From Cllr Jason Brock Leader of Reading Borough Council.
As we start this new financial year, we face a situation of unprecedented uncertainty. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought incredible challenges for our town, our communities and our economy. The crisis has kept us at home, prevented children from going to school, closed businesses and harmed the mental and physical health of thousands of people. And as with any crisis, the most vulnerable have been the hardest hit. We don’t yet know how quickly we will bring the pandemic under control, how fast the economy will recover and the extent to which people will face long term harm as a result. But what we are certain about, is that Reading can and will recover.Jason Brock
Throughout the pandemic, and in the wake of the tragic attacks in Forbury Gardens last June, our communities, our people, and our town have shown they are resilient, innovative and compassionate. We now need to build on these strengths to make sure our recovery is more than successful – to make sure it is equitable and addresses the ways the pandemic has harmed the most vulnerable and deepened existing inequalities.
In the face of an uncertain context, we have chosen to create a one-year corporate plan for 2021/22. We will tackle the immediate challenges we face in ensuring our town recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will continue to make progress towards the social and environmental goals from our last corporate plan. We remain aspirational for the future of Reading, and our vision is that the environment, the economy and the community are together at the heart of a more inclusive, more equitable town. We want everyone to be treated fairly; to have equal access to green space, clean air, skills, services, jobs and housing; and to benefit from Reading’s success.
Over the coming year, we will also look ahead to our next three-year strategic plan. It will be a challenge. Covid-19 will be with us for a long time yet. We are committed to working with our partners across the town – including businesses and employers, major institutions such as Reading University and the Royal Berkshire Hospital, the voluntary sector and our residents – to lead Reading’s recovery, to bring our vision to life and to create a better future for everyone in Reading.
We hope you will work with us to make this vision a reality.
Reading’s population is 161,780.
77 languages spoken in homes across Reading.
10% rise in social care referrals over the last five years.
Difference in life expectancy between most and least deprived areas. The difference is 8 years for men and 7.2 years for women.
10,503 Covid-19 cases and 301 deaths 1 March 2020 – 1 March 2021.
4th in the country for number of businesses.
4th highest in terms of wages.
2nd highest for ‘good growth’.
However, 3rd most unequal city in terms of wealth.
5 neighbourhoods are within the 10% most deprived in the country.
Reading Borough Council has reduced its carbon footprint by 10% with £13 million saved.
90% of council maintained schools rated good or outstanding but 10.4% of young people are not in education, employment or training. Above the national average.
Footfall in Broad Street down 66.4% between February 2020 – February 2021.
Unemployment up from 2.7% to 6.4% between January 2020 – January 2021.
Reading rated one of the cities best placed for post-covid economic recovery.
“To help Reading realise its potential – and to ensure that everyone who lives and works here can share the benefits of its success.”
In 2018, the Council came together with local businesses, community groups and Reading University to plan for Reading’s future. The result is the Reading 2050 Vision, an ambitious description of what Reading can be; a city of green spaces, smart technology and economic growth.
At Reading Borough Council we believe we can help Reading realise its potential – and ensure that everyone who lives and works here can share the benefits of its success.
The Coronavirus pandemic has not changed this vision. It may have changed how we go about making a difference, and it may have made it more difficult. But we still believe in Reading’s potential, and the right of everyone who lives and works here to have a stake in that future
Within the Council, we are driven by the principles of TEAM Reading:
These principles underpin the way we work day-to-day, and the major initiatives that are the foundation for modern, cost effective services that will improve the lives of local people set out in our themes.
We work as one team with colleagues and partners to deliver great services.
These projects and ways of working underpin everything we do at the Council.
People first: our customer experience strategy puts our customers at the heart of service design and delivery, and we seek regular feedback through consultations and our residents’ survey.
Digital transformation: both internally and externally, we’re transforming how we work using the power of digital technology. We’re modernising services and harnessing new technology to make it easier for residents to interact with us. We’re improving our website, streamlining processes and making more services available online.
Building self-reliance: we work with others to build the ability of individuals and communities to solve their own problems and withstand the shocks that come their way. We provide support to those who need it – but our first priority is always to help people live independently for as long as possible.
Getting the best value: we strive for value for money in everything we do, and we are focussed on delivering the Council’s three-year Savings and Investment Programme. But the best deal is not always the cheapest – it’s the one that protects people, jobs, the environment and the budget. So we’re also evolving our procurement policies to find the social value in all we do.
Collaborating with others: we are stronger in partnership and we collaborate with organisations from major corporations to local groups; with the business sector, charities, education institutions, health and social care, the police, faith groups, and the voluntary sector in Reading and across the Thames Valley to achieve our vision for Reading. We will build on the work done during the pandemic to consolidate partnerships and ensure a better network and stronger funding streams to support the most vulnerable.
We drive efficiency and value for money in everything we do.
We are ambitious in our plans and in what we want to achieve.
We are here to make a difference to the residents, communities and businesses of Reading.
We’ve listened to what residents, businesses and partners have said about their experience of Reading, and their hopes and aspirations for the town. In this year’s residents’ survey we heard that residents are satisfied with how the Council runs services in Reading, but would like to see more action taken on affordable housing, levels of crime, road conditions, congestion and climate change. Through consultation on our major change initiatives – such as the Local Transport Plan and the Climate Emergency Strategy – we know we have the support of residents and partners to make the changes we all want to see.
We will make this change happen by focussing on three inter-connected themes:
We are working towards a clean, safe town that is easy to travel around, and where people feel the benefits of clean air and active travel like walking and cycling. A healthy environment has a fundamental impact on the life of every resident – making Reading a nicer, greener, more attractive place to live, and having a tangible impact on physical and mental health and life expectancy. Locally we are investing in walking, cycling, and public transport; tackling congestion; increasing recycling rates; and improving parks and open spaces. And at a global level we are promoting the climate ambitions of our residents, and of citizens across the country and the world. Our plans show a roadmap to a carbon neutral Reading by 2030, that will protect our residents now and in the future.
Making it easy for people to play their part through the choices they make about their home, their transport and their waste.
Committed to playing our part in tackling climate change and working towards our goal of a carbon neutral town by 2030.
Listening to feedback from our residents’ survey and transport consultations, and making increased investments in green infrastructure.
It’s the people of Reading who make our town an exciting and diverse place to live and work. After the devastating attacks in Forbury Gardens in June 2020, we saw people unite under the idea of #ReadingTogether to embrace diversity and community. We want to ensure that spirit is carried into every aspect of life in Reading, wherever people live and whatever their stage of life. In public consultations and in our residents’ survey, people have told us what is important, and we are prioritising the issues that matter – like good quality affordable housing, better roads and community safety. We will focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, ensuring young people, older people, those with long term health conditions or disabilities and those most affected by Covid-19 get the help they need to live successful, independent lives in vibrant, thriving communities.
Committed to tackling inequality in our society, to ensure everyone has an equal chance to thrive whatever their economic, social, cultural, ethnic or religious background.
Investing in voluntary and community organisations, building relationships and strengthening the capacity and resilience of the sector.
Prioritising the needs of the most marginalised groups and the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.
Tackling the effects of the pandemic, such as increased unemployment, long term health problems, mental health issues and social isolation.
We’re working towards a town where everyone can access education, skills and training, good jobs, and decent housing. An inclusive economy isn’t measured in pounds and pence, with wealth trickling down from the richest to those at the bottom. An inclusive economy enhances wellbeing and enables upward mobility, with more opportunities for more people to participate in the growth and success of the town. We’re ensuring economic growth goes hand-in-hand with achieving our climate goals, by harnessing new technology and investing in green infrastructure.
Creating education, skills and training opportunities.
Investing in key infrastructure to keep Reading at the forefront of advances in technology.
Building on our cultural heritage to enhance our tourist industry, creating an amazing place for people to enjoy.
We are committed to delivering high quality public services that meet customer needs and demonstrate value for money. The themes outlined on pages 6-9 include major projects that drive the change we want to see in Reading’s future, but the services we provide for residents today, and every day, are no less important. We will continue to make services simpler, faster and better, including:
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic means we are working in an uncertain context. As with any crisis, the most vulnerable have been the hardest hit. We don’t yet know how quickly we will bring the pandemic under control, how fast the economy will recover, the extent to which people will face long term harm as a result, and the future impact on Council services. From the outset, our priority has been to support the most vulnerable in our communities and to lay the groundwork for a strong economic recovery and this work continues, including: