Why Do I Want To Be Mayor? Because Our City Needs to Change
Bristol is a great city but it can be so much better.
Bristol is a great city – however having been born here and spent all of my childhood years growing up in this city, I didn’t perhaps appreciate it as much as others did. The fact that I lived in one of the most deprived areas of the city added to a sense of disenchantment with my home city.
I was proud to be a Bristolian of course – coming from a family that traced its Bristolian roots back generations I was frequently reminded of the many achievements of this city.
However, even as a proud Bristolian, I found my opportunities restricted growing up in a deprived part of the city where educational standards were low and jobs were few and far between. Thirty years later, little has changed for the part of the city I grew up in. It still performs badly, particularly in terms of school achievement and worklessness, whilst university attendance remains the exception rather than the norm.
It was only when I moved away from Bristol that I was really able to fulfil my potential and develop a successful career in the computer industry, and then later set up my own business consultancy. A handful of my school friends also had successful careers in business and other walks of life, again almost all of them moved out of Bristol to achieve success, and none of them still live within the city’s boundaries.
I want to build a Bristol where nobody growing up here feels that they can only fulfil their potential and realise their ambitions by moving away from their home. I want to build a Bristol that allows all Bristolians to fulfill their potential here, helping to build a greener city.
In regards to turning Bristol into a greener city, considerable progress has been made in the last ten years. This progress has happened not because of any one individual or any single political party but because of the hard work and commitment of thousands of individuals and groups, supported and encouraged by all of the political parties.
But the reality is that the progress achieved so far has also revealed just how far we still have to travel to achieve the goal of making Bristol a truly green and sustainable city. For further progress, our comparisons can no longer be with other British cities, but to the best that the rest of Europe can offer.
And when we look at Malmo or Freiburg, Amsterdam, Barcelona or Copenhagen it is clear we still have a long way to go on that journey to making Bristol a truly green city.
I have considerable ambitions for our city but I am not going to make undeliverable promises, or offer up any hostages to fortune, in order to gain your vote.
The policies I will present over the next three months will be based on a pragmatic and realistic assessment of what can be done, and how it can be done. I will focus on what is possible, and right at the heart of those possibilities is making the most of our city’s single greatest asset – it’s citizens.
Educational attainment is the single most important factor explaining poverty in the UK – those with a low level of educational attainment are almost five times as likely to be in poverty as those with a high level of education. Improving people’s skills and education, and mapping those skills to the new jobs created by the growing Green Economy offers the best chance to reduce the inequalities and divisions that blight our city.
That is why the continuing cuts to the funding of vital public services, including the ongoing removal of the safety net that supports the most vulnerable of our fellow Bristolians, threatens to further divide a city that already has steep disparities – including divisive levels of relative poverty with a quarter of children in our city growing up in relative poverty.
The government’s decision to further cut the funding Bristol receives via the Revenue Support Grant by 75% by the end of this parliament is a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of this city as a whole.
Our city can only deliver a sustainable future if it leaves nobody behind. A city in which only an increasingly small proportion are able to fully enjoy its undoubted benefits is not a sustainable city, it is a city divided and unable to make the most of its potential. A city doomed to fail.
My vision for Bristol is for a city we can all be proud of – a city that looks after its most vulnerable, and welcomes the most vulnerable from elsewhere who arrive here.
A city where what matters most to us is the spaces we share, and the people we share those spaces with who help it become a supportive community.
A city where the transport system works for the people who rely on it, and offers people alternatives to the car – healthier alternatives that do not impinge so much on the health and safety of others.
A city that values our green spaces, but also builds homes that people can afford to live in, in the numbers that are needed to eliminate homelessness.
A city that invests in people as well as places, providing a high quality education for all and offering the skills required to deliver the Bristol of the future.
A city whose energy demands are met in a way that is consistent with being a green city, and does not further deplete the natural resources of the only planet we have.
A city that tidies up after itself, whether that be by recovering value from otherwise wasted resources or by ensuring that flytipping is eliminated from our streets.
A city that creates decent, sustainable jobs across a variety of occupations, offering opportunities to people with a wide range of abilities especially neighbourhoods with high unemployment levels.
Some of the steps needed on this journey to a better Bristol will be quicker and easier to deliver than others. All require the Mayor to work co-operatively, with citizens, businesses, councillors of all parties, and, in some cases to collaborate beyond our city, with our neighbouring local authorities, and with central government to remove the legislative barriers restricting our city’s ability to achieve our full potential.
Above all, this vision requires a Mayor with a capacity for hard work, an unsurpassed dedication to this city and all its citizens, and the willingness to make decisions transparently and subject to full scrutiny.
As your Mayor I will have to make tough decisions – the challenges facing our city means that there are difficult decisions to be made, and simply because they are so difficult some of you will not agree with some of the choices I make. But the alternative is to only take the easy decisions, the popular ones.
Bristol cannot afford a Mayor who only takes the easy, popular decisions, just as it cannot afford a Mayor who fails to unite our city.