LIBERAL Democrat support in the city will be put to the test when longstanding city councillor Patrick Murray stands down today.

Mr Murray, the party’s deputy leader at the Town Hall, is moving on after taking a new job that will take him away from the area.

And the by-election his departure will spark will be the first test of the party’s Oxford support since it formed a national coalition Government with the Conservatives.

Mr Murray was elected to represent the Barton and Sandhills ward in 2004 and re-elected in 2008.

He joined the city council, aged 24, after a spending time homeless in the city and went on to become the executive member for housing during the Liberal Democrats’ time in control at the Town Hall.

Mr Murray said he wanted to thank all who had supported him during his time as a councillor but he would not be drawn about the coalition’s impact on the by-election.

He said: “I’m sad to go as I have enjoyed working with colleagues and the local community.

“I feel privileged to have been elected twice.”

Mr Murray said being homeless and staying in temporary accommodation hostels in the late 1990s had motivated him to address the city’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.

He said he was proud of the council’s achievements on the issue, including the Old Fire Station homeless centre development scheduled to open next year, but said more needed to be done.

Mr Murray has been a vocal supporter of new housing being built south of the city at Grenoble Road and for Oxford’s green belt to be redrawn.

He said: “There are not a lot of sites in the city and Grenoble Road is now on the back burner so people need to be creative.

“Cowley Business Park has been half empty for the best part of a decade.

“Given the housing crisis I don’t think it is viable to completely deny housing on that site.”

He added: “The problem is you have a lot of people who own their own homes, who don’t care about anyone else and say build somewhere else.

“If they want a city full of the rich and the privileged they are going the right way about it.”

Mr Murray, who got married this summer, also worked on Lib Dem candidate Steve Goddard’s parliamentary campaign at the 2005 and 2010 general elections.

He has taken up the post of Liberal Democrat political assistant at Northamptonshire County Council, a politically-restricted post that means he cannot stand as a councillor.

Labour councillor and executive board member John Tanner said he was sorry to see Mr Murray go but added his party would target the vacant seat.

He added: “It is not a good time for the Lib Dems because of the decision to form a coalition with the Tories. On the doorstep people are very disappointed.”