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Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland

MPs deliver upbeat message about Swindon economy

Swindon is a town of small, entrepreneurial businesses, said Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson as he addressed the town’s business leaders last week.

In a cascade of positive statistics about the town at Swindon Chamber of Commerce’s business breakfast on Friday, Mr Tomlinson reported that 96 percent of firms in the town have a turnover of less than £1m – indicating that the town was brimming with energetic SMEs.

His address was, jointly, a celebration of Swindon and government policy: Unemployment in Swindon has fallen by 39 percent since his party came into office, he said.

Regent Circus is undergoing major redevelopment, while the Designer Outlet is undertaking its own £35m expansion.

The raising of the income tax threshold, the introduction National Insurance holidays, the Help to Buy scheme, and even the cut in beer duty were all heralded as good news stories for Swindon employers and workers.

And he welcomed the news that all sectors of the economy were now growing, with manufacturing in particular – an important sector for Swindon – seeing a reverse in a 30-year trend of steady decline.

With the positive messages exhausted, his Swindon South colleague Robert Buckland adopted an air of Llanellian pragmatism.

A sure sign of economic recovery, he pointed out, was that industrial units and land were in short supply. “We often talk about housing and forget about land for industrial use,” he mused.

He attempted to put minds at rest about rampant interest rate increases, dismissing fears that hikes of one, two or three percent were on the cards. Incremental increases of 0.25 percent or event 0.125 percent were far more likely, he said.

“Business needs stability in order to plan and make capital investments,” he said.

Looking to the future, and describing Swindon as a town that “continues to reinvent itself,” he predicted that life sciences and pharmaceuticals would become an increasing important contributor to the town’s economy, and remarked that Forward Swindon was striving to make that opportunity a reality.

And making a promise on behalf of himself and his colleague, on what could well be their last presentation to Swindon Chamber of Commerce before the next general election, he said “We are working hard to make sure Swindon remains a powerhouse of the economy.”