It is a long established tradition in Oxfordshire - and I assume, more widely - that the Tories will put out a nasty leaflet in the last few days of a campaign. These leaflets, if held in the threatened Botley Library, would be filed under 'fiction' since they always play fast and loose with the truth. Indeed, that seems to be the approach of the Tories to the elections this year, as the 'No to AV' campaign demonstrates. Be assured that there is no coalition here in Oxfordshire.
In North Hinksey, we have a humdinger of a leaflet which bears little relation to the real world, much in tune with Tory pronouncements generally. Let's make a few points about the 'story' so far.
1. I understand that the Tories pledge to safeguard the library. Does this mean they disagree with Tories in Oxford who threaten to close it? Why don't they talk about the County Council cuts which have threatened the library in the first place, I wonder. If you want to secure the library, the Lib Dems are the only party which can issue a cast iron pledge to oppose Tory library cuts.
2. The Tories pledge to 'safeguard the Green Belt'. Great. The Lib Dems have done this for years and we even introduced a Local Plan which absolutely, categorically said that the Green Belt would not be built on - and we have stuck to it. Tories like to forget that (i) their leader at the time merrily discussed building all over the Green Belt (ii) the Tories did not support this planning document which specifically, unequivocally protected the Green Belt around Oxford.
Are you getting a theme? Perhaps I might suggest one of 'we'll say anything to get your vote'...
3. I have been attacked for living beyond Witney. Not quite but I do live near Witney, about 15 miles from North Hinksey. I work in Botley, which is why I want to be your councillor. Working in Botley for Oxford Brookes University means that I have a specific interest in the area which others might not. I probably spend more time in the area - walking the roads, using the shops, visiting the library - than many people like me in North Hinksey who commute to other places to work. Should they be denied a vote since they don't eat, sleep and live every moment here? Lib Dems don't like personal attacks so I will not mention the two Tory candidates in Farmoor and Cumnor who hail from Faringdon and one of whom is standing because their relative, the Tory leader, clearly press-ganged them into it in the absence of anyone else...but as I said, we don't do personal attacks so please forget that last point.
4. The Tories say the Lib Dems plan to build on the site of the baptist church, to knock down Seacourt Hall and to demolish the library. Now this is either wrong or it is a lie. The Vale is considering plans for the future of Botley - with the Baptist Church, among other landowners - but there are no firm, agreed plans to do anything. Let me repeat this: there are no such plans so an intelligent person might conclude that the Tories are lying to you in their leaflet. As an intelligent voter I leave it to you to decide.
5. The Tories want to review the Vale's housing plans. Oh dear, this is one area where we will always disagree with NIMBY Tories. The Lib Dems have built thousands of affordable homes in very high quality developments in Abingdon and Grove in particular, creating mixed communities to improve our district. The Lib Dems realise that people must live somewhere and cannot simply be parcelled off to other, poorer areas, so for 16 years we have worked on town centre developments which improve the viability of local businesses, cut the need to travel and provide new amenities like schools, play equipment and new, much needed roads in areas like Wantage and Grove. The Tories have opposed almost all such plans and they continue to do so. If you have children or if you are a young adult starting out in work, or if you are older and wish to move into a smaller property and stay in Oxfordshire, you might wish to ask if we can cope with the existing number of dwellings we have in the Vale or if more development might just occasionally be a good thing for everyone. And let me reiterate the clear, unequivocal pledge that the Lib Dems are the only local party which has been 100% committed to safeguarding the Oxford Green Belt in its entirety for over 16 years, against Tory opposition.
6. Tories pledged to freeze Council Tax. Well, fabulous. This will help residents in Oxfordshire who are already stung by one of the highest County Council Taxes in England - imposed by those same Tories. By contrast, the Vale levies one of the lowest District Council Tax charges in England. And, Lib Dems have campaigned for years to abolish this hated tax which penalises people on low and average salaries and favours the richest in the country. The Tories show their true colours in supporting the Council Tax, which hurts the poorest the most. Contrast that with Lib Dems in government cutting incomer tax for the lowest paid, allowing them to help themselves.
I hope you will read the Tory leaflet and I hope you will recognise the true colours of the Tories. I hope you will then endorse the good work the Lib Dems have done for 16 years in North Hinksey and Wytham and support me and Debby Hallett to tell you the truth, to keep you informed and to work for you all year round, not for narrow political advantage but for everyone in North Hinksey and Wytham.
Thank you to everyone who is supporting us.