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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Behind the scenes - Assembly Hall and Blue Pool
What's Happening in Melksham?
Bristol Airport - Melksham by bus
Melksham Town Council - precept for 2024/25
Popular shows support the Assembly Hall
Assembly Hall - my Forbidden Nights experience
Renewing Victorian Pipework
Can YOU help?
Draft Budget 2024/5
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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.

LWCIP - Local Walking and Cycling Infrastucture Plan

Back to my 4th December post - which (rather sadly) - was notable for the lack of feedback received both from my request and from Wiltshire Council too. They wrote.

"News on Calne and Melksham LCWIP

"Deadline Extended

"We recognise its a busy time of year for everyone, so we have decided to extend the closing date for the LCWIP consultation to the 5th of February 2024. We look forward to recieving your comments and hope you enjoy this festive season.

The Full Council and the Economic Development and Planning Committee have delegated drawing up a response to me, and I met with the Committee Clerk yesterday; in the absence of other local feednack to me or advice / suggestions from the Town Clerk, my proposal is to put the following to the committee tonight:

Dear Sirs,

Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan - on behalf of Melksham Town Council

General philosophes:

* To provide safe cycling and walking routes in and out of Melksham Town and also radially.

* To separate as far as practical cycle and foot traffic from busy and crowded motor vehicle routes, especially where those routes have a history of accidents or are clogged with traffic which at present emit CO2, particulates, etc

* To keep walking and cycling routes as direct as practical

* To provide good and consistent signage / waymarking throughout the routes and on maps and apps and wider promotion

* To provide secure and where possible dry facilities at destinations for cycles and for waiting for onward public transport; we already provide tools hubs in the Market Place and Park, and may be minded to add one at suitable other places such as the Railway Station


1. We endorse the response from Melkaham Without Parish Council with regard to footpaths and cycle ways making the route from The Spa roundabout and Pathfinder Way to the Semington Road Roadabout much more direct on foot and safer on cycle.

2. Our town is an old one with streets built for pedestrians, and horse and cart. They struggle to cope with the addition of cars, lorries, buses and cycles but cannot be widened with many historic buildings. We therfore look at altenative routes into the Town Centre for cycles and walking

a) from the East through Strattons Walk - the old "Abbots Way" to Redstocks and beyond. Already walkable on quiet roads and footpaths if you know the way. Improvements at Strattons Walk and better marking needed, and signage at least as far as Snowberry Lane. This will/would form a good alternative for cyclists and walkers off Spa Road which is a notorious accident black spot with limitations in widening to segregate traffic

b) From Semington Road Roundabout up via Hazelwood Road and through the grounds of Melksham House and The Campus to the Market Place, with a leg via Canon Square and Church Walk to Bath Road. This forming an alternative to King Street - again narrow and overcrowded with different traffic types

c) From north Melksham to the north west of the town via Scotland Road and from the North East via Murray Walk beside the river to Bath Road.

d) From Shunhold and the railway station via the Town Bridge.

e) From East Melksham via Clackers Brook to Lowborne. Potentially carrying on throgugh an access only for motor vehicles Union Street

All these to be in line with the Town Centre Masterplan, the Joint Neighbourhood Plan II, the Local Plan, and NPPF.

For specifics, please also find attached specific commnents on individual cycleways and footpaths / prepared in November at the time the consulatation opened. Please follow up with the author of this report if you need any clarification.

5.12.2023 to all councillors, clerk and locum:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been taking a look at the (Wiltshire Council) draft cycling and walking network for Melksham from the current consultation that’s on tonight’s agenda for Econ Dev. Lots of comments, so rather than surprise you with them this evening, cycling map attached. In many ways the walking routes should be the same as the cycling routes, and with so many comments I’m making already on the cycling network, I don’t have even a solid foundation to start on the walking.

Two general comments
1. the big area marked “Development Sites” seems to take in a lot of land rejected by both the local plan and the neighbourhood plan!
2. Although marked “Melksham Town” key focus, Bowerhill and half of Berryfield is include
I understand this was considered by Melksham Without for their response last night.

We have a town centre road network from the days of the horse and cart, with historic buildings either side which constrain road widening and funnel all traffic into a narrow space. I look at other routes into the Town Centre, such as Strattons Walk, Church Walk, and through the Campus, and also over Scotland Road Bridge in addition to the Town Bridge, and wonder if the cycling network should be making full use of them. I also wonder if more radical consideration to reducing traffic would make sense - how well did the town cope on Saturday when the centre was pedestianised? Officer advice would be welcome.

MC01 - good
MC02 - very much long way round. What about National Cycle Route
MC03 - Spa Road is dangerous and tight inwards from Coronation - divert? MC51
MC04 - without
MC05 - ? not shown on map and community school IS on A365!
MC06 - Kings Steet dangerous and tight for cyclists
MC07 - ? double back via Snarleton Lane
MC08 - excellent for improvement (joint with Broughton Gifford parish?)
MC09 - good
MC10 - without
MC11 - good though cycling through Strattons Court may be an issue
MC12 - without
MC14 - good
MC15 - good
MC16 - good
MF01 - without
MF02 - does that mean Foundry Close - if so, good
MF03 - really should not be "future" - there already
MF04 - without
MF05 - good

A - MC50 - Windsor Avenue via Longford Road to Semington Road
B - MC51 - Snowberry Lane to give a route to replace inner MC03
C - MC52 - Scotland Road and Murray Walk
D - MC53 - National Cycle Route N403 - not ideal though!
E - MC54 - Hazelwood Road to Melksham Campus and Market Place to replace inner MC06
F - MC55 - From Hazelwood Road to Bath Road via Canon Square
G - MF60 - From Hazelwood Road via Challymead Bridge to Farmers Roundabout

Graham Ellis

Any inputs - please let me know a.s.a.p.; please let Wiltshire Council know by 5th February via

Published Tuesday, 30th January 2024

Behind the scenes - Assembly Hall and Blue Pool

The none-public side of the South Ward - this is the equipment in one of the rooms in the Assembly Hall which is something to do with the water system for the Blue Pool.

As of today (29th January 2024), the Assembly Hall is running for immediate day by day events surprisingly well. Both of our deputy managers, who have done a great deal for the hall and have put in a lot of heart, are no longer routinely available and other staff are standing in. However, I'm very conscious that they were employed mostly for normal office hours and not evenings and weekends and the stand-in should be considered short term unless they wish to carry on with "permanent shifts". They also have other jobs to do as well; each different and this is a general comment.

With this staff change, it's a miracle that only one event has had to be postponed - yesterday's record fair. The stall holders on the Town Hall books were let know, I understand, in good time and the posters updated to a new date - 25th February. In hindsight, more could have been done to let people know online and we could have had a notice of postponement prominently displayed at the hall. Many *were* reached, but my apologies to those who turned up having had it in their diaries for a while, or seen it in the general leaflet for the winter. With 5000 of those distributed, and the whole intent being to attract people, there are going to be a few who turned up. The real solution is Do Not Cancel

Looking ahead to the next few weeks, a handful of reliable long-standing and new volunteers are helping out. You'll see me or two or three others checking tickets and helping people get seated as you arrive for tributes like "Three Kings" or "Majesty", or for the "Kast off Kinks" - not a tribute, but the originals. And we have a good team of occasional paid bar staff who know the hall. It's also the winter, so the slack season for out outdoor amenities team. But - come the Easter holidays (and Easter is early this year) the current running system will become strained unless updated.

Those of you who attended the job fair a week ago will have seen Melksham Town Council there; the Town Council is looking for appropriate people to pick their vacant posts - it would be obvious (and I believe it is likely the plan) to let people move internally in line with their skills, career goals and personal lives / satisfaction and then fill the holes, and the MTC appearance at the job fair confirms a search in public. The public calendar also indicates an extra staffing committee meeting tonight - details hidden even from all councillors except those on the committee - but perhaps that's an indication of change.

So for the medium term - we need to be looking at hall management including booking ahead, maintenance, stock ordering, doing the accounts, future marketing and publicity, and so on. This is where a new appropriate person can come in and pick up the role as well as taking back many of those evening and weekend shifts that some of the others find themselves doing all the time at present, rather than just from time to time. How the role is filled / who is selected and what their background is will have an influence on how others fit around.

The longer term question - what about that equipment in the headline picture and the future of both the Assembly Hall and the Blue Pool building? Firstly, there is an overwhelming desire for the facilities to continue to be provided here. Whatever may be said in private by some, most councillors acknowledge that the public (their voters next year) do not want to see the facilities lost. There is also an understanding that leaving an Assembly Hall with minimum maintenance, and with an attached and undetermined Blue Pool building attached (and integrate services, you note) is not an option. That said, the building maintenance fund that was in the draft budget - £70,000 across the estate - was stripped out 10 days ago in order to help keep the precept rise below inflation and just about the lowest of any town around by quite some margin. So - what now?

For the next couple of months, the Town Council will do nothing long term as it deals with immediate issues of running the Assembly Hall and other services. And while it fills posts and gets new resources active to pick up the short and medium term operation. The plan is for that to release Melksham Town Council management staff to oversee the major project of planning and implementing our Assembly Hall future.

I am relieved to see the thought of a way ahead. I am unclear as to the exact staffing and mechanism of this, I am aware of the lack of funding in the budget for it, and I regret elements of messing people around asking for ideas and quotes for work that are on hold until the spring. It's good to see the repairs to the changing rooms being done - my fingers are crossed that the roof repairs to stop the leaks (and in this year's budget) are going to be completed in such a way that the new works are not damaged, and indeed that other damage through water ingress and lack of basic maintenance is stopped.

So - what for Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall? In the short term, we are just that - promoting the events, helping out where we can. Looking at the longer term, we continue to learn as we have done over the past year, and continue to float ideas as we continue to support the long term meeting of needs - of the current users, of people who do not use the hall because it does not provide what it could for them, and of the team that's running it.

Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall
Facebook group - ((here))
Web Site - ((here))
Document Library - ((here))

Published Monday, 29th January 2024

What's Happening in Melksham?

What's happening in Melksham. Already covering the Town Hall, the Assembly Hall, the Campus and opening hours for the Tourist Inforation Centre, the Post Office, the Parish Church and more. Link to my councillor page at for a current list. Also happy to cover events that the public are invited to at other places in the ward I represent such as the Rachel Fowler Centre, the United Church, That Meeting Place, Queensway Chapel, St Anthony of Padua, and so on. Please let me know for those and any other venues in the ward.

The South Ward includes most of the Town Centre, but not the north side of Bath Road (which is in the Forest Ward), the Town across the river (which is in the North Ward), nor the newer parts of the town out to the east (Eat Ward). Until Easter, I am running this "what's happening" to see if it is useful and used; it takes time to enter and update the data and as we get into Spring and Summer it will get harder to maintain with more happening and opening hours changing as we hit a myriad of public holidays. I will review the data feed in mid March, and I promise to run it at least up to and including the Quiz night on Maundy Thursday, 28th March 2024.

Should I continue with this after March, I'll be asking each event organiser to update their own data, and to let me know if weekly hours change. I will also look to enabling people to look further ahead; my committment at that point will be until the lead up period (6 week purdah) to the local election in early May 2025. Until this March, I am planning to stick with South Ward; should I carry on beyond, with the support of ward councillors I would be happy to extend to include facilities and events useful to all residents - looking at things like the Shambles Festival, opening hours of the Splashpad and the Cafe in KGV, the River and Food Festival, events at Spencers and the Forest Community Centre, public transport changes and roadworks, etc.

My background is in IT and I have done lots of dynamic web site work, so setting up the structure for this sort of thing is easy enough for me - with four cautions:
1. The first 90% of the work takes the first 90% of the time. The final 10% takes the second 90% of the time.
2. Keeping the data up to date and having changes notified is often a nightmare
3. I am NOT an artist and my pages are loaded with functions and information but rarely pretty
4. I have not considered the future beyond my current council term.

Published Thursday, 25th January 2024

Bristol Airport - Melksham by bus

From Melksham to and from Bristol Airport, there is good public transport available. Bus into Bath (the 271, 272 or 273) then the A4 to the airport which runs 7 days a week.

Here is an example prepared for a guest arriving into Bristol Airport - flight schedule in at 09:00. The example applies any day (times vary a bit on Sunday) until Easter. More general detail further down.

I don't know how long you will take to collect luggage and clear customs and immigration. Buses on route A4 leave at 09:30, 10:30, 11:30 to Bath - travel to the end of the route at Dorchester Street, which is just across the road from the Bus Station. The buses arrive at 10:43, 11:43, 12:43.

Cross the road into the bus station. It's bus stand number 7 or close to there for the 271 to Bowerhill or the 272 or 273 to Devizes which leave at 10:45, 11:15 and every 30 minutes. In Melksham, the three routes all serve the Town Centre and Bowerhill, with the 271 and 273 also serving Melksham Forest and the 272 serving Spa Road.

The bus fare from Bristol Airport to Bath is £16.50 and from Bath to Melksham is £2.

The high cost from Bristol Airport is because of airport charges, and the fare from the Airport Tavern stop (show with the green pin on the map) into Bath is just £2. Bus services from that stop may be tracked at the bustimes web site . It's exactly the same bus and it calls there 2 minutes after leaving Bristol Aiport.

More generally - first bus from Bristol Airport on a Monday to Saturday with a connection at Bath is at 06:00 and last bus at 22:00; the 23:00 from the airport arrives in Bath after the last Melksham connection has left. On Sunday, only buses at 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00 from the airport offer connections to Melksham.

Travelling TO Bristol Airport, buses leave Melksham Market Place from 06:57 (07:15 on Saturday and 09:40 on Sunday) until 22:42 (17:40 on Sunday) with connections onward to Bristol Airport, calling at the Airport Tavern (£2) just prior to the airport (£16.50). By way of example, the 06:57 bus connects into the 08:00 bus from Bath, getting you to the airport at 09:24 - slow because of peak hour congestion. The 22:42 from Melksham will get you to the airport for 00:55.

Regular concessions are not shown in my pricings. Senior cards are not valid in and out of the airport, but are valid between Bath and the Airport Tavern. There are child rates and some other concessions too. See (here) for the Melksham to Bath bus and (here) for the Bath to Bristol Airport bus.

Published Wednesday, 24th January 2024

Melksham Town Council - precept for 2024/25

Melksham Town Council approved a precept of £1,047,270 for 2024/25 last night at a public but unbroadcast / not available online meeting. That is a 3.96% increase on the precept for 2023/24, and represents an increase from £169.00 to £175.69 per band D household for the year.

A massive amount of work in the last week has gone into putting this budget into place by a few of us and staff, and indeed changes were made last night by full council too. This is the third year in succession in which we have kept the rise below the rate of inflation, and we were a cheap town when we took over anyway- any other town in Wiltshire you'll be well over £200 by now. Much is to be said for being prudent, but that can be taken too far and we can end up not providing services that our residents want, not helping the town plan for the future, and not having the tools to keep people properly informed.

The vote on the precept was (at my request) a recorded vote. Nine councillors voted in favour of the 3.96% rise, five were absent when the vote was taken, and I am recorded as abstaining. I believe that the people I represent want to have information available to them (open democracy), and a council that has a strategy beyond the next year for ourselves as a council and for our residents, businesses, and town as a whole. This is NOT all about money - it's largely about having our own house planned and forward looking, but I feel we have oversqueezeed. I would have added between 10p and 15p (ten to fifteen pence) per week to the household bill (not per person - per household) and used the extra to deliver a strategy so we know where we are going, and information and IT so that people can easily find out what's going on.

However, this is a democratic council and as you see I was a lone voice. Two of your other south ward councillors voted for the 3.96% and the other had left by the time we got to the vote because it had gone on so long. So I will work with and support them, though increasingly frustrated by the lack of vision and communications.

Illustration - the Christmas light and associated turn on event, one of the very few areas where our planned expenditure increases (modestly) next year.

From my Facebook feed this morning - I wrote:

A very full Town Council last night - so full that we didn't get to a substantial number of agenda items.

It was a delight to see seven members of the public present in person, but less so that they matters they had to raise in public had a commonality of "why haven'y you ..." type implied criticism. Natural I suppose, but an indication of what needs attention in case we did not know. We DO do a lot of good, have some excellent members and staff, but "some" is not really enough, and we need to join up the holes and get information out to the public.

We also saw members of the public appear on Zoom but due to "technical issues" the Zoom session cut out and after some time spent trying to restore it, the decision was made that we carry on anyway. "There is no legal requirement to broadcast" we were informed, and that is correct. But having advertised and encouraged people to attend remotely, some with questions about "minor topics" such as next year's tax level and what we plan to spend it on, and others wanting to see how we represent them in the parish, it is in my view unfortunate in the extreme that they got cut out. As a member of the council, I apologise. As just one of 15 councillors, I can report back as I'm doing here but I cannot fix the problem (we know exactly what happened!) alone.

I am all about communications (well - a third. Add equality and the environment) and I comment you to my home page at where you can find out what is going on today and for the next few days, and links to those things and to my blog. Or follow my Facebook page at . For my own (shared) ward, the South Melksham Ward group at is new this year - just starting up with "anything South Melksham" legal, decent, honest in , correspond, explain - but please note this all takes voluntary time and I do not have either a magic wand or an authority.

Thank you for reading. Sorry about the lack of access last night. Write ups following during the day and if you come back to those pages listed above by this time tomorrow, you should be able to read more.

And my comment follow up:

From last night's unbroadcast Melksham Town Council meeting, I've noted the following:

To be written up ...
* Budget
* What is wrong with web site and zoom
* Assembly Hall and Blue Pool
* Econ Dev
* Well
* ECWG and unconstitutional winding up
* Visit Wiltshire App
* How long recordings are kept
Not writing up the confidential session in the middle where we chucked the press out (sorry, Joe!) - delighted you made it back afterwards.

Not covered:
* Neighbourhood Plan
* Council straregy
* Who want to be mayor next year

None of this is panic stuff; I can characterise the evening as "some sanity returned" or "not as bad as it could have been" on many of the issues and the general outcome as positively forward even if we have only a limited idea of where we are going.

Published Tuesday, 23rd January 2024

Popular shows support the Assembly Hall

I posted the Assembly Hall newsletter to the Melksham Community Group ((here)).
To my suprise, a reply from Nick Holder, who lives in the ward. In public, he writes "I’m so disappointed the programme is fundamentally no different from any other year. Tribute bands and male strippers. No wonder the assembly hall loses money:. That's very worthy of a full answer, with some further information; basically, The Hall is a public service that would require a much greater subsidy without tribute bands - so Nick seems to be suggesting the very reverse of what we should be doing.

Edit to add - Nick has messaged me to make ask me to make it clear that the comment above is a personal one, and I am happy to confirm that here for you. Nick is a local politician who's role and residence are matters of public record. I have deleted his role from the above, at is request made in public, to confirm that this is purely his own view.

Let me reply:

"Oh, Nick - it's the one-off, once-a-year events that need the extra publicity that you're highlighting in the leaflet. A big house - such as we had on Friday night - consistently brings more income than we spend. There's so much more on - regular events which neither need such publicity, nor bring an excess of income over expenditure. Events like the previous evening, or the following one are happening, and with accounts you'll find that they are supported by the positive balance from the headliners.

In other words, that hall full of people dancing to original or tribute acts is supporting so many other events. One you're familiar with, for example, was the fund raiser evening sponsored by our MP (Michelle Donelan) for Melksham Free Dining; I've not got the finances to hand, but I do know that the balance sheet for the hall was nothing like as good for the Assembly Hall as "Forbidden Nights".

But thank you for raising your concerns - I agree with you that we should be widening our program and we are doing so. Covid decimated much, but we've largely rebuilt - come along to Quiz night on Thursday this week, or get in touch with Geoff Mitcham for his Rock and Roll for Saturday. There's the Model Car Club and Senior Film Group too. But, yes, more people to many of these events, and more events - local performers; much being done. Our mayor writes in the election case of Gillian Elson, for whom you were one of the proposers, "Gillian's practical ideas for ... saving the Assembly Hall are precisely what we need". Good - we should all be working together; the Town Councillor Role is a volunteer one so even though not elected, other candidates can help. Only 15 months to the next election, so what a great opportunity for us all to achieve something together.

Another thought - we are showing "Eating our way to extinction" on 8th February. In your role as Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change in Wiltshire, may I invite you to help us promote this evening, especially as you live in the ward. Would you even be prepared to add a keynote speech and Q&A session?

Published Sunday, 21st January 2024

Assembly Hall - my Forbidden Nights experience

What a learning experience - or rather a confirming one. I went along (pre-arranged) to "Forbidden Nights" at the Melksham Assembly Hall on Friday evening to help as a volunteer with checking tickets as people arrived in reception. I have learned a great deal about the hall in the last couple of years and nothing surprised me - but there were a number of confirmations I will share with you to inform you as we look ahead.

1. The event (like so many) was very popular and everyone was excited and good humoured as they arrived. Audiences vary depending on what's going on - in this case predominantly female but then this show is exceptional in that gender bias of who it attracts

2. Talking with some of the people as they arrived, as I would have expected there were people from Melksham more than anywhere else, but also a lot from other towns - I recall Corsham, Westbury, Warminster, Calne, Chipping Sodbury, Swindon. A number had made use of other facilities - businesses - in the town before they came along for the show.

3. A number of earlier first time arrivals were putting their head around the door to make sure they had found the right place. Later on (and in the freezing cold) we had a queue waiting outside and it was much clearer.

4. The scanning system worked spectacularly well, with the vast majority having tickets with their QR codes on their phones or on paper. The system was/is such that the person checking in attendees has a couple of alternatives for those who have purely their booking referencer rather than the code.

5. Access to the only public door (yes, emergency exits clearly signed) was behind what I believe were staff / act / artists vehicles. By the time that people come along for an evening out, yes, they will have booked and queue / walk between vans and cars, but the impression given is not a good one. The artists would rather not be leaving their vehicles in amongst the audience/revellers either.

6. The loos were outside the reception area making it difficult (with around 300 coming in) to ensure all tickets were checked. Long queue for the ladies - many had travelled from neighbouring towns, wanted to be checked in then power their noses. We changed the gents into a ladies too, and redirected any of the handful of men in the audience to the accessible loo.

7. Want a smoke outside? Again - go out past reception and stand around between vehicles and mixing with the arriving audience. Good job that we had a lovely lot of people in the audience and had an experienced security team - yes, these days you have to check what people are bringing in.

8. The whole bar counter was crowded and queues to purchase drinks - the whole frontage of the bar in use, and staffed all along; any more staff and they would have been falling over each other. I was not working the bar (I was scanning tickets) but understand that dual keying is needed to key in to the tills and to re-enter onto the credit card machine being passed around.

9. People had heard of the event in a variety of ways; much of the business was word was regulars who come every year (and different people for the most past from those who will come to Rich Hall, AbbaMania, Quiz night, Roller disco, Maker's Market) but some of the new - and they will come back - was from door to door leafletting; wider coverage there is possible, though with some shows we are approaching full house / capacity limits. We need to maximise the number of events, have staff who want to book and cover all of those, and look to sorting out the bottlenecks.

10. I have left the most important to last. A really good team on the night. Some of us learning, all with a good rapport with the punters. The hall itself is great for this audience; we manage in spite of the front of house limitations which are pushed to the limit and at times prevent us maximising best use of the rest of the facility - pinch point to be removed?

Published Saturday, 20th January 2024

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

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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