Having announced a number of investment plans for cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, and regions including South West Wales and North East, Philip Hammond, confidently declared that his Government is ‘delivering for every region in Britain’ earlier this afternoon.
What with so many ambitious regional development plans put on the table, Swindon businesses can be forgiven for feeling a little bit left out the Chancellor’s budget – a handful of national focussed investments aside.
While stamp duty will no doubt hit the headlines, perhaps the most positive message from Government as far as Swindon is concerned is its commitment to a raft of measures to improve education, skills and the digital economy.
The Chancellor said he wanted a new tech business to start every half an hour in Britain. If such an ambition were to become a reality (a few measures were mentioned that could help stimulate this) Swindon could benefit tremendously. Home to one of the largest high-tech companies in the world, in a prime location on the M4 high-tech corridor and with a burgeoning entrepreneurial community aided by developments such as the Carriageworks, Swindon is well and truly geared up to take advantage of the digital age.
Equally as important is the Government’s recognition of the skills investment required to facilitate such growth. Working with employers on the apprenticeship levy, pledging extra support for FE colleges to implement T-Levels and a push on maths are all a step in the right direction that have could have a direct benefit on youth unemployment in the town. Plans to work hand in hand with industry to get more computer scientists in schools, could also help give local education providers a much-needed boost.
On a final note, measures to promote the use of electric cars, while not only benefitting air quality, should also play to one of our town’s emerging engineering strengths.
We all know the great contribution that Honda and BMW have made in the town, but our involvement in the future of electrical vehicles has gone somewhat under the radar.
We’re home to Hydrogen Hub, an industry-led community of stakeholders from across the hydrogen and fuel cell supply chain. We have state of the art battery refuelling stations at Honda and shortly Johnson Matthey. We also have one of the biggest fleets of fuel cells cars per head of population. Furthermore, production of the new electric Mini will start in Swindon and Oxford in 2019.
So, despite the lack of direct investment that some regions will benefit from, there were a number of new announcements that could work in Swindon’s favour in the medium and long-term.