Oxford named as top UK city for economy and wellbeing for fourth year in a row

Published: Friday, 15th November 2019

Oxford has been named as the top UK city for economic success and wellbeing of the community for the fourth year in a row.

The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities report was created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as a response to the sense that cities need to look beyond GDP to measure economic success.

The report measures the performance of UK cities against 10 indicators: employment, health, income, skills, housing affordability, owner occupation, transport, environmental factors, income inequality, and new business start-ups.

Top index score in the UK

Oxford ranked as the top city in the UK with an index score of 1.09 – beating its 2018 index score of 1.03 and its score of 1.02 in the prior year.

Positive indicators

The city scored highest in the indicators for income (3.09), skills of those aged 25+ (2.55), jobs (2.45). All three of these measures scored higher than in 2018.

Negative indicators

Oxford received negative scores in the indicators for house price to earnings (-2.65), work-life-balance (-1.03) and transport (-0.30). The latter two improved on last year’s score, but the house price to earnings measure fell (from -2.33 in 2018).

Closest rivals

Oxford pulled away from the second and third place cities, which both saw their scores fall – Reading from 0.99 in 2018, to 0.95 in 2019; Southampton from 0.82 in 2018, to 0.79 in 2019.

Overall, the report said: “Oxford’s extension of its lead at the top of this year’s index reflects continued improvement across a range of measures, including work-life balance, skills, income and transport. Oxford also performs strongly across jobs and health, scoring within the top five cities for both of these variables.”

Local Enterprise Partnership

The index also compares Local Enterprise Partnerships across the country, and Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is again the highest scoring.

New Government data has found that poverty and deprivation levels in Oxford are improving. The English Indices of Deprivation – a report that is released every four years – found that this is likely in part because the city is more prosperous overall. However, the report also found that Oxford remains starkly unequal, and one area of the city remains within the 10% most deprived in England.

“It is obviously great to see proof of what we all know: that Oxford is a wonderful place to live and work. But we must not rest on our laurels, and Oxford City Council is committed to tackling inequality in the city.

“Through its Oxford Strategic Partnership and in partnership with OxLEP, the City Council is bringing together a range of expert voices to look at how we can develop a more inclusive economy here in Oxford. We want to ensure that benefits of continued growth are spread more evenly.

“We are already playing a part in building a more inclusive economy through the Oxford Living Wage, our focus on apprenticeships, our work with social enterprises, and by using our procurement to support local small businesses.

“We are also committed to building thousands of new genuinely affordable homes within and near the city to ensure that young people can afford live close to their workplaces, and their families.”

Gordon Mitchell, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council

“This report further underlines the continued and sustained strength of the Oxford economy – and indeed – the wider Oxfordshire economy too.

“As well as recognising our economic success, the report effectively highlights that we truly are a major asset to the UK economy. Not only are we currently one of just three net County areas that contribute to the exchequer with a GVA of £23bn a year – but we have genuine global assets that are growing from strength-to-strength.”

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP)

Read the Good Growth for Cities 2019 report.