Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
|Links in this page:
• Town Council - Who tells you?
• No Party-in-the-Park 2023
• Away, but still here, for March
• A week in the life of ...
• Offer guests a future
• Street Cleaning - myWiltshire
• Vehicle Access to Campus
• Lovely to meet and listen
• Cafe in the Park
• (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
Environment - 3 years on
Three years ago today I was in Bristol to see Greta Thunberg speak to the rally in Bristol.
The BBC Reported ""Greta Thunberg has warned "those in power" she will "not be silenced when the world is on fire". The teenager was welcomed by chants of "Greta, Greta" as she addressed some 15,000 people at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) event. She accused politicians and the media of ignoring the climate emergency and "sweeping their mess under the rug".""
Proud to have been there - not that my presence made the day any different, not that I burned less CO2 that day, but to say "I think this is important too, and I am going to stand up and say so". I have said so locally too - we have both a worldwide issue and a local issue. The environment - which includes climate -was one of the three strategic pillars I set when I stood for council - Openness, Equality and the Environment.
Three years ago, I listened to Greta. She did not "convert" me - I was already on board. But happy to be there and with so many young people who will inherit whatever we leave behind.
Two years ago I stood for Town Council with my three pillars starkly on my soapbox and somewhat against the odds got elected.
Last year, the council's new Environment and Climate Working Group (ECWG) was up and running and with a humongous spreadsheet of things and projects we could look at.
This year (this month), sad to say our working group chair who has been driving the group has stood down. If she's reading this, "Thank you" for your piloting of the group through its creation, definition of the task and leading into initial projects. No-one said it would be easy, and you have created the foundation of a group which needs to help take local account, and join the far wider influence too. I hope you'll continue to assist the grouo as I know you will the wider community with your own area of expertise.
Our working group has a core of dedicated, active support, and I am delighted. We have a mix - of experts, of campaigners, of unitary councillors as well as town councillors and support staff. Some attending each month to help pilot projects through and provide inputs towards other council activities, others able to make it from time to time. The bud from the year just gone is now well placed to bloom into a very visible flower, not only undertaking activities ourselves, but informing and encouraging others to do so in a way far beyond (and far quicker) than the ECWG team can do on its own.
I look forward to posting further on this topic at the end of February 2024 and telling you of the next step. Time is not on our side. The world is on fire.
Published Tuesday, 28th February 2023
Town Council - Who tells you?Someone wrote that they read my blog as it tells them what's going on much more than / instead of the other councillors. Thank you for that - I take it as a complement, but not as a criticism of other councillors.
You have 15 volunteers who, unpaid, work for the town and each of the 15 of us does it in our own way. Some of us are retired and can give the role plenty of time, but others of us have paid employment, additional elected roles. And we each choose to do what we feel is appropriate - championing causes from the platform we were elected on, but also taking into account the extra understanding of how certain things work, both from prior experience and what we have learned during and after election.
Yes, one of my "pet projects" is keeping people informed, but that's my "bent" and I would not expect everyone to do it. Far better to have [***] concentrate on finances, [***] specialise in security, [***] lead on play areas and young people, and so on. And my "pet project" of writing things up takes a lot of time - willingly given, and I have the luxury of having some time, and the "way" of having an active mind which motivates me to write, and to answer any resultant queries as a pleasure that helps inform me and make me think further.
* The picture of all 15 councillors at the head of this article is from the Town Council Web Site and there are details there telling you how to contact any of us. And links from there to other council resources.
* My blog is can be read (here) - you'll see the latest 10 articles. I have written about 250 articles in 2 years and you can search through them from that link above, or see them indexed (here). Views are my own
* For a regular, general information feed if you're on Facebook, you'll find my personal Councillor page (here) - typically links to blogs with a short summary, but also day by day stuff and an opportunity to discuss. The Town Council has a Facebook page (here) and I am delighted that it's now much more active than previously - big "Thank You" to staff feeding it.
Published Monday, 27th February 2023
No Party-in-the-Park 2023Sharing with you a letter received by our Town Clerk yesterday from Mark Stansby, Chairman, Party-in-the-Park, and circulated to all councillors.
|Cancellation of Party-in-the-Park 2023
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you that our organising committee has taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event.
Like many voluntary groups we have struggled to recruit new members with the skills and the experience required to organise an event of this size. For those of us currently on the committee, we simply do not have the necessary resources to plan and to generate sufficient funding for the event to meet expectations.
To put this into perspective we currently have vacancies for the following key roles:
Treasurer / Finance officer
Sponsorship & Marketing officer
Contract Tendering officer
Publicity / Event Programme Administrator
Our committee has held regular meetings since the end of the lock-down period and, moving forward, we will look to arrange some smaller events, such as the Monster Ball which returned last year at the Assembly Hall. We will also strive to fill the vacant positions within the team, as it remains our ambition to hold a revised, and possibly rebranded event, in the park in 2024.
We know this announcement will disappoint many who have attended and supported our event over the years, but this is the correct decision under the present circumstances.
We hope to announce more positive news in due course.
Published Friday, 24th February 2023
Away, but still here, for MarchFrom early March until just before Easter, Lisa and I will be away from Melksham - still reachable on social media and via the email addresses and links in this blog, and still reading, thinking and writing.
Please email me or get in touch via Social Media while I am away - whilst this is a holiday, life and events carry on; this an opportunity for us to see a different part of world while still sprightly enough, and the internet reaches just about everywhere these days even if the bandwith will limit dynamic meetings, and the English law prevent me as a councillor for participating in that role at Town Council meetings. I am unlikely to be able to pick up phone messages.
Here is my (temporary) email signature and details:
Melksham Town Council, South Ward
Blog at http://grahamellis.uk/perm.html
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Graham4Melksham/
I only visit other social media occasionally.
I will be away from early March until Easter 2023.
I remain available by email
I remain available on social media
I will not be available by phone or in person
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Phone: 01225 708225 / 0797 4 925 928
Home: 48 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY
Published Thursday, 23rd February 2023
A week in the life of ...In answer to a question "what do you do now you are retired" I bring you a list of things in my diary for this week - from last Saturday (11th) up to and including tomorrow (17th):
11 10:00 Neighbourhood Plan public consultation
11 14:30 xx @ Home - Bus, Rail and other matters
emails - SN12 = 0; Council = 0; blog = 1; posts = 6;
12 16:00 to Birmingham Airport
12 19:30 Pick up xx arriving from Ukraine
12 22:00 Get Home
emails - SN12 = 2; Council = 3; blog = 1; posts = 4;
13 18:30 Town Hall / prep meeting with staff
13 19:00 Economic Development and Planning at Town Hall
emails - SN12 = 2; Council = 3; blog = 1; posts = 5;
14 14:30 Library Lecture - British Newspaper Archive
14 17:00 WWRUG (West Wilts Rail User Group) Committee, Trowbridge
14 20:00 Mexican meal
emails - SN12 = 1; Council = 2; blog = 0; posts = 7;
15 09:00 Zoom with some other Councillors
15 12:00 Phone Shop / SIM / Chippenham
15 12:30 Bank (appointment, Chippenham)
15 19:00 ECWG (Environment and Climate Working Group) at Town Hall
emails - SN12 = 7; Council = 2; blog = 1; posts = 10;
16 14:00 BBC recording interviews for next week
16 15:30 ECWG / xx meeting
16 18:00 Civic awards at Town Hall
emails - SN12 = 4; Council = 10; blog = 1, this, very end of day; posts = 6;
And coming up tomorrow (or "today" by the time you wake and read this)
17 11:00 WWRUG at home
17 14:00 xx at Campus - Neighbourhood Plan
17 18:00 Family Meal
Emails are numbers I have sent from firstname.lastname@example.org (personal) and my council ones. The blog is what you are reading. And the "posts" is the number of messages I have put up at the Great Western Coffee Shop forum where I am webmaster. I have not gone back and counted things like Facebook responses and posts, phone calls, messages. And there is a lot of prep for some of these things.
Picture - the latest picture on my phone. I take dozens of pictures, typically in spurts. A lot of the Melksham Campus earlier in the week; none in the last couple of days.
Published Thursday, 16th February 2023
Offer guests a futureIt's mid afternoon. I have spoken in person today with people living in the UK who were born in the USA, in Gambia, in Spain and in Ukraine.
The people from Ukraine came here, perhaps, in greatest need - refugees from war under the Homes for Ukraine scheme last year, and yet they are the folks of all the people I have spoken with today are here "in limbo", with no assurance or plan in place for what they'll do or whether they may stay hear the year after next. We have given them humanitarian refuge, and it would now be only humane for us to reassure them that they will not face an uncertain future - rather that they can plan their lives.
And so, very unusual for me, I have signed the petition on the UK Parliament Website asking "Give Ukrainians on humanitarian visas rights to extend stay and settle in the UK". And I encourage you to do the same, please. And ask friends, colleagues, neighbours ... https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/632761
Some further background - our guests from Ukraine have arrived over the past year, fled from various degrees of danger in there home country. First intent for most of them is to return home as soon as it makes sense to do so - to help to rebuild their war-torn country. "Three years" felt a long time as they travelled to a safe haven, and in the hope of there being some sort of settlement at home fairly soon. With the war grinding on, though, and no sign of any sort of political or military solution soon, the remaining time on visas seems perilously short, and the lack of a route forward should they need to be in the UK 30 months from now is worrying and is preventing them from planning their lives. If you doubt this, think how YOU would feel if you had to plan to move to a new country in a couple of years.
For readers of this who have not been involved in Homes for Ukraine at the "Coal Face", the bulk of the guests when they first arrive need significant support as they settle in here, get into "the system" and find their feet. But that changes quite quickly as they want to be useful here, and find gainful employment; instead of helping our own guests with the basics, we now find ourselves explaining Income tax, National Insurance and NEST pensions. Default enrolment in that latter makes no sense, of course, if they don't have indefinite leave to remain!
I have been asked why we did not do the same for people seeking refuge from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. We wish we had, but there was no scheme that enabled us to do so. We can't put that wrong right now, but we can do it right this time. It's not proven perfect - of course not, but we are doing a lot of good for a lot of good people, it's no skin off the nose of our economy and it's just plain right.
Published Wednesday, 15th February 2023
Street Cleaning - myWiltshireWiltshire Council, rather than the Town Council, are responsible for most street issues in the town. Until now, they have been guided by inputs to the Parish Stward and Sparkle teams which have been directed on a monthly cycle by the Town Council, informed by councillor inputs at "Econ Dev". We also have had a general street cleaning presence, and an ability to report extra issue via myWiltshire.
The teams are currently busy filling potholes so not available for general street and path work ... and come April the staff doing these tasks will be directed only by inputs on myWiltshire.
So - please use myWiltshire to report and follow issues in future. We are told that street tidy service level needs will be monitored - so if nothing is reported, nothing will be done and the team available will shrink. It may make sense to pick up your own neighbourhood litter and weed the gullies in the road outside your home (a lot of this goes on already) but beware that if we as a community take on more of this, there will be no going back.
We are often asked "but what about people who are not online?". As you (dear reader) are reading this online, it does not apply to you - but it might to your friends and relatives. Or what about if you're stuggling. As a learning thing, please feel free to ask Town Council staff or me to help show you how. As a more general thing, there are computers you can use in the library, and during staff hours people who can give you guidance.
Finally - a "thank you" to those who have, and will in the future, helped keep our streets tidy and clean. There may be a new way in how you are directed / organsed, but we really appreciate the work done.
Published Monday, 13th February 2023
Vehicle Access to CampusI as delighted that the Melksham Campus can be accessed on foot from all side. And disappointed that there is just a single vehicle access. From early days, we on the SCOB asked for at least a one way exit from the A350 but were told (a) incorrectly that there was too much of a curve on the road (it's straight!) and (b) there could be no more accesses on that road because it's trunk (so why are they adding another roundabout in Chippenham at the moment?)
With a single access, tight between the Market Place buildings and with Melksham House still to come online, a traffic pinch point and potential problem has been created, as in addition to the traffic through the gates there, access and parking is needed for Crown House, and access needs to be maintained to the Town ouncil's buildings - the Town Hall and the Assembly Hall. I have also been asked about emergency service access, and about vehicle access and evacuation in an emergency.
It's not rocket science that there's an issue to be considered - it was rather clear to those of us, even amateurs, who made inputs to the Melksham House / Campus site design that it would need careful consideration to put it mildly!
1. I believe that there are removable bollards that would allow vehicle exit and entrance in an emergency on the north side of the site into Place Road
2. It is just a few yards from the end of Orchard Gardens into the Campus car park at the South East corner of the site. There is only a footpath there, and cars parked in the campus blocking the way, but I expect a fire engine and crew could get through if it was a matter of life or death.
3. I am not sure how access stands of the A350 now - there is a gate and track, but not sure how they could be joined to the normal public vehicle areas now.
Neither Place Road nor Orchard Gardens are suitable for regular two way access, but I suspect that inbound via Place Road (not outbound as there would be an awkward turn out onto the Market Place / High Street) and one way either way through Orchard Gardens would both be possible, but both would be very unpopular with the residents. Any changes there could knock on to reducing traffic at the current access, but whether it would be sensible to make that one way I don't know - just entry would be signiciantly safer for that traffic, but a minor contraflow for traffic coming out of Crown House could be a problem because others would not expect that traffic. No answer from me here - just noting an issue that will get all the worse when Melksham House reopens, but could get better if Wiltshire Council start charging - perhaps punitively - for parking at the Campus but not making use of the facilities on site.
Published Sunday, 12th February 2023
Lovely to meet and listenI have had a fantastic three days at The Campus meeting the public interested in the future of Melksham, as we're working on in the Town Centre Masterplan, which will support the next version of the Neighbourhood Plan.
Thank you to so many people coming along and keeping the team of facilitators busy. I am delighted to have had a chance to listen to so many views and ideas, to explore them informally in fascinating discussion. And also to have met quite a number of people who comment and otherwise react to my social media posts. I (and we as councillors and a council) thrive on inputs. You who make the inputs do not always realise how you have influenced or triggered something.
Thank you also to Melksham Without Councillors David Pafford and Alan Baines, and the clerks of Melksham Without (Teresa Strange) and Melksham Town (Linda Roberts), all of whom were there most of the time at the three general public days, and to other officers and town and parish councillors who also popped in.
A recurring theme I heard over the three days was people telling me just how useful my blog and Facebook feed is in keeping them informed. I appreciate that, and I am flattered; I know that early on in this council (nearly two years ago) a number of my new colleagues were concerned about getting embroiled in public argument and suggested that social media and other internet feeds should be avoided for the most part. They suggested that the public can interact by coming along to our meetings, and by contacting them in other ways.
I can understand where my colleagues, and some officers, are coming from. It takes a considerable amount of time to write things up, to answer questions, and to put the case for what's been done (or not done) or is proposed. And my colleagues feel that the best use of their time (and emotional energy) is in doing, rather than informing. And perhaps it's a really good solution that some of us take each approach.
On the (general) informing side, I will point you to my feeds:
I will also point you to the Melksham Town Facebook feed which, as this council enhances its provision, is being far more used now to give Town information. (Thank you, Gloria)
Finally, the Virtual Hub project that should be telling you what's open every day and who to contact in all the various community groups, public transport, news, etc, has been defunded in the budget. So the Town Council will not be providing a single source to tell you each day whether the splashpad is open, what sessions are available at the Swimming Pool, the hours of the Town Hall, TIC, Friends Garden and Church all in one place - together with the weather and local road news, council meetings and events at the Assembly Hall. Sorry, folks - this has been delayed for at least a year to help keep the town's element of your council tax bill to the same as it was last year.
Published Saturday, 11th February 2023
Cafe in the ParkI am delighted to hear that the Town Council has received quite a few expressions of interest in running a cafe in The Pavillion in the park open from 1st April 2023. A number of folks have been shown around, and full bids are due in by or on next Monday (13th Feb). There will then be a two stage process - planned as shortlisting then choosing in depth between a handful, but of course that assumes there are enough to merit the shortlisting. In any case there's a first stage of checking that the bids are practical. Final decision very quickly - by the end of February.
The invite for bids is intentionally written to provide maximum flexibility to potential operators - the Town Council did not want to stifle any ideas by laying down limitations on bidders. So the evaluations later this month should be really interesting and will hopefully offer a good variety. The group of councillors to make the choice was widened last Monday evening to include councillors with catering experience through both stages of the process, as well as members of the finance committee. Good.
Also on Monday evening, drainage from the Cafe and Splashpad, and required maintenance, was discussed and given the go-ahead. There will need to be co-ordination between the new cafe operator as these works are done and completed - some are necessary even before the place opens, others cannot really be done until the operator is appointed as it would be wasteful for us (for example) to put in heaters in the wrong place and have to move them a few weeks later.
I don't know what's in the various bids, and am not on the evaluating and deciding group - so I will just say I look forward to some sort of catering operation including servicing customers in the park from this Spring. And I will post updates here as and when I get them; Lisa and I are away for March, but these days eectronic feeds mean that I should still hear some updates and will be able to signpost readers to revelant published data and sources.
Published Friday, 10th February 2023