Reading’s growth bucks national trend

by James Renoux-Wood Fri 13 January 2017, 3:15 pm

Reading will be the UK’s fastest growing city until 2019, despite slow progress in the country as a whole, according to economic analysis in EY’s UK Region and City Forecast.

Regional Gross Value Added (GVA) is expected to be at 2.5% over the next three years – ahead of London’s growth of 1.9%.

The forecast, released in December, also expects Reading’s employment growth to be faster than all UK cities featured, with 0.9% growth and 3,000 new jobs by 2019. 

Richard Baker, EY’s managing partner for Reading and the Thames Valley, said: “This is our first Region and City Forecast since the EU referendum and it’s positive to see Reading and the broader Thames Valley region’s strong economic performance outpacing London and the wider south-east."

Baker added that even though the region was in a “strong position” economically, a focus on investing in transportation links, skills development and education was still needed.

The forecast’s findings on Reading were backed by its position at the top of the annual Good Growth for Cities index in November, which measures the economic performance of the UK’s largest 42 cities.

The index, produced by PwC and Demos, accounts for productivity in 10 areas: jobs, health, income and skills, work-life balance, house-affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, pollution and business start-ups.

PwC reported that: “Reading, with Oxford, remains at the top of the index. A substantial gap has opened up between these two cities and the rest, reflecting their continued improvement in jobs, income, skills and new businesses." 

Digital, the UK’s fastest growing sector, accounts for 25% of Reading’s GVA, according to EY. The economic analysts said strong performances in ‘professional, scientific and technical’ and ‘administration and support services’ have also benefited the region’s economy.

Reading has also been found to have a high number of business start-ups and SMEs, and a “good level of high-growth SMEs”, according to information compiled by Informi, a website offering free practical advice and support for small businesses. The town was named sixth of 65 cities in a list of the top 10 best locations to start up a small business in the UK.

Nigel Horton-Baker, executive director of Reading UK CIC, the economic development and marketing company for Reading, said: “Reading continues to outperform all the core cities in the UK, particularly in areas such as jobs, health, skills, income and the creation of new businesses. While there is room for improvement – particularly in areas such as affordable housing – the recent investments in transport, the decision on the future of Heathrow and the town’s developing reputation as a cultural destination will make Reading an increasingly attractive proposition for business in the future.”

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