Oxford Liberal Democrats say that the Labour City Council’s proposed Economic Strategy will fail to deliver on its stated objectives of creating a more inclusive city and a zero carbon economy.
These two important goals, which the Lib Dems strongly support, will not be delivered by the high growth economic approach set out in the strategy.
In contrast, the proposed strategy will lead to an Oxford that is less affordable, less liveable and which serves only the elite few.
Oxford today has a sky-high cost of living, and is among the least affordable places in Britain. The cause is simple: fewer homes than there are people wanting to live here, drawn by a beautiful place with tremendous job opportunities, excellent schools and of course the universities.
Thousands who work in the city are pushed into commuting lifestyles that are bad for the planet as well as people's well-being. Of the Oxford City Council's own workforce, for example, nearly two thirds live outside the city. A key priority should be to reduce the need for travel by building more homes in the city. This strategy does the opposite.
Labour's plan sets out to dramatically increase the volume of high-tech businesses in the city. This will increase the pull to the city and push prices up even further. The plan's attempts to tackle Oxford's housing shortage will be undone by its own push for more companies, more offices and more labs.
The Liberal Democrat plan would put housing first. New developments such as the ambitious Oxpens development, which is set to attract 3000 workers to the city centre but provide only a few hundred homes, should be turned on their head, providing more living space for a city that desperately needs it. Any development that does take place should be built to the highest environmental standards.
Labour’s proposals also largely fail to address biodiversity. Developments in the city should be part of a strategy to retain and enhance our green spaces.
By focusing on the need for affordable housing before trying to grow the high-tech sector we can make Oxford more inclusive, get closer to net-zero carbon by reducing car commuting, and preserve a beautiful place to live.
The City Council should go back to the drawing board and develop a strategy based on inclusive approaches including doughnut economics, the circular economy and 15 minute neighbourhoods. The current proposals do little more than play lip-service to those ideas.