A purely personal post from Graham Ellis
Lisa and Graham live in Melksham, Wiltshire, England

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Revisiting - should I stand for Melksham Without Parish Council in May?

I have stated in the past that I wouldn't stand for town (Melksham), parish (Melksham Without) or County (Wiltshire) election as a councillor, and given my reasons if anyone cared to look at them. However, times and logic changes, reasons become more or less important, and over the past few weeks I've been reviewing my decision. The area that I live in - Melksham Spa - is being separated from the Bowerhill ward of Melksham Without and will be part of a much smaller new ward - Blackmore - from the May 2017 local elections. The ward will include Melksham Spa, Sandridge and Woodrow - two councillors respreseting about 430 people spread over a wide area, with significant planning applications in various stages of progress as Melksham grows. Directly across the road from where I live, there are further plans to build hundreds of houses, but the new boundary runs down the middle of the road so although they're very close indeed to us, they won't be the direct concern of "my" councillor or myself should I stand and be elected.

In the past, life has been far too busy to take on too much more - however, our team at Well House Manor is now hugely experienced, and management time needs are much reduced as their skills grow. Similarly, with the TransWilts rail stuff we're over the peak of getting a service up and running - volunteer and community input is critical in its continuation, but not in such volume. IT training is such that I'm looking to reduce my level of work by around 50% from where it was 2 years ago, fading out old subjects. On site courses are no longer driven to, but rather I travel by public transport - so there's a further reduction of wasted time there as I can now work (or sleep) on the move. So the old objection of "I don't have the time" becomes less relevant.

I know what I know, and I know that there are a lot of things I don't know about. In other words, there's a lot of things a councillor should know about to be involved with. On topics like planning (both short term and neighbourhood plan) I know know a lot more that I did, and the old objection becomes less relevant. However, with a switch from a 10 councillor to a 2 councillor ward, there's a need for each of the remaining councillors to be more generalist and I know little about running play areas and other council provisions, supporting the multitude of local groups (I'm a member of one or two but that's it) and so that makes my fit far less comfortable in the two member area than a ten member area.

I know the road across from where I live, the fields up to Bowerhill that will become housing and the village of Bowerhill which I can also see from my front window. I know less about the Rugby and Football clubs that are a little further away out the back (and in Blackmore) and even less about Redstocks and Sandridge. Woodrow is right round the other side of town. So the area that I live in is not one that I know well enough / know the people well enough to truley represent - a reason against standing, even though it might have been sensible for me to stand had we still been a part of Bowerhill.

I attended the planning meeting on Tuesday to get an idea of what went on / in the ward. I was very disappointed by both the lack of proper answers provided by the proposer of the digester scheme, and the very negative approach of the audience. For sure, safety's important, but looking back to a historic accident from which lessons were learned, and which lead to new regulation, and still using this as an excuse "against" seems a poor approach from residents. It would be far more effective to look at traffic regulation overall with regard to the dangerous roads at both Sandridge and Woodrow than to concentrate effort on those few extra vehicles proposed, and it would be far better to include requests for community benefit such as CIL and section 106 in planning inputs rather than simply opposing. My view is that both Woodrow and Sanrdidge could be hugely improved by removing "rat run" traffic as indeed is suggested in the draft neighbourhood plan and by Wiltshire Council's longer goal of a new river crossing, and then, yes, let the local car traffic in Woodrow grow somewhat with people just starting out and ending their journeys, replacing a proportion of the through traffic - but less and slower traffic over all. Alas, the people at the meeting seemed intent on seeing all the problems that might arise, with no view as to "how can we use this to everyone's benefit" - and I really don't fancy putting myself forward to be a representative of such a negative approach which in the end will mean the people are just steam-rollered with minimal input because they didn't give any constructive criticism to help.

I have a huge sympathy for the Melksham Without Parish Councillors who were looking at those big planning issues, then a number of smaller ones where the applicant hadn't even bothered to turn up (and the room had emptied), but I really don't fancy a role whee I'm going to be shouted down and insulted at one stage, then expected to work for the community without even the thanks of the people for whom I might be pressing the case at the next. So on those grounds, I feel I should not be putting myself forward.

I have downloaded the election pack - how to stand, etc. And it makes interesting reading. And there's plenty of red tape. Apparently, if I want to stand nomination papers need to be hand delivered (in a change to the system they cannot be posted) ... to an address in Chippenham, Trowbridge, Salisbury or Devizes ... in the middle of the working day on a Monday to Friday. For someone who's considering doing this unpaid work in his spare time, and holding down a job in Melksham, this looks like it's a test of resolve - making sure that the candidates are serious by having them take half a day off work, and travel a round trip of over 10 miles to lodge their interest.

Inputs from Wiltshire Council, with whom the parish does much liaison, seem negative and blocking on so many other issues too. Simple requests for the evening bus to stop at the top of the station approach, and for a fence panel to be taken down between two pieces of public land to improve access, seem to be being kicked into the long grass by officers keener to justify their own jobs than to achieve pragmatic progress for the residents. And the opening of major new sports facilities in the Blackmore Ward (which you'll recall is sparsely populated) is matched by the removal of the bus services that would get residents of Melksham Town and from further afield to those facilities at their busiest time - Saturday afternoon. If it wasn't so serious, I could laugh about this.

One option to getting sensible things done is to join the system and push for improvements from within. The other approach, and the one I've taken in the past is to work from outside the system where I can ask questions, make suggestions, take the unpopular view at times but (as I think I've proven) occasionally help to make a difference. My nature, my lack of knowledge of Blackmore and of many topics, and my disagreement with the approach taken by many I would need to represent suggests to me that my approach at the 2017 parish election should remain the same as at previous opportunities to stand - to offer support and help to others with whom I agree, but not to stand myself.
(written 2017-02-24)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z950 - Purely Personal
  [4734] Thoughts on the new Blackmore Ward of Melksham Without Parish - (2017-02-22)
  [4728] Visiting Los Alamitos Bay Yacht Club - (2016-11-23)
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  [4669] Buses - how did we get into the situation we are in? - (2016-04-02)
  [4658] The end of competition on a bus route - the effects from then end of the 234 - (2016-03-02)
  [4657] Rumours of bus changes by First in Wiltshire - what we know and suspect - (2016-03-01)
  [4625] Where does Wiltshire bus subsidy money come from? - (2016-01-19)
  [4600] A big change in August - (2015-12-25)
  [4489] Election results - what if we had a party list system? - (2015-05-08)
  [4485] Misusing statistics? - the seedy side of election campaigning - (2015-05-04)
  [4476] Upcoming election - Chippenham Constituency - the major candidates compared - (2015-04-29)
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  [4221] Celebration of the fruits of LSTF, and of the people who have helped and are helping - (2013-12-15)
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  [4157] Wedding Photos - Kim Ellis to Kyle Londors, 22nd August 2013 - (2013-08-23)
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  [3711] Kiss - (2012-04-28)
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  [3566] Initial thoughts - response to GW Rail Franchise Consultation for Wiltshire - (2011-12-31)
  [3556] Aeryn at 1 - (2011-12-19)
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  [1014] Christmas Season Piccies - (2006-12-30)

Z300 - Politics and Religion
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  [4725] Writing Python 2 such that Python 3 is easy - (2016-11-06)
  [4720] Celebrating our diversity rather than discriminating for it - (2016-11-02)
  [4614] PC Plod - alive and scaremongering in Wiltshire? - (2016-01-04)
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  [4354] Wiltshire Police - assuming someone is guilty just on the say-so of a member of the public? - (2014-12-16)
  [4343] Politics and the railway the connects Wiltshire - (2014-12-06)
  [4223] Democracy - alive and well with the beauty pagent starting up again - (2013-12-16)
  [4079] Melksham Area - Unitary Council results, May 2013 - (2013-05-04)
  [3921] On rememberance, on war, and on preventing the war cycle - (2012-11-11)
  [3845] Good cause giving - getting the charity beggars off the street - (2012-08-21)
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  [3313] What does our MP do on a Bank Holiday? - (2011-05-30)
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  [3051] Positively reforming the system - could it be done? - (2010-11-14)
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  [2856] Two sides of the coin - (2010-07-06)
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  [2792] Should Government compete with private industry? - (2010-06-03)
  [2757] Bodicea, Lincoln, and our new MP - (2010-05-09)
  [2752] Voting day - UK General Election - (2010-05-06)
  [2740] Melksham Hustings at George Ward School - (2010-04-26)
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  [2288] Wiltshire Community Area Partnerships - (2009-07-15)
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  [2257] Ramblings on church and state linkage in Melksham - (2009-06-25)
  [2206] Spot the odd one out - (2009-05-29)
  [2178] Melksham Candidates for Wiltshire Unitary Election - (2009-05-12)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [2028] Things people say on the phone - (2009-02-06)
  [2012] The Wiltshire Police - (2009-01-29)
  [1987] One Cheer for Local Democracy - Asda in Melksham - (2009-01-11)
  [1882] Wiltshire Council says - part 2 - (2008-11-14)
  [1881] Wiltshire Council says - part 1 - (2008-11-13)
  [1872] Barack Obama wins US Predidency - (2008-11-05)
  [1769] July child ponders on August children - (2008-08-23)
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  [1579] Rome, and the faith of Rome - (2008-03-17)
  [1573] Budget tax increases hit vehicle market - (2008-03-14)
  [1526] Carers at work - court case changes - (2008-02-01)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1386] New software product for warmblooded programmers - (2007-10-10)
  [1350] FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Western Region - (2007-09-13)
  [1260] An inspirational business talk from one of our prospective MPs - (2007-07-06)
  [1247] An afternoon at a public enquiry - (2007-06-27)
  [1175] Local elections - choosing who to vote for - (2007-05-03)
  [1135] Government pressure on me to shut up after I make the papers - (2007-04-05)
  [1109] False imprisonment - a contrast from the news - (2007-03-15)
  [1060] What a relief from the tax office. - (2007-02-01)
  [1003] Room at the Inn, Guy at the station - (2006-12-21)
  [967] Realistic on line shoot'em up - (2006-12-05)
  [875] Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones - (2006-09-22)
  [780] Separation and Integration - (2006-06-27)
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  [696] Is than an uphill or downhill task? - (2006-04-23)
  [682] Iran has enriched uranium ... - (2006-04-12)
  [674] Wiltshire to get an extra MP - (2006-04-07)
  [671] Both ends of the animal - (2006-04-05)
  [607] On being British - (2006-02-14)
  [602] MP face to face - (2006-02-12)
  [539] rich and famous - (2005-12-23)
  [505] Would you steal ... petrol? ... a training course? - (2005-11-26)
  [469] Yesterday was Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-19)
  [415] Campaign Drift and efficiency. - (2005-08-15)
  [384] Managing conflict and disappointment - (2005-07-20)
  [377] A Strengthened City - (2005-07-14)
  [335] Sad priorities - (2005-06-03)
  [326] UK Tax payment totals and where the money is spent - (2005-05-27)
  [313] Making bona fide international marriages more difficult - (2005-05-16)
  [301] General Election day, UK - (2005-05-05)
  [289] MP for Devizes, Wiltshire - (2005-04-23)
  [280] Spotted - the local MP - (2005-04-15)
  [257] Politics gets nasty. Must be an election coming up. - (2005-03-25)
  [216] Cheap purchase - votes paid for with selfish promises - (2005-02-15)


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