Reading City Status Credentials Laid Out
READING’s powerful case to be granted City status is outlined next week, ahead of the official submission of its bid later this year.
Reading Borough Council announced earlier this year its intention to bid for City status, to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. A report to Full Council on October 19 now lays out Reading’s credentials, which will form the basis of the official bid document to be submitted to Government by December 8.
Reading’s bid will highlight:
- Our regional leadership role: The County town of Royal Berkshire and one of a small number of counties without a City, Reading’s economic significance is well-established. The bid will demonstrate how Reading’s success lifts the growth prospects of the wider region and indeed the UK.
- Our rich history: Established in the 7th century, the town’s Abbey later made Reading an internationally important destination for pilgrimage for 400 years until the dissolution. The industrial revolution heralded the development of the three industries – ‘beer, biscuits and bulbs’ – to put Reading on the world map. Today, Reading has re-invented itself again as a hub of the modern knowledge economy.
- Our future vision: City status will help bring our future plans – in the form of our innovative 2050 Vision for a smart, sustainable future – to fruition. The 2050 Vision gives a blueprint to help Reading make the most of the opportunities which City status would present. The bid will highlight that in 2020 the Financial Times FDI ‘Tier 2 Cities of the Future’ Awards placed Reading 13th globally.
- Our Royal connections: The last resting place of King Henry I, and the birthplace of a possible future Queen, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. For a time in the 13th century the entire kingdom was effectively ruled from Reading by ‘the greatest knight’, William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke, who served as regent to the boy King Henry III from his home in Caversham.
- Our excellent physical and digital connectivity: Unrivalled digital connections as a centre of the IT industry, and great physical connections, with the 2nd busiest railway interchange outside London, access to the rest of the world via Heathrow, and a highly successful municipal bus company. With the new Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 with Reading as the western terminus, our connections will become stronger still.
- Our international outlook: We boast the oldest link between an English and a German city in Dusseldorf, dating to 1947. Through our diverse communities, Reading has links with many parts of the world – we have the largest Barbadian community outside of Barbados, and were recently among the first Councils to offer to house Afghan refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis. Reading is also a City of Sanctuary, committing us to be a place of safety offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution.
- Our diversity: One of the most multi-cultural towns in the south east outside of London, with 67 languages spoken and students from 150 nations attending our University. Reading has a proud record of good community relations and the bid will celebrate this diversity and showcase the contribution which Reading’s diversity makes to its success as a place.
- Our plans for ‘levelling up’: a 2016 report on the UK’s largest city economies suggested that Reading is the 3rd least equal city in the UK. In 2019, 5 Lower Super Output Areas in Reading were in the most deprived 10% nationally compared to 2 in 2015, suggesting that the gap may be widening. The bid will demonstrate how we would use City status to boost our plans for ‘levelling up’ locally.
- Our leadership on climate: the world famous ‘climate stripes’ infographic – now being used around the world to highlight the reality of global warming – was created at the University of Reading, which has been rated 1st in the UK and 2nd in the world for climate science. The bid will set out how the University is at the forefront of Reading’s reputation for innovation and efforts to accelerate progress towards net zero at home and abroad.
- Our cultural pedigree: Reading’s vibrant cultural scene, its high quality theatres, museums and arts venues, and an array of cultural talent – from Jane Austen to Marianne Faithful, Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet and Ricky Gervais who were born, educated or settled in Reading. ‘Banksy’ recently adorned the side of one of our most famous landmarks – Reading Gaol, scene of Oscar Wilde’s incarceration – with one of his artworks.
- Our festivals and events: Reading Festival is world renowned, but the bid will set out how this is just the tip of an iceberg of ‘home grown’ events celebrating the diversity of the borough and the issues we care about: Reading Pride, Reading Fringe, Reading Climate Festival and Reading Thames Festival to name a few.
Reading City Status Credentials – Full Report
The report to Full Council on Tuesday October 19 (https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s19646/item7-CityStatusBid-FINAL.pdf) seeks official endorsement for submission of a bid for City status by Reading Borough Council.
Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said:
“The reaction since we announced our intention to bid back in June has been overwhelmingly positive, and rightly so because this is not the Council’s bid, it is Reading’s. We have so much to be proud of in our town and this is a perfect opportunity to shout it from the rooftops.
“Next week’s report to Full Council lays the groundwork for the official bid document by outlining our credentials and highlighting the key elements which we believe make us a prime candidate for City status, whether that be our resilient economy, our rich history, our wonderfully diverse communities, our vibrant arts and cultural scene or our Royal connections.
“While a successful bid does not in itself bring a guarantee of benefits, we firmly believe we have a clear vision to take full advantage of the opportunities City status could bring. If a positive outcome follows, we are determined that everybody in the town will share in its success.”
There are no specific selection criteria set out by Government for bids, although the application form invites bids to address the following headings: ‘Distinct identity’; ‘Civic pride’; ‘Cultural infrastructure interesting heritage, history and traditions’; ‘Vibrant and welcoming community’; ‘Record of innovation’; ‘Sound governance and administration’; ‘Associations with Royalty’; ‘Other particularly distinctive features’. A final decision will be made next year by the Queen, on Ministerial advice.