Swindon has been given greater independence from central Government to bring in economy-boosting measures under the City Deal scheme.
The town, given the status today along with 19 other towns and cities, submitted a bid to the scheme in January as the first of a number of shock job losses were announced. Car giant Honda – a mainstay of the town’s economy – announced 800 jobs are to go over the next few months, a quarter of its total workforce.
Since then other firms in the town – in the once buoyant manufacturing and finance sectors – have announced job losses.
The Swindon and Wiltshire city deal focuses on unlocking the economic potential of the area’s military presence. This will include freeing up redundant MoD sites and using the skills of military personnel to support business growth.
The bid also sought funding for 2,000 degrees so universities will compete to deliver the courses in Swindon and Wiltshire – one of the few English counties without a resident university – to improve the skills of the local workforce.
Swindon Council leader Roderick Bluh said called the bid success a “further recognition of Swindon and Wiltshire’s huge potential in driving regional economic growth”.
“There’s a good reason why so many major businesses are here already, and this will help attract more investment,” he said.
“The 2,000 extra higher education places this deal hopes to deliver will boost the employment chances of young people, and give businesses the skills they need employees to have.
“Another key benefit of the deal is a consistent approach to decision-making right across Swindon and Wiltshire.”
Both the town’s MPs welcomed the announcement. Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson said: “It shows the Government’s commitment to help drive local growth and our successful bid was one of the most unique and tangible proposals put forward.”
Swindon South MP Robert Buckland added: “Both Justin and I lobbied ministers very hard to secure this and I look forward to more work being done to help secure jobs and growth for our area.”