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West of England devolution: a big deal for sustainability?


Ian Townsend, Chief Executive of Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC, highlights the important ‘metro mayor’ election on 4 May and our environmental sustainability-themed hustings event on 25 April.

The agreement to bring powers down to the Bristol, Bath and neighbouring areas was secured in November 2016. While things may have gone quiet for a while, they have recently ramped up again.

The West of England combined authority, aka ‘WECA’ – made up of the leaders of Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils – met for the first time on 1 March.

In just a couple of months’ time, voters living in these council areas are to go the polls to elect a new mayor for a new city-region area known as ‘the West of England’ on 4 May.

This new ‘metro mayor’ will join the 3 council leaders to run WECA, so they will play a pivotal role in setting the strategic direction for development in the West of England region. They will have important powers over transport, housing and skills in particular – all relevant for ensuring the environmental sustainability of our city-region.

Unusually for an election, they are likely gain influence over other policy areas in the years ahead, if the experience of other combined authorities is a guide. Greater Manchester, for example, has gained more control of health budgets, and health and well-being funds have been mentioned locally for future rounds of ‘devolution deals’.

With an elected mayor and combined authority in place, our region will have a platform from which to lobby for further powers that are currently held by central government from London. For example, our region could seek greater powers over environmental protection, planning and housing standards, and policies that affect energy, food, nature, resources and transport and resources policies.

Protecting and enhancing our region’s environment and its sustainability is one of the greatest challenges we face, and potentially one of our greatest opportunities. In the future, regions that thrive are likely to be those that adapt to a low carbon, more efficient world.

To ensure environmental sustainability is high on the agenda of the new West of England metro mayor, Bristol Green Capital Partnership – with Bristol Festival of Ideas and University of Bristol, and in association with Friends of the Earth – is hosting a ‘metro mayor’ hustings in the run-up to the election on 4 May. BGCP members can book their place now, with general booking opening on 17 March.

We hope you will be able to join us!

Further information

  • The hustings will take place on 25 April 2017 6.30pm – 8.30pm at Priory Road Lecture Theatre, University of Bristol. Book your place here.
  • The hustings will address four key themes: air quality, housing and the green belt, transport and the future powers of the West of England. We are collecting your questions on these important issues and will draw on these on the night;
  • The six confirmed candidates are:

– Aaron Foot, UK Independence Party
– Darren Hall, Green Party
– John Savage, Independent
– Lesley Mansell, Labour Party
– Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat Party
– Tim Bowles, Conservative Party

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