Following the Oxford Mail's story last week about road resurfacing which also caused debate over Oxford's famous Cutteslowe Walls to resurface, Oxford City Council deputy leader and board member for housing Linda Smith writes about growing up in the shadow of those walls

I GREW up on the Cutteslowe estate, living with my family in council houses, initially in Wolsey Road and then Wren Road.

I attended the nursery in Jackson Road and Cutteslowe First School and played on the rec. My mum worked at Cutteslowe Court old peoples’ home.

Even though the infamous walls were demolished 16 years before I was born, sections of them remained in place in front gardens.

And, just like today, the roads abruptly changed name as Wentworth Road became Aldrich Road, Carlton Road became Wolsey Road, and owner-occupied suburbia gave way to solidly-built red brick council houses.

Those redundant lumps of masonry loomed large over my childhood.

I learnt about their history and came to see them as emblematic of the divisions in 1980s Thatcher's Britain.

Judging from the recent hullabaloo around the resurfacing of Wentworth Road, their legacy clearly still casts a shadow over our city.

Of course, these days our most disadvantaged residents are not walled off from view and, as the city council has explained, access to quality highways repairs is not dependent on social class, income or postcode – it's simply the case that Wentworth Road was assessed by Oxford Direct Services’ engineers as being in worse condition and therefore greater need for resurfacing than the slightly less travelled Aldrich.

However divisions in this city between the rich and the poor are still very real: we are the second most unequal city in the UK (after Cambridge).

The divisions in our society might not manifest themselves physically in the way the Cutteslowe Walls once stood between neighbours but they are still there.

They can be seen in life expectancy differences (men in Blackbird Leys can expect to die an average of 15 years before men in the most affluent areas of our city), health inequalities, the results from poorly performing and high achieving schools, low pay, air quality, the shortage of affordable housing and rising street homelessness

I want to directly address these issues, which is why I went into politics and why I stood for the city council.

We are working positively with partners on initiatives to alleviate homelessness; we are bringing forward more affordable housing for those in need; we are paying the Oxford Living Wage to our employees and encouraging other local employers to join us.

We provide leisure and community centres, run programmes to raise the ambitions of our young people, fund dozens of community groups and we support fabulous events like Common People, Cowley Road Carnival and the Christmas Lights festival which help bring people of all walks of life together.

We are investing in projects aimed at improving life chances and life expectancy in our most deprived areas and we are focusing on substantially improving the air that we all breathe.

And yes, we are also trying to patch up Oxford’s battered roads.

The City of Oxford Museum is currently undergoing a transformation and when it reopens we hope that a piece of the Cutteslowe Walls will go on show as a powerful reminder of the divisions of the past that are still with us today.

Those walls are clearly still a vibrant memory for some and a potent symbol for others.

So should they be: we must never forget the divisions that they symbolise or the continued challenges that they serve to remind us of that we face today.