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Swindon and Wiltshire has been named among twenty more areas getting the green light to go ahead and negotiate plans to get the freedom, powers and tools needed to shape their own economic future.
The so called “City Deals” will be reached between Government and cities so that local areas can bid for new powers that will enable them to grow. In return for cities’ strong plans for growth the government will devolve financial and planning powers to let cities take charge of their own destinies – from autonomy over how to spend their training and skills budgets, to creating local investment funds to build roads and unlock developments.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said:
“Even more places will be free from Whitehall control and have the tools to power their own growth. These deals help cities and their wider areas make once in a generation changes that will be felt by everyone across their region. Letting go of power and money doesn’t come naturally to Whitehall. Over time, the economic importance of other parts of the country has been devastatingly downplayed, as the economic elite have narrowed the debate towards a London-centric view. Rather than let our industries and communities wither, we need to free up cities outside of London that have their own unique selling points .”
The Swindon and Wiltshire deal 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 the following key requests to government:
# To provide the funding for 2000 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’ which 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. This will reinforce 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.
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 .”