BLACKBIRD Leys city councillor Rae Humberstone has said the estate can benefit from his new role as the Sheriff of Oxford.

He will take over from Mohammed Abbasi, who will be Oxford’s Lord Mayor, on Monday, June 9.

Mr Humberstone, 64, said: “It’s nice for Blackbird Leys to have one of your own councillors in the civic office.

“Blackbird Leys is regarded very much as just a council estate.

“People think of the civic roles as something from more affluent areas, so it’s nice to have someone who lives on the estate to take it on.

“Everyone I’ve met on the doorstep thinks it’s great. People are excited about the novelty of it all.”

The post is a long-standing one in the city, dating back as far as the 1100s, with sheriffs originally being responsible for dealing with criminals in Oxford.

Now, however, it is a ceremonial role.

Mr Humberstone said: “It’s a civic post under the mayor’s office.

“There are various functions and duties. Should the mayor or his deputy not be able to make an event it then falls to yours truly.

“They ask if you want to do it and I said yes, I’d be delighted.

“There’s an official voting in, but it’s just a formality. I don’t think anyone would vote against me.”

Mr Humberstone, who is a driver of a wheelchair-adapted minibus for Oxfordshire County Council, said he was looking forward to the role. He added: “It’s always an honour to hold civic office in your city. It’s not to be taken lightly, I’ll give it all I can.’’ Mr Humberstone said he was intrigued by the “little quirks” of the job, including the traditional annual inspection of Port Meadow.

Each year, the sheriff is joined by fellow city councillors, the Freemen of Oxford, and Wolvercote Commoners, to check that it is being properly maintained.

As part of his duty to the meadow, Mr Humberstone will also be holding the annual round-up, which is a surprise inspection of the grass every summer.

The dawn raid was originally a medieval custom where animals are driven off the meadow and into a pound.

As only the Freemen of Oxford and the Wolvercote Commoners are allowed to graze livestock for free, the ceremony aims to track down cattle that should not be there.

The date of the round-up is kept secret, so owners without grazing rights cannot remove their animals at the last minute and escape a fine. As well as these traditions, the sheriff attends civic and formal ceremonies.

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