So what do we need to see in Bristol to secure sustainable, fairly distributed, economic growth which works for people, protects the environment and gives us hope for our children’s futures?
We need a fully living wage and an end to zero hours contracts. Plus decent terms and conditions, training for the jobs of the 21st century and a benefits and tax credit system which truly helps people to make the transition or keeps them afloat when they can’t work. The Tories say they want work to pay more than benefits – well, I agree, but I think the way to do this is to make work pay, not cut help for people when they desperately need it. Tax credits were a brilliant idea for helping get people into work and not leave them short of money – the Tory0Libdem government is wrong to cut them without doing anything to raise wages. I want to see the Living Wage and above throughout Bristol and the UK – because it really is time we stopped subsidising businesses who don’t pay their staff enough to live on.
We need a transport system which is efficient and carbon neutral
Bristol’s roads are clogged, the cycle lanes, whilst welcome (and I use them every day) have large stretches of extreme peril, our urban railway is only OK and has huge gaps, our buses are getting better and more affordable but are still pumping out Nitrous Oxidewhich has consequences for health and we are far too dependent on petrol driven cars for this green Labour soul. Our transport lead on the council is doing his best but it needs more steer and support form government. Green Capital is so far under-impressive as an initiative, the Henbury Loop needs re-opening (as does Ashley station) and we urgently need to get the Bristol Oyster card going.
We need to invest in our children’s futures – education for the jobs of the 21st century
I recently met up with one of the people at Bristol City Council who is working on the new economic hub to be set up around Temple meads over the next two decades. The jobs will be in digital, technological and creative industries but they will be of a wide variety – and we don’t know what they will be. So many of today’s jobs didn’t exist even a generation ago – it’s just the same now, perhaps faster. This means encouraging our children to consider science, technology, engineering, design, languages as subjects which can equip them with the knowledge they need for the jobs of the future. If we want local industries to employ local young people we need to make sure they have the skills – wouldn’t it be great if the factory in 2020 producing the parts for the renewable energy of the 2020s was employing young people from Lawrence Hill, from Southmead, from Redcliffe, from Hartcliffe? then we need to get the 5 year olds of today enthusiastic about science and engineering. Otherwise the jobs will go to the young people from elsewhere.
We need to reform the Local Economic Partnership (LEP)
The LEP replaced the old Regional Development Authority. Neither were without fault, but the current set-up of LEPs is opaque and not as well focussed as Bristol needs it to be. Bristol LEP recently wrote its strategy and whilst there are lots of commendable aims, there isn’t anything in there about reducing inequality or eliminating poverty, no clear vision for how we are going to equip the young people from across Bristol to get the training for the high skilled jobs of the future. There is also a democratic deficit in the LEP structure which needs addressing.
I’m not waiting till next year, I’m already working with our Labour MPs, MEP, councillors and parliamentary candidates to get all these things changed.