Councillor David Renard’s Swindon Advertiser Column, 10th August 2017

Councillor David Renard, Leader of the Council

Some of you may have seen the current series of ‘999: What’s Your Emergency?’ which has been focusing on the issues the Police deal with in Swindon and Wiltshire. It has featured a small number of people breaking the law in Swindon, which sadly shows our town in an unfavourable light when taken out of context.

Supporting our emergency services

I must start by paying tribute to the emergency services who deal daily with extremely difficult issues. This programme has shone a light on the great work they do to protect our residents. Much of their work goes unseen by the public and this programme is doing an excellent job of raising the profile of our public services.

All towns and cities face a wide range of issues and Swindon is no exception. There will always be a small minority of people who break the law anywhere in the country.

Swindon is a very safe place

We should remember that in general our town is a very safe place to live and work.  Indeed, of the 43 British police services, only two had fewer reported crimes this May, and we are grateful to our officers for their hard work and professionalism.  However, we must not overlook the many Council departments that work with our most vulnerable members of society while fully supporting policing.

Only this week a Howard League for Penal Reform report shows a there is a 61.4% reduction in child arrests in Wiltshire between 2010 and 2015.  In Swindon, we can rightly claim that the Young Offenders’ Team has helped reduce re-offending rates, to the point where the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time is now lower than ever.

Turning young people away from crime

Whilst the programme does not always show the sort of positive initiatives that I encounter every day, we must keep in perspective the disturbing scenes the programme portrays and remember all the great things happening across the borough.

For example throughout the summer 80 Swindon youngsters are on the Council’s eighth Young Wardens scheme, on litter picking, planting and other projects. Last week our Youth Offending Team watched some Young Offenders present a charity cheque to brain injury charity Headway Swindon, after producing and selling some eye-catching craftwork.

Programmes like ‘999 What’s Your Emergency?’ inevitably portray people whose lives are difficult, whether for mental health reasons, low incomes or other vulnerabilities. Our Council staff work tirelessly with our partners in public health, NHS and the Police to help people living in the most challenging circumstances, and see many successes.

We must keep striving to help people get back on their feet so they can avoid crime and other behaviours and turn their lives around, but we still have much to celebrate.