Bus Services hit by cuts

Many Wincanton and Somerton buses will no longer run after Somerset County Council cut £3.6 million – half the County’s  bus budget – from subsidies as part of its economy drive.

As a consequence, First, will stop or curtail many of its services from Sunday, April 17. Among services being totally withdrawn is the 901 Wells to Wincanton via Shepton Mallet and Castle Cary Station.

The 58 Yeovil to Wincanton evenings, Sundays and public holidays service will also be reduced.

Simon Cursio, commercial director of First Bristol, Somerset and Avon, said: “We have done what we can to minimise the impact of the changes, taking some risk in running some of the journeys on a commercial basis ourselves”.

This is undoubtedly bad news for bus users, although it has to be said that many buses seem to run around empty, or with just a few people in them. We also notice many “Not in Service”, which in reality could easily pick up passengers.

If Somerset County council has more than £7 million to spend on bus subsidies every year, it might be time to “Think outside the box”. Maybe empty buses trundling around the countryside are not the best solution to rural transport problems. Minibuses and taxis providing an on demand service within specified hours might be a cheaper  and more efficient way forward.

More information

The South Somerset Jackpot – £1.3 million shared by 3 senior officers

Fat catIt normally takes a mass murder to get a minor rural area like South Somerset in the headlines, but this weekend our beloved Council ( Band D: £1449.47 per year) hit the jackpot with the front page and an inside story in the Telegraph. The essential facts: 

  •  Phil Dolan trousered £569,000 of Council Taxpayers’ money after voluntarily leaving his post as Chief Executive of SSDC after just 6 years- £157,000 for salary, a redundancy payment of £167,000 and a lovely pension top up of £239,000. Breathtaking.  He is quoted in the  Daily Telegraph “There are no fat cat golden handshakes”. So that’s all right then.
  • Corporate Director Mark Pollock earned £52,000 for seven months’ work, plus £112,000 for loss of office, and £164,000 for his pension fund.
  • David Stapleton was paid £56,000 for 8 months’ work, plus £121,000 for loss of office and £131,000 for pension contributions.The total, £1.2 million, is not far short of the £1.35 million Somerset County Council achieved by reducing library opening hours . Or, to put it another way, 827 band D householders – say the populations of Horsington and South, possibly North Cheriton – coughed up their entire council tax for these guys.

Phil Dolan, no doubt exhausted, has taken early retirement. The other two, one of whose jobs was to liaise with Somerset County Council on the Hinkley Point power station (no we don’t believe it either), and the other was in charge of “health and wellbeing” (we thought the NHS did that), have both gone on to lucrative employment in the local government mafia of quangoes, talkshops and consultancies.

In its defence, the council states “This restructure involved a reduction in staff from having a Chief Executive and four Corporate Directors to having a shared Chief Executive and two directors.

“The departure of the former CEO and the 2 Directors, who were all made redundant, has helped facilitate annual savings of £431k per annum. It is normal practice and a legal requirement in both the public and the private sector for senior executives to receive payment for their loss of employment.”

All very well, but it begs the question of why were at least two of these people were paid so much in the first place for what look like non jobs, already duplicated by the work of  other agencies?

And did any of our elected councillors speak out about the poor value for money these roles represented or their severance terms? Or were they too busy?

How many other publicly-funded non jobsworths are lurking in the undergrowth at SSDC or SCC?
Tell us. Email the editor with your story. In total confidence, of course

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Planning officers recommend go-ahead for Silton Wind Turbines

Coming to a hillside near you?

A North Dorset Planning Case Officer, one James Lytton-Travers, has recommended that the application to build four 120-metre wind turbines at Silton, be approved.

The North Dorset Planning Committee meeting will be on March 1st at the RiversMeet leisure centre, Gillingham. Obviously they are expecting a full turn out.

In his report, Mr Lytton-Travers acknowledges that the turbines will have an adverse effect on the landscape, but says this is outweighed by the benefits these structures will bring.

In particular,  “The potential  to contribute significantly to renewable energy targets and to reduce CO2 emissions and climate change”.

Potential be dammed – what about actual?

If the wind doesn’t blow enough, the whole thing will be an expensive and unsightly white elephant, subsidsed by you and me. Last year, according to the Department of the Environment, wind turbines produced only a meagre 26 per cent of their potential output, and calculations here suggest the performance of the Silton Four will be around 22 per cent.

The builders, landowners and developers of this project will make a tidy sum, thanks to generous public (that’s you and me) subsidies.

Will our elected representatives see sense and vote this expensive, wasteful and quixotic project down?
Think. if it happens here, where next? Stourhead? Melbury? Bulbarrow? Eggardon?

We shall see.

More on
http://www.saveoursilton.org/
www.dorsetforyou.com

Tell us what you think -Ed

It seems the question has been answered. No sooner did we publish this post then a proposal was announced to build a wind farm comprising about 250 450ft tall turbines across a 76 square mile area of the English Channel off the coast of Dorset. 

Enough to power some 820,000 homes. So we won’t need the miserable contribution from the Silton Four -ED

Gordon Sunderland -a tragic and uneccessary end?

The death recently occurred of a much respected and loved Half Moon regular, Gordon Sunderland. His funeral at Yeovil attracted a massive turn-out on Monday 14 February. Probably the cleverest person in the bar (and that’s saying something!), he was a former senior  boffin at Plessey and  a top man in the MOD at Portland. A very distinguished scientist, gentleman, raconteur and inbiber. We miss him.

We send our sincere condolences to his two daughters and their families.

His sad demise at the age of only 74 raises some serious concerns. This is what happened.

One night in November last year he felt unwell. So unwell, he called an ambulance.

When they arrived, he was upstairs, in bed (he lived alone).

The ambulance crew refused to enter the premises, although he shouted down to them.

Impasse.

So he eventually and reluctantly agreed to come downstairs. In doing so, he fell, and broke his ankle. The ambulance crew carted him off to hospital In Yeovil.

Since the accident he was in and out of hospital in Verrington, Yeovil and latterly Exeter, where he was waiting to have a skin graft, and, possibly the amputation of his foot, a daunting and frightening prospect.

He died in Exeter of a heart attack on January 31st, just before his operation.

On the face of it there is a clear chain of events between his initial call for an ambulance and his untimely death. We hope that the authorities launch an enquiry and review their procedures and rules.

Many people live alone in the country. Some get ill. They will probably think twice before calling an ambulance.

If anyone who knew Gordon well would like to write a fuller appreciation of his life and work, please get in touch -Ed

So you think you’re insured?

As Horsington couple discovered to their horror that they had never been insured, as their house was close to a stream

A cautionary tale from a Horsington couple.

A leaking oil tank is everyone’s nightmare. Especially when the authorities treat the accidental perpetrators like mass murderers, at least at the outset. A large bill for the over-the top-clean-up for even a modest spillage like this is guaranteed, but not to worry, it’s all covered by insurance. Or is it?

A well-known 3-letter insurance company (motto: re-defining standards – and how!) insured the couple.
They were surprised to discover that not only did the insurance company refuse the claim, but that they had never been insured. Why? Because their house was within a quarter of a mile of a watercourse*. The company has gallantly offered to repay their premiums from the start of insurance.

There is now a big fight going on, but in the meantime the rest of Horsington and South Cheriton had better check their policies. Most of the houses in both villages are close to a stream. And beware of buying insurance on line.

* Not 25 metres, as stated in an earlier edition.

Our new gardening column – introducing Silas Silage

Horsington Blog - Silas Silage
Silas Silage

 Spring is a-comin’ in, writes Silas Silage, our very own gardening expert, who believes planning is the key to gardening success.

With the evenings lengthening and old cock robin a’ busy in the hedgerows while Mr Worm starts his perennial task of digging out from his hibernation hideaway, spring is in the air and  it’s time to think about the garden. The edge of the lawn is a carpet of snowdrops and bluebells, and the crocuses and daffodils delight the eye, waving in the gentle spring breeze while aloft, tits, pigeons and song thrushes start their mating rituals. (Get on with it –Ed)

There are so many things to do in the garden at this time of year, so I always starts with a list.

I go down to the shed and unlock it after the long winter, teasing the hinges with a drop of 3 in-one.

Then I sits down in the old armchair, roll a cigarette of Old Shagger’s Knotweed Vanilla Gold, pour a measure of sloe gin and gets out me notepad.

First on the list is a pencil sharpener, and a new pencil too for good measure. This one is down to the last……..
(To be continued – Ed)

Slow death of the Library?

Wincanton library seems safe from the cuts – for the moment. As an economy, the opening hours have been reduced so that anyone with a job, or at school will be unable to use it without difficulty and inconvenience.
The inevitable consequence of this will be that library usage will reduce, enabling the Faceless Ones in County Hall to say that owing to lack of demand, the library will close. Perfect!