RESIDENTS in Oxford will go to the polls next month to have their say on who runs the city.

Oxford City Council – the authority responsible for housing, car parks, rubbish and recycling collections, and leisure services – is holding elections on Thursday, May 6.

This year, half the council is up for election – one seat in each of the city’s 24 wards.

And it is set to be a highly competitive race with the four main parties, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green and Conservatives, fielding candidates in every seat.

One UK Independence Party candidate and one Independent are also seeking election.

The political balance on the council is very delicate, with no single party enjoying an overall majority since 2004.

The Labour group currently runs the administration and needs to win an extra seat in May to gain an overall majority.

Council leader Bob Price, who is defending his own seat in Hinksey Park, said Labour would continue the work it had started in the last two years if his group retained control.

He said priorities included increasing affordable homes, improving private rented housing and striking a balance between private family homes and rented accommodation.

He added the party would continue to overhaul council services.

He said: “We have already taken out 25 per cent of the net budget and improved services. The next stage will be more challenging but we are seeking to do that, to drive down budgets and improve services.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Patrick Murray said his party had set out a number of priorities if it were to regain power at the Town Hall.

He said: “We want to make the council more efficient and responsive, improve housing across the city, make sure people feel safe in their community and tackle climate change.”

The Green Party has always had a strong presence on the city council. But two of its most prominent councillors are not seeking re-election.

Green Party leader Craig Simmons is taking a break from local politics to focus on charity work, while Sushila Dhall is standing down to concentrate on her campaign to become Britain’s first Green MP.

Independent Working Class Association councillor Jane Lacey, who represents Northfield Brook, will also stand down.

Mrs Lacey said she had become disillusioned by the politics of the council, but vowed to remain a community campaigner in Blackbird Leys.

Liberal Democrat Chris Scanlan, who represents Barton and Sandhills, will also stand down after four years as a city councillor, due to work commitments.

Mr Simmons said its local manifesto contained a set of environmental pledges and added: “We will focus on green jobs in the city by funding an insulation programme and working with BMW on the electric Mini.

“Last year was our best result across the city in the European elections so we are confident we can do well.”

The Conservatives have no serving councillors on the city council but are contesting every seat in a bid to gain a Town Hall voice.

Oxford City Council votes will be counted on Friday, May 7.