Reading ready for recession
Reading is in a strong position to weather the recession according to Chancellor Alistair Darling. Mr Darling paid a visit to Reading town centre along with Regional Minister for the South East Jonathan Shaw.
Mr Darling visited Reading restaurants Sushi 108 and Picnic along with Mr Shaw, chatting to business owners and shoppers about how they were faring in these troubled economic times.
Speaking to BBC Berkshire reporter Patrick O'Hagan, Mr Darling said people he spoke to said Reading town centre was 'much improved'.
Reading town centre
He said: "What's important is creating the atmosphere where people want to come and visit, want to come and shop, and want to come and do business. Reading is an important place in the South East, a place we want to see develop.
"Life is tough for a lot of businesses just now, not just selling in this country but as conditions have deteriorated abroad and for our exporters it's been quite a blow to some companies.
"We need to do everything we possibly can to help businesses because we'll need them as we come through to recovery and for the future. A lot of the help is coming through the banking system, our job is to step up our efforts to get more of that help and get it quickly."
And Tony McNulty talked to staff at a Jobcentre Plus in Reading to see if they were coping well with the demands of the economic downturn.
Jonathan Shaw told BBC Berkshire's Phil Kennedy that the trip had helped ministers get in touch with people at the 'coalface' such as business leaders, trade unions and also people who deliver key public services such as job centre plus.
He said: "Of course people are anxious and that's why we need to be getting around the country, coming to important places like the Thames Valley which are important not just for the economy of the South East, but overall for the future of our country.
"We are seeing job losses, for example Yell have 300 jobs in Slough and Reading, but there is job creation as well. The Engineering and Physical Science Research Council has just created 44 science job which is very important to this part of the country.
"Of course there are job losses, and this is very painful for people and their families but there is some job creation as well. It's a mixed picture across the South East."
Mr Shaw said that owners of small businesses had told him they were starting to benefit from a new enterprise scheme started by the government.
He said: "I met the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland to talk about how to help companies. They have a target fund of £250million to lend to successful companies, "They're not going to lend when companies are going out of business, but they will help to keep them in business so they can continue to succeed.
"I don't pretend for a minute this isn't a difficult situation for people, but what we are doing is giving real help now to make sure this recession doesn't go as deep as it is feared.
"This area has been doing very well, and I think many businesses are continuing to do very well.
"We're putting in £400million to make sure the Reading Station development happens. That's important not just for Reading but for businesses and communities all around the Berkshire area.
"We'll continue to invest in Reading to make sure that Reading continues to play its important part not just in the South East economy but in the UK economy as well."
last updated: 04/03/2009 at 12:00
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