Can you rely on Labour representatives to stand up for sustainable transport?

Here’s the vision: local communities where people own fewer cars, with high car club membership, where people are unimpeded in driving out and around the city, but not across or through it, where streets are more accessible for play and contain livability measures (e.g. pocket parks, small businesses, kiosks, etc.), and where walking and cycling are the main methods of travel for small distances (under 5 miles).

Here is what is standing in our way of this vision for cities: the dithering, mediocre position of the Labour Party on sustainable transport. It’s not that there aren’t Labour councillors who care passionately about sustainable transport and making our cities less dominated by cars and streets safer and better for walking and cycling. It’s that there are lots who don’t, and who don’t really know what they’re talking about, haven’t looked at the evidence, and are mostly about appeasing those people they perceive to be shouting the loudest and who might cost them most votes. You might think it’s cycnical for me to say this, but it isn’t untrue.

Last night, I attended a meeting about the Easton Safer Streets scheme, an effort by Bristol City Council and Sustrans to fund a number of road closures of rat runs to make streets safer in the community. The scheme developers have already had to row back once on making Chelsea Road (the main area where car drivers speed unsafely through the community) one way. Yesterday, we learned that the 6 Labour councillors have decided (“a consensus position” between them, apparently) that the only street closure that they will countenance will be the Bannerman Road tunnel closure, and they have rejected the High Street and Rosemary Lane closures and asked project officers to redesign these two streets with other traffic calming measures. Never mind that this is adding cost and additional time to transport officers’ workloads.

The key thing to consider is that the Labour councillors are desperate to keep the scheme money, as they don’t want to have headlines about economic incompetency and massive sums wasted on schemes that don’t come to fruition. This scheme has the built-in proviso that there is at least one road closure. Bannerman Road School has long been plagued by speeding motorists and a particularly unsafe tunnel nearby for pedestrians, scooters and cyclists. The Bannerman Road PTA (Parent Teacher Association) have been active in calling for the road closure, which is great – not least that this has been an issue for over 20 years. If we extrapolate from this activity and there’d have been a high level of understanding of the benefits of street closures to businesses (brought about by Cllr Afzal Shah or a local businesses “pro-street closure group”) then the High Street closure would have gone through, and if there’d been a “parents of May Park” or “local residents for green spaces” group, the Rosemary Lane closure may have gone through. When councillors blow with the wind, even the slightest level of activity influences them.

Of course, these closures would have negligible impact on journey times for drivers, the majority of residents would use different streets to access arterial routes or simply stop making short, unnecessary journeys in their cars. So far, so non-contentious, right?

Wrong. Apparently, sending two addressed letters, running numerous pop-up consultation events and attending Neighbourhood Partnership meetings several times is not adequate in terms of a consultation exercise. Up pops a biased organisation called “Easton Voice” who decide that it’s time for unthinking car drivers to take back control and ruin the one chance the community has for a well-funded, sensible approach to the huge influx of cars into and through the community. Ironically, the Bannerman Road closure is both the least contentious and also the one that most annoys the “Easton Voice” people the most because it apparently “divides the community”. What really divides the community is organisations calling themselves “Easton Voice” when they don’t represent the views of everyone who lives in Easton and are not partaking consultation in an appropriate way.

The person who set this organisation up, a chap called Stuart Phelps, has an incredibly high view of “direct democracy”, which leads to him believing that unless every single person has given their view on an issue, nothing can be decided. Now, I’m as idealistic as the next person, but even I recognise that this is just not a realistic proposition. His claim is that if you had an open public meeting, it would hugely help. He’s out of his mind if he thinks that this would breed consensus – it would just cause anger and hackles to rise further – particularly if he’s present and badgering everyone about how undemocratic everything is.

The tenor and tone of last night’s meeting was set up to fail from the word go when the councillors were literally (I kid you not) seated in an “inner circle” of seats. Participants were expected to up sticks from their position back in the cheap seats to join the “goldfish bowl” in the “inner circle” to ask questions and make comments to their councillors, then voluntarily give up their seats for other people to come and have their little rant at the councillors. There was no sense that these comments/rants were building towards an ability to breed more trust and connection across the warring clans, so unfortunately they failed in the first task of the meeting. The meeting was effectively unchaired, which given the high tension did not really give the necessary basis for people to gracefully listen to each other, particularly when there was no set up of an evidence basis to frame the conversation.

There was a lot of talk about consensus-building (one of the councillors ended the meeting by saying that we needed to stop talking in terms of division, seemingly unaware that this meeting had bred more of it), but this is about as far from a good model of consensus-building as I can imagine. Short of having an open public meeting where everyone is given an opportunity to yell and rant about the plans and achieve nothing (apart from a bunch of sustainable transport advocates sitting quietly fuming, like I was for most of last night, when I wasn’t “rudely interrupting” a councillor who had failed to answer a basic question). I don’t know whether it was the Labour councillors or the facilitator (a decent guy, who did his best) who came up with this meeting format, but it really didn’t work.

An alternative structure that is far better for achieving consensus is to get everyone on their feet, put up posters with clear declarative statements or options for the future on the walls of the room, ask people to talk and mingle on a personal level, all the while writing short messages about their honest feelings about each of these statements (some of which are “compromise positions”) and figuring out what solution (that still IS a solution to the problem of unsafe streets, increasing population and car ownership, and air quality concerns) holds the space of the participants on that day. The councillors, or more likely a facilitator who knows the issue inside out, assesses and talks through the outcomes as written up by the meeting participants and suggests to the room which things should be abandoned as unpopular and unfeasible, and which things should be kept as good proposals. This is by no means a perfect format (what is?), but there would potentially be more light than heat generated and people would feel heard without immediately devolving into the back and forth we witnessed.

So, where did the Labour councillors go wrong with this scheme?

1) They didn’t decide what they thought about the scheme – and the urban design principles underpinning it – from the get-go.

Labour’s values are about solidarity and – in particular in the Bristol context – representing the voices of the BME communities as the play-out of this idea. These two principles come above all others for Labour politicians. It’s an understandable position, but we shouldn’t pretend that it’s an intellectually coherent one. Increasing participation amongst BME communities in the political process is a crucial aim, and one the Labour Party has a solid record on. But simply deciding the rightness or wrongness of a course of action based on what people from BME backgrounds say is not, in every circumstance, an effective method of making sound decisions for the community. I would like the Labour Party to start from an evidence base. What do transport planners, urban design professionals, and the best academic research say about the positive or negative impacts of streets closures on local communities? What work needs to be done to effectively communicate these conclusions to those communities we represent and start a positive dialogue about why this scheme isn’t the end of the world (far from it) for residents? What attitude and values should I be modelling to these people in terms of the honesty and integrity of my stated positions?

I am sick to death of politicians allowing themselves to be blown this way and that by the storms of public opinion. There are sometimes right and wrong answers, and politicians are there to stick their necks out if there is a clear evidence base for action in a community. There are far too many intelligent Labour politicians for them to continue to pretend that the evidence basis, rather than the populist basis, isn’t the community engagement model of the future. The Labour politicians in question in Bristol didn’t inform themselves and decide what they thought about the scheme at the beginning of the process, so they couldn’t lead the community – which is one of their primary roles as elected representatives. We don’t elect delegates with the view that they will do whatever we (or 50%+1 of us) tell them to do. We elect representatives who we should expect to come to their own conclusions from all of the available evidence.

2) They didn’t realise sooner that they needed to put out ward-wide information in an addressed letter.

“Universal” information arrived later than was ideal (during the co-production phase). However, I would maintain that sending two addressed letters to every household in the scheme area is sufficient for effective consultation, and that those who say they “haven’t been consulted” need to do a better job of reading their post and getting involved in their community. This scheme used a number of methods of engagement to reach people:

  • 24 workshops across Easton – held at high footfall locations throughout Easton
  • Discussed engagement methods with Bristol Muslim Cultural Society.
  • Members of engagement staff completed courses with the Shah Jalal Jame Mosque
  • Regular presentations at the Ashley, Easton and Lawrence Hill Neighbourhood Partnership/Forum
  • Presentations given to the Disability forum
  • Events were publicised via Up Our Street, posters in notice boards and flyers were distributed.

Over a year of community engagement resulting in….

  • 1200 leaflets distributed in total through the project
  • Engagement with 855 people
  • Capturing over 1000 comments
  • A further 500 people attending the 3 final street events

Does this sound like a thorough consultation process to you?

3) They believed the concerns of the “Easton Voice” pressure group were evidentially valid because they hadn’t got a set principled position on whether the scheme idea was good or not.

I would argue that only 1 of the 6 local councillors for the three wards is sufficiently interested in urban transport as a policy area for them to be able to speak with authority on the issue, and that person (Mhairi Threlfall) happens to be the Cabinet member for Transport in Bristol. It would have been good if Mhairi could have attended some of the public meetings, but alas we were left with her fellow Eastville councillor Sultan Khan who unfortunately doesn’t have the first clue about urban design principles, arguing at one point that closing roads will adversely affect businesses, when the evidence shows the reverse is true.

When you aren’t coming from a position of principle, you can’t push back against people whose arguments are spurious on the technicalities and the effects of the scheme. This is like trying to repel a battering ram from entering the city gates with a feather duster. It also spoke volumes that no urban design professional from the council was invited to this final meeting.

4) They weren’t honest about the decision they’d taken, or the effect of it.

After a final councillor- and officer-led design has been reached, it goes through the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) process, an antiquated way of “ensuring” public feedback through what is called a statutory consultation phase. In reality, the TRO is a rubber stamp of what has been decided and it is very very unlikely that any feedback given to this statutory consultation will affect whether or not the scheme, as submitted, does or doesn’t go ahead.

I asked the councillors point blank last night to be honest and admit that this was the case, but they were unwilling to do so, and indeed despite saying they had come to a collective decision on which aspects of the scheme to keep (Bannerman Road) and which to throw out (High Street and Rosemary Lane), that the process was still open-ended. This is disingenuous at best.

We need councillors to be honest with people, not pretend that decisions haven’t already been made. If this meeting was about communicating the decision and moving forward with that decision, then that should have been that.

5) They didn’t give their personal views.

When I was a councillor, there was a moment where I had to decide whether to outwardly give my views on the Residents’ Parking Schemes proposed for different districts in my ward. I decided that I didn’t need to go overboard on what I thought (that RPS is a really good tool for promoting sustainable travel), but if asked by someone directly I would give my views honestly.

I realise now this was completely the wrong approach. It would have been far better if I had simply explained at the start – in a public leaflet, delivered to every door in the ward – my position on the schemes and the evidence base for it. This is exactly what a fellow Green councillor, Charlie Bolton, did in Southville ward and he was re-elected in 2016. Democracy is not well-served by elected representatives ducking the issues, or simply being swayed by the quantity, ferocity or volume of people who make the same erroneous case. This isn’t what I did on RPS, but I regret that I wasn’t more open from the start about what I really thought.

The small amount of sympathy I have for the local councillors in east Bristol is that if they were to continue to publicly make the case FOR these schemes, they would be castigated every time they opened their mouths and their popularity, at least amongst those present, would take a hit. I can understand why that prospect isn’t too appetising, but to be honest with an issue like this, they are going to have some people agreeing with them and some people not. If you try to “manage” this in any political or electoral sense, it’s pretty obvious.

All in all, I was left dispirited and angered by this meeting, and would not quickly sign up to attend another one with the same personnel in a hurry.

Anyone who is a local of Easton (or Lawrence Hill or Eastville) should make sure they make their feelings known to their local councillors both before the statutory consultation begins, as it is taking place and after the final scheme is implemented. It is my view that failing to close Rosemary Lane and High Street is a huge missed opportunity to change the balance of power in our streets towards safety, walking and cycling and away from private car ownership, use, rat runs and speeding.

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Why voting Green in Bristol West will NOT let the Tories in

We’ve already knocked on thousands of doors in Bristol West in this campaign, and the most common reaction we get is “we must keep the Tories out”.

As Greens, we agree. As a party, we have led on attempts to negotiate deals in seats the Conservatives hold or threaten to take without a strong, singular progressive-minded voice on the ballot paper.

However, Bristol West is different. The result in 2015 shows a few things:

1. Labour just beat the Greens last time leaving the Lib Dems and the Tories in a distant third and fourth place.
2. Even if the entire UKIP vote from 2015 went to the Tories, they would still be in fourth.
3. The Tories cannot win this seat (and won’t be attempting to), so progressive voters can back the Greens and make history by electing Bristol’s first Green MP.

A Green MP would work cooperatively with other progressive MPs but hold Labour to account where the party’s policies veer away from the progressive values this constituency holds dear.

The differences between a Green MP and the Labour Party’s approach are profound:

  • A Green MP would campaign for a final referendum on the negotiated terms of Brexit. The Labour Party are not in favour of this referendum, preferring to let Theresa May push through her plans rather than let the people decide.
  • A Green MP would campaign to halt NHS privatisation and invest in our health. The Labour Party did not back Caroline Lucas’ NHS Reinstatement Bill and during the last Labour government, began the process of privatisation through PFI schemes.
  • A Green MP would campaign for a fairer voting system to make votes matter. The Labour Party are divided on the issue and have made no clear statement that they would change to a proportional voting system.
  • A Green MP would campaign for action on climate change. The Labour Party barely ever mention climate change, the country’s greatest threat to security.

A second Green MP would do more to push a Labour or Conservative government to do what is right by providing effective opposition and critique when it matters.

Theresa May does not want another Caroline Lucas in Parliament. She does not want Molly Scott Cato to be elected – an economist who can lay bare the inadequacies and falsehoods of the Conservatives’ disastrous economic policies.

If you want a future to believe in, it’s time for a Green MP in Bristol.

Insights from local Green Parties on my Elections Coordinator campaign

In standing for Elections Coordinator, I thought it was crucial to contact (at the very least) the coordinators and election coordinators of each local Green Party. Greens believe in the principle of subsidiarity, so our local parties are our lifeblood and the outworking of how the Green Party campaigns and presents itself around the country.

Here are the insights I got back, which I hope – regardless of the upcoming result – will be worked and acted upon by the next Elections Coordinator and Green Party Executive.

Amongst the responses from local parties, I found that there was…
• Acknowledgement of the challenges in terms of improving our overall organisation and communications since the Green Surge (which quadrupled our membership numbers).
• Desire that any changes nationally continue to respect and support the autonomy of local and regional parties, and scepticism of the trend towards increasing centralisation.
• Desire for the timing of information and resources to be improved (i.e. good stuff too late doesn’t have the desired impact), and the national party to dramatically improve its listening to data, insights and perspectives from the regions.
• Gratitude that I am campaigning for local parties’ views on the progressive alliance idea to be taken into account, and emphasis on the importance of local parties making decisions regarding the standing of candidates in an alliance situation.
• Scepticism that a progressive alliance will ever happen, or that local parties have a clear idea how it would work – and the importance of giving people clear information on several options before asking their views.
• Concern that if some local parties were asked not to stand a parliamentary candidate, then this would (to some extent) disenfranchise GP members/supporters by denying them the chance to vote Green, and we would lose the raison d’être and energy of local parties.
• Desire for Green Party to prepare for a snap General Election in which we stand in all seats and for the national party to offer advice and updates to local parties to practically help them.
• Keenness on my idea to reform Elections Committee to include representation from the regions.
• Dismay at the party’s record in by-elections and a view that these should be de-emphasised to focus more clearly on our present target to win (TTW) strategy, but a desire that local parties should be kept up-to-date with by-election results from across the country.
• Need for more professional targeting and campaigning at all levels.
• Highlighting of the difficulty of TTW in some areas, and the need to recognise and identify alternative strategies that can be adopted.
• Shock at the lack of any robust selection procedure for parliamentary candidates.
• Need for practical guidance on mobilising inactive members (ie most members) in many areas.
• A clear interest in the idea of parties twinning where they can learn from each other, as parties may be geographically separated but in a similar position electorally.

If you have any further views on these or any other electoral matter, I’d be interested to hear your views, either here, or on email: rob.telford@bristolgreenparty.org.uk

Rob Telford’s statement for the position of Green Party Executive (GPEx) Elections Coordinator

IMG_5240All political parties exist to stand in elections, and the Green Party is no exception. We are one party, driven by a passion for environmental and social justice, but we operate as hundreds of distinct local parties. This needs some coordination!

Proven track record of elections management
As a former councillor and a current ward and constituency campaign manager for Bristol Green Party, I have the skills necessary to help build an effective national strategy for winning elections at both council and Westminster levels. An active participant in the 2015 Bristol West parliamentary campaign which produced our largest swing (26.8%), I have also coordinated target ward campaigns in successive years in four different council wards, standing twice for election myself. This year, I was the election agent for eight of the 10 Bristol West council wards.

Building our national strategy
I am a supporter of progressive parties working together wherever possible, and – as a current council member of the Electoral Reform Society – I am excited by the idea of a pro-proportional representation agreement between Greens, Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and SNP at the next general election. However, the decision of whether to stand Green candidates in elections must be made by local parties, not by our national leaders or executive. With this in mind, I will urgently initiate a comprehensive survey of local parties’ views so that we can develop a practical national negotiation strategy supported by a democratic mandate.

Improving communications
We need a comprehensive, pro-active plan for all forthcoming by-elections, so we can encourage members to campaign in them through email communications. I will establish a shareable local elections calendar, so we develop a stronger emphasis on supporting each other across the country, not just in our localities. We must also find new and innovative ways to communicate our electoral successes to national and local media, and I will work with the External Communications team on this.

Internal committee reform
As its convenor, I will work through Conference to reform Elections Committee so that regional election coordinators are directly involved. I will ensure that the committee meets bi-monthly (via Skype) and will establish regular progress reporting on how local parties’ electoral strategies are progressing, to ensure GPEx, and staff to have up to date data to hand when making strategic and executive decisions.

A presence in your community
I am passionate about helping small, growing and more established local parties to form effective strategies that produce electoral success over four- to five-year periods. I have previously given canvassing training and advice to a range of local parties and at regional events, sharing my understanding of the range of factors we need to master; from data collection to body language. I want to get out and directly help with election campaigns. Natalie Bennett has shown effective leadership at a grass roots level is down to physical presence and tireless work, and I want to follow her fantastic example.

Please give me your first preference on the ballot paper.

Why I am standing for Elections Coordinator

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I’m excited to be able to make this announcement, not least because it gives me something positive and active to push into amidst the chaos that is engulfing the UK’s politics.

The Greens are a beacon of hope. Our presence on the ballot paper is needed. Even if people do not agree with us, they can respect the sincerity with which we hold our views and the honesty that we bring to public life.

I only realised quite late in the day how important elections are. I was 26 when I took the plunge and become a Green Party member, but I (and we) must never forget that electoral success is intricately linked to our activism in the social and environmental movements of our day. I am proud of our development into a campaigning force across this country, and I want to serve the national party as an ambassador for good practice of election campaigns and lead us to greater and more sustainable electoral success in the next two years.

I will flesh out further the ideas I have for this role in due course, but for now, I am keen to hear from you about how we can improve our electoral success, our organisational practices and our national set-up.

Email me: rob.telford@bristolgreenparty.org.uk
Tweet me: @GreenRobTelford
Like me: Rob Telford for Elections Coordinator
Add me: Rob Telford
About me: Rob Telford

LIVE BLOG: Bristol City Council, Full Council AGM, Tuesday 31st May 2016, 2pm

LIVE BLOG: Bristol City Council, Full Council AGM, Tuesday 31st May 2016, 2pm

AGENDA:
https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=142&MId=187
LIVE STREAM: http://www.bristol.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/226262

13.31 ALL CHANGE AT BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL
It’s all change in Bristol. 70 new councillors and a new Mayor were elected on Thursday 5th May and all that remains to be seen is who will be elected as referee (i.e. Lord Mayor) for the next year. Bristol hopes to have eight Full Council meetings this civic year (2016/17), but even that is up for discussion today, and in previous years councillors (most notably former Lib Dem councillor Alex Woodman) have amended the meetings schedule from the floor – but the new Labour administration will want today to go without a hitch. It’s new Mayor Marvin Rees’ coronation and there will undoubtedly be a fair amount of applause from excited Labour councillors – both new and old – who haven’t had a working majority in the council chamber since 2002.

13.43 A GOOD MOVE FOR DISABILITY ACCESS?
Rumours are circulating that the council’s seating arrangements have immediately become more progressive upon the move back to City Hall – well, as progressive as you can be in a 1950s council chamber designed without disability access in mind. Cllr Harriet Clough (Lib Dem, Hengrove & Whitchurch Park) uses a wheelchair and has seemingly single-handedly got the seating positions in the chamber switched so she can use a wheelchair-accessible space. Great work Harriet, but it does raise questions about the multi-million pound refurbishment of City Hall and why the council chamber was not substantially changed with disability access in mind.

13.56 WHO IS JEFF LOVELL..AND OTHER LABOUR QUESTIONS
Labour negotiated with the other groups to take the Lord Mayoralty this time, despite the fact the Greens have not yet held the Lord Mayor position. This begs the question of how the rotation will now work itself out. Logic would say that it will simply go on an annual basis to each political group based on their share of council seats at this year’s elections (Labour, Conservative, Green, Lib Dem), but council decisions are not always based on logic.

Cllr Jeff Lovell (Labour, Filwood) was put forward as the Labour candidate for Lord Mayor, and all parties will say “aye” to him in the next hour’s time – a recognition that each party should get their go at the ceremonial position, seen as “Bristol’s first citizen”.

There has been a recent example of a party’s candidate not being universally popular, when the questionable comments of Cllr Chris Windows (Conservative, Henbury and Brentry) meant he withdrew his application for Lord Mayor. This was a result of campaigning by Bristol’s civic and LGBT+ groups and some Green and Lib Dem councillors, most notably Gus Hoyt and Peter Main – Bristol’s first LGBT+ Lord Mayor.

Labour must also use today to answer some questions about scrutiny and how they will be “responding” to the Labour Mayor’s speeches in the council chamber. Traditionally, there been the space for each party group to do so…but now that Labour’s leader and deputy leader have taken seats on the Mayor’s Cabinet, who will be responding – if anyone?

14.08 Cllr Chris Jackson (Labour, Filwood) says he is pleased to be putting forward a fellow Knowle Wester for Lord Mayor and First Citizen of Bristol. “This proves that you can aspire to great things.” Apparently Jeff’s wife took a bit of convincing that it was a good idea for Jeff to become Lord Mayor, and Cllr Jackson says like all Lord Mayors, Jeff will be “dragged into” the council chamber…!

14.11 Brief comments from Tory group leader Cllr Mark Weston (Conservative, Henbury and Brentry), says Jeff Lovell will have “not only the respect, but the affection of the chamber”. Lovell served as chair of a number of committees and is known for his humour and positive, collegiate style with councillors from all parties.

14.12 Unanimous vote of “ayes”. Jeff Lovell is about to be dragged in as the Lord Mayor of Bristol.

14.17 Full bling attached, the Lord Mayor of Bristol Jeff Lovell begins his speech. “Welcome to the revamped chamber, what a difference it’s made.” Already love this guy.

14.25 Outgoing Lord Mayor Cllr Clare Campion-Smith (Lib Dem, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) will not take on the traditional role of Deputy Lord Mayor, due to her being appointed to the new Mayor’s Cabinet, as Assistant Mayor for People. The role will instead be taken by one of the previous Lord Mayors, Cllr Chris Davies (Lib Dem, Knowle).

14.33 Jeff Lovell says he will have “three visions” for the Lord Mayoralty, but he says he will let everyone know when he knows what they are. And that’s it, onto the vote of thanks for the retiring Lord Mayor.

14.35 Cllr Anthony Negus (Lib Dem, Cotham) proposes vote of thanks, says that outgoing Lord Mayor Clare Campion-Smith knows how to “discipline with authority” and that there are people in the chamber who are “a lot ruder than I am”. Those who regularly watch or attend Full Council meetings will know the councillors he is talking about…

14.40 Cllr Martin Fodor (Green, Redland) says that Clare Campion-Smith only the 9th female Lord Mayor in the city. Thanks CC-S for her patience, keeping order and getting through the agenda in the face of all the different parties waving at you to get heard. Fodor points out that Lord Mayor chairs the Downs Committee – which is a mixture of councillors and Merchant Venturers. (Surely it is time to end this archaic relic of a bygone age?)

14.43 Cllr Brenda Massey (Labour, Southmead) hopes CC-S will continue to work to increase the number of young women who take up the STEM subjects, and help for those who are disadvantaged.

14.51 Retiring Lord Mayor says she has had 700 engagements throughout the year: “Hard work, covered by laughter and joy.” Thanks those in the Lord Mayor’s office who keep the role relevant. Says “today is Jeff’s day” and will support them in their role.

14.52 Vote of thanks for the retiring Deputy Lord Mayor. Cllr Geoff Gollop (Conservative, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) says this is a difficult speech as he has lost Alistair Watson (former Conservative councillor for Westbury-on-Trym) not only as Deputy Lord Mayor, but also as a fellow ward colleague. Somewhat pointedly, he does not mention that it was outgoing Lord Mayor Clare Campion-Smith who took the third Westbury seat off him. Awkward?

14.55 Cllr Mark Brain (Labour, Hartcliffe & Withywood) cites International Trans Day as an important thing for Alistair Watson to support as a Conservative Lord Mayor. A pointed comment about who the Conservatives originally put up: a candidate who was said to have made homophobic comments. Cllr Chris Windows was forced to withdraw his application for Lord Mayor due to a public campaign by the LGBT+ community.

15.06 Alistair Watson goes for the witty speech option, but unfortunately the outgoing Lord Mayor didn’t get one of the references to her wearing of a denim jacket. It’s a remarkable speech in its length and tone. He gets onto how to address people by the correct title, then acknowledges the elephant in the room – his loss to Clare Campion-Smith, and jokes that he will be changing his last name to “Alistair Aardvark” as a result. He reels off a long list of things he’ll be doing to stay in touch with things in Bristol.

15.07 Now we’re onto the vote of thanks for the Lord Mayor’s Consort. In other words, the partner/husband/friend of the Lord Mayor. Cllr Tim Kent (Lib Dem, Hengrove & Whitchurch Park) again mentions the curse of the alphabet (Ian Campion-Smith is to be thanked for her keeping her seat for contributing his high-up-the-alphabet surname). Incredibly brief speech from new Green group leader Cllr Charlie Bolton (Green, Southville), thanking Ian for his work. New Lord Mayor Jeff Lovell asks Cllr Gary Hopkins (Lib Dem, Knowle) to take note (Hopkins is known for long, rambling speeches.)

15.18 Gary Hopkins doesn’t take the advice, but it’s short by this standards. Cllr Steve Pearce (Labour, St George Central) does a short one to say Chris Davies has been excellent on licensing committees. The Deputy Lord Mayor then gets sworn in. Of course, he doesn’t get any bling, but he does get a medal. Frankly, I’d prefer it.

15.19 And that’s it. Tea break time.

15.59 Full Council about to resume.

16.00 The telltale nod: Labour no longer has a group leader?
By convention, the Lord Mayor nods at all group leaders on the way into the council chamber. Cllr Lovell nodded at Green, Lib Dem and Tory leaders, but did not know the protocol for nodding to the Labour group, and Cllrs Holland and Tincknell pointed up to the dais, where new Labour Mayor Marvin Rees is sitting.

16.08 Minutes approved (with small typo amendment) and no declarations of interest given. Lord Mayor’s announcements includes recent deaths of former Bristol councillors. The new Lord Mayor prefers to say “two-oh-oh-nine” when saying 2009. This may be a bit annoying after a while…

16.10 Tribute from Lib Dem group leader Gary Hopkins to Patrick Hassell, and the first Peter Abraham tribute speech of the year (for all the named people). Charlie Bolton (Green group leader) thanks particularly George Micklewright who helped him with advice in his early days as a councillor.

16.27 Cllr Asher Craig (Labour, St George West) pays particular tribute to Carmen Beckford MBE, known as one of the seven saints of St Pauls (the founders of St Pauls Festival, which later became St Pauls Carnival). Carmen trained as a nurse and campaigned to write the wrongs of racial inequality, being encouraged in 1968 to apply for the community and race relations officer for Bristol City Council by the Jamaican High Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer. She was the first black senior officer at Bristol City Council and made a huge contribution to the city’s life, becoming the first black recipient of an Honour for the  in 1982. Emotional speech from Cllr Craig, who was with Carmen Beckford when she passed away. A minute’s silence is impeccably observed.

16.29 Marvin Rees starts his speech: the Mayor of Bristol’s annual statement to Full Council.

16.32 Marvin starts by thanking the incoming and outcoming Lord Mayors. He also thanks all outgoing councillors, everyone who stood in the elections and outgoing Mayor George Ferguson.

16.36 “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” says Marvin. The days of the council being an “all-powerful place-making force” are over. He champions the need for cross-authority working. We are interdependent and must work with everyone to build a better Bristol, says Rees.

16.42 Marvin lists all of his Cabinet members and says what they will be doing. He says he is “honoured” by the Green, Lib Dem and Tory councillors joining his Cabinet. He says Cllr Claire Hiscott (Conservative, Horfield) understands the challenges of the education brief, seemingly an additional point to be made about the NUT criticising this appointment.

16.43 “Environmental and social justice are inseparable”. And Marvin brings one big policy announcement out of the bag – the Hartcliffe Way Recycling Centre will be built.

16.45 Biggest applause is for review of Residents’ Parking Schemes. Rees says he will get Neighbourhood Partnerships and council officers to review. He says that he will freeze RPS permit charges and stop enforcement of blue badge holders in all Residents’ Parking Schemes.

16.46 Rees says he will produce a Bristol Charter for Corporate Social Responsibility and ensure the Living Wage is upheld. He wants all to remember the council’s workforce.

16.50 Rees says he will seek the views of all. He wants councillors to be empowered in their communities. Marvin concludes with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt and says “we are in this together”.

16.55 Mark Weston (Conservative group leader) responds to the Mayor’s annual speech. He thinks housing delivery vehicles and removing 20mph from arterial roads are the top priorities. He wants the tone of the political debate to be raised.

17.03 “Oh my god, I think I’m going to agree with Mark Weston”, begins Charlie Bolton (Green group leader). Jeremy Corbyn being leader has clearly had an effect, he says, and hopefully this will start to affect Labour Party policy. Housing is the first priority that Marvin Rees has to solve, says Bolton, and you will be judged by your ability to do it. Talking inequality is easy, but it’s unclear how this will happen. The cuts are the third problem that Rees will face. We need to radically improve air quality. We do not hope for, we demand improvements in public transport. I would be appalled if 20mph zones were abolished. We will give you a chance, but we will be watching closely.

17.08 Gary Hopkins (Lib Dem group leader) lambasts poor delivery of libraries changes, and happy that Hartcliffe Way Recycling Centre (which he says always included re-use in the plans) will be progressed. He seems very down today. Tony Dyer (who is sitting right by me) says that “reuse” is more than just a five-letter word you add onto your plans.

17.16 Marvin Rees says that he wants councillors to “drive into” the mayoral office. (I think the Greens will probably cycle.) He makes reference to Paul Saville getting thrown out of City Hall during the tea break and how housing will be a challenge. He also reiterates that the council needs to be working across boundaries. It’s really hard to liveblog Marvin, because he is a fast talker, but also because it’s not always clear where each sentence is leading.

17.17 And the speech, responses and response to the response are over. This blog will end now, as I have to go and meet Caroline Lucas…! Keep watching for the Bristol Youth Council’s annual manifesto…

#TonyFirst: Why you should give Tony Dyer your first preference vote on Thursday 5th May

Why you should give Tony Dyer your first preference vote on Thursday 5th May

I’ve known Tony for quite a while. I can’t remember exactly when I met him, but like many people in the Bristol blogosphere I was impressed by his incredibly detailed writing  for a previous incarnation of the website Bristol 24/7. He clearly puts the time and effort in to understand a subject. It might not seem like a big deal, but Tony reads books, and he learns things from them. I think this is hugely important in terms of the over-arching reasons for voting for him. Intelligence, principle and pragmatism are Tony’s chief qualities – he knows the issues inside out, he knows what the right thing to do is on those issues, and he knows which issues it is realistic to focus on for his term of office.

If you’re reading this, perhaps you’ve already made your mind up about some of the candidates. But if you’re still thinking about who would make the best Mayor, I would implore to look closely at Tony’s proposals, available here: http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/mayor2016

Let me tell you more about Tony. Tony is a kind, genuine, funny and down-to-earth person. He is undoubtedly a policy wonk, but he wears it lightly…and anyway, since when was it a bad thing to know what we should do to make things better? When he suggested his idea for an immediate call for George Osborne to allow us to keep our business rates in Bristol (already Osborne’s policy, but Tony would negotiate speeding the process up in exchange for  freezing council tax, a Tory sacred cow), it would  free up millions of pounds he could then use for infrastructure spending. In an era of Conservative government-imposed austerity, we need someone who has genuinely tried to think of alternatives that are achievable and workable, who isn’t just accepting austerity as a necessity, and who knows what he wants to get out of central government.

Tony is well-liked by people, even his political opponents. He is known to be straight-talking with everyone he meets, frames all of his conversation positively and doesn’t belittle others – in fact, he believes he needs people from all political persuasions and none if there is any chance for economic, social and environmental justice to be advanced in any meaningful way. If elected as Mayor, he would be collaborative to a far greater degree than any of the other main candidates, utilising his Cabinet’s expertise in far deeper ways than is presently being achieved, listening to communities first rather than imposing solutions straight away, and – yes, it’s important to acknowledge, given the other candidates’ situations – being consultative with the local Green Party, who will hold him accountable for his decisions on a regular basis through our democratic structures.

The media had formed their narrative on this mayoral election campaign before it even started. For them, it was between Ferguson and Rees again…and they seemed to be ignorant of the large increase of the Green vote share year after year in  Bristol. Another jump, and we will get a Green Mayor. This would cause a national shockwave in a way that no other half-likely result will and will instantaneously make Bristol the most progressive and forward-thinking city in the country.

And just one more thing. You may be aware that the voting system for this election allows you a first and a second preference. That means you can vote for who you really want to win first, and who you would put up with second. Above all, Tony really needs your first preference – so put #TonyFirst!

General Election 2015 Election night result at Brislington Enterprise College for  Bristol South Tony Dyer - Green Party candidate Date: 07/05/15 Photographer: Michael Lloyd/Freelance Copyright: Local World
Photographer: Michael Lloyd/Freelance
Copyright: Local World