Your say / Politics

‘Marvin is getting stuff done for Bristol’

By marg hickman, Monday Aug 5, 2019

Last week an opposition councillor, far more concerned with making headlines than making positive change for the city, used obscure council processes to try to turn back the clock to a Bristol which gets nothing done.

Alongside blatant misrepresentations meant to cause mischief, I think he also fell short of understanding democracy.

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Read more: Gary Hopkins: ‘Mayoral system cannot go on’

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Democracy means accountability. A recent BBC Sunday Politics episode saw a reporter take photos of the mayor of Bristol and other local politicians out on the streets of south Bristol to see who people recognised.

Everyone – every single person, without exception – knew Marvin Rees by name.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees will face reelection in 2020

It’s what comes with being on the ballot, putting yourself forward to lead a city. It’s what sees thousands of emails pour into the mayor’s inbox every week, and what sees Marvin stopped in the street wherever he goes.

Conversely, few people knew the metro mayor. And, turning back to the councillor for Knowle, outside of his ward, nobody will have heard of him.

This is also a shame. But it’s symptomatic of what has held Bristol back for decades.

Everyone knows that Bristol needs better buses and that we need a generational, significant investment in our transport. And everyone knows Marvin and tells him. That energy is shared by our Labour administration, pushing forward the Bus Deal and free travel for young people.

But, I would wager that very few people know councillor Gary Hopkins. Or that when he was put in charge of transport at the council by less than 40 people, know that he oversaw a £1m black hole in the bus budget. It’s the difference between getting stuff done and stuffing things up.

Now, local councillors play an incredibly important role representing our patches. I am proud to have represented my Lawrence Hill ward for almost a decade. We are at the forefront of local democracy, at the coalface of civic life, and – at least for Labour councillors – on the front line of the fight against the austerity which Gary’s party started with the Tories.

With all of Bristol’s libraries, children’s centres, the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and vital front line services all protected by Labour despite austerity, he might have forgotten the legacy of the Coalition.

But many young people and parents in Lawrence Hill and across Bristol, now with £40,000 or £50,000 of debt, will never forget what actually happens when Lib Dems campaign to abolish something.

Marg Hickman is a councillor for Lawrence Hill ward

At present, backed by a Labour administration who are hard at work to build a better Bristol, we have a mayor in Marvin who people know and trust: a good man.

He has brought Bristol together through the One City Plan, cities together to oppose austerity, and 435 councils around the country together to declare a climate emergency.

Thankfully, the era of backroom deals by little-known politicians is over. There is direct, clear accountability for the city, despite some parties trying to take it back into the darkness.

Crucially, for a city nearing half a million residents and a council spending around half a billion pounds per year, people know who should be delivering for Bristol. And Labour are doing just that.

Marg Hickman is a Labour councillor for Lawrence Hill ward. She has previously served in the cabinet and currently leads the Bristol Labour group of councillors.

Read more: ‘Mayoral system cannot go on’

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