After many years as a bastion of Conservatism, the Vale of White Horse Conservatives were trampled in 2019 by a herd of Liberal Democrats galloping into control across many areas of the Home Counties, in particularly Oxfordshire.
Leaving aside the slightly painful puns, the Vale was won following the failure to convince existing residents of the need to grow its housing stock to meet the wider need for homes across Oxfordshire as part of a County wide growth deal. The Liberal Democrats have seized the opportunity and are now firmly established as the administration and all indications are that if anything, they will increase their grip locally.
The Liberal Democrats have demonstrated themselves to be on the side of existing residents by resisting development in many locations and are actively campaigning against what they consider to be unnecessary housing growth from Oxford City. Now led by a relatively new Leader in Cllr Bethia Thomas, the Vale of White Horse District recently won an appeal decision against 300 new homes in Grove by referencing that the Council has a housing supply of 6.36 years. Cllr Thomas was previously the Deputy Leader, taking over from Cllr Emily Smith who has stepped back to give more time to her charity interests – although it appears likely that she will remain in politics in some shape or form.
It has not been entirely plain sailing, with the Lib Dems losing a by-election in May 2021 with a 12% swing to the Conservatives, but the balance was restored just a year later when they took a seat back from the Conservatives with a similar swing in their direction. Furthermore, the 2021 Oxfordshire County Council elections confirmed the Liberal Democrat hegemony in the District and much attention will be on the new Didcot & Wantage Parliamentary seat at the next General Election which the Liberal Democrats will see as a major target.
It should be noted that we would expect the Vale of White Horse District Council to increase its close co-operation with South Oxfordshire District Council (the two authorities already share offices and some officers) in the coming years with a view to the establishment of a potential joint unitary authority in the coming years.
In summary, to exhaust the equine puns, we fully expect the Lib Dems to win this one at a relative canter.