Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Sad day

Yesterday was the funeral of Jason (Jay) Williamson who tragically died some days ago. Many people will know Jason from his barber's shop in Cornwalls Place. He cut my hair several times. We always had a good conversation about politics, life and the universe.

He was only 47 when he died. He will be hugely missed by his family and friends. I counted around 140 people at the funeral at MK Crematorium: it was standing room only. People came from far and wide

The 'Celebration for the life of Jason Robert John Williamson' included a heart breaking eulogy from his Mum and an eclectic mix of music including Elbow, Sinatra & Robbie Williams, and ending with 'Our Last Song Together' by Neil Sedaka.

I queued for half an hour or so to give my condolences and respect to his family. I wore my Mayoral chain so as to represent the Town as I know he was much loved by many here. But I was also there as me: I will miss him.

Rest in Peace, Jason.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Music and peace

Music has this wondrous ability to delight, inspire and bring people together. Maybe the harmonies, rhythms and rhapsodies in the music reverberate with our souls and we are driven to be reminded that we always have more in common that we have any differences.

Music in the Market 2017 was organised by the Buckingham Acoustic Club and sponsored by Buckingham Town Council. A good time was had by all.

I had the honour of opening and closing the event... and the pleasure of being there for almost all of it. Beautiful and sublime music to cater for many different tastes. I even had a go at a short Zumba dance: perhaps never to be repeated!

At 5.30pm we had a minute's silence in memory of those killed and injured in Manchester a few days ago, at another live music event. This seemed to be a fitting thing to do. It showed how much Buckingham people care. And that we will defiantly and fearlessly carry on enjoying live music, community and peace.

So my huge thanks to all who helped organise the event: Buckingham Acoustic Club, Amanda Brubaker (Town Council Events Officer) and the TC team (both staff and councillors); all the performers who shared their talents, the businesses that provided drinks and food - and all who came along and enjoyed themselves. Here's to next year!

Here are a few pics...

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A glorious and delightful day at Buckingham School

I spent the whole day at Buckingham School yesterday for their International Inspiration Day (IID). This day was co-organised between the school staff, the sixthformers who are studying sports leadership and the local Rotary Club and Inner Wheel. This is designed as day to engage all of year 7 (11-12 year olds) in a day of sport and cultural learning.

My role as one of the judges was in the morning to watch how the Higher and Community Sports leaders organised and refereed their activities (including hockey, touch rugby, golf and a wide variety of team multi skilled activities) and rate them against a set of critieria. And in the afternoon, the six teams gave presentations on their country and sport (eg Canada and Ice Hockey or South Africa and Rugby). I was a judge for these activities too.

And we finished off the day with presentations of the awards.

Huge thanks to Margo Jackson who worked with the team at Buckingham School to bring it all together. And I have great admiration for all the young sports leaders who kept all the younger ones involved and active! And thanks to all the Rotary & Inner Wheel people who made up the assessing and judging crew for the day as well, including Bev Trevitt President Buckingham Inner Wheel, Peter Bartlett President Buckingham Rotary Club.

I have no photos of the day itself (as I was abiding by the schools photography policy) but I might be getting a group one sent to me hopefully.

Meanwhile: all the children were just wonderful. It was a joy to be around such youthful energy and team spirit! Everyone had fun, it seemed to me.

UPDATE 290517: Margo sent out a thank you note a day later and she has agreed for me to quote her here, I so appreciated her words:
Many thanks for your support at Buckingham school's 2017 IID yesterday. It was one of the smoothest running days that I have known...
I know from past feedback that the sports leaders and Year 7 pupils really appreciate the commitment that we bring to the day which demonstrates all the work that they have put in since January despite preparing for A levels.
It is a chance too to see the work and ethos of the school which in the past has been sometimes regarded as the 'poor relation' in the town. When you consider they take on the education and community  socialisation of every child not cherry picked by the RLS then the example we witnessed yesterday of team spirit, enthusiasm, commitment, dedicated teaching staff, excellent student behaviour and real tolerance of children with disabilities, Buckingham School is doing very well and should be commended.
I too was very impressed. Thanks again Margo!

Friday, 26 May 2017

The 'chain gang' - group pic from Aylesbury Mayor Making

You can read my report of the event below. Thanks again to Aylesbury Town Council and especially Sue Carpenter (Mayor's Assistant & PA to the Town Clerk) for organising such a lovely evening, including this photograph.

For the Hearts of Buckingham

Yesterday I was delighted to be invited to receive the latest AED (Automated External Defibrillator) on behalf of the local community.

The device had been donated by the Rotary Club International. There are now many of these devices in and around Buckingham. Local hero Geoff Shaw (of the Rotary Club but also his own charity - The Buckingham AED Project) has been steadily plugging away at getting these plugged in all over the town!

Peter Bartlett, local Rotary president and Rotary District Governor,  Chalmers Cursley were able to explain how the funding was found for this latest device and how it fitted into a wider plan across several counties.

Unusually, notably and most nobly, Sue and John Tierney kindly agreed for the device to be placed on their home at 44 Badgers Way. This is opposite where the shop used to be on Badgers. (Sue and John are in the middle of the picture to the right of the AED box.)

To quote from Geoff's newsletter:
Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a condition in which the heart stops beating suddenly and unexpectedly owing to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system. It often strikes without warning. People of all ages, fitness levels and walks of life can experience one.
There are 250+ SCAs per day: this is equivalent to a jumbo jet crash every day. In the UK less than 5% of victims survive out of hospital.
Prompt use of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) raises this survival rate to 9%. However the prompt use of an AED (automated external defibrillator) raises this up to 50% ormore.
If an AED is used within 8 minutes, there is a very good chance of complete survival. As time increases, obviously survival rates will decrease sharply. Because they are so simple to use, they can be administered by any member of the public before the arrival of an ambulance or a first responder following the 999 call.
At one time for a town of its size Buckingham had very few first responders on call with no publicly accessible defibrillators. As time is of the essence in this emergency, a group of residents formed a charity in Spring 2014 to launch a project to facilitate the provision of publicly accessible AEDs in Buckingham and to encourage and foster new volunteers to be first responders. 
Also on hand yesterday was Robin Harding who is one of our local Community First Responders. You can read more about this service here and perhaps consider becoming one yourself.

(But do note that you do not need to be trained to use the AED fixed to the walls: they come with full instructions and they even talk you through what you have to do!)

My view is that hopefully these devices and our first responders will never need to be used. But the fact that they are there means that we all feel a little safer and our community is therefore a little stronger as a result. Which is a good social result in my book!

My thanks to Valerie Shaw and Susan Tierney for the good photographs above (mine is the wonky one!) 

Below is the rest of Geoff's newsletter for your information. Do note the locations he mentions. Furthermore there are apps available to you to know where your nearest AED is. Just search on AED - there is one by the South Central Ambulance Service.
Progress so far
We feel we have a come a long way over the last 3 years in meeting our initial aims and we have enjoyed good and helpful public support. We now wish to complete the job in the reasonably near future.
Surgeries, Dental Practices, the University, Stowe National Trust, Swan Pool, Primary and Secondary schools, the Rugby Club, Buckingham Athletic Football Club and the Golf Club now have these machines, in some cases through our efforts, but we felt a year ago that Buckingham should have these available in places of high footfall for public access. We have now provided three public access defibrillators with 24 hour access in the town as a first priority and
these have been joined by units at Bourton Meadow School, Lace Hill Community Centre and on the wall of the Woolpack Inn.
We are working with the Buckingham Rotary Club to put one sponsored by Rotary in the Badgers Estate and hopefully this will be operational by June.
As far as nearby villages are concerned, Winslow, Adstock, Gawcott, Swanbourne and Maids Moreton had already installed them in public areas and we have now added to these with units at the University playing fields and in Great Horwood, Akeley, Dadford and Little Horwood. There will soon be a further one in Preston Bissett. We are having discussions for new units in Chackmore, Lillingstone Lovell and Beachampton. With this first phase now almost completed ahead of schedule, we manage and monitor a total of 15 defibrillators.
We are also now well into phase 2 of the Project to foster, encourage and support more volunteer Community First Responders for the town. Six are now active and one more is giving it serious consideration.
Public awareness
A crucial part of the Project is to get people aware of the existence of defibrillators in the town and their usefulness in the saving of lives of those who are victims of cardiac arrest in view of the short time available to take action. We need to convince people that these machines are safe and very easy to use, as the defibrillator itself tells you exactly what to do.
We are therefore demonstrating this in all our fund-raising and we regularly try to persuade organisations to hold public awareness sessions of no more than 30 minutes as part of their membership and our help. Two new ventures have been family first aid sessions at the Buckingham Community Centre and Tesco with the help of Bucks First Aid and the Fire Brigade: we would like to do more. We have also taken part in the Buckingham Carnival, where in the last three years we have been awarded rosettes for the adult category.
With the aid of all our supporters it is very important that we convince a person that, if they find themselves on the scene in an emergency, they really could operate one of these machines and save a life. It is already obvious that there is widespread ignorance and fear in the minds of many people. A machine is useless if someone near in an emergency is afraid to use it.
Fund-raising. Events in the autumn of 2016 included a “Flag Day” in the centre of the town on the morning of 24 September and a public collection in the foyer of Tesco over the weekend of 15-16 October. We also held two big raffles, primarily to raise funds for the Woolpack unit in the context of special events to celebrate the Cornish pasty and the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. In all our fund-raising we demonstrate the use of the defibrillator. We have enjoyed splendid support from citizens in the town.
For further details please contact Geoff Shaw on 01280 812547 or

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

We Love Manchester

6pm this evening, I will be sitting on a seat by the Old Gaol, thinking about all the children, young people, families and all who have been affected by the terrible events of last night in Manchester.

Join me if you wish & can. In deep compassion for all those people hurt, powerful solidarity with Manchester & irresistible hope for a more peaceful & safer world.

Stephen 'arfur' Staley, Michael Smith, Robin Stuchbury and I showed our solidarity and unity with the people of Manchester this evening.

Monday, 22 May 2017

An inspirational first meeting with the University Social and Academics Club

Earlier on today, I spent an inspirational hour with two University of Buckingham students: Alakhiwe Ndlovu and Noly Konoso. They are both very involved in the Social and Academics Club of the University. This club is described as one that "seeks to enhance both social and academic aspects of university life through the means of the clubs members. It also seeks to promote acts of charity and service to the community."

We met to talk about ambition, cohesion and economic development. A big agenda which we have only just begun to explore!

(That's Al on my right and Noly on my left)

We have begun to cook up some ideas about how the students and the other residents of the town can come together and make new things happen for everyone in and connected to Buckingham. There are many opportunities for networking and simply bridging some of the divides between 'town and gown'.

(Would you like to have a penfriend in Africa? Is there business that you could be doing abroad? Are there twinning links that could be made between your group and one in some other part of the globe? Etc...)

They have booked me for an event (details to be announced soon) on the 16 June in the early evening. I am looking forward to it!

Meanwhile, it seems that the churches in the town are pretty good at being welcoming and inclusive to many of students. (Well done!) However, after our discussions I was left wondering if the other (secular) social & business groups in the town could make themselves more accessible...? What do you think?

Anyway, please watch this space for ideas coming to fruition...!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Aylesbury Mayor Making: a spectacular evening

Last night I and Julie had the pleasure of seeing the new Mayor of Aylesbury and his deputy inaugurated. It was a great event with many members of the 'chain gang' present including the High Sheriff and one of the Deputy Lord Lieutenants of the County. A group photograph should be coming my way soon.

Aylesbury Town Council also has a Crown Court Judge as their Honorary Recorder who acts an adviser to the Council. Here is a pic of Cllr Tom Hunter-Watts, the new Mayor, giving his inauguration speech. You can see the new Deputy Cllr Mark Willis seated to his right.

Here is a pic a little closer up! Note the chain links which include the Star of David and another with a Masonic symbol on it. I have met Tom before but I did not know what a scifi fan he is. He is especially keen on Eastern European science fiction films, he was telling me.

Here is a pic showing the Honorary Recorder that the Town Council can call upon for advice. He is the one in red without the chain!

And here is a panoramic view of the event. Sitting next to Julie are two of the Town Council's Youth Council who were great to talk with. Daniel and Anne told us about the efforts the Youth Council were making into fundraising for charity. And they told us about their personal ambitions.

A wonderful event and an honour to be there, representing and promoting Buckingham.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

TV Interview

The University of Buckingham runs several journalism courses and I have been interviewed by students from those courses on several occasions. Here is my first interview as Mayor (it's about a minute in, after the opening credits).

My great thanks to the students. I think they do a fantastic job at promoting and celebrating the Town!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Forthcoming events (as at beginning of March)

Dementia awareness: a truly fascinating morning

Yesterday morning (following a brief TV interview with Buckingham University journalism students outside the Old Gaol), I spent a fascinating few hours in the Library talking with people about dementia and the services available to assist people who are affected it by it.

I learnt lots! So here goes with a brief summary:

1 in every 14 of the population aged 65 years and over currently have dementia. The number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to over 1 million by 2025. In other words this is an issue that is not going to go away and is likely to touch the lives of everyone reading this blog, if not already.

Dementia is a generic term for a range of (over a 100) diseases that can affect the brain. Given that the brain controls almost all of what we do and think, this means that dementia is not just about losing memories, it can be about losing lots of other kinds of functions that we just take for granted. Dementia is a progressive disease of the brain: people don't get better, they only get worse (albeit in different ways and with different speeds which can be helped with some treatments)

And perhaps the biggest message for me from the 1 hour workshop on becoming a 'Dementia Friend' was the need to show patience, understanding and basic kindness towards everyone and especially those who may be in the early or later stages of dementia.

I learnt about the plans to make Buckingham a Dementia Friendly Town. This is being coordinated by Eileen Winston, pictured here with Town Councillor (and past Mayor) Mike Smith and County Councillor Warren Whyte.

If you would like to get involved in this project, you can contact Eileen on Please do: all volunteers welcome!

The Alzheimer's Society were present of course (Alzheimer's is one type of dementia) and were promoting lots of helpful information. Here I am with Sam Marshall, Befriending Manager (in the middle) and Nicole Palmer (Services Manager).

The Fire Service has a huge role to play in the ensuring the safety of people who have dementia and their families. I have some personal experience of this with my Mum in Pembrokeshire and I have been thoroughly impressed with the response of the Fire Service there to my Mum's needs. From the conversation I had with Alison Still (see below) who is the Community Safety Coordinator with Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, I am confident that people locally can expect an excellent service too.

And of course, here is an obligatory pic of me with a fire engine (with Colin Partridge, Firefighter)!

Dementia is not just for older people either! Below is a pic of the exhibition brought along by pupils of Buckingham School with, Vikki Lane, Receptionist and Laura Walker, Administrator. The pupils had a presentation recently in the school and what you can see below are what the children took on board from this presentation. Fantastic work!

And here is the work in close up:

And I finished off the morning with Graham White who ran the Dementia Friends session and is also the Community Links officer for the County Council. He helps run 'Prevention Matters' described as a "free service aimed to help people avoid the need for increasing health and social care support". Information about the service is available here. Here is Graham.

I am sure I did not speak to everyone, so my apologies to those I did not get around to having a conversation with. All in all a fantastic event that will stay with me for a long time.

I will finish this blog with the five key messages of being a Dementia Friend:

  1. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
  2. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain
  3. Dementia is not just about losing your memory - it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks
  4. It is possible to live well with dementia
  5. There is more to a person than the dementia

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Buckinghamshire Girlguiding: an inspirational afternoon

This afternoon Julie and I had the honour and great pleasure to be present at the Banner Service for Girlguiding in Bucks at St George's Church, RAF Halton. This is the occasion when all the banners of girl guide units and districts from across Bucks and MK are rededicated to the guiding family. The first banner service was held on 28 October 1928 and has been held every year since (apart from the war years). It is an occasion unique to Bucks. And it was a delight to see guides of all ages from (I am guessing) 5 to 95!

The banners were fabulous! Each one is carefully designed and hand stitched together with silver and sometimes golden thread. Each new design has to be passed by the College of Arms.

The Bucks 'chain gang' were out in force this afternoon: I met the Mayors of Marlow, Olney, High Wycombe, Newport Pagnell and Milton Keynes among several other council leaders and chairs. It was good to Isobel Darby, leader of Chiltern District Council again. (We did some work together on reforming the constitution of the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Association of Local Councillors a couple of years ago.)

The High Sheriff was there in full black breaches and the Lord Lieutenant in full uniform also (and I had a good conversation with his wife about ambition and purpose).

I hunted for the Buckingham unit banner and I was told by the District Commissioner for Wolverton, Margaret Lorton, that it was work in progress. And they were still raising money for the banner to be produced (they each cost about £1000 in materials). I mentioned that they might want to put a bid into the Town Council grants process for help with the cost. And I said I would be happy to come along and talk with any of the groups, brownies or guides, on a subject of their choosing.

(UPDATE: Margaret has since emailed me to say that there is a banner for Buckingham District but the woman who was bringing it was called away at short notice. There is a banner for the Buckingham Division which is under preparation. Watch this space!)

All in all a fabulous afternoon that finished with some tasty cake and a cup of tea.

My last point to mention is that they are always looking for volunteers to help run the various units be they Rainbows, Brownies or Guides. Their national website says that whatever time you have to spare, they could really do with your help! You can contact the local association here.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Buckingham Advertiser article

My article in this week's Advertiser:

One of my first jobs back in the 80’s was to put together a planning register (or database) of all the people with learning disabilities in Berkshire. My boss and I made sure that our register (unlike others at the time) focused on what the people were (and would one day be) able to do rather than what they could not do. In other words we deliberately emphasised ability and ambition.

I have concluded that ambition has been at the heart of most things that I have done: professionally, politically and personally. I have always looked for every opportunity to support people (family, friends, organisations and the wider community) in shaping their dreams and ambitions. And I have tried, where I can, to help them gather together the wherewithal to make these ambitions a reality. I get a real buzz when I see people making positive things happen for themselves, for their families, for their businesses and the community at large.

And so I am honoured, delighted and not a little bit daunted to have been elected as Buckingham Town Mayor by my fellow town councillors. My ambition is to serve the people of Buckingham and the Town Council to the very best of my abilities.

Ambition will be a key theme of my year as your Mayor. Over the coming months, I will be looking for every chance to support, recognise and rejoice in the ambitions of the many people I will be meeting. I am looking forward to learning about all the ways in which people are making their own futures happen (rather than having them being made for them by someone else).

I am also starting the “Buckingham Ambition Project” which will have the aim of getting more people involved in boosting ambition in our great town Buckingham. Please let me know how you would like to be involved! (

Meanwhile if you want to follow the progress of my Mayoral adventure, please browse and subscribe to my blog: And of course if you would like me to come along to any event or meeting you are organising, please contact the Town Council offices. I intend to be very busy over the next twelve months!

Brackley Mayor Making: a delightful afternoon

Another delightful event this lunchtime to see the new Mayor of Brackley installed. Cllr Don Thomspon is an ex-Navy chap who will be raising money for the local Sea Cadet service. Lovely man: we had a good talk about folk music (he is an accomplished musician) and how Brackley is changing. Here he is just after being made Mayor:

The event took place in Magdalen School in the town. Hence the shields either side of the stage. The silver band in the background provided some stirring and melodious interludes. And here is a pic of us together:

The new Deputy Mayor is Cllr Mark Morrell who revealed to me later that he is the famous Mr Pothole! Just google him. Lots of stories including this one.

The previous Mayor (Cllr Fiona Baker) had managed to raise the stonking £10100 for her charity: Dogs for Good who do some remarkable work for people and young adults with a variety of disabilities and whole communities. You can find out more about their work here.

I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying meeting such a rich mix of people at these events!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Banbury Mayor Making: an impressive evening

I went to my first other Mayor Making last night in Banbury. The Town Council owns an impressive building in the middle of Banbury. And indeed the Mayor Making itself was an impressive occasion: lots more bling and fur on all the councillors who were past Mayors!

Here is their report of the occasion - with a picture the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor (who will become the first Muslim Mayor of Banbury next year).

I noted that the room was laid our so that the Labour Councillors sat on one side and Conservative ones on the other. I was told later that it is a very politicised Town Council.

Still, it was a delight to be there and make notes!! I did like all the councillors saying out loud their promise to the Town. Maybe incorporate next year in Buckingham?

Also present was the High Steward, Sir Tony Baldry (erstwhile MP for Banbury) who was very finely decked out! Here he is on another occasion! (I forgot to get my own pic.)

CPRE Press release (following conference)

Below is my report of the conference.

The CPRE post on their website includes a link back to here as well. See here

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Westminster Abbey: a service of celebration and hope in support of DrugFam

I had the honour of attending a service in Westminster Abbey this lunchtime. (Sir Anthony Seldon, VC of the University, is a patron of DrugFam and had invited the Town Mayor.)

DrugFam was set up 11 years ago by a mother who had lost her son to drugs. Her intention was to create a charity that would support the families of people caught up with drug or alcohol addiction. Here is some of the history of DrugFam.

It was an extraordinarily moving service with a mixture hymns (many sung by the soaring and ethereal Westminster Abbey choir) addresses, prayers and readings. I was sitting near the front in amongst people who, they told me, all had stories to tell of close family members who become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many paper handkerchiefs were deployed.

The core themes were hope and love... and that there are many lives "worth talking about". More than one speaker urged people to talk more openly and challenge the stigma that surrounds the addictions to alcohol and drugs.

The service ended with one of my favourite hymns which I can remember singing as a child. The words mean a great deal to me. Perhaps they do to you too.

We help each other and we help ourselves when we talk about the difficult parts of our lives and DrugFam is clearly doing a great job at helping families wrestle with the deep challenges of having a family member involved with drugs and alcohol.

Afterwords there was a reception and I had the pleasure of my first 'chain gang' picture. Next to me is the Lord Mayor of Westminster and next to him is the Chairman of Wycombe District Council. We had a good chat.

I also had a long conversation with a young woman running a mentoring scheme in the London Borough of Southwark. I wish I had taken her details so I could post a link here. But it sounded like her organisation is doing some amazing work. Do we have a youth mentoring project in our part of Bucks? I am off in search!

And here is a selfie of me by the front of Westminster Abbey. Such an incredible place which I hardly got to see around. I must go back again sometime!

Monday, 8 May 2017

CPRE conference: slides

The slides arrived! I have uploaded them to my g-drive. You can see them here.

First full Council meeting tonight...

The Town Mayor chairs meetings of the full council. And the first one of this new political year happens tonight!

The agenda pack can be seen here.

I am planning on preparing carefully for this meeting, wondering if I am going to be 'tested' like a new teacher!! This will be the meeting when I begin to show my '3F's' style as Council Chair: firm, fair and 'ficient. I will firmly enforce the standing orders of the Council and I will be fair in allowing all to have a voice where they wish to, including those councillors who are sometimes a little reticent. But I will also aim to be efficient in working steadily through the agenda and avoiding tangential boulevards, no matter how attractive and leafy!

I will let you know how I get on.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Hidden Treasures of Buckingham

I had the great pleasure of introducing my Mother-in-Law to the Flosh today: it was a part of Buckingham we had never got around to showing her. So a short sojourn from the Station Road car park along the delightful railway walk down to the other end of Berties' Walk by Bath Lane and back again via the Flosh. Beautiful. And Google has done something magical to my picture!

And don't forget, the Town Council has produced a map of the town showing all the hidden treasures to be discovered, revisited and enjoyed!

You can download the map from here and there are hard copies available from the Old Gaol. There is even a Google Map kindly put together by Tony Moore here.

CPRE Buckinghamshire Planning Roadshow

The Bucks branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England held its first ever conference at Bledlow Village Hall on Saturday 6 May, 2017. I had the pleasure of attending this event both as Mayor and as a representative of the Planning Committee of the Town Council.

This is my brief report of the event. (link to slides is below)

The speakers, with my added (very much summary!) notes from what they said

Cheryl Gillan was the MP for Chesham and Amersham and is President of CPRE Buckinghamshire. (Cheryl was the Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Groups on Ancient Woodland and the Environment and has been a long standing champion for protection of the countryside and Green Belt in Bucks) Ms Gillan gave the welcome address and opened the event with some observations on the current state of planning in rural areas.
  • Preservation of the rural and urban environments is critical to our country
  • Any fool can impose a planning policy on a rural environment, but it takes a local community to build a local place
  • There are so many influences on the rural environment, for example Slough are trying to export their housing needs on South Bucks
  • We need to be vigilant about the Green Belt areas - they are the lungs of London and the Belt is under threat
  • We need our woodland to mitigate air pollution
  • Even though Areas of Natural Beauty are meant to inviolable, HS2 shows that to be untrue. We must protect AONBs
  • We must not throw away the EU protections of the environment as we Brexit
  • It is not about NIMBYism: well planned development is to be welcomed
  • The CPRE are seeking support for their manifesto in the General Election to:
  • get strong protection for Green Belt and AONBs
  • invest in urban regeneration
  • keep public funding for farming beyond just food
  • smarter travel / integrated travel policies are critical
  • less waste and pollution
  •  transpose EU protections into UK law 
Peter Lerner spoke about the recently published Housing White Paper, its influence on local planning policy and how local people can make the best use of the planning system. (Peter Lerner is a chartered town planner with over 40 years’ experience, working both as a local authority officer and as a consultant to local authorities. He has led planning teams in authorities in Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Greater London, and still retains his enthusiasm for an ever more complex and confusing planning system. Outside of work he is a loyal supporter of Wycombe Wanderers football club.)
  • Peter is a supporter of CPRE but not a member or representative
  • it is vital to shape local planning policies
  • note: 80% of applications are granted
  • local views must be taken into account
  • the system needs simplifying - for developing and maintaining local plans
  • application fees are likely to rise by 20% with hypothecation
  • planning appeals may not remain free
  • but white paper did not mention...
  • early 2017 time limit on local plans
  • competitive planning administration (maybe rowing back on this?)
  • increased permitted development rights
  • Peter was sad that it did not mention:
  • planning to involve planning for jobs
  • infrastructure boosting a key part of local planning
  • planning in rural areas in particular 
Dr Geoffrey Botting spoke about how to get the most out of a neighbourhood plan and answering key questions – Are neighbourhood plans worth the effort? What’s in it for the community? How do I start the process and what’s needed for success? (Geoff Botting is the vice-chair of the Woodcote Parish Council in Oxfordshire. He led the team that produced the Woodcote Neighbourhood Plan, one of the first dozen to be made nationally, and is currently leading the production of the village’s second Neighbourhood Plan. When he’s not involved in planning and parish matters, Geoff spends his time restoring old British motorcycles.)
  • This was the most cogent presentation with some very informative slides. So I probably made least notes! But here goes:
  • Borne of frustration, a sense of powerlessness, great concern for the village and a new opportunity, 15 people came together to drive forward the Neighbourhood Planning process. They worked and methodically and reckoned it took 5 person years worth of work. 
  • The Neighbourhood Plan was made in May 2014
  • They did not use consultants. They learnt a lot along the way: upskilling is crucial
  • And yes it was worth it: many benefits
  • Now embarking on updating the plan as the context has changed and they learnt several things since their first plan. 
Dr Stan Jones spoke about what CPRE is doing to influence the planning system and provided closing remarks for the event. (Stan Jones is the Chair of CPRE Buckinghamshire, a Parish Councillor in Bucks and a trustee of the London Green Belt Council. Stan has also worked extensively with councils for the benefit of the community in Newcastle via City Challenges and Regeneration Partnerships. In addition to this, Stan has a keen interest in ceramic and pottery technology.)
  • Summarised some of the key points
  • Explained some more about the CPRE
  • Thanked everyone for coming
So overall, a very worthwhile event. As I say, once I get the slides sent to me, I will upload here. UPDATE: slides now available here.

The speech I gave at the Mayor Making

Esteemed guests, great and wonderful people of Buckingham, my treasured family, our miraculous Town Clerk and his glorious team, and my glittering fellow Town Councillors: welcome one and all. Thank you so much for making the time to be here this evening.

I am humbled by your presence and deeply honoured to have been elected Town Mayor for the forthcoming year by my councillor colleagues. Thank you for trusting me with this responsibility.

I promise to be the best Mayor that I can be. I will faithfully and diligently serve the Town Council and the people of our fair parish to the best of my abilities. I will be relentless in searching for all ways to help Buckingham become an even better place in which to live, work, study, visit and play.

I am not a little daunted by the year ahead and what it will bring. But I know that my Councillor colleagues, the Town Clerk and his Team, the Deputy Mayor to be, Cllr Mark Cole, and my family (especially my inspirational wife and Mayoress to be), will be backing me all the way. You all help in giving me the confidence and ambition to succeed. Thank you.

Ambition is a very important word to me. When I review all of what I have sought to do in my life: professionally, personally and politically, I have arrived at the conclusion that ambition lies at the heart of it all. I have always aimed to do all that I can to help create a world in which everyone has dreams and ambitions, and the wherewithal to achieve these.

Ambition is a precious thing and I think we need more of it in our world. Ambition, hope and dreams are good for our health and well being, and they good for our society too as they drive our economy and improvements in community spirit.

And so as Mayor, I will be carrying on with my focus on ambition. Ambition will be a key theme of my Mayoralty. I will be looking for all ways in which I can support, nurture, recognise and rejoice in the ambition present in all those whom I will meet.

Tonight I am initiating the ‘Buckingham Ambition Project’. I don’t yet know what precise form the BAP will will take but I know that something magical will emerge over time.

And I hope that everyone here will consider how they might take part: how will each of you continue to support ambition in Buckingham - what more could you do?

I can also announce now that there will be a charitable fundraising dance in March next year, to be called the BAP Bop! Watch this space

And whilst ambition is something for all ages of course, I have chosen three charities that support children and young people to lead ambitious and fulfilling lives. I hope you will feel able to make a generous donation this evening to launch this year’s Mayor’s Charities Collection: for our local Buckingham Youth Club, the NSPCC and UNICEF. Children and young people here in Buckingham, nationally and around the world will benefit from your generosity.

And finally, I want to pay tribute to all the past Mayors who are here this evening including naturally Andy who is just stepping down. Thank you for your support and guidance. I have some very hard acts to follow!

Thank you again to all of you for being here this evening.

Thank you for visiting this blog

This is the first post on this blog. Thank you for visiting this site. My aim is to provide a publicly accessible 'web log' of what I do this year as the Mayor of Buckingham.

I was made Mayor at the Annual Statutory Meeting on Friday 5 May 2017 and my term of office runs for a year. Next year, my fellow town councillors may decide to elect me Mayor for a second year - but that will depend on how well I do this year!

UPDATE: I was elected Mayor for a second year on 4 May 2018.

The role of Mayor is essentially a ceremonial one: being the figurehead of the Town Council within the Town, and as representative of the Town outside the parish. The Mayor also chairs meetings of the full Town Council. (There are regalia associated with the Mayor, details of which can be found on the Buckingham Town Council website here).

If you would like the Town Mayor to be present at an event you are organising, for whatever purpose, please contact the Town Council with details of dates and requirements. You can find information about how to contact the Town Council here. Or you can email by clicking here.

I am looking forward to my year ahead!

My last post on this blog

Last night I handed on the Buckingham Town Mayor's chain of office to my very worthy successor, Cllr Mark Cole. This marks the end of my...