A constructive approach to opposition role - Swindon Borough Council Conservative Group Leader Cllr Gary Sumner writes for the Link

By Swindon Link - 30 May 2024


A new council year is under way following the recent elections, and it means many new, and familiar, faces returned by the public to represent them.

Swindon Conservatives fought hard and honest election campaigns on local issues, and we secured six councillors out of 20 areas. Last year, we only won two Conservative Councillors out of 19 areas. We all know the challenges of the national political scene for the Conservatives, and it was a bad result for every part of the country, including in Swindon. 

We feared a repeat of 2023 but we had a much better result, which is remarkable. The scale of the challenge is that we now have 15 councillors out of 57. Thank you to everyone who voted for their local Conservative candidate!

During this election campaign, Labour stated they would ‘Cut Energy Bills for Good’ if you voted for them on 2 May. A local council cannot deliver this. Labour said vote for change, well that happened last year and the public have seen things go backwards across the town, like 1.3 million missed waste and recycling collections. 

In addition, last year, we saw Labour promise to freeze your Council Tax, but in February, they hiked it by the legal maximum possible. Those in charge now say they need another two years before they have any achievements...

Most people won’t be interested in council committees, but they are an important way for local issues to be discussed, Cabinet decisions reviewed and council performance monitored. Labour’s very first decision on taking control of the council was scrap the system that had worked for 20 years.

That system is now being re-introduced with some differences in names.

To try to explain. Overview is a local government word for how policy development happens. Swindon went from five Overview & Scrutiny Committees so Policy & Scrutiny Committees, to three Policy-only Committees. 

All Scrutiny work went to one committee that became overloaded. Now the three Policy Committees are returning to be Policy & Scrutiny. You won’t be alone if you don’t understand the difference!

I am pleased that our suggestion of a new Children’s & Adults’ Overview & Scrutiny Committee which oversees over 80% of council spend has been accepted as the correct way forward. This hasn’t existed for the last year.

We have tried to assist constructively to point out the errors in approach. There are problems happening every month with Labour and this latest hiccup on council committees underlines their naivety. 12 months wasted.

We are very pleased to see the Coate Water Splash Park happened. Conservative councillors secured the funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and it has taken 18 months to happen. I only hope it opens in time for the summer holidays so that residents can enjoy the experience. 

You should see other improvements soon because we also secured funding for a new café, and for various footpaths and trails around Coate Water significantly improved.

The Conservatives want Swindon to be the best place in the UK to live, learn and work.

Your Comments

Be the first to comment on this article

Login or Register to post a comment on this article

Subscribe to The Link

Registered in England & Wales. No: 4513027, Positive Media Group, Old Bank House, 5 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon, SN1 4BJ