Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem candidate to be the West of England regional mayor, has released a statement in response to the government’s decision today to trigger Article 50.
On Saturday (25th March) Stephen Williams and Liberal Democrat members from Bath, Bristol and South Gloucestershire gathered in central London to show their support for the EU.
Stephen Williams has announced his plans for boosting growth and sharing the opportunities of the region’s strong local economy.
Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem candidate to be the regional mayor of the West of England, has slammed a planned hike in bus fares and outlined his plans to combat the rising cost of travelling by bus.
The fare rise, due to take place on 2nd April on First Bus services in Bristol, is the second in less than a year. It will see a journey of less than three miles rise from £1.70 to £2 and a longer single go up from £2.70 to £3.
The election of the West of England regional mayor will be followed by the awarding of new transport powers by central government, which will give the West of England combined authority the ability to establish Transport for London-style franchise bus services. These powers will allow the region greater control over setting standards for operators, ticketing, branding and service frequencies.
Having already made introducing franchise bus services a top priority for his campaign, Stephen Williams has promised to:
- Introduce a cashless bus payment system, to allow people to pay via debit card, a smart phone, as well as other dedicated pre-paid cards and concession passes.
- Review Park and Ride sites and services and late night buses to the towns and villages around Bristol and Bath, to help people leaving the theatres and other attractions within the region late into the evening.
- Introduce greater integration between bus routes and railway stations by making sure that the three mainline rail stations are well served by buses, as well as opening a new rail station at Charfield, in the north of the region, which will be supported by a dedicated bus link to Wotton-under-Edge.
- Move to cleaner fuel and electric powered buses.
The Liberal Democrats will be publishing a full regional manifesto at the end of March.
Stephen Williams said:
“Residents are facing yet another painful fares hike. It is shameful and it is now time for a new approach to fares. My plans for the region will ensure our bus operators deliver a better deal for passengers.
“Bus services have been upsetting people for decades in the West of England. In my 25 years in politics in Bristol they have been a constant feature on the doorstep and in my mail. They are costly compared to many other cities. They don’t run late enough to the towns and villages in Gloucestershire and Somerset. In most cases they only take cash, slowing up the journey and causing hold ups along the route for other people. As they are all diesel propelled they contribute to poor air quality in both Bath and Bristol.
“Up until now, there has been very little that local politicians can do about these problems. If elected, I will take full advantage of the power to set franchises for bus services and insist on integrated and smart ticketing. Any bus company that wants to operate in the region will have to agree to the terms and conditions that benefit the needs of residents and not simply to line their own pockets.”
Residents struggling to get on the housing ladder and people needing affordable homes will be at the heart of a raft of policies promised by Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem candidate for regional mayor.
Stephen Williams pledged to make affordable housing a top priority if he is elected on 4thMay, at a crammed event at Walcot Hall in Bath over the weekend. He spoke of his desire to build more affordable homes, to work with housing associations to bring down the cost of houses and to bring suitable unused accommodation in both public and private sectors back into residential use.
During his time as a local government minister, Stephen Williams successfully pioneered a programme for delivering new homes that saved residents hundreds of pounds in their fuel bills, whilst at the same time cutting carbon emissions.
Speaking at the event, Stephen Williams said:
“The Liberal Democrats and I believe that access to decent and affordable housing is a fundamental right. But the failure to build enough houses is making home-ownership increasingly unaffordable in Bristol and Bath. By focusing on increasing the number of homes we can improve people’s lives by giving them decent homes to live in.
“We desperately need genuinely affordable housing. I have been speaking to many residents across the region, who tell me in no uncertain terms that they suffer daily from poor housing, or from the uncertainty of not knowing where they will be living from one month to the next, or even from the misery of knowing they will never earn enough money to be able to afford their own home. I will make it a priority to increase the number of affordable homes and ensure new homes are built with enhanced bus and rail services.
“Only the Liberal Democrats have a real commitment to moving the region forward by making affordable housing a priority.”
On being asked by a member of the audience about the other candidates standing to be the regional mayor, Stephen Williams added:
“This election is a clear choice between me and the inexperienced, Brexit-backing Tory candidate.”
Lib Dem regional mayoral candidate Stephen Williams hosted a public meeting - attended by local residents - on Wednesday evening.
Residents living in BS2, BS6 and BS7 were invited to a public meeting at St. Bartholomew’s Church Hall on Sommerville Road by St Andrews Park in Bristol, to talk to Stephen Williams about the problems and challenges they are experiencing. A huge range of issues were covered, including air quality, house building, trains, airports and Brexit.
The Lib Dem candidate to be West of England Mayor spoke about his plans for increasing the number of affordable homes, delivering cashless payments on buses and expanding park and ride and local rail services. He also spoke of his determination to speak out against the damaging hard Brexit being pursued by the Tories, aided by a Labour Party that has given up fighting for the benefits of the single market and freedom of movement. He committed to defending the rights of the tens of thousands of EU nationals who live and work in the region.
The Liberal Democrats will be hosting similar events across the region, up until the election on 4th May, to discuss the issues that really matter to local residents.
After taking some questions, Stephen Williams said:
"I will be working tirelessly to improve public transport, prioritise quality affordable housing and boost jobs and prosperity across the region.
“This election is a clear choice between me and the inexperienced, Brexit-backing Tory candidate. The region voted 57% for Remain in the EU referendum last year. Now more than ever we need to stand up for liberal values. We should embrace the huge advantages being part of the EU brings and ensure that each and every resident, regardless of their nationality, is treated equally.”
On his plan for further public meetings, Stephen Williams added:
“The Liberal Democrats work hard all year round, not just at election time, by keeping in touch with local residents.
“I was an MP for ten years and it was an honour and a privilege to represent the city for all that time. I regularly held advice surgeries where I offered help and assistance on individual and community issues. I aim to host similar events during the next eight weeks to listen to as many residents as possible from Bristol, Bath and South Gloucestershire and to hear about their ideas for how to improve the region.”
Lib Dem mayoral candidate Stephen Williams made the rallying cry at a crowded event at St Matthews Church in Kingsdown last night.
Following a vote of the local party membership Stephen Williams was this afternoon selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Metro Mayor for the West of England to be held on Thursday 4th of May this year.
Following a series of hustings in front of the party membership in Yate, Bath and Bristol, the former Local Government Minister and MP for Bristol West Williams secured the Liberal Democrat nomination ahead of Simon Cook in the membership vote.
Speaking to party members following the final hustings meeting in Bristol Stephen Williams said
“It’s an honour to be selected, I am determined to win this election and deliver real change for people in the West of England”.
“My main priority will be continuing economic prosperity, but by tackling the main constraints that hold us back – the lack of affordable housing, and the woeful state of our public transport”
“This election is a clear choice between me and the inexperienced Conservative candidate. Our region needs the strongest possible leadership and with my experience, I can offer just that”.
“I will also stand up for the majority of people who voted to remain in the European Union, and will work with the business community to persuade the Conservative government to keep us in the single market and avoid a disastrous hard Brexit which will risk jobs and livelihoods particularly in the aerospace and manufacturing industries.
Local party chair in Bristol Dr Crispin Allard added
“This is a job which requires a candidate who can work with and challenge the government to bring more power and more resources if this devolution deal is going to make a difference to the day-to-day lives of people across the West of England. In Stephen, we have a candidate who stands out as having a wealth of experience and positive track record of working in local government and at the highest levels in national politics”.
The Lib Dem Environment Manifesto sets out a Liberal Democrat programme of delivery for the next five years and beyond, building on the Five Green Laws which are highlighted on the front page of the Party's General Election Manifesto.
Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West and Minister for Communities, is today announcing that, by next year, people in the South West will be able to see a GP, nurse or primary care professional in the evenings and at weekends, or speak to one by phone, video or email.