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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Can YOU help?
Draft Budget 2024/5
Ongoing Town Council projects
Homes for Ukraine - 2 years on
Dogs off lead in KGV park, Melksham
Learning while travelling
Enough to pedestrianise?
More Ward metrics
Ward metrics - digging in the census
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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.

Renewing Victorian Pipework

Tomorrow's "picture of the day" on the Melksham South Ward Facebook page is the old (Victorian) pipework that has been removed from the corner of Spa Road, Coronation Road and Warwick Crescent. The picture alongside this article shows the Wessex Water access hatches to the new pipework that has been installed - a couple of days ago now; the road surface has been largey re-installed as I write.

I was chatting with the site supervisior about the works being done, and in addition to replacing life expired pipework, the layout has been changed. Rather than a pipe from out of town headed into Coronation Road, and a pipe from in town headed into Warwick Crescent (two unconneced "L" corners), we now have a crossroad of pipes. For the future, this means that in the event of any water supply problems far smaller areas will need to be isolated - making for a more reliable water supply.

Published Friday, 19th January 2024

Can YOU help?

"I want to help" ... I have done a lot of campaigning over the years and found that the recruitment of people volunteering to support with an excellent cause hasn't been a problem. Much more difficult is harnessing that help and making good and effective use of it help achieve campaign objectives, especially where the campaign isn't going to be a "quick win" one.

Last night, I was at a Town Council meeting. Set up by council officers, all 14 councillors invited, it Started with four other councillors present. Three more arrived from 5 to 50 minutes late. "Campaign Fatigue" if you like to call it that; two of the five present at the start were those newly elected last year in by-elections and only one was from the "class of 2021". What is lacking is pastoral care and motivation for volunteers, and indeed for staff. And what is lacking is systems to make their contribution demonstratble rewarding.

The comment to me on Facebook which I read as "I want to help, but you don't make it easy" has truth in it. I am not going out of my way to get people to get involved with something only to be find they have a hostile reception as they help, or they are sidelined to the extent that their help is ineffective, and they get put off the whole idea of helping.

The public - those of you who read here for example - are bright. But at times you jump to critical conclusions because you are not aware (and why should you be?) of reasons. I am happy to explain - please ask. A classic example from a number of years ago was criticism for failure to promote summer rail trips to Weymouth. "We only heard about the trips after they had finished. Awful Marketing. Your marketing person should be fired". Hmm - I did the marketing. The train was full ... and had I turned up the promotion, I could have flooded it out and left people standing at stations along the line; my judgement is that it was just about right. And in following summers we have longer trains.

Illustration - Westbury Station, 8th December 2023. A celebration of how everyone - rail industry, local and central goverment, user groups and community partnerships and volunteers have come together to bring a 25 fold increase (3,000 journeys per year up to 75,000) to trains to and from Melksham, aided by a rise from 18,000 to 247,000 on the line in total. It's taken ten years and would not have happened without community support - that said, I am keeping my tinder dry on this one and there is no call for more volunteer help this winter. There will be, once there is something worthwhile to pick up.

Published Wednesday, 17th January 2024

Draft Budget 2024/5

Update revised agenda now published (still dated 15.1.2024, though referring to updates made on 16.1.2024 and received for Friday 19.1.2024) - ((here))

Received yesterday (15.1.2024) for informal council meeting this evening (16.1.2024) - draft budget for Melksham Town Council for next year, proposed by - well, it's come from our staff team with various inputs. Looking to get my head around the headlines from 27 pages full of figures edit to add ... many of which were changed in the early part of the evening when I was there

Income if unchanged from this year:
£1,000,000 from precept
£88,000 from Assembly Hall receipts
£48,000 from Solar funds
£13,000 from property rentals
£6,000 from MWPC for shared public loo costs
£5,000 from allotments
£4,000 from interest on investments
£4,000 from "Amenity services" (?)
£2,000 from Town Hall bookings
Total £1,170,000 - actual is £1,177,000 - rounding and smaller incomes.

Proposed expenditure ...
The majority of our costs, but made complex by staffing review that's underway and perhaps because we have saved money this year because so many staff have left us.

As the suggested were the majority of the current precept and without a clear understanding and plan for them, estimating other items is all very well but a hostage to fortune.

Biggest other expenditures might be things like
£65,000 on play areas and open spaces - equipment, grass cutting etc
£50,000 on grants
£44,000 on Amenites team - vehicles, uniforms, street furniture, equopment
£43,000 on Town Hall (rates, repairs, services and utilities)
£38,000 on Assembly Hall (rates, repairs, services and utilities)
£38,000 on insurance
£34,000 on HR consultancy, accountancy, legal fees
£33,000 on Assembly Hall operational supplies and serviceand splash pad servicess
£32,000 on KGV and splashpad
£24,000 on Market Place and Bath Road toilets
£24,000 on leasing and running ameneties Depot
£16,000 on Pavillion
£12,000 on Age UK Project worker
£11,000 on Christmas Switch on event
£11,000 on Floral Displays
£10,000 on LHFIG (Highway and footpath improvements)

Those add up to £485,000 in total

And, yes, I note the total absence from the above of major projects ... there is a cut from £15,000 to £5,000 in biodiversity planting, and a cut from £15,000 to £0 (yes, zero) in Town Development. A cut of £3,000 in expenditure on newsletter for the town, removal of the Melksham Art project, etc.

Please note - rushed article as it's time dependent. I will come back to correct any significant errors. I have come back and edited - some items updated while I was there and I had to leave for another council meeting - update in the morning

Published Tuesday, 16th January 2024

Ongoing Town Council projects

There are many ongoing projects in Melksham in which the Town Council is involved and I have always found it difficult to keep on top of where they all are - which are completed, which are under way, which have not yet started, which have been terminated. Our "Teams" system is/was supposed to provide our staff with a system to help keep them up to date with such things but has fallen by the wayside - at least the accessabilty to councillors has. An alternative lighter system was proposed by Councillor Westbrook and (I think) unanimously agreed to bring an update on all running projects to the Finance, Admin and Performance Committee; an early first report cane to the 20th November meeting, and it is on the agenda for this evening:

5. Project Plans
To provide an update on all current open projects.

Here is my own list of ongoing "projects" that I would like an update on:

East of Melksham Community Hall
Lighting to the Forest Centre
Sensory Garden
Notice Board in Church Street unreadable
Lighting, WiFi and CCTV in KGV
Splash Pad - dates and hours for 2024
Water in dog park
BMX Track
Wedding Venue
Communications Policy
High Pavement
Maple Close / Sandridge Road
Resurfacing of Splashpad
Repointing of Roundhouse
Repair of Assembly Hall Roof
Neighbourhood Plan - analysis of November consultation inputs
Pavillion Cafe - is it open and running?
Virtual Hub project / replacement if any?
Staffing - who's in what role - reponsible officer and Assembly Hall booking
Architect input and work on the future of Blue Pool and Assembly Hall
Dog Walk - what now on agility?
Budget for 2024/25 - Precept due by 18.1.2024
Assembly Hall - future management
Implementation and support for enviromental issues
Planting for biodiversity
Allotment audit and resultant updates to tenants and facilities
Memorial Benches - including P and M Blackburn
Yellow Lines on Waverly Gardens
Action Plan
Clackers Brook Improvements
Remarking of coach parking in King Street

Many of these issues noted last September and ongoing ((here)) on a blog at the time.

I will come back and update this post later in the week to reflect what I learn this evening.

Published Monday, 15th January 2024

Homes for Ukraine - 2 years on

It's coming up for two years now since the "Homes for Ukraine" scheme to provide for refugees from war in Ukraine was launched, to what was (I suspect) an uptake far beyond what our government anticipated. I am proud of the response of our people in this country, and in Wiltshire, and in Melksham for opening their hearts and doors. Here is an update to sponsors from Wiltshire Council, dated 11th January 2024.

Dear sponsor

We would like to say Happy New Year to you all from all of us at Wiltshire Council.

We hope that you have had a lovely break and want to thank you for continuing as a Homes for Ukraine sponsor into 2024.

Please find below information about the Thank You payments, applying for a visa, biometric residence permits, STEP Ukraine and other workshops and the Ask Hanna app, plus an appeal for clothing to be sent to people in Ukraine.

Currently Wiltshire has welcomed 1,570 guests. Ukraine hosts can claim a monthly sum of £350 by the government from the date that the guests initially arrived in the UK. This payment will increase to £500 a month for those who are hosting guests who have been in the UK over 12 months, up to a period of 36 months.

There are currently 402 guests (219 families) in Wiltshire who are still in active sponsorship. A further 265 families have moved into private rented accommodation, whilst the council's Homes for Ukraine team has secured rematches for 117 families with new hosts from within Wiltshire. Forty-two families have been matched into Wiltshire from other local authorities. This is a mixture of community led, independent and Homes for Ukraine facilitated matching.

Six families have moved into a Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) purchased property on a long term basis, with a further four families moving into LAFH properties as temporary accommodation.

We appreciate any feedback on the newsletter. For any comments please email us at and put Sponsor Newsletter Feedback in the subject title.

Thank you.

The move for many of our guests from Ukraine in the late spring and early summer of 2022 could be described as an emergency one. In the most extreme cases, people fled from their homes with bombs dropping around them. In many other cases they left as the likelihood of such situations approached them. Few of them had any connection with the Melksham area or had even heard of Wiltshire; and many of them spoke little or no English. Our local community reached out and it's been heartwarming to see just how well the scheme has worked. People signed up for six months and that gave a window of opportunity to establish an ID in the UK and for all parties; many initial pairings then moved on to something more suitable for years rather than months.

Two year ago we were looking out for UKRAINIAN people. A commonality in a nationality and national situation. Many of those people are still with us (see the stats above but they are now very much PEOPLE who are Ukrainian. And people just like all of us with different issues. There is a still a commonality of issues like "what next" but there is also the moving on through life. Primary school children are becoming teenagers. Older children are leaving home. Others are settling down in accommodation or closer relationships with one another and indeed with people they have met here who had no previous connection with Ukraine (and probably couldn't even have pointed to it on a map).

So where do we go from here? The initial plan - or was it a dream? - or was it rhetoric? - of a return to Ukraine within the three years to rebuild and carry on life as before seems improbable for most. Such a return and a rebuild may happen for many, but not likely within the three years, I'm afraid, nor will / would life be as before. So the first thing incumbent our government should do is to help to provide a path of stability such that the three years of permission can extend for as long as the appropriate for the personal future of each guest. I'm not sure that they will - something that sounds good may happen in the next few months prior to a general election, or a decision may be left until it's perilously close to the end of the three years and the election is out of the way.

And it then comes down to each of the families who are living with us - for them to make longer term decisions as to where they would like to be in 1, 5, and 15 years from now. In very few cases will those decisions be clearcut or easy; for those of us remaining as hosts in the "Homes for Ukraine" scheme, we can be (and are) around to help, as are many good experts on the ground here in Wiltshire. That raft of expertise and help is now much wider and more thinly spread than it was - the headline is that we are living with and helping support people, and indeed those people are very much a part of our wider community and family and very much now helping and giving to our society as much as we help and give to them.

Facebook Group posts seeking sponsors

This section written 27th January 2024

Next month is the second anniverary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the early months of the war, many guests from Ukraine fled as refugees, with many of them ending up here in the UK. And it is our personal delight to have welcomed a family into our home, and to have helped many others in our area welcome guests too.

Lisa and I helped match people up, both in posting requests for help in this group and through a matching database - pairing up potential hosts and guests and helping explain and navigate the systems that were new to almost everyone. We are proud of the work we did and delighted with the help from John, Martin, Stuart and others, and from the folks who helped with admin on the Facebook group. We have made very good friends.

Times have changed, though. There are now very few new hosts available, and chance of someone who posts their story finding a host is, frankly, slim. For those with friends, family, contacts in the area there *may* be a chance, but that chance is better working through them than with a general post. There are also many of the remaining people seeking shelter in the UK who are posting to any groups which will accept their posts. I know that 2 years ago such posts were effective, but that is no longer the case and unless posts make specific mention of our part of England, I am starting to decline them. Call me "hard hearted" if you like. Or call me realistic, not building up hopes for people for whom there is little practical chance of finding a home.

Please may I add a clarification. Our current guests (who will read this) including family members remain welcome. As do new guests with connections and where there is appropriate host capacity. Our guests may have arrived as stangers but they are now, lifelong, friends.

Published Saturday, 13th January 2024

Dogs off lead in KGV park, Melksham

I feel a bit like the messenger being shot this morning. I was asked about signage and enforcement of the off-lead dog ban in the KGV park, on a public group.

"This [Dogs off lead in KGV] topic keeps coming up. Graham Ellis is there any chance that we can have clear signage please at all entrances to KGV? Who in MTC is responsible for making this happen?"

Answering the second question first - "who is responsible"? I give you the following:

* Responsibility for making it happen lies with the Town Clerk, if so directed by the Town Council or a committee thereof. The Town Clerk would delegate the work to the Head of Operations, who would delegate the matter to the Amenities Team Manager, who would probably get his team to do the actual work.

* Whether or not signage changes and enforcement happen (i.e whether or not there is a responsibility) falls on the Town Councillors - your elected members - whether they pass a resolution to this effect or have done so at some date in the past. Signage costs money, takes time to produce and install, and may or may not be effective. As I write, I am seeing literature from candidates promising to keep council spending low and scrutinise all expenditure, so I am not convinced that the spending of money on bolstering signage would have universal support even if effective in achieving the desired outcome.

Now answering the first question - "is there any chance"?

Should you - a resident in Melksham - reading this wish to lobby councillors, please do so. For anything in KGV park, which is in the Melksham Forest ward, they are councillors Aves, Forgacs, Mortimer, Oatley and Price. If you live in a different ward, then you may also wish to contact one of the councillors for your ward. There is also a parks working group who do all the detailed recommendation work - members of that are Councillors Hubbard, Rabey, Stokes and Westbrook.

There has been a flood of messages on social media groups on this in the last 24 hours, and I personally keep an eye on some of the social media platforms to keep me informed. Asking for action there is only going to have some incident effect; better to approach your councillors directly, and those mentioned in the previous paragraph are those to lead on this, with perhaps your own ward councillors (if different) as addition or alternatives.

Edit to add - Thank you to a correspondent who recommended that members of the public bring there concerns to a public council meeting. There is public participation at the start of each full council and most committee meeting for questions to be raised. A really good way to raise major issues.

A long answer that I suspect will frustrate, but clearly important to those who have raised it. I am NOT the right one to lead this. I am not in the KGV ward, not on the working group, not an elected representative of the person who tagged me (as he lives in a different ward), nor to my knowledge of the originator of the Facebook thread who's public profile suggests she doesn't live in the parish. I can, however, be the messenger who helps refer you on - see above - to those who are in a position to help. Should this come though from staff, working groups or more directly involved councillors for support, I will be minded to support appropriate measures taken to ensure our parks and play areas (and there are at least six in my ward) are appropriately signed and rules appropriately enforced.

Published Thursday, 11th January 2024

Learning while travelling

When I travel, I often find myself thinking "would this work in Melksham?". Rarely could things just be transplanted, but there is often food for thought. There are also many ideas which are "great but we are too late"

How about an umbrella of solar panels above car parking spaces - dual use of space for parking and for generation of electricity to charge those cars, or for other purposes. Will also provide shelter in the rain, and could be used for water collection too - as seen at Reggio de Calabria.

Rubbish - or not quite rubbish. Sorted recycling in public - as seen in Madiera

Some simple obstacles in the park to entertain your dog - as seen on Gran Canaria.

Roads with lanes for cars, for cyclists, and for pedestrians - as seen on Lanzarote

A cannon - not so much for defence these days, but in memory of times gone. We used to have one of these in Melksham, but it got dumped in the river during a protest.

Turn off your engine while waiting in a traffic jam - as seen in Gibraltar

A tour bus to show people around the area - as seen in Lisbon

Hydroelectric on the river - as seen at Leon

Railway line improvements including a double track - as seen near Oviedo

Electric trains - as seen at Aviles

Published Wednesday, 10th January 2024

Enough to pedestrianise?

The utter quiet of Spa Road yesterday and today is lovely. Road works have turned a dull background sound of constant through traffic into something much more pleasant. And so often I walk through the Town Centre, I love almost everything is there except the traffic so often queueing from one end to the other. Heavy vehicles are already "access only" in the High Street. Should we take that further and make the Town Centre Access Only, or limit it to public transport, or indeed pedestrianise it?

We have a wide range of facilities and places people want to go in Melksham - and I'm looking purely at the South Ward here:

Public Buildings and facilities to visit
Melksham Campus / Library, Swimming Pool, Gym, etc
Post Office
Tourist Information Centre
Melksham Larder
Town Hall
Assembly Hall
Friends Garden
Rachel Fowler Centre
Masonic Hall
Conservative Club
Melksham Hospital

Pubs and drinking places
Hiding Place
Parsons Nose
Market Tavern
Kings Arms
The Grapes
The Bear
West End

Cafes and snack bars
Costa Coffee
(in Campus Cafe)

Restaurants and Takeaways
Golden Falls
Kings Gourmet
Charcoal Grill
Melksham Tandoori
Peking Chef
Davana Thai
Chop Suey House

Religious Buildings
St Michael and all angels Church
United Reform Church
Good News Church
Queensway Chapel and Hall
St Anthony of Padua Church

So that's ...
Eleven Takeaways, some with restaurants
Seven pubs and drinking places
Six Religious community buildings
Four Cafes

... and there also ...
Five children's play parks
Three petrol stations
Three Supermarkets
Three Electric Car charging facilities
Three ATMs
Three gaming / gambling shops
Three opticians
Two paid Wiltshire Council car parks
Two Dentists
Two vets
One set of public toilets
One Doctors surgery
One Chiropractor
Not to forget general stores, estate agents, building societies, barbers, hair dressers, funeral directors, employment agents, chemists, tattoo parlours, nail bars, travel agents, youth centre, primary school and the list goes on.

14 bus stops, 9 roundabouts, 6 sets of traffic lights.

This isn't a total Melksham Town list, of course - there's a small proportion of the Town Centre in the Forest Ward too, and some just across the river in the North Ward (where you will also find the Railway Station).

Published Tuesday, 9th January 2024

More Ward metrics

Published Sunday, 7th January 2024

Ward metrics - digging in the census

One role of a parish council is for [him/her] to know his parish or ward, to represent the people, and to speak for the people. All wards are not alike - even within a small town such as Melksham. Theres's nothing like living and breathing in a ward for getting to know its metrics, but things like the census data don't half help! The Office of National Statistics website offers the ability to compare not only ward by ward, but also across the UK. What does it tell me about Melksham (South)?

We have an older population here. Less people than the national average right up to the age of 50, but from that age up we have more people. Look at how different we are to the neghbouring ward of Melksham East, which has lots of young people but fewer golden oldies. Drilling into the figures, 36.7% of us in Melksham South are aged 60 or over, but just 16.3% of you in Melksham East. The national average for England is 24.2%

We have more homes without their own private motor transport. It's 18.7% in Melksham South, but just 8.1% in Melksham East. The England averge is higher still - 23.5% but then you would express less vehicle ownership in the centres of big cities.

We have a lot more single person households - over a third at 34.7%, against just 22.4% in Melksham East. The national average is 30.1%, so the two wards are on opposite sides of the mid-line and need different provision.

Of course, there's no hard line between the various wards, and as a councillor I work very much for the town and area as a whole, but never the less I need to understand "my" people and ward and press - for example - for excellent public transport for those who don't have a car, and for a community that works with and looks after its own far more than in some of the other areas. There are perhaps less issues here with school and play area provision and I happily support the latter bing more in places like KGV.

• Please note that although the data for "Melksham South" is geographically accurate for the ward, there are some discrepancies on the other areas defined on the ONS database, not exactly aligning with the wards / parish. I don't think this makes a huge difference to the stats quoted. I have shown compatative data for all neighbouring wards except Melksham North, for which the stats take in a great deal of the next parish and I don't feel confident in a comparison.

• There are some 28 stats available on the ONS database; I will post other next week.

Published Thursday, 4th January 2024

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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