1 First can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and bred in Llanelli, South Wales, where my parents still live. I am married to Sian and we have twins, Millie and George. I joined the Conservatives in the middle of the Miners Strike and was active in local politics as a youngster. I went to Hatfield College, Durham, where I was JCR Secretary and President of the Union. I then was Called to the Bar at Inner Temple in 1991 and practised from then, mainly in criminal law. I Prosecuted and Defended regularly in the Crown Court from offences ranging from murder to fraud. In 2009, I was appointed a Crown Court Recorder.
I was elected as a Conservative County Councillor for Elli Ward, Llanelli, in 1993 by a majority of 3 over Labour, and served on the Planning Committee amongst other things. I have stood for Parliament in Wales but took about five years away from political activity when I concentrated on my work and family.
2 How did you get involved in Swindon politics?
I became involved in Swindon politics when I was selected as the Parliamentary Candidate for South Swindon in July 2004.
3 Your CV refers to your vinyl collection. Does it include any Swindon bands?
My vinyl collection is almost exclusively Jazz, Swing, what is wrongly termed Easy Listening and Classical, and is now of some age. I think I have a Gilbert O’Sullivan record somewhere…
4 Do you play or sing?
I used to play the trumpet very badly but have always loved singing – am a light baritone.
5 You are a rugby fan. Have you played?
Not since school, where it was quickly established that my hand/eye co-ordination was not good.
6 Norman Tebbitt famously defined local loyalty with support for a cricket team. Do you support a local Club?
I am an occasional visitor to Swindon Town games at the County Ground, but am supporting Swindon Cricket Club where my son has been learning his basic skills.
7 The Big Society is very fashionable, but Swindon came first. Did David Cameron learn from the Town?
I gather that David Cameron is aware of some of the excellent intensive intervention work that has been going on with some local families. I think that he would agree that the Big Society is already happening in great measure- the job now is to make sure that the voluntary sector is playing the fullest possible part in our communities.
8 The creation of communities is important but how can we remove the barriers between the Council ‘Them’ and residents ‘Us’
The barriers are most often ones of communication, which is why Council officers must at all times strive to improve the means of contact. Is it acceptable that only last year I had to make five telephone calls on behalf of a resident to get a street light to work properly? There has been some good progress by the Council but much more needs to be done here.
9 How can we do to dispel the poor image that Swindon has in some parts of the media?
We are often very good at knocking ourselves, which doesn’t help. Those who publicly poke fun at Swindon have usually never been here. MPS and other civic leaders also have a duty; for example, in my Maiden Speech, I used examples such as the National Trust and the National Monuments Record Office to make the point that we are a cultural hub.
10. What are your long term hopes for Swindon?
My long term hopes for Swindon are for a town that works; by that, I mean a town that has been able to cope with its growth by developing in a sustainable way. I want a town centre that is a real attraction. I want to help make sure that none of us is ever too far away from green space or gorgeous countryside.
Thank you Robert