Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 27 October 2016

Last Thursday, I was thrilled to help welcome the Duchess of Cornwall to Swindon for the last event to celebrate 175 years since our town’s creation. The Duchess unveiled a special plaque on the station forecourt which now reads ‘Sir Daniel Gooch Place’ – a fitting tribute to the founding father of Swindon.

It was Sir Daniel's letter to Isambard Kingdom Brunel on September 13 1840, which set out why the engineering centre for the GWR should be built in Swindon and set in motion the creation of a modern railway town.

Swindon station opened in July 1842 with the works opening on January 2 the following year, covering 300 acres.

During her visit, the Duchess met representatives from Great Western Railway, The Steam museum and Swindon Heritage. The Duchess then went on to visit the Civic Offices in Euclid Street where she was shown exciting plans for the regeneration of our town centre.

There have been so many fantastic events this year as part of the 175 celebrations, including a classic car parade on the magic roundabout, the recreation and sounding of the famous old GWR Hooter, the return of two flagship locomotives to the town from the National Railway Museum in York.  King George V and City of Truro and a month-long exhibition of great works by a plethora of Swindon artists.

In June, I was honoured to take part in a special Swindon 175 Civic Service of Thanksgiving at one of Swindon’s railway churches, St Augustine’s Church in Rodbourne. The service was a wonderful celebration of Swindon’s past, present and future and was broadcast live on Swindon 105.5 from the church. I especially enjoyed listening to Even Swindon Primary School children who shared their hopes and dreams for the future.

It really has been heart-warming to see so many talented local residents come together for Swindon 175, and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in some way.

We’re lucky to have many wonderful organisations and local charities, large and small, here in Swindon which make a huge difference to our quality of life. I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together in the years ahead.

Part of what makes events like 175 so special is the sense of pride that they help to instil in our children, and it’s always encouraging to see Swindon’s younger generation showing a genuine interest in our town’s future.

With this in mind, I was delighted to meet Swindon’s new Youth Parliament Member Chloe Townsend last Thursday to talk about improving wellbeing & mental health for young people, which is an area in which I take a strong interest. In November, I’ll also be visiting several local schools including Commonweal and St Joe’s, as part of UK Politics Week, which aims to encourage students to get involved in politics.

Swindon has always had a proud tradition of hard work, enterprise and innovation, and I have written several articles about rising employment figures in our town since I became your MP in 2010. I am always delighted when figures are released which show a continuation of this trend.

The latest stats from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) are no exception and reveal that the number of people who are unemployed in Swindon has fallen once again.

According to the ONS, just 982 people claimed Job Seeker's Allowance or Universal Credit in Swindon last month, down from 1,033 six months ago. We have seen increased growth, wages up, as well as the introduction of a new national living wage. The number of people in work is also at an all-time high, which is great news.

The fact that we have seen such a large fall in unemployment in our town since 2010 is proof that we are on the right track.

The national picture is equally bright. The ONS figures show that the national rate of employment is at a record high of 74.5%. There are now 31.8 million people in work, up by more than 560,000 since last year.

The rise in employment continues to be driven by full-time work. Average wages (including bonuses) have risen 2.3% over the last twelve months, and the claimant count nearly reached 2.3% at its peak - something we haven't seen since 1975.

Labour market statistics also show that the female employment rate currently sits at 69.7%, which is near to the recent record high of 69.8% achieved in May - June 2016. The youth unemployment figure has dropped by more than 300,000 since 2010.

Speaking of the latest ONS figures, Employment Minister Damian Hinds commented: ‘’Once again it’s great news for Britain as the employment rate remains at a record high with more than 31.8 million men and women in work.

“But there’s more to do, particularly when it comes to supporting young people into employment. We want to build a solid base for the future, that’s why today I have announced the roll out of our Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools scheme in England which will give tens of thousands of young people help in taking their first steps into the world of work.’’

You can check out more information about employment figures on the ONS website here: https://www.ons.gov.uk

As ever, please ring my team on 01793 533393 or send an email to robert.buckland.mp@parliament.uk if you have an issue or a query that you would like to raise with me.