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!


Concerns about OCC’s agreement to enter into negotiations with OUFC

I am still trying to remain open-minded about Oxford United Football Club’s proposals to build an 18000 seater stadium on green belt land that forms part of the Kidlington Gap at Stratfield Brake. But as the County and District Councillor for the area that Stratfield Brake sits within, I think the County Cabinet’s agreement to enter into negotiations with OUFC was premature, given that there were still so many unanswered questions a year on from the initial approaches from the club to the council.

Of course we all want to help the club find a new home, but if we’re talking about using public assets to do that, we need transparency about what they’ve done to help themselves. For example, we still don’t have evidence that they’ve have explored all legal remedies to stay where they are.

It also appeared from the club’s own long-awaited report that they hadn’t even started looking at other alternative sites until October last year, after claiming at the beginning of 2022 that they had already explored all other options.

After waiting 8 months for the full report on the club’s plans, it took a further 2 months for it to be circulated to stakeholders in a heavily edited form which doesn’t suggest that they are willing to be as transparent with local residents and stakeholders as they have claimed in the past.

Kidlington Parish Council (KPC) had been waiting for most of last year for the report from the club showing their detailed plans for the main Stratfield Brake site (which they are leaseholders of) so that they could be put out to local consultation. They could not take a decision on relinquishing their lease until they had consulted with the local residents who they represent.

The club has tried to blame the council for delays in making a decision on the initial very broad proposals but that was simply not the case. KPC wanted to make a decision on an informed basis and had been working towards a genuine local consultation, but to facilitate that they needed details of what the club were proposing. Thus any delay in the decision by the council are entirely the fault of the football club. Instead of engaging properly with KPC to help them hold a local consultation, they have gone around them by moving their plans to the site known as the Triangle which KPC has no direct control over.

As a result, I made a plea to the cabinet to include an amendment to the proposals to enter into negotiations with the club that would also commit the council to a full local consultation on the proposals before any final decision was made which should include the option to accept or reject the proposals. This wasn’t even responded to.

As the local county councillor I was disappointed that my call to the County Cabinet for a full local consultation didn’t seem to be endorsed. That would at least have given local residents some comfort that their views, both for and against the proposals, would be properly taken into account.

There was a reference to future engagement with stakeholders but it’s not clear who would undertake this and if it would be at a point where the local community would have a chance to say yes or no to the plans once they know what they are. With so many questions still left unanswered, we need a definite assurance that such a consultation will be part of the final decision process, otherwise we may find ourselves overtaken by circumstances as plans progress and positions become embedded”.

Whilst I’m pleased to see the council took note of local concerns raised in last year’s country-wide engagement exercise, what is being proposed now is a rather different prospect and doesn’t completely deal with local views about having yet another significant development sited on some of Kidlington’s dwindling green spaces.

If we’re going to condone building on the green belt we need to ensure there is quantifiable local support for that. There are a range of views, as we saw at the meeting, and I want to make sure I’m fully representing the balance of local opinion, but until we ask the whole community we don’t know what that is.

My position as the local councillor for the area is that I have to support the majority view of the residents that will be affected by this development whatever they are. I don’t understand why there is a resistance from both the club and their fans as well as the council to asking local people directly what they think of this idea. There may be opposition, but there may equally be majority support for the plans. If so we can proceed on that basis knowing that the club would be welcomed by the village. Surely that would be a better outcome for all concerned, especially OUFC’s owners who I assume wouldn’t want to impose themselves on to a community that would resent them being there.

I will continue to advocate for a full local consultation both internally within the council and with other local representatives, particularly the local MP Layla Moran.


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.