On the 4th of May, for the first time, voters from all over the South West will head to the polls to elect a Metro Mayor, who will work with the leaders of Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and North East Somerset.
The reality is that for many of us living in the region, the idea of deciding on a metro mayor hasn’t really crossed our minds. In this article, however, we aim to strip away any spin and look at the policies of each of the six candidates, specifically those that could potentially affect those of us working in the third sector.
Tim Bowles (Conservative)
Who: Local businessman, councillor and dementia awareness champion.
In short: "As a local community campaigner, I’m passionate about our region and that’s why I’m standing to be the first West of England Mayor. I’ve combined a successful business career with public service as a local Councillor over the last fourteen years and I want to use my skills, experience and determination to make our region even better."
Housing: "Our community is a great place to live with a growing economy and new jobs. But success brings demand for more housing - and transport infrastructure is just not keeping up. Local people want to see further improvements to transport and they want it easier for people to get on the housing ladder.... If elected, I will adopt a better approach to development – so the right homes are built in the right places, protecting our green spaces and prioritising urban regeneration."
Aaron Foot (United Kingdom Independence Party)
Who: farmer and businessman, former UKIP candidate for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner , councillor in Coleford
Blurb: “As a local farmer, I have a passion for protecting the local countryside, which is renowned for its natural beauty, being rich in wildlife and studies show beneficial to people’s mental health [sic]. I am putting protecting green spaces at the heart of my policy making. We need more houses, however we must look to brownfield sites first. Being a lifelong resident of the area makes me only want to do what is right.”
Housing: “For too long local families have been left at the back of the cue when looking for a place to call home. It will be my aim to build social housing on disused sites. These social houses will be prioritised for local people, including our forgotten military veterans.”
Social: “For too long decision [sic] made by our elected politicians have felt out of reach from the voters. With my plan to bring an online direct democracy to the public, we will give the people a real place to bring their policies forward, and give meaningful comments on our future decisions.”
Environmental: “Yes air pollution is getting worse, however this has only been made worse by favouring anti-car policies. Let’s end the 20MPH zones, open blocked roads, reduce traffic lights to increase traffic flows and look at opening satellite rail stations.
Darren Hall (Green Party)
Who: Former engineer, manager of Bristol green partnership, 2015 Green candidate for Bristol West MP
In Short: The Metro Mayor will led the West of England Combined Authority, responsible for agreeing a joint plan and spending a budget of at least £1bn, along with the opportunity to raise even more from local investment. We must support joint working, identify our joint interests, aspiration, commitments. We believe that by acting on long term plans for prosperity that put people first, we will take steps toward a future that everyone can look forward to.
Housing: "We will start by insisting on higher building standards so homes are cheaper to run. Renewable energy and proper insulation required in the design. New developments over 40 units will have to be energy producers by 2020. Then let’s get building: good quality homes in the right places, connected by a fit-for-purpose transport system with schools and health services nearby. Using modern technology, with ultra-fast broadband to transform work-life balance." "For those who prefer to rent, a voluntary Renter’s Charter will set the a benchmark for landlords. We can roll out a region wide Ethical Lettings Charter that supports the good landlords out there".
Social: "Support skilled workers from overseas to remain within the West of England", "Commit significant resources into the adult learning sector to develop lifelong learning", "Committing to maintain open libraries and centres of community learning", "Support increasing equality and diversity by supporting women, non-binary genders and BME groups in the workplace".
Environment: "Be a strong pro-Remain voice that campaigns for clean energy investment", "Support local, renewable energy providers", "Campaign to stop Hinkley C being built and investing instead in renewable energy", "West of England to be 100% Frack Free", "Ensure farming practices are nature friendly", "Protect & improve green infrastructure including natural schemes for flood prevention and mitigation".
Lesley Mansell (Labour)
Who: Equality and diversity manager at Bristol NHS, spent ten years as a parish councillor.
In Short: “The West of England is an inspiring place to live and work. My vision is to ensure everyone in Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire can share equally in our region’s success. I will use my skills, knowledge and experience as a negotiator to bring together the leaders of the three local authorities. Sharing best practice, uniting in a common purpose, we will leave no one behind. I will bring co-operative values, equality and equity to all our decision making.”
Housing: “Work with Bristol and Bath Regional Capital Community Interest Company to allow people and businesses to invest in local housing schemes.”, “Build at least 4,000 homes – 1,200 affordable – a year across the West of England by 2021.”, “Support the provision of extra care housing within large housing developments to take care of the elderly and infirm population and assist family carers.”
Social: “Bring together social care providers, unions, patient and service user representatives, NHS, the voluntary sector and experts from universities and research institutions to provide a joined-up care network.”, “Promote ‘Connecting Care’ initiatives so that patients have a single point of access, so that they only need to ‘tell their story once’.”
Environment: Set up a commercially attractive regional energy company to encourage investment into carbon free energy sources, Promote recycling, setting a target of 55% for all waste by 2020.
John Savage (Independent)
Who: Executive Chairman of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative and Chairman of University Hospitals Bristol.
In Short: "I have lived in this region for nearly forty years and have experience of running an award winning NHS trust, an educational funding body, a cross party leadership group, a regional transport body and many businesses. I will bring a new approach to how local government is run in the west of England."
Housing: "My key commitments are to: 1. Break the stranglehold of existing economics and politics. 2. Ensure that plans are for sufficient new homes with a significant number of them truly affordable. 3. Build whole new communities in the right places with good quality homes, nearby schools and health facilities and linked to excellent public transport. 4. Encourage modular building to speed up supply."
Social: "Rebalancing life chances for the underemployed and disconnected: The new high tech economy in the West of England is inaccessible to many of those people who live here. Rebalancing this economic prosperity will be a key focus of the Metro Mayor."
"Investment in health education...Schools should be engaged in a concerted effort to counter the rise in heart defects, obesity, asthma, diabetes and other chronic illnesses that can be exacerbated by poverty, a lack of awareness and poor self esteem."
"Change how we invest in the future of our young... As Mayor, I would make a big noise about the inadequacies of our current education system.
Environment: "I recognise the significant opportunities in the low carbon and high tech sectors to provide local employment, but we need training in appropriate skills for the jobs of the future and making this training accessible and attractive to all. Good employment is key to a sustainable quality of life to those in our disadvantaged communities."
"Businesses also need good access to information on how to save energy and thereby their costs and emissions, building on existing local initiatives."
"The natural environment in this part of England is a great asset which must be preserved and indeed enhanced. Brownfield land must be prioritised for development."
Stephen Williams (Liberal Democrats)
Who: former Bristol West Lib Dem MP
In Short: “My ambition is to make Bristol, Bath and the West of England the most dynamic, pleasant and sustainable place to live, work, invest and visit. I will use the office of Metro Mayor to work with the Local Enterprise Partnership, businesses and other political leaders to establish the region as the best place to start and grow a business. Investors and employees will be attracted by a high quality of life, with good connectivity to the rest of Europe and the world beyond.”
Housing: “I will work with the three councils to set up a very large social enterprise to build homes for sale and rent... I will also support social enterprises in renovating empty homes and other redundant space. This will create new homes and also train people from challenging backgrounds, giving them the skills to get back on track in life”
Social: “I have long championed an increased role for social enterprises. Businesses that generate a surplus for re-investment in their core purpose can be more efficient providers of public services.”
Environmental: “I will support a move to locally owned and locally sourced clean energy. On the large scale this will include working with the Welsh government on harnessing the tidal energy of the Severn. I also support more local generation of gas for electricity or direct to the domestic grid, sourced from anaerobic digestion of unavoidable local organic”