The first (interrim) report from the Returning Officer is available to read on the web.
The first (interrim) report from the Returning Officer is available to read on the web.
Yesterday was a mixed bag of emotions.
Emily Smith and I were elected to the Vale of White Horse District Council, for Botley & Sunningwell. We had a few hundred votes over the candidate in third place, and I thank you most sincerely for your support, whether it was helping to deliver or on polling day, or voting for me.
But we lost many experienced and dedicated councillors, who have served so well. That’s painful in a couple of ways: friends and family who were wrenched out of their seats, for whatever reason, are a great loss personally; and we lost many people with expertise on subjects where we needed them: planning policy, Green Belt, leadership, and the long view of history in the Vale council. All members of the Vale Scrutiny Committee lost their seats, except me. We lost our Leader and our Chairman. Those of us who remain to form our new Lib Dem Group, will meet soon to prioritise and see where we can best have influence.
In Botley, we did better than elsewhere. Emily Smith and I are elected for Botley & Sunningwell. Dudley Hoddinott and Judy Roberts are elected for Cumnor. Bob Johnston is elected for Kennington and Radley; Bob has been involved in planning for years, so that knowledge is saved. Then there are Margaret Crick and Helen Pighills from Abingdon, Catherine Webber from Marcham, and Jenny Hannaby from Wantage. Emily Smith bucked the national trend in taking her seat from the Tories.
I’m going to take a break for a couple of days. And then Council work begins on Monday.
Here’s what I wrote last night just before going to bed (I posted it on Facebook):
I’m very pleased to have kept my seat in the Vale of White Horse. Alas, the Lib Dems are now only 9 of the 38 councillors, so a small group, and we will have to pick our battles. We lost many hard working, compassionate and committed councillors. Our friends and colleagues.
The win by the conservatives throughout the land surprised just about everyone. But we Lib Dems support the ideals of democracy, and so here we are.
I’m a Liberal Democrat and proud of the party, the people in it, and all we’ve accomplished.
Now, here in the Vale, we will move on with the plans for development that the Tories have put forward, including in West Way Botley, the Oxford Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I’m disappointed, and admittedly do not understand why we’ve voted for this.
I’ll stand up for Botley & Sunningwell and work to get the best we can for all of us.
Thank you from my heart for all your kindness, enthusiasm, and support.
Debby says: I was elected in 2011, as one member in a two member ward. Since then, it’s felt like I was the only one working on behalf of this community. The other councillor was a Tory and so pro-Doric that he accompanied them on their radio spots; he had to recuse himself from the planning committee decision for this bias. Awhile back, he moved to the safe Tory seat of Southmoor. I welcome Emily as a candidate who has a track record of working for this community, and she will be great as a colleague! I invited her to provide an introduction.
Emily says: Few people in our ward are unaware of Cllr Debby Hallett’s efforts to defeat Doric and hold the Conservative controlled Vale to account. Debby is pro-active, hardworking and cares deeply about our community. But Botley & Sunningwell is a two member ward, so on 7th May you get two votes in the District Council elections. I have decided to stand alongside Debby to help build on the work she has done so far and to help bring the Vale back into Liberal Democrat control.
A bit about me
I live in Botley with my husband and two young sons. I grew up in Sunningwell, where my parents still live, and went to school in Abingdon. After studying Sociology at University I worked at Oxfam then for a large project providing volunteer mentors to support vulnerable adults and young people. I am now employed by the County Council, coordinating activities to reduce youth unemployment across Oxfordshire.
I’ve volunteered for North Hinksey Youth Club, West Way Community Concern and I led the popular Campaign for Botley Skate Park. In 2013 I helped run a public meeting about how Neighbourhood Plans can benefit local communities and was elected to North Hinksey Parish Council in a by-election in 2014.
Why I am standing to be a District Councillor
Liberal Democrats have a reputation for making excellent local councillors and constituency MPs. I have been campaigning with fellow Lib Dems against inappropriate planning applications, to protect our Green Belt, and for better recreation facilities for our young people. As a District Councillor I would continue pushing for these things and any other community needs that arise, but I would have more power to make a difference.
I am particularly interested in improving consultation and communication with residents and ensuring the needs of vulnerable groups are considered in decision making. I would continue supporting communities to create Neighbourhood Plans, advocate for socially and environmentally sustainable development, and would explore new ways for the Vale to support youth services and recreation facilities.
And finally, why I support Parliamentary Candidate Layla Moran…
…because she supports our whole community. When Doric and the Tories at the Vale tried to impose the ridiculous West Way development on us, Layla was with us from the very start – going door to door in the pouring rain getting petition signatures 18 months before our Tory MP had said a word on the matter. Layla is a community campaigner and an excellent communicator. Her passion for education and commitment to policy based on scientific evidence, not populist whim, appeals to me as a parent, a public sector worker and a Liberal Democrat.
I have got to know Layla very well over the past two years and know she will be a fantastic MP who will work with District Councillors to push for the flooding defences, sustainable transport, quality apprenticeships and the planning reform that we need here in Botley and Sunningwell.
Please vote SMITH, HALLETT and MORAN on May 7th. You can contact me at email@example.com or on twitter @emilysmithLD.
I spend time thinking about why people should vote for me.
The main thing I’m proud of is that I’ve been an effective councillor in helping people to object to or fight against unreasonable planning applications. The biggest success was, of course, the fight against the Doric plans for West Way. Many hands made light the work.
Jerry Patterson, most recenlty the Vale councillor for South Hinksey, said of me:
[Debby]quickly acquired a grasp of how the planning system works, and has helped many Botley residents with planning issues…
Learning about how the planning process works was the most diffcult task I undertook. The process isn’t documented anywhere, and I had to learn how it works by asking questions. If I was asking awkward questions, it was even tougher. I once asked the Cabinet Member for planning if I could have a flow chart of the process, so that I could better help resident to understand how it all works, and the points in the process where they could have an effect on the outcome. He rolled his eyes at me. lol!
I learned how the planning timetable works, so can now I can help people to know the right time to get invovled and how to present your concerns so that they have a better chance of being heard.
I can intervene when things aren’t running along as they should, to get updates or encourage actions or decisions.
I learned that many of my assumptions about how things worked simply weren’t true. For example, I assumed all members of the planning committee read all of the Comments posted on the planning website. Of course, they don’t. They can’t. There wouldn’t be enough hours in the day. So they have to rely on the planning officer’s synopsis and they take it for granted that the planning officer has understood the details of everything. Of course, the planning officer doesn’t always get it right. They couldn’t. Same problem of not enough hours in the day.
So I learned how to draw committee’s attention to what I think are relevant concerns and to link them to policy and guidelines.
We’ve had some successes when we work together as a community and a councillor.
If I’m re-elected, I plan to continue to help residents more effectively resist bad developments.
One particular problem I’ve noticed was highlighted by the Inspector on an appeal against the refusal at 26-28 Westminster Way. She pointed out that there’s a confusion between the County’s parking standards that define a maximum number of parking spaces (a policy intended to encourage lower car-ownership rates by under-provision of on-site parking) and local reality checks that need a minimum number of car parking sapces (a view that’s intended to ease on-street parking congestion). These two intentions work against each other. I’d lke to open discussions with Vale Planning and County as Local Highway Authority, and see what can be done.
Due to the boundary changes in the Vale of White Horse, I am standing in a new ward called Botley & Sunningwell. This new, larger ward, comprises Wytham, North Hinksey, South Hinksey and Sunningwell.
The previous councillor for South Hinksey is Jerry Patterson, and he has kindly endorsed me as his replacement in South Hinksey.
I was first elected to represent South Hinksey Parish in 2003 when it was combined with Kennington Parish to form a new Kennington & South Hinksey Ward. The main issues these last 12 years have concerned flooding, development in the Oxford Green Belt, Red Bridge Hollow travellers’ site, the closure and re-opening of the General Eliott pub and the ramp for the new Devil’s Backbone bridge over the railway line to South Oxford. I have always endeavoured to work with residents, South Hinksey Parish Council and the Vale Council to get the best outcomes on these issues for the people of the Parish. After a review of ward boundaries in the District, South Hinksey Parish will become part of the new Botley and Sunningwell Ward, so I will no longer be able to be its representative on the Vale Council.
My colleague, Debby Hallett, was elected to the Vale Council to represent the North Hinksey & Wytham ward in 2011, and along with Emily Smith, will be standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the coming election on 7 May.
Debby has been a first rate Councillor for North Hinksey & Wytham these last 4 years. She quickly acquired a grasp of how the planning system works, and has helped many Botley residents with planning issues, particularly on the West Way shopping centre application on which she and Emily helped lead an informed and effective resistance to the developer’s plans, resulting in the eventual refusal of the application.
Voters in South Hinksey couldn’t hope to have two better representatives than Debby and Emily.
As of today, 2 April, there are 35 days til polling day. Fewer for potal voters!
This is a guest post by Emily Smith.
Nick Clegg came to Abingdon on Sunday the 29th of March, to launch the national Liberal Democrat election campaign.
Cllr Judy Roberts and I were there in the rain to check out the new yellow Battle bus.
Layla Moran (our Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate) talked passionately about the work of our local councillors to protect the Green Belt, and prevent flooding. She talked about the significance of the Vale District elections in this important work.
Then Nick Clegg set out the choices voters have in the general election and talked about why we need to really think about how we cast our vote. The mood was up-beat and full of excitement.
To find out more about Layla Moran and Liberal Democrat campaigns at a district and constituency level see www.laylamoran.com
We had successful local elections for Oxford West and Abingdon. I know, I know. All you hear in the news is how washed up the Lib Dems are, and how UKIP are stealing the show. It’s true we lost all our MEP’s except for Catherine Bearder, but she is from OxWAb. We got the vote out to save her job. UKIP didn’t win any council seats here. (They say they ‘don’t do well in university towns.’)
We are working hard locally to elect Layla Moran as our MP, and it will be a very close contest between us and the Tories. Part of that effort is in local elections this year, and in the campaign for the local elections next May. That’s when I stand for re-election too, so you may be hearing more from me.
We targeted six wards in 2014. We won in four of them. In Cherwell District Council, we held Kidlington North, and lost Kidlington South. In Oxford City, we held St. Margaret’s, Wolvercote, and two seats in Summertown. We failed to re-gain Oxford North (we lost it last year in a by-election). There were no elections in the Vale of White Horse.
In every ward we improved our position compared to the last time the ward was up and we were well ahead in the aggregate vote.
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In the European counts, Oxford delivered the third highest number of votes for the Lib Dems and the Vale the eighth highest, and the highest of any council without local elections. Catherine sent a special thank you as she saw our numbers come through.
We are proud of our success, especially in the face of national trends. If you can help us, please let me know. We can use you! I’d very much like to send Layla Moran to Westminster, and I’d like to keep my job as well.
From June 10th, the way we register to vote is changing.
Instead of using a household form to register everyone at your address, everyone will take individual responsibility for their own registration. IER: Individual Electoral Registration.
All currently registered electors will have their name and address checked against government records so that they can be confirmed under IER. The vast majority will be confimred and automatically transferred. In the Vale’s test run this was almost 80%. Those people need do nothing.
Every registered elector will get a letter. It will either tell you that your details have been transferred successfully and you need do nothing, or that you need to provide some additional information to the Electoral Register Officer.
If you are successfully transferred, your postal or proxy vote status will be transferred with you.
Look out for your letter in July.
It has been brought to my attention that I’ve not provided on my blog a link to the community website where you can read the candidates’ blurbs.
Here it is.
The by-election is on 24 April at Seacourt Hall, 7-10pm.
North Hinksey Parish Council is holding a by-election to fill 3 vacancies.
The deadline for nominations is noon Weds 26 March. If there are more than 3 nominations, an election will be held on 24 Apr 14.
You can see all the rules on the PC website, here: http://bit.ly/Q3IqL3
May I draw your attention to how to apply for a new postal vote, on that page. (If you are already registered for a postal vote, there’s no noeed to do anything else.)
In my opinion, what we’ve learned over the past 3 years is that the most important quality in a local councillor is how well they represent the community’s views. When you are elected to represent the community, your personal view doesn’t matter any more than anyone else’s view. You are elected to represent the view of the community and work for what the community wants. The trick is in being able to find out from the community what they think about issues, and then taking appropriate action.
I think this is a great chance to move forward into a parish council that works hard in support of community aspirations.