Bristol Council, is currently run by a Lib Dem Administration of 36, with the Conservatives constituting the Official Opposition with 17 Members, Labour holding 16 seats and the Greens having 1 Councillor.
Due to the peculiar cycle of elections which applies in the City – where a third of Council seats are up for election (23 out of 70) annually with one year in four fallow – Conservatives are defending eight wards at a time of great electoral volatility. On the doorstep, we are still finding a great deal of public cynicism directed towards politicians of all persuasions as a direct result of the MPs expenses scandal.
Nevertheless, this factor, combined with the erosion of traditional Party loyalties can also be an opportunity to make the strong Conservative case for change.
Locally, we are campaigning for better public transport options in the city. We have reasserted our commitment to improving Bristol’s suburban railway network and have backed plans for a new Bus Rapid Transit route – a major infrastructure scheme which will run from the northern fringe neighbouring South Gloucestershire to Hengrove in South Bristol.
Of the major Parties, only the Conservatives have consistently fought the prevailing anti-car policies pursued by both Labour and Lib Dem Administrations. We oppose the imposition of congestion charging and this argument is being won nationally with this form of road demand management seemingly having just been abandoned by Government.
Similarly, Lib Dem plans to foist Residents’ Parking Zones in two central areas of the city have been fiercely resisted by Bristol Conservatives. One scheme has subsequently been dropped but the other remains a live issue as it undergoes further statutory public consultation. Unless there is a clear majority of households in favour of this proposal, we will continue to fight ‘pay-to-park pilots.
We have distinctive policies in education. For example, local Conservatives have made the case for a new secondary school to serve parents and pupils in North West Bristol. Demographic changes have resulted in a chronic shortfall of reception places in some parts of the city and this is likely to feed through to secondary levels as these children grow older. The Conservative commitment to free schools from the control of local bureaucracies and the encouraging of parents to set up new schools chimes well with many disillusioned families in Bristol.
One issue likely to develop over the coming months will be the Lib Dem proposal to trial a ‘chip and bin’ incentive scheme designed to reduce the volume of household waste. Unlike other reward-based initiatives which positively encourage recycling, the Bristol bid will utilise the same technology as pay-as-you-throw where households are charged for the amount of residual waste collected. Therefore, there is an obvious danger of an increase in fly-tipping and other anti-social behaviours arising from its adoption. We oppose this flawed model.
The Lib Dems will find that it is an entirely different proposition to defend a record of decision-making from simply carping from the sidelines to attract populist support. Equally, there should be no hope for Labour at any level if they choose to fight the elections on their dire record in office.
Many people are hungry for a clear, coherent message which sets the mainstream parties apart and offers coherent solutions to the economic challenges confronting us. Bristol Conservatives are confident that we offer people the kind of change they can believe in.