Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 13th July 2017

Over the last few years, we have seen changes to the way many of us work, giving rise to phrases such as the “gig economy”, which is used to describe those engaged in short term contract work. Very often, flexible working is a welcome and helpful way of doing things but there are problems too. Yesterday's publication of Matthew Taylor's independent ‘Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy’ came about because of Government concern as to the effects of the gig economy on stability of employment and wages for workers.

The main thrust of this review has been focused on modern working practices. Taylor recommends that workers for firms such as Uber and Deliveroo are classified as dependent contractors and given extra protections, above those that they currently receive. Examples of this would include gig economy companies being compelled to demonstrate that on average, workers receive pay above the minimum wage. Taylor also recommends that other benefits are given to this group, this would confer holiday pay and sickness pay to people on these contracts. Taylor’s recommendations will be considered by the Government, and action ought to be taken where required, ensuring that we create an economy which works for all.

An issue that continues to be of real concern is the plight of guide dog owners in Swindon and across the rest of the UK, who often have to face the obstruction caused by vehicles being parked on pavements. When a vehicle is parked on the pavement, guide dogs are rendered helpless because the only way past is to step out into the road. This is a danger that the dogs are righty trained to avoid. In Parliament, both Justin Tomlinson and I recently attended a ‘Guide Dogs’ event on pavement parking examining this issue and I am pleased that the Government continues to look into ways of dealing with this problem.

Although sight deficiency and blindness affects people of all ages, these conditions often affect elderly people, which can lead to greater social care needs. I believe that the General Election result produced a golden opportunity in the House of Commons for different parties to work together and deal with the inter-generational issue of Social Care. This is an issue too large for a single party, manifesto or parliamentary session, which is why the Prime Minister is right to reach out to involve other parties and to allow people both inside and outside Parliament to make their views known so that the system can be reformed in a fair way.

There are now 20 mph restrictions in all of Old Walcot, as a result of local residents giving their overwhelming support to the introduction of a reduced speed limit. My belief is that this move will help to make Old Walcot a safer place for the community. I worked with residents to help bring about this change, because I believe that 20mph limits are appropriate for all of our non-major residential roads. This extension by the Council is welcome news.

The launch of the Old Town Festival and the Charity Choir Festival last weekend were great fun. The organising committee worked extremely hard to make all of this happen so our thanks are due to them. The music was so infectious that I was persuaded to sing a few numbers myself. Miraculously, I didn't clear the room as a result! The Old Town Festival continues throughout this week, so please come along and show your support. For more details go to