Talking about our devolution: what people told us about the deal

With all that’s happened since June, it’s easy to forget that there’s a big decision ahead about how the West of England runs its affairs.

The devolution deal for ‘greater Bristol’ won’t set most people’s pulses racing. But ask those who live and work here what’s important to them and many will say housing, transport, education, jobs or a combination of the above. As it happens, the West of England’s deal is geared towards addressing all of these issues.

On the table is £1bn to invest over 30 years in housing, transport and skills. Post #EUref, when ‘taking back control’ swayed views about our country’s future, handing responsibility for these issues to local areas seems an obvious step.

It’s probably worth five minutes’ of everyone’s time in the scheme of things.

Continue reading “Talking about our devolution: what people told us about the deal”

No predictions, just 3 hopes for 2016

If you’ve read any posts, columns and opinions about 2015, it would be easy to think that last year was a bad one.

People of Columnia have a negative tendency, but it seems that there’s plenty to trouble us. Terrorism, austerity, economic under-performance, migration, Europe and runaway house prices all point to a bad year.

I’ve also had many conversations about ‘leadership failure’ over many of these issues. It seems that people have had enough of being soft-soaped. This was demonstrated in Jeremy Corbyn’s extraordinary victory over the ‘Westminster elite’ in the Labour leadership campaign. It was also expressed in nastier ways through trolling and threats dealt out on social media.

Opinion formers have an appetite for predictions at this time of year. After so many people called the big events wrong in 2015, it’s daft to attempt it for the coming year.

I want to be optimistic and set out some hopes for 2016. Some relate to national issues, others are more local and there’s a personal one too. All are important to me and, if they happen, it should be a good year.

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Links I like 12.05.05

Reaction to the elected mayor vote in Bristol – various
Well done Bristol for bucking the national trend and voting decisively, if in small numbers, in favour of an elected mayor to lead the city from November. They were the only city to vote yes to the proposal following a pretty low-key campaign on the issue. The Centre for Cities has published some links on the issue, while the Bristol Post’s coverage of the result and early indication of who the runners and riders for Bristol’s first elected mayor has been well-informed, detailed and sharp, as good local journalism should be. Whether the result was an endorsement of the proposal or due to more negative factors is open to question, which The Guardian poses in its leader on the issue today. Having followed the debate, I’m sure many people voted yes because the current council leadership was against the idea. Anti politics and apathy were the biggest winners this week, but all is not lost. Hopefully a new way of doing things in Bristol will start to change that.

Elections – ‘We the council’ – Kevin Jump
‘Webist’ Jump provides insight into the information provided by council websites about this week’s local elections. He concludes that interest in the local elections is high and the correct information is available, but is not entirely useful and lacks focus on the needs of local users. A number of websites in the area I cover at work are included in the survey.

Campaigns get people to care about an elected mayor

I’ve been looking at the debate around proposals to devolve power to English cities, by installing elected mayors who (it is argued) will help areas outside London ‘punch above their weight’ and revitalise interest in local democracy.

I wanted to find out more about the arguments around this idea in Bristol, where I work, which is one of 10 cities having a referendum on the issue on 3 May. My feeling, without finding any hard research to stand this up, is that the debate has yet to catch the imagination of the public outside a small group of engaged campaigners on either side – and that getting a decent turnout in the vote will be a big challenge.

Continue reading “Campaigns get people to care about an elected mayor”