Robert's Weekly Column - 27th May 2020

Here in Swindon, we are extremely fortunate to have hundreds of volunteers who carry out vital work every day, making a huge difference in our local community. I am calling on residents to nominate a local community champion who has gone out of their way at this difficult time. The selfless work of all of those nominated will be celebrated on my website and I will be issuing Volunteer Week Certificates to those runners up and winners who have been specially chosen for going that extra mile.

To nominate a community champion, please email me at with your full name and address, the name of the person you would like to nominate and information on how they have gone the extra mile. All entries must be received by 31st May 2020.

It was good news to hear that the Department for Health & Social Care has announced that they are opening a Regional Test Site at the Wroughton Park & Ride. This will be a hybrid site, offering both assisted and self-administered tests. The new facility will help make it easier for local residents to access testing and is in addition to home tests, which can be booked through the Government’s online portal, in the same way as scheduling slots for the new facility.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced that thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres are set to reopen next month once they are deemed to be Covid-19 secure and can show customers will be kept safe.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the Covid-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to open from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met.

As per the roadmap, hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons, and the hospitality sector, remain closed because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher where long periods of person to person contact is required.

Shops like supermarkets and pharmacies have been trading responsibly throughout the pandemic. Building on this, reopening non-essential retail is the next step towards restoring people’s livelihoods and restarting the economy.

I have mentioned in previous articles that I am proud as Justice Secretary to be spearheading the Government’s efforts to tackle domestic abuse. The Ministry of Justice has provided £28 million in funding to help provide safe spaces, accommodation, helplines and online support. As part of this, organisations in our local area who support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence will receive an extra £244,000 to help meet the additional costs they have or will incur whilst adapting their services during the pandemic, and to cope with demand increases.

I strongly encourage charities and other eligible groups to bid into this pot of money by visiting the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s website and completing the application form. The deadline for applications is 4pm on Monday 1 June 2020.