A READING University decision to shut a thriving social work department could have a "catastrophic" impact.

Reading Borough Council voted unanimously on Tuesday (24) night to lobby university chiefs to reverse its decision to close its School of Health and Social Care and ask all the Berkshire councils and the University Council to back the campaign.

It was launched by Lib Dem education spokeswoman Cllr Kirsten Bayes and colleague Cllr Daisy Benson who said: "One member of staff at Reading Borough Council told me this could have a catastrophic impact on social services departments across Berkshire."

They got the backing of the other parties at Tuesday's full council meeting, subject to an amendment by retired politics lecturer Cllr Peter Jones. He is on the University Council which meets next month to decide the School's future.

He said: "There's a national need to train social workers and it seems rather short-sighted for the University to be closing a School which has a high reputation and has an impact on the local area."

He said the council should investigate launching a training scheme of its own to keep a stream of recruits for its ailing social services department. The proposal got unanimous support.

Reading University spokesman Alex Brannen said: "We unhesitatingly recognise the excellent teaching throughout the School.

"The problem is that we are simply not funded for all that we do. The University Council will not allow the University to plan for sustained budgetary deficits, and therefore we are faced with difficult decisions, and are forced to make hard judgements based on our priorities."

The Chronicle's sister paper the Midweek reported earlier this week that the University and College Union has pledged to fight the plans.