There was good news for Swindon this week as an annual report published by the Centre for Cities shows that our town remains one of the best places to live and work in the country. The report states that Swindon has the 10th most productive workforce in Britain and average weekly earnings represent the 12th largest average wage. Encouragingly, the average house price remains £63,000 below the national principal urban area average at £204,650.
I have described Swindon as being a town "on the up" in recent years, and these figures further reinforce the strength of Swindon’s economic story. Swindon is a town that has huge potential in terms of future growth. Our town delivers higher productivity levels than cities much larger in size and performs strongly on a range of economic indicators, including productivity and share of knowledge-based jobs, which points to a bright future for us.
Last Friday, I made a return visit to Swindon Foyer. Set in the heart of Old Town, this local project supports some of the most disadvantaged young people in our community by offering safe and supportive accommodation. During my visit, I enjoyed meeting with residents and staff and taking part in a life- skills, employment and education coaching workshop. I learned more about the types of support available to young people, which includes accessing employment, education, training, help with CVs, IT and cooking. I am glad that we have this facility here in Swindon, which provides vital support to those young and vulnerable people in our community who need it the most.
Here in Swindon, we have some fantastic local charities who work hard to tackle the issue of homelessness, such as Threshold and the Big Breakfast, who I visit regularly and offer my support to. The issue of rough sleeping in the town centre was discussed by the Council only last week and I am glad that there is cross-party – consensus on this important issue.
I am pleased that the Homeless Reduction Bill has passed its final stages in the Commons with cross-party support and Government backing. It will now pass to the House of Lords, before receiving Royal Assent and becoming legislation. The Bill aims to prevent homelessness by placing new duties on councils to intervene at an earlier stage with those who are at risk of homelessness, as well as providing more details on housing options. I am glad that the Government is showing a commitment to tackling homelessness. In December last year, the Government provided a £50 million funding boost for trailblazing new homelessness prevention schemes across the country, including targeted support for those at risk of rough sleeping. Swindon, Bath and Wiltshire were awarded £259,000.
This is on top of central funding being increased to £149 million over the next four years, and homelessness prevention funding for local authorities being protected at £315 million by 2019-20. The Government is also providing £100 million for at least 2,000 low-cost accommodation places, for rough sleepers leaving hostel accommodation and domestic abuse victims and their families moving on from refuges.
Finally, I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the team at Moormead House in Wroughton, which has recently been named as the Best Nursing Home in Wiltshire at the 2017 Social Care Awards. The nursing home was also awarded the Outstanding Quality of Care Award, which is a testament to their hard work. Thank you!