Friday, 30 November 2018

Skating on thick plastic

This year, for the first time, the Town Council arranged for a skating rink to be added to the Town for the week running up to Christmas lights switch on. I understand over 700 people have booked slots during this period, which is fantastic! (There is room for more too!)

The ambition is for this initiative to be cost neutral to the Council with the costs being offset by tickets and sponsorship. It was fabulous to officially open it on Monday evening with the aid of Pucky from MK Lightning, our local ice hockey team. Indeed some of the team came along too! Thanks to Town Clerk Paul and Events Coordinator Amanda Brubaker and colleagues for the pics below.

Keep... skating!!




With fellow councillors - the Mayoress is hidden!


I was on skates - as was Cllr Stuchbury


... but a little nervously!

Magical new building

Wednesday this week saw the official opening of the new Vinson Building. This will be the centre of activities of the economics and entrepreneurship departments. And frankly with a building as beautiful and well designed as this, I fully expect the University of Buckingham to be turning out some of the best business people over the coming years! (To add to the ones they have already produced of course!)

And what is delightful is that this building will be open to non-students too. You will be able to pop in for a cup of coffee, browse the University Bookshop and just soak up the scholarly ambience! Who knows, you might even get into a conversation with a student or lecturer who might inspire you to take up some study too.

All credit to the architects and builders. And of course, huge thanks to the people who have funded the building especially Lord Vinson. I had the pleasure of thanking him personally for his contribution to the heritage and culture of our town.

I wish I could capture all the speeches that were made, including those by the inspirational and warm Sir Anthony Seldon and the indefatigable & inimitable, The Right Hon Frank Field MP. Suffice to say that freedom, innovation and hope for the future featured large! (There are some notes here produced by the IEA)

Here is Lord Vinson and Frank Field opening the building.


And some of the people present


Magical

I had the greatest of delights to watch the Royal Latin School's production of "The Magic of Mary Poppins" yesterday. And it was made even more wonderful by watching it in the company of primary school children from around the town. We all enjoyed the performances hugely! It is majestic show with song, dance, moments of anguish and moments of joy. It features a cast of dozens and a backstage crew to match. It was stunning show to watch and see how all the pieces fell into place as the story was told. All credit to the performers, the backstage team, the directors and everyone else involved. You have done the school proud!

Go see it if you can!



Monday, 26 November 2018

Lace Hill winter warming

I enjoyed a brisk walk over to Lace Hill on Sunday for the Winter Fair and it was wonderful! The big and small rooms there were buzzing with crafting activity, mulled wine, great music and a general family atmosphere. Great to see all the stall holders with their beautiful wares, including many local businesses. I adored the mulled wine and mince pies. This community centre is such a brilliant addition to Buckingham!


Friday, 23 November 2018

Councillor Conduct

Along with Councillor Ruth Newell, we attended training on Tuesday organised by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils. Although I had attended a conference on a similar subject not long ago at the same venue (Weston Turville) - both Ruth and I were keen to keep abreast of any changes in the law and practice on these matters. The Town Council has made a commitment that all councillors should keep appraised of the key topics that we deal with in our responsibilities as councillors.


The training half day was entitled "The Code of Conduct, Interests and Dispensations" and ably led by Julie Openshaw, the District Solicitor and Monitoring Officer for Wycombe District Council. It was a fascinating morning and enriched by conversations with the other participants including the Parish Clerk for the village where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed! (We did talk about wider matters too..)

Anyway, so what did I learn?

Councillor conduct remains high on the agenda for many local councils even if the numbers being reported/investigated are low. Julie Openshaw, when asked a question by me, reported that in the four years she has been at Wycombe District Council there have been only 25 cases of misconduct reported to her and not one of these has been judged (by her) to be in need of further investigation. This suggested to me that (for a variety of complex reasons, no doubt) that there is significant under reporting of cases where Councillors are over stepping the mark when it comes to handling their clerk, council staff or colleague councillors. I say this because when I talk to Parish Clerks, most have stories of councillors being rude or bullying.

I was reminded that regime of monitoring and tackling Councillor conduct has been made very light touch in recent years with the rational to make it less bureaucratic. I am left wondering, however, if it has gone too far in the direction of a laissez faire approach. The real sanctions that can be applied are very minimal and it seems the threshold for doing investigations is quite high.

The Nolan Principles remain centre stage but the breadth with which they can be interpreted is still very wide. 

I think Buckingham Town Council is very focused on councillors declaring any interests they might have and making sure that decisions are taken with due regard to these. I think we could be even tighter, which is a matter I plan to raise with the Town Clerk.

Dispensations are instances where a councillor or group of councillors have a declarable interest but for a variety of reasons may still be allowed to comment and vote. The law is pretty wide though including reason number five which states than an authority (the Town Clerk in our case) may grant a dispensation when he considers that it is otherwise appropriate to grant a dispensation. Yes you read that right... (But on the whole we have had very few dispensations granted in BTC apart from the standing one when it comes to setting the precept)

We spent some time looking at a particular case of where a councillor (who happened to be called Harvey - no relation I might add) and Ledbury Town Council had a disagreement. She was initially prevented by the Council from attending any committees and representing the council on any outside bodies. This was done on the basis of the Town Council applying their grievance procedure to her over her dealings with some members of staff. However, the law when applied found that the sanctions were not legal and the local Monitoring Officer judged that the Council were acting beyond their powers (ultra vires) as well as being non compliant with the Human Rights Act etc. I could write more about this case based on the notes given us by Ms Openshaw - but I will stop there. But I will sum up to say that due process must always be applied...

So, a fertile day and good tuning of my brain on all these matters.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Buckingham Society moving forward at speed!

AGMs are typically boring affairs electing the same old officers and so forth. But last night's one for the Buckingham Society was anything but! We had some brilliant debates on local town planning matters and the new local community transport service. Plus an extraordinarily impressive presentation from the MD of Silverstone. Stuart Pringle held us agog for an hour talking about the very exciting developments a few miles from us.

Think new family entertainment, new heritage exhibitions, new hotel, new investments by the likes of Aston Martin (a Buckinghamshire firm originally - returning to its roots!) combined with the success stories like the University Training College up there too. Breathtaking and it left me wondering what more we can do to build better links between us and this world famous centre on our doorstep... Ideas?

Anyway, back to the Buckingham Society, do make sure you have completed your form to nominate the Trader of the Year and Favourite eating place too. And if you have not yet browsed their new revamped website, please do. You can see it here and ask for a copy of the form for your nominations if you wish.

Here is Roger Edwards, the Chairman


The agenda

Stuart Pringle


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Jo Cox: step 9

On Monday morning, I donated the biography of Jo Cox for the ninth time to the libraries of my life: this time to the University of Buckingham. I have one more book to donate and I know where it is going. This is speech I gave to the assembled staff of the University:

We have just this last weekend commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Indeed we have all been paying tribute to everyone who has lost their lives or whose lives were damaged by armed conflict over the last century. We commit to never forgetting and always honouring the sacrifices of all. And when we do this, we often link this to the freedoms that we all enjoy. 

I am sure there are many historians here who know this better than me: but in my view the freedoms we have, come not just from the winning of wars. Our freedoms have also been hard won through political campaigning, legislation & our justice system, non-violent protest and, of course, constant vigilance. 

We live in tempestuous times where the pillars of our free democracy here and abroad are being shaken by terrorism, attacks on the free press and triumphant but myopic populism. The freedoms to think, to believe, to declare, to debate, to challenge, to satirise and to complain (etc!) are precious ones which we must protect with all our might.

One person who did this for all of her life was Jo Cox MP. As we all know, she was brutally murdered by a Right Wing Terrorist during the European Referendum campaign of 2016. And it is because of her that I am with you today. 

Jo stood up for freedom and against the ‘othering’ of people. She stood for community and common interests and against the suppression of ideas and the oppression of people.

When Jo was killed, it was a moment that shocked and saddened me deeply, as it did most other people of course. Here was an MP working hard to listen to and help her constituents in Batley and Spen. She was on her way to a regular surgery on 16 June 2016 when a man stabbed and killed her. As the world reacted to this event, much more about Jo became to be more widely understood. 


In particular a paragraph from her maiden speech in the House of Commons delivered by her on 3 June 2015, just a year previous, became well known:

“Batley and Spen is a gathering of typically independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages. Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Just to repeat that last bit:

“we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

And so wind forward another year and the general election of 2017 was called. I placed a bet of £20 on how many seats the Conservative Party would win (within a 25 seat margin) at odds of seven to one. 
I was right and I won my stake and £140 back. So then I thought, what should I do with the money? I could have blown it all on a night out or given it to a charity. But I decided instead to purchase 11 copies of the book about Jo’s amazing life and tragic death. And I decided at the same time to donate ten of these books to the libraries of my life.

The weekend before last, I donated one book to the Mouvaux Library, our twin town in Flanders. There are many Flanders fields around Mouvaux…

And here I am on stage nine of my journey. (I have one more stop to go: the Buckingham School). It gives me enormous pleasure to offer this book to your library here at the University. It is also pleasing, of course, that proceeds from the book have all been going to the Jo Cox Foundation, a charity that I know Sir Anthony is very supportive of. Indeed the profits from his last two books have gone there too. 


Inside the book will be this bookplate:



Thank you for allowing me to do this. 

Antony Archdeacon RIP

On behalf of the Town Council, I attended the funeral of our former Town Clerk, Mr Antony Archdeacon. I did not know him, but amongst the 100 or so people present, there were many who did. They spoke of a warm, kind and thoughtful man. His son gave a deeply moving eulogy about his father and described his life in some detail moving between the personal and professional. He was the Town Clerk for most of the 50s and 60s. Presided over by Father Roy Karakkattu, this was profound occasion, to grieve the passing of and of honouring a man who had given great service to his community. The Town Council stood in a minute's silence on Thursday last week to pay tribute to him.





Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A concert to remember

The road between the Old Gaol and Sorting Office will never feel the same again. For the thousand or so people who arrived to watch the Commemoration Concert on the evening of Sunday 11 November, this was a show we will never forget. I want to personally thank Lionel Weston for the bucketfuls of inspiration, determination, creativity and general hard work that he brought to bring about this wonderful moment in the life and history of our town. I don't think I will be the only councillor contemplating what the Town Council might do to honour what Lionel achieved not just with the concert but all the other Remembrance events that started in his imagination.

I could write lots about the concert but suffice to say it created the space for hundreds of us to enjoy the soaring melodies and poignant words of many musicians' voices and instruments and the actors who brought history to life. Thank you so much to all involved - front and back stage. I hope everyone feels justly proud of what was performed. It was an emotional and emotive three hours of sadness, gladness, stirring chords and fresh nostalgia. Thank you again!





Tea and cake welcome

As an important prelude to the evenings Commemoration Concert, Lionel Weston, with sponsorship from a wide variety of contributors, put on a cream tea for the families of the town descended from the returning soldiers. The concert featured a dramatic vignette featuring the stories of their fathers/grandfathers/greatgrandfathers. It was a lovely touch. Both Julie and I were delighted to be present and listen to the stories of their lives. And there was an amazing cake, baked especially in their honour by Susan Mileham.

Well done to all involved in helping make this happen.



Monday, 12 November 2018

A most memorable Remembrance

On Sunday morning, on the 11th of the 11th, the town turned out to offer Remembrance for all those lost or injured by wars over the last century and more. This was of course, the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the hostilities of the Great War. As might be expected, but probably even more so, hundreds of people took part. It was an historic occasion that will live on in the annals of our town. I was intensely honoured as the Town Mayor, to place the Remembrance wreath on behalf of the Town Council and indeed all local townsfolk.

As we stood in silence, the wind ruffled the trees and a few leaves drifted down onto the memorial, reminding us all of those who fell. We remember them because they lost their todays for our tomorrows. We remember all who have died or suffered as a consequence of armed conflict so that we may continue to redouble our efforts to always do what must be done to avoid war. As our most famous wartime leader once said: jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.

Peace be with us all.




Thanks to The Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser (and Jake McNulty) for this pic.


Many, many thanks to the local branch of the Royal British Legion who coordinate the Remembrance Parade: a fine job was done. And thanks to them also for underwriting and supporting many of the other Remembrance events that occurred over the weekend. Well done all!

Surrounded by ghosts

The street performance about local soldiers who died in the First World War on Saturday morning was most moving. I was almost overwhelmed with sadness, thinking about all these ordinary young men who died. Indeed, this whole remembrance weekend (I have attended seven events to mark the Armistice) has left me spinning with a swirl of emotions. The Silent Soldiers performance was so well deployed. Thank you to all the actors, the organisers and indeed the singers at the closing of the event. Tremendous. Perhaps something like this might be repeated for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings next year...?

What emotions has this weekend left you with? I am left reflecting on a quote I came across recently: the biggest lesson of history is that people don't learn the biggest lessons of history...   (Sorry - don't know who said this at the moment)






Sunday, 11 November 2018

Children's voices: singing for peace and freedom

On Thursday I attended the special Remembrance assembly in Buckingham Primary School, along with many older members of our community. The Year 5 children had put together a most moving occasion weaving history with song: remembering war and its casualties and celebrating peace and its hope. I managed to record part of the assembly with one young student playing the Last Post followed by a song about freedom. Do listen! It is because of them, and to ensure they live in peace and freedom, that we must never forget.


The link to my recording is here.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Remembering 'Old Latins'

Julie and I attended the Service of Remembrance at the Royal Latin School this morning. All the school students were present along with many members of the local community and the Royal British Legion. I sat next to a man of 94, a former pupil and veteran of the Second World War. He flew planes over Burma. It was a solemn event, paying tribute to all the former pupils of the school who had died in the First and Second World Wars. Headmaster David Hudson emphasised the need to remember the sacrifice of all those people who died or who were injured as a consequence of war, including civilians too.





Thanks to the @TheRoyalLatin twitter feed for these photos


Thursday, 8 November 2018

A weekend in marvellous Mouvaux!

At the invitation of the Twinning Association of Mouvaux, Julie and I spent last weekend in this delightful town. It was a delight to finally see the town with which Buckingham is twinned. Nestling in the suburbs of Lille, Mouvaux blossoms with beautiful buildings & parks - and wonderful welcoming people of course! The weekend was a celebration of all three towns that Mouvaux is twinned with (Halle in Belgium for over 60 years, Neukirchen-Vluyn in Germany for over 26 years and Buckingham since 2004). We had a wonderful and warming time.

First, I must say thank you to our hosts from the twinning association in Mouvaux, especially Annie Millecamps who coordinated the whole weekend. We are most grateful to Bruno and Béatrice Baussart who kindly provided hospitality to us in their home. And we must also mention Marcel Dendiével who acted as our guide around both Lille and a most moving visit to a nearby museum set in a restored German bunker (more below). And huge thanks to many, many others not least Jane and Howard Mordue who drove us there and generally held our hands as it were, and Stephanie Scrase who helped me translate my words (see below) and offered a warm welcome to her home town. And of course, a big shout out to Rory Evans who represented Buckingham and provided some amazing guitar music for the festival. Finally we must thank the Twinning Association of Buckingham itself which organised and funded the trip altogether. I am so grateful that we have this friendship with Mouvaux. Thank you to all the organisers who keep this twinning association alive.

I was able to present the book about Jo Cox to the library of Mouvaux. Below is a pic of Julie and I presenting the book to library President Madame Audouard and her colleague Madame Mely on the Saturday. (See below for the words that will be stuck into the book.)

Lille was just stunning and it is a city to which we plan to return. Just this one photograph below from inside the cathedral gives you an idea of the beauty of the town. Outside the face of the cathedral looks like a strange network of concrete slabs. But inside, when the sun shines, it is wondrous as I hope you will agree. The rest of the city is enchanting. Go see!

And on the Sunday morning, we visited the Verlaine Message Museum: which was once a German bunker with our host guide Marcel and two German colleagues from Neukirchen-Vluyn. We were inspired, intrigued, fascinated and moved by a brilliant local guide who brought all the exhibitions to life. It is difficult to explain the range of emotions I felt as we toured around, especially one week away from the remembrance ceremonies. Suffice to say, that we saw the room in which the German High Command received the coded signal that informed the Resistance (and the Germans got to hear too) that the D-Day landings were happening the next day.

So three days of memories that will stay with Julie and I for many years. Thank you to all who made this happen.

The Buckingham stall - almost everything was sold which helps fund the work of the Twinning Association


The programme of the festival



En route to France! Howard, Jane, Rory and Julie. We squeezed in rather well!


Handing over the Jo Cox book to Mouvaux Library (see the words below, which explains why)


Rory playing


The Cathedral in Lille: we got there just at the right time for the sunlight


The Museum of the Verlaine Message



The room in which the message was received by the Germans


A facsimile of the message


More pics from the festival





My speech at the opening ceremony:

I bring earnest greetings & deep friendship from Buckingham. It is a great joy for our community to be twinned with Mouvaux & through this glorious town to our friends in Neukirchen-Vluyn & Halle.

We live in world that seems to be experiencing more and more anomie and division. Where many people feel increasingly unsure of the present. And people feel great uncertainty about the future. This has many terrible consequences.

But here we are today celebrating our friendship & connections. Here we are increasing our understanding and knowledge of each other. And here we are joining together to work for a peaceful world. With all this we can help create more certainty and more stability. And also, I hope, there will be more people who are sure of their place in the world & in our communities.

Next week, we will all commemorate the 100 years since the end of the first World War. Let's do this with the same peace, love & friendship that we have in our hearts today.

>>

J'apporte des salutations sincères et une profonde amitié de la part de Buckingham. C’est une grande joie pour notre communauté d’être jumelée avec Mouvaux et à travers cette ville glorieuse à nos amis de Neukirchen-Vluyn & Halle.

Nous vivons dans un monde qui semble connaître de plus en plus d'anomie et de division. Où beaucoup de gens se sentent de moins en moins sûrs du present et ressentent une grande incertitude quant à l'avenir. Cela a de nombreuses conséquences desastreuses.

Mais nous célébrons aujourd'hui notre amitié et nos relations. Ici, nous fructifions notre compréhension et notre connaissance des uns des autres. Ici, nous nous unissons afin de travailler pour un monde en paix. Et ici, nous pouvons aider à créer plus de certitude et (plus) de stabilité. Et ainsi, j'espère qu’il y aura plus de gens qui seront sûrs de leur place dans le monde et dans nos communautés.

La semaine prochaine, nous commémorerons tous le centenaire de la fin de la première guerre mondiale. Faisons-le avec la même paix, le même amour et la même amitié que nous ressentons dans nos coeurs aujourd’hui.


My words for the bookplate for the book about Jo Cox:

Jo Cox was a British Member of Parliament who was murdered by a right wing terrorist on 16/6/16. Her life was dedicated to building communities where everyone recognises we all have far more in common than anything which might divide us.

This profound and noble aim is one I wholeheartedly support. So when I placed a bet on the June 2017 General Election and won, it did not take me long to decide what to do with my winnings. I chose to buy several copies of Jo’s biography and donate them to the libraries of my life.

I am honoured and excited to be able to add this book to Mouvaux Library. I do this in the earnest hope that current and future residents of our twin town, will be inspired by Jo’s life, and work for world full of love, and deep appreciation for the rich diversity and commonality of humankind. #LoveLikeJo

Jon Harvey
Mayor of Buckingham
2017 - 2019
3 November 2018

>>>

Jo Cox était un membre du Parlement britannique qui a été assassinée par un terroriste de (d’extreme droite) droite seize juin deux mille seize. Sa vie a été consacrée à la construction de communautés où chacun reconnaît que nous avons tous beaucoup plus en commun que tout ce qui pourrait nous diviser.

Je soutiens de tout cœur ce but noble et profond. Ainsi, lorsque j'ai parié sur l'élection générale de juin 2017 et que j'ai gagné, il ne m'a pas fallu longtemps pour decider de quoi faire de mes gains. J’ai choisi d’acheter plusieurs exemplaires de la biographie de Jo et d’en faire don aux bibliothèques presentes sur mon chemin .

Je suis honoré et ravi de pouvoir ajouter ce livre à la bibliothèque de Mouvaux. Je le fais dans l’espoir sincère que les résidents actuels et futurs de nos villes jumelles seront inspirés par la vie de Jo et œuvreront pour un monde rempli d’amour, fermement attaché aux richesses diverses des valeurs communes de l’humanité. #LoveLikeJo

Jon Harvey
Maire de Buckingham
2017 - 2019
3 novembre 2018

______________________________________________
Thanks to Stephanie and Howard for the additional pics

A man at peace with himself

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the funeral of a dearly loved local man, Theodore Connor. Stowe Church was standing room only and I estimate...