Robert's Weekly Column - 1st July 2020

This coming Saturday is Independents’ Day UK, the annual celebration and promotion of small, independent retail businesses. Independent businesses account for nearly two thirds of the approximately 290,000 retail outlets in the UK and are at the heart of local communities like ours in Swindon.

As part of this celebration and ahead of Saturday when many more of our excellent local businesses will be able to reopen, I want to continue doing everything I can to highlight and celebrate their services.

If you are a small business owner here in Swindon and would like me to promote your work on my social media channels, please get in touch with me via

Disability is all around us, and very often, it is not something that is visible.  GWR is taking part in a scheme to support adults and children with non-visible disabilities. The initiative – the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme – helps those who have a non-visible disability to discreetly indicate that they need extra support or a little more time.

Lanyards with a simple sunflower design are available for free from the GWR Passenger Assist team on 0800 197 1329, by emailing or by contacting GWR on social media.

People wearing the lanyard do not need to disclose what disability they have, but station and train staff will be on hand to offer those customers additional support and assistance if they require it.

Further information on the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme can be found via:

It was great news to hear the Prime Minister announce yesterday a New Deal for Britain, which cements jobs, skills and infrastructure at the centre of this government’s economic growth strategic following the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the Prime Minister rightly said, this is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis to finally tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades.

Our aims are straightforward: to build new homes, to fix our NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, uniting and levelling up our great country.

That is why he announced that the government will be bringing forward £5bn of capital investment projects, supporting jobs and the economic recovery. This includes: £1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance; £100m for 29 projects in our road network to get Britain moving; over £1bn to fund the first 50 projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme; £560m and £200m for repairs and upgrades to schools and FE colleges respectively; in my area of government, an extra £142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts; and £900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres likes ours through the Towns Fund.

This government not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and level up – the mission on which we were elected last year. If we deliver on this plan, then we will together build our way back to health. We will not just bounce back; we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before.