Green light for sub-region's City Deal bid

by Jim Dunton Wed 30 October 2013, 3:38 pm

Ministers have agreed a package of freedoms from central-government control to help Reading Borough Council and other Berkshire authorities drive forward economic growth in the Thames Valley.

The sub-region’s City Deal, approved this week by minister for cities Greg Clark, centres around improving skills access for young people in Berkshire and helping local businesses to get the workers they need to support growth.

A key part of the deal is developing better pathways into work for young people through agencies working better and more collaboratively, underpinned by a new mobile web platform called “ElevateMe” that has been funded by phone company O2 and developed with young people.

The bid’s aims include reducing youth unemployment by 50 per cent within three years; generating 1,300 new job opportunities for young people; creating 1,500 new work experience placements across the region; and securing £1.5 million of private-sector investment to support employment and help improve young people’s skills.

The City Deal bid could also see the government provide investment for a Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub to focus local business, raising awareness and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local and national business support schemes.

Reading Borough Council said that if the city regon’s Wave 2 Business Growth Fund application for the hub was successful, it would create a more positive and responsive environment for companies to find the help they need to thrive.

Council Leader Jo Lovelock said the approval of the region’s bid recognised its strong track record of delivering healthy economic performance.

“Reading is known within the wider region as a place where people come to find work, but we also know that there are a great many young people out there who have found it difficult to get the right training to access job opportunities," she said.

"If we can tailor young people’s skills so they are ready and able to take the opportunities that are becoming available, it will go a long way towards further cementing Reading’s, and the wider region’s, place as a key driver in the economic performance of the UK.”

Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership chair Steve Lamb said the deal’s agreement was an exciting opportunity that would enhance the sub-region’s ability to compete on a global level.

“It offers an unprecedented shift in control from Whitehall over the way in which our skills system works, so that we can make sure we have a highly skilled workforce which corresponds with business needs in Thames Valley Berkshire, for future growth and economic success,” he said.

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