Charlotte will be supporting the campaign to have an elected mayor for Bristol – which moved a step closer last week by confirmation that there will be a ballot on May 3 in the city on the issue.
Bristolians will be asked:
How would you like Bristol to be run? By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.OR By a mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from how the council is run now.
She also described an Evening Post campaign, which seeks to start a debate on whether the city is fulfilling its great potential, as ‘timely’.
Charlotte said Bristol has achieved – and will continue to achieve – great things, but questioned whether this was in spite or because of its political system.
She criticised the council election system which sees a change of councillors most years, leaving the city in election mode for too much of the time, thus affecting long-term decision making.
She said: “Ask people what they think of Bristol’s politics and you usually get some feisty replies.
“The debates about Bristol having the political will to achieve its potential and the prospect of an elected mayor could not be more timely.
“Many people are asking whether Bristol, the second richest city outside London, punches below its weight in comparison to its competitors, in terms of its education record, local transport infrastructure and facilities like arena, conference venues, stadium.
“I think Bristol is a magnificent and beautiful city, with a successful business community, rich in voluntary groups, outstanding in the media, arts and culture and a self-proclaimed Green city.
“But many people ask whether Bristol is successful DESPITE its politics, not because of it. From my years spent talking to local people, its become apparent that many people have lost faith in Bristol’s politics and feel it is broken.
“There is the issue of Council Elections. Bristol has unusually frequent elections, which means the city is paralysed by being in election mode for a large chunk of most years, damaging long term decision making.
“People often feel that because of this we have an ever-changing carousel of elected members, flickering in and out of election-mode, revolving around a static core of unelected officers. And this lack of continuity pushes decision making away from elected members and towards,( in most cases hard working,) but unelected officials, who make decisions over significant budgets.
“Then there’s leadership and accountability. Ask people who the leader of the council is in any year, and some are able to tell you. Ask who the Chief Exec is, and hardly any can. Then when they realise the size of the Chief Exec’s salary, and the budget they control, they are shocked. I’m sure the Chief Exec is also very hard working, but they are very powerful, not elected, and are virtually publicly invisible.
“An elected mayor would be accountable, visible and would have the opportunity to find and instigate solutions to improve the city’s politics.
“Moreover, the referendum over whether we have a mayor or not is exactly the right place to air these simmering concerns about Bristol’s politics.
“The Evening Post is right to raise this debate. Too many people are saying that too many opportunities for the city are being missed for us to ignore the issue.
“Business leaders said only yesterday, there are ideas in abundance in this city but Bristol’s political system is not making the very most of this creativity and innovation.
“We need stability, accountability and a sense that there is a long-term plan for the city. A referendum for a mayor will provide a stage to debate these crucial questions. And I believe voting for a Mayor could help provide some of the crucial answers.”
Before Christmas Charlotte, along with a number of other Bristol MPs, took part in a panel discussion on this issue and Charlotte’s contribution can be seen here: http://petitions.charlotteleslie.com/2011/12/charlotte-leslie-discusses-whether-bristol-should-have-an-elected-mayor/
For more, see http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Date-s-set-Bristol-decide-elected-mayor/story-15028008-detail/story.html