Carols at Crisis

choirI went to a good event this evening at Oxford’s Crisis Skylight Centre.  I was pleased to be invited as this centre is in my ward and it has has support from my ward money allocation for the last two years.  We were treated to some nice mince pies and mulled punch and eleven separate carols, all well-known and all well-sung by the choir of Wesley Memorial Church, just round the corner.


We in the audience also sang, slightly less well!  The evening was rounded off by a prayer and blessing frrom Rev Martin Wellings, minister of Wesley Memorial Church.

On the way home along Cornmarket it struck me that Oxford City Council has done a good job on the Christmas lights this year – they look very good!

100 years of buses in Oxford

oldbusThis morning I had the privilege of riding on a very old bus on a journey to commemorate 100 years of bus services in Oxford.  We started at the BMW museum in Cowley and travelled all the way to Oxford Station then back along Queen Street.  The old buses are looked after by the amazing volunteers of the Oxford Bus Museum Trust.  I was made to feel very welcome and learned some amazing facts about Oxford’s long bus history including how they were preceded by horse-drawn trams but that Oxford never had electric trams because colleges wouldn’t allow the hooks in their walls for the necessary cable suspension.

The bus we were in had no power steering and a “crash” gearbox, meaning no synchromesh.  Despite this it was dirven very expertly and smoothly by one of the museum trust volunteers and a long-time bus driver.


The Spirit of Christmas

spiritI went as Deputy Lord Mayor this evening to an amazing concert at Christ Church Cathedral. It was entitled “Spirit of Christmas” and arranged by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign. I was honoured to be sitting at the front and had a really good conversation with Bill Ronald, the Chairman of the Trustees.  The event was a mixture of audience carols, lovely music from the choir of the Dragon School and some wonderful light-hearted Christmas-themed readings from well-known celebrities including Michael Elwyn, Robert Glenister, Jemma Redgrave, Honeysuckle Weeks and Alison Steadman OBE.  The whole evening was an utter delight, set off beautifully by everyone lighting candles to hold, starting from Lily, a seven year old child who has benefited from a lot of support from the MDC.  I gather concerts like this regularly raise around £15k – pretty impressive but so important for the lives of so many young people diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.

If you can possibly afford to make a donation to this excellent cause, please do so now via this web link to the MDC donation page.

Full Council: Labour denying any errors with Covered Market

Jim presenting his motion

I’m going to do two blog posts about today’s full council meeting as there were two important issues I want to mention. The first is a motion from Cllr Jim Campbell, and Cllr Elise Benjamin about the findings of the Covered Market Scrutiny Review. The motion was fully supported by Cllr Mary Clarkson, a member of the Labour administration of the Council.  Jim, Elise and Mary have all spent many hours working on a big review of the Covered Market, working with The Retail Group who have produced an excellent and comprehensive report.
Jim’s motion read:


noting that the latest edition of Your Oxford has a full page  advertising “Oxford’s Amazing Christmas Markets”, which highlights new arrangements at Gloucester Green but makes no mention whatsoever of the Covered Market;

noting further no provision has been made during the Three Day Winter Light Festival to include the Covered Market in its programme;

regretting the lack of trust that has developed between the Council, as  Landlord, and the Traders, as tenants;  

welcoming the excellent report of the Retail Group, its analysis of the reasons behind the current under-performance of the Covered Market, and its proposals for how it can once again be a key part of Oxford’s Retail Offer;

hoping that the residents of Oxford will respond, in numbers and in depth, to the four week public consultation on the report;

supporting the Council’s already stated intention to appoint an interim Market Manager,

therefore calls on The City Executive Board:

• to recognise that, in recent years, there has been a lack of effective  management by the Council and that this has been a significant contributory factor to the poor performance of the market;

• to consider thoroughly the findings of the Public Consultation on the future of the market;

• to ensure that the Covered Market has a key role in future City Centre events;

• to respond positively to the short term proposals put forward by the Retail Group;

• to examine in detail the long term proposals made by the Retail Group, and to draw up, by November 2014, a full report of how it will respond to these proposals.”

I was highly dismayed to see and hear Bob Price, the Labour Leader of the Council propose what can only be called a wrecking amendment to the motion that completely removes any suggestion that the council might have done anything wrong or been at all remiss in how it manages the market  Colin Cook, Executive councillor with responsibility for the Covered Market also entirely supported the amendment despite objection to it from fellow Labour Councillor Mary Clarkson who has a huge amount of experience of the Covered Market and has spent many hours as part of the scrutiny review of it.  Colin Cook said he must be a Market Supporter and must be right because he had recently bought some cheese there.  I was quite disgusted that the whole of the rest of the Labour Group, even my Carfax ward colleague Cllr Canning, supported the Labour amendment that essentially takes all the blame off Labour and puts it all on the traders.  This is absolutely not the way the political group leading a local authority should behave.  I am quite ashamed.  This is not the first time I have commented about Labour neglect and arrogance towards the Jewel in Oxford’s Crown that is the Covered Market either.

See my previous posts about Labour Contempt (Oct 12) and Neglect (Sep 11) of the Covered Market.

You can see the briefing note for the meeting, that includes the motions at

Pretty impressive work by City Council streetscene team



On Monday, I reported that the bike markings going into Wellington Square from Little Clarendon Street were very badly faded and that this was sometimes causing conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. I reported this to



I am very impressed that by yesterday evening the lines were re-painted. A big thank you and well done to the council staff that did this. I’m very grateful as I’m sure are all those that use that route regularly, live or work near it.

I know this seems like a small thing but things like this are quite important to lots of people and it’s great to see the Council being so helpful and responsive.

A victory for Gloucester Green residents and their right to sleep at night

roostersI attended a licensing hearing yesterday as ward councillor as I had made a representation against an application for yet another late night takeaway on Gloucester Green. The application was by a food outlet very similar to the other two that are already there with late night licences.

Although I like to see businesses thrive in my ward, there always must be a balance between the needs of business and the needs of residents. The problem with having lots of late night food outlets on Gloucester Green is that it is more-or-less en route to taxis and buses for people leaving the bars and clubs.   Many of these now shut at 3am and do so for most nights of the week what with different themed nights for students, locals, and other groups etc.  The effect of the takeaways is to make the (often drunk and aggressive) people gather and it makes it very hard for the Police to encourage them to go home.  As Thames Valley Police said at the hearing there has been a marked increase in crime and disorder or Gloucester Green since the later food outlets have been open and this is in direct contravention to the licensing objective of reducing crime and disorder.  Although CCTV and SIA-registered door supervisors were requested, these still won’t stop drunk people making a lot of noise and causing much public nuisance for the residents of Gloucester Green – the flats called the Chilterns and the Heyes.  Prevention of public nuisance is another licensing objective that the licensing act says licences should encourage.  It seemed clear to me that this one would not do that.

In my speech I did suggest it might be just about bearable to allow this new business to trade until 2am and that would mean it closed before most of the club but unfortunately the applicant was not able or willing to pay for door supervisors so in the end the panel made what I think was the right decision and rejected the application in its entirety.  This means the outlet will not be allowed to trade past 11pm, as is the current situation.

I have written to all residents of Gloucester Green today to tell them this good news and hope it might well be the start of a move to cut back the hours of some of the other food outlets in the area so that they don’t attract the crime and disorder and public nuisance that is currently blighting Gloucester Green in the small hours at a totally unacceptable level.

This blog post has no official status as a record of the licensing hearing and I can’t guarantee it’s error free so please don’t rely on it. Written notification of the decision is available from the Council.

A problem with a taxi rank location in the new Westgate Development?


I had a meeting with a council officer today to discuss concerns about a proposed taxi rank as part of the new Westgate Development that looks to me like it will be incredibly close to residential accommodation on Pike Terrace and Faulkner Street in my ward.  My concern is that in the small hours it will attract a lot of noise and antisocial behaviour from people leaving clubs and bars and that this will disturb a lot of residents in the area.

There is a very good consultation site about the west gate development and I recommend you have a look and give any feedback you want to give via that.

See and follow the navigation in the top right.

Licensing hearing for Christmas Light Festival

I attended this evening’s licensing hearing and spoke on behalf of a St. Giles college that had concerns about the disruption the three day Christmas Light event on 22-24 would cause to it, particularly in terms of noise disturbance to those living on St. Giles with windows directly out to it, and such extensive road closures and parking suspensions, over a whole weekend in full Oxford University Term.  An extremely different proposition to St. Giles’ Fair which happens after most tourists have left Oxford post-summer and before most students have arrived back.  The City Council has a web page with more information about Christmas Light Festival.

The license application has reference 13/02305/PREM and you can see some extremely rudimentary information about it online.  I’m not sure why the council has not put adequate information there – I have asked!   The outcome was that the license was granted but with some changes. It is a perpetual license but there is a robust review process in place so if there are problems this year (I fear there may well be) then I will request a review of the license as soon as reasonably practical after the event. A future licensing panel can amend or revoke a license just as easily as it grants it!

Following discussion the applicant volunteered that there will be no licensable activities on Beaumont Street and the provision of late night food has also been removed from the application. That means the kebab vans will stay on St. Giles (and will be allowed to trade as normal as they have their own licenses). I am told that alcohol sales from some stands will be licensed by Temporary Event Notice.  These can only be objected to by the Police so I have asked Thames Valley Police to watch out for them and consider the effect they will have on a city that will already be full of drunk people on Friday and Saturday evening.

Regulated entertainment (live or recorded music, performance of dance and exhibition of films) hours have been cut back a little to:

Friday noon-10pm
Saturday 10am-10pm
Sunday 10am-7pm

The following conditions were imposed:

1. Notification of dates of future events to be at least 12 months in advance to all stakeholders and this will include all stakeholders fronting St. Giles.

2. There must be a stakeholder meeting six months in advance of each annual event.

3. During the event a 24 hour control room will operate to allow anyone with complaint or grievance to address them with an appropriate person.

4. A draft event plan will be submitted to the Safety Advisory Group at least 60 days before the event.

5. A noise management plan will be prepared and submitted to the licensing authority for approval.

6. No amplified live entertainment on Sunday between 10am and 12.15pm

And some informatives about keeping noise down while the event is being built on Thursday night and taken down on Sunday night.

I am unimpressed by this but I think it is probably realistically all that was going to be conceded at this stage.  I just hope those that come to the festival stop and think about how they would fee about three days of their own road being closed and lots of noise outside their bedroom windows for three nights.

This blog post has no official status and I can’t guarantee it’s error free so please don’t rely on it. Written notification of the decision is available from the Council.

A meeting about Christmas light night

consultationJean Fooks and I met today with two council officers and a contractor about the events planned for 22-24 November in the City Centre to Celebrate Christmas light night.

We made quite a few points but the main one was about our fears that such a long closure of so many City Centre roads would cause utter havoc for the thousands of City Centre residents who had not been consulted about the event.  I also had not been consulted as a ward councillor which I find frankly staggering for an event of such size and disruption.  There are many disabled and inform people extremely worried that they will not be able to get to their regular places of worship on the Sunday too.

I am not very sure our points were taken very seriously and it does increasingly like councillors who are not part of the Labour administration really are not taken seriously by the paid staff and that the need to consult us as ward councillors doesn’t really seem to register.

I wish the City Council would understand that Oxford University is not just an historic backdrop against which it can do what it likes, but rather a busy and active world-leading centre of excellence in education and research.  I don’t think it is reasonable to disrupt that so comprehensively in what is the height of University term.  Without the University there would be very little of Oxford – it is one of the main wealth-creators of the City and certainly one of the biggest employers.  The City Council would do well to remember that before it tramples all over its activities with such massive disruption.


Freshers’ Fair

freshersI took a couple of hours out over lunch today to join the Oxford University Liberal Democrats on their stall at Oxford University’s Freshers Fair.  I had some really good conversations with lots of new students and lots were asking interesting questions.  It was interested being sandwiched between the Labour and Tory tables  and hearing some other conversations too.  We signed up dozens and dozens of new members so I look forward to an exciting year of events with this important student society.  I’m pictured here with Andy McKay (Wadham), the current Social and Events Officer.