Like many people here in Swindon, I was delighted to learn last week that the Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal has now moved past the halfway mark and raised over £1.5m towards the £2.9m target needed to secure a Radiotherapy Unit for our town.
I was very glad to help to raise awareness of this local campaign back in 2015 when it was launched and alongside many people in the town, I have been involved in fundraising events for the appeal, such as the Gingerbread Fun Run. The support that this campaign has received is a reflection of the strong sense of community spirit that exists here in Swindon and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved so far.
One issue that can be tackled with the help of our community is loneliness in old age, and I would like to thank staff and pupils at The Ridgeway School who are helping to run a regular lunch club for older residents in Wroughton. It is profoundly encouraging to see one of our local schools and others making such a positive contribution to local life. Lunch clubs like this are often a social lifeline for elderly people, bringing them together and helping to reduce isolation and loneliness.
Loneliness can be felt by people of all ages, but as we get older, risk factors which could lead to loneliness begin to increase and converge. The impact of loneliness can be devastating and costly to society as well as to the individual.
I am organising a Loneliness Summit, which will take place here in Swindon in June. The Summit will bring together key local organisations from different sectors to highlight some of the excellent work that is being done and to discuss what we can all do to deal further with the problem in Swindon.
Rain and wind failed to stop the “Dog or No Dog Walk” in Wroughton at the weekend. I joined Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and fellow neighbours in the fundraising walk, which raised much-needed revenue for repairs to Wroughton’s Trefoil House (the Rainbow, Brownie & Guide Hut).
Within the past few days, the Brexit bill has been given Royal Assent, paving the way for the Prime Minister to trigger the Article 50 withdrawal process on 29th March. The EU referendum decision was one of historic importance for our country. Although I campaigned hard for a Remain vote, as a democrat I accept the public’s decision and I have been working hard within Government to implement it.
Speaking in the House of Commons at the beginning of the week, the Prime Minister said she would trigger Article 50 before the end of the month. The EU must then issue a formal response to the Prime Minister’s Article 50 notification and will need around eight weeks to draw up the full guidelines. Following this, important work can then begin on a Brexit deal. This is no time for the sort of political game playing we have seen from The Scottish National Party, whose obsession with an independence referendum contrasts with the true view of the people of Scotland that now is not the moment for even more upheaval. When politics is treated like a game, it cheapens the whole process.