Robert's Weekly Article - 2 March 2018

Swindon is home to thousands of businesses large and small, which means that I am kept busy visiting many of them and discussing the opportunities and challenges that face them. One such business is Nimble Thimbles, a locally owned and run sewing business. I was delighted to cut the ribbon at the opening of their new sewing shop on Westmead Industrial Estate earlier this month.

Since being founded in 2013, the sewing shop and school have expanded with a need to move to a larger venue. I was pleased to be able to assist with some aspects of the move and officially open the new shop, which includes a new fully equipped sewing school where a range of classes are available to attend.

I am proud that over the past ten years, the number of new businesses in the town has increased by a third – twice the national rate.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending a showing of the film The Silent Child at the Arts Centre last week. The film stars 6-year-old profoundly deaf Swindon child Maisie Sly and does an excellent job of highlighting the many issues that face Maisie and other deaf children who are born to parents with hearing. Maisie is an inspiration to us all and I am delighted that the film has been nominated for an Oscar.

I have spoken to many local residents over the years who, like me, are passionate about protecting the Corn Exchange, so I was glad last week when Swindon Borough Council cleared the area around this Grade II listed building, tidying it up and highlighting its potential. I have pressed for the Council and the developers who own the building to work closely together to secure a viable development proposal and hope that this year, real progress will be made.

I was pleased to see local resident Steve Stimson, Councillor Claire Ellis and Parish Councillor Nick Burns Howell last Friday to discuss the Old Town Big Clean-up. The event will take place on Sunday, 22nd April with several starting points for the clean-up. Further information can be found on the Facebook page I would like to thank Steve for bringing together the community to ensure that we keep our town clean and tidy. Following on from this event, I will be helping with some hedge laying at Peatmoor Community Woodland.

I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the staff from the Great Western Hospital’s Maternity Services after the department received near-perfect ratings from women who have recently given birth in Swindon.

Last summer, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) sent questionnaires to more than 18,000 women who gave birth across the United Kingdom in February 2017, with 141 responses coming in from Swindon mums.

The survey, which looked at labour and birth, as well as care in hospital and at home after the birth, puts GWH at the top of the league against most hospital trusts in the country.

More parents are being encouraged by the government to take up the offer of Shared Parental Leave in their baby’s first year. The workplace right for eligible parents allows them to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after having a baby. They can take time off separately, or they can be at home together for up to 6 months.

Around 285,000 couples every year are eligible but take up could be as low as 2% and around half of the general public are unaware that the option exists for parents.

Providing truly flexible employment options is a key part of the Industrial Strategy, the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs here in Swindon and in every part of the UK. Further information on Shared Parental Leave can be found by visiting