IN the run-up to Christmas there are a great many wonderfully uplifting events to attend. The best, of course, involve children and young people.

As Advent began, I was delighted to take part in the Swindon Special Schools’ Concert at the Citifaith Church. So many of our excellent local schools were represented, including Westlea, Robert Le Kyng, Brimble Hill, Uplands, Red Oaks and Chalet. This coming together of many different school communities really makes it a special occasion. I would like to thank Tony Martin of Involve Swindon and the team of volunteers who helped make the evening so memorable for all the children and young people.

On the Sunday before last, I was honoured to take part in the Prospect Hospice’s Light up a Life Service. Every year hundreds of people remember their loved ones by dedicating a light on the special Christmas tree in their memory. This makes the service incredibly poignant but at the same time really positive and uplifting, as befits the ethos of the hospice movement.

This year it coincided with a very welcome announcement. During his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that hospices and related charities will be able to reclaim VAT on goods and services from April next year. It’s estimated this could be worth a total of £9 million, and the Prospect Hospice and Wiltshire Air Ambulance will be among the beneficiaries.

It’s a move I’ve been working hard to achieve along with my North Swindon colleague Justin Tomlinson. It will make a real difference to the amount of work, support and help these organisations can provide.

Of course, donations from supporters in the community remain absolutely vital, and there’s no better time of year to remember the excellent work of our local hospice. At Christmas, we all miss loved ones who are no longer with us that little bit more. In that spirit, the Light up a Life Service combines both remembrance and celebration. It’s one of my favourite events of the year.

Moving on to events this week, and on Friday I’ll be visiting a whole host of organisations who play such an important role at this time of year.

I’m dropping in to the Royal Mail sorting office at Dorcan, then to the Swindon Citizens Advice Bureau, and finally I’ll be performing the official opening of the Chiseldon Post Office.

There’s also my weekly surgery – the last for the year. It’s at the DeVere Village Hotel, Shaw Ridge, from noon to 1.30pm. No appointments are necessary, however if you have a long-running or complex case, it may be best to contact the office first since time at the surgery is always tight.

I look forward to meeting you there.