Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 11th January 2017

Unfortunately, 2016 had a sting in the tail for us with the fire at the Agricultural Museum at Coate. Unfortunately, the blaze was well alight by the time firefighters from Swindon and Stratton rushed to the scene and despite their best efforts, the building, which was filled with local items of historical value, was badly damaged.

On the day of the fire, I went down to the museum and having received offers of help to store the items, I got in touch with Swindon Borough Council and Mike Pringle who helps run the nearby Richard Jefferies Museum to do my bit to get things moving.  I want to see the Council work with local heritage experts to preserve as much of the collection as possible.

Following the welcome news that Swindon Borough Council has approved an application to register the Milton Road Health Hydro as an asset of community value, I chaired a meeting with local heritage groups, swimming groups and GLL, who run the Hydro, last Friday.  At the meeting, I emphasised the need to respect the views of the local community when it comes to considering the future of this important building.  This is not just about bricks and mortar - many of us have an emotional stake in the Health Hydro, which is a place where we or our children learnt to swim.  The Milton Road Baths are one of the few remaining working Victorian Baths left in the UK, so this is an asset of national importance too.

A frank and lively discussion took place at the meeting.  The views of local swimming groups and heritage groups were heard and important dialogue will continue through a working group, which was established last month.  I will continue to stay in close contact with all of those concerned and want to see a range of options properly explored so that an outcome is reached that our community can support.

On Monday, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, made an important speech about the Government’s plans to build a stronger and fairer Britain that works for everyone.  Following on from the speech she made on her first day as Prime Minister, Theresa May outlined the Government’s plans to tackle the everyday injustices that ordinary working class families face, which undermine the solidarity of our society.  I am proud to be part of a Conservative Government which will embrace genuine and wide-ranging social reform to help to bring our country together.

Having had a long interest in mental health issues, I am particularly pleased that the Prime Minister announced plans for a mental health care overhaul to deal with the hidden injustice of mental illness.  There will be more focus on community care with an extra £15m towards this. There will be a strengthening of links between schools and NHS specialist staff, including a review of children and adolescent services across the country.  Mental health campaigner Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, have been asked to carry out a review on improving support in the workplace and every secondary school in the country will be offered mental health first aid training.

I was glad that the Prime Minister talked about the need for Government to intervene where necessary in order to help tackle injustice and unfairness and nurture a new sense of solidarity and citizenship in Britain.  We will hear more plans about housing and the industrial strategy in the weeks ahead.