There has been lots of hot air from Labour and Tories on the new city status bid. I was going to pen something myself on this subject -- I have yet to be convinced of the merits of such a scheme -- but I saw a letter from a local activist Colin Lee in the local paper, which I thought summed up the arguments nicely:
When will Reading Borough Council get real? Each year, I see the Centre for Cities Report misrepresented and incorrectly applied to the Local Authority by some media, Reading UK CIC, Councillors and the Chief Executive. The report indicates that the region as a whole could be well placed for the future. However the ‘Reading’ and the ‘city’ researched are the urban areas of Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell Forest – see www.centreforcities.org/outlook10 (click on the link for “Primary Urban Areas”). Reading LA and City are not synonymous.
The recession has brought some very tough choices and what is least needed is spin, hype and over-egging. Business and particularly those people and companies who want to invest in the town require accurate data, sound economic markers and not sound-bytes and more of the mirages on which RBC policy is built.
So what are the dimensions that this town is performing well in? Does anyone know? Do we have the economic models necessary for sound planning? No. The town does not even have a cohesive master plan for the future as CABE has stated.
If lead councillors Jo Lovelock and Andrew Cumpsty want to take us forward as a city then surely we need to include at least Wokingham and Bracknell Forest and go back to a kind of Berkshire County Council again? However, I fear City status for Reading is about ego not practicalities and realities. For some Councillors it has everything to do with pie-in-the-sky aspirations – a utopian Dubai-on-Thames where 30 storey towers abound without examination of the consequences to the town, our local economy and its people.
Surely our Councillors can see that the town is a town and that their function is to serve the people, not delusions of grandeur? It would stop wastage of taxpayers’ monies too.