Children's warm clothing appeal for refugees in Europe
Temperatures are falling below zero in many of the refugee encampments across Europe. Warm clothing for children is being sent out by Witney Refugee Action. Charlbury Refugee Action Group is helping with the collection.
If you go to Witney, you can leave bags of suitable items (please do not include other things not on the list) at Waterstones bookshop during opening hours. Otherwise, they may be left in Charlbury and CRAG members will take them to Witney. Please email email@example.com to arrange a drop-off.
Please only include items on the list, and everything should be clean and new or as-new.
Our collection of medical aid to be shipped to Syria is continuing. There is a box in the Corner House for general items, but painkillers and prescription drugs should not be left there: please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a drop-off.
Jon Carpenter · Sat 22 Oct, 10:31 · Link
Robert Courts (Conservative) has been elected as the new MP for the Witney constituency with a reduced majority.
Liz Leffman (Liberal Democrats), from Charlbury, was second with a greatly increased share of the vote.
Summary results are:
- Robert Courts, Conservative: 45.1% (-15.1)
- Liz Leffman, Liberal Democrats: 30.2% (+23.5)
- Duncan Enright, Labour: 15.0% (-2.2)
- Larry Sanders, Green: 3.5% (-1.5)
- Dickie Bird, UKIP: 3.5% (-5.6)
Turnout was 47%. Full results are on the West Oxfordshire District Council website.
The next elections in the area will be for Oxfordshire County Council in May 2017.
Richard Fairhurst · Fri 21 Oct, 08:50 · Link
Southill solar farm - rapid progress
Solarcentury is making rapid progress with fine weather and a hard-working team. The first row of panels is already installed. The farm should be complete and connected by mid-November. Visits will be arranged for those who are interested.
Liz Reason · Sat 15 Oct, 18:52 · Link
Follow the hustings live on Twitter
If you can't get to the hustings tonight in the Memorial Hall, I'll be "live-tweeting" proceedings - i.e. a running textual commentary of what's going on.
To follow along, just follow @charlbury on Twitter.
You don't have to be a Twitter user to follow it: just go to twitter.com/charlbury from 7.30pm. When "View 1 new tweet" appears at the top, click that to see the latest update.
Richard Fairhurst · Thu 13 Oct, 17:49 · Link
Macmillan Coffee Morning at the Quaker Church
On Friday September 30th we held a Coffee Morning to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. The morning was very well attended and we have collected a record sum to send to this worthwhile charity. We kept the auction open for a week after the coffee morning and can now tell you that we made a whopping £3,460.69!!!
The breakdown from our 6 stalls is as follows
Entrance with coffee and cake. £489.50
Bric a brac £588.05
Home Produce £214
Bottle stall. £102
Many, many thanks to everyone who helped on the day and to everyone who came and supported our fund raising. We were also given, very kindly, some donation cheques. Many thanks too, to the local businesses who supported us by donating raffle prizes.
Well done everyone!,
Sally Pollock and Suzanne Flynne
sally Simpson · Wed 12 Oct, 11:21 · Link
By-election hustings on Thursday
Churches Together in Charlbury and the United Nations Association (West Oxfordshire Branch) have organised a hustings event for the forthcoming Witney by-election.
It will be held in the Memorial Hall on Thursday 13th. All 14 candidates have been invited - not just the main parties but a series of fringe candidates less or more entertaining! Doors open at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start.
Wed 12 Oct, 10:44 · Link
Charlbury Town Survey News
Some people have quite reasonably asked what has happened about the results of the Town Survey and some have also questioned:
"who are these people on the forum?"
or "are they people with an Agenda?"
or "how much does it cost and who pays?".
It is evident that a response is required and we hope the following answers these as best we can.
Firstly regarding "who pays?" :
Most of the effort going into this exercise is from volunteers. Where it has been necessary to spend money, for example on printing or data entry or analysis, then this has generally been covered by a grant from central government (via Locality) specifically for the purpose of creating Neighbourhood Plans. Grants have a limit of £8k but can only be used for this specific purpose and a quote and details have to be provided before applying for grants and this can only be done at certain times. Because of grants Charlbury itself has only incurred minimal expenditure on the exercise.
"Why has it taken so long?" :
We are in fact surprised by how much time and effort has been required to complete this exercise. It is perhaps worth stressing that most of the effort comes from volunteers all of whom lead pretty busy lives and have limited availability over the seasonal holiday period. It was thought important that the data was entered and analysed independently and an agency was contracted to do this with another independent person (following an invitation to tender process) to undertake some analysis. This was somewhat delayed by the above grant approval process. The results have now been captured but the exercise of putting them into a form that is digestible and easily understood and can be used as a basis for a plan is far from trivial. Our aim is to present all the data at a public meeting in what we have described as a 'vanilla' form i.e. not selective or skewed by anyone's bias or previously held assumptions. The meeting when it happens is not intended to be simply a one way presentation but will invite comments and be an integral part of the process of subsequently deriving some policies and a plan based on the results. There will of course be further opportunities for public scrutiny after which the Neighbourhood plan (which affects development) will be put to the community in a referendum and, if approved, will become part of the formal framework for planning. There will be a separate Community Led Plan for initiatives planned for the town Council and community as a whole. Hopefully this explains why it takes so long but we do feel it is important to get it right.
"Who are involved & do they have their own agendas?" :
The Neighbourhood Forum is called a "forum" because it welcomes ANY member of the community who wants to contribute and this is as true now as it has ever been. We encourage people to get involved. There is a committee of volunteers and meetings are held every second Thursday in the month at 8pm in the Corner house and all are welcome (although it would help if you advised us of your joining us). Minutes and names of committee members are posted on our website ????? and along with the minutes are matter of public record. We have joint chairs in John Hole and Graham Terry and we have been consistent and insistent that the objective of the committee is to gain and articulate the views of the community regarding Charlbury's future - not pursue any personal agendas. We record any potential conflicts of interest albeit there have only been a few, notably Rushy Bank. To date we believe that we have maintained this approach and have recognised through the process how easy it is to make entirely wrong assumptions about how others feel about issues. The committee are all volunteers apart from Lucy Crane-Lupton who is paid for a few hours a month to act as project manager/administrator and without whom this would have been a much more protracted exercise.
One recent change following the completion of the survey is that the Neighbourhood Forum has spawned two sub-groups; one concentrating on development/planning issues and targeting the production of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) ; the other concentrating on community aspirations and initiatives and targeting the production of the Community Led Plan (CLP). The former has a strong Town Council membership because legislation requires the town council to be the sponsoring body for a NDP. The NDP group is currently consulting the district council and other statutory bodies to ensure that what we put in our plan is supported and deliverable.Town council members also participate in the CLP group.
Survey status :
The survey had a few problems but in the end we achieved a much better return rate than the average for this type of survey. 554 households responded comprising 951 individuals; this should give some interesting results. We believe, however, that we still probably did not capture views from every section of the community even though we suspect that some of those that did not respond are perhaps the most disaffected amongst us. Efforts are underway to investigate other ways to try and reach these people so as to find out whether their reasons were lack of interest or grievance, knowledge of which will help create a caring community led plan that addresses the desires of all areas of the community.
The date of the planned public meeting will be publicised just as soon as we feel the data is in a form that can be presented clearly. Hopefully this will not be too long now. It may be encouraging to know that the survey showed 79% positive that Charlbury is "a great place to live" (3% were negative and the remainder neutral or no entry).
We hope this somewhat lengthy update explains better where we stand and we look forward to a big turn-out when the meeting is scheduled.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of the committee if you have any further questions.
Contact details can be found on www.charlburyneighbourhoodforum.org.uk
The Chairs of the Neighbourhood Forum Graham Terry and John Hole
lucy Crane-Lupton · Tue 11 Oct, 07:05 · Link
Charlbury's ongoing help for refugees
The razing and eviction of the camps at Calais and Dunkirk is imminent and unpredictable. The French say they will clear the Calais and probably the Dunkirk camps before the end of this month. That's now well over 10,000 people, of whom more than a thousand are minors. Over 300 of these have been found to be eligible for asylum under the so-called Dubs amendment, but the British government has refused to start the process of processing their claims. No one has said where any of these people will go.
Many of the residents are traumatised and severely depressed.
People have already begun to leave Calais because they are afraid of police violence, and are making their way to Paris where numbers are expected to increase dramatically in the next week or two.
Over 1,000 refugees are already sleeping rough in Paris, while a further 6,000 or so are in unofficial squats and shelters. The French authorities are withholding certain benefits, such as travel passes, to which they are entitled, making it very difficult for people to get to registrations and interviews across the city. Refugees caught travelling on buses or the metro without a ticket are fined 70 euros (which they do not have) and may collect a criminal record. Roughly once a month the police clear the camps from under bridges, flyovers etc and refugees often lose tents, bedding and other donated possessions in the process. This goes for everyone, mothers and babies included.
At our committee meeting on September 26 we felt the greatest immediate need to be in France, but we are also aware of the extremely serious situation in other parts of Europe, especially Greece, where we hope to be able to direct some of our aid in future as we have in the past.
We had raised £1200 to donate, and allocated it in equal portions to Calais Kitchens, Help Refugees and Phone Credit for Refugees.
The Feast of the Middle East which was held in the Corner House on Saturday 1 October was a resounding success, thanks to the simply amazing initiative and culinary skills of Alison Pritchard whose brainchild it was. It raised over £900 for refugee aid. So many people helped that we can't name them all, and it would be invidious to be selective! Let's just say that the event sold out a couple of weeks in advance, that over 40 people had an absolutely great time, and that there is another feast in the planning.
We have more fundraising activities in the pipeline. These include a series of Sunday afternoon classical recitals (the first on Sunday December 4 in the Memorial Hall at 3pm); our third all-day Art Café in St Mary's on the occasion of the Charlbury Artweeks Christmas Trail on Sunday November 20; and another evening of entertainment early in the new year.
Gene Teo Cooke's Thai and Chinese cookery class on Friday 14 October is fully booked, but if you are quick there may be one place left in the repeat class on Thursday November 10. Details at www.charbury.info/events/4309
You can give extra help yourself
We encourage individuals who want to give money to use a MyDonate site where possible, and to add Gift Aid: your money goes much further (by almost a third) than if you simply give it to CRAG. Please email us at email@example.com for some suggestions. This is a very easy way that anyone can offer very practical help.
Letter to the Home Secretary
CRAG has written a letter to Amber Rudd protesting at the treatment of minors in the Calais camp. The letter reads as follows:
"The 387 children eligible to come to the UK from the Calais camps
We are writing to express our concern about the unaccompanied minors currently living in the refugee camps in Calais, a concern which has become particularly acute since the French Government announced its plans to close the camps by the end of October. We would urge the British Government to ensure that all children eligible to be transferred to the UK are allowed to enter this country prior to the closure of the camps. If they are not transferred before the end of October then we fear for the well-being of these children who have already gone through so much.
We understand that Safe Passage UK has given the Home Office a list of 387 children eligible to come to the UK; 209 of these being eligible under the Alf Dubs amendment and the rest under the Dublin III asylum regulation.
We urge the British government to act quickly to expedite the admission of these children and would ask you to provide details of how this will be done and over what timescale."
Medical aid for Syria
This is in the form of containers shipped to Syria and Lebanon by the charity One Nation. Containers go monthly so the collection is ongoing. We are grateful to the Corner House for allowing us to have a collection bin there where smaller medical and first aid items can be left (but not prescription drugs or painkillers: if you have these to donate, please call 01608 811378 and we can pick them up). This includes wheelchairs, walking frames, crutches etc. Thank you so much to all the people who continue to donate.
Members of Witney Refugee Action are collecting items needed by people expecting to be evicted from the Jungle. They can be left at Waterstones bookshop during opening hours. No need to book; just turn up with bags and boxes. They will be driven to Calais by local volunteers. If you fancy a cheap day trip to Calais and back, let us know. We can fill your car! In Calais the warehouse is only a few minutes from the port or the Eurotunnel terminal.
Sleeping bags, tents, blankets, suitcases (with wheels) and large backpacks come top of most lists of badly needed items. Or click www.leisurefayre.com/section.php/86100/1/help_refugees to buy things for delivery straight to the warehouse. Among clothes most needed are insulated waterproof jackets in S/M sizes, especially for men. Many people bulk buy from SportsDirtect. To give money to the food providers in Calais so they can buy food cheaply in France, click mydonate.bt.com/charities/helprefugeesandrefugeecommunitykitchen Do add Gift Aid!
Check Witney Refugee Action's Facebook page for latest information. If you have difficulty getting to Waterstones, please let us know and we will help.
New committee members
We are pleased to welcome new members to the committee, now a strong team of eleven supported by a number of other very capable volunteers. Thank you to everyone!
CRAG's first Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday 14 November at 8pm in the Green Room at the Memorial Hall, Browns Lane, Charlbury. All members are welcome: please come with your questions, suggestions and ideas.
Thanks to all of you for your interest and support. What could we do without each other?
To join our mailing list, please sign up at eepurl.com/bCX1bz
You can also follow refugee news here and across Europe on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/charlburyrefugee You don't have to be signed in to Facebook to read the reports.
Jon Carpenter (Secretary)
Jon Carpenter · Sun 9 Oct, 11:48 · Link