Greens Bitterly Disappointed as Labour Group Allow Conservatives to Take Control at Cherwell District Council.

Yesterday evening saw the resumption of the adjourned Cherwell AGM after members failed to reach agreement on a leader and a controlling group last week.

After a second vote where only votes in favour could be counted, Barry Wood was elected to lead a minority Conservative administration after Labour pulled out of an alliance deal that was close to being finalised with the Lib Dems, Greens and Independents. Greens did not vote in favour of either the Conservatives or an unworkable Labour minority administration.

The deal had been all but agreed and a press statement signed off by all parties when, in a surprise announcement last Tuesday, Labour said that their National executive had vetoed the arrangement and wouldn’t allow the alliance to be ratified with a Green member on the executive. As the Greens formed slightly more than 10% of the proposed alliance it was reasonable for them to expect one executive position on a 10 person committee.  It was proposed that they would take the Environment portfolio.

As a result, no agreement could be reached over who would lead the council and the meeting was adjourned to give negotiations one more try. Labour subsequently refused to return to the negotiating table and instead added to their list of demands which further undermined the deal.

Speaking after the meeting Green Group Leader and Deputy Leader of the Progressive Oxfordshire Group Ian Middleton said :

“Greens are bitterly disappointed that we have not been able to fulfil our promise to the electorate and take joint control of the council from the Conservatives. We apologise to residents for that but Labour made it impossible to agree an equitable deal that they would have been a significant part of with 50% of the Executive seats.  We only asked for one seat on a 10 seat executive which was proportionate in view of us making up slightly more that 10% of the total alliance.

Having originally agreed to this arrangement, Labour suddenly pulled the plug citing diktats from their National Executive which local members have capitulated to.  Considering this will also cut Labour out of an alliance as well as joint leadership of the council, this seems incredibly short-sighted.

It seems Labour would rather allow a minority of 20 Conservatives to stay in control of the council than accept one Green on the executive. They also demanded that Labour should be leader, which none of the Progressive Oxfordshire Group were comfortable with considering Cllr Woodcock’s disingenuous statements in the media surrounding the collapse of talks.

We were faced with impossible demands from Labour whose faceless National Executive committee are dictating to local Cherwell residents over who should be in control of their council.  Greens strongly support localism, but it seems Labour would rather allow their central office to force a Conservative administration on to our communities.

Greens have worked hard over the last 5 years, along with the Liberal Democrats and Independents to reduce the Conservative majority to the point where we would have been able to take joint control with Labour.  In that time we have taken 13 Conservative seats whilst Labour have only taken 3. With 3 members, the Greens make up the deciding majority and should rightfully have a seat at the table.

It’s quite clear that Labour have betrayed the people of Cherwell by focusing on their own political interests rather than those of the electorate. From now on, every terrible decision and policy that the Conservatives push through can be laid at the feet of Labour. Every appalling injustice imposed on our community as a result of Conservative control can be traced back to this moment.  

Greens will now be part of a strong opposition on CDC rather than in an unstable alliance with Labour. We will continue work along with our Liberal Democrat and Independent colleagues in the spirit of co-operation that Labour have rejected and hold the Conservatives to account as part of a strengthened official opposition.

We are confident that together we can win enough additional seats next year to take control without Labour’s help and will do so at the first opportunity. The door is still open for Labour to come to their senses and agree a fair deal with us to take control of the council at any point during the year.  In the meantime the Conservatives plans, including further green belt erosion as part of their local plan and a lack of genuine affordable housing will be resisted to the best of our ability. We hope Labour will at least join us in supporting that endeavour”


This could be the year that everything finally changes

In 2019 I became the first ever Green District Councillor in Cherwell. Apart from that being a little bit of personal history for me, it was also the start of a change that would unfold across the county over the next 3 years with Greens playing their part in the removal of Conservative control in every major local authority in Oxfordshire.

In 2019, Green colleagues in South Oxfordshire, along with the Lib Dems virtually swept the board, taking control of the District Council from a huge Conservative majority with 5 Greens being elected. Another Green was elected on the Vale of the White Horse Council. Then in 2021 Greens, Lib Dems and Labour took control of the County Council in a three way alliance with the Lib Dems and Greens forming a separate group which I now have the honour of being deputy leader of. Finally in 2022 we took joint control of West Oxfordshire District Council with the Lib Dems and Labour as well as gaining a further seat on CDC.

That left CDC as the only remaining Conservative controlled council albeit with a drastically reduced majority of only 2. The group that I and 2 Lib Dems formed in 2019 grew to 12 members by the end of the last municipal year meaning that from 2022 we became the official opposition with me as deputy leader of that group.

That’s a huge turnaround in only a few short years which feels even shorter given that for one of those years the elections were cancelled.

Now with Cherwell as the last remaining bastion of Conservatism in the county, the prize is for the taking. As long as all the currently sitting opposition councillors hang on to their seats (which includes me) in the forthcoming elections, we have a good chance of taking control of CDC. We really need 4 extra seats to be flipped from the Conservatives and the way the country feels about them at the moment that is a very real possibility.

Greens hope to take one more seat in Bicester where we’ve come a close second 2 years in a row, with the Lib Dems hopefully gaining 2 more. In Banbury there’s a chance that Labour will also gain an extra seat which would then give a 4 way Green/Lib Dem/Labour/Independent alliance a majority. Even if we only gain 2-3 seats the council will fall into no overall control which gives us much more leverage to ensure that areas like Kidlington get a better slice of the district pie.

For far too long Kidlington has been the poor relation in Cherwell with the majority of funding and investment going to Banbury – where the council has so far sunk £130M into a failing shopping centre – and Bicester – where they plan to spend £4.25M on upgrading a car park in an events space that no one really seems to want.

This year we have an opportunity to see real change and real progress in areas like Kidlington as well as the rest of the district. I hope voters will take that opportunity and we can finally have a clean sweep across the county leaving progressive, forward thinking authorities looking out for the best interests of current residents and those yet to come.

This year, more than ever in Cherwell, every vote will count. I won in 2019 with only 72 votes to spare, although last year Fiona Mawson won with a far more convincing majority of over 250. I hope I can emulate here but we can’t afford to be complacent. Everyone needs to use their vote to support the candidate most likely to win against the Toru candidate. In Kidlington East that’s me and I hope I can count on local support.

Let’s not lose this chance to break the Tory stranglehold and make a better future for everyone. Make sure your vote really counts on May 4th!


Let’s get Fiona Elected to the District Council

It’s elections time again and this year I’m supporting the campaign to get a second Green councillor on to Cherwell District council.

Fiona has been a parish councillor for 7 years in total and sits on both Yarnton and Kidlington Parish Councils. She’s a a huge supporter of community projects such as the Cherwell Larder where she can be seen doing the washing up and helping to lay tables every week.

Like all Greens she’s been working tirelessly for her local community as well as supporting local and national climate initiatives. I’ve been proud to stand with Fiona against the destruction of local green spaces as well as campaigning with her on national issues.

She will make a great District Councillor and it will be great to have some Green company in the council chamber. I hope everyone will show her the same fantastic level of local support as I’ve received from the people of Kidlington, Gosford and Water Eaton.

We’re currently running a Crowdfunder to raise money for her campaign. It would be really appreciated if people could share the link around and give whatever they can to help get Fiona elected to be a new voice for the people of the Kidlington East Ward.

The link is here

Offers of practical help would also be great. Door knocking in in full swing and we also need leaflet distributors.