Voters have the chance to make political history on May 4, when they elect the first ever metro mayor for the West of England.
The chosen candidate will preside over a £1bn budget, with powers over transport, housing, planning and education for the Greater Bristol region, incorporating Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils.
While the bookies are putting the Tories and Lib Dems as equal favourites, there’s still everything to play for in the final race to the polls and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says his party have the people on the streets to sway the final vote.
With the snap General Election following hot on the heels of the metro mayor campaign and public engagement rather lacking, the outcome could all depend on voter turnout.
A woman, known simply as Brenda from Bristol, succinctly summed up the mood of the nation with her exclamation of “You’re joking? Not another one!” to the BBC’s Jon Kay, following the news of Theresa May’s decision to take the country to the polls on June 8.
So before we all slip into a politics-induced slumber, Bristol24/7 has compiled a round-up of who’s who and who’s saying what to help voters determine who they want to become their new metro mayor on May 4.
Here’s the rundown on the six candidates vying for your vote:
Tim Bowles, Conservative:
Bowles is a councillor and businessman in Winterbourne, South Gloucestershire. Positioning himself as a passionate community campaigner, he promises to champion the region, work for improved transport infrastructure, adopt a better approach to development and work with the Government and councillors to get things done. He also has the backing of current Prime Minister Theresa May.
“I want to use my skills, experience and determination to make our region even better,” said Bowles.
“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. The West of England mayor can make a real difference to the lives of people in the West, but we need a strong local voice to champion our region.”
Bowles’ key pledges are:
Transform local rail services, open stations and enhance links with other forms of transport.
Reduce congestion and provide new strategic roads to take goods vehicles away from cities.
Invest in the economy to provide jobs for people locally.
Deliver the homes needed, while protecting green spaces and prioritising urban regeneration.
Ensure rural economies are given the support they need, including broadband provision and infrastructure.
Work with the Government to make a success of Brexit for our economy.
Aaron Foot, UKIP:
Foot is a former police and crime commissioner candidate who works as a farmer. Pledging to champion a new era of democracy, he has based his campaign around giving a voice to the people and ending the “war on Britain’s motorists.”
“Direct Democracy can and will deliver outstanding levels of service and ensure all voices are heard,” said Foot. “This is why I’m going to champion a new era of democracy. An era where we once again have a government of the people. We need a fresh person to steer your thoughts and wishes into action. I want you to vote for me for West of England Mayor, so I can implement exactly what you, the people, want.”
Foot’s key pledges are:
To build and open the world’s first online direct democracy platform.
Fight to protect the green belt to preserve forestry, fields and outdoor leisure pursuits.
Reduce housing pressure by ending “open door immigration.”
Build social housing on disused, brownfield sites.
Put local people and veterans first.
End the war on motorists by reducing taxation, ending 20mph zones and stopping regulation on diesel engines.
Darren Hall, Green
Hall managed Bristol’s Green Capital partnership and now works as a freelance environmental consultant. A long term advocate of sustainability, he has, unsurprisingly, put green issues at the heart of his agenda, with promises of more renewable energy, taking back control of public transport and free education for all.
“It has been great to hear so many voters putting the environment high on their list of priorities,” said Hall. “I am sceptical that the election promises [of other candidates] will be backed up with the political will needed to ensure we create a region that is fit for the future. This region needs long term leadership vision and I hope people will vote for the positive, progressive change that the Green Party stands for.”
Hall’s key pledges are:
To re-think the way buildings are used to create good quality homes in the right places.
Take back control of public transport, encourage rail electrification and tackle congestion.
Set up a Regional Business Investment Fund to focus and strengthen our local economy so more money stays here.
Move away from the “obsession” with coal and gas and invest in renewable energy.
Promote free education for all to enable people to fulfil their potential and have impact.
Fight against a ‘hard Brexit’.
Lesley Mansell, Labour
Mansell is a Radstock-based parish councillor who works as an NHS equality and diversity manager. A member of the pro-Corbyn Momentum, she has campaigned with promises to “do things differently”, tackle inequalities in housing and jobs and ensure everyone gets to share in the region’s success.
“A vote for anyone else is more of the same,” said Mansell. “The Tories and Lib Dems say they are going to build houses yet they have not done. They have both been in power and have caused the transport problems. We will change the way things are done.”
Mansell’s key pledges are:
To build more social housing and affordable homes.
Defend tenants against unscrupulous landlords.
To create better jobs, training opportunities and apprenticeships.
Provide reliable, green and accessible public transport and promote flexible working to help decrease congestion.
Secure the best business deal for the region and roll out high-speed broadband.
Promote green energy policies and protect the countryside.
John Savage, independent
John Savage is chairman of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. From 1989, he was full-time chief executive of the Bristol Initiative and, from February 1993, chief executive of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, after the merger of these two bodies. He was awarded the CBE for service to business and regeneration in the 2006 New Year Honours List. He is canon treasurer of Bristol Cathedral, chairman of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, chairman of Learning Partnership West and chairman of Destination Bristol. He is the patron of Bristol Refugee Rights. He served for 10 years as a board member of the Regional Development Agency and was chairman of the South West Learning and Skills Council from inception until its closure. He has gained a broad range of business experience over a period of more than 40 years.
He threw his hat into the ring for the opportunity to change the way the region is run and argues that, with no political ties, he is uniquely positioned to tackle the housing crisis, inadequate infrastructure and unite the west.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the West of England and it is essential that we do not waste it,” said Savage. “We need a leader who can work across the three local authorities; someone who will not be bound by bureaucracy nor party interests. This is not the time to be divisive, but to unite the West of England around a common purpose and, in doing so, truly let this region reach its full potential.”
Savage’s key pledges:
Reduce congestion in the region by 15 per cent.
Fix roads, provide decent, sustainable public transport and develop a supertram network.
Build whole new communities in the right places, with good quality homes.
Rebalance life chances for the underemployed and disconnected.
Bring private sector resources to skills provision.
Invest in health education and bring about radical change in education.
Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat:
Williams was MP for Bristol West from 2005 to 2015. He has pitched the metro mayor campaign as a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and Tories and argues he provides the best hope for boosting the economy, tackling the “chronic issue” of air pollution in our cities and towns and rallying against a hard Brexit.
“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,” said Williams. “My plans will unlock the region’s full potential, help create high quality jobs and give our young people the chance of a better future. This election is a clear choice between me and the inexperienced, Brexit-defending Tory candidate. I will bring the region together, with one voice.”
Williams’ key pledges are:
To tackle air pollution with a “transport revolution”, to include the implementation of cashless buses.
Improve cycle routes and aim to double the number of trips by bicycle.
Defend the green belt and prevent any urban sprawl of Bristol north of the M4.
Build 100,000 energy efficient and affordable homes over the next 20 years.
Champion local apprenticeship schemes and encourage opportunities for social interaction and cohesion in adult skill training.
Resist a “job-destroying” ‘hard Brexit’.
Bristol24/7 will be bringing more updates and covering the metro mayor elections live next week.
Read more: Watch: metro mayor hustings