Robert's Weekly Column - 29th April 2019

Last week, I was delighted to officially open Toothill Community Centre after AGE UK took over the management, creating an asset for the local community and offering facilities to a range of local clubs, groups and individuals. I am pleased that Age UK will also be working with local organisations here in the town, as part of my Loneliness Campaign with Swindon Seniors Forum, to introduce and develop activities that help alleviate loneliness and social isolation.

There is much debate about school funding at the moment, so I wanted to set out some of the facts.  Over the two years, 2018/19 and 2019/20, per-pupil funding in Swindon is going up £216 (5.2% compared to the national average of 3.2%) and when changes in pupil numbers are taken into account, total funding rises by £11.2million (up 8.8% compared to 2017/18).

In 2019-20, the National Funding Formula (NFF) allocates Swindon £3,789 per primary pupil. For a class of 28 (the average primary class in Swindon), this equates to £106,150.  We receive £5,043 per secondary pupil, which means that for a class of 28 pupils, this amounts to £141,268.

There is also an additional £4.2 million of funding through the growth, premises and mobility factors of the formula, which are not distributed on a per-pupil basis.

On top of the National Funding Formula, Swindon will receive £9.2 million in Pupil Premium funding (including the Service Child Pupil Premium and Pupil Premium Plus) to support the 7,825 pupils eligible for Pupil Premium of all abilities perform better, and close the gap between them and their peers. I speak regularly with our local head teachers and fully appreciate the pressures they are experiencing with overhead costs.  I will do all I can to make the case for more school funding in the next spending review later this year.

You may have read in the Adver last week, that discussions are underway over the development of new GP surgeries at Wichelstowe and Tadpole Village. I will continue to meet with Swindon CCG, interested GP Surgeries and NHS Chiefs to push for this and press for long term improvements to deliver key health service pledges, as part of the Government’s NHS Long Term Plan.

It is important that we retain our local Conservative council as they continue to work to build new homes and the infrastructure to support them, including upgrades to our roads network. Our local Conservative Councillors are also working hard to improve education here in our town. In a contract with Swindon businesses and the education system, a multi-million-pound scheme to build an Institute of Technology at Swindon College has been approved this month. High-level qualifications in advanced manufacturing and engineering, life sciences, digital sciences and creative media will be offered to local people here in Swindon to ensure that we have a workforce with the skills they need for the future.

Our Conservative council is also working hard to enhance Swindon’s reputation as a leader in sustainable energy, working towards installing England’s first Advanced Plastic Recycling Facility, facilitating the move to electrified transport and delivering opportunities to invest in renewable energy to reduce our carbon footprint.

Most crucially, it is vital that we retain our Conservative council so that we can continue to protect those vulnerable children and adults in the town who rely on services, aiming to provide early support and intervention to ensure that more people and their carers are able to live as independently as possible. We are making progress in reducing rough sleeping, including using additional measures such as the temporary winter housing provision and offering a day centre to prevent rough sleepers from returning to the streets.  Swindon’s Conservative Council provides true value for money.