Looking toward the local elections - Swindon Borough Council Leader Cllr Jim Robbins writes for the Link

By Swindon Link - 27 March 2024


As residents’ thoughts turn to Spring at this time of year, as politicians our thoughts turn to elections! Despite Rishi Sunak apparently ruling out an early General Election, we will still have local elections in Swindon for you to choose your local councillors and a Police & Crime Commissioner on 2 May.

I’m still humbled by the support that residents gave us last year, and as a new administration we have worked hard to repay that faith in us. We took over in tricky circumstances with Ofsted coming in almost immediately and rating the council’s Children’s Services as Inadequate. We also inherited a £10m in-year overspend and a £27m gap in our funding for next year. 

I’m delighted to say that we have reduced the in-year overspend to zero, and should make a small surplus this year, and delivered a balanced budget for next year. We have made progress on our work with Ofsted and recently held the first of our monitoring visits with them which went well, and they have agreed the action plan that we have put in place to drive the improvements we need to make. 

We have tried to reset the relationship that the council has with residents, and recently held the largest engagement exercise that the council has held in living memory.  The ‘Let’s Talk Swindon’ events were well-attended, full of fascinating conversations about the town, and very positive. It was so clear how much love people have for Swindon, and how much they want it to reach its potential. 

There was widespread support for the three missions that we have set ourselves, to reduce inequality, build a better Swindon and achieve our net zero goals.  I was delighted that we brought a plan to the last Cabinet meeting outlining the masterplan for a new housing development around Marlowe Avenue. It really felt to me that it was us living the missions. The new scheme will deliver the largest increase in council housing for 30 years, giving homes to those Swindon families currently on our waiting list; it will allow us to create better homes for existing tenants, and the new houses will have all of the latest sustainability features to lower the bills for the tenants and be built with low-carbon construction techniques. 

We have learnt lots in our first year in administration, making key appointments to roles in the council, getting the council back on a secure financial footing, working to rebuild the morale of staff and make the council a more effective and more responsive organisation and I’m certain that we can really kick on and deliver more if voters give us the opportunity.

Our pledges to you are:

Town Centre - devise a bold regeneration plan for the town centre.  Push property owners to introduce temporary uses to tackle empty shops in advance of redevelopment. 

Young people - open new youth facilities and set up a council-run community engagement group to reduce knife crime and serious youth violence in the town.

Roads - lobby Government for additional funds for pothole repair and additional powers to manage roadworks better.

Get the Oasis re-opened - finalise the deal with the developer and explore options for a new performance venue for the town.

Tackle the Housing crisis - increase the number of council houses in the town and support everyone to have a safe and secure home. 

I really hope that you will support us to keep building a better Swindon.

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