Forward Swindon, the company responsible for Swindon’s economic growth and regeneration, are pleased to see Swindon is competing favourably in comparison to other major British towns and cities in this year’s Cities Outlook 2014 Report, writes Julia Falcon, Head of Communications and Marketing, right.
The highly regarded report analyses the UK’s 64 largest towns and cities, and Swindon scores well on a number of economic indices.
The new report provides updated statistics for the Swindon UK campaign which sets out to promote the town to investors and businesses looking to relocate here.
Some of the categories where Swindon performs well are very encouraging. The signs are that the town not only competes well on growth, but also shows strength in private sector jobs and innovation. It’s helpful to have comparisons with other centres as a benchmark too.
The growing importance of towns such as Swindon to drive the economy at large are highlighted under a number of headings
The Report says that innovation is the driver of economic growth.
Finding better ways to make and deliver goods and services improves the performance of businesses, and Swindon is now ranked second only to Cambridge in terms of innovation – based on the number of patents created.
Swindon has is improved from 6th place last year. In terms of Swindon’s industrial heritage and productivity, you could argue this is nothing new; a 2011 BIS report (Dept. Business Innovation & Skills) acknowledged Swindon as being one of the top 10 most innovative centres in the country.
Interestingly the report mentions that the most innovative places tend to be smaller centres like Swindon, and based in the South. 50% of the patents created in Edinburgh and Swindon were generated from a single firm. The names of the organisations filing patents in Swindon are not published in the report.
A growing population:
Today, more than half the UK population live in cities, and of these, one third are based in London. Swindon ranks no.3 in the top 10 fastest growing cities, with a population of 211,900, growing at a rate of 1.5% since 2002. In the last ten years we’ve welcomed another 29,800 people here.
Marginally ahead of Swindon are Milton Keynes and Peterborough – its perhaps no wonder that when Forward Swindon commissioned an independent survey of business people based outside Swindon in 2012, many of them perceived Swindon as a “New Town”.
Also in the top 10 of fast growing centres are our closest neighbours, Oxford (8th) and Gloucester (9th).
Swindon has matched new demand for housing, with sufficient supply: it has the 4th highest growth in housing stock – with similar levels of expansion to real new towns such as Milton Keynes, Telford and Peterborough. In terms of house prices, Swindon is affordable. According to the latest Land
Registry house price index, the average Swindon home costs around £ 131,549.
The UK average is £167,353, with places like London skewing the figures at an average of £403,702, three times the price of a Swindon home.
There are several major new housing districts proposed or underway around the Borough, such as Wichelstowe, Tadpole Farm and the Eastern Villages.
Private V public sector jobs:
Swindon has the 3rd highest proportion of private sector employment with four times as many private sector jobs to every public sector post. A low reliance on public sector bodies for employment points to a strong and diverse economy, which Forward Swindon continues to support.
Swindon has a wide range of opportunities in many different types of industry: from financial services or computer technologies, to car manufacturing.
However, the figures can obscure the fact that centres with very high levels of public sector jobs may be serving the economy in other ways; for example, Oxford with its two universities boasts 50% of jobs in the public sector.
To this end, Forward Swindon has a role in the development of a viable higher education offering in Swindon, which would result in the town creating more of its own graduates, who would then help to boost the local economy by bringing higher level, locally won qualifications into the workplace.
But are we happy?
The last measure in the Cities Outlook 2014 Report is that of personal well-being, monitored by the ONS. This type of data tends to attract a lot of interest, but the report shows there is little difference between the 64 locations, in terms of “Life Satisfaction”, and with no significant geographical split.
The ONS measure of "Life Satisfaction" is a 1-10 scale (10 being highest). There is little difference between a city scoring highest (Aldershot at 7.7), or Swindon at 7.4 out of 10.
Centre for Cities provides a very worthwhile reference point for organisations such as Forward Swindon and their shareholders Swindon Borough Council – allowing them to keep an eye on the economy with the benefit of independent analysis.
For a relatively compact town without formal city status, we are proud that Swindon is ranking well against other much bigger locations. In the categories where we don’t feature in the top 10, perhaps we have a chance to influence progress next time, but we now have some great new evidence to demonstrate Swindon is a great place to be based.