Bristol to London (or perhaps not…)

A lot has been said, typed and probably shouted about the idea of elected mayors.

Yesterday we heard from Bristol’s newly elected Mayor and I think people may soon have to eat their words, or, at least, a big slice of humble pie.

I am sure many people will share Mr Ferguson’s apparent frustrations and wish more municipal leaders would “just do it and see how it turns out”. At some point or other I reckon everybody has come face to face with the immovable mountain that is local government bureaucracy. Most of us at have been there, whether it is ordering the replacement wheelie bin, trying to book a swimming lesson or arranging a visit from an Arboreal Officer (ok, that one is a bit random).

But on the face of it Bristol’s new Mayor seems to have some sensible ideas. Parking charges for on-street Sunday parking are going to be abolished, a simple measure that should breathe life into Bristol’s city and town centres as retailers can once again welcome shoppers in their cars without fear of expensive parking or even scarier fines. Mary Portas will be pleased.

Mr Ferguson has also renamed Bristol’s civic headquarters. The Council House has now become the City Hall. This instant rebranding exercise (no scary blue sky thinking here, can anyone remember Consignia?) recognises that the building and those that occupy it work for the city of Bristol, not the elected councillors.

He’s also declared he will take his £51,000 pa salary in Bristol pounds. If you were ever looking for a local fillip for traders, businesses and publicans, look no further.

I realise it is early days for Mr Ferguson but I think this could be the kind of practical, hands on approach the Government must secretly have been praying for. I would not like to see the “let’s just do it” approach applied to everything (think Adult Social Care or Children’s Services) but that’s what council officers will be there to ensure. But if we see the implementation of some level-headed ideas and practical help for Bristol’s residents and businesses alike I think the elected mayor experiment might just be getting interesting…


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