The view from Oxford

by Stephen Tall on May 5, 2006

The Liberal Democrats are now the single largest party in Oxford – for the first time ever – after making two net gains from Labour in last night’s City Council elections.

The make-up of the Council, compared with the pre-election standing of the parties (in brackets), is:

Lib Dem 19 (17) +2
Labour 17 (21) -4
Green 8 (7) +1
IWCA 4 (3) +1

So, Oxford continues to be a hung Council, which will doubtless make for some interesting times ahead… I plan to sleep on it.

The Lib Dems made three gains from Labour, in Barton & Sandhills (the seat of the outgoing Labour leader), Cowley, and Headington Hill & Northway (from third place, defeating a long-standing Labour councillor, and holding off a strong Tory challenge – very satisfying).

And, finally, I should mention my own ward, Headington, where my Lib Dem colleague, David Rundle, was re-elected with the largest majority (663) in Oxford, winning 59% of the vote.

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One comment

Stephen does take a rather partisan spin on local election results. What he fails to mention was the low turnout, typically the governing party rarely does well in local elections and a spilt in the traditional local Labour vote that resulted in Labour losing some seats. Many of these traditional soppy old left labour voters switched to minority parties. Enabling other parties including the Greens, the IWCA and the Lib Dems to benefit, though as in the rest of the country it was a case of Lib Dem voters swinging to the Tories that help Cameron win Councils in areas outside Oxford. This may explain why the Lib Dems did not do well as they expected. While events in Westminster were only mean Labour lost a few percentage points over its share of the vote.

He also fails to mention the nationwide dissatisfaction voters have with local government by both voters nationally and Whitehall, as resulting from the low turnouts.

Putting it simply, many would argue that local parties are not picking the right candidates who have the necessary business management skills to run council operations worth many millions of pounds, nor able to make the tough decisions required. Instead activists tend to chose people like themselves, rather than base their decisions on will have the necessary business as well as political skills to do the job. In fact they sometimes seem adverse to very people with proven management skills and experience.

Perhaps since there is such a shortage of skilled people with the required political and business skills required, the only solution is to cut both the number of local authorities and councillors, so that voters get councillors we deserve that are accountable to our voters, while not prone to the undue influence of cliques, whilst delivering the services we deserve. I hope the government does not given in its radical proposals to reform local government.

by Nicholas on May 13, 2006 at 3:15 pm. Reply #

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