Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock talks about the latest step made in making Reading a city.

He writes: “Our experience is that the reaction of the town has been overwhelmingly positive since we announced our intention to bid.

“People are rightly proud of Reading and we believe there is a level of support not previously seen to back the bid. Naturally, the business community and even our Berkshire neighbours understand the value that a successful bid offers for the local economy and major partners, like the University of Reading, are keen to see the reputation of the town further enhanced.

“But I wouldn’t back a bid purely on their support. For me, it has been far more important to have had the encouragement of residents across the town and of our community organisations and voluntary sector – these are the people who make Reading truly unique.

“These are the groups who would help us to realise the opportunities for local people and the groups who appreciate the important role that the bid itself, independent of its success, has in highlighting the good work across the town.

“Official guidance from Government is to keep costs to a minimum and the council is doing exactly that. The bid only requires completion of a straightforward and short application form as set out by the Government and no staff have been employed to compile the bid. Instead it is being worked on by a very small team of council officers, for a limited time, and for whom the work only forms a small part of their substantive roles. They are supported by the team at Reading UK CIC.

“Set this tiny commitment of staff time against the £9 million the Council is investing in Reading’s biggest ever road repair programme, or the £40 million the council is investing in modern new swimming pools and leisure facilities, or the enhancements we’re making to our railway infrastructure, or the £7 million of investments we’re making to ensure that Reading continues to push towards carbon neutrality by 2030. Set it against the work we do every day to ensure that social care services are delivered across Reading, or against the fact that this council has kept all of its libraries open when others have closed theirs, or against Reading’s most ambitious Council house building programme in a generation. Pull all of that together, and much more, and set it against someone literally filling out an application form for city status – I think that’s a reasonable commitment of effort for the chance to celebrate Reading’s successes.

“No estimate or monetary value has been put on a successful bid, but we do firmly believe a positive outcome would help raise the profile of Reading, boost our efforts to attract investment for our regeneration and renewal plans and aid in the town’s recovery from the ongoing health pandemic. I would emphasise that even in the event of an unsuccessful bid, we will have shone a light on everything Reading has to offer, which we think makes it worthwhile.

“A big part of our decision to bid is to highlight and celebrate the contribution made by the diverse mix of communities, organisations and individuals who make Reading great. I would argue monetary reward is not immediately relevant to that and make no apologies for drawing attention to the attributes, assets and people who contribute to Reading’s success.

“And as successful a town as Reading already is, as a council we also know there are people in some of our more deprived communities that do not benefit from that success.

“A key part of our bid is around opening up new opportunities for those residents in terms of things like new skills and training opportunities, as part of our own local levelling up work. Again, that is not something I would want to put a price on. This is an ambitious town and a great place to live and work, and we don’t need any external validation to know that.”