Very early last Friday morning I was given the fantastic news that the Honda site had been sold. The £700m investment, secured through the sale to Panattoni, Europe’s biggest developer of industrial and logistics facilities, is both a huge relief and a massive boost for Swindon’s economy.
Firstly, I want to pay credit to those who have been actively involved with the Honda Taskforce, which initially sought to identify and support all those impacted by the news of Honda’s closure, and then to actively promote the site to potential new owners. The Taskforce brought together the Government, Swindon Borough Council, Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise, business, staff & community representatives. Everyone has played their part.
Secondly, I want to pay specific credit to Swindon Borough Council. Yet again, they have shown a willingness to work and engage with potential developers. It is no coincidence Panattoni chose Swindon, after such a positive experience developing the nearby Symmtry Park. Too often Local Authorities seek to block employment investment, thankfully this is not the case in Swindon.
The £700m investment will deliver a mix of employment opportunities as the site is developed after Honda leave later this year. Robert Buckland MP and I will work with Swindon Borough Council to make sure the planning and infrastructure investment is in place to accommodate the changing use of the site.
As the economy recovers from the unprecedented challenges of COVID, Swindon’s economic future certainly looks far more positive.
Earlier this week COVID restrictions were eased to allow a group of up to 6 people to meet outdoors. Some outdoor sports have also opened up again. It was great to see people meeting friends and enjoying the good weather and it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. We must of course take this next step with caution though, as we have all done so much to get us here. We need to continue respecting social distancing and ensure we are being responsible.
Finally, the lowest paid workers have this week received a pay increase thanks to an raise in the National Living Wage. Someone working full time will receive the equivalent of more than £345 extra per year thanks to a 2.2% increase – which will rise to £8.91 for full time workers. In addition to this the age threshold will be lowered from 25 to 23 years old, meaning even more young people will be eligible for and benefitting from the National Living Wage.
Over the last decade, the wages of the lowest paid have increased by £5,400 - putting more money in the pockets of hard-working families. However, we want to build on this success, and have a target of the National Living Wage reaching two-thirds of median earnings by 2024. This latest increase allows progress to continue to be made towards it.