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Thanks for saving village pub

NOT long ago I had a letter published saying that Wadworth seemed to be not supporting and closing down their village pubs outside Devizes. I referred to The New Inn, Coate in particular as an example as the landlord was leaving partly because of lack of support from the brewery.

I received a published response from Mr Bartholomew, their CEO, saying this was not the case and there were no plans to close this pub. He visited the pub to see for himself and, from what I understand, took on board the refurbishment and maintenance issues clearly necessary.

Whilst no work seems to have been done Wadworth found (at the last minute) a fantastic new landlady, Heidi, who has put her own stamp on the pub with great success.

The food she produces is not just good but exceptional despite her being shorthanded and I would recommend anyone to try it. So, credit where it is due Mr Bartholomew and a big thank you from the local community who rely on this pub.

Let’s hope it continues and this valuable community asset gets some well-deserved financial investment from the brewery.

MIKE PLATT, The Merchant House, Etchilhampton

Well done to Gazette

YOUR Leader Column (March 29) was for me and I suspect many others, an excellent example of journalism doing what good journalism should do.

In your biting critique of Wiltshire Councillors over their role in the Larkrise, St Nicholas’ and Rowdeford Schools outrage, you politely and succinctly spoke truth to power.

The public revulsion to the planned centralisation of Special Needs Schools is of course correct and the campaigners have harnessed the overwhelming opposition to this council’s ill-judged scheme for vulnerable children. From the tears, upset and frustration of the initial decision in November, to effectively winning a court case just days ago, the parents, carers and friends have become a shining example of democracy at work and demonstrated the real impact that honourable, determined and passionate campaigning can have upon our elected leaders.

But as you hinted, despite their success so far, the battle is far from over for these parents who only want what all loving parents want – a fair start for their children. Although Wiltshire Council has avoided a costly defeat in legal and financial terms, the shape of Special Needs education has still to be decided.

It is clear to everyone of a right mind, that schools should be situated in or as near to the county’s major towns as possible, avoiding arduous, possibly dangerous longer journeys. Schools should be close to essential services, well resourced, future-proofed and critically, give opportunity for meaningful inclusion in communities.

Whether councillors are acting in good faith or whether they merely have one eye on local elections in a couple of years will only become evident over time.

Meanwhile, the moral obligation is for those of us who can, to continue to argue for a decent deal for those who can’t speak out. As the public consultation continues, everyone has a further chance to help shape the future for children with additional needs. Our voices are still crucial to this process and perhaps by all of us speaking truth to power we have the chance to make something really worthwhile happen.

JOHN RICKARDS, The Down, Trowbridge

Fight the good fight

I WAS delighted to learn that on March 28 Redrow withdrew their application to divert the footpath running at the back of Upper Churchfields towards the Water Pumping Station.

At the very beginning of this application I objected in the strongest terms to more destruction and decimation of trees and hedges in the construction of 175 houses.

Already a copse nearby has been destroyed, and as a consequence of further cutting down of trees and hedges the wildlife and the flora and fauna have been badly affected and it would have been even worse if the application was approved.

Our garden had been alive with bullfinches, goldfinches, woodpeckers, to name a few, these and the odd deer in the lane have all but disappeared.

The countryside has to be protected and it is a sad time indeed that the Wiltshire Councillors of Marlborough who represent the Eastern District are happy to go along with all the other councillors present for the initial application on the footpath to unanimously approve its diversion.

I was written to and asked by an officer at Wiltshire Council to consider withdrawing my application as the matter was to be referred to the Secretary of State. Of course I refused. I can only hope the other 5 objectors refused too.

Our footpaths need protecting and conglomerate companies that think they can change and move them as they desire must be accountable and stopped.

I do not know why Redrow withdrew their application and it would be small-minded of me to think I played any part in that but it was a good outcome.

It is so easy to feel deflated and that it is a waste of time objecting, but we need to fight at all costs. The planners need to get their act together and get it right at the start when their plans are presented and passed and not change our footpaths because of their inadequacies.

CAROLINE HEATH, Upper Churchfields, Marlborough

Put the people first

I HAVE been on Trowbridge Town Council now for two years and whilst I am confident in the ability of our officers and the policy of our Town Council since I joined, I remain very concerned about our level of debt.

Our debt balance on the Public Works Loan Board is £8,180,710.43 (March 2018), which ranks Trowbridge number 1 for debt out of 1,025 Town/Parish Councils. Furthermore, our total debt is at least 58% more than any other council in England and our neighbouring councils have minimal debt or are completely debt free, like Devizes Town Council.

It is also of concern that the interest rate for a substantive amount of our debt is fixed at 5.3% until the 2060’s, when fixed mortgages are available today at 1.49%. I accept that 5.3% is a long-term rate, but our more recent PWLB long-term borrowing is at only 2.63%. Over the period of these loans we will pay over £8 million in interest alone.

I am often accused in council meetings of not understanding how public finances work and I really don’t, as this level of long-term debt appears financially irresponsible to me. Particularly as these financial obligations impact on the next generation of Trowbridge residents.

I know the commercial environment to an extent and I would suggest that if our Town Council was a business it could technically be classified as trading whilst insolvent, as the value of our assets are less than our liabilities. However, as the loan security is assigned to Trowbridge council tax payers (present & future) this does not apply.

I have taken no interest in the Museum project and the Civic Centre refurbishment decision (which I continue to criticise), was taken over ten years ago. However, I have asked that from now on full details of the loans and not just the annual repayment figures are provided on our council documents.

I would like to ensure that we cannot be accused of looking after the interests of staff and councillors above the needs of the people. A case in point is the £300,000 Park Storage project, which includes a staff toilet (borrowed money again, but not on our loan book yet). The least we can do is ensure that any toilet facilities are available for public use. As councillors we must put the needs of the public first.

EDWARD KIRK, Town & Wiltshire Councillor for Trowbridge Adcroft

Visit Monte Cassino

VETERANS from the Second World War who fought in the Italian campaign are being invited by the travel arm of the Royal British Legion to take part in special 75th anniversary journeys of remembrance.

Veterans who fought in Italy can opt for a tour to either Monte Cassino and Salerno or Monte Cassino and Anzio; a special tour to the National Memorial Arboretum is also on offer for those unable to travel overseas.

The Treasury is enabling these free-of-charge tours, which are funded by LIBOR fines, and will enable a Second World War veteran to return with a family member and carer.

The Italian campaign proved to be a major turning point in the Second World War but was also one of the hardest-fought battles. The Allies came under heavy artillery fire and at times were knee-deep in mud and snow.

Fortunately, in May 1944, the Allies prevailed. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Italian campaign and the Royal British Legion is inviting veterans, who are now in their 90s, back to Italy to honour fallen comrades and, for some, come to terms with wartime memories.

The Italian campaign seems to be less well-known in the nation’s history than other battles such as D-Day, yet it was another pivotal turning point in bringing to an end World War Two.

We have a wonderful opportunity to take back those who fought, for them to pay their respects to fallen comrades, meet fellow veterans and lay old ghosts to rest.

The five-day Italian-based tours will include a service of remembrance at the Cassino War Cemetery plus visits to Anzio War Cemetery, Salerno Commonwealth War Cemetery and the Beach Head War Cemetery.

The tour will also take in significant battle sites, such as the Monte Cassino Abbey as well as visits to local tourist locations.

Veterans heading to the National Memorial Arboretum will take part in a four-day tour staying at the Hilton St George’s Park hotel in Burton-upon-Trent.

The tour will include a service of remembrance as well as visits to Cannock Chase Cemetery and the Staffordshire Regiment Museum.

The Royal British Legion has been running LIBOR funded tours for the past five years.

The tours are now available for all veterans who served in the Second World War and this year we will be running journeys of remembrance to Normandy, Berlin, Holland and Italy.

To find out more about the tours, or to sign up to one, call the Royal British Legion’s tour operator Arena Travel on 01473 660800, or visit www.arenatravel.com/our-holidays/remembrance-travel.

NICHOLA ROWLANDS-SMITH, Head of Travel, Royal British Legion

Shouting is pointless

I READ in the Gazette and Herald about the stormy reception our MP Claire Perry received at a public meeting recently. While I have some sympathy for the reasons behind the criticism there can be no excuse for loud heckling and attempts to shout down free speech. We don’t want to become like the House of Commons, surely.

Claire Perry was responding to where we now are and I think we need to look back to how we got into this damned mess in the first place. If people don’t like the MP the answer is in the ballot box but even then there is not a lot of choice offered. More later.

This mess goes back to John Major and other politicians who took us into various treaties, Maastricht onwards and refused to give the British public any say.

It took us from a free trading status to a political situation where we were over governed by unelected fanatics, the latest of which cannot put the same colour socks on.

Our nation has been swamped by uncontrolled immigration which has destroyed our public services and in many other ways our traditions and cultures.

We now have a situation where it is no longer safe to walk our streets in towns and cities and it seems we are not allowed to talk about it for fear of being labelled racist or xenophobic.

I recall David Cameron once saying, ‘I love this country as it is now, not how it was.’ I have news for you. You weren’t born then, even when you were, you were still in short trousers. Politicians have systematically destroyed this country over the last 50 years.

We’ve sold anything worthwhile, we don’t have industry worthy of its name and a whole generation who don’t want to get their hands dirty. Why bother when we can import people and everything they bring with them.

So what has this to do with our MP and an angry meeting. Everything! Raw anger at bring totally ignored, then an ill-conceived referendum where the single question asked was far too simplistic. Helen Clark, the ex-prime minister of New Zealand, suggested she would have spread the issue over two referendums, one which asks if the British public wished a to see a change in our relationship with the EU. Then a second with the specific options the public wished to pursue.

I didn’t know enough about Customs Unions and Single Markets, the Northern Ireland border and how that could be exploited to thwart leaving. Then and only then could a referendum offer politicians a route forward.

Then we put the worst Prime Minister in recent history into Downing Street without proper scrutiny and a party member election. She lost the existing majority and we were left at the mercy of NI politicians with bigoted views on matters accepted by every other country in the UK.

Add to that a group of MPs wrapping the union flag around themselves regardless of the harm created to industry and you have a perfect storm. What a choice, an incompetent Tory government or a Marxist one.

What is likely to be chosen is something which is worse than remaining in the EU. Three years of wasted time, still no decision and meanwhile people are being stabbed to death daily on our streets. God help us.

Finally, our political system is broken. I think people are sick to death with the two party system. Even with the US system in mind, they can choose our party candidate, through primary elections.

We have ours foisted on us by the great and the good at the local Conservative Party club over a gin and tonic. That’s how you get rid of an MP you feel doesn’t share your views and values, not shouting her down.

BRIAN MINTER, Spin Hill, Market Lavington

Plea to my MP

LIVING under the prolonged threat of a major recession, civil disorder and food shortages has given me a keener interest in politics than before and motivated me to write to my MP Michelle Donelan. I work in the construction industry and the last recession was not good for my profession, with many losing their jobs. For this and many other reasons I voted to remain in 2016.

It seems to me that in the lead up to the referendum Farage and UKIP were given a surprising amount of airtime on TV, with programmes whose message seemed to be that these are decent people with a legitimate message, who in no way resemble the BNP or the NF before them. However their message seemed the same to me, to blame foreigners for all that is wrong, and their proposition that leaving the EU, with all the risk to our economy that this entails, would somehow improve life for us all seemed a truly dangerous one.

I understand that the EU are introducing new tax laws that will scrutinise offshore banking and tax evasion. Whilst this is barely reported in the media, it seems to me a really big reason why the rich and powerful of this country might want to break away from the EU and pull what strings they can to promote this outcome.

The Vote Leave campaign has recently dropped its appeal against a fine for breaking electoral law, a tacit admission of the many lies that were told. To pursue Brexit as the Will of the People is a dishonest stance in my opinion because it was only ever the will of 52% of those that voted, in reality the will of less than half, many of whom have changed their minds since if they have any sense, as the damaging reality of what we are doing has become clearer.

My son was five months from his 18th birthday at the time of the referendum. Now he is 20 and deserves a say in his own future. If Brexit is still the Will of the People, why are Brexiteers so opposed to confirming this with a People’s Vote? My stepfather was a staunch Brexiteer and died in September 2016. He lived long enough to cast the leave vote he had craved for so long but he will never see the real outcome. I loved him despite our many differences of opinion.

My wife is from Northern Ireland. I love my in-laws too, and the prospect of a hard border and a return of sectarian violence there is monstrous and too high a price to pay, even if Brexit were to be of some benefit to any but the super rich, which it won’t.

I see that Ms Donelan has recently voted in Parliament for a no deal Brexit and against the Cooper amendment to prevent one. As her constituent I feel powerless and scared. Although this may be futile, I am compelled to beg her to back a People’s Vote, the truly democratic solution to this awful mess wrought by the self interest of Conservative politicians. If she will not, I also urge her to consider backing a customs union and even May’s disappointing compromise of a deal, both of which would be better than the damage to her constituents’ lives that she is dragging us towards.

BEN FARMAN, Chippenham

Revoke Article 50

I READ with interest, and some sympathy the letters (Gazette, April 4) understandably expressing frustration at our government’s failure to take us out of the EU.

The fundamental issue, which almost everyone seems to have forgotten, is that Great Britain is a representative democracy. We elect Members of Parliament who we entrust to represent us in Parliament. It is true that England has, for centuries, utilised extra-parliamentary methods like petitions from the people as a last resort. Although they form no constitutional basis, they have, nevertheless, established the right of appeal but with no requirement for acceptance.

Referenda, similarly, have no constitutional validity as they are expressions of direct democracy which is actually alien and foreign to our representative political system. The first referendum in British history was in 1975 when the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, responded to the Euro-sceptics in his own party by holding a national ballot on whether Britain should remain in the then EEC. Because the majority voted to remain there was no change required so the thorny issue of how valid that referendum was, was never challenged.

The second Referendum, held in 2016, changed all that because it resulted in a small majority expressing their wish to leave the EU. Challenging was made more difficult because the government of the day, whilst advising people to vote Remain, promised it would respect the vote. All should end this nonsense about holding a “second referendum” as we have already had one.

Unfortunately, the promise the government made in 2016 has not been fulfilled. Almost three years of failure has been the result. Parliament has decisively rejected Theresa May’s deal which we discover is the best the EU can come up with.

Leavers rejected it because they rightly saw it would still deeply tie us in to the EU. Remainers rejected it because they rightly saw it was not as good as staying in the EU. Theresa May’s deal satisfied neither the Leavers nor the Remainers.

Parliament has also rejected an impending “no deal” Brexit. So the logical and sensible action to take is to start again. A “no deal” Brexit might work if it is thoroughly and robustly planned: a process that could take years. But almost everyone agrees that leaving with “no-deal” now would be catastrophic for our economy.

For those who really want to leave the EU, Parliament must prepare for a “no deal” Brexit now that we know any deal with the EU is not going to satisfy staunch Leavers. The EU has made clear it will not grant an extension of any length unless a deal is made.

So to prepare for a “no deal”, Parliament has no choice but to revoke Article 50 and begin again. That means at least two years to prepare to leave properly and safely protect jobs and the economy. In practice we may have to remain in the EU for another three or even four years as no one would wish to invoke Article 50 again until Britain is prepared for a “no-deal” Brexit.

Representative democracy has served Britain well for centuries. Direct democracy is alien and foreign to that. Far from serving our representative democracy, referenda, as products of direct democracy, have placed it in great danger.

Leaving the EU can still happen; but if we are to do so, let us do it fully with no ties and with complete independence: we can enable that through our established political system or risk anarchy, the like of which we have not seen since the English Civil War of the 17th century.

NICK BAXTER, Northway, Calne

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