‘City’ status will be a good deal for Reading economyBy Linda Fort
February 20, 2013
Reading has been given the green light to bid for new powers to boost the local economy under the Government’s City Deal.
The borough is one of 20 “cities” to be offered the new powers to cut through red tape.
The Reading and Central Berkshire bid – which includes Wokingham borough and Bracknell councils, the university and local colleges – is designed to close the skills gap.
Reading’s bid focuses on making sure people, especially young unemployed, have skills to meet the needs in growing sectors like construction, logistics and “knowledge intensive” areas and to ensure school-leavers have the soft “employability” skills businesses need.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “A city deal will be a big boost for Reading.
“We are ready to hand over powers to Reading so that the city can ensure that local people have the skills they need to access local job opportunities.
“I want Reading to feel liberated and inspired and unlock their own potential.”
The deals announced on Monday are intended to set cities free from the Whitehall leash.
Last summer, eight of England’s largest cities confirmed deals with the Government to boost local growth. The deals will allow them to bid for new powers to enable them to grow.
In return, the Government will devolve financial and planning powers to let places like Reading take charge of their own destinies – in Reading’s case, autonomy over how to spend the training and skills budget.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Cities Greg Clark, said: “I’m delighted to invite Reading and Central Berkshire to negotiate a city deal with the Government.
“For years this area has had to put up with London laying down the law about how things should be done locally.
“These city deals are a revolution in that relationship.
“Who could be better than the people and businesses of Reading and Central Berkshire to know what the area needs to achieve all that it is capable of?
“The Government should be there to support local ambition and that is what I will do in these negotiations.”
Reading East MP Rob Wilson has welcomed “the freedom, powers and tools needed to shape our economic future”.
He went on: “This Government promised to devolve Government closer to local people and this is yet another area where we are delivering on that promise.
“I hope that the local authority will be ambitious with what it negotiates, as my concern is that it won’t be ambitious enough.
“I can see many aspects of transport, skills and the knowledge economy where locally we could drive jobs and growth faster.
“This is an opportunity to push very hard for things like a third Thames bridge, help for our shopping areas, supporting growth sectors and much more.”
The Government will now work closely with cities to develop the proposals in more detail and to negotiate a final deal, aiming to complete deals with the 20 cities by the end of the year.
The other 19 ‘cities’ are the Black Country, Bournemouth and Poole, Brighton and Hove, Greater Cambridge, Coventry and Warwickshire, Hull and Humber, Ipswich, Leicester and Leicestershire, Milton Keynes and the South East Midlands, Greater Norwich, Oxford and Oxfordshire, Plymouth, Greater Preston, Southampton and Portsmouth, Southend and Thames Gateway South Essex, Stoke and Staffordshire, Sunderland and the North East, Swindon and Wiltshire, and the Tees Valley.