Robert's Weekly Column - 1st May 2018

This week, The Domestic Gas and Electricity Tariff Cap Bill has passed through the House of Commons and should become law later this year.  Too many people, including the elderly and those on low incomes, have been tied into unfair energy tariffs and are being forced to spend around £300 a year extra on their gas and electricity bills, so we are taking action.

The new price cap being introduced by the Government will guarantee that consumers are protected from poor value tariffs and further bring down the £1.4 billion a year consumers have been overpaying. The government intends that Ofgem will apply the cap as soon as possible so that customers get the protection they need by next winter.

I am glad that the Government is taking action to protect consumers and introducing new legislation, which will guarantee protection for the 11 million households currently on the highest energy tariffs – in addition to 5 million vulnerable households already protected by Ofgem’s safeguard cap.

I am extremely concerned to learn of the false information being provided to parents in Swindon by the National Education Union about school funding.  Money for schools in England is at a record high this year of almost £43 billion.  From September, education providers in Swindon will receive a total of over £161 million core funding, plus an additional £9.1 million of Pupil Premium support to assist children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

At the same time, the Government is also protecting funding for those with additional needs; investing nearly £2.5 billion to ensure that children get the extra support that they need. A further £5.8 billion of funding will also be used to create more good school places.  It is unacceptable that this Union passes off partisan politicking as objective fact.  It must stop.

This year, Swindon had one of the top ten highest increases in the country for the phonics screening check, whilst our Key Stage 1 results were above the national average.  I will continue to regularly visit schools in South Swindon as I have done for the last eight years and support the work of the Swindon Challenge Boards, which bring together all key stakeholders in education including the Regional Schools’ Commissioner, headteachers, the teaching schools, governors, local businesses and senior council leaders with the aim of improving educational outcomes in all our schools.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with students at New College last week.  I participated in an excellent question and answer session and enjoyed a lively debate on a variety of different subjects including the Fair Vote Campaign and The Gender Recognition Act.

Finally, I would like to remind all residents that they will need to bring their poll card or ID with them to vote in the Borough Council elections in Swindon this coming Thursday. Swindon has been selected to trial a new scheme to protect our democracy from potential electoral fraud. I am extremely supportive of this pilot and the response from local residents has also been encouraging.

I would like to wish all of those standing good luck. I know many candidates who have been campaigning tirelessly over the past few weeks, knocking on doors and speaking to as many people as they can in the area that they are hoping to represent.  I have been out there helping our excellent Conservative candidates, speaking to residents and picking up more casework on my rounds.  Those who become involved in local politics do so because they want to make a positive difference in their community and help the people who live and work alongside them. I look forward to working with those elected.