Education and Young People
Justin joined a number of MPs to campaign for fairer school funding. As a result there will be an additional £1.3 billion for schools funding over two years, as well as £4.3million worth of transitional funding for the town’s schools as part of their fairer funding campaign.
One of the biggest projects Justin has assisted with has been the creation of The Great Western Academy – the £21million free school set to open its doors in September 2018.
Justin worked tirelessly with The Great Western Academy, both in Swindon and in Parliament, to secure funding and ensure that the project was successful.
The National Citizen Service is another organisation which Justin has worked with to benefit young people in the constituency. He has shown his support by visiting NSC events and advocating for the initiative in Parliament.
Throughout the year Justin welcomes a number of young people to take part in work experience and paid internships at his community office. The interns and work experience volunteers learn what an MP does, as well as taking an active role in the office. This provides them with valuable experience and skills which they can use later on.
Justin has also been a keen supporter of the Summer Reading Challenge, an initiative which encourages young people to read more.
Justin has supported many health causes since being elected in 2010.
Mental health care is one area in particular where Justin has shown a great interest and willingness to help. He has worked closely with a number of mental health charities, such as Swindon Mental Health and Self-Harm and Twigs community gardens and Swindon MIND. Justin has campaigned passionately to prevent the closure of Sandalwood Court’s Place of Safety suite, which provides emergency help to people in emotional distress. Along with his Swindon South colleague, Robert Buckland, he raised the issue with the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
The British Heart Foundation has also benefitted from Justin’s support as he backed their campaigns for an increase in public defibrillators and mandatory CPR classes in Schools. He was successful in convincing the Department for Education to write to every secondary school and encouraging them to back the BHF campaign.
Justin has developed a very good relationship with the Swindon and District branch of Parkinson’s UK, hosting a monthly coffee for the group at my community office. Earlier this year Justin also got behind the Parkinson’s UK ‘We won’t wait’ campaign to unlock research developments.
Other health issues Justin has supported and advocated for have included childhood obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, and organ donation.
Justin has used his role as an MP to advocate on a number of animal welfare issues.
He has supported calls for the sale of ivory to be banned in the UK. He has used his platform to highlight the terrible effect that the trade has had on the elephant population, and 2013 he spoke in a debate to highlight the links between the ivory trade and terrorism. He was delighted that his efforts paid off and the Government announced that it was setting out plans to ban the sale of ivory in the UK.
Puppy farming and the illegal trade in wildlife are also terrible animal welfare issues which Justin has called to be banned.
Working alongside local businesses Justin has championed Swindon at all levels to attract jobs and investment. He has also been a keen supporter of apprenticeships from day one, and is firmly behind the Governments ambition to achieve full employment and create a further 3 million apprentices (on top of the 2 million already created in the last Parliament). Since 2010 more than 10,600 people across Swindon have started an apprenticeship, benefitting from the on-the-job, skills-based training that comes with it.
Justin has also eager to highlight the importance of apprenticeships for people with learning disabilities, and has raised the issue many times in Parliament. As Minister for Disabled People Justin ordered an urgent review into to issue to ensure that people with learning disabilities have access to this path of employment. The recommendations that the report set out were accepted by the Government and barriers which prevented people with learning disabilities taking up apprenticeships were removed.
He is also proud of the work done on supporting people into work, and his efforts that have seen unemployment in Swindon fall 61% to a record low, and more than 8,400 more people in work across the town than in 2010. Justin has promoted efforts to improve support for those out of work for the longest, with new tailored supported provided by dedicated work coaches and major refurbishment of the town’s jobcentre ensuring that more people in the town can benefit from the certainty and security of work.
Planning, development and infrastructure
Justin is passionate about driving up the standards of housing developments in Swindon and across the UK. He has campaigned for better quality housing, street scene maintenance, access to green spaces and improved infrastructure, which he believes will deliver and improved quality of life.
He is proud to see this in place in the new Tadpole Farm development and, as Swindon is one of the fastest expanding towns in the country, he will continue to champion this. One of his key aims is to ensure that the land around new developments is kept free for sport and recreational use. This ‘green lung’ will ensure that all new developments are built with a space that residents can use to stay healthy and be active.
Justin has also worked hard to ensure that more people in Swindon have access to reliable superfast broadband. He has worked closely with the Better Broadband Group and Broadband providers to secure investment from both BT and Virgin.
One of Justin's central campaigns throughout his time as an MP has been in the area of leasehold reform. In many cases new homes are built and sold on in this way, with some of them being sold to new home buyers who are left with unfair agreements that lead to exploitative surcharges and spiralling ground rents. As Swindon has continued to expand with an increasing number of new build housing developments, Justin has raised these issues in Parliamentary questions to ministers, as well as organising public meetings alongside Cherry Jones from Home to Home Property Management, who has worked tirelessly to ensure local residents are not disadvantaged by these types of agreements. As a result of Justin's campaign, the Government has committed to ending the practice which Ministers have described as an "extortion racket"
Justin believes that sport has an incredible potential to improve people’s lives, allowing people to keep healthy, and learn valuable skills.
He successfully campaigned to save the £150 million a year School Sports Partnership - promoting sport in schools and highlighting the positive role that sport can play in tackling obesity and constructively engaging with young people. He has also been a big supporter of the StreetGames initiative, which aims to make sport available to some of the most disadvantaged young people in society.
Justin has been working actively, both in Parliament and locally in North Swindon, at directly challenging the high levels of childhood obesity. Justin has been reaching out to fellow local residents and organising events such as a Summer Activity Fair, to get them more active. He was also successful in lobbying the government to use the Soft Drinks Levy (better known as the Sugar Tax) to deliver more sport in schools and promote healthier options.
Locally, Justin has supported Draycott Sports Camp, a holiday camp that keeps children fit and active during the school holidays by offering a range of sports including lacrosse and gymnastics. Justin hopes that camps like this will be supported across the UK using the £415m raised from the Soft Drinks Levy, something he actively campaigned for in Parliament.
As a former business owner, Justin has been keen to support businesses of all sizes in order to create the next generation of jobs. He has promoted greater access to finance, pushed for less regulation and supported business mentoring. He was appointed as a Small Business Ambassador for the Conservative Party and continues to support businesses across North Swindon.
Justin regularly meets with the Federation of Small Businesses, to discuss how the Government can help to support small businesses, of which there are 700 in Swindon. He has called for more business owners to become involved in local politics, believing individuals with relevant business experience would prove to be a valuable asset for many councils.
The regeneration of Swindon town centre is another issue Justin has taken on. In Parliament Justin is co-chair of the APPG on retail and vice-chair of the APPG on Town Centres, working with is colleagues to support town centre and retailers nationally. Locally, Justin has been proactive in promoting Swindon Town Centre to retailers and encouraging them to bring their business to the town centre.
Both locally and in Parliament, Justin has continued to champion opportunities for people with disabilities. A highlight of Justin’s time as Minister for Disabled People was organising a ‘Reverse Jobs Fair’, making employers more aware about the benefits of hiring employees with disabilities. Justin introduced employer to charities who could offer support on hiring disabled people, attracting over 70 employers and 30 charities.
Justin also serves on the APPG on Learning Disabilities, working to ensure that Government policy provides the best opportunities for people with learning disabilities. As part of this Justin has regularly visited charities such as Scrappers Gym, a project set up to provide access to fitness and boxing skills for people with disabilities. Other charities which Justin has supported include Dressability, and the Salamander Project.
As well as people with disabilities, Justin has also worked with local carers. Every year Justin takes part in the ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ walk in support of Swindon Carers Centre, and opened up the community office to the Carers’ Lead Forum. Justin has also worked with young carers, holding events such as a three day film workshop for seven young carers.