Talks are due to take place to discuss a devolution deal for Berkshire.

Cllr Andrew Johnson, leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, told guests at the first RBWM Business Summit at Ascot Racecourse on March 8, that discussions with Government are about to start over a deal to boost the area.

Berkshire’s six unitary authorities, along with support from Berkshire LEP, have had informal talks about seeking a deal.

Cllr Johnson believes the county, which is one of the most productive in the UK, should be included among deals currently on offer to various UK regions including some of the major areas such as Greater Manchester and West Midlands.

Cllr Johnson said Berkshire needs to convince both Michael Gove and his Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Treasury.

He said: “We thought it was about time that Berkshire, collectively, showed a bit of ambition in terms of what we can offer as a place and as a local economy.

“And I think it’s fair to say we are well-positioned, as Berkshire, to bounce back quickly from the economic downturn. The fundamentals of growth are here. The Berkshire LEP area has some of the highest, if not the highest, levels of productivity in the UK – that is a phenomenal stat.

“But we believe we can do even better. We are more resilient as an area, more agile, we have a higher skills base – and we are capable of leading that recovery.

“We are also very fortunate to have a broad range of top performing, innovative businesses, including all of you here today, and the potential to attract significant further investments into the area.

“We all have a key role to play in the levelling-up agenda but it does strike me that we can’t level up the rest of the United Kingdom without growing the areas of highest productivity first. That is going to be a central pitch to Government.”

He suggested an effective productivity partnership is required where investment in Berkshire will unlock growth which could subsequently fund growth in other parts of the country.

He went on: “Without being too presumptuous about it, we do feel that that is a very powerful message, not only to Michael Gove and DLUHC, but also to the Treasury as well.

“It’s the Treasury that really matters. They are desperate for growth, they need it and we are in the prime position to deliver that additionality for the rest of the United Kingdom.

“That, as a local leader, makes me very proud. There are not many parts of the country that have the ability to do that, even in fair economic winds. At the moment we are really one of the few that have the potential offer of equality back to Government.

“It’s not about us asking for more money. It’s about us putting on the table a package of measures that could really help turbo charge the local economy, the Berkshire economy, the Thames Valley economy and the national economy as well.”

Cllr Johnson also revealed the Royal Borough is in discussion with a potential investor about an affordable housing deal, aimed at attracting what he called ‘economically-critical workers’.

He said: “We are in discussions with a potential major investor about putting together a significant package of discount market rent or discount market sale affordable housing, targeted specifically at key industrial and business sectors – and also the public sector.

“We think that will give us the ability to offer a distinct, yet incredibly valuable offer, both to Governments and existing businesses and also to those who wish to relocate and expand within the Royal Borough.”

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