GRASSROOTS campaigners for the Labour Party have received a windfall to help recruit people with disabilities as candidates in future elections.

The Oxford East constituency Labour party (CLP) will use its £2,000 in newly-awarded funds to encourage talented locals to stand in city council elections in 2018.

According to current figures about 11m people in the UK are living with a disability, with disabled people making up more than 20 per cent on the voting-age population.

But only one per cent of MPs in the House of Commons have a disability, and about 10 per cent of local councillors have a declared disability or long-term impairment.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: "This is an issue that is regularly raised with me by individual constituents as well as a range of local groups.

"As austerity cuts hit services and opportunities for disabled people, I think it’s important that the Labour Party leads the way in empowering people with disabilities to get involved in politics and stand for election.

"This fund will help us to develop the skills and experiences of talented people with disabilities in the Oxford area and enable them to represent our party."

Councillors will also focus on ways to make local elections more inclusive. Last year national disability charity Scope found that two thirds of disabled people experienced barriers to voting, including a lack of accessible voting booths and an absence of hearing loops for deaf people.

Research from Mencap also showed that the majority of people with learning disabilities did not register to vote because they found it too difficult.

The money will be used to launch the new Oxford Disability Labour Network this winter and a talent summit held in summer 2017 ahead of selections for the 2018 vote.

Newly-elected Oxford City Councillor Marie Tidball, who represents Hinksey Park, entered the bid for funding from the party's National Executive Committee.

She said: "Almost a century after the first wave of women won the right to vote, disabled people still face huge barriers in accessing this right and standing for election.

"Disabled people’s suffrage is the biggest challenge facing our representative democracy in our generation.

"I am proud that Oxford Labour is at the forefront of engaging more disabled people in this process and giving them a voice."

The new network will be launched to coincide with Disability History Month, a national celebration running from November 22 to December 22.

Those interested in finding out more or getting involved in the campaign should contact Jonathan Harty at