Bristol is a successful city, offering numerous opportunities and activities – but that success is not always shared by all Bristolians. Far too many of us feel as if there is a party going on in our own city to which we have not been invited.
One in four of our children live in relative poverty, one in five of our neighbourhoods are amongst the most deprived in the country. We face long-standing problems in areas such as housing, transport, education and skills, energy and waste, and the poor quality of many of our public services.
Tackling those problems, problems often decades in the making, requires a pragmatic and realistic assessment of what can be done. It requires a focus on what is possible – and recognises that delivering those possibilities also requires challenging this government’s austerity programme.
The cuts to the funding of vital public services threaten to further divide a city that already has deep divisions..
This government’s housing policies are dividing and failing Bristolians just as previous governments did. Indicators of this include the city council’s placement of homeless people rising sixfold since 2012 and the number of affordable homes built falling by 80 per cent since 2008.
I will work to ensure everyone has access to housing appropriate to their needs, that is affordable, secure and contributes to a positive quality of life. That includes a commitment to delivering 8,000 new homes in the next four years, including 2,800 affordable (of which 80 per centneeds to be at social rent levels).
In addition, I will continue to work with tenants’ organisations like Acorn to ensure that homes in the private rental sector meet good standards of safety and comfort, and that exorbitant fees and rent rises are curtailed.
Bristol has one of the worst public transport systems of all UK cities. I will work with others to expand local rail and bus services to provide more affordable, integrated public transport.
I will free up the city centre by delivering a better balanced transport environment leading to a safer, less polluted city. This will include implementing an active transport strategy for the city consistent with the calls made by the Bristol Walking Alliance and the Bristol Cycling Campaign.
I am also committed to delivering a low emission zone covering the city centre by 2020 to help reduce the levels of air pollution, the cause of almost 200 premature deaths per year.
I will also abolish Residents’ Parking charges for all Blue Badge holders and look to implement a similar approach for community nurses and carers.
I also intend to ensure secure, affordable supplies of low carbon energy for Bristol to reduce our carbon emissions by implementing the Council’s Climate & Energy Security Framework. In addition I will deliver re-use and recycling facilities across the city – including at Hartcliffe Way in South Bristol – to support a target of sending zero waste to landfill by 2020.
Everyone in Bristol has the right to a good quality education. Young children should have high quality early years provision and a place at their local primary school. Older children deserve a secondary school that can respond to the needs of every child in the area. In addition I will prioritise additional support for schools facing the greatest child poverty challenges.
Young adults have the right to accessible and supported routes into work or higher education. Older adults need varied and affordable classes to help them develop and/or maintain essential or sought after skills. To meet this need I will increase the number of apprenticeships in the city by 50 per cent, and prioritise training in the skills needed for a sustainable city.
Adult social care is another area facing severe spending pressures – it is why the Green Party amended Bristol’s council budget so that another £3.5m/yr would be available for Adult Social Care. In a similar vein, I am committed to ring fencing the Independent Living Fund grant provided for those with the most serious disabilities – almost £7m over four years.
I will also tackle some of the divisions damaging our city by implementing as many recommendations in the independently produced BAME Manifesto, the Womanifesto, and the LGBT+ Manifesto as possible.
Some of the commitments made above will be quicker and easier to deliver than others. Some will require collaboration with our neighbouring local authorities, with other potential partners, and, most importantly, some will involve further negotiation with central government to deliver the kind of devolution that the city needs without sacrificing the public’s right to scrutiny and democratic oversight.
I am committed to working hard to deliver the change our city needs, to deliver a sustainable, more socially just Bristol – where all of us feel we not just invited, but are fully able, to share in its success.
Tony Dyer is the Green Party candidate for Bristol mayor.
Bristol24/7 is hosting a mayoral hustings featuring all candidates at The Lantern at 7pm on Thursday, April 28. Entrance is first come first served. For more information, visit www.colstonhall.org/shows/mayoral-hustings/