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Leader of Oxford City Council joins our St John's College forum

Above: Cllr Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council (courtesy Oxford City Council)

The Leader of Oxford City Council, Cllr Susan Brown, will be joining our forum at St John's College, Oxford this September to discuss the economic growth and development of the city, based on its science investment and international talent.

Cllr Brown was educated at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Texas. She is Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Partnerships and as Leader of the Council, is a member of the Ox-Cam Arc Leaders group as well as the Oxfordshire LEP (OxLEP).

This forum follows on from Future Cities Forum's discussions last year in Oxford with investors, hospital leaders, architects and planners, looking at the way science campuses can evolve to attract international talent as well as affordable accommodation for hospital and lab workers. The issue of joined-up transport and housing in this successful and expanding science city was also investigated. This event will provide updates on these issues but also look at how the growing economy of the city can benefit its diverse population.

Oxford City Council has signed a new charter to underscore its commitment to making the local economy fairer for everyone. The Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership’s Charter, which was launched earlier this year, is a way for employers to show their commitment and support to making the county a fairer and more inclusive place to live and work.

As part of signing the charter, the City Council has made 13 pledges, including using local and purposeful suppliers, supporting employees to volunteer locally, hiring a diverse workforce, and providing work experience and apprenticeship opportunities for Oxford’s young people. The City Council’s progress and performance against the 13 pledges will be reported against annually and results shared on the City Council’s website. The City Council’s two companies, ODS and OX Place, have also signed the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership’s Charter.

The Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership is a coalition of more than 100 local organisations – including businesses, colleges/universities, community groups, and local government – working to share knowledge, expertise and resources to create a more equal region that provides opportunities and benefits for all residents. The work of the partnership is overseen by a steering group, which is co-chaired by Baroness Jan Royall, Principal of Somerville College and Chair of the Conference of Colleges, and Jeremy Long, Chair of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Oxfordshire is one of only three regions that contribute a surplus to the UK economy but, despite its global position and perceived affluence, the county’s wealth and opportunities are not evenly distributed.

Cllr Susan Brown commented:

“We are fortunate to have a strong economy in our city that is growing. But we need to ensure that it works for everyone who lives in Oxford.

“We already take many actions to share the wealth of our city with those who have least. We created and pay the Oxford Living Wage, and encourage others to do so. We buy from local businesses, provide apprenticeships for young people, and are building affordable business space.

“Signing up to these 13 pledges further underscores our commitment to this work, and we would encourage other businesses and organisations to follow suit and sign up to their own pledges to help make Oxford a fairer city.”

In further news, Oxford City Council is set to invest £37 million to transform a city centre cinema into a new community hub and much-needed aparthotel. The lease on 38-40 George Street, which currently operates as an Odeon cinema, runs out in September 2024. Since September 2022, the City Council has been carrying out a procurement exercise to find the best use for site over the coming years.

The highest scoring proposal will see the building demolished and redeveloped, with community space on the ground floor and an aparthotel on the upper five floors. The £37m new building would meet modern building standards – significantly reducing its environmental impact – and feature windows on all sides instead of the large blank walls of the existing building, so it will improve the atmosphere in Gloucester Green.

The proposal also includes social value commitments through the construction and lease term, including apprenticeships for Oxford youngsters and paying all staff at least the Oxford Living Wage, including to those working at the aparthotel. Odeon did not submit a proposal during the procurement process.

Crucially, the proposed hub will feature affordable, hireable space for community groups and social enterprises in the heart of the city centre, and will operate throughout the day and into the evening. There will be public consultation on the hub to make sure it meets the needs of residents and other people interested in the use of the space.

Oxford City Council’s City Centre Action Plan highlights the lack of community gathering spaces and live performance spaces in Oxford city centre. Oxford City Council’s City Centre Action Plan aims to encourage more hotels to open in Oxford city centre to boost the city centre’s economy. A 2015 report from Experience Oxfordshire found that those staying overnight spent, on average, about 1.5 times more than those on day trips. However, the report found that only 17% of the 6.6 million who visited Oxford each year stayed overnight, with 83% of visitors being day trippers.


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