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What a sneaky tax increase

I HAVE just received my council tax bill for the new financial year and to say that I am horrified at the increase would be something of an understatement. The council has tried to justify an increase of 7.3 per cent! But it just isn’t the size of the increase that angers me, it is the way that it has been calculated, or manipulated.

Due to the transfer of so-called ‘devolved duties’, (as reported in the Gazette & Herald, December 20, 2018), Chippenham Town Council has had to increase its precept by 37.5 per cent, presumably in order to pay the additional costs of highway cleaning, etc.

You would expect, therefore, that the county would make a corresponding reduction in the county tax? Not a chance!

As well as increasing the tax by three per cent there are also increases in cost of running the police and fire services amounting to more than 16 per cent.

Am I missing something here? If the county is now not responsible for certain tasks, surely these funds should be transferred to the town council?

Doing a bit of research I found that if council tax is increased by six per cent or more, then a referendum must be held.

Unfortunately that does not apply to town councils, so the cynic in me has concluded that Wiltshire Council has managed to increase my council tax by deliberately transferring some of its costs to Chippenham Town Council, resulting in an increase in its precept of 37.5 per cent, and thus avoiding a referendum. Talk about being sneaky!

To put the rise in context, I recently received notification from Department for Work and Pension of an increase in my state pension for the next financial year.

When the council tax increase is taken into account, I will be £1.76 a month better off! Perhaps it would be good idea if the DWP sent all future state pension increases direct to the council, rather than to our bank accounts?

JOHN BERRY, Fallow Field Close, Chippenham

Cost of emergency?

I HOPE you will allow me to comment in your pages on the recent decision of Wiltshire Council to declare a so-called ‘climate emergency’ in our county.

I note that the UK Climate Change act, already in force, requires the UK as a whole to cut emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) by 80 per cent of the 1990 total by 2050.

The latest statistics on UK GHG emissions from the UK.GOV website show that in 2017 UK GHG gas emissions were already 42 per cent lower than 1990 levels. 2017 UK total GHG emissions were 460 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. This may seem a lot but is in fact less than one per cent of the total global GHG emissions of 37.1 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent a year.

To put the UK contribution to climate change in perspective, the biggest global man-made source of GHG is China. In 2017 Chinese GHG emissions were 13 billion tones CO2 equivalent.

Under the Paris climate change accord, China has committed only to limit its rate of increase in growth of GHG emissions, and Chinese GHG emissions are still forecast to rise by a further 1.5–2. 5 billion tonnes by 2030. In simple terms, Chinese growth in GHG is the equivalent to adding another five times the current UK contribution over the next ten years.

Even compared with the EU as a whole, the UK has currently set in law the most ambitious target for GHG reductions of any industrial nation that I know of, and I am not sure that your readers appreciate what changes to their lifestyle and prosperity will result from these changes.

Unfortunately it is difficult to see how our efforts will make any significant difference to the progress of man-made climate change on a global basis. Therefore I must ask what exactly Wiltshire Council supposes its action of declaring a ‘climate emergency’ will achieve and at what cost to the local taxpayers?

GRAHAM CARROLL, Maple Close, Calne

Town is not dying

THE retailers of Devizes formally request that Devizes Town Council and the town clerk stop making public statements that retail in Devizes is dying. This is damaging and incorrect.

Retail is certainly tough and it is changing and many local retailers are implementing important and expensive changes to their business so that they can evolve and move with the times.

I for one am the third owner of a community-minded business that has been in town for 35 years. We have recently built an online store with more than 13,000 products that are available to our community, encouraging our community to be informed about health.

We have also implemented a process of eliminating single-use plastic from our store, which helps our community create less waste with our zero waste refill system.

We are focusing on moving our business so that it can cope with future change. Would the town council start showing more respect and more support for their local business community?

JUSTINA PETTIFER, The Healthy Life Co Ltd, Devizes

Thanks for support

I WOULD like to thank everyone who has contacted us to pledge their support for the New Road Day Centre. The response has been overwhelming. The news of the termination of our grant from Wiltshire Council naturally caused a great deal of anxiety for our vulnerable clients who attend the centre.

The news that Wiltshire Council has suspended the budget termination for this year is a huge relief. It will give us chance to have a consultative process with the council and hopefully, come up with a viable way forward to secure this valuable care provision in Marlborough.

DEBBIE BOND, Chairman New Road Day Centre, Marlborough

No grace period

APCOA, which runs the car park to the north of Chippenham station, at the junction of Old Road and Union Road, allows users a grace period for the purpose of picking up and dropping off. This is expected considering the car park traverses the entrance to the north and users naturally expect to be able to be picked up and dropped off here.

However, the grace period is not detailed on the car park signs because there is no requirement for it to be. Therefore users have no way of knowing when they are in breach of the terms and conditions of parking, meaning that a parking fine may be issued to them.

This is particularly the case if a train is late or delayed and you risk waiting for it without leaving the car park and returning later. However, as in my case, leaving and returning provides no assurance that you will not receive a parking fine. Even through appeal, they are still able to ignore this activity – as I found out!

TIM ROMBACH, Via email

We are all losers

THE writer of the ‘I will pass the baton’ letter in the Gazette dated March 14 saw the EU referendum as a way to “hold those responsible for the goods and ills of society” to account, regardless of whether the grievances could justly be laid at the door of the EU.

The writer also feels prepared to suffer whatever detrimental consequences may result from that decision. Not everyone is in the happy position to do likewise.

The debate descended into a ‘winners and losers’ mindset long ago.

We have already spent a vast amount of time, money and effort on this process.

With livelihoods already lost, relationships damaged and a deeply divided country, we are all losers, no matter what the final outcome is.

Unless, of course, if you are a Brexit Millionaire.

MRS STELLA GENEVER, Via email

Dismay at abstention

I AND I am sure many members of Clare Perry’s constituency were dismayed to see that she abstained from the vote in the House of Commons on March 13 on whether the UK should leave the EU under a no deal scenario.

By abstaining with a number of her colleagues this country has no leverage with the EU in attempting to negotiate a better deal. The UK is now faced with being shackled to the EU with no say in any legislation, no representatives at Brussels, and still paying £39 billion.

Firstly Ms Perry supported the Prime Minister on her bad deal, after the PM had stated no deal was better than a bad deal, and to compound this decision she has abstained from the crucial vote to allow the country to leave without a deal if the EU failed to come to the negotiating table.

May I suggest that the 53 per cent of her constituency who voted to leave the EU abstain from voting for Miss Perry at the next General Election, as she has failed to deliver on the democratic vote of her constituents.

IAN JAMES, Woodborough

Keep cyclepath open

The future of the cycle path between Calne and Chippenham is in jeopardy because Wiltshire Council is considering closing it to cut costs.

There is a rapidly growing community petition calling for the cycle path to be kept open. Of course it is not just cyclists who use the path: even more people enjoy walking or running stretches of it.

It is popular with dog walkers and also parents with children, sometimes in pushchairs or on bikes and scooters. It is off-road and therefore safe, and runs through some lovely countryside.

Wiltshire Council has now said it will consult the public over the next year. The community petition in support of keeping the cycle track open got more than 4,000 signatures in its first week. That should tell Wiltshire Council all they need to know – and they can save themselves (ie us the council tax payers) the cost of public consultation.

People locally obviously want the track kept open.

Wiltshire Council’s first responsibility is to secure new leases, and ideally much longer leases, from the land owners whose property sections of this track run through. And then to work with both Calne and Chippenham Town Councils and the two parish councils through whose areas the track goes, to agree the future funding of these rents.

This might stay with Wiltshire Council itself; or be met through a sharing of costs (possibly helped by some grants); or be taken on wholly by the town and parish councils.

Whatever funding solution is arrived at, what matters most is that this track, the North Wiltshire Rivers Route, part of National Cycle Network 403, stays open and the threats to it are withdrawn.

JOHN BOALER, Chairman Calne Branch Labour Party

Nobody matters

HOW disappointing to read of Wiltshire Council’s intended closure of the Chippenham to Calne cycleway.

Whilst the rest of the country appears to be looking at opening new cycle paths Wiltshire appears to be doing the opposite.

Chippenham has already lost the cycleway to Lacock, now its last remaining safe cycle route is heading the same way. Perhaps the council needs to alter its logo to reflect this: Wiltshire Council: where NOBODY matters.

WIL HULBERT, Dallas Road, Chippenham

Short-sighted cuts

IN a time of rapidly expanding waistlines and with our eyes glued to our phones and tablets, we are encouraged to get off our chairs, leave our homes and enjoy the great outdoors.

With this in mind, the council is now considering cutbacks which could spell the end of the cycle/walking/running route between Calne and Chippenham. How short sighted can the council be?

This route is used and enjoyed by hundreds, probably thousands of people every year and is an escape for many from the urban sprawl.

Instead of cutbacks, why doesn’t the council think about the long-term benefits of this route and invest in the future so that generations to come can enjoy it?

KEITH LARKWORTHY, Via email

Help on surnames

I WOULD again like to thank those readers who replied to my earlier letters on surnames and their origins.

It is the rare and unsual ones which have always interested me. For example, Kellogg means ‘kill hog’ for a slaughterman and Holiday for someone born on a holy day.

Spiller means Jeller or Jester. But what about Whitefoot as virtually everyone in England had white feet when surnames began shortly after the Norman Conquest? One suggestion is that it means ‘fair foot’ but I am not so sure.

Readers wishing to know more about the origins of their surnames can write to me at 96, Genoa Court, Andover, SP10 5JD and I will do my best to assist them.

RICHARD J KIDD, Genoa Court, Andover

Support a new vote

CLAIRE Perry’s statement on why she abstained from voting with the government, against an amended motion to rule out any prospect of a no deal Brexit, is at best convoluted and further confuses the issue at a time when some clarity is needed.

She claims to be an ardent supporter of Theresa May whilst at the same time defying the Conservative whip and gives no plausible explanation for doing so.

I am surprised she has not been sacked as a Government Minister as this is (or used to be) the fate of Ministers who refused to support their Government.

I am, however, hopeful that, having defied her government once, she may now be persuaded to support what many of her constituents want, a people’s vote to decide the final outcome of Brexit.

SYLVIA CARD, Chairman Devizes Constituency Labour Party

Young were heard

LAST Friday, millions of young people around the world skipped school to demand action on climate change.

Good Energy is supporting local students who believe that the climate crisis means their future is uncertain and want Government to take action.

We were founded with the purpose of empowering people to fight climate change by choosing clean energy. That’s why we handed over our Twitter account to Bath students for the day, providing them with a platform to reach a wider audience with their vital message. And it wasn’t just a one-off. We will continue to ensure young people’s voices are heard and encourage more schools to participate in forthcoming strikes. After all, why study for a future which may not exist?

JULIET DAVENPORT OBE, CEO and Founder Good Energy

Hearts are torn out

OUR country has suffered an awful lot over the last few years. Our values, sense of humour and deep sense of family, humanity and decency have made us as a people stand proud in the face of adversity, but this atrocity has rocked Kiwis everywhere to our core.

This mongrel has targeted our country because of all the good things we represent, he seeks to divide us. I would like to inform him he has failed. It’s pulled us closer.

We circle and embrace physically, emotionally and spiritually our Muslim friends and all those who would be singled out for whatever reason. We are an inclusive, multicultural society striving for equality and harmony.

We stand before you, the rest of the world, a friendly little nation with huge ideals, with our hearts torn out and our souls laid bare. See us. Feel the pain we feel as some members of our family have been murdered by forces outside of our borders.

We are united in our grief.

We must, all of us worldwide, learn lessons from these horrific events.

Join with us, we are the world, we are one.

A CHRISTCHURCH GIRL

Keep St Nicholas

ALL the team here at The Chippenham Pit Stop are keeping their fingers tightly crossed that controversial plans to close St Nicholas School and replace it with a new super school, miles away, will be ditched.

Around 40 youngsters were our VIP guests at the Pit Stop, just off junction 17 of the M4, for a mega Shrove Tuesday pancake making session.

While our general manager, Neal Walford and his team, set up a production line in our Goods Yard amenity facility, groups of children and older students mixed up the pancakes and later added the toppings and fillings.

But sadly this may be one of the last pancake days we are able to hold if controversial plans go ahead to close St Nicholas and two other schools and open a new complex in Rowde.

We very much enjoy welcoming the students here every year for pancake making and the youngsters have also participated in a range of other events.

Some of the older students have completed work experience in our restaurant and two of our staff even did a parachute jump to raise funds for the school.

These youngsters really should go on being educated in their local communities where people like us know them and can go on offering our support.

DAVID HATHERELL, MD, Chippenham Pit Stop

Surprised by reply

I RECENTLY emailed my MP James Gray to vent my frustration at what was happening in Parliament regarding Brexit, as I suspect many others have.

I explained to him that I had been a lifelong Labour supporter and changed my vote to Conservative after Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

I told him how I felt the British Parliament had become the laughing stock of the world due to the antics of a section of self-serving MPs.

His reply stated: “You obviously have not read my column. I am a stronger Brexiteer than you, so you’d better hop down off your high horse.”

His reply took me back a bit, as I did not expect someone in his position to reply to one of his constituents in this manner. Then, looking at his past record, perhaps I should not have been surprised by the arrogance of his reply.

No wonder Britain is in the current predicament, if this is the calibre of MPs representing us.

KEV SMITH, Church Park, Bradenstoke

Go purple for cause

CAN you imagine what it would be like to stand up in a meeting at work or to be at the supermarket checkout or at the school gates and have a seizure? Or even to live with the anxiety that you might?

March 26 is Purple Day, a special event in the calendar dedicated to raising awareness of epilepsy and helping people to understand the impact the condition can have on a person’s life.

In the UK there are 600,000 people with epilepsy, which means that one in 100 people has the condition. The chances are that you will know someone yourself who lives with the unpredictability of seizures.

This year, at the Epilepsy Society, we are encouraging people to ‘be the conversation starter’ and talk to others about the condition. At the same time we are encouraging people to raise vital funds that will help our scientists to continue with their ground-breaking research to understand the causes of epilepsy and how it might be better treated.

For one in three people with epilepsy, their seizures cannot be controlled with current treatments. This can affect their employment, education, ability to drive and their confidence and enjoyment of the daily pleasure of life. All things that so many of us take for granted.

If you know someone with epilepsy, please show them your support on Purple Day by wearing something purple, starting a conversation or helping us to raise important funds. You can find all the information you need at www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/purpleday

CLARE PELHAM, Chief executive Epilepsy Society

Reunion invitation

WE are planning a reunion of ex-employees of Pye (later Philips) TMC and other Philips groups on the Malmesbury site.

We hope to repeat a very successful gathering we had in 2015.

We will be meeting up at the Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, on the evening of June 8, 2019. A finger buffet is provided and the cost is £20 per head. If you are interested please email: xtmc2019@gmail.com. We need to get your replies by March 29 in order to guarantee the booking.

ROB WILSON, Via email

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