Reading named one of the top ‘cities’ to live and work

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Reading has been named one of the best ‘cities’ to live and work in country.

The humble town, came second in the UK for growth for the fourth year in a row.

It was pipped only by Oxford, in PwC Good Growth for Cities 2019 index, which looked at 42 cities (and towns) and ranked them on 10 factors which the public think are most important when it comes to economic well being.

These included employment, health, income, skills, as well as housing affordability, commuting times, environmental factors, business start-ups, work-life balance and income inequality.

Reading has consistently punched above its weight due to a variety of factors, ranging from income and the skill levels of the workforce to quality of healthcare and work-life balance.

These factors can be big draws for businesses, with the likes of French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, KPMG, Ericson and Virgin Media all moving or expanding in the town in the last two years.

But what does ‘good growth’ mean?

It means increasing profits, which can be used to expand businesses and hire more employees, which also creates wealth for individuals.

The Good Growth for Cities also looks at what life is like for the people who live in the towns and cities assessed.

Even travel-to-work times have been factored in to PwC’s analysis.

Unfortunately, driving can be a rather painful experience for workers, particularly those travelling between East Reading and Reading town centre.

However, those living in the town centre can easily walk to work or the train station.

That said, the town’s proximity to London and Heathrow Airport has been lauded.

What has helped Reading’s success?

Forbury Gardens looking glorious
(Image: Eddie Greville)

Nigel Horton-Baker, executive director at Reading UK CIC, which works to attract business and improve quality of life in the town, said: “Reading has consistently ranked in the top two cities for good growth since PwC launched the Index in 2005 and has made further progress this year in terms of jobs, income, new businesses, the skill set of the over 25s, owner occupation and environment.

“One of Reading’s key offers to business is the talent pool available locally.

“This continues to be an important part of Reading’s success, with over 50 per cent educated to degree level or above.

“Reading is less successful with regard to the skill levels of 16-24 olds, which remains a relatively small but serious issue for those affected.”

Looking for work? There are 137 jobs available around Reading on Fish4Jobs

What challenges does the town still face?

Unfortunately there are downsides which come with the ‘price of success’.

Reading, Berkshire faces problems with house prices becoming increasingly unaffordable.

All South East cities are below the index average for house prices relative to earnings, suggesting some are being priced out of the market.

Reading also faces problems with skill levels of 16-24 olds.

Mr Horton-Baker explains what is being done to redress the balance.

He said: “Reading UK CIC has been working hard to address this through the delivery of Employment and Skills Plans, connecting employers with local schools and supporting STEM projects within schools.

“We are now working with partners to ensure that every 16 and 17 year old in Reading has access to work experience and solid careers advice.”

Growth in the face of Brexit uncertainty, and how ‘cities’ like Reading can improve

PwC partner and local government leader Jonathan House said: “In an era of political, technological and environmental disruption, cities and regions that want to get ahead, need to do things differently.

“Even with the uncertainty of Brexit, over the last year, local leaders have had significant success in delivering good growth in their cities and regions.

“Our research shows the need to take a comprehensive approach to growth, focusing on improving productivity to compete on a global stage, but also on ensuring fairness and inclusive growth so that people and places don’t feel left behind.

“Local leaders need to take a broad view on what economic success means, focusing on the outcomes they want to achieve in terms of inclusive growth, community resilience and improved experience, and crucially, having a plan to translate those ambitions into reality.

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“Skills among the working age population, alongside the number of new businesses created, have seen the largest improvements; this is a result of leaders focusing on building new opportunities and investing in the talent of their city and region.

“The UK’s cities are known globally for their skills, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

“Our most successful cities know that they don’t compete against other UK cities, they compete against cities across Europe, the Middle East and the US.

“As the UK’s position on the world stage shifts, cities and regions will need to reposition themselves too, and consider how they can stand out and compete globally, improve productivity and support innovation, while also creating places that are fair and inclusive.”

You can view the full Demos-PwC report here.

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