Posts Tagged ‘Bristol mayor’

Re-engaging young people is central to Refounding Labour

30/08/2012, 04:37:16 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

By starting the process of Refounding Labour, Ed Miliband has made much of rebuilding the party, making it more open to new members and to a broader section of society; welcome news then of the launch this month of Bristol Young Labour.

While experience of life and party politics is invaluable from older members, it is encouraging that enough young people in the city want to give their time and energy in outreach work and political engagement.

They offer the party the opportunity to refresh our politics in an age of disaffection and apathy

Young Labour is open to 14 to 26 year olds and brings voting privileges and access to events and activities that being an armchair supporter will never offer.

“Timings have worked out well for us,” explained Stephen Fulham, who chaired the launch event.

“Setting-up Young Labour alongside a mayoral election provides motivation and opportunities for members that would not otherwise be possible.

The mayoral election in Bristol on 15 November has regional and national significance and we’re networking with Young Labour groups around the country who want to help support Marvin Rees, Labour’s candidate to be the first directly elected mayor.”

Bristol Young Labour aims to engage young people across Bristol in the work of the Labour party and to reflect the diversity of young people within society.


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Making Bristol a world class city

13/08/2012, 01:20:54 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

What makes a world-class city? That’s the question on Marvin Rees’ mind right now. Labour’s candidate to be Bristol’s first directly elected mayor, set out his vision to a group of business people and local experts from across Bristol last Thursday, at an event on the Bristol economy chaired by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.

Rees wants to see Bristol become “a world-class city”, he told the roundtable last week, the culmination of an illuminating set of events as part of the City Conversation – the Bristol-wide policy consultation being held by Rees.

With the national economy officially flat-lining, after the Bank of England revised down its growth forecast to 0% and the latest trade figures last week show the worst trade deficit since records began in 1997, how to kick-start the local economy was a key topic for discussion.

Umunna pledged that an incoming Labour government would set up a British Investment Bank (BIB) to widen the availability of credit to small firms.

It would be an extension of the recently-launched Green Investment Bank and fill the gap left by the main UK banks. Local branches, with managers in tune with the needs of local businesses, would strengthen local economies.


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Crime and communities in the spotlight in Bristol’s “City Conversation”

04/08/2012, 08:00:12 AM

by Amanda Ramsay

Thursday night was the crime and communities’ roundtable, the fifth in a series of Marvin Rees’ “City Conversations” which will inform his mayoral manifesto.

Past events have been chaired by shadow ministers such as Stephen Twigg and Hilary Benn with Thursday night’s event featuring Bob Ashford, Labour’s candidate to be the first police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset, as co-host.

The focus on Thursday was on how Bristol can build stronger communities to prevent and tackle crime and reoffending.

Attended by youth workers, councillors, crime enforcement representatives and people from victim support groups, community and pressure groups, Rees was clear about his intentions to the audience:

“It’s critical that we get people from across the city working better together.

We must always remember, it’s the most vulnerable who will pay the heaviest price if we don’t get this right. It costs us all of course, but it’s the most vulnerable who pay the most.”

Like or loathe the idea of elected police and crime commissioners they are coming soon, with the poll due on 15th November. Labour need to secure these pivotal roles to protect policing and the public from the type of populist button-pressing right wingers that have emerged in similar US elections. Who knows where that may take British policing?


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Stephen Twigg and Marvin Rees talk schools and childcare on the Bristol campaign trail

24/07/2012, 03:24:49 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

The UK is facing a schools places crisis, particularly in cities such as Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, London, Reading and Southampton. Areas such as Barking in east London are facing the prospect of a ‘shift system’, splitting the school day in two with some children attending the morning and others the afternoon shift.

Visiting Bristol yesterday as part of Labour’s city conversation, to help elect Marvin Rees as city mayor, shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg highlighted the government’s swingeing cuts with  new build funding for schools slashed by a massive 57%, against a general 30% cut in most other spending areas.

Rees and Twigg met with parents and representatives of a variety of community groups, to discuss children and families as part of Labour’s childcare commission consultation. Main concerns included current government changes to working tax credits and how little help parents felt was on offer, especially to help single mothers or fathers to be able to work.

Twigg has hinted that better and more childcare will be a key focus for the party’s 2015 manifesto. This will be music to the ears of parents and employers alike, given the intrinsic link between jobs and childcare. More flexibility from employers around part-time working arrangements and more workplace childcare were among ideas put forward in Bristol yesterday.

Speaking as chair of Labour’s childcare commission, Twigg has talked about “switch spending”. That is, reducing spending in one area to fund more in another. Substantial spending cuts would be needed to fund a big improvement in childcare.


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Labour gears up for the Bristol mayoral election

20/07/2012, 02:24:19 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

Bristol’s city governance will look very different from November onwards. This week Labour launched the “City Conversation” around what should be the priorities for the first directly elected mayor for the city. Despite big Labour gains in both 2010 and 2011 local elections, at the moment the city council has a Lib Dem leader running a minority administration.

Marvin Rees is Labour’s hopeful to be Bristol mayor. He launched a series of roundtable discussions this week, kicking-off the process with an all member meeting on Wednesday of Bristol Labour Party. Transport was the topic of last night’s roundtable meeting chaired by Lord Andrew Adonis, with experts from across the city. Next week is the health and well-being forum.

Members of Labour’s shadow cabinet including Stephen Twigg, Chuka Umunna and Hilary Benn will be chairing roundtables over the coming weeks on key policy areas such as children and young people, families and communities, the Bristol economy and housing.

Developing a stronger city identity is the name of the game for Labour and Marvin is very much in listening mode with high aspirations for taking Bristol forward: “From higher education to green technology to the creative industries to finance, Bristol is home to world class activity. It is a creative hotbed and an economic powerhouse, but we punch below our weight in too many ways for too many people living here.”

One of the challenges facing campaigners though is the background to all of this. Many Bristolians had reservations, at best, about moving to a system of governance by an elected mayor in the first place. Turn-out in the mayoral referendum was very low, as indeed it was in the other nine English cities with referenda last May.


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Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Peter Hammond

28/05/2012, 02:09:08 PM

Amanda Ramsay on the leader of Bristol city council Labour group, Cllr Peter Hammond, one of Labour’s mayoral short-listed candidates.

Campaign literature has been arriving at Bristol Labour party members’ homes for weeks now, glossy leaflets, letters and round-robin emails. One says: “There’s a big chance that November’s election will be won or lost in the next fortnight, depending on who wins the selection, so I hope we choose wisely.

Indeed, once the postal ballot result is known, expected 15 June, whoever Labour chooses will become the favourite to win in November, say Ladbrokes.

According to the bookies, former Labour councillor Kelvin Blake tops the poll at 5/1, councillor Peter Hammond comes in joint second at 6/1 with former MP Dan Norris, while councillor Helen Holland ranks 8/1 and NHS manager Marvin Rees is at 12/1.

Which one of these five short-listed candidates will be best capable of cutting it as Bristol’s first mayor?

“Words are fine,” Hammond says, pointing to his record as former leader of Bristol city council and current leadership of Labour’s 21 councillors. “But only actions change things. Under my leadership we have promoted a living wage, fairness at work, changed the council’s pay policy and fought for an ambitious new council-led housing programme.”

A local councillor for St George West ward in Bristol East, Hammond is an FE lecturer, has worked in the past on the railways and in a small business. He is also a director of Bristol Community FM, one of Bristol’s community radio stations.

“Between 2001 and 2009 I was a member of council cabinets,” he says of his time on the council scene, “and was leader for a short time. I dealt with services for both older and younger people – the largest spending departments – and instigated Bristol’s complete rebuilding or refurbishment of our secondary schools worth in excess of £250 million.”


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Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Dan Norris

25/05/2012, 02:31:40 PM

As part of a series on all Bristol mayoral short-listed candidates, Amanda Ramsay speaks to former MP and one time Bristol City Councillor Dan Norris.

Back in May 1997, Dan Norris was elected as Labour Member of Parliament for Wansdyke, north east Somerset. He still speaks with great pride, of securing the biggest increase in Labour’s share of the vote in the south west.

After that historic Labour landslide, Norris was re-elected in June 2001 with an increased majority over the Tories, then winning a third term of office at the May 2005 general election. He makes great play of where the Lib Dems came: “At all three elections, the Lib Dems finished a poor, distant third place.”

Boundary changes in 2010 changed things and the new north east Somerset constituency effectively became a Conservative seat, he explains. Since then he’s worked in media and communications, running his own business and becoming more involved with various charities, including Kidscape, who specialise in anti-bullying and the Snowdon award scheme, for students with disabilities.

Of the Bristol mayoralty, he has this to say:

“Our city has punched below its weight for decades. So much so that Bristol people, of all political persuasions, have become cynical about the prospect of change. It means that whenever the local media re-ignite debates about much-needed things like affordable and efficient public transport, an arena, and so on, nobody believes it can happen.

In many ways it’s this mindset that’s the challenge. Get that right, and progress on all issues can flow. We need a ‘can do’ Bristol, not the ‘can’t do’ city that too many people perceive.”


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

24/05/2012, 02:32:00 PM

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.”


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Profiles of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Kelvin Blake

21/05/2012, 06:09:01 PM

As part of a series on all short-listed candidates, Amanda Ramsay speaks to former Bristol City Councillor Kelvin Blake

Kelvin Blake was the first Labour campaigner for a ‘yes’ vote in the 3 May referendum to publicly declare his interest in standing for Bristol mayor.

A likeable character, Blake presses all the right Labour buttons: “My focus and energy will be on delivering a fairer more equitable city for everyone,” he tells me.

Offering a good balance, with both city council experience and having spent his career in the private sector, Blake proudly tells of working his way up from the bottom, as he puts it, having left school with few formal qualifications. Blake is an experienced senior programme director at BT, living in Knowle West, about two miles from the city centre.

A non-executive director of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Blake is a softly spoken Bristolian who speaks with infectious conviction and a real passion, not just for the city he’s always lived in, but also for the future of the Labour Party at a city level.

“We have the opportunity, between now and the election, to talk about an inclusive vision for our city and a programme of delivery, to tackle the key issues with a sense of urgency. That’s exciting.”

Of the election on 15 November, he points out: “This election is almost as important as a general election. It is about Bristol’s future but it will also be a judgement call on the terrible direction of this Tory led government and Labour’s response.


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Profiles of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Marvin Rees

18/05/2012, 03:14:51 PM

In the first of a series of profiles of the mayoral candidates, Amanda Ramsay talks to Marvin Rees

With an election on 15 November for Bristol to have an elected mayor, Labour South West announced a short-list of candidates yesterday for the Bristol mayoral selection: former city councillor Kelvin Blake, current Labour group leader Cllr Peter Hammond, former council leader Cllr Helen Holland, former Bristol City Councillor and MP for Wansdyke in Somerset Dan Norris and party activist Marvin Rees.

First off the blocks for Labour, the weekend after Bristol voted yes, was Marvin Rees, who had actively campaigned for a yes vote in the 3 May referendum. He appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics show and cuts an impressive figure.

Rees is a manager for race equality in mental health with NHS Bristol and a former journalist and BBC Radio presenter. Hailing from the Yale Global Leaders Programme, he has an intriguing CV and was apparently once the executive assistant to President Clinton’s Spiritual Advisor. Rees stood unsuccessfully for the Bristol West selection in 2010.

Rees speaks with authority about life in Bristol’s inner city, coming from a poor background and says: “I was one of two brown-skinned children of a single white woman.”

Despite the poverty in some parts, during the referendum campaign the prime minister pointed to Bristol being the second richest UK city outside London, but local people feel the city could do much more.

“Bristol is a premiership city performing at championship level,” explains Rees, who blames poor leadership at a council level.

“Core to that underperformance has been a vacuum of leadership, the lack of an aspirational long term vision for where Bristol wants to be and how it will get there and the absence of a coherent city narrative, that genuinely results from and reflects the lives of all Bristol residents.

“There is an on-going challenge in making best use of the council officer-elected member relationship particularly around the charge that it is officers not politicians who lead or manage the city.”


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