THIS week the Oxford Mail is speaking to candidates from the different political parties standing to win power on Oxfordshire County Council on May 6. Today, Liz Leffman, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, explains her party’s promises.

Mrs Leffman, the county councillor for Charlbury and Wychwood, said the climate emergency would underpin everything her party would do in power, including ‘empowering’ people to reduce their own carbon footprint, and working with Oxfordshire’s science and technology businesses on large scale solutions.

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She said: “Whatever we do, we will be thinking about how we will tackle the climate emergency, most effectively in the county.

“However, we also want a more caring county, and that means investing more in adult social care and child social care.”

First elected to the county council in 2017, Mrs Leffman is also a district councillor in West Oxfordshire.

She became interested in politics as debate over the Iraq war gripped the UK in the early 2000, joining the Lib Dems.

She has also stood as the party’s MP candidate for Witney, including against former PM David Cameron.

The Oxfordshire Lib Dem group’s commitments on climate change include that they would create a climate emergency post in the council’s cabinet, the senior group of councillors who oversee the authority's work, which they say would ‘embed climate impact into council decision making’.

Mrs Leffman added her party wanted to look at 'how we can empower people locally to make decisions to reduce their own carbon emissions'.

The Lib Dems have promised to ‘decarbonise’ public transport, proving all-electric or hydrogen-powered buses across Oxfordshire, investing in new electric car charging points, and also making cycling and walking easier.

She added: “What we are discovering is there is a huge appetite for businesses and employers to collaborate with the county to do things that would reduce their carbon footprint.”

The Chipping Norton councillor gave the example of the Witney to Oxford Transport group, a campaign aiming to restore the railway line in western Oxfordshire, which she said could benefit from more council support.

The Lib Dems are also committed to rolling out Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, a scheme which has seen cul-de-sacs created with planters and bollards in residential areas of Oxford to stop through traffic and make cycling and walking safer.

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Much like the Labour Party, the Lib Dems have also promised to bring back a county youth service, providing clubs and activities for young people in Oxfordshire.

Mrs Leffman added there was a need to provide young people with good jobs.

She said: "We have got a potential crisis on our hands. A lot of young people work in hospitality for example, and it is very difficult to say how that is going to go as things are just opening up."

The Lib Dems are advocating for more apprenticeships to help young people starting in the world of work, to replace some of the opportunities the pandemic has cut short.

The centre-ground party has also called for more integration between health and social care so that people coming out of hospital can easily get support in their homes.

The Lib Dem deputy leader said: "It exists up to a point at the moment... but if someone is discharged from hospital and needs support it can be a long process to get that."

Liz Leffman the Lib Dem county deputy leader. Picture: Ed Nix

Liz Leffman the Lib Dem county deputy leader. Picture: Ed Nix

She emphasised that this service should be 'delivered and scrutinised locally', as plans to merge Oxfordshire's NHS management with other neighbouring counties mean the opposite is currently happening.

The party is also promising a review into mental health services, with Mrs Leffman describing the current service as 'very badly underfunded' with workers who are 'overstretched'.

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The Lib Dem deputy leader added her party would push for more transparency at the council, and said new constitutional rules were needed to prevent the council's paid staff from signing off on large payments.

On the Lib Dems opportunities in the election, Mrs Leffman said she thought there was all the chance her party could win more seats.

The party saw strong returns in local elections in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse elections in 2019, and she hoped this could be repeated.