Robert's Weekly Column - 2nd September 2020

Parliament returned this week from summer recess, during which I spent meeting local residents to discuss issues ranging from parking to noise pollution to crime & anti-social behaviour. I also hosted a number of virtual surgeries and a socially-distanced advice surgery in Lydiard Park. These surgeries will continue to take place, so please keep up to date with my social media channels for future dates and times.

Cases of Covid 19 here in Swindon continue to be of concern, but I am encouraged to see that the number of new confirmed cases is declining.  Nevertheless, we must all continue to do what we can to reduce the risk of contagion, and to use our local test and trace facilities if symptoms develop.

Swindon Borough Council have launched a campaign called ‘Swindon: It’s up to all of us’ to help reinforce a number of important public health messages.

Residents are being asked to stay at home, even if they have mild symptoms of coronavirus, namely: a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss of, or change to their sense of smell or taste.

I remain in regular contact with the Director of Public Health at Swindon Borough Council and the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care and they want to reinforce the message that for our protection, we must continue to wash our hands, cover our faces if in enclosed spaces, and to stay at least one-metre apart from people not in our own household.

It is also crucial that anyone who has any symptoms must book a test at our local testing facilities.

The Council has written to thousands of households in Swindon and they will be asking community groups and local businesses to remind residents of the need to stick to the latest government guidance.

We are not at the point of implementing local restrictions, but we need to do everything we can to limit the spread of the disease and to keep out case rate down, so we do not end up there. We need to break the chain of transmission and we need everybody to get behind this important campaign.

As we continue to combat the coronavirus, the government intends to purpose a policy of investment in both infrastructure and skills with the intention of fostering economic growth. As the Prime Minister said, we are going to need a very committed, dynamic plan: not just for infrastructure, not just for investment but making sure that young people have the confidence they need that we are going to help them get into a place of work, to keep their skills up, to keep learning on the job and get a highly paid, highly skilled job that will stand them in good stead for a long time to come. The government is fully committed to achieving this as part of our levelling-up agenda and will have real benefits for us here in Swindon.

I am pleased that this week schools were able to welcome back all pupils for the start of the 2020/21 academic year. The last five months have been truly unprecedented, and I wish all students, parents and teachers here in Swindon the best of luck as adapt to the new measures in place to ensure everybody’s safety.

It is sadly the case that many children have missed out on learning during the lockdown period, so I am pleased that in recognition of this, a major £1 billion package of catch up learning has been announced, which will help all children affected by the closure of schools. £350 million of this package has been earmarked to help the most disadvantaged children with tutoring.