Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Credit card scam + warning about wireless home computer networks

A credit card scam with an unusual twist is operating in the our area. The criminal gets hold of someone's credit card details - possibly via a poorly secured wireless computer network. Next they contact a home catalogue company and order an item they already know is out of stock - this is enough to set up the home shopping account.

They wait a few days and then order something valuable, and follow the delivery van on the expected day of delivery. If the cardholder is out the scammer pretends to be a helpful neighbour and offers to accept delivery - or simply takes the parcel from the doorstep or behind the garage where the delivery driver leaves it.

There are several things we can do to protect ourselves and our neighbours. First, look out for anybody unknown hanging around your street. They could be waiting to intercept a delivery, or sitting in a van with a laptop to intercept wireless communications.

Second, from a more technical point of view, lots of people now have wireless home networks for a laptop or a games consoles like an Xbox. Wireless home computer networks need to have strong security:

  • Use the stronger WPA encryption, not the weaker WEP.

  • Definitely don't leave networks completely unsecured.

  • Use a long "passphrase" - not just the typical 6 or 8 characters.

  • What's more it's a bad idea to have your router ID called something identifiable, like your name or your house number. That just tells the thief what delivery address to specify.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Yate Library wins £1.5m Lottery grant

Yate Library has been awarded a grant of £1.5million from the Big Lottery Fund to extend and update the inside of the library, creating space for community learning and an exhibition area for local organisations and the community. The improvements should open by 2010.

Councillor Kay Crowe said, “It's absolutely wonderful news. We've been waiting this for a long time. Within the Yate and Sodbury Library Committee and the Mobile Library Committee we have been surveying and canvassing residents as to what improvements they want to see."

"The sort of opportunities that this money will provide for extending the building means we can improve the existing service, increase the range of products we offer and possibly include office space. We really want to widen the use of the library facilities and this award means we can reach out to more people within the area.”

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Youngster's "bike ride sponsorship" scam

It appears there is a scam going on throughout Chipping Sodbury, Yate and Dodington, relating to a young girl seeking sponsorship money for a sponsored “Bike Ride”. She usually goes by the name of Natasha, Natalie, or something similar.

The girl is knocking at random doors and claiming to be someone with ‘Special Needs at Chipping Sodbury School’. Fortunately, the Head of Year at Chipping Sodbury School realised she was not a student, and what's more there are no sponsorship events even running. The form looks very official (with the school logos and everything).

The police have been alerted and are currently looking. Unfortunately she (and her possible accomplices) are at large in the area it appears, having stolen purses from the elderly (up to £80 we are told by the police), and obtaining large amounts of money over the last 6 months.

Please be alert and let the police know if you see her, or anyone acting in this manner from any school. Please try and remember any names and addresses on the sponsorship form, if possible, since everyone is writing their details down and giving money.

New target for vandals - street cabinets

The metal cabinets you see by the roadside are either electricity, BT phones or cable TV/phones. A couple of weeks ago a BT cabinet in Harescombe was pushed right over during the night.

In the latest incident on Wednesday the Virgin (ex Telewest and Blueyonder) phone box between Blaisdon and Woodchester was damaged by fireworks and burnt out inside. Cable phones in the area are off until Sunday or Monday because of the repairs needed.

Did you put your clocks back?

I don't know about you, but when this time of the year comes around I spend the extra hour looking for all the clocks and the gadgets with clocks in and resetting them, so I don't gain an hour at all.

And what's more, when we return to Summer Time I lose one hour because of the change, and another hour looking for the clocks and things again.

Multiply that by however million households in the country...

Mind you, I've got a radio that I only ever use when I go abroad in the summer. So I leave it permanently on French summer time!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Weekly food waste campaign success

Liberal Democrats across South Gloucestershire are today celebrating that their long campaign for FREE weekly kerbside collection of food waste in the green bins has been successful. The scheme is set to go ahead for all residents by the end of 2008.

“This is great news” said Cllr. Dave Hockey (Lib Dem – Frampton Cotterell). “We have been campaigning on this since 2005 and our success means:

  • good news for local residents because weekly collection will cut problems with smelly food waste and free up space in their black bins;

  • good news for the environment since methane gas, a bi-product of biodegradable waste buried in landfill sites, is 21 times more damaging to the environment than carbon emissions;

  • good news for council tax payers who are set to avoid penalties rising from £1m per year in 2009 to over £5m per year by 2020”.

“One down, one to go” added Dave Hockey. “SITA know from their own Customer Satisfaction Survey carried out at the start of 2007 that residents are even more keen to see the introduction of kerbside collection of plastic bottles, which the Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for strongly over many years – watch this space!”.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Gordon Brown says no to Frenchay Hospital Review

At Prime Minister's Question Time Gordon Brown has refused to consider an independent review of the Frenchay Hospital decision. See Steve Webb's blog entry here.

Bus improvement from UWE to our area?

It''s not easy to get home by bus if you study or work at UWE.

There's an hourly-ish service 581. For example, it leaves UWE at 1621, 1726, 1834. There's also a 680 - one journey a day in each direction - leaving UWE at 1722.

Spot the flaw? It's only 4 minutes different from the other one - and lots of lectures at UWE finish on the half hour, so you would miss both of them.

It is possible to get back back another way by changing in Frenchay, but we thought there would be the demand for a more frequent direct service from UWE to our area.

We contacted South Glos Council, and they are consulting with the bus contractor and Filton College, which is also on the 680 route. If they agree, the return 680 might be delayed so that people at UWE can use it. Any change could come in from January.

We're grateful to South Glos for their support for these services - they have to subsidise them because no bus operator is willing to run them on a commercial basis. However don't hold your breath for any extra services - the bus support budget has been cut by £200,000 over this financial year and next.

New cycle track proposed from Sodbury to Peg Hill

Red line shows proposed cycle track
View Larger Map

Finance has been found for a cycle track from Chipping Sodbury, near the Millennium Garden, parallel with Wickwar Road inside the playing field hedge, up to the junction with Southfield Way, where a new crossing will be installed.

The project will be funded by Chipping Sodbury Town Trust, South Glos Council and Hansen Aggregates, who operate the quarry.

The proposal is out for public consultation at the moment.

Cllr Paul Hulbert, of the Joint Cycleways Group, said "This isn't just a link for Chipping Sodbury children to reach the Peg Hill skate park, it will be a safe route for children travelling to Brimsham Green or Chipping Sodbury Schools".

"This important link is one of a number of cycle routes we've been asking for in Chipping Sodbury, Yate and the surrounding area".

Cars before heritage?

We notice that the Conservative Club in Hatters Lane now has a newly surfaced car park.

Pity they haven't attended to Tudor House itself - this Chipping Sodbury landmark has rotting windows bereft of paint and cracks in the masonry.

Let's hope that's their next priority.

South Glos goes text friendly

Following a suggestion by Lib Dem councillors, you can now text South Gloucestershire Council with general enquiries about services, thanks to the launch of a text messaging service.

By saving the number 07950 080 111 to your mobile phone, you can text in your enquiries - maybe to tell South Glos about a problem while you're out and about. The new service will also help people with hearing impairments.

Texts will go directly to the council's customer services contact centre where staff will try to answer your enquiry and respond by text during the next working day.

Texts may be subject to the normal charge by your mobile phone network provider.

To find out more about this service please visit the South Glos website.

Yate Tesco planning application finally submitted

Tesco have finally submitted the planning application for their new Yate store to South Glos Council. The proposal is for a two-storey supermarket built on stilts above car parking.

The new building will be a Tesco Extra with three times as much floor space. This plan is a result of two consultations over the last year.

The proposals also include a revamp of the bus station to provide improved facilities for buses and community transport.

The plans will go out for public comment shortly - we'll let you know where to find them online.

The Gazette reports the story here.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Lib Dems call to account Tory plans to halt Nibley park-and-ride

Liberal Democrat Councillors are appealing to the South Gloucestershire Conservative Administration to rethink their decision to put the Nibley park-and-ride on hold. Councillors Pat Hockey and Claire Young (pictured above at the site) are among five Liberal Democrat councillors who have asked that the decision be reconsidered at the next meeting of the Planning Transportation and Strategic Environment select committee on the 28th of November 2007.

The Executive Member issued a press release and started the decision making process without any consultation, despite having made a commitment a few weeks earlier that he would continue the practice of always consulting appropriate Councillors before publishing his proposed decisions. This leaves very little time to object – and certainly cuts out the local people from having their say.

As the Tories have always claimed in the past that their Transport Policy is based on Park & Ride where does this leave us? They criticised the Lib Dems for not progressing Nibley fast enough as it was to be the first of the proposed “necklace of Park & Ride ” sites to combat the traffic jams.

There is no need for the Tories to take the Nibley money for the P&R at Parkway as they are now suggesting. This was planned to go ahead this year anyway. It can only be used for rail passengers in the short term until the problem of extra buses through Stoke Gifford has been solved. We have Yate station if we want to travel to Bristol or the MOD by train. It certainly won’t do anything to cut the queues on the Ring Road and through Coalpit Heath and Winterbourne!

Claire Young said “Whatever concerns local residents had about the P&R site, I am sure, like me, they will be even more concerned that there may now be other plans for it that we aren’t being told about”.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Oxfam closes at Yate

It's sad that the well-established Oxfam shop at Yate closed last week. Apparently the cost of the shop lease made it uneconomic.

Our nearest Oxfam shops are now Thornbury, Malmesbury, Dursley, Keynsham and a number of shops in Bristol. Put your postcode in on the Oxfam shop finder page to locate your nearest shop.

And don't forget that you can buy lots online, too - one of the most novel ways of giving a present is through Oxfam Unwrapped, with gifts like "Build a Bog" and "Teach a Teacher".

We ought to acknowledge the contribution of staff and volunteers at the Yate shop - we understand that several of them have already moved to volunteer in other local charity shops.

Click here for the main Oxfam website.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Steve Webb in his own words

Steve has written a post on his blog "The Webb Log" explaining the reasons why he didn't join in the Lib Dem Leadership race. Please read it for "straight for the horse's mouth" information (no offence meant, Steve!) and for his view of the forthcoming contest.

Best wishes to Steve and family from all your many supporters.

Breaking news - Steve Webb not joining Leadership contest

Steve Webb has just told the BBC that he will not be putting himself forward for the job, but will be supporting Nick Clegg. Full BBC story here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Steve Webb - Leader update

On Steve Webb's blog today he confirms that "I've consulted a few MPs about whether I should throw my hat into the ring, and have been able to establish that if I decided to go for it I would have enough nominations to take part in the contest".

"I now need to decide whether this would be in the best interests of the party, my constituents and (not least) my family". Click here to read the full blog entry.

Steve appeared on Newsnight last night - click here for Newsnight site
(Thanks to Bloggers4Steve for that)

[Note - the Newsnight link has now been replaced by tonight's programme - Editor]

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Will Steve Webb stand for Lib Dem Leadership?

There are several online campaigns in favour of Steve Webb standing for election as the next Leader of the Liberal Democrats. There's a Facebook Group "Steve Webb for Lib Dem Leader" - and a website - These campaigns seem very appropriate seeing the impact Steve has been making with his online campaigning.

Steve is expected to say later this week whether he will stand.

The election timetable is as follows:

16th October - nominations open. To run, an MP must be nominated by at least 7 MPs; and also by at least 200 party members in 20 local parties.

31st October - nominations close.

17th November - ballot papers sent out to party members.

15th December - last day for return of ballot papers.

17th December - the new Leader will be announced.

Lib Dem Leadership - have YOUR say

If you've been thinking about joining the Liberal Democrats, and you would like a say in who the new Leader will be, now is the time to join. Our understanding is that if you join before 30 October you will be able to vote in the leadership election.

You can join the Lib Dems online here or you can contact any of the Sodbury, Yate and Dodington Focus Team.

(P.S. apparently the deadline is 4pm on 31 October - but to avoid postal delays, if you're joining at the last minute, do so online at the link above - Editor, 17/10/07)

Warning after cold caller incident

Police are urging residents in Chipping Sodbury not to let bogus callers into their homes (Story from Avon and Somerset Constabulary website).

It follows two incidents in Woodlands Close on October 2 when two men claiming they were from the "water board" called on properties in the area.

On one occasion a resident was asked to run a water tap but discovered that a bedroom may have been entered although nothing was taken.

Another resident in the same street was told to check her taps as a water pipe had been damaged in a nearby road. The resident became suspicious and the men left. Nothing was stolen.

Police are urging residents to turn away any unexpected visitors and not let anyone into their home unless they are genuine callers. They should follow the doorstep code at all times.

The incidents come a week after Avon and Somerset Constabulary launched a campaign to raise awareness about the threat of distraction burglars.

For more information visit

Friday, 12 October 2007

Gore Blimey! Al Gore gets Nobel Peace Prize

It's good to see that Al Gore, maker of the environmental film "An Inconvenient Truth", has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A day ago a senior judge criticised nine errors in the film, but the Nobel Prize recognises the significant effect that the film has had in changing people's attitudes towards global warming.

You may recall that we arranged a local showing of "An Inconvenient Truth" and we've been trying to get the film shown on TV. Maybe it's still a bit too inconvenient for the establishment.

How different history would have been if Al Gore had become President. There's been a lot of talk about him entering the contest this time, but apparently he would have to declare within the next 10 days if he's to have a realistic chance of getting the backing he needs and raising the necessary finance.

P.S. (17/10/07) There's an interesting piece in the Guardian claiming that the judge got at least some of his facts wrong when criticising the film, plus some seemingly informed comments from readers. There's an even more detailed discussion on RealClimate, a site that describes itself as "Climate science from climate scientists".
(Thanks to Belsize Liberal Democrats for these links)

Applying for a school place?

If you're applying for a school place for next year, it's vital that your application meets the deadline of 4.30pm on Friday 19 October, otherwise it will be treated as a late application and dealt with after those received on time.

With further postal strikes possible, the safest bet is to apply online at or hand deliver your form to Student Access and Support Team, South Gloucestershire Council, Department for Children and Young People, Riverside Court, Bowling Hill, Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire BS37 6JX.

There's also another alternative - if forms are handed in to ANY main South Gloucestershire office they can be put into the internal post, which is collected and delivered twice a day. You can save your time/petrol and go to the nearest main office, for example Yate One-Stop Shop.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Another clothing collection

A leaflet for another clothing collection came through the door today. Looks like a different outfit, and at least it doesn't say that it's a charity. It's up to you, but remember that it's almost certainly a profit-making concern. We suggest not leaving anything out for their collection that a local charity shop would accept.

Will he, won't he... No, he won't

So after all that excitement about a possible election, we're not going to have one. I think most people had got fed up with all the to-ing and fro-ing. Isn't it about time we had fixed periods between elections? Lib Dem MPs are suggesting this in Parliament - see the BBC story here.

In the meantime, here's a short video that comments on the last couple of weeks' events.

Friday, 5 October 2007

New Sodbury car park to close at night

Following complaints from neighbours, Sodbury Town Council has decided to close the car park extension because of antisocial behaviour. Residents in High Street and Brook Street have complained about youngsters speeding, revving engines and playing loud music.

The extension was opened last year at a cost of over £250,000. The Town Council also intends to extend the CCTV network to cover the car park.

The extension is being closed for a trial period, but the old part of the car park will stay open. The Town Council says that it shouldn't cause a problem because the car park isn't used much at night.

(I've been to Sodbury several evenings lately and the Street was full - where else are people expected to park? - Editor)

The Town Council is asking people to comment to the Town Clerk on 01454 864666.

Town and South Glos councillor Linda Boon said she was disappointed with the temporary closure order.

She said: "What was the point of spending £250,000 extending the car park if we're now going to close it at night?"

"The extra spaces were provided because they were needed, so I hope this is only a temporary thing".

"We do have a problem with noisy teenagers and something has got to be done, but shutting the car park is something I'm not happy about".

"What's more it will cost money to open and close the car park every evening".

She said the young drivers are attracted to the car park because it's so open. Apparently one suggestion was to put flower planters in the car park to make it more difficult to speed, but it's been decided not to do that.

Environment Agency blocks Cranleigh Court kickabout area

Yate Town Councillors check out
plans for the kickabout area

In a shock move the Environment Agency has blocked plans for youngsters in Cranleigh Court to have a kickabout area on the school sports field.

Local youngsters asked their local councillors, Mike Drew and Ian Blair for a kickabout area. Both schools agreed to release part of their land – in a win-win deal, where the school would use the surfaced kickabout area during the day and local young people could use it out of school hours. Residents backed it. Cllr Martin Monk, who lives within sight of the scheme, took the proposal to a TV competition – and only just missed out on raising the money through a major TV contest where viewers voted for which scheme to fund.

Yate Town Council then managed to raise the money – so it was full steam ahead to get it built. The last bit of bureaucracy it seemed was getting planning consent.

But now in a shock move the Environment Agency has lodged a blocking objection. They say

“The applicant has therefore failed to demonstrate that the flood risks resulting from this development can be safely managed. During a flood event it is unlikely the site will remain operational and safe".

"The proposed fence poses a possibility of the obstruction of flow caused by racking up of material against the fence.”

Cllr Chris Willmore commented “This is bonkers. Of course it won’t be used if there is a flood. All the scheme proposes is a surfaced area for football and basketball, with a fence round it, on the school field".

"There is a fence there already right round the field. If any fence is going to catch debris and obstruct flow of flood water it’s the fence that runs right along the school field between this site and the river bank. Are they going to insist the current fencing right round the field should be removed?”

The Environment Agency has suggested their concerns could be allayed if the new fencing was removable.

Chris Willmore added “This would add hugely to the cost. I seriously think they have simply completely misunderstood the plan. If they haven’t they’re taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut”

Yate Town Councillors have called for an urgent meeting with the Environment Agency to remove, what they hope, will be the final obstacle to giving local youngsters what they asked for.

One in a thousand

This is post number 100 on this blog since it started in the middle of January. It's now attracting a regular readership (thank you all!) of over 300 visitors a month.

According to Technorati, the blog search engine, this blog ranks at no. 97, 290 out of the 108 million blogs indexed worldwide - so it's in the top 0.1%. Can't be bad - mind you, I wonder how many of those are never updated?

If you enjoy this blog, please tell your friends about it.

Monday, 1 October 2007

MP dishes it out for Meals on Wheels

To help celebrate national Meals on Wheels Week, Steve Webb MP visited King Edmund School and helped to dish up the dinners.

Meals on wheels is 60 years old and here in South Gloucestershire the service is changing to a new and innovative scheme where school kitchens are used to provide fresher and more nutritional meals to older and disabled people.

Six schools are already signed up to the new look service, St Chad's Patchway Primary School, Bradley Stoke Community School, Hanham High School, Kingsfield Secondary School, King Edmund Community School and Mangotsfield Secondary School.

By the end of the year the scheme is expected to roll out to the rest of the district. The benefit to clients is that they will be eating the same fresh and organic produce used by the school meals service, and, they have a direct link with the local school, bringing communities closer together.

When they let the new assistant chef out of the kitchen, Steve helped to deliver meals to the local area.

Picture: Steve Webb and Cllr Howard Gawler delivering to Mrs Jones of Yate.