Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tragically, the UN has estimated that 21,000 civilians have been killed or wounded in the conflict, including 400 children.
Shortly after the invasion, I met with members of Swindon’s Ukrainian community to offer my support to Ukraine. It was humbling to hear how their lives had been affected and to hear their concerns for family and friends in Ukraine.
I am proud that the UK has stood shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine from the very beginning – with President Zelensky praising the UK for uniting others when it seemed impossible. I have no doubt that the UK’s commitment to supporting Ukraine will continue just as strongly, and I hope that Putin’s futile war will soon end.
The long-awaited Fan Led Review was also announced this week. I want to pay tribute to Swindon Town Chief Executive Rob Angus who, along with Trust STFC, was heavily involved it he initial consultation. Over recent months, he has joined me on many occasions to speak to decision makers and help shape yesterday’s announcement. I am very grateful to Rob and Trust STFC for taking the time to share their knowledge and experience and for making some very constructive contributions to the consultation.
The key points of the Fan Led Review are around the stricter director and owner tests, protection of club assets, and heritage protection. We now need to bring together the Premier League, EFL and FA to thrash out a fair and sustainable distribution of the TV money, which is vital for the long-term future of clubs throughout the football pyramid.
This week I also met with Damien Siviter, who on behalf of Severn Capital is leading plans for the Oasis. Despite the frustrating additional challenges and costs that the listing status has imposed on the future of the Oasis, it looks like we will see plans brought forward in the late summer, finally unlocking the much needed rebuild of the Oasis.
We all support a return of an iconic leisure pool, that is a given, but there will still be a debate about additional facilities and sports on the site. I personally think we should be looking at an outdoor adventure play park, as this would complement the pleasure pools - particularly during the peak school holiday seasons. This would help make the Oasis more financially stable. The worst outcome is that we all celebrate the ribbon being cut to mark the re-opening, just to find that the Oasis is again in financial difficulty a few years later. Having spent much time during my pre-politics career in the leisure sector, I will continue to offer my help to see the Oasis re-open as quickly as possible.
Finally, it was a pleasure to speak in the early years debate earlier this week. As parent to two young children, I absolutely appreciate the important role that the Early Years sector plays in supporting childhood development and local parents.
I was able to highlight Swindon’s excellent provision, including the Minister’s recent visit to meet Becky Cruise (owner of Imagination Childcare) and Cllr Jo Morris (owner of Playsteps Nursery) where we were able to discuss: costs, funding, support for SEND, business rates, ratios and OFSTED qualifications. All crucial for shaping future Government policies.
I am very grateful to Jo and Becky for sharing their knowledge and experience, which shaped my contribution in this debate.