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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Come along, listen, ask, learn
Campus Parking - to be free for three hours
Melksham Free Dining - Fundraiser
Assembly Hall - next six weeks
ClimateFest, Melksham, 9th September 2023
Email Policy and Conditions
Repair the roof? Council Objectives?
Communication Guidelines - Vital we get them right
Why has the fix price gone up so much?
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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.

Autumn - Trains and Assembly Hall programs

Yesterday, I manned a booth at Melksham's Food and River Festival (there again today) - main intent to reach the public with information about the autumn program at the Assembly Hall (including next weekend's ClimateFest) and train times for the Autumn. Modern methods let us typeset leaflets in our own home and have them delivered within a few days - is doing so any use, or should we be simply talking to people and telling them to use their app, or should we simply be telling people about these things though social media?

It is .. fascinating to talk with Joe Public and see how (s)he reacts to the booth and the information we are providing. On rail

* Lots of people still want printed timetables. A number say "I use an app" or "I look online". And a number say "I don't use trains" in a dismissive way making it clear that they would never consider doing so. But many, many people take the timetables.

* There is - almost - a joy at having a simple line-of-route table; we have taken a management decision in a trifold leaflet to stick to just the Swindon to Westbury line. Questions are raised from time to time about other destinations (Bristol, Oxford, Weymouth, Cheltenham, London) but there was no way they could all have been covered an it would have diluted the readability of the leaflet.

* The "all day, every day" message - including evening trains - is a good one and well received. Concerns expressed are reliability (strikes especially causing concern) and ticket price - in some cases perceived, and in other cases actual. Getting the right ticket is also a concern; at Melksham we don't have station staff nor was there anyone who established themselves as an informed travel help point at the cafe or other local business there. Some people don't know where the station is, whether they can park there, and thinks it's way out of town.

* Leafletting has always been a wasteful process, but I came away with the feeling that a proportion of what we were distributing will be kept, attached with a magnet to the fridge, put in the pocket. Statements of intent, some of which will be carried out, to that effect.

* "Cold Calling" equivalents - walking up to those passing by and offering them leaflets - was very effective. With train timetables and Assembly Hall programs we very much had a positive re-direction of many people onto our agenda, with then carrying on better informed than they were as they walked along between stalls and funfair. I was joined by good friend Mike on the booth - who did a fantastic job; he has previous exhibition booth experience in a more commercial environment and was very much surprised at the positive reactions we were getting once we declared what we were promoting. We very much have the local groundswell o support.

* At the Assembly Hall, indications are that the autumn program is going to see big audiences, with certain tribute bands and comedians generating early excitement. There's a repeated desire to see more comedians - our offering is thin as we (as councillors) declared our senior Assembly Hall manager redundant and created a gap in specialist experience in our team, without any immediate plugging of that gap or plans to do so.

* The cancellation (midweek) of the Town Council stand at the Food and River Festival, at which the Assembly Hall program was to be distributed, gave me the opportunity to co-ordinate rail, ClimateFest and Assembly Hall volunteer interests into a new single stall, and I am delighted as to how well it worked. More notice would have been nice as it would have allowed for a much wider volunteer availability to help - most busy people ere already committed. A big "thank you" to the festival organisers in finding a pitch for the Town Council when they reversed their decision at the end of the week and said they wanted to come along after all.

Internal discussions about the various cancellations by The Council his week by all means - but I am gobsmacked that it got to the stage of pulling out of events and (in one case) rebooking.

In hindsight, my first choice would have been NOT to cancel the quiz night and attendance at the festival. For the Town Council to have asked for help which would have been willingly given.

My second choice - once being relinquished - would have been to let the community take over. For the quiz night, I asked about us re-instating later on the day it was cancelled, but didn't hear back in reply to my email; I suspect the staff were off duty. For the festival, I heard via my wife from the festival organisers who were co-ordinating another booth, and managed to help the organisers fill the gap usefully.

As volunteers, our booth's working well - writing mid-event. In a way we ended up with third choice - I would rather the Town Council, once decision made, had NOT reversed its position, leaned on the organisers to create a pitch, and set up a second Assembly Hall stand. They had individual event flyers, and fortunate for them I have a plentiful supply of autumn programs in the van. For them to turn up without even knowing how their key marketing piece was to reach them has left me appreciating, once again, the enormity of our decision to dispense with the Assembly Hall Manager tasks.

Putting this into context - Town Council presence and events are not my decision. I'm just one of 15 part time volunteer councillors and we employ a professional team to deliver. So where we are this weekend is not my choice, nor should it be. Personally, I would prefer the staff member on the Town Council booth to beputting his trust in volunteers, and his time into getting the Assembly Hall roof fixed. A manager should step in where necessary as is being done this weekend, but that shouldn't in my view have been necessary.

Published Sunday, 3rd September 2023

Come along, listen, ask, learn

ClimateFest in Melksham, 9th September 2023

Please come along - from 13:00. Entrance free. Talks from 13:15, "Any Questions" from 14:30 and personal audits from 15:45.

For the first ClimateFest, we (the Environment and Climate Working Group of Melksham Town Council) discussed inviting Extinction Rebellion to speak. A considerable discussion, but we decided against. We also decided we should plan to invite them this year, in 2023, and we have confirmed our decision. We will hear about clean electricity, building materials, electric buses and other transport, heat pumps, our own local audits and the world picture with Extinction Rebellion.

Why XR this year but not last?

Because grass roots movements move on. They start as protest and gain visibility and move on to partnership. It's the way that the Suffragettes brought votes for women, and in a small way it's the way we moved from protest to partnership locally in getting a useable train service back.

I won't add a "spoiler" to tell you what they will be saying - I'll just invite you to come along. Doors open 13:00, Friday 9th September, 2023, Melksham Assembly Hall.

Published Saturday, 2nd September 2023

Campus Parking - to be free for three hours

Wiltshire Council on Friday proposed to switch car parking at Melksham Campus from the current scheme to a maximum of 3 hours at no charge. Currently they have the orders to let them charge but they do not do so.

The consultation may be found on the Wiltshire Council website ((here))

Early days - I have only just spotted this (surprised that Town Councillors hadn't heard) - so I am just working out what it means. For nipping into the shops, the library, the pool, the Town Hall, the gym it will work. Think it works for bowling and tennis too, and for Church. For people working in town or the campus iteslf it's a bit of an issue. For cricket, events at the Assembly Hall and long council meetings it might be borderline of a bit short.

Published Sunday, 27th August 2023

Melksham Free Dining - Fundraiser


Charity FundRaiser last night in the Melksham Assembly Hall for Melksham Free Dining, organised and hosted by Michelle Donelan MP. I understand that over £4000 was raised for the charity, founded by Louisa Lewis, postCovid, and providing a real weekly lifeline for many lonely people - literally changing their lives. Behind every successful woman is a team, offering assistance and support. And our thanks to both teams who were there supporting last night; lots of names, some o which will be familiar to readers - far to many to name, and many of them helping so quietly I don't have a note of their names. I will mention just the principle's lieutenants - Tom Turner and Deedee MacLeod.

Very much a community event. A huge "Thank You" also to the members of Melksham Free Dining who come along to the event every week and took the courageous step of entertaining us on stage. A huge "Thank You" to all the businesses who donated items to be auctioned - some of considerable face value - and raffle prizes. A huge "Thank you" to everyone who came along, bid and won in the auction or who dipped into their pockets to buy raffles or "heads and tails" game spots. A huge "Thank you" to the Assembly Hall team running the hall and bar before, during and after the main event, and to the suppliers of our Fish and Chips from Union street, the delivery team who brought it up to us, and to the folks who had so long in the kitchen (at home) baking cakes.

Good to see everyone having an enjoyable evening, in addition to the raising funds objective. The real work by Deedee, Louisa and team carries on, week in, week out and what a life-improving that work is for so many as it expands from one to multiple days per week. The biggest "Thank You" is to them.

Published Saturday, 26th August 2023

Assembly Hall - next six weeks

What's happening for the public ...
31st August - Assembly Hall Quiz Night, 18:30 for 19:30
1st September - Shania Twain, 18:30 for 19:30
2nd September - Food and River Festival in the park
3rd September - Food and River Festival in the park
4th September - Melksham Movies, 14:00
9th September - ClimateFest, 13:00
14th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
15th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
16th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 14:30
16th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
18th September - Melksham Movies, 14:00
21st September - Melksham Historical Association, 19:30
22nd September - New Jersey Boys, 18:30 for 19:30
23rd September - The Mee Kats Rock and Road Band
28th September - The Unravelling Wilburys, 18:30 for 19:30
29th September - Assembly Hall Quiz Night, 18:30 for 19:30
30th September - Seriously Collins, 18:30 for 19:30
2nd October - Melksham Movies, 14:00
4th October - The Scoliotic Knight: Reconstructing the real Richard III, 11:00
7th October - Classic Rock Revival, 18:30 for 19:30
8th October - Roller Disco, 14:00
8th October - Roller Disco, 16:00

What's happening with urgent temporary roof repairs
Awaiting hear back ... after 17th August meeting

What's happening on longer term planning
Structural Engineer to look at Blue Pool and Assembly Hall for 25th September

Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall produced documents
July 2023 to September program - (here)
October to December program - (here)
Business Case - Blue Pool option - (here)
Complete library - (here)

Published Friday, 25th August 2023

ClimateFest, Melksham, 9th September 2023

Our climate is getting more extreme and as a race we're abusing and damaging our environment beyond what it can recover from. We used to say "in the long term" but the long term is with us NOW.

• What can we do about this locally here in Melksham and the rest of Wiltshire?
• What can YOU do about this as an individual?
• How much are YOU using resources beyond what is naturally regenerated?
• What changes could you make to come within 'limits'...
• and how can you do so in a cost effective (perhaps money saving) way, and with positive (or at least neutral) changes to your lifestyle?

Come along to Melksham Assembly Hall on Saturday 9th September 2023 from 13:00 for our ClimateFest where we will help you think about the issues and become more environmentally aware - it's a hugely complex topic and we are all learning.

Our program for the afternoon:
13:00 - Arrival
13:15 - Speakers
14:30 - "Any Questions" panel
15:45 - Personal Audit - 52 things to think about
17:00 - Close

Should you have an environmental message you would like to get out, please contact the organiser by the end of August and we can arrange for your group to have a table - arrival between 12:00 and 12:30 please but must be pre-booked. Spaces available as I write, but limited.

It will be a busy afternoon - between and during each of the hour-long sessions you will be able to visit a handful of stalls / displays looking at topics such as building insulation, reducing food waste, cleaner transportation, local entertainment and the effect of climate change on your wellbeing. The Assembly Hall bar will be open, serving primarily non-alcoholic drinks (but full range available) and there will be plenty of seating to sit and chat, and encouragement to meet new people and talk.

ClimateFest is brought to you by the Environment and Climate Working Group (ECWG) of Melksham Town Council. All are welcome and it's free entry. ECWG comprises councillors and others who all give their time free as volunteers to help inform and to keep an eye on the environmental effects and influences of the activities of the Town Council. Project Manager for ClimateFest is myself (Graham Ellis) reachable via or on 07974 925 928. My thanks to Shirley, Mike, Pat and Sue who make up the rest of the core team, and to speakers and panel who will be announced in the lead up to the event.

This event is designed to attract you to come along, to think, to learn. It is not designed to entertain. None of our organising team is in the first flush of youth - but this is all about our environment for the future and we encourage younger generations to join us. For those who do not yet run a household, our audit will let you take a look at what's happening in your home and help inform you to suggest change, and indeed to update your own activities to take better care of the environment for your future.

Published Wednesday, 23rd August 2023

Email Policy and Conditions

This would be a long footnote on my emails, so here it is if you want to read it!

My email policy and conditions

Please feel free to make appropriate use of the contents of this email. If I have said it's confidential or internal or not to be shared, or attachments are copyrighted, please respect that but mostly I'm all about making information available in public. If you are quoting or copying me, please credit me as your source; as a Town Councillor, my name and contact details are in the public domain and so may be shared.

I do my best to ensure that me emails are correct and complete, and free from malware, including selection of formats for attachments that are reputed to be robust - but it's up to you to check if you have concerns, especially on things I forward in good faith.

There is a big difference between an email from a Town Councillor and one from the Town Council or its staff. This one is from me as a Town Councillor and expresses my view and not necessarily the view of the council, though I will usually support the overall view.

If you receive this email and it's not for you, please let me know and please delete it without copying it onward or storing it.

Please consider the environment before printing this email. Every unprinted email helps the environment.

Further background to my emailing

Emails from me will sometimes reach you at odd hours. Don't feel you need to respond straight away, especially outside the "working day". But is would be appreciated - especially if I have take time and trouble to write a personal note, to at least acknowledge receipt.

If you are emailing me via is it helpful for you to include your name and contact details so that I can get back to you. Please let me know your postcode too as that lets me confirm which parish and ward you'r in. I do work with other councillors, so don't be put off from asking somethings if you're not in South Ward, but I do need to work with colleagues where appropriate.

The more councillors you include in your email, the less likely I am to respond. We are all volunteers, and want to make effective use of our time rather than all answering the same question.

I very rarely do an "out of office" message because I don't have an office to be out of. In any case I'm an enthusiast for my voluntary councillor role who checks in even if away on holiday and you'll hear back - possibly just an acknowledgement - within a couple of days. That is my personal choice; you should not expect it of other councillors, and if something is official and urgent you should get in touch with or copy the Town Council via

I am not just a Town Councillor - I have a personal life and other interests too and much of that involves public campaigning. My other email address is and much bus, train, environment, and other activity is from there.

My Town Councillor Signature - as just updated

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

Town Council staff email conditions

Here is what (I understand) to be the Standard Town Council staff member disclaimer, provided for completeness and comparison as at August 2023:

Disclaimer and Confidentiality Notice
This email and any attachment are confidential to the intended recipients and access to this email by anyone else is unauthorised. If you should not have received this email, please notify us immediately by reply email and then destroy any copies and delete this message from your system. Unless authorised by Melksham Town Council, copying, forwarding, disclosing or using this email or its contents is prohibited. Melksham Town Council is not responsible for controlling transmissions over the internet and makes no representation or warranty as to the absence of viruses in this email or any attachment. No contract is intended by this email, and any personal opinions expressed in this message are those of the sender and should not be taken as representing views of Melksham Town Council. Receipt of this e-mail does not imply consent to use or provide this e-mail address to any third party for any purpose. Melksham Town Council will not request the disclosure of personal financial information by means of e-mail any such request should be confirmed in writing by contacting Melksham Town Council.

Published Tuesday, 22nd August 2023

Repair the roof? Council Objectives?

Update - 18th August 2023. The Councillors decided to go back to the company that quoted for roof fixes and ask them to look at vital fixes while we work out what's happening to the hall and Blue Pool in coming years. There is an urgency to some fixing but at the same time absurd to spend £90,000 if we're looking at a shutdown to move something new. We have also instructed our clerk to proceed with a structural engineer survey of both the Blue Pool and Assembly Hall to understand the options we have - I rather thought we had agreed this already, but tat seems to have got lost in the minutes and messages being passed round - lesson to read back minutes very carefully. Statement made that WC haven't actualy said we are their preferred new owner for the Blue Pool and there's an element of risk that we may find that they find a different new owner. Headline - the Assembly Hall remains marketed and looked after to the extent it has been, though we remain limited in staff, management and maintenance resources.

I thank fellow councillors Price, Goodhind, Aves, Rabey and Westbrook for supporting these votes, and councillor Hubbard for his words of support via Zoom (you have to be in the room to vote). Sad that yet again we have to put off a decision an a repair, but we need to know what we are doing and it should be done in a few weeks, with the proper data available to us. There were no votes against, though one councillor abstained. A thanks also to the officers supporting the meeting; they know I was disappointed that some data only reached me a few hours before the meeting and it was impractical to give it full consideration, but I do appreciate they have a great deal on their plates and cannot prioritise everything.

The elephant - big decision made the bigger as the consequence of our previous actions or lack of them - remain. To some extent we have kicked it down the road again which is very regrettable. The committment to the ongoing venue, though, is to be celebated as are activity changes to help move that forward.

Written and posted prior to the meeting as prepared 17th August:

Ladies and Gentlemen - fellow town councillors and residents of greater Melksham,

We have before us a single quotation for around £90,000 + VAT for what are described as temporary and urgent fixes to the leaking Assemble Hall roof, where the leaks were the butt of comedian Rich Hall's jokes when he did a show here on 8th March 2019. He is back on 2nd November - "Making his long-awaited return to Melksham" says the advertising for 2nd November 2023. I wonder if he'll make comment on the long waited "urgent" repairs to the full house of around 400 he's expected to draw.

Three questions:
1. How did we get here?
2. What are our long term goals?
3. So what we going to do?

There is much of importance to consider, and so as well as speaking to councillors tonight I have posted an extended version of this text online and have emailed a link to all councillors.

How did we get here

The longer term

The Assembly Hall is a mature building like others owned by the Town Council and requires upkeep to maintain its fabric. Failure to do so can result in spiralling costs until minor repairs become major, or indeed impractical.

Under the previous council, a significant annual sum of around £100,000 was put aside for the maintenance of the Assembly Hall and other buildings, but that money was re-allocated to projects in KGV park. So no major budget for keeping buildings in order.

In 2020, we were dealing with Covid and that rightly was extraordinarily all encompassing.

In 2021, you the electorate voted in 13 new councillors with just 2 continuing, and within the first few months 12 out of 15 councillors had voted to declare the Assembly Hall Manager redundant. A major decision with papers issued in secrecy a few minutes before we voted, though it's my understanding this had been agreed ahead of time by the "Together for Melksham" and Conservative teams. We (but not I) divested ourselves of our expert in managing and booking the hall, and looking after the building. I questioned the future prior to the vote, and was re-assured that our Head of Operations would step in with remaining work.

We also had a visioning day - in the hall - in the summer of 2021. A good look forward to our plans for the next four years. I've (frankly) forgotten much of that - the strategy document that was to follow written up by officers has yet to be delivered and we are working and doing budget planning ruddeless

Assembly Hall hire charges had been unchanged for a number of years, and rightfully a review was undertake in 2022. Proposals were made by the Head of Operations to the council as an agenda item, but the report was left out of the agenda pack to be replaced by a worked spreadsheet which it transpired had been put together by Councillor Hubbard and we all sat around playing about with figures. What we came up with was remarkably good in the circumstances, but never the less with the changed structure as well as prices resulted in a significant issue with some bookings. However, you can't keep a good hall down

The Assembly Hall Working Group was set up, but every time it came to full council to ratify its terms, it was bounced back. It's main purpose was to review hire rates ahead, but in practise officers and a couple of members interpreted the rules to regain things like the Roller Disco events and the popular summer and Christmas shows. In Spring 2023, we voted to keep prices unchanged - "The prices were reviewed for the last financial year and anecdotally have been well received ..." - good, but a business with a six figure turnover should work with more data than anecdotal - it's a ship sailing rudderless!

Also from those reports - "VAT has not been treated consistently in the past and now this has been identified, we’ll need to make some changes to the way we invoice hirers and event bookings". Yes, but we haven't properly done so yet. A meeting in May confirmed that VAT has been charged twice so that of £24 ticket price, only £16.66 reaches the act rather than £20, but I'm still waiting to see the instructions we worked on with the accountant to fix that.

So, come this spring to have a hall that's been staggering on, vital works undone, excellent deputy managers and team and friends but very limited management from a very busy Head of Operations. But with so much community support that it's been able to carry on - booked every Saturday in September and we've been squashing the newsletter to include all the other things going on.

The Shorter term

In May and June, it became was confirmed that the future of the Blue Pool which adjoins and shares a wall with the Assembly Hall didn't have to be with Wiltshire Council and that there is potential for it to be considered as part of the future by Melksham Town Council.

With illustrative work of the sort of thing that could be done to help meet the need assessment survey of late 2022 and the Neighbourhood / Town Centre Master Plan consultation of February and March 2023, the Town Council voted on 26th June to ask for an appropriate expert to take a look at the existing building and advise us on their condition and advise us on future use with 3 options of purchase the Blue Pool and merge the buildings to meet extended needs, purchase the Blue Pool with a view to demolishing and rebuilding *something" on site to meet needs, and say "no thank you" to Wiltshire Council who are offering the Blue Pool for sale as surplus to their requirements for a token payment.

A timescale of 3 months and a budget of £10,000 was put on this work - to come back to full council, then, on 25th September with AHWG and FoMAH progressing it. Councillors and Friends toured, measured, inspected the Blue Pool in early July with our (FoMAH) expert volunteers and we worked with other groups to consider the public needs assessment and other internal needs such as that of the amenities team.

FoMAH brought to council on 17th July an early business plan, looking at all three options mandated, with an example of how some of the elements could fit in a joined building which is the best defined option at this point. The locum clerk reported that the town clerk was waiting to hear back from a quantity surveyor; she was unable to tell me whether this was prior to engagement, interim, or final work. Instead of being thanked and questioned by fellow councillors for the early work, I felt that FoMAH were criticize for going ahead with the very work we said we would do, and I took this as an example of "the best form of defence is attack". It looks like the were either embarrassed because nothing substantive had been done, or that they are motivated to look for a solution other than what is best for the town.

The locum promised to check with the Town Clerk on her return a few days after - on her return - and let me know more about the survey engaged and its timescale. I still await to hear.

I have asked about the next date for the Assembly Hall Working Group to meet. On 1st August the Committee Clerk wrote "Heather has asked me to set a meeting date for AHWG. The first suitable date she has is 2nd October 2023.". I am puzzled as to why a full council meeting can be called on 11th August to be held on 17th August, but the working group must be held off for 2 months.

What are our long term goals?

I can declare mine - to do the best for the people of the Melksham Area and what they want, as defined in consultations above and enhanced by other view too. References are made by fellow councillors to the silent majority. Other who do not use the Assembly Hall and Blue Pool are massively being encourages to join in and we can and should meet their needs too - provided that they will actually use the facilities provided and will be there to support it along the way. Both existing and future user bases are important - the existing base has shown its loyalty over many years. Future users need to get sufficiently involved now to show that they, too, will be there.

Other need to speak for themselves. Moving repair budgets away from the Assembly Hall, making the manager who runs the hall business redundant, then calling (recent MIN) for it to be knocked down and replaced by something suitable for more comedy acts (when the hall is suitable for them anyway) looks like a pattern that could almost be designed to close the hall. So does bringing this motion to an extra council meeting at short notice in the middle of the holiday season. From my councillor feed today - "Hi everyone, just a reminder about the meeting tomorrow. I know we have a lot of members on holiday at the moment and want to ensure we are going to be quorate for tomorrows meeting. 2 really important items." so there's an admission that a big decision may be being taken with a minimum of councillors.

Sadly, in my view there is so much evidence that others do not share my view and are working with the objective of closing down the Assembly Hall as we know it. There is much more than I have written here. Whether that's to knock down the buildings on the site and build something new (which perhaps could have a ceebrarort new name) on it. Or to sell of the whole building and site to some sort of development (be it commercial, housing or something else). In both those cases, it would take years for anything to happen if at all, and the loyal customer base that will be using the hall day after day would be lost.

So what we going to do?

I hate to say it after all the delays and with the hall being allowed to rot through water damage, but in my view we should wait a further six weeks until we know what we are going to do.

I am minded that we are looking to cut a spend of £68000 on lighting in the park to a quarter of that, based on what we really need and want. We have a single quote before us which contravenes our standing orders and we could and should investigate that same avenue on the Assembly Hall roof, with experts in our community.

Let's have a full, complete report in the agenda pack when first published. for the next full council meeting on 25th September, which is the end of the three month period set in his proposal by councillor Alford and accepted without demur by the Town Clerk.

We run the risk of making a decision tonight that could set our course for the long future, while a report that we have commissioned is being worked on. Tonight is an opportunity being taken by those who don't use the Assembly Hall to try and put a nail in its coffin.

We should invite all councillors along to see the hall in action. Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I invite you to pass a motion that each councillor be funded from our training budget to attend an event of their choice in September (there are four) so that we can all be better informed having seen the hall and met the customers first hand when we soon make a major decision.

This article was written in haste as some papers were only supplied in the afternoon of the meeting - I may come back to correct typos and clarify things. Major changes I will declare an highlight if there are any.

Published Thursday, 17th August 2023

Communication Guidelines - Vital we get them right

I feel that having a good set of communications guidelines in place right across Council activities would make sense. But having a set of poorly written, incomplete and woolly ones would do more harm than good. We don't really have any at present.

In amongst all the busyness at the moment our clerk and her team have found time to take an example set from elsewhere and amend them into a set which they put to full council for review and adoption last month. It was such a full meeting that the agenda item got lost - for which relief much thanks, as I had only seen them with the agenda pack a few days previous, and hadn't had an opportunity to clarify certain things, nor to use my experience to suggest improvements.

I have now had an opportunity to go through the proposal and "red line" the elements I query. I have also added a section on things that could be usefully added - covering (for example) all communications and not just electronic ones. You'll find the proposal at and I would welcome thoughts / comments / inputs.

This may all look a bit theoretic, but it's actually a foundation that underly the fabric of our work. Even since the proposals of last month, what can and canot be communicated has been brought into question. In a separate incident, a comment of mine on a Town Council Facebook post was deleted by an officer; I felt I was being positive, but "comments on Facebook should really be for the public and any posts should be made by officers". I was a bit surprised so, yes, I'm in agreement with our officers that a good communications policy is overdue.

Published Wednesday, 16th August 2023

Why has the fix price gone up so much?

The figure for fixing the Assembly Hall roof is shocking - why has it risen so much? Reg gives us a clue in his report; associated information and reports (here).

* From New Civil Engineer, 7 JUL, 2022 BY TIM CLARK: "The cost of construction materials rose by almost a third in May compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy". Over 3 years from the 2020 report to the work being done with building inflation at 27% puts the cost up by to 2 times what it was.
* Significant continued damage over the three years adds perhaps a further 50%
* Lack of allowance for scaffolding - another 40%
* And as the original was not tested by getting quotes but an optimistic estimate, a further 40%

Multiply those factors together and the price has gone up 6-fold ... £15,000 becomes £90,000

Perhaps not such a shock. The council planned to build a new maintenance shed in KGV Park, but with the price rising steeply has decided it should not do so after all. So there is a precedent. We seem to be good at sitting on our hands while prices go up out of our budget.

* We could ask "how did we get into this mess" but that won't solve the issue.
Admitting it is a scandalous failure of some sort won't solve anything

* We could question the brief that the report answers.
It's always good to know what the question was as you read an answer.

* We could ask for an intermediate update from the structural engineer we asked to be instructed in June for a report back in 3 months.
At the very least, we could usefully be copied on the brief (s)he has been given.

There is a huge difference between spending £15k and £90k. Hindsight and saying "we should have done this as soon as we were elected" is not an option. Inputs welcome

Published Tuesday, 15th August 2023

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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