COMMUNITY leaders have attacked a report that claims the gap between rich and poor in Oxford is small.

Oxford is the “most equal” place to live in the UK, according to a new survey.

But the claim has taken Oxford City Council by surprise, because other recent research suggested the city had some of the most deprived estates in the country.

One senior councillor said the report was “nonsense”.

A league table showing wealth disparities within UK cities and towns features in the report by the thinktank Centre for Cities.

The assessment compares how communities have weathered the recession and their prospects of financial recovery.

In the league table of places with “lowest levels of inequality”, Oxford was ranked top, ahead of Cambridge, Crawley, Aldershot, Worthing and York.

But Colin Cook, the council’s executive member for city development, said: “I think they have actually got this back to front.”

Oxford is also shown to be second only to Cambridge out of 64 cities when it comes to lowest youth unemployment, with a rate of 1.9 per cent.

It was also runner-up to Cambridge in the table showing the number of people with no skills, with just 5.5 per cent of workers lacking formal qualifications.

But Mr Cook said data based on the last census showed parts of the city could be counted among the nation’s most deprived areas.

Barton, Blackbird Leys, Littlemore and Rose Hill were all placed within the bottom five to 20 per cent of deprived areas, while North Oxford has previously been rated among the country’s top five per cent areas in measurements of affluence.

Mr Cook added: “We really do have the full spectrum in Oxford. I don’t know where they’re coming from with the report, or what measurement they’re using.”

Jean Fooks, the Liberal Democrat city councillor for Summertown, said the report was “nonsense”. She added: “The Cutteslowe Wall is long gone, but there’s still a dividing line between different sections of society.

“There’s very stark inequality in North Oxford alone, with some of the best-off living alongside the worst-off, so I don’t think this report can be right.

“The county council has recently recognised Cutteslowe as a deprived area and that means it will receive a little more financial support.”

The new study will help bolster the council’s calls for Oxford to be able to expand, with more housing needed on the edge of the city.

It finds Oxford to be the country’s second fastest-growing city when it comes to population, after Milton Keynes, with the population rising from 134,600 in 1998 to 153,900 in 2008.

Oxford is also second to Milton Keynes in the list of cities with highest employment growth between 2006 and 2008, with a 7.8 per cent increase.

Oxford was among cities showing the lowest rise in Job Seeker Allowance Claims during the recession. However, average earnings fell to £447 a week last year, compared with £456 in 2006.

A spokesman for Centre for Cities said: “Cities with strong independent business bases and a skilled population tend to perform well.”