Swindon will not be bidding for city status this year, after all.

The borough council has confirmed it will not be entering the competition set up by government to mark the Queen’s 70th Jubilee next year.

It says a recent survey which asked residents and businesses whether city status was something the town should bid for came back “overwhelmingly against the idea". 

“Almost 700 people took part in the survey with 71 per cent signalling their opposition to the bid.”

Council leader David Renard, said: “It has been a difficult year for all of us, especially our businesses, due to the pandemic, and the responses from the recent survey indicate that pursuing city status is not the right thing to be doing at the present time. I completely understand the need to focus on the town’s recovery and not be distracted by less important initiatives that will not provide a significant boost to the town’s businesses.”

Coun Renard does not rule out a bid later, but says the town – and council – should concentrate on its regeneration programme first.

He said: “We have a number of significant projects we are looking to deliver, including £100m of council-led investment in the town centre over the next four years. We also have ambitious plans to deliver a new cultural quarter which will really put our town on the map. I think we will be far better placed to launch a strong bid for city status when all these fantastic plans have come to fruition in the years ahead.”

The decision signals a reversion to the council’s original position.

When the competition, which could see towns ‘upgraded’ next year, was announced earlier this year Coun Renard was initially lukewarm at best about this idea – saying he wasn’t sure about the value of bidding which would cost time and money, when success would not necessarily realise any tangible benefits.

But the Conservative administration was turned around by the then cabinet member for heritage culture and the town centre Dale Heenan. He was keen for what he described as a ‘people’s bid’ to be put together – with individuals, community groups and schools taking photographs of the borough’s best aspects and with the council’s only involvement being assembling and submitting the bid.

The council made bids for city status when competitions were announced in 1999, to mark the change of Millennium and in 2002 for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

Both times the town was unsuccessful. In 1999 Brighton & Hove, Wolverhampton and Inverness became cities. In 2002 Preston, Newport, Gwent, Stirling and Northern Ireland’s Lisburn and Newry were successful.