New report warns Government not to take Oxford’s post-Covid economic recovery for granted

Published: Friday, 5th March 2021

joint press release from Centre for Cities and Oxford City Council

Centre for Cites think tank and the Fast Growth Cities have today warned the Government not to overlook the risk that COVID-19 could have on Oxford’s long-term prosperity as they unveil a blueprint for the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, Oxford had one of the fastest growing local economies in the UK, was an important source of employment for people far beyond its council boundaries and its success contributed to the strength of the national economy.

However, Oxford has not escaped the economic damage done by the pandemic and could be at risk of being ‘levelled down’ without further support for people and businesses from the Government.

Currently, 4.4% of eligible adults in the city are claiming unemployment-related benefits, an increase of 2.4 percentage points compared to last March. Additionally, 12.7% of workers in Oxford are being supported by the furlough scheme.

Just as Oxford’s success was important for the UK economy pre-COVID, its recovery will be vital in ensuring the wider region and the country bounces back quickly from the pandemic. 

The Centre for Cities / Fast Growth Cities blueprint for recovery focuses on six key areas for Oxford to focus on:

  • Labour market skills and education
  • Businesses and growth
  • High streets and city centres
  • Housing and planning
  • Transport
  • Economic impact of Covid-19

In the short-term it urges the Government to ensure that firms in Oxford can make the most of the financial support on offer such as business support loans that are available.

In the longer term, Government support for Oxford’s future economic growth should focus on providing adults with better education opportunities, continuing to attract high-skilled, high-paying businesses into the city, and building more homes to increase affordability in the city.

Centre for Cities and Fast Growth Cities also call on the Government to devolve more power and money away from Whitehall and to the council.

Separately, the Leader of Oxford City Council, together with fellow leaders of the Fast Growth Cities, have urged the Government to move forward with plans for investment in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc of which Oxford is part. They have called on the Government to extend the planned East-West Rail project to Swindon and Norwich and to electrify the line – a move which would help meet the Government’s ambition for a zero-carbon future.

“Oxford has seen several years of economic growth which have benefited people living in the city and the whole UK through its growing contribution to the Treasury. However, it would be a mistake to think that it has escaped the economic damage done by COVID-19 and will need support to bounce back.

“In the short-term, practical measures to help Oxford’s businesses reopen will be necessary, but in the long-term, more substantive changes to skills and training are needed to protect people’s jobs from economic crashes.”
Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter

”This important report reflects on the vital role that cities like Oxford play in the national economy. We already know that the research, innovation and ideas that are generated in our city make it an exciting place to live - but they also attract in investment and jobs. We want Oxford’s economy to work better for all our citizens. We need the investment in skills, training, education and housing to give all our citizens a chance of a good job and a decent home. We can deliver for the UK but we need to make sure that we get the right investment now to recover our economy.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council