Reading Responds to a future after COVID 19

Nigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director Reading UK, outlines the thinking and preferred outcomes which have derived from the recent Reading UK Emergency Board meeting to drive a recovery plan for Reading.  

NigelHortonBaker ReadingUKCICHow does Reading approach its recovery plan? Our starting point is the development of a consensus approach, not underestimating the longer-term impact of social distancing, and having empathy for how the crisis has, and will, impact on different parts of our economy, town and residents.

Based on sound evidence, we should harness the good things we have already achieved and harness some of the change benefits that have come out of the crisis. We should agree what action we should take in preparation for an unknown date to unlock and the subsequent periods, while being flexible and responsive with so many unknowns.

The new ‘normal’

We have an enviable record of economic success and an ambitious vision for a smart and sustainable future - Reading 2050. But how do we ensure our economy rebounds towards its former strength? But in a better way and sooner than 2050?

Many are predicting major change and suggest that there may not be a return to ‘normal’. The possibilities of a recession worse than the last financial crisis; long-term national debt: a return to ‘austerity’; failure to complete the Brexit Deal weakening our economic position.

There will be variable impacts on sectors of the economy but can we trust to historic trends that Reading is again well-placed to bounce back first this time? Those most exposed to the impacts of COVID-19 will find it hardest. There will be a need for wholesale modification and  diversification of business models not just to cope with COVID-19 but also accelerated trends in a reversal of off-shoring and global trade trends and automation of jobs.

However out of adversity can come positives, and we should think that by working together we can build back a better Reading for the future - a Reading that is more inclusive, community- spirited and environmentally friendly, just as we are witnessing at this moment.  

Reading’s economic recovery plan

It is a little early to formulate specific plans as there are still many unknowns. We may learn a little more from the next Government announcement next Thursday, but then maybe not!  Release from the lockdown is unlikely to be wholesale and some things that we take for granted may ultimately be changed for ever.

Reading’s recovery plan needs to consider the demand side economy – our businesses and sectors, the supply side – skills and employment, routes into the labour market, providing opportunity and looking after the most vulnerable and reassuring our consumers of the many things Reading has to offer safely. We need a collaborative approach to bring together all the business networks and collaborative working practices we have generated for the better in Reading to date.  

Our vision going forward

We will be driven by the increasing pace of change in some aspects of our life, but we should use Reading’s recovery as an opportunity to make positive changes, as set out in the Reading 2050 Vision and Climate Change Emergency.

This should include;

  • Realising the shift to ‘inclusive’ economic growth and levelling up, supported by the right tech-driven infrastructure
  • Reducing dependence on the global economy and investing more in our home-grown businesses and entrepreneur
  • Getting carbon emissions under control to improve our resilience to climate impacts and adopting a ‘circular economy’ mode
  • Increasing self-sufficiency and self-help in our communities of ‘need’ and ‘place’ through volunteering, community, social enterprise and innovation
  • Presenting Reading in a new light, proud of its new ways of working and living

Reading’s response to CV19 is something that should be shared by our residents, communities, business and public services alike.  It is bigger than all of us but something that everyone can contribute to. We must respect, however, that CV19 will have impacted people in different ways; that the individual’s ability to embrace the changes and be part of the ‘new normal’ will vary, and that we should not leave any one behind.

As further clarity emerges of the world post-CV19, we should campaign to realise our ambitions of a Reading that is for everyone, a city to be proud of, a place to which everyone can contribute and a city with a regional and national profile as a great place to live, work, visit and do business.

Board preferred outcomes for COVID-19 Recovery Strategy

The initial thought of the Reading UK Board last week in response to the preferred outcomes of our soon to be released CV19 economic recovery strategy included the following  

  • Support businesses, the workforce and town centre to recover by instilling a sense of leadership and providing practical, useful support to the community
  • Communicate a clear position on Reading’s recovery with consistent messaging so everyone is aligned as we work through the recovery process and rebuild Reading
  • Consider the impact on Reading’s environment and infrastructure by carefully balancing the positive environmental benefits of the crisis with the need to reopen the town and businesses safely
  • Harness the community spirit  -Covid19 has galvanised and support those who helped us through the crisis, such as local businesses and our most affected sectors
  • Broaden Reading’s profile by promoting all the positive aspects of Reading and its surrounding areas, the strength of our university, science and tech sectors and establishing Reading as a place to visit in the future
  • Accelerate Reading’s 2050 vision as part of our post-Covid19 thinking


These ideas are not set in stone but will form the foundation of our approach as we work collaboratively with our partners to support Reading’s people and businesses through economic recovery. Reading UK would value your feedback on these ideas so that we can reflect the wider business point of view in the recovery plan. Please email us your response>>>

Reading UK’s Board is a private sector led partnership with Reading Borough Council including the University of Reading and leading figures in the retail, urban planning, transport, sport, hospitality, property, media, education and business consultancy sectors in Reading.

We are working tirelessly together to safeguard the economic recovery of Reading.  We will now be meeting on a regular three-weekly cycle during the emergency.  If any company or business leader feels they can assist the Board plan and finance our way through the recovery and beyond please do not hesitate to contact the Chairman Adam Jacobs via the Executive Director Nigel Horton-Baker / tel: 07921 493450







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