Friday, July 06, 2012

Mayoral momentum

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George Ferguson was "bowled over" by the response to his mayoral campaign when he held a jamboree in the city (story here). Interesting that George has generated these numbers (500 in the report) and this reported, at least, enthusiam. He's gained some momentum in his campaign and some advantage through declaring his candidacy early on and being the first to send out a leaflet. Despite his Liberal background and pretty obvious broadly liberal approach to politics he is benefitting and will benefit from not being a candidate representing a political party. He also has a decent national standing and can point to a list of achievements that will impress some voters. My question to George however is - where's the beef?...please openly state your principles and convictions in a good deal more detail than you already have. He appears to be pursuing a strategy of trying to win the Mayoral election mostly on the basis of finding out what people want and then saying that this is his policy rather than getting elected because he is openly stating policy convictions. For me he is clearly the main opposition to Labour's candidate Marvin Rees though.

City Deal

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The £100-million Bristol Metro train network which will bring massive improvements to local railways is to go ahead with the first services running by 2016. It comes as a result of the City Deal agreed between local council and the Government which was announced yesterday...(more here).

Business rates to be kept in Bristol and used to raise more money for investment is very welcome. Plans to improve the local rail network are also welcome. Lets hope what is planned is effective and efficient. I do think there is a democratic deficit in all this thinking though and would like to see much greater and inbuilt opportunities for public participation, creating better openness and accountability - it wont be sufficient to simply lobby our authorities to use this money in the best way.

Details of the 'City Deal' for Bristol, according to The Post, are:

* A new growth incentive and the economic investment fund, which will allow West of England to keep 100 per cent of growth in business rates over 25 years to invest in projects, allowing authorities to deliver an investment programme worth £1 billion over 30 years.

*  Ten years of major funding allocation for the Greater Bristol Metro; flexible delivery for the Bus Rapid Transit Network which will allow savings to be recycled locally; and new powers over rail planning and delivery.

*— A Public Property Board will manage up to £1 billion of city council assets and an estimated 180 land and property assets to unlock more land for economic growth or housing and to lever in additional investment.

* A city growth hub with up to £2.25 million of government funding which will provide additional support to inward investors. This will be based in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and will work closely with UK Trade and Investment.

* The business community and local enterprise partnership will have more influence in skills provision in the city region, in particular the £114 million Skills Funding Agency funding for Further Education colleges for post-16 provision, to help capture employer demand.