Last Tuesday, I was thrilled to attend a charitable event in Westminster organised by Victoria Prentis MP called ‘Sing for Syria’ with the St Margaret's Church Choir and some of my Parliamentary colleagues. The ‘Sing for Syria initiative’ encourages people from around the UK to come together and sing to support the vulnerable people of Syria whose lives have been ruined by the civil war, and raise money for two fantastic charities: Hands Up Foundation and Christian Aid.
All of the money raised that evening went towards funding the salaries of just 36 doctors remaining in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo (there were once 5,000). I would like to thank Victoria for organising a lovely service, as well as the team at St Margaret’s Church and all those who attended.
The following Thursday, I joined a packed Bath Road Methodist Church for the Thamesdown Ladies Choir Christmas Concert to supporting Wiltshire’s Air Ambulance. For those of us who enjoy singing Christmas Carols at this time of year, events like this are truly special and remind us of the true meaning behind the big day.
Today, I’ll be joining the Mayor of Swindon, Cllr Andrew Bennett, and the Swindon Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Movement (CALM) for their annual Christmas bag pack. The bag pack will be at the Morrison’s store in Thames Avenue, Haydon Wick, Swindon so keep an eye out for us from 10.30am!
CALM is a charity run by parents who have all experienced what it is like to have a child diagnosed with cancer, and it’s one that is very close to my heart. Earlier this year, CALM was one of two charities that I chose to support, alongside another local charity called Hop, Skip & Jump, when I ran the Swindon Half Marathon.
Justin Tomlinson and I were very pleased with last week’s figures which showed that both unemployment and youth unemployment across the town have fallen dramatically since 2010.
224,000 more people in work across the South West since the last Labour Government and a record level of employment across the UK as a whole – with over 2.2 million more people enjoying the security of a job than at the end of the last Labour government.
In Swindon the number of people claiming out of work benefits has fallen by 2,885 – a 55% drop – since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. We have seen increased growth, wages up on average 2.4% and the number of people in work at an all-time high. Petrol and diesel prices are falling, inflation remains low and the number of young people not in employment continues to fall.
The fact that we have seen such a large fall in unemployment in our town since 2010, and the fact that more than 8,000 more fellow local residents are in work, is proof that we are on the right track. With the introduction next year of the National Living Wage and 30 hours free childcare for working families, we will continue to work towards a higher-wage, lower-welfare society with opportunity and security at its heart.
Locally, jobs are being created by companies such as Honda and Honda Logistics, who both recently announced that new jobs would be created as a result of a £200 million investment into the Swindon Honda site, which I mentioned in one of my earlier columns.
As this year comes to a close and the festivities draw ever closer, let us all spare a thought for those who are ill or alone, and remember those who are not so fortunate to be surrounded by their loved ones. A simple act like a phone call or a visit can make all the difference.
With this year’s terrorist atrocities such as the Tunisian massacre and the devastating attacks in Paris, it is appalling events like this that remind us of the sheer bravery of our Armed Forces and Security Services who work so hard to keep us safe. This Christmas, let us pay tribute to our brave men and women who will continue to help protect our rights and freedoms that we hold dear as a country.
As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help you by addressing a local or national issue that you may have. However you choose to celebrate, I wish you and all your family and friends a very joyful and peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.