Development harnessed to tackle job inequality in Reading

Large scale developments in Reading are funding programmes to help Reading residents find good quality, permanent employment locally. In the last year, 1600 local people have been helped forward in the jobs market or into self-employment, reports Reading UK in its Employment and Skills Plans (ESP) Annual Progress Report, which was presented to Reading Borough Council’s Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee on 9 July.

PrimarkAlthough Reading enjoys very high employment levels, and one of the highest levels of productivity in the UK, it also has areas of deprivation and residents who struggle to break into the job market.  The focus of these ESP programmes is to match local people to local job and enterprise opportunities by working with developers. 

As part of planning permission for new developments of more than 10,000 square feet or those costing more than £1million, Reading Borough Council’s planning policy¹ obliges developers to work with Reading UK to produce an ESP to support local employment.  This can either be in the form of direct work opportunities as part of the development or a financial contribution towards the delivery of training and employment programmes . The funding is based on a simple percentage of the anticipated construction costs and is agreed as part of the planning permission with Reading Borough Council.

The programmes specifically target people who struggle most to access the job market – those with supported employment needs, the longer term unemployed, over 50s and single parents.   In the last 12 months, working with the contractors and developers, the ESPs have delivered 54 work experience opportunities,23 apprenticeships,  189  local job opportunities and  176 school visits, projects or careers talks. In addition, developer financial contributions totalling over £200,000 have funded employment events such as Reading Job Fest, Small Business Network events, access to the Real Business School’s programme to start up a business, Construction Skills Certificates (120 people have achieved the qualification), access to work events (over 1000 attendees), ex-offenders work programmes (13 supported into work) and school outreach. 

Sue Brackley, Economic Development Manager, Reading UK, said: “This has been a really outstanding year for employment and training outcomes in Reading. Over 1600 local people have been helped forward in the jobs market or into self-employment as a result of our Employment and Skills Plans. This level of support has been achieved by excellent partnership working with the planning authority, Reading Borough Council, the private sector and community partners such as DWP JobCentre, New Directions, Activate Learning and local schools such as JMA and Reading Girls, among others.

“Over the next few years, the programmes will continue to work to balance the local economy in a way that benefits every part of our local community, especially those who are struggling to find good quality work, or lack the skills most in demand by our employers.”

Councillor Jason Brock, Council Leader, Reading Borough Council, said:  “Reading Borough Council is working hard to ensure that the people of Reading benefit from the results of development. This programme is clearly bringing significant benefits to the local economy and in particular to local residents by assisting them to find good quality, permanent employment within the borough.”

Developers and construction company ESP partners have included Ikea, Primark, Henry, BW Interiors, Watkin Jones, University of Reading, DPD, Segro, Buckingham Construction and Tesco Distribution.  The private sector has also provided match funding (Hammersons) or significant support in kind (Green Park, Balfour Beatty, Verizon, Ikea, The Oracle, Malmaison Hotel, Hilton Reading and BW Interiors.

¹Reading Borough Council adopted the requirement for Employment and Skills Plans (ESP) under a 2013 supplementary planning document that seeks to implement adopted (2008) core strategy policies cs9: infrastructure, services, resources and amenities, and cs13: impact of employment development.  The drafting of the SPD relied on detailed discussion between Reading UK and the borough council planning service, with Reading UK being identified as the main agent for implementing the policy. The aims of the ESP requirement as part of a planning permission have been clearly defined in working with employers to improve the work and training opportunities of local people.


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