As the school term ends for the summer, the House of Commons has also risen until September. After the extraordinary events of the last month, the Recess comes as a welcome period for me to re-charge my batteries and to carry on working here in Swindon. I will be meeting residents, holding local advice surgeries and visiting local businesses, whilst also being able to see a bit more of my family.
Living locally in South Swindon and having my office on Wood Street enables me to be both visible and approachable (something all MPs should be). It also helps to ensure I fully understand the issues that are important to fellow local residents.
The most recent crime statistics now reveal a significant rise in online offences. This is the first time that an official estimate of the scale of the problem has been collated after fraud and cyber offences were added to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Almost 6 million online fraud and cyber crime offences were committed last year in England and Wales, marking a shift away from crimes such as burglary and street violence. I have spoken with several local residents who have fallen victim to these crimes in the past and many have not even been aware they have been targeted until they realise their savings have been stolen. The need for all of us to be careful and vigilant when sharing our personal details on the internet has never been greater.
Last week, I met our area Police Superintendent Charlie Armstrong at Swindon Police Station to discuss this and other policing issues. Swindon Police will continue to place great emphasis on community and neighbourhood policing, with an improved 24 hour service provided by teams covering all parts of our Borough. I also discussed the use of body-worn cameras by police officers, and expect to see this being adopted by our local police in the coming months. This welcome change, already being put to good use in London, will transform the way in which our policing is carried out. The work that I have been doing on the new Investigatory Powers Bill will help ensure that the police and intelligence services can continue to tackle crime as it moves increasingly online in a way that balances our security with the need to protect our privacy too.
Since the Council’s proposals to create Parish Councils for the rest of Swindon not covered by them were announced, I have been thinking carefully about them. I would prefer another solution to be found, but am sympathetic to the Council’s need to find a more sustainable way to maintain our public areas. If these plans are to go ahead, it is vital that the views of local residents are considered and that careful planning and consideration is undertaken before any changes are made. The question of which council will be responsible for each area of land or asset needs to be sorted out, for example.
I am concerned that the creation of a series of smaller parish councils could lead to confusion and a lack of economy of scale and therefore believe that it would be better to opt for larger parish councils. I also think that some unparished areas next to an existing parish could be included within the boundary of an existing Parish. For example, all of Wichelstowe could be included into the existing Wroughton Parish area.
I have been involved in a number of discussions with local councillors, officers and residents about the proposal and would welcome further contact from local residents regarding their views. You can contact me by writing to me here at my constituency office here on Wood Street, by ringing me on 01793 533393 or dropping me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org