Robert's Weekly Column - 15th April 2019

The need to further develop higher education opportunities in Swindon is clear, which is why both Justin Tomlinson and I lobbied hard for an Institute of Technology, which has been given the go-ahead. It is a historic initiative which will see £21 million of government funding used to convert Swindon College’s tower block and technology buildings into a state-of-the art institute. It will offer a high-level technical qualification in advanced manufacturing and engineering, life sciences, digital sciences and creative media. The Institute will be one of just 12 across the country and was selected out of over 100 interested applicants 

It will be backed by Oxford Brookes University and Cirencester College as well as some of Swindon’s biggest employers, including Nationwide, BMW Group, Excalibur Communications and Recycling Technologies. It will train the next generation in the technical and project management skills needed for the industries of the future. This will mean that employers, and potential inward investors, have the access to the high skilled workforce they need. It will also act as springboard for further higher-level qualifications being made available in our town. It will, I believe, be transformative. 

As we work to increase opportunities, so we also continue to take action on rough sleeping. An extra £500,000 has also been allocated by the Government to help prevent rough sleeping in Swindon and Wiltshire. This is on top of the excellent work the Borough Council has already been doing with previous Government funding. The money will help new, bold and innovative projects such as the temporary winter housing provision, which was recently nominated for a national housing award. For individuals with complex needs, the council are providing Housing First flats alongside offering specialist support. The Council have also employed outreach workers who are successfully engaging with those who have been regularly sleeping rough. 

The funding is entirely related to Swindon Council’s successful work so far, and was granted as a result of the success of Swindon’s good results in helping people into permanent accommodation. The grant is part of a much wider package of £46 million awarded to local authorities across England as part of the government’s rough sleeping strategy, which aims to end the sight of people sleeping in doorways, streets and parks. 2,600 additional beds and 750 more support staff have been employed across the country to tackle this problem. 

This Government’s investment is a welcome addition, particularly on top of the £30 million of new investment in GWH, which was announced in December. Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will develop an Emergency Department that will double in size and a new Transitional Care Facility. The investment is part of the wider plan to provide better services for patients and to provide a better integrated care system. The increased funding, which is additional to our £20b NHS Long Term Plan demonstrates the Government’s abiding commitment to our NHS so that it can be there for all of us, free at the point of use, long into the future.