Tinkering around the edges is no longer good enough17 October 2019
Last night’s State of the City address shows that our Mayor is tinkering around the edges of Bristol’s social and environmental crises. Despite four years of opportunity, the Mayor remains intent on producing plans, rather than delivering change.
We have the right to expect that, after four years in the job, our Mayor would have begun to tackle Bristol’s housing and transport issues in earnest. Yet what was clear from the long list of minor achievements cited last night was that Bristol has not yet begun to impact the major problems we face. Our air is still filthy. Our buses move at a snail’s pace through the city centre. There is no sign of an arena. Affordable homes are still far too rare and, very importantly, little has been done to begin the urgent task of tackling climate change.
What really struck me about the speech was the Mayor’s list of plans, strategies, reviews and charters that claim to be ‘getting stuff done’ but are not making our city any better for people. On the doorstep, residents don’t tell me how the city has improved because of the latest iteration of the One City Plan. The people of Bristol are looking for action, not words.
Greens are not alone in bringing criticism on the Mayor’s lacklustre environmental action. Marvin Rees faced disruption to his speech when protesters held up a ‘Stop Bristol Airport Expansion’ banner during a section of the speech focused on the need for action on the climate emergency.
As the Green Party, we already have bold programmes for tackling the biggest problem in the city – our transport system – and there is more to come. We have committed to spending £6.5m a year in new money on our buses. We are pledging to build new cycle lanes and improve walking routes, giving our streets back to people. We will campaign to build the arena back where it should be, by Temple Meads, and we will clean up our air in the city centre with a Clean Air Zone.
The good news is that when we get Bristol moving we tackle so many of the other problems we face: business flourishes and we create jobs and wealth; people living in Hartcliffe or Avonmouth have equal opportunities to get work and education; our communities are returned to people; our air is cleaner and our citizens are healthier. Not to mention that we move forward on fixing the climate emergency. Bristol must lead the way.
However, I’d like to compliment the introduction to the Mayor’s address by two of the city’s youth Mayoral leaders.
Young people are challenging us all, through campaigns on mental health, knife crime and climate change, to leave them a world to be proud of – a world where they do not have to clear up the mess we have left them. As the Green Party, we will give young people a real say in the future of our city. We are committed to hear their views and to act on them. Only a bold approach will create the world they dream of and to deliver anything less is a betrayal of their future.