Being a Councillor is a real privilege. I am proud to be Swindon born and bred and to have the opportunity to do my best to make a difference to the town.
In 2013, I was asked to become the Cabinet Member for Finance. This means it’s my responsibility to recommend a budget to the 57 Councillors who represent the whole of Swindon. It’s a big responsibility and at times feels daunting, but when you put yourself forward for public service, I believe you have to do your best, even in challenging circumstances.
It’s been said before and will be said again that the Council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge. This is happening because of a combination of a reduction in the money that the Government has to spend (as it seeks to reduce the national deficit and debt) and because of the increase in demand for services for the vulnerable.
The Council spends an increasing proportion of its funds on helping vulnerable adults and children. This means that most people do not directly benefit from services which most of their Council tax pays for. I believe that it is right to continue to prioritise services for those most in need. But this means that we have to make changes to the way in which we provide other services.
Residents will be aware that we are currently looking at the future provision of services at our parks, our library services, and the relationship between the Borough Council and Parish Councils. The reason we are doing this is because we know that in future years we simply won’t have enough money to provide these services in the same way that we do today. This means that some difficult decisions have to be made and as a Councillor, it’s not easy to have the personal responsibility to make them.
There are times where it may feel so much easier to make a short-term decision and leave the problem for someone else to sort out another time. Well, that’s not for me. I will always do what’s best for the long term of Swindon.
As we consider the future of our services, I invite all residents to reflect on what they can do to help. It may mean being open to change. It may mean volunteering. It may mean being willing to pay more for services. It may mean taking on more responsibility. But one thing is for sure, change has to happen and the Council can’t do it all by itself. What Swindon needs now, more than ever, is for everyone to come together to make the future the best it can be.