Will City status be good for Reading, Bournemouth or Dorchester?

Reading Town Centre

The Berkshire town of Reading is hoping that it is third time lucky for their application to be called a city.

Last time the council got as far as putting up signs pointing to the city-centre. They weren't official - just a stunt that only really revealed how little support the bid had gathered.

But now Reading is the bookies' favourite - at 9/1. Two other towns from the South are also in the running - Bournemouth at 33/1 and Dorchester at 25/1.

You can see why the Reading team are optimistic about their chances. This is one of the most commercially successful parts of Berkshire. Business parks are packed with thrusting technology companies, The Oracle shopping centre has transformed the riverside.

There's the connection with Royalty, with Windsor just down the road. And Prince William married Kate Middleton - born in Reading's Royal Berkshire Hospital.

The University of Reading has a lovely campus and an international reputation.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Could it be Reading City FC in future?

The Royals football team just missed out on promotion back into the Premier League, and the Madjeski Stadium is a lot smarter than the one belonging to the Welsh city - Swansea - who beat them.

What's it worth to be called a city?

But what about the cost?

They're still arguing about it in Brighton and Hove. The two sides of town had to get together to combine forces to win the honour as part of the millennium celebrations.

One council using two town halls may have been ahead of its time, but the tensions between East and West of the new city still run deep.

Have they attracted any more tourists? Was it worth the expensive lobbying process and the change of stationery and signs, just so you could talk about "the city-centre" rather than "the town"?

In Berkshire the Wokingham MP John Redwood has expressed fears of his neighbouring borough's expansionist tendencies.

Across the Thames in Oxfordshire John Howells warned of potential trouble saying "The town has always seemed to have a very aggressive approach. How different would a city be from the town in tackling major emotive issues such as transport, including the long-running possibility of a new bridge across the Thames?"

Slim-line application

The Government department submitting bids to the Queen has insisted that applications should be simple: A maximum of five A4 pages is allowed for the introduction, no more than 50 photographs.

There are 26 towns bidding for city status, and 12 cities who've applied for the upgrade to a Lord Mayor. The result will be announced early in 2012.

But Reading has many reasons to be hopeful.

Oscar Wilde was forced to spend time in the town's famous gaol, but many other modern celebrities are proud to boast their Reading connections including Sam Mendes, Kate Winslet, Ricky Gervais, Jacqueline Bisset, and Marianne Faithfull.

In a House of Commons debate this week Reading Conservative MP Alok Sharma praised Reading's continued economic growth, saying "Biscuits, bulbs and beer have given way to IT, industry and innovation. We are an undoubted economic powerhouse."

Reading was once an alternative to the Westminster Parliament, in fact a King of England - Henry 1st, William the Conqueror's son, is buried in the Abbey ruins.

Some say it was the presence of the Abbey that meant Reading never had a Cathedral - the old-fashioned test of a city.

Surely now it must be time to put that right.

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