It has been a pretty busy few weeks for political campaigners as Swindon went to the polls in Thursday’s Local Elections to elect one third of our Borough Councillors. I have been out and about as usual, speaking to local residents and supporting local Conservative candidates, all of whom have an excellent track record of working hard for the communities in which they live. It was a tense few hours in the Oasis but I was very pleased by results that reflected that work and which saw the Conservative administration retaining control of Swindon Borough Council. Residents responded to our positive messages about delivering local services with greater efficiency. The Labour Party had thrown everything at this election, with Mr Corbyn and his hard left allies making visits that seemed to suggest they had won already. This rather smug approach was rightly rejected by Swindon people.
There were many discussions on the doorstep about bins and pot-holes, but it is worth noting that 47.7% of Swindon’s council tax income goes towards caring for older people & adults with special needs, and 17.7% goes towards protecting children & vulnerable young people. After many years of freezes, there have been some Council Tax increases of late, but the Conservatives chose not to impose the maximum possible increase this year, in contrast to a Labour Party that would have imposed a greater increase, reminding us of the years of massive Council Tax hikes and failures in vital services such as schools when they were in charge in Swindon.
On a personal level, my good wishes and congratulations go to all Councillors who were elected, and in particular to Cllr Tim Swinyard, who has worked tirelessly for Lydiard & Freshbrook since 2014 and thoroughly deserved his re-election. He is joined by experienced figures like Brian Mattock and Mary Martin. Unfortunately, Nick Burns-Howell (Old Town) and Zach Hawson (Liden, Eldene & Park South) did not win in their wards, but as parish councillors they will continue working hard on behalf of local residents. I would also like to thank former Councillor Wayne Crabbe for his long service and continuing dedication to all things Wroughton. Roy Stephen will continue to work in his local Walcot community and David Bell and Dru Summers are already getting on with their activities in their respective fields of veterans and mental health services. Last but not least, former Swindon Mayor and Chiseldon & Lawn Councillor Eric Shaw has retired. I am honoured to call him a friend. My warm thanks to both Eric and his wife Pam for their service to Swindon.
After being closed for refurbishment, the Post Office on Victoria Road has now re-opened. In addition to the £2bn invested since 2010, the Conservative Government has given the Post Office network an extra £370m in new funding. This funding helped pay for the refurbishment at the Victoria Road Post Office and for a modernisation programme across 7,500 of the 11,600 Post Office branches in the UK. The modernisation programme has reduced the requirement for public subsidy of the network, and has helped move the Post Office into profit for the first time in 16 years. Locally, we have seen a new and improved Post Office in Chiseldon and the continuance of the branch network throughout my constituency, which is such a lifeline to many residents.
As well as being in Westminster this week, I look forward to meeting pupils and students when I make some of my regular visits to local schools, where I will also be talking to teachers about their important work in raising standards and improving educational outcomes, which is happening in very many of our Swindon schools. My thanks to them for their professionalism and dedication.