Mayor Election 2016: Has Ferguson lived up to his promises?
It’s been three-and-a-half years since the people of Bristol elected George Ferguson as the city’s mayor. Emerging triumphant, he vowed not to make “cynical pledges” or “irresponsible” promises during his campaign in 2012.
But he did have a “vision for Bristol”. So, has the mayor lived up to his promises he made four years’ ago?
Getting Bristol Moving: A city where people can get where they want to go, however they want to travel
On day one in office Ferguson revoked Sunday parking charge, a manifesto pledge.
Soon after, he also made changes to the route of what he had previously called the “flawed” MetroBus project to keep it away from the Harbourisde.
He has overseen a fall in commuter parking with the introduction of residents’ parking zones and a rise in the number of people cycling to work, with the introduction of a number of segregated cycle lanes.
Congestion in Bristol is still among the worst in the country, with average travel speeds lower than London, according to the latest data from the DfT.
Roadworks and road closures underway for improvements to major transport and infrastructure projects, like the MetroBus and the arena, have left motorists regularly sat in queues.
Plans for an Oyster-style card, promised in Ferguson’s manifesto, are on the cards but have not yet materialised.
Getting Bristol Working: A city of opportunity and improved employment prospects where everyone has a chance to develop their skills
Since the 2012 election the number of people in employment has risen by five per cent to about 76 per cent.
In 2013, the council helped launch an award-winning business incubator at the Engine Shed, a partnership between Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership. Bristol’s economy has been labelled the fastest growing outside of London since then, with the city holding the most number of entrepreneurs per head too.
His manifesto promise to “not rest until the deficit of Primary school places across Bristol is solved” has spluttered, despite the new primary schools on their way. This year 250 families in Bristol didn’t get into their first three choices of schools.
A Healthy and Caring Bristol: A greener city that promotes and improves the health and well being of all its citizens
Despite regular criticism of Bristol’s European Green Capital status, the council has set up Bristol Energy, a municipal energy company where profits are reinvested into social projects, and installed solar panels on many council buildings and schools.
At the UN climate change conference, Ferguson also created a target for Bristol to become the country’s first carbon-neutral city by 2050.
He has also overseen the One Tree per Child project which smashed its target, planting 39,000 trees in Bristol for 36,000 schoolchildren.
Air pollution is still killing 200 people a year in Bristol, where air quality is 35 per cent lower than the legal limit.
Ferguson backed the closure of eight out of 11 care homes run by the city council in 2013, going back on his pledge to “prioritise Bristol’s community day care for the elderly”.
A year into his term, he also revised down his targets of affordable homes to be built – another manifesto promise broken. His numbers were revised down to 600 in total by 2017.
A democratic Bristol: A democratic city, governed for everyone, freed of party politics
One of the mayor’s first moves was to change the name of the Council House on College Green to City Hall.
After some wrangling with the Labour Party’s central National Executive Council, he also appointed a “rainbow cabinet”, a key pledge during his election campaign.
The cabinet has taken on its first job share between two Green Party mums.
With Ferguson having the final say on most executive council decisions, he has regularly accused of being more of a dictator than a leader during his time in office.
Claims of a lack of consultation with major policies like residents’ parking zones have triggered protests, such as tanks being driven from Clifton to City Hall.
A vibrant Bristol: A city with artistic, sporting and neighbourhood facilities that meet your needs and attract others to visit
The mayor has proritised the building of a new 12,000, £93 million arena behind Bristol Temple Meads, which finally gained planning permission in April, a key manifesto pledge.
Ferguson’s Make Sundays Special events have seen streets in the city centre closed to traffic and replaced with markets and games.
Ferguson’s promise to establish Town Teams, like in Bedminster, across the city have not taken off. While some have had limited success, many high streets on the fringes remain run-down.
The mayor’s arena plans have been beset by increasing costs and delays, partly due to discontent over the lack of parking for the “green” project.
Making Bristol Great: A more beautiful city, known and admired across the world
Bristol is regularly falling into newspaper lists of the best or most desirable place to live in the country.
With, trips to Cannes, Brussells, America and China, the mayor has also drummed up publicity abroad. As promised, the mayor launched a bid to have the Clifton Suspension Bridge listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The mayor’s promise to encourage the restoration of the Dutch House destroyed in the war never seemed to take off.
Is Bristol a “more beautiful city” than in 2012? A drive into the centre from the M32 might answer that.
A safer Bristol: A city where everyone feels safe whatever they are doing and wherever they are
Love them or loathe them, the 20mph speed limits are now everywhere, making streets in Bristol arguably safer for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and schoolchildren.
The effectiveness of 20mph zones has been called into question a number of times. What’s more, police and the council have admitted they are not routinely enforceable and are regularly broken – much like 30mph zones, ahem.