Robert’s Weekly Column – 4th July 2018

It is a long time since we had such a long period of unbroken good weather, which heralded wonderful conditions for the Children’s Fete held at Faringdon Road Park last Saturday. This annual event has been a Swindon tradition since 1866 when it was established by the first generation of Great Western Railway workers and called the “The Juvenile Event”. Alongside thousands of people in our town, I thoroughly enjoyed attending this year’s popular 152-year-old festival, which included fantastic performances from dancers, musicians, circus acts and storytellers. My thanks to all who helped make this event possible including volunteers, stallholders, entertainers and the Mechanics Institution Trust.

I also enjoyed attending an Open Day at UTC last Saturday, where I spoke with staff and residents at the event.  The open day followed the launch of a new Education Innovation Hub last week, under the Fujitsu Education Ambassador Programme, supported by Intel, Brocade and Kyocera. I was interested to learn more about the impressive facility, which is equipped with a range of the latest computing technology, and will be used to promote the use of technology and development of digital skills. From September, UTC will offer programmes such as the Cyber Security Award, which is very important to local employers. I am delighted that a Swindon education establishment is leading the way in digital technology and I will continue to work to further strengthen the link between local engineering companies, technology firms and the UTC here in Swindon.

Last week, Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire MP, announced a multi-million-pound boost to social housing across England.  The £1.67 billion social housing deal will deliver 23,000 affordable homes and support a new generation of council housing. This is good news for Swindon and will mean more sustainable energy efficient homes as we have seen at the £10m Sussex Place development in Walcot.

I was delighted to see so many local employers attend an event I hosted with Building Bridges last Friday, as part of an initiative to help people with learning disabilities in Swindon into work and enjoying more independent lives. I teamed up with local partnership charity Building Bridges and Swindon Borough Council to host the Employment Engagement Event at STEAM Museum.

At the event, speakers from Building Bridges, PLUSS – a Social Enterprise that supports thousands of people with disabilities each year to find work, Swindon Borough Council and Disability Experts – a local Community Interest Company, spoke about their experiences of helping people into work. Many inspirational and remarkable stories were shared about the barriers people had overcome to get into work and the real value they had added in their workplace.   If you are a local employer, big or small, and you were unable to attend the event and would like to find out more about what we can offer your business, please get in touch by emailing 

Finally, I am pleased to see that the Upham Road works are well underway.  I have been working on behalf of residents in Old Walcot and pushed for essential carriageway works to be undertaken due to the poor condition of the road. The work will consist of a full and partial reconstruction of the road between Drove Road and Brixham Avenue.  Once complete, the road will last for the next 40 years and should stop the continual need for patch repairs on the current poor road surface.

I was concerned to note that during the works, the bus gate in Queens Drive will not be in operation and the number 17 bus service, operated by Thamesdown Transport has been diverted via Queens Drive, Drove Road and Groundwell Road.  This would have left residents without a bus service, particularly affecting the many elderly residents in the area.  I contacted Swindon Borough Council on behalf of residents to raise this issue and I am pleased to note that during the works, Access will be putting on a minibus service to Swindon town centre, which will run four times a day(9:30, 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30) six days a week (Monday to Saturday).  I would encourage any Old Walcot residents to get in touch with me if they require further help during the works.