I am the Liberal Democrat candidate for North Ward in the Oxford City Council Elections on Thursday 3rd May 2018.
In my (main) day job, I am Associate Professor in International Refugee Law at the University of Reading and Research Associate of Oxford University's Refugee Studies Centre.
Oxford is a wonderful place to call home, but there is much work to be done so that it continues to be a welcoming and outward-looking city.
Every year new figures are released which show Oxford as the most unaffordable city in the UK. For years, the Lib Dems have been campaigning for affordable housing in Oxford for young people, so that e.g. teachers & nurses are not ‘priced out’ of the city, end up clogging up commuter routes, and increasing air pollution.
Given that so many residents are living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), it is critical that HMOs meet the required standards. The law requires landlords to register them with the Council to ensure their quality, but it is estimated that only half of the approximately 9,000 HMOs are registered. I will press for the Council to set a registration target of an extra 500 HMOs each year.
Oxford also has a serious problem of homes bought for investment and kept empty which is contributing to the housing shortage and high prices of housing in the city. As City Councillor, I will propose that the Council look at adopting policies such as St Ives’ where home-buyers sign a declaration that they do not own a second home elsewhere.
TRANSPORTATION, CYCLING, AND PARKING
Now that the London (east) side of the railway station is lit, I will press as City Councillor for North Ward for an all-hours entry/exit on the west side of the railway station ahead of the station redevelopment, and for the use of Roger Dudman Way as a through road. At present, a ‘grace and favour’ exit operates only during the rush hours. I will also push for the building of a canal bridge to complete the cycle network and for lighting along the small stretch of the canal from foot of Great Clarendon Street to Rewley Road.
Speeding is a concern, especially in Kingston Road, where the present measures are not working as intended. As the city council takes more responsibility of roads, I will work with the County Councillor John Howson to try and find a solution to the problem, in the first instance through conducting speed checks.
Parking remains an issue across much of North Ward. I support the residents who are keen to explore whether pavement parking (for example, on Southmoor Road) would reduce the number of scrapes and bumps along some of the narrower roads. City Councillors have access to funds to spend on projects in their wards; this is the type of project I will try to support.
Rough sleeping is the starkest kind of homelessness and the scale of the problem is increasing: The National Audit Office gives a national figure for autumn 2016 of 4,000 rough sleepers, but the homelessness charity Crisis estimates 9,000. A recent study by Heriot-Watt University shows that, if Government policy does not change, there could be 40,000 Rough Sleepers (RSs) on our streets by 2041.
Regrettably, the Labour Council’s approach has been to issue £2,500 fines for leaving possessions in doorways, almost exclusively affecting Rough Sleepers.
As City Councillor, I will work with fellow Liberal Democrats to implement recommendations submitted for inclusion in the City’s Housing & Homelessness policy:
1. The City’s strategy should specify how Rough Sleepers without a local connection can still access accommodation and ‘pathway’ support, which are currently disallowed. For instance, should living on our streets for 12 months bar them from receiving help? There is an important debate to be had here, which may lead to calls for a national funding policy.
2. The City should draw up a list of minimum requirements for Rough Sleepers, including an increase in shower facilities and provision of clothes for interviews.
3. ‘Severe weather provision’ in churches and other spaces should be triggered at an earlier stage and the whereabouts of emergency crisis accommodation should be clear. On 27 November 2017 a Green/Lib Dem motion to provide a converted bus with 10 sleeping places at a cost of £20,000 was voted down unanimously by the Labour Councillors.
4 Punitive measures e.g. the Community Protection notices served on Rough Sleepers on 19 July 2017, should only be used as a last resort and should have to be authorised in writing by the City Solicitor and the Head of Service. The same should apply to Anti-Social Behaviour orders and Public Spaces Protection Orders.
PROTECTING BRITAIN’S PLACE IN EUROPE
The biggest national issue of our time, and the one which brought me into active politics, is our place in Europe. The Liberal Democrats passionately believe that Britain is better off in the EU. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to give the final say to the British people in a referendum on whether to accept the deal or remain in the EU
I am an EU27 citizen, like one in every 10 Oxford residents. The limbo in which our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbours still find themselves more than 600 days after the referendum should shame us all - into action! The Liberal Democrats are committed to fully protecting rights of EU27 citizens, including retention of their right to vote and to stand in local government elections.
Nationally, I was delighted to successfully move an amendment at the Liberal Democrats' September 2016 Conference that made the party the first to explicitly commit to maintaining the rights of EU27 citizens. I am an adviser to New Europeans
, a citizens' rights advocacy NGO, and a 'Britain in Europe' academic expert. I have made a written submission to the House of Lords' EU (Justice) Sub-Committee on citizens' rights and have appeared before the 'All Parliamentary Party Group on Freedom of Movement'.
Locally, as elected Chair of the Oxford European Association
and a leading campaigner of Oxford for Europe
, I am fighting every day to keep Oxford the open, diverse, and tolerant place that I fell in love with when I came here as a postgraduate law student over a decade ago. I have been organising street stalls, panel events, public appeals, and frequent meetings with our elected representatives - including our staunch Remain-supporting Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran.
The Liberal Democrats believe that UK membership of the Single Market and Customs Union guarantees jobs, opportunity and prosperity for Oxford’s residents. The Labour party, including Labour’s Oxford MP, not only voted for the invocation of Article 50, un-amended, but also against Lib Dem amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to ensure the UK’s continued Single Market membership. As City Councillor, I will fight against the adverse effects that leaving the Single Market and imposing restrictions on free movement from/to the EU will have on the local economy, risking young people's future, and driving away talented professionals.
I have been involved with the campaign to end indefinite detention (#time4atimelimit
), sit on the advisory council of Rene Cassin
(a refugee advocacy NGO), and am a council member of Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary
. Addressing Oxford City Council last year, I urged it to commit Oxford, as a City of Sanctuary, to participating in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.
As a City Councillor, I will work closely with local organisations such as Asylum Welcome and City of Sanctuary to ensure that Oxford continues to provide support to seekers of sanctuary.
GETTING IN TOUCH
I am keen to hear about your concerns, suggestions, and priorities. Understanding your views will help us make a success of representing our local community.
SPREADING THE WORD
I would be really grateful for your active support: please spread the word among friends and colleagues!
This goes especially for EU27 citizens who may not be aware that they are eligible to vote in local government elections: the City Council elections are a chance for them to send a clear message in support of the Liberal Democrats’ pro-European, international outlook.