The Oxford Mail's political reporter Nathan Briant looks at the main issues at play at next month's election.

THE world has changed significantly since the last time councillors up for re-election in May stood for their seats four years ago.

President Trump was only something you could see on The Simpsons. If you’d have mentioned to Jeremy Corbyn that he would be leader of the Labour Party in 2015, even he would have been suspicious.

But here we are.

With that in mind, it would be foolish to predict with smug certainty what will happen across Oxfordshire.

But I’m not sticking my neck out too far when I predict that Labour are likely to return a healthy number of councillors in Oxford.

That is despite several hurdles the party faces across the city.

Since I arrived in Oxford, I’ve grown steadily more familiar to homeless people sitting on street corners or to seeing vacant shops’ entrances cluttered with homeless people’s belongings.

And that is one thing that will stick in people’s minds when they to vote on May 3.

The city council is likely to be punished by some who think the increasing problem is entirely its fault, despite the sharp rise mirrored in other cities across the country.

It is unfortunate for Oxford that the city acts as a magnet for homeless people, pulling them in from towns across the county and further afield.

For example, it has been raised in a number of recent council meetings that there are more homeless people from Banbury living on Oxford’s streets than there are in Banbury.

Other parties have reacted with anger on the issue of community protection notices, a row which flared up in the city in July.

The council issued notices which threatened homeless people with fines of £2,500.

For the Green Party in particular, its councillors have used to the issue to describe the city council as uncaring and hard-hearted.

Other claims, including a rumour that a woman died in Oxford because she was sleeping rough, have been spread widely across social media over recent months. That they have been proved untrue and that some other claims have been wild exaggerations might not matter to some voters, for whom this is the key issue at this election.

We will only be able to see the real impact of this once votes have been counted on May 4, with half of the council’s 48 seats being elected.

Some Labour members are worried they might be wiped out where Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of Euroscepticism is unpopular, in a city where 70 per cent people voted Remain.

Oxford East’s Labour MP, Anneliese Dodds has quickly been promoted to a place in her party’s Treasury team.

Her appearances in the national media, despite being an MP for less than a year, suggest she has ambitions beyond sitting as a backbencher.

But there will be some across Oxford who will switch from Labour on a local level because they cannot stomach the party’s lukewarm approach to another Brexit referendum.

In these cases, some people might switch to Green. They might find a home with the Liberal Democrats. Both parties have been far clearer in their approaches to Brexit: they want to remain.

The Conservative Party, which currently has no city councillors, will stand in all 24 wards.

Notable councillors up for re-election include new city council leader Susan Brown, who faces a challenge from Peter Coggins from the Liberal Democrats, William Vowell from the Green Party and Jake Whittingham from the Conservative Party in Churchill ward.

Prominent councillors to stand down include Ms Brown’s predecessor as leader, Bob Price.

The current Lord Mayor, Jean Fooks, is seeing out her term in the council’s chief ceremonial role. On finishing 26 years as a city councillor for Summertown, she will move to live closer to her daughter, who lives near Exeter.

Another hot topic this time round is, of course, the issue of housing. It will certainly be on the minds of candidates in Cherwell district north of Oxford.

The plan to build 4,400 homes on Oxford’s Green Belt was supported by councillors in February and is now awaiting independent examination. But for some councillors in Kidlington and other green campaigners the fight will surely go on.

That said, it is difficult to see where exactly voters opposed to building on the Green Belt will go.

The Conservative group on the council ensured the plan was pushed through to the government’s planning inspector, but all Tory representatives for Kidlington were vehemently opposed. Layla Moran and other Liberal Democrats were against, as were the Labour and the Green parties.

Across Cherwell, the election will also be overshadowed by the death of Jolanta Lis, a Bicester councillor who was standing for re-election. She died on Friday.

She was a town and district councillor, serving as the district council’s vice-chairman in 2017/18.

The election for her Bicester West ward has now been postponed – and her passing will surely be on the minds of many of her colleagues.

Meanwhile, in West Oxfordshire, voters might be swung on issues that have plagued their journeys to work.

Led by the county council and a vital part of West Oxfordshire District Council’s future contribution to house building, any work to get £135m to fund upgrades for the A40 could be a vote winner and has been passed on for further Government consideration.

The eventual 2,200-home garden village which would be built as part of the project near Eynsham might be less popular.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council’s next elections will be held in 2019.