Devolution: people care if they’re aware

The West of England’s devolution deal was rubber stamped last night after months of discussion by local leaders.

The agreement unlocks around £1bn in investment in housing, transport and skills. Most people would regard these as important issues that should be locally controlled.

Despite this and the welcome statements that will follow, last night’s response to the news seemed muted.

Councillors in Bristol expressed concerns that the 2,000 responses the recent consultation generated should have been much higher.

The Bristol Post reported these concerns alongside the question: does anyone care?

Continue reading “Devolution: people care if they’re aware”

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.

Continue reading “No predictions, just 3 hopes for 2016”

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”

Cities need to make the case for a real deal

I’ve been having discussions and reading about the enhanced role our major cities can play, proposals to hand more power and responsibility to city halls, or Core Cities, and the ambition of towns to be seen as having more clout.

Yesterday’s announcement that Perth, St Asaph and Chelmsford are to be crowned Jubilee cities brought back memories of my time reporting the ultimately fruitless city status bids of the towns in which I worked, in Reading at the end of the 1990s and Doncaster a couple of years later. A lot of people don’t get the point of these city status bids, as they confer no extra power or funding on the winner. But it shouldn’t be underestimated what it means to people who live and work there. It can help raise the profile or even change the image of a place (ask Preston, who beat Donny to become a ‘Golden City’ in 2002).

Continue reading “Cities need to make the case for a real deal”

Links I like 10.12.14

Here are a small number of online reactions I have noticed from those directly affected by the Localism Bill, laid in Parliament yesterday.

‘We welcome the general thrust of the Bill…however…’ – GWE Business West blog
A cautious welcome from the Chambers of Commerce covering Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire.

Reaction to Localism Bill – LGiU the local democracy blog
One of a few decent posts on the LGiU blog, from chief executive Andy Sawford (who is also worth following on Twitter).

Getting to the heart of localism – Living with rats
Julian Dobson writes about a Bradford community group that has put localism into action and highlights some of the policy pitfalls in the process.

‘Barbara’s our Boris’ – Bristol Evening Post
Reaction to yesterday’s news that Bristol City Council leader Barbara Janke is its ‘answer to Boris Johnson’, as part of the bill’s plans to created a new breed of 12 elected mayors in England’s urban metropolitan areas. Here’s hoping for a decent debate on this issue in the months ahead.