Michael O’Connor: Oxford County Council Candidate Profile

Hi! I’m Michael and I’m standing as the Labour County Council candidate for the University Parks division in the May 2021 local elections. Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for a wide range of things, including schools, social services, mental health and transport. In central Oxford, the County Council’s primary responsibility is for transport, which means that it is has substantial influence on environmental policy. My division stretches from the High Street in the South to Park Town in the North and covers most of central Oxford, including 25 colleges (listed below) – so the chances are that I’m your candidate! 

I’m a student at Balliol and have been studying in Oxford for three years now, first as an undergraduate and now as a graduate. I’m 22. I care passionately about the climate, tackling homelessness, and protecting frontline public services. I’m standing for the Council to put these commitments into action, inspired by the amazing things I’ve seen local Labour councillors do in Oxford and across the county. 

It’s easy to feel that there isn’t much that you can do with the Conservatives in government at a national level. But there are several layers of government and several ways to make change. We can do things on a local level that can’t be done on a national level. We can’t introduce a Green New Deal across the nation until Labour is in power at Westminster. But we can make Oxford a zero-carbon city, following the example of cities like Copenhagen, Bristol and Utrecht. Similarly, we can’t roll back austerity on a national level, but we can ensure that local services are effectively provided to local communities. So too, we can provide a sensible counterpoint to the central government’s chaotic response to COVID-19. Local government plays a key role in keeping the country ticking over and offers an alternative to Conservative national government.

This is a crucial election. At the moment, the County Council is controlled by the Conservatives with the support of some independents. If we win a handful of extra seats at this election, and hold seats like University Parks, we’ll be able to form a coalition and take control of the County Council. If we take control of the County Council, we’ll be able to enact major changes in policy. We’ll be able to press ahead with greening Oxford and Oxfordshire in collaboration with the separate, Labour-controlled City Council. And we’ll be able to protect the most vulnerable in our society and restore effective public services. But that’s only possible if Labour hold University Parks.

Whether or not Labour ends up in control, I’ll advocate for a greener, more sustainable Oxford by calling for the County Council to push ahead with the zero-emission zone, to improve cycling provision and infrastructure for electric cars, to move towards pedestrianisation in the centre, and to implement central bus gates. This will have to be done in a way that takes account of local residents’ concerns, but it has to be done. I’ll be writing a series of blog posts on these issues over the next few months. If elected, I will also fight against the punitive budget cuts being imposed by the County Council, which will see children’s services, social care and investment in walking and cycling slashed across the county.

Two-tier local government means many issues fall within the remit of the City Council rather than the County Council, including housing, planning and rough sleeping. Nonetheless, I will be a strong advocate for students and renters in the city and will strive to highlight the ongoing plight of rough sleepers. The Labour-led City Council has put up record funding to house Oxford’s homeless, but the County Council can do more to support them and I’ll be leading on this.

The best thing you can do at the moment is like both our Facebook pages and volunteer to hand out leaflets. It’s really hard to campaign at the moment as door-knocking is off the agenda; we really need to build up a social media presence and deliver campaign material to get the message out. If you have any questions, or any thoughts, then please get in contact with me at michael.oconnor@live.co.uk. I would like to hear any thoughts that you may have, or any issues that you care about!

The University Parks divisions covers the following colleges: All Souls (on the off-chance you’re a fellow), Balliol, Brasenose, Exeter, Green Templeton, Harris Manchester, Hertford, Jesus, Keble, Kellogg, Lady Margaret Hall, Linacre, Lincoln, Magdalen, Mansfield, New, Queen’s, St Anne’s, St Antony’s, St Catherine’s, St Edmund Hall, Somerville, Trinity, Wadham or Wycliffe Hall.


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