'Forward Swindon has run its course'
5:00am Monday 20th January 2014 in News
THE value of the organisation responsible for bringing in private investment to Swindon is being called into question.
The Labour Group believes that Forward Swindon cannot justify the money being spent on it and, with the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships, it is redundant.
However, the Chief Executive of Forward Swindon disagrees and says there are plenty of examples of the work which it does to boost the town.
Forward Swindon was established by the council in 2010 with the aim of driving growth in the town largely through private investment.
The leader of the opposition, Coun Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) says a lack of outside private money being brought in is why they would seek to abolish the company.
He said: “Over £1 million of public money is put into Forward Swindon every year to bring growth to Swindon and regenerate the town centre through private money.
“Unfortunately most of what has come in has been publicly sourced.
“I think Forward Swindon has run its course and is unsustainable so we will be looking to take much of what it does back in-house.”
Coun Grant believes the work done by Forward Swindon could be carried out by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. LEPs are a partnership between local authorities and businesses which were established in 2011 with the aim of leading economic growth and job creation within their local areas.
Coun Grant said: “Swindon is linked in with Wiltshire and we feel this is a more realistic and cost effective way of generating growth in the town.
“We would like to see a more efficient way of bringing economic development from the private sector and would enter talks with Wiltshire as a way of doing this.”
Forward Swindon dispute this, arguing Forward Swindon has comfortably achieved its annual target for private investment several months ahead of schedule.
Ian Piper, the chief executive, said: “We’ve already exceeded our target, of £30 million, this year in terms of achieving private sector investment.
“There are three months left of the financial year left and we have already helped to bring in £50 million. It was target agreed with the council and I would argue that people are very much getting value for money.
“People can see much of the development we have helped to bring in projects such as Regents Circus, which will make a big difference in the town centre.
“Some of the projects included here are the Mannington retail park and we are overseeing the refurbishment of the Oasis Leisure Centre on behalf of the council.”
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