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What Bristol’s mayoral candidates had to say at our sustainability-themed hustings

2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-13

Listen to the podcast!

Our partners Ujima Radio, through their Green and Black project, broadcast live from the event. The podcast is now available to stream on their website.

On Wednesday 20th April, we hosted a mayoral hustings to ask candidates how they plan to make Bristol a more sustainable future city with a high quality of life for all.

The sold-out event, organised by Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC in partnership with Bristol Pound, Bristol Cycling Campaign, Friends of the Earth and Sustrans, gathered over 200 people at Arnolfini - including local organisations, city residents and members of BGCP for a sustainability-themed discussion. BBC Radio Bristol presenter, Laura Rawlings chaired the debate with candidates George Ferguson (Independent), Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrat), Tony Dyer (Green Party) and Marvin Rees (Labour Party) in attendance.

University of the West of England Professor Jim Longhurst, Interim Chair of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, said: “We are looking for the Mayor to provide leadership that will deliver a healthy, happy and low carbon Bristol that builds on the success of the Green Capital year. This debate will help Bristolians decide who is best placed to provide that leadership.”

Here's a summary of four key questions, and some of the themes that emerged....

Sustainable Transport

Asked by James Cleeton on behalf of Sustrans and Bristol Cycling Campaign:

In line with the objectives of the Good Transport Plan for Bristol, launched at the start of 2016, what steps will you take to ensure all strategic and neighbourhood level transport decisions guarantee we improve air quality, reduce the long-term burden on the NHS caused by sedentary lifestyles, and mean that all Bristol citizens have access to a sustainable transport network?”

Kay Barnard see’s the need to improve public transport in the city, with a focus on educating schoolchildren in safe-cycling techniques; “Transport is the biggest problem in Bristol. We need to get the train networking properly and have to make walking a lot more user-friendly around the city. We aren’t going to get people out of their cars unless there’s a good alternative.”

2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-19Tony Dyer, in favour of the transport hierarchy, puts pedestrians first; “There are far too many cars - we need appealing alternatives to generate greater health outputs, whether that’s active transport of public transport. Another urgency is better access for people with disability - too many railway stations are out-of-bounds for wheelchair users.”

George Ferguson, a supporter of The Good Transport Plan, stressed the need to make sure streets and school routes are made safer with the help of Neighbourhood Parterships. Using smart city systems, George also wants to see more car-sharing in Bristol; “We’ve allowed the city to be taken over by cars and its simply unacceptable - active transport beats everything else. I want a city that is as healthy to bring up your family and children."

Marvin Rees wants a change in vision for the city’s transport system after revealing that Bristol is the most congested city in the UK with the biggest travel delays. ed leadership.”“We’ve outgrown our city’s provision and need that chapter changed. We need a clear, over-arching vision that matches our sense of future need and demand 2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-11and to me, it's around governance; clear, visible, accountable and empower

Local Economy 

Asked by Emily Hazell on behalf of Bristol Pound:

The council spends over £350 million of public money each year and lots of it is spent with businesses outside Bristol, including large multi-nationals. What practical steps will you take to increase the amount of money staying in Bristol?

2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-12Tony Dyer pointed out the increasing problem with tax havens, but offered his solution; “We have a big problem with tax avoidance and lots of money going overseas – however none of them accept Bristol Pounds. If you are spending your money with Bristol Pound, you are stopping tax avoidance and bringing money back into our local economy.”

George Ferguson believes in the benefits of using Bristol Pounds and encourages the audience to invest themselves and spend across the city; “I want to see Bristol Pounds become more available across institutions and businesses to use across the city, whether it be paying for a council tax bill, energy bill or your bus fare.”

Marvin Rees stated Bristol is one of the more prosperous city’s in the country, yet the gap between the rich and poor is growing: “People are feeling excluded. To drive a good economy, we need to equip young people for work. There are practical things we can do; plan ahead, have apprenticeships in place, skills pipeline in place and of course, pay the living wage.”

Kay Barnard, also in favour of more apprenticeships in local businesses to address social exclusion. “One of the main problems is smaller, local business are excluded from local procurement in favour of big, national companies.

Energy & Climate Change

Asked by Mike Birkin on behalf of Bristol Friends of the Earth:

Does the candidate endorse the ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050? And what new measures do they envisage are needed to get there given that the city's mini-Stern report showed that: 

  1. we need to employ all cost - neutral or better measures to reach our existing targets
  2. even with this emissions flatline from around 2030 instead of continuing todecline as they must?

2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-20Marvin Rees is committed to the 2050 target with ideas ranging from retrofitting homes with a clear solar strategy to building wind farms where possible. “Climate change is a crisis of our time but I believe the responsibility is on the wealthiest countries - they are the key drivers that can make fundamental change.”

Kay Barnard believes new technology is what’s needed. “We’re a hi-tech city with lots of green companies so I'm hoping they can help drive the change that’s needed. We should also be increasing our storage of CO2 by extending our tree-cover in the city for a positive environmental and health impact.”

George Ferguson believes in order to meet the 2050 target, we need to make Bristol a more energy-efficient city. “Every year, the city spends £900 million on energy. Insulating homes should be a priority – not only does this help you reduce your energy and carbon footprint but also bring down the cost of bills, it’s a no-brainer.”

2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-1Tony Dyer thinks we should aim higher; 2050 has to be the very latest to be carbon-neutral and believes community-ownership in energy projects have a large role to play; “If we involve local communities in renewable energy projects, once they have a stake they can benefit from, they will drive it forward.”

Bristol Green Capital’s Vision

Asked by Laura Rawlings, on behalf of Bristol Green Capital Partnership:

Can candidates tell us how they would support the vision and ambition of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership and its members to help make Bristol a greener, more sustainable, low carbon city with a high quality of life for all?

George Ferguson expressed his support for BGCP and how to utilise schools to take the vision and ambition further; “I want to make sure BGCP becomes part of the vital decision-making process in the city. It was extended to every community in the city possible, and schools have got to be the answer in taking it forward. If you make a city good for children, you make a city good for all of us.” 

2016 April Bristol Mayoral Hustings-17Marvin Rees wants to see a collective responsibility to help support the BGCP vision, as well as having more humility to encourage engagement from communities; “The future of a green, sustainable city relies on the whole collection of city institutions. We also need to listen to peoples’ every day challenges, such as not being able to pay a bill. They don’t have enough emotional and financial space to step back and think about some of the bigger challenges. If we took care of their every day needs & struggles, there would be more space to engage them in the conversations and they'll be more likely to get involved.”

Kay Barnard believes to support the vision and ambition of BGCP, it must reach out to more people, starting with schools; “We need to broaden the reach of BGCP’s work, starting with the right education in schools on how to live a sustainable lifestyle. Schools are a fantastic resource - this is a critical issue and we need to make children understand that.”

Tony Dyer, in favour of working with BCGP to be part of the city’s cultural offering, believes the right education is needed to make the vision and ambitions relevant to everyone; “Being a green city is our legacy, its our future. It's obvious we need an organisation that links all businesses and communities together and BGCP is the organisation that is most able to do that. We also need more people from communities that have faced the real impact of climate change to get involved with the environmental movement – they’ll contribute a massive amount.”

Thank you to all candidates, organisations and attendees for a respectful and insightful debate, and a special thanks to Laura Rawlings and Arnolfini for helping us host the event.

LISTEN AGAIN! The full 2-hour discussion is available to live-stream on Ujima Radio's website.

Do you agree with the discussions from the candidates? Share your thoughts using #BrisFuturesMayor.

Organisers

The lead host for this event was the Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC in recognition of the important role of the political process in creating the future of the city. Equally it is important to recognise that the event, and the Partnership activity in general, is not affiliated with, or in support of, any particular political party or individual candidate.

Our hustings and events are organised from a position of political neutrality and within the guidance laid down by the regulatory framework.

Please note: Invitations to candidates to take part in this hustings were issued based on the highest five positions in the vote share of the 2012 Bristol Mayor election. This was to ensure that there is adequate time to allow each candidate a fair chance to answer questions and a reasonable opportunity to respond to points raised by other candidates.

This decision was based on advice given by the Electoral Commission in relation to the running of time limited non-selective hustings. Audiences at the Mayoral Hustings were informed of all candidates standing including those who have not been invited.

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