Replacing the New Swindon Company

With all the fuss and angst over Swindon Borough Council’s budget plans for next financial year, another item on this Wednesday’s council cabinet meeting agenda has been overlooked.

The council executive’s proposals for replacing the New Swindon Company is damning with its mild praise. First, the mild praise.

Since the company’s formation TNSC has helped to stimulate regeneration and investment in Swindon’s central area. TNSC has put together exciting development packages that have stimulated considerable interest in Swindon’s regeneration plans. The company’s most notable success has been in attracting Muse as the developer for the Union Square scheme.

Claiming success before anything has conrete has happened is premature, to say the least. Even if this could be claimed as a success, ‘only’ is a more accurate term than ‘most notable’. One odd thing is that the proposals say funding — if only for the coming year — is unchanged.

Recognising the current economic challenges and the importance of an effective response, SBC aims to continue with its existing level of funding of £250k per annum plus the financing of the transferred economic development team and related project budgets.

Yet the budget proposals show a reduction of £147k. With contradictions like that, it’s no wonder that the council’s finances are in a bad way.

The reasons given for replacing the company read as a thinly-veiled catalogue of failure.

An opportunity to engage with private investors in a way not seen before

So the New Swindon Company failed in attracting private investors….

Deployment of limited resources for maximum impact and for best value

And wasted our money….

The requirement for town centre regeneration to link in a more integrated way with plans for the rest of the Borough to ensure Swindon’s existing communities benefit from regeneration and growth

And ignored the communities it was meant to benefit. And the replacement, borough-wide company, how will that engage with the community? Apparently, not all. The council’s vision for the new company is for it to be the poodle of the council, seemingly with no direct involvement with the community at all.