Innovation sets Swindon on path to strong recovery, major new report shows

February 4, 2014
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Swindon has bounced back strongly from the recession due to its innovation and lack of reliance on public sector spending, major new research has revealed.

The private sector led recovery in the UK could also guarantee a bright future for the town as it is likely to generate more jobs than areas relying on government spending.

The highly-regarded Centre for Cities report, which charts the economic progress of cites and large towns across the UK, picks out Swindon as one of the towns bucking the national trend.

It reveals that Swindon is ranked second only to Cambridge in terms of innovation, based on the number of patents created, and that it has the third-highest proportion of private sector employment.

It also ranks fourth highest expansion in housing stock – with similar levels of expansion to ‘new towns’ such as Milton Keynes, Telford and Peterborough.

The report says: “With a massive four jobs in the private sector for every one job in the public sector, Swindon felt the pinch early on in the downturn as the private sector contracted. This was due in part to the loss of 450 jobs at a Woolworths’ store and distribution depot in the city and reduced production at Honda which caused local job losses in the supply chain. As a result, from 2008 to 2009 the share of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance increased by 50 per cent more than the UK average.

“During the second half of the downturn the city’s fortunes began to look brighter. The low share of jobs in the public sector meant that, whilst other cities were hit by public sector spending and job cuts, Swindon was relatively shielded. And as Swindon’s private sector began to stabilise the claimant rate fell nine times faster than the UK average. The housing market also saw a recovery; average house prices increased seven per cent from 2009 to 2012.”

Forward Swindon, the town’s economic regeneration and development company, is to use the report in the marketing material it uses to attract new jobs and investment.

The report concludes: “So where next? Swindon’s immediate prospects are mixed. In the private sector, while some of Swindon’s firms are expanding – BMW has committed to investing £250 million in Mini production – others are contracting – Honda recently announced 800 job losses. But over the longer-term  the city’s low dependency on the public sector is a positive; as ever diminishing budgets lead to further cuts in public services and jobs in many of the UK’s other cities Swindon will relatively protected.  And it’s relatively large private sector means it is well placed to support future private sector jobs growth.”

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