The town's new mayor is backing the people of Swindon to bounce back from the challenges they face over the next year.

Councillor Garry Perkins was sworn in as the first citizen in unusual circumstances yesterday – and initial plans for his year in office have been scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Having been elected by a virtual meeting of councillors, Coun Perkins said: “I think the job is all about meeting people, going out and speaking to people.

“I’ve been a councillor for 35 years, first in Dorset and then in Swindon, so I’ve been doing it a while, and I’ve met and get to know an awful lot of people in Swindon and Wiltshire and beyond.

"A lot have become good friends. I was looking forward to seeing a lot of those people again as part of my duties.”

The Conservative councillor for Haydon Wick believes the government will probably allow some sort of return to normality in the summer.

He said: “I think people will be able to have some sort of holiday in the summer and then things will probably start getting back to normal in the autumn, so it might be October or so before I can do the sorts of things – meeting people, visiting places – that I was expecting to do from the start.

"It means I’ll miss out on the first few months of my term.”

With the closure of Honda scheduled for 2021, the next 12 months in Swindon’s fortunes might have been a challenge anyway.

As the town and indeed country attempts to recover from the medical, social and economic shock of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown, the year will be an extraordinary one for the mayor.

But he said: “This has always been an industrious town and we had the railway works, which then went away, and Honda came in, and now that’s going. it’s a shame, but we’ll move on to the next thing

“A lot of people who love in Swindon come here from elsewhere, whether from Britain or from overseas, I did myself. And I think those people think they have to prove themselves, they come ready to work and be productive citizens.

“As for coronavirus, I think we have to follow the government’s guidelines and take the common-sense approach.

"The more we follow the rules, and stay in and apart from other, the quicker we will be able to come through this and get back to normal.”

After a more than three decades in local politics, the mayoral year will be the culmination.

Coun Perkins said: “I will be putting Swindon forward wherever I can in my year – that’s what I think the role is for me, and then I’ll have one more year left as a councillor and I won’t stand again.

The owner of his own engineering company added: “It does become your life – I’m not complaining, it’s what you expect when you put your hand up. But I’m looking forward to having more of my own life.

“It will be an honour to represent Swindon. And I think the town and its people are well placed to face the future.”