City Council elections take place next Thursday, with most Oxford students voting in the Carfax, Holywell and North wards. Four current Oxford students are standing in these wards, with two candidates representing the Conservative Party, and the others representing the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties respectively. Many of these students have latched onto similar movements and policy proposals, with particular concern being shown for Oxford’s homelessness problem and rising living costs in the city.
“I was motivated to stand for council when I saw the news that Labour had ignored petitions and protests and decided to impose a fine of up to £1,000 on homeless people”, said second year Classicist and Liberal Democratic candidate for Carfax, Harry Samuels.
The other Liberal Democrat, running in Holywell, voiced similar concerns. “I got involved because I have been exceptionally frustrated by how little the council engages with students. If elected, I will fight to repeal Labour’s up-to-£1,000 fine on the homeless” said Wadham graduate Andy McKay.
Hustings for the City Council elections happened at Magdalen on Wednesday evening. At various points in the hustings for the Carfax position, the debate became heated as some accused the Labour candidate and incumbent, Alex Hollingsworth, of criminalising homelessness. In response, Hollingsworth and others pointed out the Government’s role in decreasing funding for the homeless.
The other issue brought up was rent across the city. Candidates from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties criticised the current leadership for freezing student housing, which they said was driving up rents for everyone.
Among the candidates, there was concern over the motive of students running for the City Council. However, the students claim that they have no interest in a further political career. Indeed, McKay for one maintains that this is the only election that he would ever enter.
“I do think that the City Council needs more student voices on it, given how many residents of the city are students.”
For the rest, their status as students is irrelevant to their goal of improving the city. “Students give so much to our community and Oxford would not be a great University, or a great City, without them. For that reason alone, I think it is only fair that some students should serve on our City Council,” Walker said.
Conservative candidate and St. Catz first-year Alex Curtis claims his candidacy is about principles. “The fact that I am a student is irrelevant to my desire to correct that, though I do think that the City Council needs more student voices on it, given how many residents of the city are students.”
Even non-student candidate Fiona Joines, of the Green Party, thinks it’s great to have students running. “Students are obviously a real asset to the city and I want to work with them on issues that care about too such as the rise in homelessness in the city and the lack of support being offered currently to refugees”, she said.