In our annual Good Growth for Cities report, Reading placed second and performed above the index average across a number of variables, including jobs, income, health, skills and new businesses. From a Thames Valley perspective, it's also pleasing to see Oxford come out as the top performer, with strong scores across jobs, income, health and the skills of the population.
In addition Reading has seen strong improvements across work-life balance, income and the skills of people aged 16-24. However, despite the higher score, there has been a sharp decline in the number of new businesses, which may reflect the current climate.
More broadly Thames Valley Berkshire was placed fourth in our LEP index, with strong scores across jobs, income, health, new businesses and the skills of the population. Thames Valley Berkshire has also seen strong improvements across work-life balance, jobs and income.
Reading and Oxford are estimated to have relatively low economic impacts in 2020 and have performed well in this year’s index although relative economic recovery is expected to be less than other cities that have been harder hit by the pandemic.
With around a quarter of Reading’s economy being in the Information & Communications sector, it is clear why the city is expected to be less affected by the pandemic than most UK cities, as this is a sector that is expected to cope well with the pandemic’s impacts.
The South East also had some of the lowest take-up rates of Universal Credit, with Reading (4.4%) having one of the lowest percentage of Universal Credit claimants aged 16 to 64 claiming benefits in November 2020. This compared to the likes of Birmingham and London boroughs which had twice as many.
Other key findings showed that the South East had some of the lowest rates of workers on the UK Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, with both Reading and Oxford fairing well, that said local authorities to the East of Reading and West of Oxford do have some of the highest proportions of individuals on the furlough scheme between these two cities.
Whilst Reading continues to perform well in the index what has become clearer than ever is that we need to take a broader approach to economic wellbeing as we plan our recovery. One that embraces social, health and economic outcomes more fully and which also addresses the wider issue of ‘levelling up’ both at a local level but also at a wider regional level - in order to help tackle these challenges we need greater collaboration with national and local government working together.
South East, PwC United Kingdom