Robert’s Weekly Swindon Adver Column

As Christmas approaches, many of us are working hard to tie up all those loose ends before the festive break, remembering all those in the emergency services who will still be working.  As 2017 draws to a close it is important that we remember those less fortunate than ourselves. There are many events taking place over the Christmas period to combat loneliness and homelessness. Christ Church are holding a Christmas Day Lunch, and local charity Christmas Care are feeding and offering shelter to the homeless at Buckhurst Park Community Centre in Walcot. If you can volunteer or know anybody who could benefit, please get in touch with my office on 01793 533393.

This week, Swindon received some excellent news. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) will open a hub in the redeveloped Carriage Works. The UWTSD hub will be a focal point for post-graduate and professional development courses in cultural heritage and architecture.  I strongly supported this initiative and met University of Wales senior representatives in order to help get it over the line. The UWTSD hub will also offer a further way to help regenerate our heritage buildings both now and in the future.

In 2010 the school curriculum was reformed, and reading standards are now the best they’ve been in over 15 years. In this time period, there has been a much greater use of systematic synthetic phonics, phonics have shown themselves to be the most effective method for teaching children to read. In this year’s phonics screening check the Swindon local authority area has achieved one of the ten largest result increases in the country, a 4% increase on last year’s results. Well done to all our teaching staff on this remarkable achievement that will help set our children up for a more fulfilling and rewardable life.

Regrettably, there were several high profile terrorist attacks in 2017. We will never forget the victims of terror and must do our utmost in the fight against extremist ideology. I abhor all extremism, whether motivated by religion or politics, it must be tackled at every opportunity. Extremism seeks to change our society and remove many of our human rights. Providing safety and security is one of the most important roles of the state. Therefore, an extra £2.5 billion is being made available over the next five years for the security services to combat terrorism, this includes funding for an additional 1,900 staff at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. The passports of British citizens who engage in terrorism abroad can now be removed, as can citizenship from naturalised Britons who are fighting overseas. We must stand together to denounce and defeat evil wherever we encounter it.

Although many dream of a white Christmas, roads around the country struggled with this month’s snow. Parish Cllr Nick Burns-Howell and Cllr Claire Ellis have worked hard to secure a grit bin for East Wichelstowe and are pushing hard to get more for Old Town. Swindon Borough Council have said they’re happy to consider requests made by local borough and parish councillors for more grit bins in Swindon. Suggestions from the public are also welcome, help make Swindon better prepared for the next cold snap by engaging with your local government on this matter.

Once again, my Christmas wishes go to all my fellow Swindon residents.