As the Covid restrictions are slowly and cautiously lifted, it was great to be able to make some more in person visits here in South Swindon on Friday, along with my now regular online meetings.
I started the day with a phone surgery for local residents, where several local and national issues were raised and discussed. Following this, I attended an online meeting with students from The Commonweal School to discuss the excellent Send My Friend To School Campaign.
During my time as MP for South Swindon, staff and pupils at The Commonweal School have been strong advocates for this campaign, which bring together young people, politicians, civil society and the media to demand quality education for all children across the globe.
Education can provide stability to children who are displaced, open up paths out of poverty, reduce the likelihood of conflict, contribute to a healthy planet and is vital for long-term growth.
I was impressed by the dedication of the young people I met with on Friday and the thought-provoking questions that I was asked.
It was wonderful to finally catch up with my friends from the Nepalese Society of Wiltshire on Friday afternoon, at a socially distanced visit to the Buckhurst Community Centre. During the pandemic, members of the group have worked tirelessly in difficult circumstance to provide help and support to those who have needed it the most here in Swindon, and I was pleased to finally have the opportunity to thank them personally for all of their hard work.
Following this, I was delighted to officially open the new West Swindon Parish Depot. The new facility at Westlea Industry Estate will enable all of the staff to work from the same building and marks the start of new opportunities for the Parish to deliver a range of services directly to residents.
The government has recently announced that they will be awarding scientists and researchers an extra £250 funding this year, to support pioneering research and drive the UK’s ambitions to become a science superpower. This is fantastic news for Swindon, which is home to the Research Councils.
This takes total Government investment in Research and Development to £14.9 billion in 2021/22 and follows four years of significant growth in Research and Development funding, including a boost of more than £1.5 billion in 2020/21.
It will mean UK Government Research and Development spending is now at its highest level in four decades.
This investment reinforces the Government’s commitment to putting research and development at the heart of plans to build back better from the pandemic. It will support vital and pioneering research here in Swindon, creating local jobs for the future, while enabling the UK’s brilliant scientists, researchers and businesses to access and benefit from the world’s largest collaborative research programme, Horizon Europe – worth around €95 billion over the next decade.
Last month the Government announced the new Advanced Research
and Invention Agency (ARIA), backed with £800 million by 2024/25 and tasked with funding high-risk, high-payoff research that offers the chance of high rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.
Finally, and continuing on the theme of job creation here in our town, I was pleased to learn that Zurich will be taking advantage of the excellent incentives offered as part of the Government’s Apprenticeship Scheme, by doubling the number of apprenticeships they offer this year. Applications are open now and full details can be found by visiting https://www.zurich.co.uk/en/about-us/careers/apprenticeship