Oxford City Council keen to engage with residents on future of Oxford’s economy

Published: Monday, 24th January 2022

Oxford City Council has announced an extension to the public consultation period on its Oxford Economic Strategy until Monday 31 January so that more residents get a chance to respond.

Two new studies underline the importance of ongoing support for Oxford’s economy.

Cities Outlook 2022 – Centre for Cities’ annual economic assessment of the UK’s largest urban areas found Oxford city centre to be amongst the worst hit cities in the country, during the pandemic, for loss of sales and impact on vacant units.

Through 2021 however, Oxford, recovered well, with high take up of retail units, and decreasing vacancy rates, in part due to a range of measures taken to support local businesses and reshape the High Street.

In Autumn 2021, Oxford’s vacancy rate had improved to 4.2% of units available for occupancy, well below the national average.

The Centre for Cities research also found the Pandemic has cost many places in the South East more than half a year's worth of high street sales, and central Oxford was worst affected, losing 41 weeks of sales between the first lockdown and Omicron's onset.

At the same time, new research from Experience Oxfordshire has found Oxford city was the most severely impacted across Oxfordshire, with a decline in visitor spend of 66% and 51% decline in jobs in the sector.

The report shows how important the visitor economy is to Oxford and the loss of over £665million to the local economy is of great concern to the City Council.

The City Council continues to support businesses impacted specifically in the visitor economy sector with a range of grants and continues to prioritise those most impacted through our funding.

The Council welcomed the significant recent engagement from residents on the draft Economic Strategy and is encouraging all residents, and businesses, to review its proposals and provide responses to the detailed questions on its consultation portal https://consultation.oxford.gov.uk/regeneration-economy/oxfords-economic-strategy-consultation-survey/, or submit a written response to mpeachey@oxford.gov.uk.

The draft Economic Strategy builds on the Oxford 2050 Vision and Oxford 2036 Local Plan, and is being developed over a long period with extensive engagement and input. Its three pillars place equal weight on:

  1. Enabling a more inclusive economy
  2. Becoming a stronger global city
  3. Moving towards a zero carbon economy

It aims to challenge traditional ways of working to guarantee a minimum standard of economic and social prosperity for all of Oxford’s residents.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said:

“Our city needs to face up to and address some significant economic challenges.

“The Council has collated a range of evidence on the stark inequality faced in Oxford in terms of educational, health, income disparities and issues with affordability.

“It is clear that the local economy must meet the needs of local residents and as we have seen, Oxford has been hard hit economically by the pandemic, but is also well placed to recover.

“Our Oxford Economic Strategy sets out to ensure that the recovery is an equitable one for all of Oxford’s citizens and one that helps us to reach our climate goals. Our global reputation for innovation in both health and environment must be used to help our city and our citizens to reach their potential.

“We have been listening to resident feedback on the strategy since launching our consultation on 22 November. I am pleased that local residents share our interest in Oxford’s economic future and have extended the consultation period in response to requests for even more time for people to share their views.

“We are seeking input on how we can ensure that we are meeting the employment needs of residents, including around skills, training and education. We have also asked what we might have missed for comment.

“It is important to say that there has been some misinformation about what the Strategy proposes. For example, the Economic Strategy has no role in proposing new roads and does not propose creating more jobs than housing – indeed it recognises the challenge of affordable housing, the delivery of which is a key priority for the council but covered elsewhere.

“The Council is following the homes and employment space allocations already made in Oxford Local Plan 2036 and neighbouring local plans. We are not proposing any new roads or sites for development in this strategy.

“Our Draft Economic Strategy is based on achieving a future for Oxford that involves, less traffic, more active travel and house building which are at the heart of a raft of measures the council is taking forward through other existing strategies held jointly with Oxfordshire County Council such as our plans for the Zero Emission Zone and the Connecting Oxford proposals as well as the city’s house building programme delivered through the ongoing work of the Council’s housing company.

“I urge residents to read the strategy for themselves and welcome comments on it.”

Key recent actions the City Council has taken include:

  • Meanwhile in Oxfordshire - £1.875m programme to bring long-term vacant units into re-use and provide affordable space for independent business, ethical retailers, social enterprises and community groups
  • Repurposing Highways and pavements for outside dining across the city, providing 95 licenses to local businesses in order to do so
  • Kick Start work placements – Oxford City Council has worked with local SMEs to create around 130 paid placements for 16-24 year olds on Universal credit
  • Repurposing buildings such as 1-3 George St to provide affordable and flexible workspace for small business
  • c£60m in grants and £74m in business rate relief (so far) for those businesses affecting by the Pandemic
  • Working with Network Rail and Oxfordshire County Council to secure investment Oxford Station including new platform and Western entrance.