OXFORD might be the county’s most left-wing district, but two parties on the right are hoping to make a breakthrough next week.
The Conservative Party has fielded candidates in all wards for Thursday’s Oxford City Council elections and UKIP is standing in six wards.
Half of the city council’s 48 seats are up for election, with Labour hoping to hold onto its large majority of 30.
Katharine Harborne, the deputy chairman of Oxford East Conservatives and candidate in Quarry and Risinghurst, said the party is optimistic of winning its first election in the city since 2002.
She said: “We have some superb Conservative candidates who would make fantastic councillors.’’ “Some people have come to feel there was little point in voting Conservative. But now it’s time for Conservatives to fight back. We must challenge the Labour and Lib Dem complacency, which has allowed the city council to make so many questionable decisions, particularly in raising rents and council tax.”
Meanwhile Ian McDonald, chairman of the Oxford branch of UKIP and candidate in Barton and Sandhills, said his party’s message is being well-received on the doorstep.
He said: “We have seats that we expect to do well in and seats that we are unsure about. From going out campaigning a lot of people say they have had enough of Labour. It could be interesting, but I cannot call it.’’ Another candidate in Barton and Sandhills is Benjamin Linus, who along with Artwell in Cowley and Pat Mylvaganam in St Clement’s are the independent candidates for the city council.
But city council and Labour leader Bob Price felt the big issue at the election would be housing and feels his administration’s record on the issue is good.
In March a report commissioned by Oxfordshire’s councils said Oxford needs to build 28,000 homes by 2031, something Mr Price has said is not possible within the city’s existing boundaries.
He said: “For Oxford the problem has always been that there are many people who cannot get houses, and the cost of housing is a constant theme on the doorstep.
“Our record on that is pretty good. We have got the Barton estate and other developments around the city so there are over 1,000 houses being built and other sites at Oxpens and the Northern Gateway in the pipeline.
“But land is very heavily constrained and we don’t own very much of it ourselves.”
City councillor Jean Fooks, the leader of the Lib Dems, says her party – which is in government for the first time – is hopeful that, with nine of the party’s 12 seats up for election, it can do well if voters make their choice on local issues rather than national ones. She said: “I have had some interesting conversations with people on the doorstep but this is a local election and local issues is what it has to be about.
“People feel they are not being listened to. There has been a planning fiasco at Roger Dudman Way and that’s not the only one.’’ Oxford’s Green group is hoping to capitalise in the collapse of Lib Dem support and become the city’s official opposition. It is fielding candidates in every ward of the city.
The party’s leader on the city council, Craig Simmons, said: “We are seeing a lot of support and are buoyed by the improvements in national polls, which show the Greens overtaking the Lib Dems.
“Housing is the top issue on everyone’s agenda and the city is now the least affordable city in the country outside London – and that has happened under Labour’s watch.”
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