Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Helen Holland

As part of a series on all Bristol mayoral short-listed candidates, Amanda Ramsay speaks to the former leader of Bristol city council, Cllr Helen Holland.

Helen Holland offers a wealth of experience as a former teacher and leader of Bristol City Council. She is regarded as an extremely hard-working case-worker for her Bristol ward of Whitchurch Park, where she has won six terms of office, building-up to over 50% of the vote.

Holland understands the regional dynamics required for the job and once sat on the board of the south west regional development agency. She is also a non-executive director of Bristol Community Health.

The answer most Bristol Labour party members will be looking for, as they start to receive their all-postal ballot papers any day now, is why should a Bristol Labour party member vote for you to be their Labour mayoral candidate?

“I am passionate about Bristol’s future and Labour values. I have the energy and enthusiasm,” Holland tells me, “the experience and vision to win this selection and election for our party.

“I have the track-record of having delivered, in partnership, many of the major projects in the city over the last fifteen years, but there is so much more to do, and this is a real priority for me, to make sure Bristol has all the components expected in a 21st century city.

“If you look at the impact of what has been achieved, both in terms of physical regeneration and job creation, from Symes Avenue in my own ward, to Cabot Circus, and more recently, the Hengrove Park developments, South Bristol Community NHS hospital, the leisure centre and City of Bristol College Skills Academy, you can see how I have made this work for the city and have the credibility to take those big future projects forward.”

Paramount to the success of the first directly elected mayor for Bristol is the city deal that can be negotiated with central government. “The Bristol partnership seems to have fallen by the wayside, leaving no clear forum for the major strategic partners of the city to engage in public,” says Holland.

“The priorities for the city deal for Bristol need to be employment and training, housing, transport and environment, and bringing investment to Bristol.”

Holland has an ambitious vision: “We need to set a target for employment to have the lowest levels of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, of any city in the country, and require a commitment of Bristol’s public, private and voluntary sectors to apprenticeships.

“On housing, we should set ourselves an ambitious target of building new council and social housing to address the desperate need of many Bristol families. We need a step-change from the current 100 homes a year to a thousand, making sure these are affordable, high quality, low energy homes, providing jobs and training through the construction programme.”

Transport across Bristol’s hilly cityscape and surrounding areas is a key issue for the mayor following the 15 November election and Holland was once a commissioner on the Labour government’s advisory body for Transport, CfIT (commission for integrated transport) working first under transport supremo professor David Begg as chair, then Peter Hendy, transport commissioner for London.

“We need to deliver a quick win on transport,” she says, “to show how things must change, followed by commitment to major infrastructure to improve public transport, making getting around the city easier and more affordable. The quick win is integrated ticketing – a next generation oyster-type card – for rail, bus and ferry users, making the use of all modes simple.”

Holland talks with gusto and a confidence that comes with years of experience in the local political and community scene.

Her local experience and commitment to the area speaks volumes: “I have represented one of the most disadvantaged wards in the city for over twenty years. To me, there is nothing more important than working to end the huge differences in life chances and opportunities experienced by some of our communities.”

On whether she is heavyweight enough to be a strong and effective mayor, Holland says: “I have experience of negotiating with ministers and senior civil servants in national and EU government, so I would be clear about Bristol’s needs and evidence based.

“I would have a team Bristol approach, engaging with the local enterprise partnership and other partners to have the right people at the table.”

But in the meantime, there’s an election to win for Labour. “People will vote if they feel they have a stake in the outcome of the election. Labour needs to show our priorities are those of our supporters, old and new, and that we are prepared to be measured against our performance on those priorities in four years’ time.”

Amanda Ramsay is a former Labour councillor and cabinet member

Labour Party candidate for mayor TULO Hustings Thursday 31 May 745pm?, open to all labour party members and political levy payers. The Brunel Room, Armada House, Telephone avenue, Bristol BS1 4BQ.

Bristol Labour party mayoral selection official hustings: Friday 8 June at the Greenway Centre, Doncaster road, Southmead Bristol BS10 5PY from 6.15pm to 8.30pm. Bristol Labour party members wishing to attend MUST email or phone 0117 972 9447.

Follow @helen4bristol and the mayoral debate on @Mayor4Bristol1

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