My views on Bristol's future

I think abolishing Avon and replacing it with four new councils was a major error. Over the last two decades other city regions have seen huge progress in their transport provision and cultural facilities while Bristol has lagged behind. 

Our economy is strong but could have grown more if our transport constraints had been sorted and we had the cultural venues to match Birmingham, Leeds or Cardiff.

The creation of the Local Enterprise Partnership by the Coalition Government has provided more strategic focus but it is an unelected body that can't speak for everyone in the area across all issues.

The major problem is that about a third of the urban area that is so obviously the city of Bristol lies outside the political boundary of the local authority. The Mayor's remit does not run to Filton, Kingswood, Patchway, Downend or Long Ashton. The council's planners have no say over the development of Bristol Airport and couldn't stop Filton airfield from closing.

I have long believed that the city's boundary should be stretched to include the whole of the urban built up area plus some of the semi rural hinterland. Bath and Weston-super-Mare should remain in separate councils. Such a change would bring greater clarity over who speaks for Bristol.

Finally, I want to see a major shift in power away from Westminster to city regions and counties. More control over taxes, economic development and welfare policy would only work with sensibly sized strategic authorities. Bristol as currently structured does not fit the bill. We're not alone on that front but we are the most glaringly obvious example in England where local government needs dramatic change.

Showing 6 reactions

  • commented 2014-11-05 23:50:31 +0000
    I have just watched the BBC West programme and was deeply disappointed by many of the politicians who appeared, yourself actually excepted for nothing more than for pointing out that these boundaries that some of the small time local politicians seem obsessed about, actually are not fixed in stone or have existed for 1000 years and that politicians need to get over themselves and realise that it’s the people that are important rather than them and their jobs. The leader of South Gloucestershire was particularly embarrassing! The reality is that actually a number of these unitary authorities are too small to properly do half the stuff they are supposed to do, end up costing more because of that, and finally they have to collaborate with their neighbours to achieve anything. Public Health is just one example where this has had to happen. Unfortunately for other areas such as planning and transport where there should be one overview, each council pointedly tries to go it alone, much to the detriment of the region as a whole.

    We need desperately need a city region but we do need an involvement with the communities within it and to devolve some powers to really local people. We just need to trust them. However what we do not need is 266 local councillors for the former county of Avon. That is roughly one for every 4000 people. By contrast, San Francisco, a city of 800,000, has an elected mayor and a board of 11 supervisors to keep the Mayor under tabs. I would suggest that model would work very well for a similarly sized Greater Bristol with a directly elected mayor and that we would do much better with 250 less politicians guarding their own vested interests. You heard the suggestion here first!
  • commented 2014-10-31 21:12:09 +0000
    If I remember correctly, some years ago plans were drawn up to create a Rapid Transport System in the north of Bristol. Unfortunately Bristol and South Gloucester couldn’t agree where the system would terminate so the plans were shelved.
    If that system had gone ahead maybe it would have kick started a city wide transport system thereby reducing the need for a lot of the present day traffic.
    Bristol definitely needs to expand its boundaries to take in South Gloucester and North Somerset so that only Bristol has to make decisions about Bristol.
  • commented 2014-10-30 22:07:49 +0000
    I don’t have a particular problem with an Elected Mayor. At least it seems to get things done compared to what we had before. I don’t agree with everything that George Ferguson has done (RPZ yes, 20mph zones yes, 20mph on main roads no, lack of progress on rail developments disappointing) and I didn’t vote for him (I voted for someone else) but at least I voted. The turnout was so low (approx. 20%) that I have little sympathy with those who complain but didn’t vote.

    The bigger issue is that the borders of Bristol are just too tightly drawn. They haven’t changed in nearly 100 years. The Greater Bristol area should include most of South Gloucestershire, everything inside M4/M5 including all of what used to be Kingswood District Council, plus out to Yate & Chipping Sodbury, Portishead, Long Ashton, Nailsea, Whitchurch, Keynsham and Saltford. It should include the airport and the docks. Only that way can the necessary changes be made to improve the city region, its transport and give it the size and power to compete with cities across Europe, let alone in the UK. I was born and brought up just outside the city boundaries in Downend, but I went to school in the city and I very clearly felt that I was and am a Bristolian.

    As it stands we have 3 unitary authorities with more power over what happens in the region even though their population is only slightly bigger than that of the City of Bristol. We are held back by councillors and MPs who consider the importance of a village of 1000 residents as more important than what is in the best interests of not just the 438,000 in the city but rather the 750,000 across the city region. There is also a lack of joined-up thinking. How many times have we been let down by squabbling councillors from different councils? Too many to mention. Any advances in public transport (e.g re-opening Yate station) date back to the time when Avon still existed. The 20 years since have been a catalogue of missed opportunities or bad decisions.

    Something radical has to happen and change is needed fast for us to move forward. If not, we will continue to fall behind similar sized cities elsewhere in the UK, and remain “stuck in the slow lane”, forever being told what to do by a councillor who believes that the focus should be on Weston-Super-Mare rather than Bristol. You know who I mean!
  • commented 2014-10-30 20:35:06 +0000
    I’ve lived in Bristol for nearly a year now and I am appalled at the power that the Mayor has. He seems to have a vendetta against anyone with a car! If more power is devolved I would be really worried that one person could become almost dictatorial, using his anti vehicle crusade as an example.
  • commented 2014-10-30 19:50:43 +0000
    Very few people will go for the mayor of Bristol expanding his domain further until there are proper checks and balances on his power and that the residents can have the power of recall or getting rind of the mayoral system altogether. There surely would have to be a referendum in all areas which would be ‘annexed’ by Bristol….which I think, because of the current mayor’s behaviour, would go down like a lead balloon. Agree that Bath needs their own government. Bristol needs a top class politician to run the city and who is interested in the needs of ALL residents and who able to deal with detail…you know…where the devil is…and it ain’t the guy we’ve got now.
  • followed this page 2014-10-30 16:58:17 +0000