IMPROVING education and ensuring young people get the best start in life is one of my priorities, so I was pleased to meet members of national reading charity Beanstalk to discuss how I can support its work locally.

Teaching a child to read and inspiring a love of books is one of the best ways to prepare them for a lifetime of learning and it will bring huge benefits at school.

Beanstalk has more than 100 staff and hundreds of volunteers across the country who provide one-to-one literacy support to children who struggle with their reading ability and confidence.

The charity is currently recruiting volunteers in Swindon to read with children in primary schools across the town.

Beanstalk is also calling for staff at local schools which could benefit from the scheme to get in touch.

Further information about the charity and full contact details can be found at

Caroline Dinenage, the Minister for Child Support, has announced new laws which will close a legal loophole some parents use to avoid paying child maintenance.

Currently, if a parent owes child maintenance, deductions to recover that debt can only be made from a bank or building society account held solely by them, and a small minority of parents are getting away with not supporting children by putting money into a joint account with a partner.

New laws will be brought in to allow deductions to be made from joint accounts in order to recover child maintenance arrears.

While only a small minority of parents try to cheat their way out of paying towards their children, I am glad that this will ensure more children get the support that they need.

Last week I visited Jephson Pharmacy, in Wroughton, to have the flu jab for the first time. The effects of flu were really brought home to me recently when a friend was hospitalised at GWH with it.

The vaccination was painless and I would encourage others to do the same to protect themselves and their families from the illness. Our local pharmacies such as Jephsons are great places to get the jab.

The vaccination is available free to pregnant women, carers, those with long-term conditions like asthma, adults aged 65 and over or children over two.

Further information can be found by visiting

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, all our thoughts should be with the military personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country over the years.

We in Swindon have a great tradition of support for our Armed Forces. Serving members, plus a significant number of veterans, live locally, and I am always very glad to meet them and their families as I go out and about. There are few of us that will not have had family members who served in our armed forces.

In the coming days, as we remember both the fallen and those members of the services still in active service, I’m sure we will wear our poppies with pride.

On the day before Remembrance Sunday I will be taking part in an Armistice Day Service at the Cenotaph.

There I will be joining members of the local community, members of our Armed Forces, the Mayor of Swindon, Maureen Penny and the deputy lieutenant, Bill Fishlock, for a commemorative service and the laying of crosses to remember all of those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.