Students are no longer automatically registered to vote by the University, it has emerged.
The information was revealed in a small note in a student news bulletin from the University on October 20th and a number of JCR Presidents have warned their JCRs.
A University spokesperson said: “The change has taken place as a result of a change in the law designed to reduce electoral fraud. Under the new system, people who are registering need to provide a few more details to identify themselves. The new process will also gives people the option to register online for the first time.”
The spokesperson explained that colleges will be “forwarding Oxford City Council’s formal invitation to register”, saying:
“These invitations will arrive in individual student pigeon holes either this week or early next. Students should then be able to follow the instructions to register themselves online. It is a simple process which should take no more than five minutes and should give students ample opportunity to register to vote.”
OUSU President Louis Trup told the OxStu: “Ruth (our Vice-President for Charities and Community) and I have been working on ensuring students know about the changes to voter registration. We have met with representatives of the Council, Brookes Student Union and Ruskin Student Union to find ways of making sure that all students in Oxford know about these changes. This lead to there being a stall at OUSU Freshers’ Fair dedicated to voter registration.
“We are also working with Bart Ashton, Chairman of the Domestic Bursars’ Committee, to ensure that college authorities know about the changes and make it as easy as possible for students to register to vote. We will soon be launching a large campaign aiming to inform every student about how to register so look out for that!”
Trup added: “On November 3rd, I will be presenting to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Students on this issue.I intend to highlight how the changes to voter registration will affect students and the ways in which students should be informed of these changes.”
The university’s top Conservatives have announced their support for two students running in the Oxford City Council elections next month.
Maryam Ahmed, a DPhil Engineering student at Wolfson and current OUCA Treasurer-elect, will be running for the Carfax Ward. She said she would focus part of her campaign on housing issues.
“I am delighted to have been selected to fight for Carfax this May. Labour have failed Oxford students, pitching town vs. gown, and implementing housing policies that will drive up rents for students,” she said.
“Labour’s cost of living crisis is making this city unlivable and I will fight for safe, affordable housing whether you’re living in or out,” she added.
Poppy Stokes is a first-year Classicist at Wadham and the current Junior Officer at OUCA. She will be running for the Holywell Ward.
OUCA’s announcement follows endorsements by both the University’s Labour Club and the Oxford University Liberal Democrat.
Labour candidate Aled Jones, a second-year Law student at Corpus Christi and a former OULC co-chair, will face Poppy Stokes in the election for the Holywell Ward. Liberal Democrat Jean Vila, a second-year Biologist at Wadham, will stand for the Liberal Democrats.
Last term, Jones said that the Labour-run-Council had already built over 1000 new homes in Oxford. Vila said he wanted to tighten the rules on accredited letting agencies.
The election will be held on 22nd May, when 24 out of the 48 council seats will be elected. Most Oxford colleges fall into the Holywell Ward.
It is not without precedent for students to run for the Council. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all chose undergraduate finalists as their candidates for Holywell in the last City Council elections in 2012.
Flooded students are feeling abandoned by the council after claims they were refusing to distribute sandbags unless lives were in “lethal danger”.
The flooding was so severe that council workers operating a pumping system near Abingdon Road stopped the system for just half an hour and caused over 200 houses to go onto “red alert”.
Mehrunissa Sajjad, a third year at Merton who was staying at a house off Abingdon Road, was flooded last week.
“The Oxford City Council was totally useless when contacted, and said we shouldn’t ask for sandbags unless our lives were in ‘lethal danger’,” she said. Council officials said that there was no provision for delivery of sandbags, except for a limited number of elderly or disabled people. Despite the advertised depots being at least 25 minutes walk from the city centre, there was no reasonable means by which students without cars could retrieve the heavy bags to protect their houses from the floods.
Wadham second year Joe Miles said of his house: “the basement is like a swimming pool. There are three to six inches of water down there. The landlords have been very good, they’re covering all the damage, but I’m surprised that the council didn’t bother to deliver sandbags”.
In a call to the City Council in the afternoon of Friday 10th, an OxStu reporter – posing as a student in a flood-hit area – was advised by a council employee to use a bicycle basket or trolley to transport sandbags. This was despite their heavy weight and the need to take several bags to adequately protect a house.
When asked what to do if a house should flood before sandbags could be acquired, the council employee replied that there was not much that could be done as “most of our efforts are diverted at the minute to getting the sandbags to the locations to be collected”.
The Council official assured the reporter that they would call back and provide more information and assistance shortly. The Oxford Student provided contact details, but was not further contacted by the council.
The Duke of Monmouth pub on Abingdon Road has been acting as a sandbag depot over the past week. On Sunday, the bags supplied by the council had not been protected from the rain, and were subsequently ripped and waterlogged, with some weighing over 20 kilograms each. Although the manager of the pub said that most of these bags had been used and returned, a council official confirmed that they were the only ones available at the time.
A spokesman for Oxford City Council said: “There have been numerous deliveries of sandbags to the Duke of Monmouth public house on the Abingdon Road and we have had sand and bags available at Redbridge Park & Ride.
“Sandbags were made available from Saturday 4 January. We have responded to every single request for sandbags and we have proactively been delivering to areas we believed could be vulnerable.
“Officers were working 24 hours a day to help deal with the ever changing situation.”
Open spaces across the city are still flooded, with the area under Magdalen Bridge and next to Magdalen College’s Waynflete Building badly hit. The Abingdon Road area – which contains numerous student houses and the accommodation annexes of various colleges including Hertford – suffered from severe flooding.
Laura Martin, who lives on Western Road, commented that her house has been badly awffected by floods: “The carpets are ruined, and the basement is flooded due to the poor quality of the house – we’re in a flood zone but there was no waterproofing in the basement. I get the feeling this is a recurring problem.”
The Abingdon Road area – which contains numerous student houses and the accommodation annexes of various colleges including Hertford – suffered from severe flooding. A part of Abingdon Road proper was officially closed at the weekend (except to residents) as many students returned to Oxford after the vacation.
A subcontractor from Drayton Construction, who was working at the scene, said that he suspected some drivers were falsely claiming to be residents in order to get past. Alarmed local residents pointed out that cracks were appearing around the many of the drains in the area due to the pressure of the excess water.
Magdalen College grounds also flooded this week, leading to concerned reactions from students. “Riverside of the Waynflete now looks more like Swampside,” said Alice Theobald, a first-year English student at the college.
“The flooding next to Magdalen is pretty extensive but at least I can save money on my holiday to Venice,” added Toby Gill, a first-year History student.
Mark Blandford-Baker, the college’s Home Bursar, confirmed that “the water meadow flooded as intended and as usual in such conditions”.
Oxford could become one of the greenest cities in the UK if its bid to limit buses’ nitrogen oxide emissions is approved by the government.
The County Council have applied to the government to set a limit on nitrogen dioxide produced by buses at two grams of nitrogen oxide per kilowatt-hour, the strictest legal cap currently available within the Eurozone.
It is the first time any local authority in Britain has applied for such a strict emissions cap, and it is part of a bid in cooperation with Oxford City Council to turn Oxford into a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ).
Since 2009, investment in more environmentally friendly buses in Oxford has seen an approximate drop of 60 percent in emissions from new vehicles, but many older buses without this reduction remain in use in and around the city. If approved, the regulations mean that buses which do not meet the standard will have to be entirely replaced or fitted with exhaust treatment devices, and any bus remaining stationary for more than one minute at a bus stop would have to have its engine turned off.
In addition, the City Council is looking at making the rules apply to taxis and licensed private hire vehicles as well if they are approved for buses.
A spokesman for the Oxford Bus Company welcomed the news, saying that “over 85 percent” of their buses already comply with Euro 5 regulations and that they “expect the entire fleet to be upgraded to this standard well ahead of any deadline the government may set as a result of the Council’s application”.
He continued: “For between ten and fifteen years now the company has been investing in green technology, and it’s been standard practice to turn off engines at bus stops for a long time now anyway. We have set the template for the LEZ and far from fearing the Council’s application, we welcome it, although we believe it should apply to all vehicles with an internal combustion engine within the LEZ.”
He also pointed out the contributions made to Oxford by the bus operators, saying: “Over 50 percent of all people in the city centre get there by bus. The bus network is therefore an integral part of Oxford’s economy.”
Student reaction was also positive, with St Catz engineer and cyclist Erk Angpanitcharoen commenting: “It will be particularly beneficial for people using the slip stream as they will be able to cycle behind any bus with minimal emission intake.”
The City Council’s cabinet member for transport declined to comment.
OUSU Environment & Ethics Chair Natalie Haley added: “This is a great step in improving air quality in the city; especially as so much of the air pollution in the city centre is due to buses. Hopefully similar caps will be set in other parts of the country following Oxford’s example. Oxford already has many hybrid and other forms of ‘greener’ buses and this would ensure buses which did not already meet these standards were brought up to the bar.”
Oxford City Council has outlined plans to exercise its new powers over sex shops and lap dancing clubs by capping their number.
At a council meeting on Wednesday night councillors debated whether to kick-start a consultation process, which would culminate with a final decision in April 2012. The policy document recommended the committee “consider whether or not to set a limit on the “appropriate” number of sex establishments”.
The council last year used its powers to move Thirst Lodge from behind the Westgate shopping centre because it was deemed too close to shops, churches and tourist attractions. The lap dancing club, however, reopened at the former Coven nightclub on Oxpens Road.
Previously, the council only had the power to refuse licenses based on location. The new laws recently inherited mean they can now refuse licenses based on there being too many sex establishments in the city.
Labour council leader Bob Price backed a cap and told the Oxford Mail: “If you took it to the limit, you would have a city centre that looked a bit like the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and Soho.
“It would not be the kind of Oxford that would be particularly attractive to tourists, maybe not all tourists, but not the right type.”
However, the council’s policy document states: “The council is not permitted to take a moral stand with regard to licensing sex establishments”. Consequently, second year law student Charlotte Tarr was left bemused by the policy: “There are already so many rules on what sex shops can display, I don’t see any reason why they need to be capped. It’s discriminatory, and I can’t see any justification.”
She continued: “It is foolish to think that in the 21st Century people don’t go into these shops- there is demand for these establishments. Simply capping them doesn’t get to the root of the problem- instead, it creates a dangerous environment where sex becomes a taboo subject.”
Tarr concluded: “It is an outrage.” While Pembroke student Hamish Smith concurred, describing the council’s moves as a “disgrace”, second year Wadham student James Sadler emphasized that such a cap would be “obviously tragic for the local economy”.
Nevertheless, English student Alex Fisher described the changes as “a good thing”: “sex establishments are generally negatively viewed- capping them can only result in Oxford having a cleaner reputation”.
St Ebbe’s Church was “relieved” when Thirst Lodge was moved from next to their building earlier this year and has campaigned against sex establishments in the past. However, the church declined to comment on the council’s latest decision.
At present, the council has not specified what number of establishments it has in mind to cap. The term “sex establishments” officially applies to sex shops, sex cinemas and sexual entertainment venues.