Agenda item

Agenda item

Oxford's Economic Strategy - Consultation Report and Recommendations

Cabinet, at its meeting on 15 June 2022, will consider a report from the Director of Development on Oxford’s Economic Strategy.

Cllr Susan Brown, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Partnerships, and Matt Peachey, Economic Development Manager, have been invited to present the report and answer questions.

The Committee is asked to consider the report and may wish to make recommendations to Cabinet.



Evelyn Sanderson from Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment addressed the meeting. She said that 80% of respondents to the consultation had felt that the Strategy had not fully captured the issues. In her view this feedback had been either dismissed or addressed only in minor ways in the report before the Committee. Oxford had 99% employment and jobs growth in sectors such as life sciences would only serve to exacerbate inequality. The Strategy would also not support the aim of achieving net zero by 2040. Only one individual who identified as being from a BAME group had responded to the consultation. Members had insufficient time to digest the report prior to its adoption by Cabinet and it should be deferred to enable further engagement and work on the aims of the Strategy and to ensure that it would be coherent, deliverable and fit for the future.


Councillor Susan Brown, Leader and Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Partnerships, introduced the report and clarified that the Strategy aimed to address existing planned growth, as set out in Local Plans, and ensure that growth would be inclusive. The Strategy reflected a range of other strategies related to housing, planning, etc. but was focused specifically on the economy. The work on the Strategy had started pre-pandemic and there had been a good level of engagement from residents and stakeholders. The context was that notwithstanding the national economic challenges, Oxford’s economy was growing strongly and this was clearly evident, for example in the increasing demand for workspaces. It was necessary for the City to plan for the growth that was happening.


The Economic Development Manager added that the Council had done its best to listen to the consultation feedback. The inclusion and zero carbon themes had been well supported but the global theme less so, and efforts had been made to make this clearer. Oxford had a globally significant and impactful economy and it was about making that impact positive, it wasn’t about greed or globalisation. Lots of work was underway to manage growth in an inclusive way, such as the Meanwhile in Oxfordshire programme, the Oxford Living Wage, affordable workspaces, the Oxford flood alleviation scheme, and community employment benefits from major developments such as Oxford North. It was accepted that there was a need to engage better with BAME groups and young people in particular.


In discussion it was noted that:

·         Consulting on strategy documents was inherently difficult so the Council used a Citizen Panel to test consultation approaches and there had also been workshops offered, but poorly attended. There was a need to consider different ways of engaging with diverse groups.

·         The term “affordable housing” could be taken to mean different things and it was important to clarify that the Council was primarily talking about social housing and, to a lesser extent, shared ownership and keyworker housing schemes.

·         The existing pressure on the city’s infrastructure was a concern although the city was the most sustainable location for growth within the county, as a population centre with good transport links.

·         The UK had a centralised system of government and local authorities needed more powers to address local challenges, such as the power to levy a tourism tax. As the Council had limited levers available to make interventions in the economy the Strategy was to some extent aimed at influencing partners.

·         Technical and science based jobs were not for everyone but the strategy also dealt with the visitor economy, retail and the third sector, although there should be more emphasis given to the contribution the third sector and trade unions make to an inclusive economy.

·         The Economic Growth Board was being expanded and the diversity of that board was crucial; it was suggested that the membership should include trade union representation.

·         The Council had successfully bid for external funding to support co-operatives and build capacity in that sector. Five new co-ops had been seed funded but it was regrettable that a significant and longstanding Oxford retailer had decided not to become a co-operative.

·         It was suggested that there should be a bio-diversity metric and consideration should be given to where that would sit.

·         The ratio of working age employees who live in the city was of interest. The Office for National Statistics did report a local job density figure which measured this.

·         Brexit was leading to staff shortages in a number of key sectors.

·         There was a need to consider how to communicate the balance struck between different priorities, such as the Doughnut Economics model.

·         The Strategy reflected a range of other strategies. A number of issues that were raised around public transport, active travel, transport strategy, air quality, food production, and land usage, such as sites for housing and the protection of green spaces, where not unrelated to the economy but were being addressed elsewhere.


The Committee resolved to make the following recommendations to Cabinet:

1.    That the Council seeks to more effectively engage with diverse communities as part of future consultation exercises, with a focus on using different methods of engagement to get responses from a wider demographic – and in particular increased responses from minoritised groups and young people.

2.    That the Council clarifies the definition of affordable housing being used within Oxford’s Economic Strategy.

3.    That the Council seeks to have Trade Union representation on the Economic Growth Steering Board.

4.    That the Council makes explicit reference to Trade Unions within Oxford’s Economic Strategy.

5.    That the Council makes reference to the Third Sector within Oxford’s Economic Strategy and ensures a bigger focus on the Third Sector’s contribution to the local economy.

6.    That the Council includes reference to biodiversity under the ‘environmental success factor’ outlined in Oxford’s Economic Strategy.

7.    That the Council develops an additional Key Performance Indicator ratio based on the number of working age people living in Oxford and number of jobs in the City for inclusion in Oxford’s Economic Strategy.

8.    That the Council seeks to develop a clearer way of demonstrating how competing priorities (economic vs. social and environmental) have been assessed.

9.    That the Council makes explicit reference to Brexit and the challenges it brings within Oxford’s Economic Strategy





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