Swindon Borough Council has told the Government that continued investment in skills and infrastructure will be crucial to the town’s ongoing success.
The feedback formed part of the Council’s response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy green paper, which has been out for consultation since the beginning of the year.
The green paper ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ outlines 10 pillars of focus which cover a broad range of themes including skills, infrastructure, affordable energy and growth.
The strategy proposes plans for driving growth across the country, with a framework to build on local strengths and reduce regional disparities in opportunities and prosperity.
In its response, the Council used the consultation to outline a number of Swindon’s key strengths including its infrastructure links, the high level of international investment and the town’s significant employment clusters in advanced manufacturing and engineering, banking, insurance, the digital economy and the Research Councils.
The Council also highlighted how Swindon’s productivity growth of 6.4 per cent in 2014-15 was the third fastest in the UK, while the town is also the 10th most productive place in the UK.
In order to inform the consultation, the Council described a number of key issues that need to be tackled to ensure Swindon reaches its full potential. These ranged from ensuring that planning tools were in place to cater for further rapid advances in technology such as 5G and to ensure high quality design, while the consultation response recognised a need for having the appropriate mechanisms in place to unlock infrastructure prior to development as well as ensuring the demand for building additional homes does not compromise on quality.
Swindon’s lack of a university was mentioned as a skills barrier and the Council outlined its desire to develop a higher education offer in order to deliver end-to-end education and training options for local people and businesses.
In order to build on the town’s strengths in innovation and research, the Council called on the Government to target funding so that it supports firms to be more innovative as well as promote local SME growth by helping businesses access funding opportunities.
Declining government subsidies for energy schemes and a regulatory framework that acts as a barrier to competitiveness were other issues raised under the energy section of the consultation, while in the section devoted to delivering growth, the Council stressed the need for creating a roadmap for business growth and ensuring funding is accessible to businesses to help them access a range of support.
Cllr David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “The Government’s Industrial Strategy will play an important role in driving forward economic growth, which is why it was so important we fed our views into the consultation.
“We are well placed to build on the exciting opportunities presented in the strategy and Challenge Fund. Our strengths in innovation, advanced manufacturing, digital economy, banking and professional services and a growing low carbon sector align with the focus of the Green Paper and we especially welcome the Place-based approach to growing the local, regional and UK economies.
“Our economy in Swindon is thriving, which is backed up by the statistics which show we are one of the most productive places in the UK. We need to be at the forefront when it comes to shaping government policy and I’m delighted we have been able to contribute in such a positive way.
“We are looking forward to working with the Government, the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership and a wide range of partners to deliver the objectives of increasing growth, productivity and competitiveness in the town and the wider region.”
The Government will now consider the responses from the consultation before publishing a white paper later in the year.