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On Thursday May 7th, we launched our manifesto for the 2016 local elections. You can read it in full here.

In this manifesto, we set out our vision for Oxford and our ideas on how to make it a fairer place to live.  Our manifesto is positive, deliverable, and draws upon the excellent ideas brought forward by you, the local Labour party members, our outstanding councillors and those in the communities they are proud to serve.

Over the next four years, we will:

  • Promote the Oxford Living Wage as the minimum rate of pay for all city workers and ensure that it is paid to our own staff, contractors and suppliers
  • Resist the privatisation of council services and instead seek to sell Oxford’s services to other private and public sector organisations.
  • Support new housing, with a local housing company and a robust campaign for high-quality urban extensions
  • Work to make Oxford a great city for cyclists by integrating cycling infrastructure into new developments and improving the quality of cycle lanes and parking
  • Support grassroots sport, with backing for local clubs, improvements to pavilions, an outstanding new facility at Horspath Road, and affordable access to our leisure centres
  • Reduce Oxford’s carbon footprint, extend access to recycling, and clamp down on environmental crimes.

2016 City Council Manifesto Released

On Thursday May 7th, we launched our manifesto for the 2016 local elections. You can read it in full here.


Heidi Alexander MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has responded to the request of the Oxford & District Labour Party to show support for junior doctors. 

This request was made at our February all members meeting, where we heard from Dr. Nadia Randazzo, a local leader in the campaign for junior doctors. After she gave an update on the current progress of the campaign, members vocally offered support and asked what the local party could do to help. Ann Black, Secretary of the Oxford & District Labour, at the request of members sent the following to Heidi Alexander's team:

Dear Heidi Alexander

The Oxford & District Labour Party met on Thursday 11 February 2016 and heard from the vice-chair of the Oxford BMA junior doctors’ committee about their ongoing dispute with the Tory government, which had failed to engage in constructive negotiations.

Members felt that although Labour's shadow health secretary said that Jeremy Hunt had taken the wrong approach to the situation, the dispute had not been raised at prime minister’s questions, and the Labour leadership seemed reluctant to take sides.  The meeting agreed unanimously to write to you both,making these points and calling on Labour to support the doctors in any further strikes.  

We would be grateful for a reply.

With best wishes

Ann Black

Secretary of the Oxford & District Labour Party

The party has received the following reply:

Dear Ann

Thank you for your recent email to Heidi Alexander MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, on behalf of Oxford & District Labour Party regarding the junior doctors’ contract dispute. Ms Alexander has asked me to respond on her behalf. Please accept my apologies for the delay in acknowledging your correspondence.

Since her appointment to the role of Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Ms Alexander has been contacted by hundreds of junior doctors who are concerned about the Government’s proposals to change the terms and conditions of their contracts. She believes the way in which the Government has handled the negotiations has caused unnecessary stress and anger amongst the very people who keep our NHS running.

As you may know, Ms Alexander secured (and led) an Opposition Day Debate and two Urgent Questions in the Commons on this issue, she spoke at the London rally organised by junior doctors in October, she shadowed a junior doctor during his shift at her local hospital and has conducted a significant number of media interviews.  She has also raised the issue with Jeremy Hunt at their departmental exchanges and Jeremy Corbyn has put questions directly to the Prime Minister.

More recently, she has raised concerns about the decision by the Secretary of State to impose the contract. She believes this decision is provocative and she fears imposition will further destroy morale amongst NHS staff.

If you are interested in reading more about Ms Alexander’s views and action on this issue you can see the speeches she has delivered on her website: http://www.heidialexander.org.uk/parliament.aspx

You may also find the recent blog she has written for the Huffington Post website of interest: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/heidi-alexander/jeremy-hunt-junior-doctors_b_9424772.html

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about this matter. Once again, I am sorry for the delay in responding to you.

 Kind regards

 Melanie Haslam

Office of Heidi Alexander MP

Member of Parliament for Lewisham East and Shadow Secretary of State for Health

We hope members find this information useful. These efforts can only be made with the agreement of our membership, and are usually passed at all member meetings. If you are not receiving details of all member meetings, please email info@oxfordlabour.org.uk for information on future meetings. Please note that there will be no meeting in April due to city council elections.

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow Health Team Respond to Oxford Labour Motion

Heidi Alexander MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has responded to the request of the Oxford & District Labour Party to show support for junior doctors. 


Once again, junior doctors in Oxford will be partaking in strike action in response to the governments ongoing refusal to negotiate with them in good faith over new contracts. After our members expressed their desire to do whatever it takes to support junior doctors, details of industrial actions taking place in Oxford are provided below

Wednesday 9th March

8:00am - 12:00pm - Pickets - John Radcliffe Hospital. Headley Way Main entrance. Churchill: Junction of Old Road and Churchill drive. Horton: Hightown Road entrance

Contact Nadia Randazzo - nadia.randazzo@nhs.net or Will Cobb - will.cobb@doctors.org.uk

1:00pm - 3:00pm Little Life Savers: Life Support Training for the local community

East Oxford Community Centre, Princes Street, Cowley, OX4 1DD, contact:  rtsclarke@gmail.com

Thursday 10th March

8:00am - 11:30am - Pickets - John Radcliffe Hospital. Headley Way Main entrance. Churchill: Junction of Old Road and Churchill drive. Horton: Hightown Road entrance.

Contact Nadia Randazzo - nadia.randazzo@nhs.net or Will Cobb - will.cobb@doctors.org.uk

1:00pm - 3:00pm -  David Cameron's Meet the Doctors  Waterloo House 58-60 High Street, Witney OX28 6HJ

Protest outside the Prime minister's office and engage with his own constituents.  Support/ petition signing from the people he is elected to represent would be a powerful message.

Flyers, badges, petitions etc will be provided. Contact:  nadia.randazzo@nhs.net  /  will.cobb@doctors.org.uk

Oxford Labour will be represented and our party banner will be present during the march. We would like to remind members that this protest is being organised by the BMA and not by the Labour Party. To find out more, please visit the BMA website

Help show support for Junior Doctors

Once again, junior doctors in Oxford will be partaking in strike action in response to the governments ongoing refusal to negotiate with them in good faith over new contracts. After...


On June 23rd the British people will face a choice, whether to stay in Europe, or to leave. Oxford Labour is fighting to keep Britain in Europe. 

Are you ready to set out your stall, hand out leaflets and collect signatures for the Labour Party campaign to stay in Europe? Thanks to everyone who has already helped on a Labour-Euro Stall. It is a great way to campaign for Europe and the Labour Party.

Jonathan Harty, Oxford’s Labour organiser, and John Tanner will be pleased to provide you with the campaign materials, including leaflets, balloons, placards and sign-in sheets.  Just tell us when and where you will have your ‘Labour in for Britain’ stall. It would be good to have stalls in lots of places in and around Oxford.

Who else will speak up for a fair and socially responsible Europe if we don’t? Protect Culham Science, the BMW car plant and the Universities. Speak up for jobs, rights at work and security. This is not just a knock-about between Boris and Cameron. It matters and every vote everywhere will count.    

SATURDAY 19TH MARCH - Street Stall - City CentreCornmarket, OX1 3JD

Being held from 11am to 1pm

Contact: Jonathan Harty 07414 903 603, John Tanner 07816 837 805

SATURDAY 19TH MARCH - Street Stall - Headington

Being held from 11am to 1pm

Contact: Glynis Phillips 07929 659 902 

SATURDAY 2ND APRIL - Street Stall - Outside the Coop on Banbury Road, OX2 7BY

Being held from 10:30am to 12:30pm

Contact: Catrin Roberts 01865 598 900

 

 

 

 

 

Oxford Labour In For Britain Campaign

On June 23rd the British people will face a choice, whether to stay in Europe, or to leave. Oxford Labour is fighting to keep Britain in Europe. 

Thursday night, Oxford City Council voted, with not a single vote against, to endorse the Labour administration’s proposed budget.

 The key features include:

  • Preservation of front-line services without major cutbacks
  • No proposals for privatisation, and instead continued “trading” by the council to offer its services to other organisations
  • A planning application for new, sustainable housing south of Grenoble Road, investment of £5 million with a social entrepreneur to purchase temporary accommodation within or close to Oxford, and the establishment of a local housing company to support the development of affordable housing
  • Continuation, in full, of council tax benefit for those on low incomes
  • A wide-ranging capital programme, funding improvements to community centres, Oxford’s parks and sports pavilions, the Museum of Oxford, and thousands of council homes
  • Funding of regeneration on the existing Barton estate and on Blackbird Leys
  • No reductions in funding for homeless, advice or cultural services for he next four years
  • Continuation of the Oxford Living Wage for staff, contractors and suppliers.

This comes in the context of the complete deletion of government “revenue support grant”, and an estimated reduction in funding from retained business rates and council tax of 16%, 14%, 10% and 6% over each of the next four years.  The government has also forced the council to reduce rents in its properties, which will delete over £31 million in funding for new homes and improvements to existing properties over the next four years, and is proposing to charge a “levy” on income from council properties which is to be met by selling off properties.

The Liberal Democrats proposed an amendment which would have reduced the frequency of elections in Oxford, additional expenditure on projects in just one part of the city (North Oxford), and deleted funding for disabled transport.  This was defeated.  The Green Party proposed building housing over city park and ride car parks, in spite of concerns about the living environment this would offer and lack of proper funding, and a number of over-optimistic attempts to raise income (for instance, from car parking, at the same time as slashing the budget for car park maintenance), coupled with risky increases in borrowing.  These proposals were also defeated.

In proposing the Labour budget, Cllr Ed Turner, Deputy Leader and Board Member for Finance, made the following speech to the council meeting:

"Lord Mayor, I am glad, once again, to be proposing the Labour administration’s budget to Council.  We know that this has been another hard year for local public services in our country – not only with further, savage cuts to government funding, but also with the outrageous provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill currently going through parliament.  This presents challenges for people across our city – whether it is the employer, public or private, which struggles to recruit, the older person finding his or her warden service removed, the hostel resident not knowing from one day to the next where he or she will be living, the parents anxious about the quality of education their children are receiving.  We cannot solve all of their problems, but we owe it to them, and to all Oxford citizens, to give it our best shot.

Nobody knows or cares more about the situation of Oxford people than our staff, on the frontline.  They have shown it time and time again – with the awards for the whole council, from the Municipal Journal, from the Association for Public Service Excellence, coming thick and fast, as well as celebration of numerous individual teams, but no less importantly from feedback from the local people.  Yet again, our staff have delivered – this year as last year, our budget is expected to finish on track, in spite of demanding savings and income generation targets.  And this year as last year, the pressures on our services are growing – but our staff are proving equal to them.  As councillors, we owe all our staff a particular vote of thanks for their committed service to our council and to local people.  Obviously, as finance lead, I also want to particularly thank the Finance team for its work in putting together this year’s budget – in spite of the difficult external environment, they have yet again been meticulous.  I was interested, in reading Craig Simmons’ Green Party budget amendment, to see his view that there is 99% consensus on our budgets.  I’m not sure I’d go quite that far – and today we will be focusing on that part of ourbudgets upon which we may not agree – but I do detect that there is a growing measure of agreement.  In previous years, we have had to rehearse tired debates about the right committee structures for our council – things now seem to have moved on. And I am genuinely delighted that there appears to be cross-party support for our proposals to build new housing south of Grenoble Road.  We know that if we obsess about preserving the green belt around Oxford – what Bob Price has called a “green noose” – we will close off any prospect of keeping Oxford as a city for those on lower and middle incomes, as well as for those lucky enough already to have a property or to be wealthy – and I am delighted that this goal of sustainable expansion appears to be shared across our council.

I want to structure my remaining remarks around three key areas.  First, just to sketch our financial picture in general terms.  Secondly, to say something about the way in which we are, nonetheless, investing in our communities in various ways.  Thirdly, to look at the particular challenges we face with respect to housing.  And I would like to draw out some conclusions for public authorities more widely.

On our general financial picture – we know that we have lost some 47% of government grant between the 2010 general election and this year.  We also know that it is deleted by the final year of our four-year settlement, and indeed we end up in a position of “negative grant” at that stage.  We know that, increasingly, the government is shifting substantial risks onto councils without giving us the tools to mitigate them.  So rather than getting stable government grant, instead we are reliant upon inherently volatile business rate growth.  While the Chancellor may trumpet that local authorities are going to keep more business rates (not that he will give us the power to determine their level in any meaningful way), the combined total of this income is forecast to fall – by around 16% next year, and then 14%, 10% and 6% over each following year.  And of course, crucially, these figures may get worse still, depending on business rate income and even appeals against past business rate decisions.   From this, four consequences follow: first, we need to retain some flexibility, which we have done by using revenue contributions to capital, so that if there are shortfalls, we face retimetabling some capital schemes, rather than needing to lose staff.  Secondly, we hold appropriate contingencies, for example for things like business rate appeals.  Government has no business complaining about councils setting aside money for risks if, in the same breath, it makes the environment in which we operate massively riskier – we owe it to local citizens to be sensibly cautious.  Thirdly, we need to retain a diverse set of income streams, and this we are doing: whereas some councils, up and down the country, are privatising services, instead we are actually buying in work across our organisation, and particularly in direct services (but also in, for example, the finance service, HR, legal and business improvement) undertaking work for other organisations.  The fact we are doing this gives the lie to those who say that the private sector is always more efficient, always knows best – instead our combination of local know-how, decent working conditions for our staff, and public service ethos can be competitive in the marketplace.  It is the privatisers who are the deluded ideologues, not us.  Lastly, we need more than ever before to focus upon priorities – and under this Labour administration our focus upon avoiding redundancies, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, and improving services, especially for the most vulnerable, is our relentless, driving focus.

This takes me to the next point – investment in our communities.  Let me take you on a walk down Ashhurst Way, the main road on Rose Hill estate, which I represent.  Actually, it looks better than it did – thanks to improved parking through our Great Estates programme, which is fully funded in our proposed HRA budget.  On the right hand side of the road, you get to the new Rose Hill community centre – a fantastic resource, effectively combining a range of services, again, fully funded in this budget.  Practically every visitor I have taken there has been almost blown away by the council’s ambition in investing in this facility.  On the left hand side, the first council houses built in Oxford for a generation, providing homes to families that need them at a price they can afford – as I will explain, although the government is stopping us repeating this exact initiative, it is also a model for the future.  Then, sadly, we get to the areas we cannot control – a brilliant children’s centre which will, at best, see a reigning in of services thanks to Tory cuts, and a primary school which has gone into special measures, to which recruitment and retention of staff, not least thanks to our housing crisis, has been a major contributory factor, and where the children had to write to David Cameron just to ask to get the heating fixed.  There is some local consternation, to put it mildly, at the differences in the way the two councils seem to approach the area, and I have to explain that there is a limit to what we in the city council can do.  But at the same time, Ashhurst Way shows what can be done – and our ambitions are not confined to Rose Hill.  The budget proposes substantial investments: in regeneration in the existing Barton estate, in a renewed commitment to regeneration on the Leys, to the splash feature at Cutteslowe park, to the investment in community centres like East Oxford and South Oxford, with over £1.3 million to protect communities from the scourge of flooding, and for all our communities to a greatly improved, exciting, welcoming Museum of Oxford, freely available to all.  Moreover, this isn't just about what the Council can do itself – our budget preserves, in full and in spite of the deletion of government funding, our support of homelessness prevention services of £1.4 million per year, more crucial than ever in the context of our housing crisis and in the light of cuts elsewhere.  We propose preserving, in full, funding for advice services, for the cultural sector, for our brilliantly-successful youth ambition programme, giving all young people opportunities which would otherwise only be available for some.  These are examples of what I mean by needing to prioritise – across the country, grants are being cut, homeless services reduced, advice agencies closing, youth workers being laid off – we are saying that, regardless of our statutory duties, for Oxford City Council this work goes to the very heart of our values, to what we are about, and we will do our darnedest to preserve it.  I would add, too, that we are proposing with this budget to fully fund council tax benefit, becoming one of a dwindling minority of councils to do so.  We will not balance our books on the backs of those on the lowest incomes, indeed often those in low paid work.

Let me now turn to housing.  Last year, we proposed substantial new investment in council homes, with just about 1,000 being financed in the HRA business plan.  This year, we are forced by a toxic cocktail of government policies, to change tack: a forced 1% rent cut, being cynically sold to council tenants as an improvement but in reality a back-handed money-saving wheeze to reduce funds for new homes and improvements to existing stock, will take away £31 million over the next four years.  The government, in the Housing and Planning Bill, is giving itself the power to write blank cheques, which can only be paid by us selling off desperately needed council homes – a crazy policy, especially in an area of acute housing shortage.  And the plan to hammer council tenants with market rents when they hit household earnings of £30,000 per year, will surely force some reluctant tenants to exercise their right to buy.  It is not clear to me why giving someone a property to rent at a price they can afford is sneered at as being a “subsidy” by multi-millionaire ministers, but selling a “starter home” for a quarter of a million pounds which might otherwise have cost £300,000 is a fantastic investment of public money; that, though, is the new reality of government housing policy.  So what are we doing?  First, we are preserving many of the important elements in our Housing Revenue Account budget: the tower block refurbishment, services to our tenants, kitchen and bathroom works, regeneration on the Leys and at Barton, the Great Estates programme.  Secondly, we are proposing to establish a local housing company – which offers significant potential – it could offer affordable housing to local people, calling upon the services of the council for maintenance and management; it could build new housing, and potentially reinvest profits from private sale into its social purpose; and it could purchase properties sold under “forced sale” provisions and keep them for rent at an affordable level.  We are also talking with local housing associations about pursuing these objectives.   Thirdly, we are drawing upon our excellent experience at Barton in having a shared stake in new housing development, rather than leaving the provision of affordable housing to negotiation through the planning process alone, by funding our new partnership, at Oxpens, giving us the potential for a high-quality, mixed use development.  Fourth, we in this budget fully resource the purchase of £5 million of property, in partnership with a charity and social investors, to provide temporary accommodation within or at least within easy reach of Oxford.  Fifth, we are putting extra revenue – now – into funding our homelessness service, as well as protecting our grants in full.  Sixth, we are reviewing our local plan, trying to identify new sites for housing, while protecting other features of our city, and resourcing this process properly so that we can fend off challenges from those who want to water down our commitment to affordable accommodation in the city.  Seventh, we propose jointly funding a planning application south of Grenoble Road.  This is not a comprehensive set of answers to our housing challenge – the government is stopping us from doing the sensible thing, and becoming a great housebuilder in the city once again – but it is a set of answers which should assure the many suffering from no or inadequate housing in Oxford that we will leave no stone unturned in seeking to resolve their plight.

Lord Mayor, I promised, in conclusion, briefly to reflect on some of the things I think this budget tells us about providing public services in a place like Oxford.  First, have faith in your staff, and avoid the sharp suits from firms like Skanska and Carillion seeking to take over your services.  Our staff are our greatest asset and resource, that deserve a supportive working environment and a fair wage.  Council staff can actually beat the private sector time and time again when they go out into the market place and offer their services.  Second, be realistic in your financial estimates – over-optimistic projections of government grant, or kicking the can down the road on savings, are no substitute for a long term plan; and don’t be afraid of setting aside contingencies if there is a good case for them.  Third, be bold in your ambition – whether it’s a new community centre, or a new community of over 800 homes, the public sector can have a proud role to play, and austerity shouldn't limit our ambitions, even if it may change the way we have to deliver them.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, hang onto your values.  For our Labour group on this council, this involves working in partnership with our staff, investing in our communities, resisting privatisation, and preserving an unrelenting focus upon narrowing the gap between rich and poor, working to ensure that all have the opportunities that otherwise would only go to those with the means to enjoy them, and safeguarding the services not of those who shout the loudest, but of those who need them the most.  I am confident that this budget achieves those aims, and in doing so remains true to our values, and that is why I commend it to Council."

 

Oxford Labour Budget Passes City Council

Thursday night, Oxford City Council voted, with not a single vote against, to endorse the Labour administration’s proposed budget.

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