With just five days to go before Santa spreads festive joy to millions of children, I just wanted to wish all Advertiser readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

This is always a special time of year and one that brings people together but, for some, Christmas can be a lonely experience.

The Council is committed to tackling social isolation, especially as charities such as Age UK report that more than a million older people in the UK can go a whole month without speaking to a family member, neighbour or friend.

Loneliness and social isolation can affect people of all ages, and can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing.

Our own Health and Wellbeing team run a range of initiatives to support isolated residents, not least the Swindon Circles scheme, which pairs volunteers up with people who do not have the support of friends or relatives in their lives.

The volunteers are simply marvellous individuals who selflessly give up their time to develop friendships with those residents that otherwise would not connect with society.

This can involve popping round for a cup and tea or a chat to taking individuals shopping or out on social trips.

Last week, the Health and Wellbeing team organised a Christmas party at Savernake Street Social Hall for Swindon Circles clients and many of the volunteers also attended.

Our Communications team produced some videos for our social media channels and the joy on the faces of those that attended spoke volumes.

It was great to see the event supported by the excellent Commonweal School choir and Zurich, who provided transport for the residents and volunteers on the day. If ever an event summed up all that is good about Christmas spirit this was it.

At the time of writing this column, the Health and Wellbeing team are also loading up more than 250 presents to take to those clients who do not have anyone to make a fuss of them over Christmas.

The presents have been donated by Council staff, and teams from Nationwide and the Great Western Hospital and will be delivered to around 90 Swindon Circles clients and any other individuals known to the Council’s Homeline and Social Services teams who would benefit from this gesture. My heartfelt thanks goes to all of those who contributed to this very worthwhile cause.

Our thanks go out to the emergency services, the armed services that serve and protect us throughout the year, and the staff at the Council who will be on hand to ensure we have a safe and healthy holiday period.

Over Christmas there are certain Council services that continue to be provided, especially those that benefit the elderly and our vulnerable children, the Waste and Recycling Teams and the gritters. I would also like to pass on my gratitude to all other Council staff who will be working over the festive period, for their continued professionalism and diligence.

Looking after one another is what Christmas is all about. Happy Christmas.