Last week, I talked about the latest record employment statistics, with 33 million people now in active work in the UK – up 3.9 million since 2010.
While Swindon’s economy has challenges as we seek to navigate the post-Honda changes, we still have seen 11,000 more jobs created since 2010. One of the largest growth areas has been in the financial services sector, with Nationwide now becoming Swindon’s largest employer with over 6,500 staff.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping to cut the ribbon at their new Ramsbury House offices at Kembrey Park. The new state-of-the art office space is part of their growing technology investment team – with 700 staff focused on building Nationwide’s digital and technology capabilities.
Both as a constituency MP and a minister I have visited many head offices, but I was genuinely blown away by the innovation and creativity of the design and layout. This is increasingly important within the workplace, as Nationwide seeks to recruit and retain the best staff.
The society has gone that extra mile, particularly around supporting staff with disabilities or health conditions, with a supportive, flexible working environment. This is something all employers are having to adapt to. Nationally we lose 300,000 a year from work, due to ill-health, and extensive research has shown, many with the right support from their employer could, and should have been able to stay in the workplace. This is a real area of focus for the government and I was pleased to see Nationwide, are leading the way.
As a town, we are grateful for Nationwide’s contribution to both our local economy, and their wider support in our community. We are proud that Nationwide’s home is Swindon.
Today at Steam Museum, Nationwide will be joining myself and key partners in local, regional and central government, alongside representatives of Swindon’s business sector and local community as we begin work towards securing schemes up to a total value of £25m as part of the Governments Towns Fund.
Collectively we must seek agreement on strategic, innovative projects that support Swindon. As a board we must develop and own a Town Implementation Plan – to consider all funding and growth for Swindon. Potential projects will focus on urban regeneration, skills, enterprise and any opportunities to unlock future investment and growth in Swindon. This is an exciting opportunity, focusing on future opportunities as Swindon continues to evolve and deliver the next generation of jobs for our growing, successful town.
Finally, as a growing town, we very much welcome the additional infrastructure funding that is seeing key upgrades to our road network. Myself and Coun Maureen Penny (lead member for highways) met with Highways England to discuss growing concerns around the Blunsdon Cold Harbour junction capacity issues.
Highways England are working on proposals for future improvements on both sides of the A419 – Coun Penny and I both fully support this work. They also share our concerns about the various speculative developments proposed for Blunsdon, and agree that these should be paused until works to increase capacity at the junction are addressed.
Coun Maureen Penny and I were greatly encouraged that they were taking these issues seriously and are already actively working on potential (and much-needed) improvements. They will have our full support.