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Even in a true blue district we can make a difference
5:00pm Thursday 6th March 2014 in News
I think the reason Labour is now doing well in West Oxfordshire is probably community engagement.
When Duncan Enright won a town council by-election in 2011 it showed people we can win in West Oxfordshire and what Labour councillors are all about.
Duncan engaged people and represented everybody, not just the people who voted for him, and when Andrew Coles was elected to the district council I think people saw more of that and the same again in Chipping Norton.
There are a lot of people out there who don’t want to vote Conservative, perhaps won’t vote at all and weren’t sure what a Labour councillor could do for them.
We’re not going to win control of the council but the way we have electoral wards is a benefit in itself, so the more representatives you have the more you can lobby for things in your area.
Our small group has achieved a lot and it lobbies for a lot of interesting things. It makes people sit up and listen and as a Labour councillor who is part of an opposition group I will take that.
What I want is better outcomes for people in Oxfordshire and opposition groups serve a really important purpose in holding the leading groups to account.
Labour came under fire at the county council’s budget meeting for not having a complete re-shaping of the budget. But what we wanted to do was target the things that we thought were wrong and push for them.
The fact that a lot of our proposals ended up in the Conservative budget was an achievement for us.
In relatively well-off parts of the county like West Oxfordshire there are still people who are struggling to get by and who are only now starting to feel the impact of the welfare reforms.
So for them to be told things are getting better when their lives are at crisis point, I think that’s what tips the balance.
The target for us at the district council elections this year is to win more seats and represent more people in West Oxfordshire. We have got some really good candidates who live in the area they are standing for and have been doing work there. They are ready and prepared to give 100 per cent.
I would expect us to have a bigger presence on the district council after that.
It’s true that UKIP has split the block vote but even without that we have seen an increase in our share of the vote.
There are people who feel the Conservatives don’t represent their views and at last year’s county council elections people felt like there were different options and it was worth going out to vote because nothing is a given.
I think people expect you to work for their vote.
When I first started doing doorstep surgeries I hated it because I didn’t think people would want to answer the door to someone with a rosette on, but most people are pleased because there is someone who is interested in their concerns.
When you realise that, you know that local government can be a positive process and not just something people are frustrated by.
For example, I think that our school results in West Oxfordshire are not as impressive as they should be and there are problems there.
It feels like it links back to a complacency that you don’t have to put a lot of effort in here in West Oxfordshire because we are a wealthy part of the county and things should be left to tick along.
But you should always have a clear vision about what you want. You need a joined up vision and I think that’s often what West Oxfordshire is lacking.
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