EMPTY homes can attract anti-social behaviour and, in some extreme cases, can even pose a risk to public safety, which is why I am fully behind Empty Homes Week, which runs from October 16-22.

This campaign aims to highlight the issue of empty homes and how bringing them back into use can help those who are in need of housing.

Our latest figures show we have 188 long-term empty private properties in the borough, which represents a little under 0.2 per cent of the total housing stock. None of these are council-owned.

Empty homes can attract squatters, vandals and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

Neglected gardens can become overgrown, which affects neighbouring properties and sometimes the property can become dangerous.

Bringing an empty, private property back into use benefits not only the property owner but the wider community.

Our housing team officers do a great job of tackling this problem, but we have particular issues with private properties that have been empty for more than 12 months.

For example, the owner of the property may have died and the inheritance is disputed.

Alternatively, the owner may have moved into hospital or a care home and sometimes certain homes are undergoing renovation work.

Council officers will investigate and attempt to trace owners, offering advice on how to bring the property back into use, including advice on how to access funding.

We also work with housing associations who have access to grant funding to help bring properties back on to the market.

Sometimes, if it is appropriate, we can use measures such as Compulsory Purchase Orders to buy empty homes and put them back on the market, but this can be a lengthy process.

You can report an empty property to us by emailing emptyhomes@swindon.gov.uk or by calling 01793 463275.

All we ask is that you provide as much information as possible about the property, including a full address.

This information will then help identify what action is needed.

I was delighted to attend a special dinner at Steam last Friday as the council and Swindon Local Enterprise Partnership hosted a delegation of dignitaries and business representatives from China.

The delegation was part of a forum called EV100, which represents companies involved in new energy vehicle technology.

Like many countries, China has committed to a programme of replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with new energy vehicles.

It also sees the potential in developing and providing this technology to other countries, using innovative design and manufacturing.

The visit gave us the chance to promote Swindon and create important trade links.

It was also a real pleasure to meet Minister Counsellor Jin Xu and his wife and hear first-hand about some of the infrastructure projects that are being planned and delivered in China.

Our visitors loved the Steam Museum where the dinner was hosted and I believe this visit could be the start of a very productive relationship.