Poverty and deprivation across Oxford have reduced but the city remains starkly unequal - new figures

Published: Friday, 8th November 2019

Relative poverty and deprivation levels across Oxford have reduced over the last four years but the city remains starkly unequal, new national figures have shown.

The Government’s English Indices of Deprivation 2019 brings together data – including on income, employment, health, education, crime, housing, and living environment – to compare the relative deprivation of areas across the country.

The figures are produced once every four years.

The new figures have revealed that overall Oxford has improved from being the 166th most deprived local authority area across England in 2014, to the 182th most deprived area in 2019, relative to other parts of the country.

Across Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire have remained amongst the least deprived districts across all of England – but Cherwell has become noticeably more deprived over the last four years, relative to other parts of the country.

In Oxford, there are no longer any local areas in the bottom 10% for income deprivation relative to other parts of the country, compared with three areas in 2015. In addition, one thousand fewer children are now living in poverty – a reduction of 20% in just four years, from 5,125 children in 2015 to 4,110 children in 2019.

On top of this, an area of Rose Hill is no longer included among the 10% most deprived areas in England, leaving just one area of Oxford – part of Greater Leys – in this position.

However, educational attainment among children remains a significant issue in Oxford, with 11 of its 83 local areas among the 10% most educationally deprived in England.

Meanwhile, there are now 12 local areas – across Headington, Jericho, Marston, North Oxford, Quarry and Risinghurst, and Wolvercote – that are amongst the 10% least deprived of England’s communities, compared to seven in 2015.

The data does not provide clear evidence for the reason for the changes. However, alongside significant investment from Oxford City Council into the city’s most deprived communities, it is possible that some of Oxford’s more deprived families have moved out of the city due to its unaffordability and settled in neighbouring towns in Cherwell, including Bicester and Banbury.

Key findings of the report

The Indices of Deprivation 2019 figures bring together 39 separate sets of data to provide relative information about 83 local areas across the city – comprising about 700 homes in each area.

Some of the key overall findings of the report include:

  • An area of Rose Hill (Oxford 016E) that was in the top 10% of most deprived communities across England in 2015 is now in the top 20%. This means Northfield Brook (Oxford 018B) is now the only area in the 10% decile
  • Areas of Oxford in the 20% most deprived are: Parts of The Leys (Oxford 017A, Oxford 017B, Oxford 018A, Oxford 017D and Oxford 018C), Barton (Oxford 005B), Littlemore (Oxford 016A) and Carfax (Oxford 008B)
  • An area of Barton (Oxford 005A) and Rose Hill (Oxford 016F) have moved from the 20% to the 30% between 2015 and 2019, but an area of Carfax (Oxford 008B) and Littlemore (Oxford 016A) have moved from the 30% to the 20%
  • Twelve areas of Oxford – parts of Headington, Jericho, Marston, North Oxford, Quarry and Risinghurst, and Wolvercote – are now in the top 10% of least deprived communities in England, compared to seven areas in 2015
  • Of the 83 areas in Oxford, 41 have remained in the same decile as 2015; 34 have increased by one decile – becoming relatively less deprived; and seven have fallen by one decile – becoming relatively more deprived. One only area, St Mary’s (Oxford 011G), moved two deciles – from the 50% most deprived decile to the 70% – becoming significantly less deprived
  • Overall, in 2015, 22% of Oxford’s 83 areas were in the bottom three deciles and 30% were in the top tree deciles – now Oxford has 20% of areas in the bottom three deciles and 39% in the top three deciles
  • In total, 63 of Oxford’s 83 local areas have a higher ranking (although may remain in the same decile as before) than they did in 2015 – meaning they are relatively less deprived

To read more about the key findings for Oxford, read the City Council's Indices of Deprivation 2019 Oxford Report.

City Council work to tackle inequality

Oxford City Council has invested millions of pounds over recent years to help the city’s most deprived communities, particularly Barton, Rose Hill and The Leys (including Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys).

This investment has included £9m on the new Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, which opened in 2015; £5m on the new Rose Hill Community Centre, which opened in 2016; and £1m on refurbishing Barton Neighbourhood Centre, which was opened by Prince Harry earlier this year. The City Council has also invested millions of pounds to refurbish all five of Oxford’s tower blocks over recent years.

The City Council also provides £1.4m of grant funding annually, which is largely targeted to Oxford’s most deprived communities, alongside organising or funding job clubs, open access to computers, IT training, free swimming sessions, reduced admission to leisure centres, health walks and activities, and youth clubs.

A great deal of the City Council’s work aims to tackle health deprivation, which has significantly improved across Oxford in the last four years – the city moved from the 160th most deprived local authority area in England in 2015 to the 183rd in 2019.

In 2015, 12 areas of Oxford were amongst the 20% most deprived and two were amongst the 10% for health deprivation and disability; in 2019, this improved to seven areas in the 20% most deprived and one in the 10%. The one area in the 10% most deprived, Carfax, is probably due to the concentration of provision for homeless people in the city centre.

Oxford’s strong economy a key factor

The data indicates that Oxford is, overall, is a more prosperous city now than it was in 2015 – and it is likely that this is one of the reasons why deprivation has improved across the city.

Oxford is now the 64th least deprived district across England for employment. There are just five areas of the city within the 20% most deprived, and none in the 10% most deprived.

Oxford has been repeatedly named as having one of the strongest economies of any city in the country. The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities report, for example, has named Oxford as being the top UK city for economy success and wellbeing of communities for three years in a row.

The City Council – alongside partners include University of Oxford colleges – is focused on further improving the economy, particularly the knowledge-based economy, to help tackle unemployment from the automation of existing industries. Developments including Oxford North, Oxpens, and Osney Mead Industrial Estate aim to provide start-up space for high-tech university spin-outs.

However, one of the challenges for local authorities in Oxfordshire is ensuring the city’s economy benefits everyone in society. The new data showed that educational attainment among children is relatively poor in the city, with 11 local areas in Oxford in the bottom decile for educational attainment – compared with just one in Vale of White Horse and two in West Oxfordshire.

Need for new homes

Although there is no definitive evidence that more deprived families have moved out of Oxford due to the unaffordability of the city, there is no question that the city continues to experience a significant shortage of affordable housing.

One indication that gentrification could underpin the numbers is that Cherwell, where housing is significantly cheaper than Oxford, has seen a sharp fall in its deprivation ranking – dropped from the 251st most deprived local authority area in England in 2015 to the 217th in 2019.

Oxford is regularly listed as being the least affordable place to buy a house in the country. In February, Lloyds Bank found that the average house price in Oxford is £460,184 – 12 times the average annual earnings in the city.

There are currently about 3,000 families on the waiting list to receive social housing in Oxford. In November 2017, 60% of the households on the register were under the age of 44, and half had dependent children.

Oxford City Council is the only local authority in Oxfordshire to have retained its council housing. It currently has about 7,800 homes in its stock, and more is being built across the city – including at the 885-home development Barton Park, where 40% of the homes (354) will be for social rent.

“Oxford is an exciting, dynamic and booming city. It is a city people can come to study, to earn money, and to raise a family. But Oxford has always been a city of two halves – of haves and have-nots.

“It has been Oxford City Council’s mission for a long time to tackle this inequality. I am pleased that across much of the city indicators of deprivation have improved, and it is very positive particularly to see Barton is no longer one of most deprived communities in England.

“Oxford’s local authorities, businesses, charities and community groups, are working together to create the circumstances and the city within which a large number of people can raise themselves out of poverty, and improve their and their children’s life chances.

“But there is still a long way to go. We need to ensure that this improvement continues and that it is inclusive. Oxford has an exciting future ahead of it, with huge investment happening right across the city. We need to ensure that everyone can benefit from that economic success and that the chances are there for local people to improve their skills and income levels.

“Finally, we need to ensure that young people – who we will need to hand this city over to – are able to afford to live near their places of work, their friends, and their family, and are not forced out of the city because they can’t afford to live here.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council