Amongst the highlights of the year was the launch of Shoebox theatre in March by Billie Piper. The Shoebox Theatre offers an array of classes in acting and also hosts different performances throughout the year and is showing itself to be a real Swindon success story. I caught up with them only last week to hear of their continuing growth.
In April, a snap-election was called by the Prime Minister. I regularly visit fellow South Swindon residents on your doorsteps in between elections so the election campaign was a continuation of my campaigning that I have been doing for well over ten years here in Swindon. I enjoyed meeting thousands of residents over the election period on the door-step and at the events and hustings which were held. I was delighted to be elected with a record number of votes and a higher share of the vote as South Swindon’s Member of Parliament for the third time, in order to continue working hard for all residents on local and national issues.
Parliament then went straight into a two year session when it re-convened after the election in June. I was asked by the Prime Minister to continue in my role as Solicitor General, and in this role I’ve been involved in the legal aspects of Government, including close involvement in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I continue to refer sentences that are far too low to the Court of Appeal, and only last week personally appeared in the case of Aaron Barley, who murdered two family members and nearly killed a third despite the fact that they had helped him considerably with his issues. I successfully argued that he should remain longer in prison for these despicable crimes.
An ambitious concept was launched in September to re-develop Falcon House (the six stories above Debenhams) into 90 flats. This is exactly the sort of scheme Swindon needs as part of the town centre re-generation and I was very happy to play my part in helping to secure this multi-million pound investment.
The Autumn Budget cut stamp duty for first time buyers and the Chancellor gave an extra £10bn investment across this Parliament to help make the NHS fit for future challenges. You’ll also be able to enjoy a glass or two, as duty rates on beer, cider, wine and other spirits have been frozen.
Part of the former GWH Carriage Works is being refurbished and got a big boost this month when the University of Wales Trinity Saint David announced they will open a post-graduate and professional development hub at the site. I met University of Wales representatives earlier this year in order to encourage them to come and am delighted with the outcome.
Looking ahead to 2018, the National Living Wage will rise 4.4%, from £7.50 an hour to £7.83, and the personal tax allowance will rise to £11,850.
Thanks to the generosity of many, the Brighter Futures radiotherapy has just passed the £2m mark, and they will continue working flat out now to reach their £2.9m target in 2018, to provide this much needed facility for Swindon.
Builders are to be banned from selling further leasehold houses in a bid to protect buyers from extortionate future costs, annual ground rents could also be cut. This is fantastic news for all affected and those who plan on buying property in the future.
Lots of us will be watching and celebrating the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in May, and I hope the celebratory spirit can continue for the England football team at the World Cup in June.
A very Happy New Year to everyone.