This is an editorial opinion piece which was recently published in The Oxford Times, sister paper of the Oxford Mail.

Recently, Oxford City Council hit the national news.

The council was not in the spotlight because of its work in helping the most deprived as they suffer from sky high energy bills, nor were journalists talking about efforts to free up affordable housing.

Instead, news presenters were discussing the council’s decision to ban meat from their meetings. 

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The city council has followed in the footsteps of Oxfordshire County Council in requiring all food to be 100 per cent plant based.

Although, unfortunately for councillors, the public have not welcomed this radical move with open arms.

Farmers in Oxfordshire have expressed their frustration that their efforts to farm sustainably are not being recognised and instead an anti-British agriculture attitude is being promoted by political representatives who are meant to have their back.


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People love the vegan food versus meat debate because it forces you to choose a side.

Are you part of the tofu eating or tofu bashing club? The debate is more complex, and councillors have fallen into the trap of taking a side. 

Matthew Alden of Aldens Butchers in Oxford, criticised the council for its “knee jerk reaction” and put forward a more sophisticated perspective on the issue of food ethics.

He said the best approach was to give people “free choice” between plant based options and meat.

Instead of drastically banning meat from meetings, Matthew said the better approach would be for councillors to encourage people to simply eat less meat. 
The greater issue here is that councillors are focusing on what food to ban, when people don’t really care for their councillor’s advice before they do their weekly shop.

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Energy bills are rising, rents are soaring, the price of fuel is increasing, and Oxford’s councillors are most concerned about whether people will be putting bacon in their breakfast bap. 

The county council is also guilty of focusing on the wrong priorities.

The Oxford Times is frequently inundated with emails from our readers complaining about the awful gaping potholes they encounter on their way into work.

This week it was revealed the council spent between £14-£15k on filling the potholes in its own city centre County Hall car park.

Councillors seem to be able to dig deep in their pockets to find the necessary cash when their own comfort is at stake – at a time, no less, that the rest of us are about to be banned from driving anywhere near the city centre.

The optics, as they say, aren’t great.

Another example of the lack of focus on society’s pressing issues is city councillor Katherine Miles’ decision to complain about Oxford Town Hall’s “inappropriate” artwork.

Witney Gazette: The county council's car park being resurfaced The county council's car park being resurfaced (Image: Toby Morris)

In reality, it’s unlikely that people have the time to worry about the symbolism of antique pictures – but would certainly be appalled at a sell off of the city’s treasures on the basis of their capacity to offend a tiny group of sensitive souls.

And what next, we may ask? Is the Ashmolean also to be hollowed out?

Anything created by the slave states of Ancient Greece or Rome must surely be first for the skip.

It is easy for councils to spend time debating trivial issues when the urgent concerns of people are ignored.

With elections fast approaching, councillors may well soon find that radical ideas about food and art may well not be the vote winners they perceive them to be.