A Message from the Chair, Reading UK


23 March 2018

AdamJacobsThe March meeting of Reading UK Board of Directors took place at the Oracle Management Suite on Thursday 22 March. The Board reflected on recent excellent economic success indicators for Reading, assessed potential threats to business growth and confirmed priority work streams for 2018/19.

A European economic powerhouse

I was delighted to report to the Board that Reading UK’s submission to the FDI European Cities of the Future Awards programme has again proved successful with Reading being presented with 6 awards at MIPIM in March. Thanks go to Board member Kim Cohen of Barton Willmore for picking up the awards on behalf of Reading UK, which included Top 25 European City of the Future. The Board also reflected on the annual Centre for Cities ‘Cities Outlook 2018’ report (Jan 2018) which ranked Reading alongside London as one of the most dynamic economies for wages, jobs, high skills, productivity and business start-ups in the country. Reading continues to perform extremely well at a national and international level.

Priorities for 2018

Reflecting on January’s Board Away Day and the Board’s meeting with external companies, the Board agreed six priorities for Reading UK’s work in 2018/19:-

  • Raising the profile of Reading, including developing the cultural offer. Reading UK will be running a marketing workshop with Reading-based marketing professionals which will influence the shape of that work.
  • Securing a renewal of the Reading BID and consulting on a separate BID for the growing office area in Reading town centre. The dual consultations will be launched later this spring.
  • Joint working with Reading Borough Council to boost economic growth
  • Tackling barriers to economic success, particularly staffing and infrastructure
  • Wider engagement with employers outside the town centre area to ensure Reading UK’s work reflects and supports the Greater Reading economy as effectively as the town centre
  • Delivering on the Reading 2050 Smart City agenda - Board member Peter Brett Associate’s Scott Witchalls briefed the Board on the £1.7m LEP funded Smart Cities Initiative and will be updating the Reading 2050 Delivery Group at the April meeting.

Board matters arising

We continue to broaden the expertise available to the Board by welcoming new members. The Board were delighted to welcome John Ellis, PwC Reading office Senior Partner, as a new Board member. The Board also approved the appointment of accountancy company MHA McIntyre Hudson as Reading UK’s contracted accountants.

Reading UK operates a number of sub committees to drive the agenda in key work areas. Led by a Board member, they report to each Board meeting:-

BID Committee

Following a weaker Christmas trading period in 2017, Graham Mountford of Broad Street Mall reported that key stakeholders had met with Reading UK/BID and Reading Borough Council to assess the viability of a Christmas Festival in 2018 to increase footfall and spend in Reading town centre. Plans were being developed. A business warden has been employed by Reading BID to engage with town centre businesses and liaise with the Police. Early reports indicate the role is making a real difference. The BID Committee will be launching two consultations post Easter for a renewal of Reading BID and to assess the demand for an Abbey Quarter business district. The BID is also funding a campaign to help 140 independent businesses in the town centre improve their online presence through training and marketing support.

Business Growth and Skills

Daniel Lampard of Lichfields reported that the BBO project to help those facing barriers to sustainable employment has started well with the first event due to take place on 20 April to brief employers and highlight job opportunities. The Group had also discussed the importance of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, links with Ethical Reading and smart city mapping at its most recent meeting.

Reading 2050 Vision

Nigel Horton Baker, Reading UK Executive Director reported that the 2050 Vision Delivery team had been set up and will begin by mapping current activities against the core themes of the Vision. To lead the project and raise the profile of the 2050 Vision beyond Reading, a Futures Commission will be established later this year.  

As ever, my thanks to all our Board members who give up their time to help us deliver on our mission for Reading UK – growing opportunity for all in the Reading region by boosting business and enhancing visitor experiences.

Adam Jacobs, Chair


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