The May 2021 elections in Bristol and WECA have led to big changes in the political landscape of the Greater Bristol area. Labour lost their majority on Bristol City Council, but won the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) mayoral contest and retained the Bristol Mayor. Meanwhile the Green Party gained a number of councillors. They are now joint biggest party in Bristol. What does this mean for sustainable transport in the West of England?
New Metro Mayor
Perhaps the most significant change is the election of the new WECA Metro Mayor Dan Norris. Norris is an experienced politician (he had a ministerial role under Gordon Brown) and intends to be more visible than his predecessor Tim Bowles. We are hopeful that Norris will change WECA’s priorities away from road-building towards sustainable transport. FoSBR, together with Transport for Greater Bristol (TfGB) and other groups will press the new Metro Mayor to create an Integrated Transport Authority. We think this is essential to properly oversee transport in the region.
We hope that local MPs of all parties will set aside political differences and support Norris, for the good of everyone in the West of England.
Bristol Mayor re-elected
Marvin Rees was re-elected as Mayor of Bristol, the largest local authority in WECA. Bristol is home to about half the population of the West of England Combined Authority area. Rees lost two key councillors in the election: Kye Dudd, who was Cabinet Member for Transport, and Afzal Shah who looked after Climate issues. At the time of writing it was not clear who will replace them. The Bristol Mayor favours a partially underground mass transit system for Bristol, but Dan Norris has responsibility for transport so this will be his decision. When both mayors appeared on BBC’s Politics West on 9th May, Norris seemed ambivalent about Rees’s scheme. FoSBR and others favour trams over an underground system.
Within Bristol, the Green Party gained many councillors. Labour and the Greens are now joint biggest parties, with 24 councillors each. The Conservatives have 14 seats and the Liberal Democrats have 8. There are 70 seats on the council, so the parties will need to find a way to work together! We hope that this realignment will help speed up the transition towards cleaner, greener transport in Bristol.
There were no local elections in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) or South Gloucestershire. In B&NES, where the Liberal Democrats remain in control, Kevin Guy has taken over from Dine Romero as council leader. South Gloucestershire continues to be led by Conservative Toby Savage, who was Tim Bowles’ deputy in WECA.
FoSBR is politically neutral and we will continue to work with all politicians and organisations who share our aims. We will now reach out to all councillors, particularly newly-elected ones, with details of our Plan for Rail and how the region can build on MetroWest, improving accessibility and frequency of local rail services.