Last friday I met Dr Anne Murdoch and Tim Smith of the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. They told me they have five staff members and a budget of £15million. They express views on business, training, planning and transport matters, and are spending some of their money on helping local businesses.
I explained to them that I regard it as the MPs’ jobs to talk to government about what we need and want from the national authorities, and the role of Councillors to undertake local planning and service provision. It is important that the LEP works within the vision and policy initiatives of the MPs and Councils. One of the reasons we successfully lobbied for the abolition of the South East RDA was its unwillingness to work with the MPs and Councils on our vision of the future, as well as its wasteful spending.
They agreed with this approach. Their draft Berkshire plan revolves around four main issues, the provision of infrastructure, the growth of enterprise, the development of skills and relationships with the wider business world overseas. So far it lacks specifics for each locality. Given their own small budget most of the items needed within this wide range of issues will be provided by either central or local government, or the private sector.
I explained to them some of the local needs that I have been working on. These included noise reducing surfaces on the M4 to be part of the managed motorway now proposed, a bridge over the railway line to the east of Wokingham town centre, a revised town centre redevelopment proposal that meets local worries, an expansion of Reading University’s science base and associated development of a science park, better links between business and schools and a wider awareness of self employment and small business development as a career option.
We also discussed the long standing proposal for a new river crossing to the east of Reading. The prolonged closure of Sonning Bridge has reminded us of the problem, but Oxfordshire has always blocked progress.