Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 20 September 2016

My column last week was written before I heard the very sad news about the death of Dr Peter Crouch, Clinical Chair of Swindon's NHS Clinical Commisioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for deciding the shape of Swindon's community healthcare.  As a local GP and tireless worker for local services, Peter's dedication and talent were second to none.  I worked closely with him on a number of issues, most notably the issue of funding, which had been a growing problem for Swindon since 2008.  Peter's detailed work on this helped to ensure that community health funding for Swindon was dramatically improved several years ago, which has made a real difference.  I hope that we can mark Peter's huge contribution to Swindon in some fitting way in the months ahead.

There are two public consultations currently being held in Swindon, both are on important issues that affect our town, and if you haven’t done so already I would urge you to have your say on both.

Over recent months, Swindon Borough Council has been asking local residents for their views on the future of the library service. A series of drop-in events have taken place across the town throughout the consultation period, which is due to finish at the end of the month.  Our libraries are places to borrow and read books, gain access to the Internet, work quietly or meet friends.  In short, they are at the heart of our communities.  Swindon's library service is an extremely good one, and I will do all that I can to help ensure that even with changes, a quality service can continue.

I have met campaigners, discussed this issue on the doorstep with residents and have discussed the issue with Council Cabinet member Cllr Mary Martin to help work out the best way forward.  A number of constructive suggestions are being made.  For example, Library staff have worked on a proposal that involves setting up a trust, which I think is an excellent idea.  As South Swindon's MP, I want to help find solutions that ensure the continuance of Liden, Parks, Old Town and Wroughton Libraries as places to borrow books, access the Internet for jobseeking and other important tasks, and places of quiet where homework can be done.

Details of drop-in events being held over the next week can be found on the Swindon Borough Council website, along with full consultation details.  A future of the library service questionnaire is also available online.  Please make your voice heard before the consultation ends on 30th September.

Like fellow residents, I have received a copy of Swindon Borough Council’s consultation document about extending Parish Councils to those parts of our town that do not have them. I mentioned in my column at the end of July that I would prefer another solution to be found, but I appreciate the funding realities and I am very keen to see our public and green spaces and streets kept clean and tidy. I support the extension of existing Parish Councils to cover some unparished areas. When it comes to new Parishes, I suggest that the Council creates fewer, larger ones or goes ahead with creating a new Parish in one area in order to pilot the way in which the system is to work.  The interests of distinct areas can be served by the creation of parish wards to ensure that they have proper representation.  There also needs to be much further work done to consult with local businesses, who will have to bear the cost too.  This is a particular problem when it comes to the Town Centre and Old Town.  The process must not be rushed, so doing it in phases might well be a better solution here. 

You can find more information about this consultation on the Swindon Borough Council website or by visiting Central Library, North Swindon Library, West Swindon Library or Parks Library to see the paper maps and documents.  The online information features an interactive map where current and proposed parish boundaries can be viewed at street level and a postcode search facility to show which parish area properties currently sit in. Details of public meetings being held over the next few weeks can also be found online on the Swindon Borough Council website.

As with the library consultation, if you haven’t already responded, I encourage you to do so before the consultation ends on 30th September.  It is vital that as many local residents as possible have their say on how Swindon Borough Council plans, manages and delivers services in Swindon.