The effects of crime can be devastating on its victims, often lasting long after the actual crime has taken place.

A lot of my casework often involves signposting people who have been victims of crime to support and advice available, as well as assisting those who are unsure whether or not a crime has been committed against them.

I have therefore done a lot of work, both locally and nationally, with the charity Victim Support, and I was very pleased to meet recently with Ali Newnham of Swindon Victim Support.

Victim Support provides free confidential advice to people in Swindon and across the UK who have been the victim of crime, offering emotional support as victims build themselves back up after their ordeal.

As well as emotional support, the charity offers practical help in the aftermath – this could be completing compensation paperwork or increasing personal security.

They also provide advice to people who are unsure about what constitutes a crime, and those who are concerned about crime more generally.

It was great to chat to Ali and she is keen to raise awareness in Swindon of the scope of support that is available to victims of crime; whether reported or not.

I have also worked with the charity on a national level in Parliament, raising questions about providing sufficient support for victims of crime in the court room, an experience that can be exceptionally traumatising, as well as discussing long-term support for children who have been victims of crime, and how the court process can accommodate children in a safe and comfortable environment.

One area we have worked together on is hate crime, and I know that this is something my colleague Robert Buckland MP has done a lot of work on.

Victim Support has recently launched an alternative way for people to report hate related incident and crimes - incidents where a person has been subjected to hostility or harm due to an aspect of their identity, such as race, gender, sexuality, religion or transgender identity.

We have a duty to ensure that all those who seek to spread hatred and division in our communities are dealt with robustly by the police and the courts.

Quite rightly, the Government has published a new hate crime action plan, developed in partnership with communities, which will look to increase the reporting of hate crimes and provide stronger support for victims.

It’s fantastic that organisations such as Victim Support will help us achieve this plan.

Finally, last night SBC set the council tax rate for 2018-19. It is a real credit that the Conservative council was able to freeze council tax for five years, whilst the economy recovered from Labour’s great recession.

Whilst I am sure most people would like to see further council tax freezes, we do have to recognise the need to meet the ever growing demand to fund social care; both the increasing numbers of an ageing population and rightly the need to improve the quality of care which we would all expect for our loved ones.

The decision to increase council tax by inflation only, and one per cent lower than the Government cap, strikes the balance of releasing additional money for social care whilst keeping our council tax bills £200 cheaper on average than other councils. A fair decision.