Building the local economy

Greens want to help build a stronger local economy to work in the interests of our communities, not those of big corporations. We need a thriving mix of shops, offices and cafes - not a bland copy of all the national chain stores.

Greens will encourage social enterprises and cooperatives as a larger part of the employment mix, because we recognise that when they are not protected we lose local shops and small local businesses.

Businesses owned in the community keep the profits flowing in the community and are more likely to understand the concerns of their neighbours. Chain stores suck profits out of the area and are distant and unaccountable to the communities they want to sell to. Greens will seek to level the playing field to promote the local economy – for example by introducing a supermarket levy.

For the economy to work for our communities, it must support decent jobs that pay a Living Wage. Greens will work to support key employers in our city – such as opposing cuts in education and health – and will encourage more employers to guarantee a Living Wage.

Tourism in Oxford can be a substantial benefit to the local economy and local residents but the approximately 9.6 million visitors the city receives each year tend to be day trippers. We need to encourage longer stay tourism and cycle and walking tourism to enhance the benefits to our local economy.

Oxford Green Party recognises that our city is influenced by globalising processes. Publishing is a major source of private sector employment in Oxford. The international growth of electronic publishing and the pressure to have free access to academic journal content could have implications for the currently substantial employment in publishing in our city. Related to this, internet sales of books may exert downward pressure upon Oxford’s bookshops – just as internet sales may continue to impact upon some of our other retailers. Whilst we welcome innovation including internet shopping that brings a wider range of choice to Oxford’s consumers, we recognise that many types of goods need to be seen by the consumer in order for an effective judgement to be made upon their value.

In short, we do not want to see the variety of businesses on our shopping streets decline due to internet shopping pressures as this may not serve the consumer interest or the long-term interests of our city.

The current uncertainty about the future of UK membership of the European Union (EU) is bad for both domestic and international investment in Oxford and elsewhere in the UK. The Coalition government’s proposals to take back from Europe powers over the environment and social justice are extremely disturbing given their appalling record compared to the policies of the EU. These actions would help neither the people nor the environment in Oxford. Greens recognise that the EU fails in many areas so we want reform, including abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy, but we also want to continue to be a member of the EU.

Green successes:

  • Greens successfully mobilised local opposition to a planning application for change of use to a hotel-chain restaurant, thus saving Professional Music Technology Shop, one of our iconic Cowley Road shops. This protected the PMT shop from being turned into a hotel-chain restaurant. 
  • Blackwells changed their planning application for student accommodation to several small local retail units when Greens pointed out that it would breach the Cowley Road planning restrictions on balanced retail business. 
  • Our popular Winter Green Fairs have 33 years of success, involving many small local enterprises. 
  • With Green support, a local landlord twice refused to rent to large chains, preferring to rent his premises to small local retailers. 
  • Got the council to pursue a ‘Supermarket Levy’ recognising the harm they do to local economies and to raise funds to invest in local communities. 
  • Greens helped attract the Ethical Property Company to East Oxford where they now manage the Old Music Hall on Cowley Road, which provides office space for small local charities and organisations. The Greens managed to get the Council to agree to a temporary car parking arrangement which has reduced the financial impact on local businesses. 
  • Greens surveyed the local traders near St Clements’s car park correctly identifying that the loss of the car park would reduce trade.

The Green Party will:

  • Continue to work with local residents to get a better planning regime to protect local traders on the Cowley Road, Iffley Road and St Clements. 
  • Oppose the current proposals for the Westgate shopping centre. Its larger units will attract current retailers from the High Street, leaving hard-to-fill empty spaces with high rents in the High Street. Greens will support a larger housing element in this scheme and the principle of high quality public open space. 
  • Continue our work with traders and the City Council to re-build trust between the parties and ensure a successful future for the Covered Market as a home for a wide variety of independent businesses. 
  • Continue to run Green Fairs each year, giving participating local businesses the opportunity to attract new customers. 
  • Support the Oxford Breakfast scheme to encourage overnight tourists to shop at local retailers. 
  • Support the Oxford Green Card to encourage tourists to use sustainable businesses.
  • Support the Oxford Pound to support the local economy, to be launched in summer 2014. 
  • Try to use the local Council’s discretion to vary business rates to support social enterprises and co-operatives. 
  • Push for proper enforcement of existing planning restrictions on supermarkets. We lost Oxford’s B&Q store to another Sainsbury’s supermarket as a direct result of City Council ignoring the restriction on food retail in the John Allen Centre. 
  • Promote Oxford as a tourist destination for UK and short-distance tourism from the continent, making local authorities fully responsible for introducing or extending cycling and walking networks within their own boundaries and in conjunction with other authorities. This is the priority area for tourism development as it has the smallest ecological impact. It will also be useful to residents: all new developments aimed at attracting tourists should also have local benefits. 
  • Empower the City Council to give grant aid to small and medium-sized tourism sector enterprises, such as bed and breakfast establishments and hotels, which wish to improve their facilities for cyclists. 
  • Link coach parking charges to inflation, as part of a strategy to reduce this unsustainable form of tourist travel in favour of less damaging modes like cycling, walking, and the use of trains. 
  • Campaign to upgrade pay and conditions of work in tourism, which are amongst the worst of any industry in Britain. The Green Party would seek full compliance with minimum wage legislation in the short term, until a compulsory Living Wage is adopted; we would require that employees and sole traders are trained thoroughly in skills appropriate to their enterprise; and we would encourage the creation of longer-term employment in this sector by promoting dual use of tourism facilities on a year-round basis. New development proposals should be assessed for their capacity to attract year-round use. 
  • Act to improve accommodation that enables people to bring their pets on holiday; this is limited. Local authorities would conduct a survey of such accommodation locally and if necessary give grant aid to ensure that enough is available to meet the estimated demand.

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