Cllr Richard Eddy, the Conservative Group leader in Bristol, is hoping for gains with a third of seats up for election in the city where years of mushy Lib Dem/Lab rule has failed the City – especially its schools.
This year's local elections in Bristol represent a great opportunity for the City's Conservatives. A third of the Council seats are up for election (23 out of 70) and the Party has high hopes of benefiting from national disillusionment with Labour and an indecisive local Lib Dem Administration.
Bristol is a great city but has failed to punch its weight and deliver consistent quality services. For three decades, the Labour Party were arrogantly complacent over their right to rule. In May 2003, Labour finally lost its majority but since then we have endured a succession of unstable Lib Dem and Labour minority Administrations.
The present composition of Bristol City Council is 32 Lib Dems, 24 Labour, 13 Tory and 1 Green Councillor. Following the 4th June, there is a strong prospect of Labour being relegated to third poll position and the Conservatives becoming the main Opposition. This is a key staging point in our march back to power at the Council House.
Irrespective of the present economic crisis, there are many problems confronting Bristol today. Conservatives have produced a distinctive and exciting programme for change which has captured the imagination of people on the doorstep and sets us up apart from the other mainstream parties.
On transport, we will ditch the traditional anti-car policies of successive Labour and minority Lib Dem Administrations. For example, we have a clear message of “No Say, No Pay” on the introduction of congestion charging. We are the only political group to publicly pledge to hold a city referendum on the imposition of road tolls – which are actively favoured by both Labour and the Lib Dems.
Similarly, Conservatives oppose the forced introduction of so-called “Residents' Parking Zones.” Labour's imposition of “Pay to Park” pilots have not commanded genuine local support and will do little to solve the problem of commuter parking in the central areas of the city. Such measures will merely displace parking difficulties to areas adjacent to or bordering the planned zone.
Among our proposals to relieve traffic congestion, we will roll-out American-style 'Yellow” school transport across the city. Conservatives saved the initial pilot through our budget amendment three years ago and we know this is a popular policy which commands widespread support from parents and transport campaigners. In addition, we are working to reopen suburban rail stations which have been allowed to fall
Shamefully, Bristol's state secondary schools continue to languish at the bottom of national attainment league tables. To address this failure, Bristol Conservatives have campaigned to set these schools free from the dead hand of the Council's central bureaucracy; delegate more resources to the classroom; and build a new flagship academy to serve communities in the North West of the city.
We are finding our opposition to “Pay as you throw” rubbish charges and call for a return to weekly waste collections in targeted parts of the city to be extremely popular with the electorate. Boosting recycling rates are important but there are problem areas – particularly those with numerous houses of multiple occupation and flats, where fortnightly refuse collections have proved to be a disaster.
With the Labour Party in decline and the Lib Dems in a seemingly perpetual state of confusion, Bristol Conservatives are well placed to make significant gains in June. We have the policies and the people in place to make a real difference to the lives of Bristolians and the way our city is governed. We are endeavouring to ensure that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a break with the past.