Easter Sunday Quiz at the Half moon

Easter Sunday’s quiz was well attended and raised £151.84 for local charities.

The winning team, The Moonies, was booed (albeit in a very light hearted way) because they always win. Actually, they dont. They have taken the top position once more after two quizzes in outer darkness. There is even a rumour that question-setters have taken pity on them and are now setting dolly-drop questions. Surely not!

Thanks to Wincanton Phoenix for organising, and Andrew and Phillipa for hosting, an excellent evening.

Yarlington Fringe promises a super weekend

Yarlington House
Yarlington House, one of the venues for the Yarlington Fringe

It’s all happening at neighbouring Yarlington this weekend. The Yarlington Fringe kicks off with a royal wedding extravaganza at Yarlington House, where you can watch the proceedings on a big screen.

There is a production of Puccini’s La Boheme, which you can join in, or see the performances on Sunday evening.

There’s a barn dance, duck racing, art exhibition,  a circus, morris dancing, plenty of live bands,  a beer festival, childrens activities – in fact something for everyone.

Detailed programme on their website

Runners and Riders in the District Election stakes – 5 May

We are just over two weeks away from the District Council elections AND the referendum on Alternative Voting.

The two current Blackmoor Vale councilors, Tim Inglefield and William Wallace are standing again, in a five-candidate field. Remember – every voter has two votes, so don’t waste the second one.

The  Blackmoor Vale candidates are:
Richard  CRABB  Lib Dem (lives over the border in Sherborne)
Tim INGLEFIELD Conservative (present incumbent, lives Horsington)
David NICHOLS  Independent (lives Henstridge)
Jo PENBERTHY  Labour (lives Cucklington)
William WALLACE Conservative (present incumbent, also a County Councillor, lives Yenston)

South Somerset District council has 60 Councillors. It is currently controlled by the Lib Dems, with 37 seats, against the Conservatives 17, and 6 independents.

The only clear water between the main parties  seems to be  finance, and car parking in market towns like Wincanton. The LibDems want to introduce charges, the Conservatives do not.

Election News: A look at the council’s finances

Fat catLocal Government finance is a labyrinth. The Council’s accounts are a piece of masterful obfuscation. On the face of it they do a remarkably good job, consistently under shooting budgets, and making efficiency savings. But remember, this is the Council which blew £1.3 million of your money on golden goodbyes for senior officers.

SSDC’s council Tax at £1,449 for a Band D property is the highest in Somerset. Only £9 million (10 per cent) of the tax raised is spent by the District Council. (See this post). However the Council has additional sources of revenue –
Government grants (still your money!) – £11 million (14%)
Benefit Subsidy (still your money!) –  £46 million (56%)
Fees and charges  -£14 million (17%)
Income from investments –  £1.3 million (2%)

This gives it a combined income in the region of £81.8 million, about £521 per member of the population it serves.

That’s the easy part. Unraveling where all the money went is not easy, since the Council very cleverly mixes up all the expenditure under arbitrary  and sometimes inpenetrable headings. It also talks about “net expenditure” (the amount of council tax payers’ money spent after taking into account other income and grants). It is therefore not easy to see exactly how much money was spent, and on what.

If you see the District Council’s job as simply collecting rubbish, keeping the streets clean, regulating planning and building control, then you might wonder where the rest of the money was spent.

Looking at the Council’s website, there appear to be a number  of worthy, but ultimately ineffectual activities which would  only by missed by the jobsworths who have responsibility for them.

Here is a list of items, taken from the last published accounts for 2009/10, published in September. They have been chosen because they have more than a whiff of jargon and wonk-speak about them, and they surely do not (can not?) deliver the value of the funds spent on them. Bonfire anyone?

Item                                      £000
Strategic management            718
Place & Performance              404
Economic development          576
Spatial Policy                         2,471
Third Sector & Partnerships  332
Local Strategic partnerships    55
Total                                     £4,556

People costs.

The SSDC employs 520 people at a total cost in 2010 of some £19.3million. That’s an average of £37,136 per employee! Wow! Plenty of scope for a cost/benefit analysis there.

Conclusion
There is room for cuts which would prune the establishment, without cutting so-called front line jobs or damaging essential services. Every little helps as the saying goes, but in order to have an effect on the level of Council Tax, the other beneficiaries from this pot of gold also have to make equally dramatic cuts – the Police, The County Council, the Fire and Rescue service. Only 10 per cent of your Council Tax goes to the District Council, remember.

The Blog would welcome your comments, especially if you are a candidate in the forthcoming elections.

HMS Pinafore at Milborne Port – 27 -30 April

Milborne Port HMS Pinafore
Book now!

Two Horsington Residents – Chris Bailward and Richard Gaunt – are taking to the stage at the Milborne Port Opera for a spectacular production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” from April 27th – 30th.

This well-known  opera is a wonderful parody of social class, combined with Gilbertian “topsy turvey”, where the social order can be transformed during the course of a song.

It is particularly appropriate for the week of the royal wedding , because the work deals with snobbery and  the thorny issue of marriage above and below one’s class or station, and how an accident of birth can  decide one’s future –or can it? The work also features not one, but three weddings.

Also appearing are Andrew Armstrong (Captn Corcoran), and Caroline d’Cruz (musical director), both accomplished musicians, who will be familiar to patrons of Paddy Hughes’s concerts in the Horsington Village Hall.

The MPO is an acclaimed local group with a high standard. It celebrated its 20th birthday last year. New singers and actors are always welcome. Weekly rehearsals start in September, so it’s an ideal way to pass the winter months.

Milborne Port is a 10-minute drive away. The opera is in the village hall, transformed for the occasion. 7.30 pm.

How to book tickets The Box Office is now open – 07926 983585 or tickets@milborneportopera.co.uk Tickets £10 (Conc. £8 Wed/Thurs only) – Book early to avoid disappointment!

Also available from Wayne’s butchers and the Post Office, Milborne Port

More information

Recycling Centres to cut hours

Somerset’s recycling centres have cut their hours from Monday 4th April. The centre at Castle Cary will be closed on Thursday and Friday, and Yeovil on Tuesday and Wednesday each week. The opening hours will also change. The centres will open at 8 am, and close at 7pm on Mondays, 4pm on other weekdays and Saturdays, and 1pm on Sundays.

Certain materials will incur charges – gas bottles, soil and hardcore, tyres.

The changes in hours are offset to a certain extent by the increased household collection of cardboard, clothing, and plastic bottles.

More details

Blogitorial

Horsington Oil filed
Helicopter view of the proposed refinery at Horsington. The dotted line across the picture indicates the route of the Portishead-Poole pipeline

 Of course you all spotted that the oil refinery story was an April Fool spoof. It all started when one of our residents had a slightly leaking oil tank and the editor began wondering what the outcome might be if any of the  oil found its way onto the marsh.

Keep the comments coming. These are “unmoderated”, in that they are published immediately without any human involvement. The downside of this is that the occasionnal rogue or spam comment gets in, but we weed these out as soon as we spot them.

A price worth paying for free speech.

You can email the editor at editor@idnet.com

Horsington Magazine Launched

The first issue of “The Villager”, Horsington and South Cheriton’s new magazine is now out. Unfortunately not all parts of the village have received their copies yet, including the blog bunker, so it is difficult to comment.

Silas Silage, our gardening man, who gets out and about more than the editor, was able to glimpse a copy in the pub, but was  unable to read  it properly without his glasses. He moans that the gardening column, apparently written by someone called “Smelly Wellies”, seems to be imitating his style. We doubt it! He also reports that is it of very high literary quality, and he thought he saw the word “subsume” on the first page. Respect.

No doubt a copy will eventually arrive at Blog HQ, and it will be interesting to see if the magazine mentions the Blog, and  how easy it is to log on to www.horsington.co.uk/blog to catch up with the latest news and gossip 24/7.

The Blog salutes its fellow citizens in Grub Street and wishes them every success in their enterprise.

Please comment on the magazine – we will make sure they get forwarded to the editorial team if they don’t read the blog.