Thursday, 21 January 2010

Is Reading A City?

The embers of an old debate have been stirred back into life with the announcement of preparations for a renewed bid for city status. A preliminary report is due to be submitted to councillors on 15th February.

The application comes as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012.

Council Leader Cllr Jo Lovelock proposed that an all-party City Status Partnership Board should be formed to coordinate the bid with representatives from the public, business, community and voluntary sector and argued that schools would be encouraged to get involved in offering support as part of the Olympic year.

Leader of the Conservative group on Reading Borough Council, Cllr Andrew Cumpsty attacked the current Labour administration for failing in previous bids in 2000 and 2002, saying, "We behave like a city, we look like a city."

But LibDem leader Cllr Kirsten Bayes emphasised a more practical approach, asking to see more details before making a commitment. She explained, "right now we are not clear on the benefits that would come from city status."

All sides were concerned that any costs involved in the bid should be minimised during the current economic period, but Reading Post commenters were nonetheless highly sceptical that Reading's disorganised growth through 'urban sprawl' gives the town a recognisable identity worthy of a city.

There has also been a strong underlying sense of mistrust in politicians boosting image without the substance to back it up.

Reading Forum visitors are cautious about the value of a bid, picking up that there are no figures on the expectations for additional investment into the local economy or the actual amount it will cost.

An interesting side discussion is the contentious subject of political reform, with suggestions of boundary changes to the borough and the possibility that a 'Lord Mayor' would be introduced (though a directly-elected mayoralty has yet to figure in the equation).

Meanwhile Reading Post editor Andy Murrill makes a rare foray into the opinion stakes to offer his full backing to enhanced civic status.

He says 'Reading deserves to be a city' because it will raise the national profile of Reading and bring a 'feel-good factor' back to the local economy.

Adam Hewitt notes many businesses and visitor already see Reading as a city.

So on my other site I have a look at the issue in a bit more detail. I conclude it's a matter of what kind of vision is on offer and in who's interest it is.

Elsewhere John Howarth compiles a list of his 10 favorite cities - Reading doesn't figure that highly for him!


Update: Howard Thomas argues that Reading needs to sort out the town's traffic problems before it can be considered to be of the stature he associates with a city.

Reading Post is conducting a wholly unscientific poll on the subject - Mr Murrill's viewpoint is currently holding sway, so why not try to influence the decision-makers and go and take part too...


Related topic: Reading: City Of Culture?


  1. Of course it's a city, its got more residents than Westminster!

  2. It's got less politicians though!


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