NEARLY £200,000 has been given to Swindon Borough Council to help it open up the town centre again after the coronavirus lockdown.

The government has shared £50m of its Reopening High Streets Safely between 314 local authorities in England, with Swindon getting £198,000.

The money, which actually comes from the European Regional Development Fund, will be used to help the council introduce safety measures as non-essential shops reopen from June 15 and to run marketing campaigns to attract people back to the town and supporting local businesses.

High streets minister Simon Clarke said: “As we begin to slowly return to normality, the reopening our high streets will be key to kick-starting our economic recovery. Levelling up the regions and supporting our high streets has always been central to the mission of this government.

“Many businesses have already introduced creative ways of trading such as contactless collection or taking orders by instant messaging and shows that they are ready for the challenges ahead.

“We are providing an extra £50 million for councils to support a range of safety measures that will help get these businesses back on track and ensure that people can enjoy their time visiting their local high street safely again.”

Councillors and officials in Swindon are working out how best to use the handout.

Cabinet member for the town centre Dale Heenan said: “The council is pleased to have received funding to help with the reopening of our high street and district centres. Every pound helps as we have yet to see the full economic impact of this pandemic.

“Discussions are taking place with businesses about the most effective way to use this money. The government has said the money cannot be used for business grants or loans and expects activity to include developing an action plan for how Swindon can safely reopen its local economy, along with taking steps to ensure that reopening can be managed successfully and safely.”

While the £198,000 awarded to Swindon is more than double the amount given to neighbouring district councils in West Oxfordshire (£97,000) and the Cotswolds (£81,000) and dwarfs the £125,000 given to South Oxfordshire, Wiltshire Council has done best out of the neighbouring authorities.

The £449,000 it will receive from Whitehall puts it ninth overall.