Always the bridesmaid….. Reading submits City Status bid (again)


Reading Borough Council has submitted a bid for City Status.

(editor: I think this is the fourth time the town has done so. Let’s hope the place is lucky this time – Reading already feels like a city).

The competition forms part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022 and the winning new city will be announced next summer. Designed in consultation with residents, the voluntary sector and the business community, Reading’s bid is a celebration of everything which makes Reading such a great place to live, work and visit, in particular the people, communities and the spirit which sets it apart.

In recent decades, city status has been granted through a series of competitive bids, managed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (or its predecessors). The deadline for applications was 8 December 2021 and new awards of city status will be announced in 2022. City status is officially granted by ‘letters patent’ –  a document officially issued by the monarch.

Reading River ThamesNigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director of Reading UK, said: “It seems very fitting that some three years on from the launch of our City Vision newsletter we should be covering the submission of Reading’s renewed bid for City Status. Reading UK has for many years promoted Reading as a city on the back of evidence that firmly positions Reading amongst existing cities across the country and Europe. I firmly believe that Reading’s time has come and the town is ready to receive this accolade officially.”

Since AngloSaxon times, its bid reads, Reading has had enduring regional, national and international significance.

From the 10th century Reading Minster was a regional centre for religious life. With the royal foundation of Reading Abbey 900 years ago it became a European political powerhouse from the reign of Henry I to Henry VIII. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its industries – beer, biscuits and bulbs – gave it global renown.

Today, its world class research, the innovations of the many multi-national and local companies, and the strength of its community and cultural offerings illustrates Reading’s continued impact and influence.

As the county town of Berkshire, Reading is the economic hub of the Thames Valley, from where key regional health, education, retail and other services are provided to a much wider catchment on a city scale. It is a global technology town with an international community.

Reading 3Reading’s identity evolved with the industrial revolution and three industries – beer, biscuits and bulbs – would emerge to put Reading on the global map. William Blackall Simonds established a small brewery in 1785, and the town’s brewing empire was born – surviving in various forms until 2010. Another entrepreneur – John Sutton – set up a small corn and seed business and in 1807 his son – Martin Hope Sutton – shaped Suttons Seeds into a global business, covering 6 acres of central Reading. Then, in 1822, Joseph Huntley opened a small biscuit shop, serving passing coach traffic. The business grew and became a great innovator, known for its decorative tin-ware. By 1900 Huntley and Palmers employed 5,000 people. Throughout the Victorian era these industries grew to become major employers of international repute, as well as generous benefactors of the town.

More recently, Reading has been consistently ranked first or equal first with the City of Oxford in PwC’s ‘Good Growth for Cities’ Index. This measures the performance of the UK’s largest cities against 10 quality of life and economic indicators.

Reading is internationally known as a base for knowledge-based sectors including information and communications technology, bio-pharma, fin-tech, medi-tech and food-tech – some of the most important sectors for innovation and growth.

This mix, made up of 7,045 businesses (ONS, 2019), has made Reading highly resilient to recessions – and given the local economy a powerful ability to ‘bounce back’.

Previously a hub for service sectors such as insurance, finance and customer support, the town is now a focal point for advanced business services including banking, accountancy, legal and consultancy services.