being supportive of passengers (and that means being supportive of GWR into the future

b) To help inform GWR of local feedback including issues and opportunities in such a way that I / we explain confirm practical strategic and practical tactical ways forward

c) To ensure a continuing good working relationship such that we are able to raise issues in either "direction" into the future, making effective use of each other's strengths and resources when we do do.

Issues on my agenda include
* Car Park at Melksham Station, and buses and hub cafe and support.
* Reliability Issues (and how to flag up information on them to minimise damage)
* Connections at Trowbridge and Chippenham - suggestions made
* Who is in charge and what are TransWilts plans?
* Ticketing future across West Wilts
* Avoncliff - evening gap
* Dilton Marsh - compulsory stop or Lochluichart solution?
* Train and track capacity, electrification, rolling stock futures
* CPM - MKM - WEY connections - also AVF - WEY
* Learning - who's who (line and station and NR managers)
* Note 28th. Speaker(s) for 29th confirmation; 8th December confirmation.
* Positive / "Thank you" to ensure GWR are aware of typically excellent operational staff, and acknowledgement of so, so much that DOES work.

Published Monday, 20th November 2023

Faresaver - Whippet to Bath, x31 and 272

Delighted to welcome the new more direct Faresaver bus service from Chippenham to Bath which starts running tomorrow (20th November 2023). The existing X31 service becomes the 231 and only has minor changes. The route number X31 applies to the new services - "X" originally stood for "eXpress" and will again. It runs every hour during the day, Monday to Friday taking just 45 minutes end to end rather than somewhere between an hour and 75 minutes for the 231.

Good news - the growth is passenger numbers on the Chippenham - Corsham - Box - Bath axis means that the flow should now support both routes, saving longer distance passengers a great deal of time from going all around the houses! Wishing Faresaver the very best with this - one of Wiltshire's new Whippet services. Full new timetable at

I'm a Melksham Town Councillor - so does this mean anything at all for us? YES ...

1. It confirms the strength of our 272 (direct) and 271 (residential Melksham Forest, Whitley and Bathford) structure as being mainstream structure, with a mixed route in the same way in the evening

2. It shows a growth and addition of services which sets us in good stead for the future. The nature of improvements is that the come in steps for each area - this is a good step for Chippenham and Corsham

3. With growth returning, this is not a one size fits all approach. We already have our 272 Whippet and what we in Melksham need next is the return of the evening and Sunday x34, and that can be single route and not a fast / slow split, at least north of Leap Gate.

4. I note that Faresaver / Wiltshre Council have gone for 2 residential and one express service, and that MUST auger will for town bus service. A pointer that the need to have a frequent Town service in Melksham just as they are maintaining in Corsham and Chippenham

5. If there's one note of disapppointment it's that the x31 does not serve Chippenham Station. Chippenham BUS station to Box is 15 minutes, but Chippenham RAILWAY station to Corsham is 22 minutes. To Box, 25 minutes or 43 minutes. OK - something has to give, but at the end of an express jounrney from London, the last thing people want is a ride around the houses!

Published Sunday, 19th November 2023

Melksham needs appropiate "Siftware"

The information you want is available. It may be in public. But can you find it? And is it current? Search algorithms remain embryonic - an issue from Google and Alexa right through to Melksham information, where town and council information are often available if you know where to look, and then have the perseverance to trawl though large amounts of irrelevant data on sometimes obscure and convoluted links.

Someone mistyped something in an email to me the other day and mentioned "Siftware" rather than "Software". What an apt name for something we need to search and filter.

To my knowledge, there is no simple answer. Google and Alexa have teams working on the issue and massive electronic resources. For more local searches, you can buy into Google's algorithms if they work for you, but that is a big "if". Dividends for getting it right are massive - look at WikiPedia, for example - and note the requirement for both really good structure and a team of data managers moderating and working to a set of defined guidelines.

The case for siftware:

Lack of an easy way to find data can put an incredible load on the people who's job it is to inform and help the wider audience. The lack can also mean that effective use is not made of the data, to the cost of the business holding it. The lack of a pattern / policy of how data is managed - by the data managers and other contributors (such as public comment) also adds an incredible load on those data managers and commenters; they simply don't know where they stand.

The Great Western Coffee Shop forum - founded in 2007 - has an incredible amount of data on it, and over the years our team of moderators (data managers) and contributors have helped us build a searchable archive. I'm rather proud of this - open source software with code I have added and the search will help you navigate though:
* 1933 Mirrored documents
* 2535 Stations
* 25340 Forum topics
* 137143 "Did you mean?" words
* 337789 Individual posts
It's not just searching - these resources are indexed by category, date, security level, and geographic area too ... and there are 1562 timetables and 28819 images which come up within other documents or just by geographic and date index. Here is an example ... searching for "Rail Link Bus" if you wanted the history of the shortlived bus servive to Melksham Station

It's my belief that Melksham Town Council, its staff and councillors, and the residents of the town would benefit by having appropriate siftware, policies and data management. It would help everyone being better informed. It would reduce the number of queries that had to be raised with staff. It would help market the town and the facilities we have here to the benefit of both our own resources such as the parks and Assembly Hall, and the town as a whole.

The "Virtual Hub" project dates back two years, to the early days of this current Town Council (September 2021) ""It was proposed by Councillor Oatley, seconded by Councillor Houghton and UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED to set up a Virtual Community Hub Working comprising of five Councillors. Councillors Oatley, Houghton, Aves and the Deputy Town Mayor, Councillor Goodhind were appointed as members, with an invitation for membership extended to a Councillor not a member of this committee."" In early 2022, this working group did its work, extending to another councillor who was charged with coming up with a specification, and plan was for it to launch that autumn. There was a budget set, and (I believe) other people's solutions looked at - Melksham's need is far from unique. Plan was for the system to go live in the autumn of 2022. However, the budget was then reduced (I thinks it may have gone completely now) and the working group is, I think, moribund. The issues of our awful "siftware" and the toll from its unsuitability remain.

This is frustrating - very frustrating - to me. I look back at my September blog where I listed 43 outstanding projects. There has been progress on, perhaps, a half of these projects, but goodness it would take so long to go through them all and there should be an easy way for me and for others.

I provided comment on the initial Virtual Hub spec, and what should be in there, to people who were Town Council staff at the time. So I know what's in there, and I know I could put something together in days that would take months for others; it's exactly the sort of thing I have done in the past - see example above - and taught too. However, I'm a councillor - I can't be paid to work for the council, and I can't do it as a volunteer councillor because of the significant risk that I could loose my seat in 18 months. There is a great fear of doing things that way as the Town Council is, as I understand it, tied in to other data systems and their maintenance costs and limitations.

So where do we stand? We have various bits of software such as Rialtis and ModGov which keep the council running. I am not convinced that we make best use of them as they feel unexplained and confusing in my interaction with them, which they should not. We are supposed to have Teams but I don't think that's kept up to date. Our web site has limped along, and our social media team and councillors has not been given direction / moderation policies making their job very difficult - a serious concern which lead me to ask a public question at last full council, which lead to me getting two contrary answers within a minute - either we don't have a policy, or we do!

What would I like to see
* A consistent and published electronic information (including social media) policy.
* Appropriate siftware that provides answers much easier to find, and motivation for contributors, users and managers

One way to achieve that would be to go with an open source system, and (yes) I could help tailor that, using standard languages and databases such that maintenance and support could be passed to another party at an appropriate time.

In the summer of 2022, I provided a feed for residents of what was open when in Melksham - ongoing news - to roll into the hub that was scheduled for that September. A useful exercise and used by perhaps a couple of hundred people. It could be done again for the summer of 2024 ... though I remain in the dark as to when items 12 (Teams), 18 (vision for Melksham), 19 (improved public information) and 31 (communications policy) of my list submitted in late September will be addressed, and it will be difficult to progress appropriate siftware without progress on at least some of these.

Published Saturday, 18th November 2023

Blue Pool and Assembly Hall - what YOU want

Many thanks to everyone who's gone through my long list of things that people have said they would like or use within future facilities provided at the Assembly Hall / Blue Pool site. Over 50 people have clicked on over 1100 checkboxes in the last week here where I asked on my blog for your thoughts to help inform me in my role as a town councillor. Architects are being (or perhaps have been by now) engaged to look at the art of the possible - with options to include both making best use of existing buildings and building something new on site. Councillors have been asked to input their list of what they would most like to see, and for my part I am submitting the survey results, backed up as being not just what I would like, but what YOU would like and use.

The top 15 of 54 things people would USE are listed on the graphic - with 38 of you (75%) saying you would use a cinema, 26 of you (50%) saying you would use ten pin bowling, etc. Some of the facilities would be small ones, others would need to exclusively occupy significant space. And there are compromises to be had; raked seating would be wonderful for some events ... for other events in the same space, they would eliminate the possibility of dancing in the aisles as we so often see. It's this sort of consideration that a professional can advise us on. If you want to see further results, the top 30 things people would use are here.

You supplied optional extra information too - writing in comments to help inform me. THANK YOU. You will not find those here in public (GDPR etc), but they are helping to inform me forward; I find myself as chair of the "Assembly Hall Working Group" and very much involved with the Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall, and I expect both of those vehicles to be active throughout the remainder of my council term to Spring 2025.

Published Thursday, 16th November 2023

News Briefs - what's happening where?

1. The Footpath up alongside the river and also across from Scotland Road has been declared a Public Footpath.

2. The old Maintenance Shed has been demolished. Melksham Town Council continues to hire a unit on Bowerhill as its amenities depot.

3. The new train timetable - to June 2024 has been published. Trains all day, every day - still a thin service, though.

4. The Community Rail lease on the car park at Melksham Station is being released back to Wiltshire Council at the end of the year. I have asked (but yet to get an answer) what plans there are, and indeed whether car parking will remain available at the railway station.

5. Wiltshire Council have CONFIRMED the parking order for the Campus that there will be a three hour limit. My request for 4 hours so that Assembly Hall event attendees could park there (e.g. 19:00 to 22:15) was denied with "the car park is not intended for Assembly Hall Users", even though Town Council reports back to 2018 have Wiltshire Council stating that the parking is leisure use in a way that included the Assembly Hall

6. Architects are being asked to take the needs suggested and tell the council what could be done with the Assembly Hall and Blue Pool

7. The appeal by developers against the Wiltshire Council Decision NOT to allow 210 homes and a care home to the south of Melksham has been UPHELD, and the building will go ahead in spite of objections from Town and Without councils

8. Land to the East of Melksham - it's in the draft local plan and it looks like it might be one of the earlier areas to come forward. In Melksham Without's area - Councillor Aves representing the town, though

9. At Shaw Village, Melksham Neighbourhood Plan event last Friday. "Everyone" is happy with the Cooper Tires and Library Brownfield site, but there was concern in Shaw and Whitley at the plans for there. We spent much of the evening, explaining how the plan had to allocate somewhere if it didn't want a free-for-all, and as we did so, we asked people where else they would suggest instead. The conclusion was that we had come up with the best available to us.

Published Wednesday, 15th November 2023

What should your Town Council do next year?

This time last year, your Town Council was deep in the process of budgetting for next year, with committees meeting to look ahead to the 2023/4 year. But this year, I have seen neither hide nor hair of any plans as I feel we have been so busy dealing with this year that we have not looked forward as a council to what we'll be doing next. We have just over 2 months to set the precept and tell Wiltshire Council.

I have asked the Town Clerk (who is also our RFO - Repsonsible Finance Officer), the mayor and the chair of our Finance, administration and performance commitee as follows - "I am looking to reading shortly ..."

1. ... updates on projects underway at Finance, Admin and Performance on 20th November as per Jennie's council resolution (Jennie cc’d) 25th September 2023, minute 575/23. This should give us all a good view of timelines, so where we stand for projects that will need funding in or after April 2024. Major projects include both East of Melksham community Hall and ongoing Blue Pool considerations.

2. ... advice from industry bodies suggests that a key input to budgeting is the strategic plan of the organisation doing the budgeting. Although work was done on this in the summer of 2021, I am not aware of any agreed (or even outstanding proposed) longer term plans and objectives. What can you offer?

3. ... a view from the staffing committee as to what the anticipate for next year - whether there will be increased or decreases, and any extra costs associated with changes. Staffing is a significant cost and I know we have a staffing review underway.

4. ... any inputs on remaining funding to be carried into 2024/25, or reserve shortfalls due to any significant overspends in monetary terms in the current year.

5. ... income estimate bases for 2024/25 - from council tax, CIL, solar benefit, Assembly Hall, Pavilion and other building hire, bar receipts, and grants such as have helped with neighbourhood plan

6. ... advice on other cost changes and major expenditures or savings - for example lower neighbourhood plan changes, utilities and insurance changes, etc.

Basically, "how are we doing this year, what do we need to carry over, what is our strategy for next year, what will our income be from other sources be, and what expenditures are coming up that we need to allow for?" In my view, we need such information very shortly in order do be properly informed as we plan ahead.

The questions have only been asked in the last couple of days - that should be in time for them all to be answered in the agenda pack publishing over the next days ready for next week.

Published Monday, 13th November 2023

JMNPII - Any questions - please ask me

Big "Thank you" to staff from both Melksham Without and Melksham Town, Melksham Without councillors and steering group community volunteers who helped at the Neighbourhood Plan consultation events on Friday at Shaw Village Hall and the Melksham Campus. Two really useful events, talking to residents of both parishes. With this sort of event it's hard to know how many people will come along; I was delighted how we busy we were.

These were the final consultation events on this stage of the neighbourhood plan, but the consultation continues until 3rd December. Boards are on display at the Town Hall (Melksham Town) and Campus (for Melksham Without), the data is online at and there are full copies at both council offices and printed response forms are there too. In addition, as one of the Town Council reps on the steering group, I would be delighted to help explain in person - please get in touch if you wish.

Illustrative image - an overview from the Joint Melksham Neighbourhood Plan II Draft that we are asking you about. Click on the image to see it full screen

Published Sunday, 12th November 2023

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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