Oxford has been named the most vibrant community in England as part of a new report measuring the economy success of regions across the country.
Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy Index measures economic success of 324 local authority areas in England across six baskets of social and economic indicators.
The aim of the report is to measure economies beyond gross value added, average workplace earnings or employment levels by including indicators such as social equality, sustainability, and the health and happiness of residents.
Oxford was named as the ninth most vibrant local economy across England, and fourth most vibrant in the South East.
However, the city topped the “community, trust and belonging” indicator. Grant Thornton defines this as: “Vibrant communities have a lively and creative cultural life, and a clear identity that all its people are proud of. People feel safe, engage in community activities and trust the integrity of businesses and institutions.”
The indicator includes data on voter turnout rates, violent crimes per 1,000 residents, the number of people aged 65 or over living alone, cultural amenities, community assets and the ethnic diversity of the area.
Oxford has a wealth of cultural venues – ranging from world-famous venues such as the Ashmolean Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to community venues like Pegasus Theatre – and a wide range of events, including Common People Oxford, Cowley Road Carnival and May Morning.
The city is also ethnically diverse, with 22% of residents from a black or minority ethnic background (compared to 13% in England) – and the diversity is increasing, with the child population considerably more diverse than the older.
Oxford City Council promotes the city’s culture and communities, including by providing £1.4m of grants to community groups every year; helping to organise more than 300 events in the city every year; and managing facilities including Oxford Town Hall, the Museum of Oxford, 19 community centres, five leisure centres and 300-acres of parks and open spaces.
Grant Thornton also ranked Oxford as ninth across England for the “dynamism and opportunity” indicator, which the organisation defines as local authority areas that are “dynamic, entrepreneurial and innovative”.
Data used in this measurement include business formation rate, skills and qualifications of residents, the percentage of people employed in research and development, and the number of patents granted in the area.
Oxford is a national centre for the knowledge-based economy. The Centres for Cities found that Oxford had the highest percentage of knowledge-intensive jobs in the country (71%), and had the second highest number of residents with degree-level qualifications (43%).
The City Council, working with Oxfordshire’s other councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership as part of the Growth Board, recently secured £215m of Government funding to grow the county’s knowledge-based economy and build more houses.
However, despite being a relatively affluent area overall, areas of The Leys and Rose Hill are amongst the 10% most deprived communities in the country. Men from the most deprived area of Oxford die, on average, 9.3 years younger than those from the least deprived.
The City Council focusses resources on these areas to help tackle poverty. Recent investment in facilities has included the £9m Leys Pools and Leisure Centre and the £4m Rose Hill Community Centre, and the City Council also provides a range of grants and support services for benefit claimants and those looking to find work.
Gordon Mitchell, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council, said: “Oxford has a vibrant and thriving local economy, and strong and cohesive communities. The City Council is working with partners to ensure that continues long into the future.
“A large part of our work and our investment at the City Council goes into tackling poverty and inequality to help ensure that the city’s prosperity can be enjoyed by everyone.”