BREXIT uncertainty and recession fears are putting people off setting up new businesses in Swindon - and the number of new start-ups being formed in the area has plummeted.

Analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of new businesses started around Wiltshire in 2018 was almost half that of the year before

The number decreased by 1,968 from 4,202 to 2,434 – a fall of 44.7 per cent, a bigger drop than anywhere else in the country.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for economic prosperity Oliver Donachie gave an in-depth interview to the Adver about the factors behind the drop and what's being done to encourage would-be businesses owners to work here.

He said: “It’s not welcome news that start-ups are not blooming at the moment.

“However, given all the variables at play nationally, as a business owner, I can understand why people might want to step back for a few months, get all the facts and and let the dust settle before deciding.

“One factor is uncertainty with Brexit but it’s definitely not the whole problem and there are other factors at play.

“The key point is that employment as a collective is neutral and I don’t think this is going to have a massive economic effect.

“I think this drop is an anomaly caused by people reacting to national circumstances like Brexit and the possibility of a recession but that time window is passing rapidly and those conditions will come to an end.”

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Initiatives like the Switch On To Swindon campaign are linking firms in the town together to share their expertise in a bid to make Swindon an attractive place for employers to bring their businesses or start new ones.

The Tech Swindon campaign hopes to make the town a hub of cutting-edge companies and is building up to a summit in 2020 that aims to attract big names.

Coun Donachie is a key member of the SOTS initiative. He added: “We are doubling down on technology firms because we are absolutely sure that this is the future and that people can come to Swindon and have a great place to work and be paid a market rate.

“We want to see start-ups flourish and we are working on creating incubation chamber programmes like the technology-focused Workshed, which is doing well.

“We are seeing a strengthening and growth in the number of new small businesses with two or more employees, which is offsetting this weakening of genuine start-ups.

“Though, of course, in a well-functioning economy, we need start-ups to be doing well,, too.

“I expect that there will be a return to normal market conditions once current market matters are resolved because certainty is capital in business.”

Across the south west region’s local enterprise partnerships, the number of new start-ups fell by more than 3,700 – a 17.5 per cent drop compared to the year before.

The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership was approached for comment.

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Almost 42,000 fewer start-ups formed across the UK as a whole, a decline of 12.9% (from 325,900 to 284,000). The research comes from the Enterprise Research Centre’s UK Local Growth Dashboard report.

The annual publication looks at a range of metrics charting the growth of small to medium-sized enterprises.

ERC researchers said the slowdown in new firm creation reflected the uncertainty around Brexit, and warned that the ongoing lack of clarity was blunting growth ambitions in more established firms.

Business West offers business support to start-up and growing businesses in the west of England.

Business advisor Andrew Mercer acknowledged the figures but said: “Business West has seen no decline in the number of pre-starts and start-ups utilising our business support services and the number of start-up loan applications remains broadly the same.

“There is also strong demand from established businesses looking to innovate, export and grow.”