The Grant Thornton Vibrant Economy Index has named Oxford city as the top-ranking area in the UK in terms of community, trust and belonging. However, the city does less well on measures of equality and health.
The new index acknowledges that there is more to the wellbeing of society than pure economic growth. Alongside traditional measures of success such as gross value added (GVA), average workplace earnings and employment levels, the index brings in other datasets relating to inclusive and sustainable growth, such as equality, health and happiness, environment and community.
On one of the six ‘basket’ measures, Oxford ranks top of all areas across the UK: community, trust and belonging. The report says: “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.
However, Oxford scored less well on measures of inclusion and equality (140th in the UK), and health, wellbeing and happiness (173rd), ranking well below other parts of the UK such as Darlington, Stroud and Rutland on both baskets. The equality measure takes into account the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, housing affordability and homelessness, and child poverty, amongst others; and the health measure takes in factors such as levels of obesity, hours worked, anxiety and diabetes prevalence.
This reflects findings in OCF’s Oxfordshire Uncovered report, which revealed that despite overall wealth and prosperity, Oxfordshire is characterised by pockets of quite shocking deprivation, with struggling families living cheek by jowl with millionaires. Areas of The Leys and Rose Hill in Oxford are amongst the 10% most deprived communities in the country, and men from the most deprived area of Oxford die, on average, 9.3 years younger than those from the least deprived.