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The view from Katesgrove Hill

Reading rivals Southend in bid for city status

Southend Pier on a wet day in 2016

The MP for Southend West, Sir David Amess, is determined to see Southend granted city status. He is so determined that he secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the subject before MPs left Parliament for Christmas on 20 December. Reading, like Southend, lost out in 2012 when three new cities were created as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Many Readingas seem happy that Reading remain a town, and there is just so much disappointment that you can take. However there are murmurings from on high that another attempt could be in the wings.

During consideration of the application to build residential accommodation on top of the Butts Centre at the Reading Borough Council (RBC) planning applications committee last week, deputy leader of the council Tony Page said:

We need to show a clear vote of confidence in the future of Reading city centre, and it will be a city sooner rather than later. This is a key site that requires regeneration and I know I might not make myself popular with some of my constituents but fact is that the interests of the town, the capital of the Thames Valley, are such that we should be embracing this application and supporting it this evening.


The A33 with Fountain House in the distance

In the debate on RBC’s budget at the February full council meeting, lead councillor for heritage culture and recreation Karen Rowland said that 2021 was a year of anniversaries in Reading. She listed 900 years since the foundation of Reading Abbey, 150 years of Reading Football club and 50 years of the Reading Festival [at 2:11:30].

Should Reading wish to be a city, then what better year could there be? Southend’s bet is on 2021.

We interviewed the now leader of the council Jason Brock back in April 2019. We asked him if he had any feelings about Reading being a town or a city; his response was fairly open but showed a preference for a town:

I have always thought in some ways [that] wouldn’t you rather be the largest town rather than an average size city, but for some people the title comes with a lot of meaning. Perhaps if you could use city status as a way of trumpeting the various things which happen in the town and use it to create new initiatives it maybe worthwhile, but it would not be a priority to me.

Reading as a town was the bass line of his oration to assembled councillors considering the budget. Not once did the ‘city’ word disturb the surface of the waters of the Holybrook flowing alongside the Civic Offices.

The 2012 competition for city status was launched in December 2010. City status does not confer any additional powers, functions or funding.

  1. Hansard: Adjournment debate Southend City Status
  2. Diamond Jubilee: Reading’s city status bid fails
  3. Reading Borough Council planning applications committee 4 March 2020 papers & webcast
  4. Reading Borough Council full council meeting 25 February 2020 papers & webcast
  5. Interview with Katesgrove resident Councillor Jason Brock
  6. Civic honours competition for Diamond Jubilee launched 2010

1 comment

  1. The idea of Southend (usually pronounced Sahfend in parts of the metropolis) as a city compared with as historically important a place as Reading is too absurd. Let’s hope our local cabinet minister can outbid Sir David Amess.

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