Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, today joined the Right Honourable Greg Clark MP, the Cabinet Office Minister for Cities at Reading Town Hall for the launch of the Reading and Thames Valley Berkshire City Deal.
City Deals are a key part of the Government’s objectives of rebalancing the economy and boosting private sector growth. City Deals aim to accelerate the pace of decentralisation and unlock new and innovative ways to drive growth.
The City Deal bid was put together by Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP) and a number of key partners including local councils. The City Deal bid focused on reducing the skills gap in the local job market and improving the prospects of young people in the local area.
The deal has been agreed following negotiation over several months with the Cabinet Office. It will allow the Thames Valley Berkshire area to take control of the levers of government from Whitehall in order to address unemployment of 16 to 24-year-olds in the region and unleash economic growth.
The Thames Valley Berkshire City Deal acknowledges the region’s strong track record of delivering growth and seeks to support existing and new businesses in achieving their full potential. The deal will:
- Aim for a 50% reduction in youth unemployment within 3 years;
- Secure £1.5 million of private sector investment to support employment and provide training for young people;
- Generate 1,300 new employment opportunities for young people;
- Develop new approaches to help more young people into sustainable employment ensuring 900 young people do not make a repeat claim within 9 months of their last claim, and increasing the earnings of 450 young people;
- Deliver improvements in existing schemes including 1,500 new work experience placements; create 300 additional Apprenticeships and 800 new Youth Contract Wage Incentives.
Working in conjunction with all of the local partners, the LEP will set up an Employment and Skills Gateway to create skills and employment opportunities for 16-24 year olds directly linked to labour market intelligence and business needs.
A new website platform called ‘ElevateMe’, will be launched as a virtual gateway across Berkshire to allow young people to access careers advice and support on employment, work experience, volunteering and mentoring.
The Thames Valley Berkshire Youth Guarantee will offer all young people in the area access to high quality, personalised advice and support so that every young person has the opportunity to undertake the right training, improve their skills, find an apprenticeship or get a job.
In parallel, the TVB LEP will also establish a Thames Valley Business Growth Hub. The hub will extend the reach and better connect Government business support services to local business investment opportunities.
The City Deal is being provided with an initial £5.1m investment through a combination of Government funding via the Youth Contract and EU match funding. The LEP is also currently bidding for an additional £1.6m in Government funding to help fund the Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub.
Alok Sharma said: “I was delighted to welcome Cities Minister Greg Clark to Reading to launch the Thames Valley Berkshire City Deal. This is an excellent initiative which will help young people acquire new skills to match the needs of local businesses and will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”
Alok continued: “The local LEP is doing some excellent work to promote the Thames Valley economy and I am looking forward to continuing to work closely with them on some upcoming initiatives.”
Minister for Cities and the Constitution, Greg Clark, said: “I am delighted to be signing this deal with the business, civic and educational leaders in Reading and Berkshire. Jobs are being created across the area as the economy has returned to growth and this makes sure that no stone is unturned in getting young unemployed people into those jobs. This proposal was the idea of businesses and local leaders in the area and they pitched it to the government. I’m pleased that we have been able to say ‘yes’ and agree the deal.”
The full list of partners involved in the Reading and Berkshire City Region are:
Reading Borough Council; Bracknell Forest Council, Wokingham Borough Council; West Berkshire Council; Thames Valley Berkshire LEP; Reading UK CIC; O2; Oracle Shopping Centre; Thames Water; Federation of Small Businesses; Heart of Berkshire Hospitality Association; Jobcentreplus; New Directions; Reading College; Bracknell and Wokingham College; Berkshire College of Agriculture; University of Reading; Raising Participation Partnership; National Careers Service; Central Berkshire Education Business Partnership.