Last week was a busy one politically with Local Elections across the country. Whilst we didn’t have votes in the Wiltshire Council area in this round of the electoral cycle, I was called on to do the late night media rounds as the results were coming in. I was very pleased that all the hard work of so many people in Swindon paid off and Swindon Council remained Conservative, despite the opposition throwing all their resources into it and Jeremy Corbyn making the time to visit five times in the last six months. Elections at this point in the cycle can be very difficult for Governments – after eight years, Tony Blair’s government had lost 4,000 local councillors – and so to see dozens of council seats won right across the country, and to take control of Basildon and Peterborough Councils, is a great achievement and a testament to the local efforts of many great councillors. I do extend commiserations to Councillors of every political colour who lost their seats on Thursday. I do think we often ignore all the hard work and effort that goes into our local services, and we are very fortunate with our own competent councils and hard-working councillors.
I also appeared on Wednesday’s BBC Watchdog programme to discuss smart meter installations, after concerns have been raised about a tiny number of problems. I was glad to be able to set the record straight, and reassure customers that when you have a smart meter installed you get a free safety check – last year there were over a quarter of a million instances where an installer spotted a possible safety issue and was able to rectify it. As the rollout continues, safety will continue to be a top priority, and we are determined to complete the rollout as soon as practicable so that people can begin to enjoy the benefits of smart metering.
Locally, we are so fortunate to have a number of brilliant Community Transport groups, run mainly by volunteers, which provide convenient local transport in the Constituency. The Department for Transport is currently consulting on permits which allow not-for-profit community transport groups to carry passengers in a bus or minibus, and there are some concerns that any changes could be very difficult for these largely volunteer services to sustain. However, I am assured by the Roads Minister, Jesse Norman, that most community transport services should not be affected by the changes and, like me, I know that Ministers are keen to ensure the continued success of non-commercial community transport given the importance to many rural communities.