OVER the next week, the Oxford Mail will be speaking to candidates from the different political parties standing to win power on Oxfordshire County Council on May 6. Today, Ian Hudspeth, the current leader of the council and leader of the Conservative group, shares his party’s campaign promises.

Mr Hudspeth’s Conservative group are campaigning on the twin promises of tackling the climate crisis, and ‘building back better’ after the pandemic.

“Our commitment for the election is that the climate change agenda will be taken into account in every decision,” he said.

The councillor for Woodstock has led the Conservative group on Oxfordshire County Council since 2012, and before that held several high ranking cabinet jobs.

He was first elected to his seat on the county council in 2005.

Before he moved to Oxfordshire in the 1990s, he ran a series of hardware shops in London, a business he moved away from as he became more involved in local politics.

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Mr Hudspeth was inspired to enter politics by the rise of Thatcherism in the 1980s.

At one point before entering local politics, he had considered standing to become an MP in the Sedgefield constituency in County Durham, which includes the town were he was born, Newton Aycliffe.

At the time, the area’s MP was Tony Blair.

Carbon Neutral

A vote for Oxfordshire’s Tories, said Mr Hudspeth, would be a continuation of the current county council’s regime, but with the focus being on the ‘key areas’ of climate change and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

The county council is responsible for local services including maintaining roads, libraries, disposing of waste, and its biggest expense, social care for both adults and children.

On climate change, Mr Hudspeth said the Conservatives would work to make the council carbon neutral by 2030, replacing lightbulbs with energy-saving LEDs, and switching to a fleet of electrically-powered vehicles.

The council leader also emphasises the authority’s historic track rate on improving recycling rates, saying that while 95 per cent of waste went to landfill in 2000, only two per cent does now, with a large majority being recycled, and another large chunk being used to generate energy.

He said: “We are really taking the climate change agenda seriously and making sure everything is pointing in that direction.”

Economic boom

But he also emphasised the importance of recovery from the pandemic, saying: “It is important we build back better in Oxfordshire, it is one of the few net-contributors for the UK economy. It is important not just for Oxfordshire but for the whole of the UK.”

Steps required to bolster the local economy as coronavirus rates reduce and vaccines are administered include massive infrastructure upgrades according to Mr Hudspeth.

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This includes a commitment to improving broadband services in rural areas, so businesses can trade with ease, as well as a continuation of the road building programme currently being carried out across the county.

However, the Conservative leader added in the longer term there was a need to promote more ‘active travel’ including cycling and walking, as well as bus services.

He said: “When we talk about a programme for infrastructure it is not just about building roads, it is about building safe cycle routes and pavements. If we have that ‘modal shift’ then it is better for the environment, but it also means healthier people and helps the NHS and social care. It is a virtuous circle.”

Social Care

The Conservative leader also emphasised the importance of making sure social care, which is run by the council and the NHS, can work together.

Describing care as ‘absolutely essential’ he said the Conservatives would continue with a programme of making sure people had the choice to care in their own homes, not just in residential care homes.

The Conservative leader also had a message to urban areas of the county, which are more likely to vote for Labour, the Lib Dems or parties other than the Tories, describing how in the past he had recognised these areas had differences and tried to work out what was best without imposing a ‘one-sized fits all’ approach.