THIS week the Oxford Mail is profiling the political parties canvassing for your vote in the upcoming city council elections on May 6. Today the chairman of East Oxford's Conservatives, Mark Bhagwandin, sets out his pledges to win seats on the city council.

The Oxford Conservatives do not have a written manifesto, and are mainly standing on a series of local promises, but have a series of city-wide issues they are also campaigning on.

Mr Bhagwandin said: "There is a good chance we will get on the council this year. The reason is there are a number of community issues people have which Labour has pursued or welcomed which are not in people's interests. I think Labour will be punished for that."

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If elected, the Conservatives have promised to review council spending and the amount people pay in tax, to remove Low Traffic Neighbourhoods if residents do not want them, to find a long term solution for rough sleeping, and to protect pubs.

Council tax freeze

On council spending, Mr Bhagwandin said the Tories would review executive staff pay at the council, with the aim of freezing it for the foreseeable future.

He said: "We will be calling for a pay-freeze of council employees earning over £100,000. I think that is fair enough, they are earning quite a lot. I think it is fair to ask them to show the restraint that other workers are having to make in their salaries."

The Conservative association chairman added that would not be the only area of finances his party would freeze, as it would investigate stopping council tax from rising in future.

He said: "We would like to see a freeze in council tax to reflect the fact that residents of Oxford have had a very difficult year given the Covid pandemic situation."

The Tory campaigner said his party would look at how to make up the difference in spending from the council's reserves.

On finances he also suggested there should be a freeze in rent at council owned properties like the Covered Market, which he said would benefit traders.

'Sensible' active travel

On transport, Mr Bhagwandin stressed the Oxford's Conservatives were in favour of active travel like cycling and walking, but did not agree with the way schemes like Cowley's Low Traffic Neighbourhoods had been rolled out.

He said: "To be clear we support active travel schemes which are sensible and don't damage the environment. I think we would emphasise the word sensible."

Mr Bhagwandin said his party expected the LTNs to have caused traffic build up and more pollution on large roads, even if it had benefitted smaller residential ones.

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He added his party would be opposed to plans for bus gates on Marston Ferry Road and Holloway in the future, which contrasts with the county council Conservatives who have backed these plans.

Instead, Mr Bhagwandin said 'sensible' options for active travel included more segregated bike lanes in Oxford so cyclists could feel safe.

More mental health support

On homelessness, the Tory candidate for Marston added he wanted to see more done to help rough sleepers move away from the streets for good.

Similar policies for long term help have been suggested by Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens too.

Mr Bhagwandin said: "There are very complex issues that need to be addressed and I would like to see greater investment in mental health support, and support for people faced with addictive substances. I would like to see a greater level of investment in people who are vulnerable."

He pledged to investigate a 'sustainable strategy' to help people off the streets on a permanent basis.

On housing more generally, Mr Bhagwandin said his party would scrutinise community investment by large developers.

The Tory candidate said he thought some areas had been 'shafted' by a lack of investment after agreements for community funding had not delivered affordable homes.

Protecting pubs

The Eagle and Child, St Giles

The Eagle and Child, St Giles

Mr Bhagwandin said his party was also campaigning on protecting pubs in Oxford.

He said: "One of the things we have been reflecting on is the fact that a trend has started of allowing pubs to have a change of use once they have closed."

He promised the Conservatives would look at planning regulations to prevent pubs from being turned into flats or shops.

He added: "Pubs are really important, they are crucial for community cohesion, it is a place where people can mingle and come together."

Mr Bhagwandin was born and brought up in Guyana, where he used to work as a journalist.

He moved to the UK in 2002, and now works as an advocacy manager for a charity.

He joined the Conservative Party in 2010, as he thought they offered the 'right policies' to improve opportunities out of poverty.