Category Archives: politics

Abingdon on Election Day


Today, the polls were open for the 2024 general election. From 7 am to 10 pm, power shifted away from the Houses of Parliament and Abingdon Street SW1, returning to the people in communities like ours. Here in Abingdon, after providing a name, address, and photo ID, people could mark an X next to their chosen candidate. The sunny weather should have encouraged a good turnout. People thinking the result a foregone conclusion could have kept people at home.

In Oxford West and Abingdon, the race is typically much tighter, with the constituency frequently swinging between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. But you could get 12-1 betting odds on a Conservative victory this time around. The Liberal Democrats were not taking anything for granted. They were the one party with volunteers stationed at polling stations to record voters’ polling numbers. This strategy allows them to call and remind known supporters to cast their votes.

Here are the results:
Social Democratic Party, Anni Byard: 259
Green, Chris Goodall: 3,236
Reform UK, James Gunn: 4,164
Liberal Democrat, Layla Moran: 23,414 (elected)
Independent, Josh Phillips: 168
Conservative, Vinay Raniga: 8,520
Christian Peoples Alliance, Ian Shelley: 256
Labour, Stephen Webb: 5,981
(Turnout: 64.5% – 45,998 valid votes were counted from an electorate of 71,318)

Congratulations to Layla Moran!

Campaign Trail in Abingdon: Leaflets, Street Posters, Candidate sightings



Up until Monday, we had only received election leaflets from three of the candidates. On Monday, however, we received leaflets from all the remaining candidates along with a copy of “Round and About.” Here’s the breakdown of the leaflets received so far:

Liberal Democrats: 6 leaflets (possibly more)
Conservatives: 2 leaflets
Labour: 2 leaflets
CPA: 1 leaflet
Green: 1 leaflet
Independent: 1 leaflet
Reform: 1 leaflet
SDP: 1 leaflet

In terms of street posters, I’ve observed:
Liberal Democrats: Most prominent
Labour: Second most prominent
Reform: Third most prominent

I haven’t been active on social media, so I can’t comment much on that aspect.

The only candidate I have seen in person is the Reform candidate, who was in Bury Street on a Saturday, and I saw him again the next Saturday. I’ve heard that the SDP candidate was seen by others, but missed them.

No party has knocked on the door or phoned us, which is unusual for this area. Overall, it feels like a low-key election campaign in Abingdon. It may all be happening on Instagram, TicToc and X. Or is this the calm before the storm?

Pre-election hustings for Oxford West & Abingdon


The general election is scheduled for July 4th, and a pre-election hustings for Oxford West & Abingdon provided voters with a chance to hear from the candidates. The hustings, organized by the Church in Abingdon, took place last Friday at Abingdon Baptist Church and was live-streamed. You can watch a recording at https://www.youtube.com/live/3VCJuzWwhGk.

Each candidate had an opportunity to introduce themselves (from 20 minutes 00 seconds into the recording):

Anni Byard – Social Democratic
Chris Goodall – Green
James Gunn – Reform UK
Layla Moran – Liberal Democratic
Vinay Raniga – Conservative
Ian Shelley – Christian Peoples Alliance
Stephen Webb – Labour
Josh Phillips, an Independent candidate, was absent.

The event featured questions addressing various national and local issues:
* Food Banks: Discussing strategies to eliminate the need for them (from 37:11).
* Top Concerns: Identify the three most important issues the electorate are concerned about (from 50:26).
* Assisted Dying: Sharing views on this matter of individual conscience (from 59:07).
* Abingdon Reservoir: Addressing the need for a public inquiry (from 1:07:50).
* Solar Farm at Botley West: Stating their positions on this project (from 1:15:38).
* Community Contributions: Highlighting their contributions over the past five years and future plans if elected (from 1:27:30).
* 20 MPH Rollout: Opinions on the implementation of this speed limit (from 1:38:12).
* Immigration: Discussing the need for a timely, affordable, and fair path to citizenship (from 1:47:56).
* Climate Change: Proposing national and local actions for drastic climate measures (from 1:57:00).
* Military Spending vs. Diplomacy: Debating the balance between increased military spending and diplomacy (from 2:07:22).

All candidates agreed on the necessity of a public inquiry into the Abingdon Reservoir. The chairman, Chris Bryan, said this was the first time in his memory that all the candidates had agreed on an issue.

In terms of what three issues the electorate are most concerned about:
James Gunn – Reform UK: Cost of Living, NHS Waiting Lists, Net Zero will crash the economy
Layla Moran – Liberal Democratic: NHS GP appointments, Cost of Living, Sewage scandal
Vinay Raniga – Conservative: Cost of Living, Public Sector Reform (NHS), Immigration
Ian Shelley – Christian Peoples Alliance: Immigration, Free Speech, Economy
Stephen Webb – Labour: NHS GP appointments, Cost of Living, Affordable Housing (younger people)
Anni Byard – Social Democratic: Cost of Living, Environment, Affordable Housing (younger people)
Chris Goodall – Green: Nature and Climate, NHS, Palestine

Annual Parish / Town Meeting Report 2024

I have broken it into three sections: council reports, reports from local groups, and questions from the public. There were about fifty people at the meeting. Most were probably councillors and local groups doing presentations.

Part 1 – Council Reports

The Mayor’s Report

Abingdon’s Mayor, Councillor Gwyneth Lewis, started the meeting by highlighting key moments from her year. She celebrated milestones like the 50th anniversary of volunteer drivers, the 100th year of MG cars, and the 50th show of the Abingdon and District Model Railway Club.

Her visits to allotments focused on biodiversity and special community groups. She was delighted to learn about the Didcot, Abingdon & Wantage Talking Newspaper.

Councillor Lewis also spoke about her initiative to improve support and sanctuaries for victims of domestic abuse. Progress has been made following a forum at the cinema and with the help of her chosen charity, Reducing the Risk.

She concluded by welcoming the new permanent Town Clerk who was sitting beside her.

Committee Reports

The chairs of the council’s four permanent committees then presented their reports. More detailed information can be found on the council’s website: https://abingdon.gov.uk/2024/03/07/notice-april-4-2024/.https://www.abingdon.gov.uk/annual-parish-town-meeting-2024.

Community committee – Councillor Neil Fawcett

Gave thanks to all the staff.

Celebrations: The committee successfully organised events for King Charles III’s Coronation and continued popular traditions like Bun Throwing. Since it was only a few days into the new council, both retired, and new councillors took part in the bun throw.

Community Support: Major grants were awarded to key groups like The Abingdon Carousel and One Planet Abingdon. Numerous smaller grants funded local projects and events.

Review of Platinum Jubilee: An ‘honest’ report had been put together and highlighted some of the faults. It can be seen at https://www.abingdon.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Item-11-Report-on-Platinum-Jubilee-UPDATED-14.2.24-Community-Committee-6.2.24.pdf.


Environment and Amenities committee – Councillor Gabby Barody

Gave thanks to all the outdoor staff.

Spring Gardens Cemetery Improvements: Upgrades are underway in the Infant Burial area, including new paving, a memorial post box, seating, flower beds, and shrub planting. Completion is expected in June.

Playground Areas: New pendulum swings were installed in two playgrounds, and a Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) was added to Caldecott Recreation Ground. A path in North Abingdon’s Hillview Park was resurfaced for long-term use. Self-closing gates have been installed in all playgrounds for improved access and safety.

Councillor Barody also talked about the Green forum, biodiversity competition, and active travel map.

She said she would be Mayor next year and so would stand down from chairing this committee after two years, and that it has been a pleasure.


Town Infrastructure committee – Councillor Colin Sanderson

Public Toilets:
• Two businesses and one community centre are offering toilet access to non-customers.
• The “Space for Change” accessible toilet is open under the Guildhall.
• The Vale repaired the accessible toilet in the Abbey Meadow. Persistent vandalism has meant that the Vale has to balance cost of repairs (about $30K last year) against keeping toilets open.

Speeding: Seven Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) will rotate between 14 locations.

Bus Services: A working group is reviewing bus routes to better serve Abingdon’s population. Councillor Sanderson asked for the public to let them know if areas in Abingdon are underserved.

Bicycle Parking: More bicycle racks will be installed in the Market Place.

Finance, Governance, Asset Management committee – Councillor Jim Halliday

The council’s net planned spend for 2023-24 was £2,136,960.
Funding sources include:
• Precept (council tax money): £1,823,515
• Fees & charges and rents income
• Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds from new property developments

CIL Funds:
• The council received £106,958 in CIL funds during 2022/23, which must be used on capital projects.
• They spent £12,000 on a scout hut refurbishment and school sports turf.
• During 2023/24, they approved spending £155,216 on speed signs, path resurfacing, an active travel map, playground equipment, and a multi-use games area.

Governance:
• New council members were elected in May 2023.
• Cherie Carruthers was appointed Town Clerk/Chief Executive and Responsible Finance Officer in February 2024. (There had been three temporary town clerks in the last year.)
• A Deputy Town Clerk will start mid May and help to bring stability.

Asset Management:
• A lease agreement was negotiated with the Abbey Cinema (runs to Aug 2025).
• A working group is being formed to plan a major refurbishment of the Abbey Hall for late 2025. (The roof has no insulation and other issues.) Tenders for a long-term lease will begin.
• Feasibility studies are underway for installing a lift in the County Hall, and discussions have been held with Historic England.

Councillor Halliday thanked staff and ex-councillors for their work.

Abingdon Neighbourhood Plan – Councillor Andrew Skinner

The Neighbourhood Plan is our chance to shape how Abingdon develops in the future. It’s important to understand that this isn’t just a council plan; it’s a plan for the entire town, created with the help of volunteers.

There’s been a delay, though. While the plan has great ideas for the town’s future, it needed more specific details about how those ideas would be achieved with planning rules. The planning officers from the Vale are now helping the volunteers develop these details.

There are two key benefits in having a neighbourhood plan:
• Currently, the Town Council doesn’t have direct control over planning decisions. But a Neighbourhood Plan sets clear rules for future developments, giving the town a stronger voice in what gets built and how it looks.
• Having a Neighbourhood Plan can also increase the amount of money the Town Council receives through a levy called Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

Part 2 – Reports from local groups (some of which receive large grants from the council)

Fuller reports can be seen on the town council webite

The Abingdon Bridge: This youth support service is thriving! They received funding for the next five years and highlighted the transition of young people from receiving help to becoming helpers themselves. Three of the young people were there to speak.

Police Update: Sergeant Emma focused on their priorities: tackling violence against women and girls, retail crime, anti-social behaviour, and financial scams targeting the elderly. They encourage us to follow their Facebook page for more details.

Abingdon Carousel: The group receives a £35,000 grant from the council. They offer various activities for families with young children, with most visitors coming from Abingdon itself.

Abingdon Damascus Youth Project spoke of their gazebo as a dedicated meeting space for young people.

One Planet Abingdon: They reminded everyone about the climate emergency and encouraged residents to get involved in their initiatives. You can visit their centre located under the County Hall Museum.

Other Groups: Oxfordshire South and Vale Citizens Advice and the Guild of Town Criers also presented their work.

The Mayor thanked all the groups and said, ‘What an amazing place Abingdon is’.

Part 3 – The publics chance to discuss town affairs

Terry challenged councillors to do more in terms of accessibility. She mentioned the Vale Access Group, of which she is a member, who advises on accessibility. They could advise the committee looking at revamping the Guildhall. She also mentioned nearly getting run over by bikes on the precinct and asked for more to be done about such anti-social behaviour.

Mike mentioned how he thought the Guildhall was made of concrete and was then told it was made of the finest Portland Stone. He asked why then was the Guildhall recently painted grey. The town clerk said that they could find no way to remove some graffiti and it had been painted. She said that had been a mistake. They would look to remedy that.

Bobby said that the local neighbourhood plan had been dragging on for over three years, and only now is the Vale advising on planning. What had the consultants been doing all that time if not bringing in the right people at the right time? When would it be ready? Councillor Skinner said hopefully by this time next year. Bobby said she will hopefully be back here next year to see.

Brian from the Ock Valley Flood Group said members had been flooded again. The Oxford Flood group had come to look and were unsure thay could do much. The EA had previously looked into schemes and thought them too expensive. He asked the Town Council to pressurise these groups to do more. It is a constant worry for residents who cannot get flood insurance. Councillor Neil Fawcett said they would push for progress and that the Town Council will be providing local storage for sandbags. That was one small practical help.

David mentioned flooding at Chilton Close and how the Radley Brook floods quicker now since developments. It was said that the owner of the culvert had been identified, and they will keep it clear. David went on to say the West End allotments have been flooded since October. He would like to know whether the Sandford Brook was contaminated as they need to know the risk. He said that if Abingdon Common (on which the allotments sits) belongs to the Town Council, as many think, then they are responsible for that area. The Town Council will investigate.

Somebody raised the issue of £28K being spent on security for the Jubilee celebrations which was out of proportion. Councillor Fawcett said, thanks to an ‘honest’ report, mentioned earlier, lessons had been learned.

Steve suggested that the land on Abingdon Common be used for a wind or solar farm to get a better return than what is got from farming. Councillor Halliday said that wind was probably not feasible in this area, but solar could possibly be given the right connection to the National Grid. The farmer also has a long lease.

Hester asked, as she has most years, about progress on a Market Place notice board. The new Town Clerk was looking to improve communications and will put that in the remit of the new Deputy Town Clerk.

Somebody raised concerns about hedges and ivy blocking footpaths and cycleways. Clearing them can be helpful, but it can also show damage done to the pavement underneath. He asked why the council can’t just maintain these areas regularly. Councillor Halliday explained that councils have limited funds and can’t fix everything at once. He said residents can suggest areas for deep cleaning by Biffa. He also mentioned cars and lorries driving onto pavements in the town centre contributing to poor pavements. Councillor Halliday also highlighted the importance of residents taking pride in their community. Groups like Abibinit are a great example of this kind of community spirit.