In my final weekly column of the year, I wanted to share some of my personal highlights of the year.
Firstly, we have seen yet again over this week just how fortunate we are to live in such a selfless and hardworking community as more people have stepped forward to volunteer to help the ongoing vaccination programme (which has seen us become one of the most boosted countries in the world).
I had my booster this week at the GWH and the local NHS has worked incredibly hard to increase capacity and create more appointments in Swindon. Thankfully, people have responded with grateful enthusiasm and the best way we can all show our thanks is to make sure we get boosted.
As the Minister for Disabled People, I was proud to deliver the new National Disability Strategy, which delivered the first-ever cross-government, transformational plan with over 100 commitments across different departments, all designed to improve the lives and experiences of disabled people. I was thrilled that local mums in Swindon played their part in helping to shape the strategy including Becky Maddern of local charity Benjamin’s Smile and Mums On A Mission (MOAM), on our work to deliver inclusive play equipment, something already being rolled out across many of Swindon’s playparks with best practice shared across the UK.
As the Minister I also worked with the Motor Neurone Disease charity, Marie Curie and others to scrap the 6 month rule in the Special Rules for Terminal Illnesses, published the Health & Disability Green Paper and helped secure record disability employment. It was an honour to represent and work to improve lives for disabled people during my time at the DWP. Following September’s reshuffle, I was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, a role which focuses on campaigning.
Locally, it was announced in March this year that the Honda site had been sold to Panattoni, Europe’s biggest developer of industrial and logistics facilities, which was both a huge relief and a massive boost for Swindon’s economy. The £700m scheme (which is Panattoni’s biggest investment outside the USA) will help deliver a mix of employment opportunities from manufacturing, business offices, distribution and high-tech industries. It is great to see a replacement for Honda providing a range of jobs for people in Swindon.
I also welcomed the new ownership of Swindon Town FC, which has brought a much-needed breath of fresh air. The new owner and chief executive have taken great steps to put the club back on a stable footing, with fans back at the heart of the club. Everyone now eagerly awaits the Man City FA Cup tie which will be an exciting fixture for the entire town. I am also thrilled to finally see the works on the Abbey Stadium, a huge relief for Swindon Robins fans.
Finally, a huge thank you again to all of the kind residents who donated gifts to my Christmas Gift Appeal – which saw several car loads full of presents taken to the Swindon Domestic Abuse Service where they will be given to those who find themselves in a refuge this Christmas. A big thanks to Cllrs Kate Tomlinson and Oladapo Ibitoye for their help with the appeal and for getting all of the gifts loaded onto Santa’s sleigh (or in this case, Oladapo’s car!)
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!