WESTGATE Centre department store John Lewis has linked up with Oxfordshire Community Foundation to support charities and community groups with a new £125,000 fund.

The chain's branch manager, Julie Blake, announced the launch of the fund at brewery enterprise Tap Social Movement in Botley.

The fund is held by Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF), which will make grants to charities and community groups working with disadvantaged people in the city.

As the anchor store at the new £440m shopping centre, John Lewis has decided to work with the foundation to 'make a meaningful contribution to the city'.

Following the establishment of the fund by John Lewis, other businesses are being encouraged to join in to support local charitable organisations.

Ms Blake said at the launch last week: "The opening of the new Westgate Centre, along with the overall redevelopment of the city’s west end, is an important moment in Oxford’s evolution.

"Since arriving here earlier this year, I can see that there is great excitement locally about the new facilities and the prosperity it is hoped they will bring.

"However, the companies involved in the Westgate’s development, including John Lewis, acknowledge that the city has many unacceptable social problems that do not sit so easily with the launch of a sophisticated new shopping experience.

"For example, I was shocked to hear that one in five children in Oxford is living in poverty, and that the city is the most unaffordable city to live in in the whole of the UK.

“The opening of our new shop is the chance for us to give something back to the city, and we’re working with Oxfordshire Community Foundation to do just that."

Ms Blake added that OCF was provided invaluable support to local charities and community groups via its grant-making programmes.

Oxfordshire Community Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Sir Ashley Ponsonby, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire from 1980 to 1996.

The foundation has built an endowment fund of nearly £5m, and awarded about £6.5m in grants to local community groups working to make Oxfordshire a better place.

Grants from the Westgate Fund will target work that reduces isolation and increases employability for people in the city who have struggled with homelessness, substance abuse, a history of offending or an impoverished start in life.

Funding will be allocated throughout the year to OCF’s Delivering Impact grants programme, giving away awards of up to £10,000 per group.

OCF chief executive Jayne Woodley said: “We’re now looking for more partner companies to follow John Lewis’s lead and make a contribution to the Westgate Fund.

"We would love other businesses based in Oxford, whether or not they are directly associated with the Westgate Centre, to contribute a one-off or annual pledge to the Westgate Fund.

"The more funds contributed, the greater difference we can make to the lives of those less fortunate right on our doorsteps."