17 June, 2014
As one of the UK's "economic powerhouses" - in the words of Business Minister Michael Fallon - it makes sense for Thames Valley Berkshire to bid for a slice of cash from the Local Growth Fund (LGF). Investing further in wealth-creation areas like Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell can stimulate further economic prosperity and ensure Thames Valley Berkshire remains a leading area for years to come.
Discussions with local MPs, thousands of businesses and the approval of the six Berkshire unitary authorities has led to the submission of a bid for £43.8 million by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP); most of which will fund transport schemes, infrastructure and other opportunities.
How exactly will Wokingham benefit if the bid is successful?
Forming a strategic economic plan
"I do not think I am being immodest on behalf of Thames Valley Berkshire when I say that if every other region of Britain could match our area's growth and innovation, the Bank of England would be forecasting higher growth this year for the British economy than the current 3.4 per cent," said Reading West MP Alok Sharma with confidence.
It's a bold statement from Sharma. However the strategic economic plan that was submitted with the bid ensures if the region wins the money, it will be spent extremely wisely and - most of all - offer value for the government.
At the moment, infrastructure represents one of the biggest challenges to further economic growth in the area, according to LEP Forum member Steve Capel-Davies. As a result, the plan focuses majorly on transport and connectivity but also considers enterprise/business growth along with a strong international programme.
The transport plans encompass a number of areas for development over the next three years. They include a new railway station at Green Park, a South Reading mass transport system, a park and ride in Reading East to complement a planned park and ride at Winnersh Triangle and schemes for Coral Reef Roundabout in Bracknell. That's as well as three projects planned in Slough - all of which will benefit from any investment.
In addition, semi-fast services to and from Reading on Crossrail plus an option for a third Thames crossing could enhance the area's strategic transport network.
Another problem in the area is the strength of London and its ability to attract young people from the area. If the bid is successful, the LEP intends to develop the role of further education colleges and strengthen links between employers and other education establishments.
In addition, the LEP wants the area to remain competitive and it could benefit from further international investment; an international conference venue would be ideal in increasing the number of visitors to the area and raising awareness of the region.
Overall, the bid centres around connection. Whether that's linking Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell through a new train station or building a connection between education and private institutes, the TVB LEP wants to ensure the area remains an economic powerhouse by building solid links.
"Our plan is bold, but deliverable," said Chair of TVB LEP Steve Lamb. "However, we need government to invest in Thames Valley Berkshire in order for us to sustain and build the UK's 'Tech Valley' and position it for doing world-class business in the future."