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Well done Times

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

Put 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.

Furthermore, as with the Civic Centre, I would like to ensure that as a council we cannot be accused of looking after the interests of staff and councillors above the needs of the people of Trowbridge. 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). I am not keen on borrowing any more money, but 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

We’re in a mess

I PUT a report online about the amount of potholes and a noisy manhole cover on Warminster Road over three weeks ago - how stupid to think Wiltshire Council would do anything about it. The council tax went up by 4% - I’d love to know where it is all going - it certainly isn’t being used to help the public.

Is this a case of Westbury being ignored by the Tory-led Wiltshire Council. I strongly suggest that’s the case. Look at the mess this country is in under this government - is it any wonder this county is in a mess as well.

Ms Stroud, Warminster Road, Westbury

Thanks, quizzers

ON behalf of the Trowbridge branch of Bath Cancer Unit Support Group (BCUSG) I would like to thank all the people who attended our Quiz Night at the Wesley Road Club in Trowbridge on Friday, April 5. It was a huge success and we raised £742, which included proceeds from the raffle. There was a total of 14 teams taking part.

Special thanks go to you at the Wiltshire Times, for a mention prior to the event; the steward of the Wesley Road Club for use of the club facilities; David Birch, for compiling the questions and all those of you who turned up to take part, especially the winners, second and third place too, who donated their winnings back to the charity.

Jeff Law, Committee member, BCUSG

Revisit battlefield

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, such as the Monte Cassino Abbey.

Veterans heading to the National Memorial Arboretum will take part in a four-day tour staying 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 tours are 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 Arena Travel on 01473 660800, or visit www.arenatravel.com/our-holidays/remembrance-travel.

Nichola Rowlands-Smith, Head of Travel, Royal British Legion

A 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.

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

Precious trees

IN AN article (Wiltshire Times, April 5) covering very serious damage done to six ancient lime trees in Upper Westwood insulting remarks were made about complainants, including my wife and myself and our neighbours.

We were described as “complaining but not being effected (SIC) and trying to cause trouble” but we live as close to these trees as the perpetrators and now, instead of looking at beautiful mature trees and their attendant wildlife, we see barren stumps, so hardly not affected then, in company with everyone else who lives nearby or uses the road through Upper Westwood.

The trees are covered by Tree Preservation Orders and the application to prune them, of which we were not notified, included a condition to retain the natural shape of the trees. On the first day that the trees surgeons were on site they cut off every branch from three of the trees, leaving just the trunks, effectively creating totem poles.

None of this needed to happen. These magnificent trees, once a major feature of the landscape, survived perfectly well untouched for many decades. The claim that they need pruning every two years is nonsense.

The light issue is not valid - no-one has a right to light and sunshine, and that wish certainly does not overrule a TPO. We were in the shade of the trees in the mornings but were happy to live with that to retain the benefits of beautiful surroundings.

So, troublemakers? Well if that means protecting our fine natural heritage, attractive rural surroundings and wildlife habitat, then guilty, and we will continue to be so. We should take more care of our trees, our precious natural lungs.

Bill and Alexandra Anderson, Christopher Humphries, Friary Close, Upper Westwood, Bradford on Avon

Thanks, shoppers

I WOULD like to thank the people of Westbury for raising £60.99 during my street collection on March 30 in aid of Brooke (Action for Working Horses and Donkeys) a charity helping to improve the quality of life of working animals in some of the world’s poorest communities.

Roger Challoner Green, Church Lane, Wingfield, Trowbridge

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