WECA Election 21

The West of England Combined Authority is electing a new Mayor on the 6th of May. This mayor has a very restricted set of responsibilities and effectively sits as a fourth “entity” working in partnership with the three councils that make up WECA.

The primary spheres of influence that the Metro Mayor has are on housing, education, transport, and business innovation. The biggest impact the mayor has on your life will be transport, primarily working at a strategic level, but also at a local council level by providing funding for key initiatives. Bristol, BaNES, and South Glos are pretty much hamstrung in terms of funding and rely very much on WECA handouts to get big initiatives delivered.

WECA will be controlling the £25m Active Travel Fund allocation for the three councils. The Mayor is in charge of all main roads across all three councils (Think Transport For London red routes), and can direct major changes to those roads overruling the local council.

So whether you like it or not, the new mayor and his policies have a major impact on your life. Each candidates published manifesto provides a very different roadmap. Some are much more committed on what they want transport to look like and some feel deliberately vague which should set alarm bells ringing.

Voting System

Metro Mayors use a 2 round voting system where you choose a 1st and 2nd candidate.

If you have 4 candidates, A, B, C, and D, after round 1 you cut to the two candidates with the most votes, e.g. B and C, then any voter that voted D/A or A/D will have their vote discarded. This can be problematic.

In the 2017 election, 6 candidates stood. After round one: Conservative 27.3%, Labour 22.2%, Lib Dem 20.2%, Independent 15.0%, Green Party 11.2%, and UKIP 4.2%. 196,953 votes were counted. After round 2: Conservative (51.6%) and Labour (48.4%). 136,223 were counted. 60,730 votes were discarded. Your two choices are important.

With four candidates standing in 2021, the choice is much simpler, but YOU have to decide which three are most likely to get to round 2 and choose one of those as your first choice that you feel has the strongest, clearest manifesto.

It is worth recognising that the metro mayor is very much an independent agent so if you normally vote along party lines, it’s really important to step back and evaluate what each candidate is offering.

Manifestos

The manifestos:

Stephen’s and Jerome’s are exceptionally strong on walking, wheeling, and cycling. This review of manifestos done by Rob Bryher (We Are Possible) also indicates very poor information around transport, particularly from Samuel, and less so from Dan.

Our Asks

Walk Ride Bath and Bristol Cycling Campaign held a meeting with each candidate to discuss our walking, wheeling, and cycling manifesto and our three big asks within it:

  1. Create a yearly £10m Active Travel Challenge Fund, committing £90m until 2030.
  2. Use the Cycle infrastructure design (LTN 1/20) guidance in all WECA does.
  3. Appoint an Active Travel Commissioner

Dan Norris (Labour)

“While I believe each represents a great objective, as I am sure you will understand, I am simply unable to commit to individual policies without knowledge of the full state of WECA’s finances”

See email source below.
  1. Funding: “As MM, I will deliver a new Spatial Plan to create convenient public transport and walking and cycling links and establish a Green Recovery Fund** which will help stimulate walking, wheeling and cycling in WECA.”
  2. Quality: “However, if elected MM, and once aware of the resources available, I would welcome the opportunity to meet both organisations to discuss the application of each ask in more detail.”
  3. Commissioner: Dan made it clear in his meeting that he would ensure somebody is responsible for walking, wheeling, and cycling. He would not commit explicitly to an Active Travel Commissioner.

** From his manifesto, the Green Recovery Fund does not appear to be for active travel. “Tackle the climate emergency and protect nature by creating a £20 million Green Recovery Fund, backing local producers while cutting food miles with an Eat Local campaign, and making the West of England the UK’s Bee Capital.”

Jerome Thomas (Green Party)

  1. Funding: “Yes”
  2. Quality: “Yes, where possible, and working with the challenges of a centuries-old road network where compromise is sometimes necessary.”
  3. Commissioner: “Yes”

Samuel Williams (Conservative)

However, it is important that we take a holistic approach rooted in practical solutions. That is why as West of England Mayor I will not unduly penalise car owners but present a preferable mode of travel.

https://www.samuelwilliams.org.uk/campaigns/transport-connecting-our-region-accessing-opportunity
  1. Funding: Awaiting Answer
  2. Quality: Awaiting Answer
  3. Commissioner: Awaiting Answer

Stephen Williams (Liberal Democrat)

  1. Funding: “I’m expecting central government to roll out substantial sums to combined or local authorities to invest in active travel and I would prepare ambitious plans to win at least the amount you suggest. I’m also committed to having clear funding streams and transparent processes for active travel funding.”
  2. Quality: “I would expect officers to be familiar with the details of the latest technical standards, as mayor it would also be my expectation that we would use them, especially if compliance with them makes it more likely that we will obtain DfT funding for schemes.”
  3. Commissioner: “I have already placed on record my intention to appoint a Cyclists Champion and a Walkers Champion. I am open minded as to how this might work in practice and a single Active Travel Commissioner (especially if Whitehall appoints an all England one) could work. If it is a single commissioner it is important that all modes of active travel get parity of esteem.”

You decide!

Now it’s over to you. Whatever your first and second votes are will directly impact the next 4 years. Looking at the last 4 years, that no matter how you vote, it can only get better hopefully…


SoURCES

Dan Norris – EMAIL

Dear Nicholas,

Further to my previous email, I am writing to respond to the Bristol Cycling Campaign and Walk Ride Bath ‘asks’ and outline my vision for walking, wheeling and cycling in the West of England.

While I believe each represents a great objective, as I am sure you will understand, I am simply unable to commit to individual policies without knowledge of the the full state of WECA’s finances. However, if elected MM, and once aware of the resources available, I would welcome the opportunity to meet both organisations to discuss the application of each ask in more detail.

However, I can assure you I am committed to improving the ease of walking, wheeling and cycling in the region and my manifesto, which will be released in due course, will sketch out my position in more detail. As MM, I will deliver a new Spatial Plan to create convenient public transport and walking and cycling links and establish a Green Recovery Fund which will help stimulate walking, wheeling and cycling in WECA. I also plan to promote walking and cycling by steering the Walking and Cycling Plan to creating safe, convenient, and well advertised walking and cycling routes.

As stated in my previous email, I would like to discuss the above in more detail and await your response to my suggestion for a meeting on Monday morning.

With thanks and warmest regards,

Dan

Dan Norris

West of England Metro Mayor Labour Candidate

www.votedan.uk  

@votedannorris

Stephen Williams – EMAIL

Adam and Nick

I found our conversation this morning very interesting and I hope it was useful to you too.  Here are my short (ss requested!) answers to your questions:

I’m expecting central government to roll out substantial sums to combined or local authorities to invest in active travel and I would prepare ambitious plans to win at least the amount you suggest.  I’m also committed to having clear funding streams and transparent processes for active travel funding.

I would expect officers to be familiar with the details of the latest technical standards, as mayor it would also be my expectation that we would use them, especially if compliance with them makes it more likely that we will obtain DfT funding for schemes.

I have already placed on record my intention to appoint a Cyclists Champion and a Walkers Champion. I am open minded as to how this might work in practice and a single Active Travel Commissioner (especially if Whitehall appoints an all England one) could work.  If it is a single commissioner it is important that all modes of active travel get parity of esteem. 

Best wishes

Stephen

Stephen Williams

MP for Bristol West 2005-15

Jerome Thomas – VIDEO