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New Prosperity Board aims to drive forward Berkshire's economic success

New cross-Berkshire board will see councils work to promote the county to investors, businesses and Central Government

Posted by: Communications team on 31 January 2024 14:36
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Proposals to create a new Berkshire Prosperity Board to help drive forward and deliver future economic success across the county are set to be endorsed by all six Berkshire Councils.

Under the proposals, all six councils would work together to help seize opportunities to promote Berkshire to investors, businesses and Central Government.

The new Prosperity Board would aim to drive and deliver economic prosperity across Berkshire with the aim of securing more funding, creating more jobs and enabling more affordable housing for residents.

The proposal follows discussions with Council Leaders across Berkshire. It will be discussed at all six Council's Policy, Cabinet or Executive meetings before being formalised. If agreed, the first inaugural Berkshire Prosperity Board meeting could take place as early as May 2024.

Berkshire has played a hugely significant role in driving the UK economy in recent decades. It has great connectivity and is home to the UK's Silicon Valley, as well as many innovative and international businesses, and has a highly skilled workforce.

Berkshire is not immune to economic challenges however, which include the changing trade relationships with Europe, high levels of inflation, labour market shortages and areas of deprivation.

Locally, many Berkshire residents are facing increasing living costs, a scarcity of affordable housing is a particular issue with median house prices costing almost 11 times more than median earnings, acting as a constraint to recruiting and retaining graduate talent and people with the skills Berkshire's economy needs. Whilst Berkshire has low levels of deprivation overall, there are areas of significant poverty and disadvantage and some stark inequalities in health outcomes.

The six Council Leaders want to work together and collaborate with other partners, including the business community, to share and effect an economic vision to collectively address challenges and seize opportunities, which would benefit local residents.

Working together provides a more powerful voice than each Council would have individually, helping to effectively lobby Government, secure more finance from both public and private investors, and to be an attractive location for inward investment.

Berkshire is already seeing growing industries, such as the film industry in and around Arborfield, Shinfield, Winnersh and Bray, and by working together it can harness future funding and provide a good base for investors to grow and develop.

In particular, the Berkshire Prosperity Board will enable the Councils to:

  • Work to a shared vision of inclusive and sustainable economic prosperity to address challenges and deliver opportunities.
  • Have a strengthened case to Government and private investors for greater investment into strategic projects across Berkshire.
  • Working with Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to implement changes in the Government's review of Local Enterprise Partnerships and deliver local economic priorities
  • Have a stronger, collective voice in lobbying Government and other agencies.
  • Place the six Berkshire Local Authorities in a strong position to take forward potential proposals which benefit from additional responsibilities and funding opportunities.

The proposed Prosperity Board is being discussed at respective Policy, Cabinet or Executive meetings in each of the six councils throughout February. Part of the discussion will consider the six key workstreams, which the Council Leaders have identified as key:

  • Health and Inequalities
  • Skills and education
  • Affordable housing
  • Sector development
  • Strategic infrastructure
  • Net zero

Cllr Mary Temperton, Leader of Bracknell Forest Council, says:

"It's really important that we look to bring more economic opportunities to the area and break down barriers in building on the prosperity of Bracknell Forest and Berkshire as whole.

"We may live in an area that has a history of being very prosperous, but we're not immune to the impact of national and global events, which have affected the job, housing, and business sectors.

"Together we are in a much stronger position to tackle those challenges and lobby for wider investment in the area. If agreed by all authorities, the Berkshire Prosperity Board would offer the opportunity to work much more closely together and provide many economic benefits to residents." 

Councillor Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, says:

"It has always been the case that it is in the best interests of all of residents that local authorities in Berkshire work collaboratively. Over the past year there has certainly been progress on that front and the new Board now offers all six Councils the opportunity to provide a stronger voice to Government when applying for funding and investment opportunities. Berkshire is not immune to the challenges of economic growth, but I sincerely hope that by working together we can provide a better Berkshire for our residents."

Councillor Simon Werner, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, says:

"We see the establishment of the Berkshire Prosperity Board as a valuable opportunity for the Royal Borough and the wider county. We welcome the transfer of powers from the Local Enterprise Partnership to local government. 

"I have always been passionate about partnership. In our interconnected world it is vital that we take every opportunity to work closely with our neighbours. Together we have a stronger voice, and can better support our local economies for the benefit our residents and businesses.

"I look forward to working in closer partnership, once arrangements have been discussed and agreed by our Cabinet and Full Council."

Councillor Dexter Smith, leader of Slough Borough Council, says:

"I am pleased that the six Council leaders have worked together to establish the Berkshire Prosperity Board, and if agreed by the Councils, it represents an important step in our collective efforts to work collaboratively in expanding economic opportunities in our local area, and to drive growth".

"It will be an important platform for the authorities to tackle the challenges which we face, and to lobby for wider investment in the area. I am sure that the Berkshire Prosperity Board will provide economic benefits to our residents in Slough, and the wider Berkshire area, and enable us to capitalise on the strengths of the local Berkshire economy."

Councillor Jeff Brooks, Acting Leader of West Berkshire Council, says:

"This new cross-Berkshire group aligns very well with our priority to deliver a prosperous and resilient West Berkshire.

"We recognise that we will be stronger by working together collaboratively to attract investment, deliver infrastructure and tackle issues such as affordable housing and net zero which are important to all our communities. I look forward to this, as it will enable us to build on the legacy of the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership."  

Cllr Stephen Conway, Leader of Wokingham Borough Council says:

"The Leaders of the six Berkshire unitary councils have made great progress since May in working together to prepare the way for the Berkshire Prosperity Board. Over the next few weeks, each of the Councils will be asked to endorse the establishment of the new Board.

"The Berkshire leaders believe that the Board will give us a stronger voice than we have as individual Councils and will increase our chances of securing external funding for infrastructure projects and other initiatives that will help the development of the Berkshire economy.  We see this is an important step that will help generate jobs, help address the climate emergency, and help deliver more much-needed affordable housing."

The Government's current plans are to cease funding Local Economic Partnerships from April 2024. They will transfer local economic leadership and budgets back to local authorities in a bid to empower local leaders and communities.

Local authorities will receive the funding and core responsibilities for delivering these functions from April 2024. These core functions are as follows:

  • Economic Strategy and Planning
  • Business Voice
  • Government Programme Delivery

Local authorities will also be expected to take responsibility for commissioning Growth Hubs and Skills Hubs.

Berkshire Leaders and the LEP have agreed they want to continue working in partnership to support the Berkshire economy. The LEP will remain an independent organisation. Berkshire Leaders have agreed that funding received from Government for the core functions will be used to commission specialist organisations (such as TVB LEP) to deliver outcomes.

The development of the Berkshire Prosperity Board with a nominated accountable body will allow Berkshire to accept funds from Government and together commission the core functions to address collective priorities.

The aim is that the first inaugural Joint Committee - Berkshire Prosperity Board meeting will be held in May 2024. Core members of the Joint Committee would include Bracknell Forest Council, Reading Borough Council, Slough Borough Council, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council.

Last modified: 31 January 2024 15:10

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