Swindon has once again ranked in the top 10 nationally of the Good Growth for Cities index. Each year, Demos & PwC assess the day-to-day life chances of people from across the UK. This index seeks to measure growth in a more rounded way; assessing things like housing affordability, access to health provision, income equality, and business start-ups. This year’s index shows that once again, Swindon has ranked above average on jobs, income and business growth; coming ahead of London, Cardiff, Birmingham & Manchester (and we aren’t even a city!)
A big part of our economic success is the number of businesses that choose Swindon as their HQ or as a base. Why? Because we have a competitive edge in terms of affordability (we are the first affordable place to live along the M4 corridor), we have great connections set to improve thanks to electrification and we have a number of nice communities to live and enjoy various leisure activities. I myself am typical of many who come to live and work in Swindon; I came here as a graduate and never left.
Yesterday I visited one of our big local employers and their fantastic new offices at the Railway Quarter. The Pets at Home Vet Group provide business support and services to more than 440 veterinary practises across the UK. They are a division of the Pets at Home Group which is the UK’s leading retailer of pet food and accessories. They moved into their new offices after deciding that Swindon was the much preferred option over Oxford due to better rent options, better transport links and more parking. Crucially the Thomas Homes development which combines high quality residential living with office space, and has preserved many of the original features of the railway works, made the decision for the business to move to Swindon rather than Oxford an easy one.
The site is also home to the National Trust and English Heritage, as well as other businesses that rave about their high quality office space. This is exactly why I wanted Thomas Homes to take on the Carriage Works by the station and expand this excellent development which is attracting national companies. Unfortunately this hasn’t been allowed and the ever-failing Forward Swindon continue to put off businesses and carry on with their plans for the carriage works without any commercial viability, seemingly no prospective businesses eager to move in and at great expense to the tax-payer. As ever I continue to press Swindon Borough Council to listen to developers, remove Forward Swindon’s interference and allow the market to deliver a replication of the Railway Quarter.
Finally, my community office has been extremely busy this week. We have had the Thamesdown Girl Guide’s, Parkinson’s UK, Swindon Young Carers and the North Swindon Scouts all making use of the space. Yesterday I held a meeting with Swindon Climate Action Network and also hosted the Great Western Academy consultation event. Tomorrow it is the monthly North Swindon Councillor’s surgery followed by a private event for the charity Together for Mental Well-being. I am so pleased that lots of different charities and voluntary organisations are being able to use the office; it was always my intention to support and champion local groups and I am thrilled to see demand is so great.