BloggoVision Preview – Braga Tanga (at the Half Moon, May 29th)

Sunday May 29th is the Bank Holiday cricket match against the Tabard Pilgrims from Chiswick, West London. There should be a lively social scene in the Half Moon afterwards, helped by a BBQ, some decent guest ales (Please, some ESB -Ed) and a new band, Braga Tanga, making their first appearance at the HM. They have very bravely asked to appear on BloggoVision, in the full knowqledge that this clip will either reel the punters in, or keep them away. (If it helps, I liked it -Ed)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dmcF-3dvdA

More info on the band

Tiptoe softly through the trees – conservationists at work

Horsington Manor
Danger, conservationists at work
Richard Gaunt writes: The half dozen regular users of the footpath between Batchpool Lane and Marsh Lane, dog walkers all, have been intrigued by the “County Wildlife Site” notices, adorned with the South Somerset District Council badge, which have suddenly appeared around the perimeter of the fields between the footpath and the old railway line.
“Please assist ongoing conservation work”, begs the notice.

Underneath there are sterner warnings.
“Use only the designated footpath”.
“All dogs to be kept under close control”.

Heavy stuff, as on the face of it this is arable land which is regularly ploughed, harrowed, seeded, sprayed and harvested using heavy tractors and equipment, and it is difficult to see what adverse effect a few sedate dog  walkers can have on this environment, or how they could upset any conservation work. In the season, there is regular shooting.

I asked Mr Rhys, the agent for the land, owned by Horsington Manor, about the conservation work, but have not had a response.

So I asked the Somerset County Council, who were most helpful.
The Somerset Environmental Records Centre has confirmed that the area is the “Horsington North Park Local Wildlife Site (LWS)”. (Not “County”).

The site was assessed back in 2002/3 when it was given Local Wildlife status because of the important veteran trees, but it appears the site has not been re-visited or assessed since that time. Veteran trees are conserved because they are particularly valuable for wildlife and in Somerset there is a Somerset Wood Pasture, Parkland & Veteran Trees HAP ( Biodiversity Action Plan for Veteran Trees).

These sites have no statutory status and confer no additional rights or obligations on anyone. There are no additional restrictions over agricultural operations, and no new rights of access are created.

No public money has been spent on this site, but ownership of one puts you well up the queue for other grant support, if available.

It all seems a bit of much ado about nothing, and I can’t help thinking the notices are a lot of huff and puff about “Get off my Land”.
Why they have suddenly put up official looking notices with no statutory backing (and promoted the site from a “local” site to a “County” one) after nearly a decade is a mystery.
But if you go near a veteran tree, tiptoe carefully!
Thanks, Richard. More comments welcome. There is more
information at

http://www.somerc.com/local+wildlife+sites/

Pass the mango chutney -curry night is back

The popular Half Moon Curry Night returns on Tuesday 10th May until the end of the month. (Tuesday 31st May).  Then it’s goodbye ruby Tuesday until the autumn. Whatever will the regulars do on Tuesdays?

The deal is £10 for two. A selection of delcious home made curries (Onion baji, naan bread and extra poppadums incur a small additional charge). Drinks not included.

 

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.