A NEW partnership backed by central government is hoping to unleash the economic firepower of the military to drive economic growth and recovery in Wiltshire.

The deal, supported by the MoD and business groups, sees key economic powers devolved to Wiltshire Council and should have its greatest impact in Tidworth and Ludgershall where the military concentration is at its strongest.

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said: “This is excellent news for the area.

“It will lead to key government- decision makers working with us and our partners to cut through red tape so we can deliver speed and certainty when it comes to making important decisions on investment opportunities which will, in turn, lead to local jobs for local people.

“We are very proud of the military presence in this county and this is another example of us working together to boost the local economy and make our communities more resilient.”

The focus of the agreement is on unlocking the economic potential of the area’s military presence by freeing up existing redundant MoD sites and using the skills of military personnel to support business growth.

The deal is also centred on bringing forward other appropriate sites for economic development to encourage further inward investment.

The key behind the deal is to make it easier for the two unitary authorities (Wiltshire and Swindon) and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to work with government agencies more effectively and flexibly by cutting bureaucracy.

The LEP’s bid wanted to see funding for 2,000 more degrees to boost the skills of the workforce, the establishment of a land-bank which brings together the area’s public-owned land, including military sites, to identify where appropriate economic development could take place and devolvement of the apprenticeship funding process.

Paul Johnson, chairman of the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said: “The business community will be key to turning this aspiration into reality – utilising the skills of the military personnel to support their growth plans as well as building a symbiotic relationship for the future that sees them supporting the army reserve force and getting highly skilled and motivated people working for them in return.

“Government have committed to playing their part by removing bureaucratic barriers.”