"To every complex problem there is a simple solution, startling in its simplicity, piercing in its clarity, and hopelessly and completely wrong" - Gore Vidal.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Headington Headlines #180

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 8 - 14 September.

Never mind Scotland, if you live in Quarry & Risinghurst don't forget to vote in the City by-election on Thursday (18th). The five candidates are listed here.

If you normally catch the 8 or 9 bus in Castle Street you need to know that the stop has been temporarily moved to St Aldates, near Pembroke College. It's to do with the closure of Queen Street for emergency sewer works.

Oxford City Council designated - i.e. approved - the Headington Neighbourhood Forum and in effect gave the go-ahead for them to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan. A consultation will start soon.

@OxfordBusCo is starting a new service, the City 600, on Monday 29 September. It will run from Peartree P&R via the Woodstock Road, Moreton Road, Banbury Road, Parks Road, South Parks Road, Longwall Street, The Plain, Headington Hill and Headley Way to the JR Hospital. It will run every half hour but only during the main part of the working day (roughly 9 - 5) on Mondays to Fridays.

In other bus news the BrookesBus U4 service starts today linking the JR and Blackbird Leys via Gipsy Lane and Hollow Way. But unless I'm reading the timetable wrong there are only two buses one way in the early morning and three back again in the evening.

@Headingtonnews reports that the ex-Londis is to become a Café Nero.

@OllieMars30 reported that the Little Waitrose at the Shell petrol station was closed by Trading Standards late on Saturday afternoon.

The lift giving disabled access to Headington Library was finally commissioned on Friday.

At the time of writing there had been no active posts on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week.

I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Headington Headlines #179

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 1 - 6 September.

Local magazine Headington Monthly is now available online.

A new local cycling account appeared on twitter - @QuarryVelo.

Headington was hit by another outbreak of #oxpong on Wednesday evening, with the bad smell persisting into Thursday.

A four-vehicle collision blocked Cherwell Drive for a while late on Tuesday afternoon. Six people were injured, none of them seriously.

Da Root in Windmill Road has changed its name to Osheey!!! (via @headingtonnews).

The Julia Durbin Day Nursery in Old Road, which offers childcare to staff at Oxford Brookes Campus and the Churchill Hospital, has been rated outstanding after an inspection in August just 10 months after an earlier audit stated it required improvement.

It was Risinghurst's community fun day on Saturday.

Active posts on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week:

  • 1812 Fireworks
  • Northway Town Green application and Barton Park
  • London road from Hamburger roundabout to headington
  • Risinghurst community fun day - tomorrow from 11am-4pm
I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sour Grapes - the Carfax Ward By-election

I got involved in a twitter discussion last night in connection with the Carfax ward by-election in Oxford. The Labour candidate won but the turnout of 8.6% was extremely low. Carfax is a city-centre ward which has a high proportion of students who, of course, are still on holiday, so turnout was always going to be low. In the same ward in May this year turnout was 36%. The by-election came about through the resignation of the incumbent Labour councillor.

The discussion arose out of my reaction to comments by some LibDem supporters who took the opportunity to criticise Labour for calling the election at a time when the students were away. This theme had started some weeks earlier when the election was called. Noting that the two citizens needed to call an election were both Labour and both not resident in the ward, LibDems cried 'foul' and accused Labour of deliberately choosing their timing so that the student vote would be absent.

Whether or not this was a deliberate tactic by Labour I don't know. I'm inclined to think it was just the way it happened rather than some devious plan, but I have no inside knowledge one way or the other. It did though leave me with a feeling that the LibDems were trying to score political points over process rather than policies.

When the same line was repeated as yesterday's result was announced it seemed to me rather ungracious of the defeated Libdem candidate and others to respond by returning to the finger-pointing at Labour, an attitude I described as 'sour grapes'. The discussion that followed conflated the low turnout and the timing of the election, with LibDems placing the blame squarely on Labour. One supporter actually said the result was 'unfair', later clarified to mean not illegal, just not fair. I was told that 'democracy' is important to LibDems, and they felt a significant part of the electorate had been disenfranchised by Labour's actions.

I don't belong to any political party, though those who know me probably have a fair idea of my political sympathies. Here on the blog and on twitter I try to be even-handed and balanced, though sometimes I can't quite manage to hold the line. Like many others I am concerned about the general disillusionment with party politics felt by so many people, the feeling that there's no point in voting, that politics and politicians exist in a bubble of their own disconnected from the great majority of people. Turnouts everywhere are worryingly low. Politicians agonise about how they can better engage the electorate. I felt that the tweets I was seeing last night from LibDem supporters could only add to the disenchantment - it was accusatory point-scoring over an issue which was in the past, and with no evidence that I as a member of the public have seen to support the claim that it was a Machiavellian Labour scheme to disenfranchise voters.

To me the final irony is that if the student voters had been in residence the LibDems would probably have come out of the election worse in percentage terms than they did. If Labour really had wanted to give their opponents a drubbing they would have waited another month. Unless of course Labour were not worried about the Libdems at all but were worried about the Green student vote: the Greens ousted the Libdem candidate in the same ward in May this year. But I didn't see any Greens complaining. So come on, LibDems, get over it and turn your energies to more important concerns.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Headington Headlines #178

Here's my weekly round-up of local news for 25 - 31 August.

Five candidates are standing in the Quarry & Risinghurst by-election - details here. The election is on 18 September.

On 10 September Oxford City's Executive Board is due to decide whether to 'designate' the Headington Neighbourhood Forum as the body to draw up a Neighbourhood plan. If they agree, consultation on local issues will start shortly after.

Slade House, the care unit owned by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust where Connor Sparrowhawk died last year is unlikely to re-open. The Trust has been criticised for failings in the care it provided to Connor at Slade House, and for failings at other units it operates.

The ownership of Warneford Meadow has been transferred to Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (OHFT), the managers of the Warneford Hospital. The move has been welcomed by the Meadow's Friends.

There may soon be a new pedestrian crossing and some traffic-calming measures outside Windmill Primary School @WindmillOxford in Margaret Road.

The Grass of Parnassus (it's not a grass) which recolonised Great Britain after the last Ice Age is flowering in the Lye Valley. Although common in more northerly parts of the British Isles it is rare this far south. Its alternative and more descriptive name is the Bog Star. More interesting detail, including the first written record of the plant, in this article.

The Butchers Arms @ButchersArmsOxf re-opened after a refurbishment.

Quarry residents got together to tidy up the garden around Quarry Village Hall.

About 250 runners took part in the Headington 5 on Sunday, raising money for @Oxsrad.

And in other clean-up news, Friday was Skip Day in Barton, when the City Council provided skips for residents to dispose of unwanted items and general rubbish.

Headington Badminton Club is looking for new members. They play on Mondays and Fridays at Headington School.

My favourite Headington-related tweet of the week:

Active posts on the Headington & Marston e-democracy forum this week:

  • City council by-election in Quarry & Risinghurst ward
  • 1812 Fireworks
I cover news from the OX3 postcode in Headington and out as far as Barton, Sandhills and Risinghurst (see map). To feed into next week's summary you can comment on this article, or tweet either with the hashtag #ox3 or @mentioning @TonyOX3.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Quarry & Risinghurst by-election

There will be a by-election in Quarry & Risinghurst Ward on 18 September following the resignation of Laurence Baxter (Lab), who has taken a teaching job in Prague.

Here are the candidates:

QUARRY & RISINGHURST

Name Party twitter
GASPER, Julia MargaretEnglish Democrats 
HARBORNE, Katharine MaryConservative@KatHarborne
MUNKONGE, CheweLabour@CheweMunkonge
SMITH, RozLibDem@RosalindRogers
TAYLOR, LizGreen 

In May this year @delia_sinclair held the Ward for Labour with a majority of 392 (18% of the vote) over second-placed Roz Smith (LibDem). Kat Harborne and Liz Taylor both stood as candidates. Outgoing Councillor Laurence Baxter was elected in May 2012 with a majority of 437 (25% of the vote) over second-placed Roz Smith. Julia Gasper, standing for UKIP in that election, was placed 5th and last with 69 votes. To the best of my knowledge Chewe Munkonge has not stood for election in Oxford before.