Friday, March 5, 2021

The West of England needs a new Metro Mayor

Hands up if you know what WECA stands for.

No? – well, I didn’t either until recently. It’s the West of England Combined Authority, comprising two cities (Bristol and Bath), four universities, numerous towns and hundreds of smaller villages. In Bristol alone, it includes some of the least well-off council wards in the country and some of the wealthiest.

Of the nine Parliamentary constituencies in WECA, Labour holds four – all the Bristol seats. The Tories hold the outer Bristol seats of Filton and Bradley Stoke, Kingswood and rural North East Somerset – and the Lib Dems retook Bath in 2017.

In May, people across South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset have an opportunity to elect a metro mayor for the West of England (WECA).

Ooh, how new and exciting! – except.. er.. it isn’t new (although it is still exciting).

It isn’t new because – drum roll – WE ALREADY HAVE a Metro Mayor!

Hands up if you know their name!

No? – well, I didn’t either, until recently. Apparently he represents the Conservatives, and apart from being really good at keeping secrets – not least his name, or what WECA stands for – he doesn’t seem to have done very much at all.

In 2017, the current Tory metro mayor won by a very small margin of just 4,377 votes of nearly 200,000 cast. Since then, he’s been largely invisible at a time when people in similar positions elsewhere, like Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, have taken on national profiles.

We really need someone who will stand up for the West of England.

Going back a few years, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North East Somerset seat was won in 1997, and held in 2001 and 2005, by Labour’s Dan Norris under its previous configuration of Wansdyke. Dan is the only person to ever win the area comprising North East Somerset for Labour.

Dan Norris is now Labour candidate for metro mayor. He knows the area, and he’s ready to tackle the challenges that come with the job.

The metro mayor has control over housing, planning, transport and skills for post-16 education. These issues have never been more important than right now.

Environmental issues underpin everything the metro mayor does, from reducing CO2 emissions to improving biodiversity.

Due to Dan’s background as an environment minister in the last Labour government, he is fully prepared to lead on our region’s responsibilities to cut emissions by 2030.

The metro mayor also has significant soft power to bring about positive change in the region, such as closing gender and disability pay gaps, ensuring much better support and opportunities for those who provide vital child and elder care essential, and helping build a genuinely fairer society in the West of England.

So, all I ask is that everyone locally should think about who they would like to represent them as OUR metro mayor. Do your research, talk to your friends and family, work out whether you think things are just fine right now – or, whether you’d like to use YOUR vote to bring about change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.