It has been a very busy week in Swindon so it is difficult to know where to start when it comes to my column! On Saturday, I was honoured to open an event at the Ellendune Centre in Wroughton that marked National Older Persons Day. We seem to be getting more and more of these themed "days", but I think that it is a good way of highlighting important issues and campaigns. A number of local organisations such as Swindon Seniors Forum, University of the Third Age (U3A), care providers and others came together under one roof to provide information and support. Too many older people endure loneliness and poor quality of life when, with even a little support, this can change for the better. I hope that Saturday's event will be the first of many.
Immediately before this event, I braved the rain and joined the regular Park Run at Lydiard Park for a three mile run in order to help mark six years of Park Runs in Swindon. Thanks to the volunteers who organise this regular Saturday morning session, thousands of people have taken part and have been made to feel welcome, whatever their standard. As someone who is not the fastest myself, I can testify to this!
As your MP, I work hard to support the work of a large number of Swindon organisations, especially in the fields of mental health, respite care and disabilities. I recently attended an open day for Disability Experts held at Voluntary Action Swindon (VAS). Disability Experts was formed last year and is run by people with disabilities. The staff work to ensure that everyone in Swindon has the chance to succeed and firmly believe that having a disability should not prevent that. I was pleased to see so many people at the open day where they had the opportunity to learn more about the wide variety of courses and qualifications available. These include food hygiene, first aid and driving theory. The group also run a job shop and a twilight club.
Speaking of local groups, I am pleased to have been invited to speak at the annual Swindon Trauma Group Conference on 14th October at the Marriott hotel. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious issue and anyone can, without warning, experience a traumatic experience that will affect them. This local group has provided support for sufferers for the past nine years. You can find out more about their work and the conference by visiting the Swindon Trauma Group website.
One of the things I have enjoyed the most over the past week or so has been visiting several local schools to talk to pupils about my work as an MP. I enjoyed visiting staff and pupils at Holy Cross Primary School; a happy school in the excellent new Queens Drive facility. I also participated in two excellent question and answer sessions with students at Lydiard Park Academy and students at the UTC. The questions were varied and thought-provoking, leaving me in no doubt that we are in good hands when it comes to the next generation.
I am looking forward to meeting students from The Commonweal School and St Joseph’s Catholic College in the coming weeks. These visits form part of Parliament Week, which is an annual programme of activities and events designed to inform, inspire and connect people all over the UK with democracy and the world of politics. I am pleased that young people play such an active role in politics here in Swindon. I enjoy meeting members of the Swindon Youth Parliament and discussing issues that concern them. They show that they care deeply about society and the needs of other teenagers in the town.
Over the past few days, I have been spending time at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. At a time of uncertainty following the referendum result, it was reassuring to listen to Theresa May’s positive message about our country’s future outside the European Union.
Whilst I was disappointed with the referendum result, I think it’s right that our Government is standing firmly by the public’s decision and focusing on what lies ahead. The Prime Minister made it clear that her aim is to build a global Britain with the self-confidence and freedom to look beyond Europe and to the economic and diplomatic opportunities of the wider world, and the signs are encouraging. Eight nations including China, India and Singapore have already said they are prepared to sign major free trade deals with the UK.
As part of the conference, I will be attending a fringe meeting about Law and Justice issues, as well as meetings with the National Autistic Society. I will also be meeting with Ministers to discuss Swindon infrastructure issues.
I hold regular advice surgeries here at my offices in Wood Street and also at local venues across South Swindon. I held a recent surgery at Waitrose in Wichelstowe and will be holding another at Tesco in Ocotal Way over the next few weeks. I work hard with my team to resolve issues raised by local residents and businesses. If you have a local or national issue that you would like to discuss with me, you can contact me by dropping me an email at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org or by ringing me on 01793 533393.