I spent six years as a councillor on Bristol City Council from 1997 to 2003 representing Hengrove then Filwood wards. I am incredibly proud to have represented the community in which I grew up.
It was a time when the Labour Party had a majority of the seats on the Council and, therefore, formed the administration. For a short time I sat in what was then called Leader’s Briefing which, in effect, was the Cabinet under the leadership of George Micklewright.
At times it was inspired, coming up with plans to introduce a tram system, build a new arena, a new “Bristol” museum and swimming pool at Hengrove. The leadership back then talked about getting a better deal for Bristol from Government.
In reality most of those plans just didn’t happen. In fact you could argue that the least important promises were delivered against what most people actually want – such as traffic moving more smoothly around the City, our schools achieving higher standards, plenty of well-paid jobs in our city for everyone.
So what has gone wrong? During the last 10 years the political leadership of our city has spent more time discussing party political tactics and how to get one over on each other through pointless motions to Full Council, than they did talking to the public. The chief whip was more important than the chief constable.
The current system means that our political leaders are more interested in how the council works than how the city works. Put simply, they have let our city down.
So I’ve had a glimpse into that world and I didn’t like what I saw. Now I see the prospects of an elected mayor as a way of cutting through this.
A person who has to appeal to the whole of Bristol and to be elected by the whole of Bristol.
A person who will not be bound by petty political arguments but can make decisions based on their values and what is right for our city.
Someone who knows how to take tough decisions to get thing done and, at the same time, be ambitious about what can be achieved.
Having experienced the current system, I want to change it. That’s why a ‘yes’ vote is so important tomorrow.
Kelvin Blake, from Knowle West, is a senior BT executive, a Non Executive Director of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and trustee of two charities. As mentioned, he is a former city councillor.
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