Wiltshire has been given greater independence from Whitehall in a bid to boost regional economic growth.
Wiltshire and Swindon is one of 20 areas which will receive key Government powers devolved to the county, it was announced today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The deal for Wiltshire focuses on unlocking the economic potential of the area’s military presence by freeing up redundant Ministry of Defence sites and using the skills of military personnel to support business growth.
The key behind the deal is to make it easier for Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to work with Government agencies more effectively and flexibly by cutting through bureaucracy and making it easier for the LEP to attract investment to the area.
The bid, which was submitted in January, requests funding for 2,000 degrees to be delivered in the county, 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 and devolve the funding process for apprenticeship, skills and research to the councils and the business community.
The deal has the support of major companies based in Wiltshire such as Honda, Dyson and Nationwide and is also supported by the MoD.
Wiltshire Council leader councillor 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 councillor Rod 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.”
Paul Johnson, chairman of the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said: "We’re delighted that the Government want to work with the LEP and our unitary authority partners to further our goal of strong economic growth and job creation in Swindon and Wiltshire. This deal is the result of a co-ordinated effort from the core partners to set out a compelling vision on how we can unleash the economic firepower of the military assets in the area.
“The business community will be key to turning this aspiration into reality – utilising the skills of the military personnel to support their growth plans as well as building a symbiotic relationship for the future that sees them supporting the Army reserve force and getting highly skilled and motivated people working for them in return. Government have committed to playing their part by removing bureaucratic barriers and providing the policy tools to give businesses confidence to invest more in the economy of Swindon & Wiltshire."