Labour can't find the words...
...to describe quite how they are failing Oxford. So they steal mine. I suppose I should be flattered that they are reading and rattled by my criticisms. But resorting to plagiarism - come on chaps, you know what bad form that is in an academic city like ours!
Let's make it clear for them and see if this appears on any leaflets:
There are parts of Oxford, where the council owns most of the housing, that are depressing (incidentally, that's an illness that figures quite highly in areas with high Indices of Multiple Deprivation - it's not a slight on individuals, just a sad fact). If they want to know why otherwise good kids are at a loose end, why they resort to things that others find anti-social, they only have to look at these areas they have counted as their fiefdom for so long. There is precious little investment into the council owned housing stock. Those not in such housing would be surprised, nay shocked, at what counts as "decent homes".
Of course residents generally make the best of it. But if Labour are blind to the chasm in quality between some council estates and other parts of town, they cannot have much of a vision for this fair city and its citizens.
The so called decent homes standard will not prevent abject fuel poverty in a world of rising fuel costs. Subsiding household fuel needs through cash handouts is not sustainable and eventually those people will suffer. People will be less able to participate in the new economy in sub-decent housing.
Labour, it seems, only feel able to address this through enforcement. This battle about who can be toughest will not in the end produce thriving, successful neighbourhoods.
Labour came to power saying that they wanted to be "tough on the causes of crime" which most of us took to mean inequality, especially of opportunity. Yet income and wealth disparities have grown under Labour. And whilst many have seen their wealth grow each year by more than they can earn working because of the property boom, those most dependent on how well bodies like Oxford City Council serve them have not shared one jot in that bounty.
I want to address it through hope. Through giving people hope that they can have a truly decent home, that their kids will have a truly decent education and opportunities outside of school, that they will be able to retire and see out a few years of relative leisure without abject poverty, that they will have a financial stake in their homes and neighbourhoods, that those neighbourhoods will become places that people choose to move to.
If that offends Labour let them quote it and explain why.
This should stop criticism...
The Oxford Mail today reports that the team clearing up the "Narnia" CS Lewis reserve in Risinghurst which has drawn so much criticism from a few people upset by some felled trees:
Narnia Bench Unearthed (from thisisoxfordshire):
A brick bench where CS Lewis saw Narnia in his mind's eye has been uncovered at the author's old home in Risinghurst.
The semi-circular bench overlooking a pond in his garden was a favourite place for the author when he was seeking inspiration.
But the bench had disappeared from view, becoming completely overgrown with vegetation in what is now the CS Lewis Nature Reserve.
It has now been cleared, in the first project undertaken by volunteers in the newly-formed Friends of CS Lewis Reserve, launched by the local wildlife trust BBOWT to involve the local community in the reserve.
Jo Croft, of BBOWT, said: "We always knew the brick seat was there, although it was no longer visible from any of the paths.
This should scotch criticism I think. quite clearly it was not just as those C S Lewis experts thought it was - all wild and rambling. And to me, finding this and helping restore the place to what he knew should be good for the reserve.
Decent Homes, or Dream Homes
I blog in response to Frank Field in today's Telegraph about council house allocations. Saying that Oxford's problems are not merely about allocations, but about the quality of council housing as a whole. I have a vision of not merely "decent homes" but "dream homes" for all our tenants:It is about housing, Frank, but your vision falls indecently short for Oxford
Hence from Blackbird Leys art thou banished
This reported in today's Oxford Mail:
Life Ban For Leys Thug (from thisisoxfordshire)
A violent thug has been banned from setting foot in Blackbird Leys for the rest of his life.
Magistrates slapped an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) on David Reid, 37, after hearing about 26 convictions for offences including theft, burglary and assault in the past 22 years.
Reid is banned from ever entering Blackbird Leys the first life-time ban for an area of Oxfordshire and will eventually be barred from entering Greater Leys, where he currently lives.
Now, I am sure that this chap has caused a huge amount of misery to other people in his time. And he clearly deserves some kind of punishment and management. But an ASBO? Banishing him from his home area, where his family still lives, for the rest of his life? It's positively mediaeval. What's next for the New Labour Big Brother? Public floggings? Using the perfectly good vegetables thrown out by Tesco for throwing at the prisoner in the local stocks? I appreciate he did not contest the order - though that's probably a reflection of the assistance available to people faced with this non-criminal sanction - but one does wonder whether he'll even understand it.
Even more importantly, does anyone in their right mind believe that the trouble this chap has created will stop because he leaves Greater Leys? No, it will no doubt go with him. That might help Greater Leys, but it's not going to help other areas to have him moved around. So, does he get another ASBO when he causes "sub-criminal" trouble in Northway? Then again in Barton, or wherever he finds himself next? He clearly can't help himself, but whether a series of threats like this is helping him, and therefore those who might have to come into contact with him in future, is extremely doubtful.
So what are the answers? Well, for a start, it was reported also that the magistrate heard that over that 22 year period Reid had picked up convictions carrying 20 years' worth of jail sentences. Has he served them all, in full? It's in cases like this that one is sorely tempted by the Californian idea of "three strikes and you're out" - in other words on the third offense you get life. I don't personally agree with that though, because it has ended up in some very petty criminals incarcerated for life little more than being "naughty boys".
But we have a system of license here. If you do not serve your entire sentence behind bars, which we presume this chap hasn't since he's had time in between sentences to run up 26 convictions, and you're allowed out on "license" it means you can go straight back inside to serve the rest of your original sentence as well as any new sentence for not keeping your nose out of trouble.
So why is a civil order being used here where serving his sentences out might be more appropriate? It is clear he has not been rehabilitated or reformed by his sentences yet, though I do as a good (sic!) Catholic firmly believe in the ability of every individual to be rehabilitated, to show genuine contrition. And this sort of thing clearly diminishes the threat of a civil order intended to curb anti-social but not quite criminal behaviour, or where a criminal conviction would be hard to obtain.
I've long wanted to rail against ASBOs, particularly in Oxford where they are clearly being used as a political tool. Labour's local election leaflets even proudly proclaim that "they" have doled out more ASBOs than any other town in the Thames Valley, as if it's some kind of league table to be proud of. And to hand down the same potential five year sentence to a 37 year old with a twenty year history of criminal offences against which convictions were secured and a bored teenager not getting enough attention at home, at school, not on the correct diet or whatever is just mad.
And I am particularly sad that my good friend, Mick McAndrews, standing for Labour (this time around) in Barton, has allowed his name to go on a leaflet promoting ASBOs, when he himself has realised they are not what is needed in many of the cases he has dealt with. There are some parts of town is which the most decent citizen might be hard pressed not to become terminally depressed and in some cases anti-social as a result. Depressing areas with housing that will never be "decent" except in the fairy tale world of John Prescott's housing team. If Labour were truly ambitious for Oxford they'd be finding ways of dealing with such endemic depression to give their residents some hope for the future. They're not depressing because of the people that are there, I hasten to add, but because homes fit for heroes are no longer even fit. And that responsibility lies firmly at the feet of housing authorities.
I forget the name of the comedienne woman on TV but with Labour in Oxford she was right: "don't abolish ASBOs, they're the only qualification some of these kids will get!" More appropriately, perhaps, "don't abolish ASBOs, it's the only league table a Labour run Oxford can top"!
Your caring city council?
On the doorstep yesterday several of you in Risinghurst expressed strong views about your Risinghurst Community Centre in Kiln Lane (pictured).
Some of you wanted it demolished as an eyesore. And as the one visible evidence of the City Council's presence it is truly the Cinderella Centre, a pretty appalling example of what the City Council thinks of the needs of Risinghurst.
Now, community centres do not come cheap but for all its faults Kiln Lane is quite well used by local groups, the play group and so on. And local people on the Community Association struggle to make ends meet with little city council help. The Lib Dems want to transfer the whole management of Community Centres away from the Town Hall and devolve it to local groups so that you can set the priorities.
Money is still tight. There is no magic pot of cash to dole out. But freeing up control of Community Centres should allow local groups to look for ways of funding the facilities they want. As I've blogged before
, for example, you just need to compare what the local Risinghurst and Sandhills Parish Council are able to do on their shoestring budget through the commitment of local people, such as with the play area at the top of Kiln Lane, with the facilities the city council offers.
I am a strong believer in keeping things local wherever possible. You should have the opportunity to have a much more active role in the future of community facilities.
Labour's "Election Special"
Gone, it seems, are Labour's glossy leaflets and red and gold window posters. I suppose the Lib Dems should be flattered that Labour appear to be trying hard to make their leaflets look like our Focuses. One big difference is that ours are always done on a shoestring budget with that vast majority of our campaigning and year round updates paid for by local supporters alone.
We don't have any Lords who paid cash to get the privilege of asking as many questions as they like from the red benches of the Upper House.
I think we've only ever recorded one big donor - and most of us were pretty annoyed that we had accepted that! And he has had no preferment or influence out of it. In fact it looks like he's a bit miffed that it didn't buy him any favours as the Tories and Labour seem to have been doing.
Could it be, though, that the more "amateur" look Labour are trying out is aimed at distancing themselves locally from New Labour nationally, because they are embarrassed to be associated with Mr Blair and his authoritarian, double counting, failing neo-Thatcherite government?
But the leaflet does contain some claims that need rebutting:Labour say they will deliver "more recycling, less dumped rubbish".
It's easy to put Labour and "rubbish" in the same sentence! They promise wheelie bins. But who is going to pay for it? I understand they're going to be 110 liter bins at that. Experience elsewhere shows that these large wheelies actually contrive to reduce recycling as people tend to fill them up. You want to reduce space for general rubbish to make people think more about what they are putting where when they throw things out.
Oxford City has a very bad record under Labour on recycling - the lowest proportion in the county and 326th out of 373 in the whole country
(a whopping 144 places behind Lib Dem run Vale of White Horse). We all have an interest in this, though perhaps different opinions on how to achieve it. Labour want to impose stricter rules and fines and all sorts. We all need to own this problem, not coerce people. But that's authoritarian New Labour for you.More activities for youngsters.
Dee highlights that Labour have just introduced free swims for under 17s. So they have, and should be congratulated for finally picking up Lib Dem policy from several years ago. I, on the other hand, have been trying to lobby for the acres of community owned playing fields and so on attached to community owned facilities like schools to be opened up outside of school hours to provide facilities for people to play and get some of the steam out of them!
We need joined up thinking. It's all very well giving away swims at some expense, but when Labour's management of the leisure centers results in a £3.5 million effective loss every year it makes you wonder just what we will all be able to swim in in the future. Aside from the fantastic new pool at Barton, for which the Lib Dem and Green shared administration in 2001 voted through the capital funding, our leisure centres do not compare well
with the best facilities available for people who can afford private members clubs and so on, yet the council spends almost as much money on them it would appear as these "competitors".
Oxford is blessed with hundreds of acres of outdoor recreation spaces and millions of pounds worth of indoor facilities and we need to persuade operators and other public bodies involved with leisure provision to join in with the city to ensure that people can use the facilities most local to them.
The Lib Dems are going to transfer management decisions over parks and recreation areas to more local groups - first to the area committees and then to user groups, so that local people have control over what priorities are set for their
community spaces.Residents' Parking Charges.
Opinions do differ, not only within Oxford between different political groups, but throughout the country between different areas under the same political control. Labour controlled Croydon
for example will charge you nearly £100 for two resident permits for a household. I won't go on about this here, as I've blogged about it quite comprehensively in the Quarry blog
where Controlled Parking areas will have more impact, but the basic reason for needing these permits and why there is even a discussion about whether they need to be paid for and by whom arises because Labour councillors on the City Council in the main voted for big local employers' planning applications before the full cost of the problems that might arise as a result of them was calculated - far too late to get enough out of those planning consents to pay for all the necessary schemes.
They can carp on now about not wanting to make people pay, but the reason the zones are needed in the first place (and many of you I know still do not want them whether you pay or not) is down to Labour. But it bears saying - the Lib Dems do not want to charge for permits for areas where the reason for needing permits is the increase in traffic arising not from local residents but from big employment generating expansion. Pensioners' bus scheme
"A vote for Dee is a vote for more help for pensioners" they tell us. Well let's look shall we. The free bus passes they highlight are only free within the city boundaries
- the only council in the county to have limited where pensioners can travel. A pensioner living in Lib Dem run Abingdon can get a free bus into Oxford, but an Oxford pensioner cannot get to Kidlington for free. I think it speaks for itself really. A scheme that was supposed to be fully funded by Gordon Brown's national promises is failing pensioners in Oxford.
Then there's the council tax. Labour continue to stand by the most regressive tax we have. The Lib Dems would replace this with a tax based on ability to pay. Labour have just put off for another six months even discussion of what to do with Council Tax. And in the meantime prudence Brown has taken away the £200 reduction he gave to pensioners last year.
Lib Dems in partnership government in Scotland have introduced free personal care for older people, meaning that nobody pays for the help they need to remain independent and in their own home, if that's what they want. Labour are failing pensioners. And creating a whole new generation of people dependent on ever more intrusive means testing to make ends meet. And now they want to ensure that the next generation of pensioners will be utterly dependent on handouts with the huge tax raids on pension schemes and changes to the way they are allowed to operate whilst making sure the best off can stash almost anything tax free in a private pension.Labour is failing Oxford
What Labour do not want you to know before you vote on May 4th is that under their control Oxford City Council is ranked as a "weak" performing council
. In so many areas Labour is failing to give value for money. The Lib Dem/Green run City Council did NOT raise council tax by 9.4%. They were left with a big hole to fill in the finances from the previous Labour mismanagement and still kept the Council Tax rise for the City Council down to 4%. This time we believe there are enough financial oddities in the City's accounts to enable us to peg the city council's portion of the Council Tax at the current level.
There's been a bit of a spat going on in the local press between my Labour opponent and mostly CS Lewis supporter organisations about recent work that's been going on in the C S Lewis reserve at the end of Lewis Close. I went to take a look for myself yesterday in a few minutes during canvassing (don't tell my helpers but I needed a little break!).
It would be terribly easy to take a pop at Dee Sinclair who has been very involved in the local group that's been working with the Buck Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to tidy it up and put in place a management program. But I won't. You can see from these pictures that there has been considerable felling - at least where it will be noticed by the entrance to the reserve and this has been the focus of the attacks in the local press on Dee and the group.
But you know, at least one of the trees looked as if it had not been felled so much as uprooted - surely a sign that it was dangerous anyway and due to come down - which is always sad, but a necessary evil to allow people to continue to use and enjoy the area in safety and for other plants and wildlife to thrive.
It is true that a little row of smaller trees near the entrance has been felled and that this reduces slightly the "mystery" of the place - you don't feel quite so much like you are entering the wild woods straight away, but I think it helps to draw you in towards the lake - the focal point of the whole reserve.
BBOWT are the local experts in conservation management of the natural environment. Places like this cannot be picked in aspic and nobody should expect it somehow to look exactly the same as when C S Lewis himself knew it - either before or after the recent felling. And they know what they're doing.
But most of all, the reserve is not for the occasional C S Lewis fan wanting to find "Narnia" in a few weeks over summer so much as it is for local people to enjoy all the year round, and, having wandered in there in the past and never found a soul, I found what looked like a young mum, now able to get the pushchair in with her two children and was telling them about Lewis and about the place and talking all sorts of children's authors to them. So that seems to me like a vote of confidence in the place.
But if you have strong feelings on the reserve, do as Dee has suggested in her letters to the Oxford Mail and go join up with the local group and participate. And as for me - the stumps from the big fallen tree provided a perfect place to rest a minute before going on canvassing!
Do it yourself community planning
One of the things I hear time and again when I'm in Risinghurst is the concern that many of you share about the way the estate is developing. There have been many instances of houses being bought up by usually small scale "developers" - perhaps "buy to let landlords" is a better term - and subdivided into flats.
In turn, because one household is now two, or even three or four in some cases where they have been able to persuade the other half of a semi to sell out to them, there are more cars, more verge parking (and they are almost always at street corners so are at the least convenient place to absorb more on-street parking).
It's difficult to stand in the way of this so-called "progress" because smaller households are the prevailing need across the city right now and that looks set to continue. The presumption in favour of development in the planning process stands in the face of local objections. Property prices on estates such as this are still just about low enough to make such quick turnaround subdivision type redevelopment profitable. And Risinghurst is in good commuting distance from some of the city's biggest employers.
However, there are two ways that Risinghurst as a community could begin to take back some control over its own future.
First, and most traditionally, you have the benefit of a Parish Council. Parish Councils have the right to produce parish design statements and plans and have them taken into account when developments come up for planning permission. I don't bellieve that Risinghurst and Sandhills Parish Council were given a fair crack of the whip when the recent Oxford Local Plan was prepared. They were involved in action planning and so on, but I don't think their potential power to add extra conditions to reflect local circumstances was made properly clear to them.
But this is still a planning response, and can always be over-ruled by someone from Bristol based Planning Inspectorate when developers go to appeal.
The second way is very much more radical but potentially far more powerful and effective. You might think it's a crazy idea. But it's one I've been looking at as part of the Community Land Trust project
I started and have been involved in since I was last your councillor four years ago. Why doesn't the community itself club together and buy up properties as they come up for sale so that they can control how they are managed into the future?
How it might work is that those of you who have lots of equity in their homes - and because of the older than average demographics of Risinghurst there should be plenty of those - set up a community land trust. You remortgage your own homes - not by much - but just enough each to be able to buy up each property between you as it comes up for sale. Then as a community you have control of who they are let to, or who can buy into the scheme. You can even make existing housing more affordable for people to buy into - through a sort of a shared ownership scheme.
You could think of it as supplementing your pension savings for example, just as people do who get into the "buy to let" market as individuals - you're just sharing the burden between lots of you. And when, say, you've got a block of several houses in community hands, you can decide how to redevelop it to suit the real community needs. Perhaps there's a need for older peoples' housing for people already in Risinghurst but not really coping with their former family home, or for younger family members keen to move out of home but stay in the area who cannot afford to get a place of their own.
And because the Community Land Trust has a say over who gets to move into properties as they become part of the CLT you can also try to pick and choose people willing to make a commitment to the area.
There are even government tax breaks coming up for this sort of thing in the form of "Real Estate Investment Trusts" - though they're intended as profit driven things not primarily community driven things.
So, what do you think? Is there sufficient ill-feeling about this piecemeal redevelopment of the estate and lack of control over it to have enough people want to get together and do something about it for yourselves? We haven't tried it before in the Community Land Trust project, but I believe the finances stack up so as to make it possible. And could come and talk to people about it if we wanted to try to form such a group.
Power to the Parish!
I went to my first Parish Council meeting in three and a half years yesterday. I thought it would be good to say hello if I am going to be standing again in May. I got quite a nice welcome as an "old friend". So far so good.
As readers of my main blog might be aware I am a great fan of local democracy and local action as far preferable to larger and larger tiers of government. And my visit to the Parish Council confirmed my opinion of what local people can achieve when they get together as a community to do so.
I'd invite folk from other parts of the city to go see the facilities that Risinghurst and Sandhills Parish Council run for their residents and compare them with similar things the city council runs for other areas.
Go look, for example, at the high quality and state of maintenance of the play areas at Downside Dip or Olive Jack's Field. See the street sport site they developed at Richards Way. The new bus shelter they put up on Masons Road in Wood Farm. Or the fact that the footpaths in the parish are immaculately maintained.
Compare them, for example, locally to the play area behind the houses in Carter Close, maintained, or not as the case may be, by the city council. Or further afield, to the play area in Margaret Road recreation ground which has obviously had little care for years.
Bringing in my other old stomping ground, compare the Mortimer Hall, Old Marston's community centre, run by a dedicated local group leasing it off the Parish Council and working closely with them, and the run down portacabin type affairs that Risinghurst has to contend with in Kiln Lane, owned by the city and whilst run locally by a Community Association, utterly dependent on the city for handouts of maintenance money.
When the city council boundaries changed in 2002 Risinghurst became part of a ward including Headington Quarry and a bit of the estate that was not in the parish fell into the same ward. Now, perhaps remarkably, those 300 or so households have voted to join the parish - though incompetence or tardiness at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister means it will not happen in time for this year's elections (quite why we have to wait to hear from on high that people have permission to join a local democratic body I can never fathom).
And there are a lot of untapped powers that parishes have that our city parishes do not use. They could, for example, take on maintenance of the verges in Risinghurst and Sandhills (indeed they have been busy planting new avenue trees on the latter) and put an end to the long wait they've had for any attention from the city and county councils. They could appropriate part of the playing fields at Sandhills' new school for local children to kick a ball around in. They could take over the community centre in Kiln Lane.
And you know what...they'd be absolutely the best people to do all this. Even area committees are too big to focus on very local issues that can nevertheless make a huge amount of difference to peoples' perceived quality of life. This is why I want to reparish the city. Give local people back control of their local environment and local services. There is a whole lot they can do better than some monolithic district council. And if they want it, I will back them all the way.
A change for the worse?
Wow - one thing that has changed in the past few years is the Ampleforth Arms. Some of you may know that I once spent some time at the Benedictine abbey after which the pub is named, so I do have a special fondness for something so far away bearing the name. But when Mike, the landlord when I was councillor, was there the place was interesting. I know he always had problems with too little trade - I tried to get him a sign put up on the A40 advertising the fact that there was a pub with good home cooked food (ie way better than McDonalds for anyone looking for something to eat on the way into Oxford), but the pub was always quite homely and welcoming.
We went in there today for some relief from street surveying and it was like a barn somehow. We have to climb across in front of people watching the football on the big screen in the area that used to be the main eating area. A wall's been ripped out to make it all one big room so there's no room to hire if you want some private party or similar. And there's no food - worst of all. Mike's cullinary skills were legend. I seem to remember he even offered a delivery service to local pensioners who were housebound for a while. Today, nothing, or at least "only during summer months". Blimey. I'd starve if I didn't eat for six months!
Do you use the Ampleforth? What do you think of it now? It seems to me that it's become a typical "estate pub" - a barn of a place with very little to recommend it unless you want to watch the big screen (which at least used to be in the other room so you didn't need to disturb fans just to get to the bar or out the door). Yet it's in the right place to be the centre of a community.
I'll reserve judgement till I've been up one evening. You really can't tell the whole story from a Sunday lunch. But I won't be surprised to find it a similar atmosphere of an evening. Maybe the "local" is simply a dying institution. That would be sad. I'd love that whole parade to be the centre of this pretty isolated community. I'd better go reintroduce myself to Mr Ghandi as well. I see his property empire has gone from strength to strength in the intervening years.
Plus ca change...
You know, I've not been through Risinghurst much since I left the city council in 2002. But returning there today to do some street surveys about the state of roads and paths and street furniture and the like I was quite taken aback that absolutely nothing has been done there in those four years.
Now I realise that not much was done while I was on the council either, but at least we got the two councils to take the issues seriously enough to produce a proper survey and some ideas of what might happen if the money was ever forthcoming. I presume this is still sitting in someone's drawer, or even been lost or destroyed. You have to keep the pressure up to keep such ideas at the forefront of peoples' minds.
It's a really difficult one. Money is not forthcoming. People pay their council tax and it rises every year. They don't see any local improvements for their money. It's depressing. But it's not all the council's fault. Clearly the Risinghurst estate was not built for multi-car households. The roads are too narrow to park on street. The drive ways and garages, if they still exist, are too narrow for modern cars and who wants to be "held hostage" by their neighbour's car blocking a shared drive anyway?
I spoke to two or three households who fear that their homes are being damaged because some of the roads the bus service uses are now so badly holed where service trenches cross the road that the buses bounce as they go over them and send shocks through their foundations.
This is just not on. The county council officers say that damage to the houses if it happens is not their problem. This is not a responsible answer. Someone needs to own the issue and get something done. It might mean eventually loosing the grass verges. I suspect that the pavements are not of legal width and quality nowadays anyway under disability legislation.
Indeed I wonder if disability legislation could be used to make the county do something about it. I remember a young chap in Downside Road somewhere who had been injured and was wheelchair bound and we eventually got something done for him to enable him at least to get out of his own home.
It's a "mature" estate. there isn't a lot of scope for new development to be fleeced to help pay for environmental improvements. But that's what we pay our taxes for isn't it - things that cannot be provided any other way. I shall contact all those who responded to our survey to find out if they have any constructive ideas. Maybe see if we can resurrect that report from 2001 and think creatively about ways to finance improvements.
Hopefully now that the area has a Lib Dem county councillor as well, Roz Smith, with whom I can work to raise the issues at the county council and not just the city council, we might find some ways around the inertia that pervades that institution. I wouldn't hold your breath though - this is something that I fought my election campaign on in 1998. It hasn't improved since!
Welcome to Jock's Risinghurst Blog
Jock Coats is the prospective Lib Dem candidate for City Council elections in May 2006 for the Quarry and Risinghurst ward on Oxford City Council. As Jock goes round the Risinghurst part of the ward picking up news, issues and information he will post them here as often as he can so you can see what he's up to and even contribute through comments or by linking to your own blogs. There's a sister blog for the Headington Quarry section of the ward too.
How you can participate
I don't want this blog to be just a one way thing with me rambling on about local issues and no feedback. There are two main ways you can contribute:
- If something I've written interests you, annoys you, infuriates you, excites you and you wish to add a comment to an existing story, click on the comments link below the relevant article and fill in the pop-up box. You're comments will then show up as a link below the post. I will get notified of comments so I can respond to them if they need a response.
- If you've got a story of your own, I'm happy to let other people join the blog, making it a "team blog" and you can post whole articles that will then appear on the main page. I will "moderate" these, not so much to censor what people are writing, but just to make sure that they are not offensive or actionable. To do this you will need to have a blogging account at http://www.blogger.com/ but you don't need to have a blog of your own there if you don't want one. Once you have your blogging account, click on my profile link and email me to tell me who you are and what your blogging account name is and I'll add it to the "members" list of the blog and then you will be able to post.
Of course in the spirit of blogging - which is designed to be an organic network of people offering their own thoughts and stories, you can set yourself up with a blog of your own, and then use the "blog this" link at the top of each page of the blog to write a story on your own blog with a link back to this blog.