Friday, 24 October 2008

LETTER: Royal Mail puts profits before people

Dear Editor - News that the Royal Mail has doubled its profits over the last six months while over 1,500 post offices are to be shut down will incense your readers.
Royal Mail’s round of closures was based on economic viability, highlighting the hypocrisy of this £177 million profit.
The Countryside Alliance has campaigned hard for the thousands of threatened branches.
A lack of economic viability should never have been the main reason for closures.
Post Offices form the hearts of their communities and many isolated and elderly people will be stranded without them.
Royal Mail should perhaps consider that Post Offices are about people, not profits.
Simon Hart
Chief Executive
Countryside Alliance
367 Kennington Road
SE11 4PT

Silver candlesticks are stolen from castle

TWO silver-plated candlesticks valued at £500 have been stolen from a roped off area of Dunster Castle.
The Castle is open to the public between 11 am and 4 pm, and the theft occurred between 10.30 am on Saturday, October 18, and 10.30am on Sunday, October 19.
The pair of candlesticks, one of which is pictured here, are described as having square bases, cluster columns, and palmated capitals at the top.
Police would like anybody who may have any information about the theft to contact PC Mark Curran at Minehead police station by calling 0845 4567000 or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where reports can be made anonymously.

LETTER: Acomplia drug withdrawal shows pointlessness of animal testing

Dear Editor - Just four years ago, Acomplia was hailed in the national press as a wonder slimming pill.
Now, it has been withdrawn by the authorities because of a high risk of serious psychiatric disorders leading, in some cases, to suicide.
This catastrophe, once again, underlines the pointlessness of animal tests during drug development.
Acomplia was passed as safe on the basis of those tests even though the physiology and mental make-up of rats and dogs is completely different from people’s.
But even if rats did suffer Acomplia-induced anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings, how would the lab researchers know?
Animal Aid has just published a major thoroughly-referenced critique of the drug industry, which includes an exposé of the scientifically fraudulent use of animals and the industry’s sharp practice during the trialling and marketing of drugs.
It is available free on request.
Kate Fowler-Reeves
Animal Aid
The Old Chapel
Bradford Street

Magna contractors signing up to online register

MOST of the 400-plus contractors used by Magna West Somerset Housing Association and its parent group have been encouraged to sign up to the Government’s register of pre-qualified construction suppliers.
Constructionline is a nationwide database which offers industry-wide recognition and credibility to its members.
Contractors who have worked for both housing associations in the past are being encouraged to sign up to the database, which is used nationally by many public and private sector clients including local authorities and housing associations such as Magna.
Many companies in the construction industry are finding it tough in the current economic climate, and being registered on a national database used by thousands of local and national customers could provide them with more opportunities for work and business.
Magna head of technical services, Mark Allan, said: “Every time we use a new contractor we have to undergo a lengthy process of checks (known as pre-qualification) before we can start working with them.
“Given that on many projects we are up against tight deadlines, it is much more efficient for us to use a central register where the relevant checks have already been undertaken.”
Magna technical and property services manager Tim Harper said: “We feel using the database will, in most cases, make us more efficient.
“In this business, time often means money and any savings will be of benefit to our customers.”

Anniversary for community youth volunteer scheme

THE first anniversary is being celebrated this month for a community youth development programme in Minehead which has seen youngsters rewarded for volunteering to help out in their local community.
‘Dreamscheme - Seaward Way’, the Minehead branch of the national Dreamscheme initiative, is run by Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary and youth service staff from Somerset County Council, with support from many other local and national organisations.
It encourages young people to earn points through a series of community-based work projects, including litter-picking and gardening.
Earning 10 points for every hour spent on a community project, the youths can redeem their points on social activities.
One recent Dreamscheme trip invited young people to redeem 15 of their points in return for a free game of ten pin bowling.
The project was established in Seaward Way last autumn by PCSOs Rachel Cutler and Luisa Skinner and it continues to engage local young people in community-based activities as well as holding a weekly youth club for the over-10s.
The October school half-term is a busy week for the Dreamscheme, and young people can take part in activities such as a gardening project in the nearby playground and baking cakes for a senior citizens’ coffee morning.
Their efforts will be rewarded with a volunteer-run Halloween party on October 31.
PCSO Luisa Skinner said: “The Dreamscheme project is really popular among young people in Minehead.
“They feel great about contributing to improving the area they live in and enjoy the benefits of the rewards.
“Local residents are all very supportive of the scheme and one year on, it is still going from strength to strength.”
County council Minehead ward Councillor Ian Galloway, who contributed £500 to the project from his community budget, said: “The Dreamscheme is a great outlet for young people in the area, and I am very grateful for the hard work and commitment that our local PCSOs and youth workers have put into this project.
“I have been very happy to make a contribution via our community budget to this valuable scheme for our younger citizens.”
County council community safety portfolio holder, Councillor Henry Hobhouse, said: “We are committed to providing services for local people at all stages of their lives, and have contributed £475,000 of funding for the county’s PCSOs.
“The Dreamscheme is an excellent example of the council and the police encouraging young people to release their potential for the benefit of the community as a whole.”
  • Our photograph shows youngsters on the Seaward Way estate being briefed on a litter pick earlier in the year. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

LETTER: Think about animals before buying 'pink' in breast cancer awareness month

Dear Editor - Anybody who has picked up a magazine or walked through a shop recently, knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It is hard to miss the displays of pink products that benefit breast cancer charities.
But before you buy, ask yourself if your donation will really help women in relevant ways, or will you simply be funding the same useless animal experiments that have been going on for decades?
The basic model of cancer research has not changed much since the 1970s: Grow cancer cells in a laboratory, inject them into mice, attack the resulting tumours with the experimental drug du jour and see what happens.
But there is a world of difference between humans and animals in their metabolism, biochemistry, physiology, and genetic make-up, so the results seen in mice cannot be reliably applied to people.
Meanwhile, as we spend millions of pounds to cure cancer in mice, we are missing opportunities that could help real women in the real world - such as making breast cancer treatment more accessible and educating people about the role that diet plays in cancer prevention.
Sadly, new technologies that could truly benefit patients - like the three-dimensional model of human breast cancer recently developed by British scientists, made by growing cells from normal and cancerous breast tissue - remain the exception.
This October, we do not need more pink ribbons or pink T-shirts - or mice with breast cancer.
We need a commitment to funding programmes that will result in true medical progress, including better patient services, education, and vital research that does not rely on outdated animal models.
Toni Vernelli
Animal Aid
Bradford St
Tonbridge, Kent

Speak up on private water supply testing before November 3

PEOPLE and businesses on private water supplies in West Somerset are being reminded that the consultation on the Government’s proposed changes to the way their supplies are tested and managed will close in less than a fortnight.
The proposed new Private Water Supplies Regulations, in line with a 1998 EU directive, revise the standards for private drinking water supplies.
The key proposals include categorising private water supplies into three groups:
  • Single private dwellings
  • Small domestic supplies for fewer than 50 people
  • Large domestic supplies for more than 50 people or serving commercial premises

Under the new legislation, councils will be required to sample more often and assess the risk of supplies.
Risk assessments will involve surveying the private water supply to minimise the contamination of source water, reduce or remove contaminants by treatment, and prevent contamination during storage and distribution to consumers’ taps.
The proposals aim to make it easier for councils to take action in the event of a problem, but also to resolve issues informally where possible.
The legislation covers authorisations, improvement notices, restriction notices, appeals, and charges.
More information on the consultation can be found on DEFRA’s website at, and responses should be sent to by November 3.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Small business of the year accolade for Paddocks Farm team

A WEST Somerset/Taunton Deane firm specialising in natural parasite control is celebrating after scooping the highly prestigious Somerset small business of the year award.
Paddocks Farm Partnership, in Huish Champflower, which trades as Verm-X, was founded six years ago by Philip Ghazala.
It now employs five people in a range of tasks from sales to marketing and distribution.
The firm has become the established leader in natural parasite control and has a range of products for many different animals from horses to poultry, cows, pigs, and sheep to alpacas, cats, and dogs.
Paddocks Farm Partnership won in the category for up to five employees at the Somerset Business of the Year annual awards, run by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.
The award was presented in front of an audience of 150 business guests in the offices of WPA, in Taunton.
Mr Ghazala said: “We were absolutely delighted to win the award.
“It is very much a team effort at Paddocks Farm Partnership and seeing the business grow and develop over the last six years has been very rewarding.
“The judges felt Paddocks Farm Partnership was an innovative farm diversification with an environmentally friendly ethos and when our name was read out it made all the hard work very worthwhile.
“We are the only company in the world that exclusively focuses on producing natural parasite control for animals and are very proud that Paddocks Farm Partnership is a 100 per cent natural formulation.”
  • Our photo shows (left to right) Paddocks Farm Partnership managing director Philip Ghazala, marketing assistant Ellie Pitts Tucker, office assistant Amy Ghazala, operations manager Nicola Wigley, Lloyds TSB representative Andy Holway, and BBC presenter Sally Challenor. Photo contributed.

Receptionist with a smile is hospital employee of the month

A RECEPTIONIST in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, has won the NHS trust’s October employee of the month award.
Marcia Derrick works in the haematology and oncology day unit.
She was nominated by colleague Debbie Curtis and selected from 37 nominations made by trust staff during the month.
Debbie said: “Marcia works above and beyond the call of duty. She had to work alone for several months earlier this year and still managed to ensure an extremely high level of service to the patients, as well as supporting medical secretaries like me when we needed it.
“She is always cheerful and has a smile for all of our patients, which is so important as she is often the first face that patients see when they come into the department.
“She also knows exactly where everything is, making her a real gem of a receptionist, one of the best I have ever seen in action.”
Marcia said: “I was stunned when I heard I had won this award. I have worked at Musgrove for seven years and have always loved my work, but I was really pleased to be recognised in this way.
“I do like to try and make patients feel welcome and at ease if I can.
“Nobody wants to be in hospital, but if I can contribute to making somebody’s experience that bit better, then that is really satisfying.”
  • Our photograph shows Marcia Derrick (left) receiving her award and flowers from Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust chairman Ros Wyke. Photo contributed.

BUSINESS NEWS: Samson honours Somerset’s ‘businesses of the year’

A West Somerset firm was among a trio of Somerset’s top businesses which were honoured for their achievements in the past year thanks to award-winning Samson Office Supplies.
The three firms were judged to be Somerset’s best small, medium, and large businesses of 2008 in an awards ceremony co-hosted by Somerset Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.
Samson Office Supplies - which itself was ‘business of the year’ in 2006 - sponsored the awards evening and managing director Jonathan Rice also presented additional prizes to the winners.
  • The small business winner was Paddocks Farm Partnership Ltd, of Huish Champflower, which is the world’s only company solely focusing on natural parasite control in animals
  • The medium size winner was fine food producer The Bay Tree Food Company, in Evercreech, near Shepton Mallet
  • The large business winner was Bridgwater charity The Brainwave Centre, which offers personalised therapy programmes for children with disabilities

As well as sponsoring the awards event, Samson Office Supplies also supplied prizes for the three Somerset businesses of the year category winners and presented each winner with vouchers and state-of-the-art shredding machines.
Samson Office Supplies managing director Jonathan Rice said: “Having previously won ‘business of the year’ ourselves, we know exactly what it takes and what it means for a company to win one of these awards.
“So, we were delighted to be asked by the chamber to sponsor this year’s ceremony and to come up with prizes for the main category winners, each of which has clearly proven itself to be an exceptional company in its field.
“From our base in Ilminster, we despatch office equipment and supplies from our stock of more than 16,000 products on a daily basis to companies large and small throughout Somerset and beyond - so many of the 150 business people who attended the awards ceremony were already known to us.”
More information about Samson Office Supplies, which is based in Ilminster, is available by telephoning 01460 55000 or visiting
Samson Office Supplies also holds Beacon Status awarded by the South West Regional Development Agency, and the British Office Supplies and Services Federation Dealer Excellence Award for three successive years.

  • Our photograph shows Samson Office Supplies managing director Jonathan Rice (centre) with (left to right) Brainwave Centre head of finance and administration Andrew Glass, chief executive David Davies, and trustee Anne Fraser, The Bay Tree Food Co general manager Nigel Hodgson, and Paddocks Farm Partnership marketing and liaison manager Ellie Pitts-Tucker, warehousing manager Amy Ghazala, operations manager Nic Wigley, and director Philip Ghazala. Photo submitted.

More awards for training excellence at Foxes

FOXES Academy, in Minehead, has taken two titles in this year’s National Training Awards 2008 regional ceremony, held in Bristol.
The academy, which provides job training for young adults with learning disabilities, was represented at the presentations by principal Vanessa Cleere and head of vocational studies and training Kerry McCarthy.
They returned with a regional training award for outstanding benefits and effects as a result of training and a UK National Training Award as an exemplar of excellence.
Mrs Cleere said: “This was a fantastic result and is down to all the hard work, learning and training undertaken by both learners and staff at Foxes Academy. Congratulations to everybody.”
Foxes was one of four Westcountry organisations to win in the regional section of the UK National Training Awards.
The awards are given to entries which have demonstrated outstanding and exceptional achievement through training and development.
Sports commentator and former British hurdles champion, Colin Jackson, presented each winner with a trophy.
All four will now attend a national gala ceremony in London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel on December 11 where they will be up against winners from other regions for the overall winner of the year prize in their category.
The academy was nominated in the category for ‘Hospitality and Catering Qualifications for Learners with Learning Disabilities’.
The National Training Awards celebrate businesses, organisations, and individuals which achieve outstanding success through training and development.
It is run by UK Skills on behalf of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and is sponsored by City and Guilds and supported by Investors in People.
Colin Jackson said: “I am delighted to take part again in the National Training Awards ceremony in South West and present the winners with their trophies.
“This year’s recipients have set the benchmark high and have proven that in today’s competitive market, high-quality training is an integral part of both personal and business development.”
The chairman of the South West judging panel, Martin Norman, said: “The South West winners clearly represent the benefits of better skills and training.
“They have proven that training can change a company’s performance and that it is an essential ingredient for success.”
UK Skills chief executive Simon Bartley said: “It is exciting to see such a broad range of examples of both personal and organisational investment in training.
“Each winner has a wonderful story to tell of the benefits their training has brought, from increased productivity to improved customer satisfaction to changed lives.
“The winners demonstrate that training is an investment not a cost and that it can transform companies, careers, and communities.
“I congratulate them all on what they have achieved.”
Higher Education Minister David Lammy said: “The National Training Awards foster a culture of learning, celebrate skills development, and make a real difference to the performance of companies and individuals the length and breadth of the country by challenging them to invest in their own development and future.
“The winners demonstrate the dynamic range of training taking place across the UK and the benefits of achieving excellence, and I congratulate them.”
Malcolm Gillespie, regional director at the Learning and Skills Council, said: “Organisations with skilled and qualified workers can expect to be more competitive, productive, and profitable, and the increased number of entries clearly illustrates a growing recognition of the benefits that skills’ training delivers.”
More information about the National Training Awards is available by visiting and more information about UK Skills is available by logging on to