The Easter Bank Holiday began with good news for Swindon as it was announced that our town will receive an additional £133,688 from the government as part of the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund, designed to help local organisations through this difficult Covid period.

This brings the total amount of funding received so far in Swindon from the fund to £460,688

Our cultural, creative and heritage sectors have been some of the hardest hit by Covid-19 and I was pleased in July last year when the Government announced an unprecedented £1.57 billion support package to see them through the crisis.

The New Mechanics' Institution Preservation Trust Ltd, Revolution Performing Arts and Old Town Sounds Ltd have all been awarded funding from the second round.

When it comes to Government funding here in South Swindon, I will continue to ensure that we receive our fair share.

There was reason to be cautiously optimistic on Easter Monday when the Prime Minister confirmed that further easing of Covid restrictions will go ahead on Monday, April 12 as planned. From this date, additional premises including outdoor pubs, shops, gyms and hairdressers will be able to reopen with the rules on social contact applying.

However, the Prime Minister rightly urged continued caution with no changes to social contact rules and many restrictions still in place. Outdoor gatherings must still be limited to six people or two households, and you must not socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with or have not formed a support bubble with.

I want to thank everyone again for your support and patience. It is clear that this is now paying off and thanks to our collective efforts, we have now vaccinated over 31 million people. By being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules, I am hopeful that we will be able to continue through all four stages of the road map and be able to lift the majority of rules by June 21 as planned.

I am looking forward to visiting the asymptomatic Covid testing site at Foundation Park along with public health director Steve Maddern this coming Friday.

Swindon Borough Council has set up three such sites here in South Swindon. The others are at Park South Community Centre and the Ellendune Centre in Wroughton.

These sites play a vital role in preventing the spread of Covid here in the town by offering symptom-free testing to any local company that has an employee who can’t work from home, as well as residents who provide care to another individual (for example a foster carer, personal assistant, direct payment recipient, unpaid carer, childminder etc).

Finally, I am pleased that new mothers across the country, including here in Swindon, will be offered NHS counselling and support in an expansion of mental health services. I have been very supportive of more investment in mental health services and welcome this new move.

Around one in four mothers are estimated to experience mental health problems such as post-natal depression or anxiety and distress during pregnancy and the 24 months after giving birth.

These additional maternal mental health hubs will provide vital support to those women who need it.

The Health Minister has announced that 10 sites will be up and running within months, with the remainder opening by April 2022 and a centre in every part of the country by 2024. This will bring further improvement to the care and support that will be available at what can be a difficult and isolating time.

This is all part of the Government’s continued reforms and improvements to mental health care in our country.