It’s hard to believe that it is nearly December already. It seems like only yesterday I was visiting thousands of fellow residents and campaigning hard to be re-elected as South Swindon’s MP. For me, it was a continuation of the work I did and continue to do out and about in our local community, meeting fellow residents at their front doors or in one of my regular surgeries, which I continue to do.
With Christmas approaching fast, local residents will be looking ahead to another fantastic Christmas lights switch-on in Old Town Wood Street, just outside my constituency office. The switch on will take place on Sunday 29 November 2015, 1.00pm - 6.00pm, and, as ever, the evening will be filled with entertainment before the big switch-on at 5.00pm.
There will be live stage entertainment, as well as stalls from small local businesses including 20 At The Kings, Baila Coffee & Vinyl, Balula's Deli & Cafe, and others. Of course, the switch-on wouldn’t be complete without Santa's Grotto! I’m really looking forward to attending another magical event with my family, and I would like to thank the Old Town Business Association for funding and organising this year’s celebrations once again.
In the run up to Christmas I’ll been carrying out my usual work here in Swindon. Last Thursday I was delighted to attend The Ridgeway School Awards Ceremony. It was inspiring to meet so many successful GCSE students, and excellent results this year once again show the exceptional promise of our young people, supported by their families and dedicated teaching staff.
Turning to Westminster, there’s a lot of very important events happening this week. On Monday, the Prime Minister set out the government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and pledged to invest £178billion on strengthening our country’s military capabilities.
Some of the announcements included plans to replace the UK's four ballistic missile submarines, nine Boeing P8 maritime patrol aircraft, replacing the scrapped Nimrod aircraft, and two additional Typhoon squadrons and the purchase of 24 new F35 fighter aircraft by 2023.
The Review comes after talks were held with French President Francois Hollande following the abhorrent 13 November attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead, including one British citizen, and hundreds wounded.
In order to counter the world's security threats it is vitally important that we continue to invest in our defence. Current defence spending gives the UK the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the European Union.
Britain has always been resolute in the defence of liberty and the promotion of stability around the world and I welcome increased UK defence spending. This will ensure our Armed Forces retain their formidable range of cutting-edge capabilities and ability to project power across the globe, which is particularly important in light of recent security threats.
Today, the Chancellor will give a speech to MPs in the House of Commons explaining how £4 trillion of taxpayers’ money will be spent on government departments and public services and present the joint Spending Review and Autumn Statement document to Parliament.
As part of the Spending Review, the Treasury has already announced a £3.8bn increase to the NHS budget next year as part of the £8bn additional spending pledged by 2020. According to NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, "This settlement is a clear and highly welcome acceptance of our argument for front-loaded NHS investment".
The Chancellor is also expected to deal with differences in school funding across England. One of my highest priorities has been making sure that Swindon delivers high quality education services and support to all of its children from preschool through to college and beyond. I have already helped to secure £10 million for Pupil Premium, extra funding worth £150 per student, and the construction of two new secondary schools.
Justin Tomlinson and I recently wrote a letter to the Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, to repeat our call for an increase in funding for the least well-funded local authorities in the country, in line with our manifesto commitment to address funding gap issues.
There is no reason why there should be a gap between here and London, and I hope that the Spending Review will chart a way forward that will benefit Swindon schools.
As ever, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a local or national issue that you would like to raise. I’ll be hosting another advice surgery at Asda in West Swindon this coming Saturday between 2.30-3.30, so feel free to pop along and see me!