Have your say – Council consults on strategic approach to Oxford’s economic recovery

Published: Monday, 22nd November 2021

Residents, businesses and local groups and organisations are being urged to have their say on two consultations being launched by Oxford City Council.

Both consultations focus on the city’s plans to promote long-term recovery from the pandemic, and to address some of the main challenges and opportunities for the continued success of our local economy.

The first consultation, on Oxford's Economic Strategy, outlines proposals on a range of development, infrastructure and economic development initiatives in line with other key plans and policies already in place for Oxford. The aim of the strategy is to maintain the city's position as a vibrant local economy, pursuing our aims of enabling our city to be a great place, to live and work, competing with other international cities while meeting the needs of local residents and transitioning to Net Zero.

You can read the Oxford Economic Strategy Consultation Draft document on our Consultation website.

The second consultation, the City Centre Action Plan, aims to help ensure the city centre continues to perform for the social, economic and environmental good of Oxford and its residents.

Its themes include: responding to the current challenges facing high street retail, creating a supportive environment for local businesses to thrive, and ensuring the city-wide focus on pursuing a zero carbon Oxford, supporting thriving communities and delivering more housing are also city centre priorities.

You can read the City Centre Action Plan Consultation Draft document on our Consultation website.

There will be a series of workshops for businesses and residents to discuss and have their say on the Action Plan’s main themes. Details will be available on the Consultation Portal.

Both plans have been developed at the same time to ensure they complement one another. It is intended that the consultation period for both plans will run to Wednesday 19 January 2022, and that the analysis will be going to Cabinet on Wednesday 16 March 2022.

Consultation on both documents will be supported by a number of workshops including:

1) Residents Forums

  • Wednesday 8 December 2021 12 - 2pm
  • Thursday 6 January 2022 6 - 8pm

2) Business & Partner Forums

  • 1x Joint Economic Strategy and City Centre Action Plan Workshop Wednesday 12 January 2022 12 - 2pm
  • Oxford Economic Strategy Workshop – Tuesday 14 December 12 -2pm 
  • 1x City Centre Action Plan Workshop Tuesday 11 January 10am to 12.30pm

Comment

“As Oxford’s economy begins to recover from the pandemic, our focus is on turning one of the most difficult periods in the city’s history to one of positive response and action. We are proud of the strong local economy that we have in Oxford, based on innovation and knowledge.

 “The City Council and our partners have developed both the Oxford Economic Strategy and the City Centre Action Plan to ensure Oxford fulfils its potential and role within the UK and globally, but in an inclusive, fair and green way.

“To do this, we not only have to respond to immediate challenges, but must also act to address the fundamental and systemic problems which exist in Oxford, the most significant being inequality.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

Background to the Oxford Economic Strategy and City Centre Action Plan

Best performing economy in the UK

Oxford has one of the best performing economies of any city in the UK. In 2019 it was ranked as having the best performing economy of any UK city for the fourth year in a row by PWC’s Good Growth for Cities report.

Oxford is one of a handful of net contributors to the UK‘s government finances, with a globally significant knowledge economy. Our City led the global response to COVID-19 with the development and local production of the AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine, among many other innovations.

After Covid-19 and Brexit, the Government needs places like Oxford to be successful because of our net contribution to the UK economy.

An unequal city

Yet, Oxford is one of the most unequal cities in the country based on income, deprivation and social mobility measures. The Social Mobility Index, which assess areas on prospects for disadvantaged young people, ranked Oxford 257 out of 343 local authorities for social mobility.

One of the main contributors to this is the high cost of living in Oxford. According to Centre for Cities, Oxford has the least affordable housing in the UK, with the average home costing 19 times average annual earnings. There are almost 3,000 families on the waiting list for council homes. The city is addressing this through building many more council homes, but we also need local employers to pay at least the Oxford Living Wage to ensure that people can afford to live locally.

Oxford also has a huge opportunity to contribute to the Net Zero agenda by providing economic space which is close to housing and public transport hubs, enabling people to reach their workplace through walking, cycling and public transport. Oxford’s economy is already leading the way nationally and internationally with a range of growing start-up companies developing innovations in renewables, energy storage, low carbon transport or construction. Investment in public transport and active travel infrastructure is seen as fundamental to the success of the economic strategy, particularly with investment in Oxford Station and the Cowley Branch Line alongside buses and cycling.

Oxford Economic Strategy

The Oxford Economic Strategy (OES) is the foundation for addressing the fundamental challenges influencing the wellbeing of the city’s poorest residents.

The strategy supports the City Council’s aim of having a local economy which serves all sections of the community, creating an inclusive, knowledge-based economy, with particular focus on science and climate change.

Working with partners, including Oxfordshire City Council, OxLEP, the University of Oxford and the Oxford Strategic Partnership, the Council aims to develop an Inclusive Economy Charter for both the wider county and Oxford itself to give communities more influence over their economic future.

Some of the initial areas of focus to create a more inclusive city are set out below.

  • Delivering efficient, more sustainable development at Oxford’s planned sites in a way that meets growing business demand in sustainable locations supported by public transport.
  • Delivering affordable workspace that supports local businesses and organisations providing security of tenure and lower risks to growth.
  • Further developing the Oxford Living Wage initiative (OLW) to embed the principle of a minimum standard of prosperity.
  • Supporting local people to better access skills, training and education opportunities to help them prosper and adapt to changes in the economy.
  • Supporting and encouraging more socially and environmentally responsible businesses practices in Oxford.

The partners are interested in ideas and suggestions from residents and business decision makers on the following:

  • Have we identified the right themes and guiding principles for Oxford’s Economic Strategy? What might be missing?
  • Which of the areas for action should be a priority and which not?
  • Innovative ideas to deliver against the strategy’s guiding principles
  • Suggestion from people interested in participating and collaborating on the next stages of delivering Oxford’s Economic Strategy?

City Centre Action Plan

The City Centre Action Plan has been drawn together by Oxford City Council on behalf of all the city’s stakeholders, and is intended to guide policy and actions by all those responsible from now until 2030.

The plan looks at the city centre’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and then focuses on four workstreams:

  1. ‘Connectivity and Access’ – congestion, traffic and travel.
  2.  ‘Public Realm and Animation’ – the look and feel of the city centre.
  3. ‘Getting the mix right’ – making the city a good place to start, maintain and grow a business.
  4. ‘Getting the basics right’ - promoting the diverse range of activities and people in the city centre.

Under each workstream sits a series of projects identified to deliver against the objectives over time.

An overriding objective of the City Centre Action Plan is to ensure it is well placed to support the inclusive economy ambitions set out in Oxford's city-wide Economic Strategy. As well as commenting on what’s set out in the draft, the consultation also asks residents, businesses and local groups and organisations to consider how they use Oxford City Centre as a place to live, work or study and suggest what changes they might like to see.

The City Centre Action Plan development and engagement project is receiving funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

CCAP EU Funding