Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Buckingham to Stowe Promenade

The weather was most kind to the 60 - 70 people who turned up to take part in the first (of many?) Buckingham to Stowe Promenade. (The hail arrived in town four hours later!) We had a glorious and gentle perambulation up the bridle way to the Corinthian Arch. And then here, for the first time since Queen Victoria, we promenaded through the archway to look forward to Stowe House and backwards to the Town.

After a 30 minute break for a quick coffee or snack etc, the group (minus a few people) continued on to the gardens and then on into the marble room at Stowe House.

The trip prompted conversations between friends, new and old as we passed the budding trees and dancing daffodils. This was a wholesome journey, one that I hope will be repeated in coming years. But all those who came along today, will always know they were part of the first one!

There was no collection for the Mayor's Charities but if people would like to make a donation, here is the link.

My huge thanks to the team at Stowe NT and Stowe House for making all this possible. There will be more photographs soon (watch this space) from various people including the drone photographer hired by Stowe and the University Journalism students.

The walk begins

People pour through the arch

The gates are open!

We arrive at Stowe House

The Promenade reaches its conclusion

Milton Keynes Civic Reception

One of the main roles of a Town Mayor is to maintain convivial relations with our neighbours. Throughout my (near) two years as Buckingham Mayor, I have attended many functions in our neighbouring towns and last Friday was another one. At the invitation of the Milton Keynes Mayor and his Mayoress, Julie and I spent the evening chatting to the other guests (the Lord Lieutenant, the High Sheriff, MK councillors, other Mayors,  among others).

Topics of conversation included friendly chat of course, but also discussions about homelessness, the route of the express way through our district, the controversy surrounding how home owners on new estates are now expected to pay on top of council tax for services that their neighbours in nearby estates get as part of the council service package, and other topics! It is always helpful and valuable to gather the experiences of other towns and bring these ideas back to our town.

It was a positive and enjoyable evening during which we heard much about the MK Mayor's chosen charity - the MK Bus Shelter. There were some children from the MK Chinese school performing some beautiful folk dancing with ribbons.

25th Anniversary of Part Time Law Degree

On Saturday 9 March, Julie and I had the honour of being part of the celebrations of 25 years of the University's part time law degrees. There were many alumni and past lecturers present to note and recognise the large numbers of students (many of them local people) who have gained a degree. Many of these graduates have gone on to a career in some branch of the law. A wonderful occasion graced by some inspiring speeches from the current course leader and Dean of the Law School and made all the more magical by some carefully created table decorations by (I think) the daughter of one of the past students.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Young Carers - seniors!

On Friday last I spent an hour with the senior Young Carers, finding out what they think would make Buckingham an even better place for them (or "less boring" as one person put it!) They had lots of ideas! (See below)

  • Pop up cafe in Bourton Park during busy times
  • And a public toilet there too
  • More shelters & indoor spaces for young people to go to especially when it's raining 
  • A bigger MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) in Chandos Park 
  • No more coffee shops
  • Existing coffee shops to be more young person friendly 
  • A McDonald's 
  • A cafĂ© for young people 
  • A water park 
  • A way (?) of stopping people who are too old from using the playgrounds
  • Indoor skate park 
  • Outside pool
  • Playgrounds for older youngsters with a proper zip wire etc
  • Paintball area
  • Fishpond 
  • Ways to encourage young people to go outside more (not stuck on a tablet/comp) 
  • No more hairdressers 
  • KFC 
  • Go kart arena
  • Better roads - fewer pot holes 
... an amazing list! I explained that many of these were not in the gift of the Town Council or just too expensive right now. But this has prompted me to explore possibilities such as a cafe in Bourton Park or maybe a portaloo during school holidays perhaps. There are other things that could happen with a bit of nifty resource "skullduggery" too.

It was great to meet them - a lively group of enthusiastic young people. Such a joy.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Pancakes away!!

Saturday saw the traditional pancake races organised by the Town Council up by the parish church. Such a fun occasion with the innovation this year of a team relay race for various groups. Buckingham Blue (local Conservative Association) won the relay. Lots of camaraderie and hearty laughs all round - and especially lovely to see lots of children enjoying the occasion too.

Thanks to Cllr Anthony Ralph for all the pics below.

The 'adult' race!

Cllr Cole, Deputy Mayor (and now Mayor 2019/2020 Elect) gives out the prizes

Cllr Bloomfield enjoying himself!

The winning relay team - Buckingham Blue.

Our tradtiional opening of course - from the Town Crier (who is about to run the London Marathon in aid of the Old Gaol and the Mayor's Charities - look out for the sponsorship forms!)

Cllr Angela Macpherson, leader of AVDC, as you have never seen her before...!

The team from the Library made a sterling effort - I suggested they should have had books in their frying pans not pancakes.

The police were there in numbers!

A panorama of joy!

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Local legal eagles

As I have highlighted before, the University of Buckingham Law School works with the local Citizen's Advice service to train up law students to provide legal advice to the users of the service. I had the pleasure of being present yesterday at the small awards ceremony for the new crop of students who have just completed their training successfully. They are a lovely team of committed students one of whom you might meet if you need to access the Citizen's Advice for some legal advice over the next few months. Well done to all of them!

Thanks to Beth Thornton, UoB PR and Content Assistant, for use of this photograph showing all the students and staff from the Law School and the Citizen's Advice who made this all happen.

Tree by tree

One of the things that has struck me during my time as Mayor - is just how many people freely give their time to helping make Buckingham an even better place to live, work, study, play and visit. Last weekend was a prime example when a bunch of town councillors & officers, members of the local Rotary Club and several others came together to plant a small copse up at the Lace Hill playing fields.

As the Town Council's press release said:
Thank you to the impressive 20 volunteers from the local community came along to the Town Council’s Tree Planting Day on Sunday February 2019 at Lace Hill Football Pitches. Volunteers included Buckingham Rotary Club, Buckingham’s Tree Wardens and Town Council staff and Councillors. With plenty of people turning up to lend a hand and lighten the workload, it was a successful and cheerful day of planting.
Volunteers helped to plant 280 saplings to improve the appearance of this green space and slow the wind down through a mosaic of predominantly broadleaved trees. The saplings were secured from Cole’s Nurseries through generous donation from Buckingham’s Rotary Club to create a native shelterbelt around the pitch and will help to improve biodiversity in the area.
Councillor Margaret Gateley, who also joined in the event, said “It was great to work alongside various community groups on a glorious sunny morning. I look forward to going back in a few months to see how the trees are coming along. Our Estates Team will be keeping an expert eye on them in the meantime.”
It felt really good to be a part of this team. At the end we could all look back on all the planted saplings and think "I helped make that happen!"

So again I say: thanks to all the volunteers last week - and all the volunteers in the town - who are working hard and generously for the benefit of our community.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Food glorious food!

The Town Council held it annual food fair yesterday - and it was the biggest, busiest and best yet! Great to see lots of local food suppliers making all of our mouths water! And well done to all the Town Council staff and councillors who worked together to make this happen.

Hopefully, many of the the stall holders will return to our usual markets on a regular basis: keep your eyes peeled. Meanwhile, I have some more snacks and stuff to enjoy!

Here are some pics and video taken by Cllr Robin Stuchbury below.

The amazing junior young carers

A week last Friday, I spent an enjoyable hour or so getting to know some of the young people at the Buckingham & Winslow Young Carers club that meets every month at the Youth Centre. Such a lovely bunch of young people. I opted to spend time talking about what they thought could improve our town from their perspective. We came to conclusion that there should either be a Slime Festival or maybe a Slime Trail (like a fitness trail - but with slime!). I promised I would look into it. (It would have to be really sticky slime of course, they insisted.)

They also thought there should be a 'bring your pets to school day' in the annual calendar and arrangements to stop all homework. I promised them I would look into both matters. And the children who were from Winslow Primary school were really keen to have a visit from the Winslow Mayor. I will follow this up too.

Wonderful young people - and such an amazing organisation! Here I am with a few of the children I chatted with (thanks to the club for the pic).

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Fabulous Evening at Stowe School

Julie and I attended the 'Champagne and Jazz' event at Stowe school on Thursday evening and what a wonderful occasion it was. Amazing music from their big band, various vocalists and a smaller jazz group. Money was being raised for Buckingham and Winslow Young Carers - brilliant charity to support!

(pic from last year's event borrowed from their website)

NALC Spring Conference

Last Monday, on behalf of the Town Council, I attended the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Spring Conference. A room full of around 140 parish/town councillors and clerks spent a day listening to good practice, update on recent reviews of councillor standards and other items. The agenda is below. It was a very stimulating and thought provoking day. I thought I would blog some of my main reflections arising from the day as something of a report back to my fellow town councillors and TC staff, as well as the wider community of the Town.

1) Jane Ramsey, the independent member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life reported that they had just finished their review of Councillor Standards. (Available here) This had taken a year to research and review the evidence of how the behaviour of councillors affects the good workings of councils up and down the country. The main recommendations can be viewed in the document linked above. I will be proposing that the Town Council watches developments closely and responds when we need to, for example, when a new standard code of conduct is issued. On questioning by me and others, Ms Ramsey revealed that some of their recommendations will require primary legislation, the committee does think that mandatory training will be part of the way ahead, a more nuanced approach to conflicts of interest will need to be created and the full implications of the Ledbury case does need to be fully explored in what happens next. (The Cllr Harvey mentioned in the case is no relation by the way!)

2) Tracey Crouch gave an impassioned speech about her new role as the Minister for Loneliness. She explained the beginnings of a strategy that the government are forming to tackle this matter which Whitehall reckons affects around 9m people in the UK. (Pro rata that is about 2000 people in Buckingham...) She explained some interesting ideas around 'designing our loneliness' in new build estates. And she mentioned in her constituency she has organised a 'Freshers Fair for Older People'. I liked that idea and it is one I plan to pursue, although I think I would rather consider the idea of a 'Freshers Fair' for all the new residents of the town. What do you think?

3) Lizzie Peers talked about developments in the field of Auditing local councils - parish/town/community councils. This was for me, not the most stimulating of topics, dare I say, especially when I learnt that auditing has little to do with outcomes (doing the right things) and mostly only focused on doing things right...(according to proper legal practice). Both are important of course, but I always start with the outcomes and work forwards from there. (I am open to a discussion on this of course). But apparently 62 councils which should have responded to the new audit regime, never did, last year. But when asked what the sanctions are for not responding... Lizzie informed us that there are none...

4) I then spent a fascinating time learning about the youth engagement strategy of Yate Town Council. I could write at length about their approach but what struck me was their robust commitment to going into the world of young people rather than expecting young people to come into the (fusty) world of town councils. Their approach to asking questions and engaging in joint problem solving of the issues affecting young people in their town was most impressive. When I stop being Mayor, my plan is to focus quite a lot on what more the Town Council should be doing to reach out to the younger people of the town. Watch this space!

5) Lastly I spent time learning about the work of Frome Town Council which has a focus on tackling issues rather than seeing itself as a body just existing to provide services. A programme management / commissioning model if you like. I appreciated their focus on outcomes and making a difference to the lives of people in the town. I think BTC does a good amount of this but we could do more, in my view. It was great to learn for example about the work they are doing on Fair Housing in Frome with a focus on improving conditions in the privately rented sector and looking for every which way to have more housing which is affordable, decent, secure and accessible.

Lots of ideas! I now have to find the time to develop them and persuade my fellow councillors to take action on a number of fronts.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Mighty Women of Buckingham

Last Thursday, Julie and I had the enormous pleasure of attending the opening of the 'Mighty Women' exhibition at the Old Gaol. (It is still on - do go and see!) This has been put together by Lauren Hutton and her colleagues to honour and celebrate the achievements of local women over the ages. You can find out more from this link

And one of the featured women is Professor Edwards who is working with the Town Council on the joint TC/Uni Pontio Group. I never knew all this about her!

Here is the short speech I gave to welcome the exhibition to the town:
I am going to say only a very few words to offer my support and praise to this exhibition and give my sincere thanks to all those who have made it possible. I am reminded of a quote:
"Continue to speak out against all forms of injustice to yourselves and others, and you will set a mighty example for your children and for future generations" (Bernice King)
Everyone here is a leader in some way - as a parent, or as a manager, or as an artist, or as a politician or as an active member of our Buckingham Community or whatever. We all have a responsibility to show girls and boys, what it means to be mighty. 
And being mighty for me, means helping oneself and others shape dreams and then use our abilities to make those ambitions come true.  
And because we live in an unfair world: where people of colour like Ms King and her father, where women, where people with disabilities and many others are discriminated against we should always look to take positive action to bring more fairness to the world. So that all people, regardless of who or what they are, get to dream dreams and make all their ambitions happen. 
So this exhibition is just positively fantastic because by celebrating the mighty women of Buckingham, this show shines a brilliant light on how these women have helped make Buckingham the town that it now is.  
And may this light, continue to shine and glow for all the girls and women in the town so that they too can feel empowered to add their spirit, their imagination, their energy and their light to this wonderful place.  


Twice a year, the University extends a big welcome its new students to offer and assure them all of the support, guidance and connections available from the institution. Because the University has such a manageable size, this welcome is most warm and personable. I attended one a few months ago and this time (on 18 January) the University kindly gave me a slot after the Vice Chancellor's words to welcome all the students to our wonderful town.

I urged them to all to get to know us and partake of all the great opportunities here for them to enjoy - ranging from our green spaces and walks, our events, our shops and our hostelries. I congratulated them on making such a insightful choice of coming to Buckingham!

Fresh from unpacking boxes all day long (I had moved house the previous day), here I am addressing the students flanked by the University Heads of Schools and senior staff. Thanks to the University for the permission to use the pic.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Barabra Farmer, Mace Bearer Extraordinaire!

Yesterday lunchtime, I was delighted to participate in the regular Well Street Church's networking lunch at the invitation of the Town Council's Mace Bearer, Mrs Barbara Farmer. Barbara gave a presentation to the group on her 32 years as Mace Bearer for the Town Mayor. It was wonderful to hear her stories and about her experience of being in this role. Barbara treated us all with some excerpts from her scrap book.

And all this was rounded off with an amazing lunch provided by the volunteers at the church. (If you have never been, I highly recommend the company and the cuisine!)

Below, I have reprinted the speech I gave last May, when the Town Council honoured her dedication and length of service.

Address for Barbara

Barbara Farmer was appointed to become the Town’s Mace Bearer on 2 November 1987. She has faithfully served the Town and Council since then, a period now of over 30 years. And I have the most enormous pleasure of recognising, celebrating and thanking Barbara for her dedication and long service. 

Barbara’s role is a ceremonial and voluntary one - but one that she has done with exemplary skill, professionalism and panache. I know she will remember for example, accompanying the Town Mayor, Cllr Derrick Isham on the visit by HM the Queen in 1996. And how wonderful a day that was. 

The Mace is priceless. It is made of silver gilt, and dates from the time of Charles II. On the raised flat top are the Royal Stuart arms. And between the letters at the base is an inscription as follows: “In the 12th year of the reign of our sovereign lord King Charles II by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland 1660”. 

So I know I am glad I do not have the responsibility of carrying such a precious piece of history! I would probably have dropped it my now. More than once...

I should add Barbara is effectively my bodyguard at events such as these as the mace was originally a weapon of battle. Fortunately I have not had reason to call on her martial arts skills so far, but I have no doubt that she would despatch any combatant swiftly and without mercy should anyone threaten the Mayor of Buckingham. Indeed I know that Barbara has battled the elements of inclement weather on many occasions with grace, stoicism and determination.

Barbara is from a local family and is one the stalwarts of our solid Buckingham community. She is of course, the first woman to hold this position. And I am told, this was controversial at the time she was appointed by the then Mayor, Cllr Mordue after being nominated by Cllr Isham. Heaven knows why gender should have mattered but I am so glad that times have moved on much since then.

And so here we are, 30 years on Barbara. I am guessing that when you signed up for this role, you may not have expected to be here all this time later. But you are and Buckingham Town Council, Buckingham people and me as the current Mayor are extraordinarily grateful. Thank you so much for your long and dedicated service. 

In honour of your service, here is small gift for you to wear. For those who cannot see it is a lapel brooch miniature of the mace itself. Thank you again.

Coffee, croissants and kuchen

I enjoyed some wonderful 'continental hospitality' with the Buckingham Twinning Association last Saturday morning. There are lots of brilliant twinning events coming up in 2019! Do keep track via their website.

Thanks to everyone who organised Saturday's most successful coffee morning.

Oliver Patrick Hilsdon RIP

Since becoming Mayor, I have attended several funerals as a representative of the Town Council and in honour of the lives well lived. Oli Hilsdon's funeral was the saddest of occasions. Hundreds of people filled St Bernadine's Church on Chandos Road at the end of January to mark the passing of this young man who died just shy of his 27th birthday.

We were all there to grieve his departure and pay tribute to his valiant, inspirational and popular spirit. My sincere condolences go to all his family, his friends and indeed the many people whose lives he had an impact upon. His memory will live on and Buckingham will remember this young man for decades to come. I am sure his courage and good nature will continue to inspire many.

RIP Oli.

The Buckingham to Stowe Promenade

The weather was most kind to the 60 - 70 people who turned up to take part in the first (of many?) Buckingham to Stowe Promenade. (The hail ...