Driving the growth of the local economy is behind a successful bid from Swindon and Wiltshire that will see key government powers devolved to the region.
The Swindon and Wiltshire deal confirmed by central government today (Tuesday) focuses on unlocking the economic potential of the area’s military presence by freeing up existing redundant MoD sites and using the skills of military personnel to support business growth.
The deal is also centred on bringing forward other appropriate sites for economic development to encourage further inward investment.
The key behind the deal is to make it easier for the two unitary authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership to work with government agencies more effectively and flexibly.
This will accelerate economic growth by cutting through bureaucracy and making it easier for the LEP, through the unitary authorities, to attract investment to the area.
The bid, which was submitted in January, outlined a number of key requests to government:
- To provide the funding for 2,000 degrees so universities will compete to deliver the courses in Wiltshire and Swindon to improve the skills of the local workforce
- Establish a ‘land-bank’ that brings together the area’s public-owned land, including military sites, to identify where appropriate economic development could take place
- Devolve the funding process for apprenticeship, skills and research to local authorities and the business community ensuring the required skills are developed
By focusing on the military infrastructure as well as the economic power and skills within its workforce, the bid led by the LEP, Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council will attract and accelerate private sector investment, reinforcing the area’s position as a high growth economic area.
The links between the local authorities and the military in the area are already well established with significant development currently underway.
The deal has the support of major companies located in the area such as Honda, Dyson and Nationwide. It is also supported by the MoD.
Paul Johnson, chairman of Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said: "We’re delighted that the government wants to work with the LEP and our unitary authority partners to further our goal of strong economic growth and job creation in Swindon and Wiltshire.
"This deal is the result of a co-ordinated effort from the core partners to set out a compelling vision on how we can unleash the economic firepower of the military assets in the area.
"The business community will be key to turning this aspiration into reality – utilising the skills of the military personnel to support their growth plans as well as building a symbiotic relationship for the future that sees them supporting the Army Reserve Force and getting highly skilled and motivated people working for them in return.
"Government have committed to playing their part by removing bureaucratic barriers and providing the policy tools to give businesses confidence to invest more in the economy of Swindon and Wiltshire."
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said: “This is excellent news for the area. It will lead to key government-decision makers working with us and our partners to cut through red tape so we can deliver speed and certainty when it comes to making important decisions on investment opportunities which will in turn lead to local jobs for local people.
"We are very proud of the military presence in this county and this is another example of us working together to boost the local economy and make our communities more resilient.”
Swindon Borough Council leader Roderick Bluh said: “This is 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.
"The 2000 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.”