According to recent figures from the Department for Work and Pensions more than 3,000 young people were claiming Universal Credit at the end of 2020; this is an increase of over 1,400 in the past year. Combine this with the 7,000 more jobs which will be lost as a result of Honda leaving the town and Swindon is looking at an unemployment disaster. In light of this both the Tory-led council and the Labour opposition have failed to provide any sustainable future for employment in the town.
The Tories continue to promise large pots of money are coming to the town. A good example of this is the over £100m they’re promising towards road maintenance but who is going to be using these roads if unemployment rises? Labour responds by opposing everything without providing credible solutions of their own. We in the Swindon Liberal Democrats believe in action and will provide sustainable employment opportunities for everyone, especially for the young people who have been neglected by the Tory-led council.
So far the Tory-led council has wasted the opportunity to collaborate with many of Swindon’s big employers such as Wasdell, Nationwide, UK Space Agency and UKRI to not only ensure there are professional employment opportunities for years to come but also to highlight the unique position our town is in as a hub of scientific innovation.
Alongside this, we will re-energize the town centre by giving power to the people who need it. The officers within the council are experts, paid by our taxes to improve our town; however, they currently have their hands tied by Tory and Labour politics. We will give them the ability to enact the changes we need in Swindon without constant political squabbling. The aim here is not to redevelop the town center and make the same mistakes the Tory-led council has been making for years but instead to invest into a sustainable town center. One which can exist for years to come, providing the much needed jobs for our young people while transforming the centre into a place people actually want to be.
We do not want the false promises of the current Labour and Tory councillors, we want action.
The Government have announced a fund for local authorities to increase the number of toilets which provide decent support for those who cannot use standard accessible toilets, and their carers. The fund of £30 million will be one that requires local authorities to take the initiative and ‘opt in’.
Currently there are only 6 toilets within Swindon that meet Changing Places standards, one of these is situated within the closed Oasis, suggesting our town will be down to 5 toilets once the pandemic comes to an end and we are able to re-enter public life. Changing places toilets are ‘larger accessible toilets, with equipment such as hoists, curtains and space for carers’ and over 250,000 people throughout the UK require these toilets as a minimum to comfortably exist beyond the confines of their homes.
Councillor Stan Pajak is calling on the council to opt in as soon as possible and begin the bid for some of the government’s £30million fund, speaking on this he says: “I was previously involved in a bid to increase the number of toilets in Swindon that were up to a high enough standard to be placed upon a council toilet map available to residents and visitors alike – this resulted in a working party which ultimately didn’t achieve it’s aims. I hope, now the government have given us the option to finally take key actions that will improve peoples lives the council will take the initiative and opt into the fund. There is always support for more public toilets and if we can create those that are more user friendly to people with mobility difficulties then that’s fantastic.”
With the election of a new executive, the Swindon Liberal Democrats are determined to play an invigorated and active role in Swindon’s political and societal landscape, in that vein we are calling for the council to save and refurbish the Oasis. The Oasis centre has been a pillar of the community for over 40 years, in that time it has served us as more than simply a pool, gym or concert space. It has been central in improving many peoples lives, whether that be by hosting activities for the unemployed or providing the youth of our town with a place to train and hone their skills.
We hear a lot from the conservatives about crime among the youth and the philosophy that through hard work we can improve our lives, and yet the council’s apathy and insincere attempts to save the Oasis would showcase how flimsy this ideology truly is. Without centres such as the Oasis for the youth to hone their discipline and skills in various sports and activities they are being robbed of the very facilities they require to improve their lives.
The simple fact is, the Oasis is a social service and as such should never have been placed in private hands for a 99-year lease. Not to mention how unacceptable such a long-term lease is considering the various needs of the community across such a large swathe of time. A social service that improves the lives of the people of Swindon by providing the youth with activities that may otherwise prevent boredom, foster community and prevent anti-social behaviour also provides that ever important leisure space pivotal to any successful civilisation, as such it cannot be a profit centred enterprise. It is no surprise that Severn Capital and GLL wish to see the Oasis closed, they are only doing right by their profit margin, with little regard for the social impact of their actions.
Therefore, in return it is only right that the council retake the Oasis centre and classify it as a social service that will stand as a central pillar of many communities for years to come. If the current council won’t take such bold action, then it is only right that the people of Swindon elect a new council, led by the Liberal Democrats, one that will be ready, willing and able to act.
The pandemic has been difficult for us all. This toll is amplified for those in the NHS who put their lives on the line each day.
According to UNISON, 48% of NHS workers feel as though they cannot cope with the pressures, 51% of the 14,000 stated they'd sought out aid in improving their mental health, with 27% of them using wellbeing apps in order to cope.
Therefore, the Wiltshire Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to ensure these apps are free for Health sector workers beyond the March deadline, extending this beyond the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
Such an action is the least the government can do for the people risking their lives as a result of government inaction, not just in the early days of this crisis, but throughout its course.
Furthermore, the Wiltshire Liberal Democrats are demanding the government make true on their promise to level up the country, by paying the nurses, ambulance technicians, care assistants, catering staff and all other healthcare workers more than the meagre £250 that the chancellor has promised.
Times like these are our true test, the government will decide who matter and who do not. Will the government support the heroes of our time, or continue to recklessly throw millions of pounds toward yet more corrupt and untested practices?
Vice Chair of Swindon Liberal Democrats,
Prospective Police and Crime Commissioner Liz Webster will be holding virtual surgeries to listen to and further understand the issues that really matter to the people of Swindon. These virtual events will include a short introduction by Liz Webster of why she wishes to become your PCC and how she will best fill the role, followed by a Q&A.
Liz’s Listen to You campaign reflects her plan for Wiltshire, a more compassionate accountable approach that ensures the vast powers of the PCC are kept in check by you, the people. During these surgeries Liz will touch on her Manifesto for Wiltshire including her fight against Dog theft and Domestic Abuse, two subjects which she is extraordinarily passionate. Liz aims to advance the role of the PCC from an unheard-of far-off figure to one that interacts with the people they represent, in order to ensure security and prosperity for all throughout the county we call home.
‘I wish I had someone like me in the role of PCC when my son was attacked, someone to interface between the police and the public. In their quest to seek the truth and convictions, the police can sometimes forget about the victim. I wont ever forget the victim, instead my focus will be to protect and aid those that may otherwise be forgotten. That’s why I’m in this fight.’ – Liz Webster
The Listen to You campaign will take place on zoom and the first of these surgeries will be held on the 6th of February specifically for Swindon South residents and one on Sunday the 14th for Swindon North. If you would like to attend, details will be posted on Liz Webster’s PCC Facebook page: (1) Liz Webster for Wiltshire Police & Crime Commissioner | Facebook
and Website: Listening to You (lizwebster.org.uk)
Local Tory MPs votes to block physical proof for 21,860 EU citizens in Swindon
The Liberal Democrats have warned that both Conservative MP for Swindon, are risking a “new Windrush-style scandal”, after they voted to refuse to offer EU citizens physical proof of their right to stay in the UK.
On Monday (19th October), Tory MPs overturned a Liberal Democrat amendment to the Immigration Bill, which passed in the House of Lords just weeks ago. The amendment would require the Home Office to give EU Citizens physical proof of Settled and Pre-Settled Status, rather than the digital-only system the Home Office is currently pursuing.
Conservatives in the House of Commons rejected the amendment by 331 votes to 260. Both Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson were among those voting to scrap the amendment, while Liberal Democrat MPs and MPs in all other parties voted to retain it.
The latest Home Office figures show that, as of the end of June, 21,860 people in Swindon have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme for the right to stay in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends. 12,580 have been granted Settled Status so far, while a further 7,620 have been granted temporary Pre-Settled Status.
Following the vote, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:
“The Conservatives’ decision to overturn this Liberal Democrat amendment shows how empty their promises to guarantee citizens’ rights after Brexit really are. Their Hostile Environment is, sadly, alive and well.
“The Windrush Scandal showed the devastating impact of the Hostile Environment on people who cannot easily prove their rights. By denying EU citizens physical proof of Settled Status, the Government risks making them the victims of a new Windrush-style Scandal.”
Councillor Stan Pajak Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Swindon Borough Council, said:
“EU citizens in Swindon are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. They have been living under a cloud of uncertainty for far too long.
“By refusing to provide EU citizens with physical proof of their rights and forcing them to rely on a digital code and an online Home Office database, both Swindon’s Tory MPs are putting them at risk of discrimination.
“Liberal Democrats are fighting for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, with physical proof of their status.”