Robert’s Weekly Column – 5th June 2019

As your local MP, I am in regular contact with our community policing teams, as well as residents, to discuss local policing issues. One of the concerns that several residents have raised with me over the telephone and at my advice surgeries is the call charge for the 101 non-emergency police number.  I have been in full agreement that the number should be free to call, so I was pleased last week when The Home Secretary Sajid Javid, announced that the charge will be scrapped. The Government will invest £5 million a year to fund the service, which will benefit  all of us and, especially, vulnerable people.

I was back at Nationwide on Friday meeting them and and the NFBUK (National Federation of the Blind of the UK) to discuss Nationwide’s proposed new housing development at Oakfield Campus, which has seen Nationwide team up with Swindon Borough Council in a community-led housing project.  I have been pleased at the way in which Nationwide have involved and informed local communities.  I had been approached by our local group for blind people and asked for a meeting as a result.  Issues which could affect people with sight loss in the design concept were discussed and, as a result, some more work will be done before the designs are finalised for a neighbourhood of 239 homes.  A planning decision by the Council is expected to be made shortly. If successful, it is hoped that work will begin on site by the end of this year.

I have been in touch with the Post Office after several local residents contacted me to raise concerns over the relocation of the branch in Whitbourne Avenue. I have been informed that the new Post Office will have longer opening hours and two post office counters.  The current arrangements at Unit 3 are only temporary, so unit 5 would be a more permanent arrangement, with services including posting, banking and bill payments remaining unchanged.  However, there is concern that the shop is small, so there may be queues outside of the door during busy periods. If you have concerns about the changes, please get in touch with me by ringing my office on 01793 533393 or emailingrobert.buckland.mp@parliament .uk

The Conservative Government recognises the important role post offices play in communities across the country and has invested over £2 billion in the network since 2010. This funding sought to increase the viability of the network by making it more accessible, modern and tailored to customers’ needs. As a result, we have seen valuable support for our local post offices.

This coming Sunday, 9th June sees the return of the Old Town Festival for the 28th Year.  Since 1991, the Festival has been bringing together thousands of people from across the town to celebrate our community, showcase local talent and businesses, while raising funds for local charities. This year, Wiltshire Search and Rescue has been chosen as the official charity partner for the Old Town Festival. Full details of all events being held can be found on the Old Town Festival Website http://theoldtownfestival.com/

Finally, I have worked closely with the Swindon Branch of Parkinson’s UK over the years, so I am delighted that they have received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services. This is the highest honour that a voluntary group in the UK can receive and I am pleased that the group’s valuable work to support those affected by aParkinson’s in the Swindon area has been recognised.