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Thames Valley: Oxford leads other areas for 'vibrant economy'

By Dan Teuton
2 May 2017

The Thames Valley is home to some of the most dynamic business environments in the UK, but has pockets of social deprivation that could hinder growth, data from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s Vibrant Economy Index has revealed.

Oxford was placed second out of 324 local authorities in England, scoring 108.54, following closely behind Cambridge for the national crown. While other council areas in the Thames Valley performed highly overall – with 12 of the 15 scoring in the top 20% nationally, and four appearing in the top 10 – the research also identified those areas that, it is claimed, are falling short.

Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy Index ranks every local authority in England on its ‘vibrancy’, providing an indication of social performance as well as economic factors. Places were measured by 52 key factors across key performance indicators – prosperity; dynamism and opportunity; inclusion and equality; health, wellbeing and happiness; resilience and sustainability; and community, trust and belonging – and awarded an overall ‘vibrancy’ score, with 100 being the average.

Oxford came top nationally in the community trust and belonging indicator, which measures factors including community assets, cultural amenities, violent crimes and ethnic diversity. In contrast, Slough is ranked 323rd, with a score of 82.25. The town’s score was hindered by below average community assets (museums, galleries and other cultural venues), at 2.13 per 1,000 of the population, compared with the national average of 3.75, and low voter turn-out (51% compared with the England average of 64%).

According to the Index, the Thames Valley scored above average across the board for dynamism and opportunity, with Oxford, the Vale of White Horse and Wokingham all making the national top ten. In particular, the proportion of the population with high-level skills – NVQ level 4 (degree level) or above – in Oxford is around double the national average (63.5%, compared to the national average of 36.7%). The number of patents granted in the region ranked highest in the Vale of White Horse, at 187.6 per 100,000 of the population, versus the England average of 46.7.

Jim Rogers, practice leader at Grant Thornton Thames Valley, said: “Our region is an engine for growth in the UK and Oxford in particular is booming. It’s not surprising that so many areas of the Thames Valley score highly, particularly for business dynamism. We’re blessed with excellent transport networks, some of the best brains from local universities and a collective of ambitious businesses with big aspirations to thrive.

“But for the Thames Valley to achieve its full potential as a national economic and societal powerhouse, we need to ensure that this prosperity can also impact positively on other vital factors such as health, happiness and social inclusion. It’s great to see Oxford scoring highly across a wide range of measures, but there are serious issues in other areas that will require close collaboration to address.”