The mayor, understandably, struck a far more sober note in his annual address than we have experienced in recent years. His somewhat reflective tone was much more in keeping with the great health and economic challenges of these difficult times.
He was right to use this platform to thank all those who have worked to maintain essential services throughout the pandemic. However, it would be remiss to allow the mayor to simply gloss over or omit any reference to some of his more obvious failures and costly mistakes under the cover of Covid-19.
On housing, the mayor massively failed to meet his promised delivery on affordable housing. His administration will end up having cost local taxpayers tens of millions of pounds stubbornly and wrongly invested in Bristol Energy.
He still appears to be wedded to the wildly fanciful idea of an “underground” mass transit system for the city. And, the mayor attempts to take credit for reversals in his own policy choices such as belated increased spending on SEND or keeping branch libraries open – which he originally proposed to cull!
Local government will need further funding to mitigate the impact of coronavirus and assist in rebuilding our economy once it has passed.
However, I don’t think it is particularly helpful for the mayor to also use this lecture as an opportunity to once again berate central Government. It is always a mistake to “bite the hand that feeds you” especially when you have a record of reckless or wasteful spending.
To date, the Government has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into the city region to support businesses, charities, communities and local councils. I believe a constructive approach will yield better results for Bristol and the residents we serve.
Mark Weston is the Bristol Conservative councillor group leader.
Main photo: Bristol City Council
Read more: Marvin Rees’ State of the City address 2020