By-election to be held for Carfax City Council seat

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A by-election to replace a vacant seat on Oxford City Council in Carfax ward has been scheduled for Thursday 4 September 2014. The ward, of which approximately 70% of its residents are students, was previously represented by Labour city councillor Anne-Marie Canning, who announced her resignation from the seat last week citing personal reasons.

Each ward has two representatives on Oxford City Council, with half of the 48 seats in the City Council coming up for election every two years, meaning that councillors are elected on an alternate basis. Canning filled one of two council seats representing Carfax Ward on Oxford City Council, with the other being held by Green councillor Ruthi Brandt, who was elected in the May 2014 city elections.

Oxford City Council is currently Labour controlled, with the Labour group possessing 33 of the 48 seats. The other seats on the Council are held by the Liberal Democrats, who have eight seats, the Greens, who have six seats, and an independent councillor.

The by-election was triggered after a request for an election to fill the vacancy was submitted to Oxford City Council Returning Officer Jeremy Thomas by two local government electors from Carfax. Following the request an election to fill the vacant seat was required within 35 days, in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972.

The ward contains a large proportion of Oxford’s retail centre, as well as many Oxford colleges and Oxford University buildings. The 2011 Census found that Carfax had a total population of 6,361 people of which 4,236 were students living in communal establishments. Overall, the census found that 70% of the residents of Carfax ward were full time students.  

However, the Oxford University term does not begin until Sunday, 12 October, meaning that many students will not be in Oxford when the by-election takes place on 4 September. 

The by-election follows the resignation of Labour Councillor Anne-Marie Canning, which created a vacancy in the ward. Canning told the Oxford Mail that the reason for her resignation was that her job as a head of department at a London university was becoming increasingly demanding. Canning was first elected to Oxford City Council in 2012, taking the seat for Labour from the Liberal Democrats. In that election Canning won the seat by a margin of 53 votes, with 288 votes, while the Green Party’s Adam Ramsay came second with 235 votes.

Canning is the third Labour city councillor to announce her intention to stand down from the City Council in the past two months.

In the May 2014 Oxford City Council election, for the other City Council seat in Carfax ward, Ruthi Brandt of the Green Party replaced incumbent Liberal Democrat councillor Tony Brett. Brandt won the ward by only 35 votes, receiving a total of 483 votes, while Labour Party candidate and former council leader Alex Hollingsworth came in second place with 448 votes.

The Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council Ed Turner said, “It is sad that Anne-Marie has had to resign, as she’s done a fantastic job, especially in campaigning on cuts to homeless services.  It would be completely unacceptable to leave students without a second ward councillor, especially at the crucial start of term period, and delaying the by-election would serve no useful purpose as the electoral register would be massively out of date until March.  It would include last year’s finalists who no longer live in Oxford, but exclude first years.  I would encourage any students keen to participate to apply for a postal vote.”

One student commented, “Students don’t often get to have their voice heard and often suffer as a result, so at opportunities like this – when 70% of the ward is made up of students – it’s really important that our voice is heard so that our needs can be met.”

Applications for postal votes, for the by-election, must reach the Electoral Registration Officer at Oxford Town Hall by 5pm on Tuesday 19 August 2014.

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