Robert's Weekly Article - 10th January 2018

Parliament has returned this week following the Christmas and New Year Recess. It has been a busy few weeks over the festive period and a welcome opportunity to spend more time in Swindon, talking to fellow residents, attending local events and meeting with local businesses and charities. I particularly enjoyed my visits to Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Chiseldon Primary School and Bishopstone Primary School where I presented certificates to the winners of my annual Christmas card competition.

I was pleased to learn last week that St. Mary’s Church Lydiard Tregoze Conservation Project has been awarded a grant of £131,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the development phase of the project.

Situated at the heart of Swindon’s Lydiard Park, St Mary’s is an important part of our town’s history and is home to a nationally significant collection of medieval wall paintings, which have been identified by the Church of England as one of the 100 artworks currently most in need of conservation in their 100 Church Treasures Appeal .

The scheme will restore St Mary’s historic interiors and make it more accessible to the public, allowing a whole range of activities to take place including the participation of local schools, volunteers, children’s theatre, skills training and a national symposium for professionals in the heritage and conservation sector.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Parkinson’s UK Swindon and District Branch. This local charity has offered information, friendship and support to people with Parkinson’s, their families and carers over the years and I have worked closely with them. The group provides a whole range of information to those newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s, including a video and holds regular events and social activities to help people keep active both mentally and physically such as quiz nights, skittles, race nights and outings. The charity also works hard to raise awareness of Parkinson’s locally.

Classes organised by the branch include walking football, tai chi and balance and exercise, to help slow down the disease’s progression as long as possible. The classes cost over £13,500 a year to run and this local charity needs to raise around £34,000 a year to stay afloat.

The cost of running the branch is fully funded by branch activities such as supermarket collections, grant requests, car boot sales, stalls at various events such as the Coate Water Dragon Boat Race, charity golf matches, and those organised by branch members and friends including sponsored events. I would like to thank all of the dedicated volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the years to help to run this charity.

For further information about the branch and details of how you can help support any fundraising events, please

Finally, I would like to offer my congratulations to Santa Pun who has been awarded an MBE for services to defence. Santa first joined the Gurkhas in 1974 and his leadership qualities were recognised as he rose through the ranks, serving across the world in countries including Bosnia, Kosovo and Hong Kong. When Santa retired and moved to Swindon in 2001, he became a coordination staff officer in the Army division at the Defence Academy and has been conducting the day to day training programme for all British Army and Royal Marine Majors. I have worked closely with the local Gurkha community here in Swindon over the years and I am proud to call him a friend.