Imagine for a moment that spread before you is a completely blank map of England. The only markings are hills, plains, valleys and rivers; and man-made features such as roads, railways, towns and cities. There are no county boundaries, but you must decide them. Question: would you – would anyone - create Wiltshire?
Geographically this county simply doesn’t make sense. It is physically divided by Salisbury Plain. Which is why scrapping five district councils in favour of a unitary Wiltshire Council run from a small town somewhere near the M4 was a daft decision.
In the blog extract published recently in the Journal, I advocated creating a South Wiltshire District Council – which would eventually lead to the county being broken up.
Our local politicians’ response to that (and to my pointing out that the area board is unelected) was interesting. Both Richard Clewer and Mary Douglas suggested that I should stand as a WC candidate. Ms Douglas suggests I “replace the whine of the armchair critic with purposeful activity”. I doubt whether people who know me would agree with that comment - unless, that is, Ms Douglas thinks only party political activities count as 'purposeful’?
Admittedly as a middle-class white male pensioner I’d blend in quite well at Trowbridge – but what we really need in County Hall are working twenty and thirty somethings. I’d prefer to be represented by younger councillors trying to save up enough for a mortgage down-payment. By villagers whose kids use buses and bikes because their parents can’t afford a 4x4 for the school run. By people whose grandparents are still in their 70s. Above all we need a council truly representing our county’s social spectrum. As I recollect the current Wiltshire Council line-up is 67 Tories, 23 Lib-Dems, and eight others – not exactly a Tesco checkout queue, is it?
“Elected or unelected – which is it, Mr Wain?” asks Mary Douglas. My answer is elected – but preferably not some of those who got in last time. • PS Margaret James wonders why Salisbury needs a 100-bed hotel (letters, this week’s Journal) when we’ve got plenty of small ones. It’s because that’s the minimum size needed to accommodate a coach load of tourists staying overnight. At present they stop in Bath, Winchester or Southampton. Ask any travel agent