‘Swindon’s bouncing back’ – that’s the clear message from Swindon Borough Council and business leaders as the town begins to step up its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
From yesterday (7 Sept), a new campaign has been launched to highlight the positive steps taken by the Council and partners to encourage investment in the town and to help businesses get back on their feet.
Official data published in August by Centre for Cities, an independent think tank dedicated to helping the UK’s towns and cities improve, classifies Swindon’s town centre economy as ‘Strong’, an assessment of the performance of Swindon’s centre before the pandemic.
Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said:
- “Swindon entered lockdown with a strong economy, and early indications suggest that it is bouncing back. Footfall in the town centre is now at almost 80 per cent of pre-lockdown levels, and its increase this summer outperformed the national average.
- “However, cities across the country are facing a tough future, with retail and hospitality jobs under threat while many people continue to work from home. Swindon Council’s encouragement of town centre visitors and support for businesses puts the area in a strong position to move forward and protect jobs.”
The Council is bringing together a number of projects – some of which directly relate to coronavirus and some of which form part of the Council’s wider economic investment plans – to reassure residents and businesses that the town is well placed to bounce back from the current recession.
As a direct result of the pandemic, the Council has:
- Introduced a fast-track system to process temporary pavement licences to enable hospitality businesses to serve customers outdoors
- Administered around £30m in lifeline funding to over 2,300 local businesses affected by COVID-19
- Provided wellbeing advice and support to local businesses and residents over the past six months
- Worked with landlords and businesses across the borough to welcome people back to work safely
In terms of wider economic support, the Council has:
- Bid for a slice of the Government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund to help revitalise the town centre
- Sought to regenerate Fleming Way with a new £25m bus interchange
- Introduced schemes to make it easier for people to walk and cycle around the town
- Allocated almost £200,000 of funding to help shops reopen safely
- Worked with Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership to fund the town’s Quality Bus Corridors
- Progressed an ambitious five-year plan for a Swindon Heritage Action Zone to revitalise the town’s unique heritage and unlock its economic potential
- Paved the way for Zurich’s new state-of-the-art office to be built in the town centre
- Coordinated support for businesses at risk of closure and people at risk of redundancy
Councillor David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said:
- “These past few months have posed unprecedented challenges for residents, businesses and local economies across the country, but there are reasons to be optimistic here in Swindon.
- “Our town has always responded well to economic shocks and there are promising signs we will do so again. We cannot control the global recession, but what we can do is use our influence and local powers to stimulate investment and growth.
“As our lives slowly begin to return to normal, we want to use this opportunity to make sure Swindon’s economic recovery is strong and enduring.
- “So that not only means providing support to local businesses to help them get back on their feet, as we have been doing in recent months, but pushing ahead with major capital projects such as Zurich’s new state-of-the-art headquarters and improving our connectivity through the ongoing work at Junction 15 of the M4.
- “We have also been making our case for tens of millions of pounds from the Government to transform Fleming Way and invest in the seven projects identified in our Towns Fund bid. It is through these projects that we will stimulate our local economy and help us bounce back even stronger.”
Paddy Bradley, CEO of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said:
“Our local industrial strategy identifies the contribution that Swindon makes to the area’s economy and the opportunities for further growth within the town."
“Swindon has a proud heritage of development and changing with the times. The £4m contribution to the new use of the Carriage Works is a great example of Swindon, in partnership with the SWLEP, building on its entrepreneurial traditions and being at the forefront of innovation, investment and meeting the challenges laid down by this global pandemic.”