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Where local election candidates stand on the big issues

We’ve trawled through all the campaign literature so you don’t have to. Here are the candidates’ key policies on the most important issues facing the city.

Local Elections 2021

Bristol goes to the polls on Thursday to elect a new mayor, 70 councillors, the Mayor for the West of England and a new police and crime commissioner. 

During the election campaign, we asked Bristol Cable readers what issues they care about the most. Your responses shaped the Bristol Cable Citizens’ Agenda, a list of eight top priorities for action in the city. 

Since then, our journalists have been digging into where the political parties stand on issues such as housing, transport and the environment. Below is a summary of what the candidates say on the big issues, in their manifestos and during hustings and interviews, to help you consider who you want to vote for on Thursday.

Make housing affordable

The biggest issue for most people is the affordability of housing – both for renters and those trying to buy their first home.

Readers called for rent controls and protections for renters, greater requirements on developers to build affordable housing rather than luxury flats, the power of landlords to be more regulated, and the council to use empty properties for affordable housing. 

Other issues mentioned include the need for more council housing and improvements to older council properties, the cost of the recent cladding falling on leaseholders and the need to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

Labour’s Mayor Marvin Rees has led his re-election campaign with his record on housing, saying the council, under his watch, has built 9,000 new homes, tripled affordable house building, and cut rough sleeping by 80%. But last year he came under fire after missing the target to build 800 affordable homes annually by 2020. 

This time, Rees is pledging to build 2,000 new homes annually, including at least 1,000 that are affordable, by 2024. At a mayoral hustings on housing, he claimed the number of new council homes by 2025 will in fact be about 1,000, once those bought from other developers  via ‘Section 106’ agreements are included.

Earlier this year, the Labour administration froze council rents, which critics said would hamper the council’s ability to build new council homes. But Rees told Bristol Unpacked the one year freeze would not impact the future housebuilding. 

“We know that rent arrears have been increasing, so we know people are struggling to pay their rent,” he said. “We also know that there’s been a very strong move in the city asking for rent controls; in that sense we need to set an example.”

Labour are also pledging to improve the support available for homeless people, build low-carbon homes in places such as Western Harbour, Temple Meads, Bedminster and Frome Gateway, protect and expand the landlord licensing scheme, and campaign for the power to introduce rent controls.

Sandy Hore-Ruthven, the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, has pledged to invest £500 million in building 2,000 new council homes by 2030 – an increase on Rees’s plan – and retrofitting existing ones to make them energy-efficient. However, a report for the council, by consultants Savills, underlines the scale of Hore-Ruthven’s housing challenge, warning that a £20,000 energy-efficiency investment in each of the council’s 27,000 homes could wipe out its reserves by 2030. 

He has since acknowledged that the council will require government cash to achieve this, and remained realistic about how much of an impact the council can have. “We can’t sugar-coat [that this] is not something we can resolve tomorrow, next year, probably even this decade,” he said during a housing hustings.

The Greens’ manifesto includes pledges to eliminate street homelessness, make more public land available for community-led housing projects, enforce a minimum number of affordable units in housing developments, campaign to end right-to-buy, and for the power to introduce rent controls.

Lib Dem candidate Caroline Gooch said one of her priorities is to tackle homelessness, and provide sustainable and affordable housing, but the Lib Dem manifesto doesn’t include affordable housing targets.

On housebuilding, the Lib Dems policies include requiring all new housing developments to include a range of new trees, forcing developers to maximise the level of social housing, and using compulsory purchase powers to deal with empty properties.

Other pledges were to strengthen landlord licensing, introduce a credit rating system for reliable renters, promote the Housing First model to tackle long term homelessness, and offer greater consultation to local residents on the plans for the Cumberland Basin – with a view to protecting local green space.

Conservative mayoral candidate Alastair Watson said he would focus more on getting the private sector to build affordable housing, rather than council housing or through housing associations, like the current administration. He also said there would be a particular focus on affordable housing for key workers.

He has not given a specific target on housebuilding, but said he would build “a lot”.

Watson said at a hustings on housing he was “very taken” with the concept of Housing First for tackling homelessness, and that it would be a “priority for funding”. At the same hustings, Watson admitted he did not know what no-fault ‘Section 21’ evictions were.

Read more on housing

Address the climate crisis

A number of readers described the climate crisis as the issue that “trumps” everything else. There was a clear sense that some readers could not see enough meaningful action from the council to match the declaration of the climate emergency in 2018, and pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030. 

A particular concern was the expansion of Bristol Airport, and the mayor not being strong enough in opposing it. Other priorities mentioned were replacing cars with greener transport, retrofitting housing to make it more energy efficient, supporting households and businesses to decarbonise, food sustainability, green jobs, renewable energy, and investment in fossil fuels by the Avon Pension Fund.

Marvin Rees has pledged to invest £1m in clean energy through the City Leap programme, as well as growing sustainable food in every ward. He has also pledged to double the tree canopy over the next 25 years, retrofit council housing to make it more energy efficient, and dedicate 30% of the council’s land to nature.

Rees told Bristol Unpacked that Bristol’s target to be a carbon neutral city by 2030 was “massively challenging” but necessary. “I’m confident we’re going to do everything possible to meet that target; it will focus minds,” he said. “We need the government to frontload investment in green infrastructure, in order for cities to deliver, so I’m confident we’re doing everything we can to get there, but we know it’s a massively challenging target.

“For me, environmental justice cannot be separated from racial justice. The people who get hit the hardest by environmental destruction look like me and my dad, come from poorer backgrounds.” 

At a climate hustings, Rees twice declined to oppose or support the expansion of Bristol Airport. He said: “This is an issue between North Somerset Council and the Secretary of State. I don’t think the airport is the right question, it’s about reducing the carbon emissions of flying. Journeys to and from airports are important, lots of people travel to airports in the south east. Reducing air miles, and making aircraft greener, are the issues.”

The party’s candidate for Metro Mayor, Dan Norris, said he would establish a Green Recovery Fund, which will create 23,000 new jobs. “I want to see serious investment in home retrofitting, tree-planting, flood and drought defences, and renewable energy,” he said.

Hore-Ruthven’s manifesto argues that it was Green councilors who led the charge for Bristol’s declaration of climate emergency, and that a Green mayor would ‘accelerate’ Bristol’s path to net zero. 

He has pledged to create 10,000 new green jobs in Bristol by retrofitting all 27,000 council homes in the city and investing in renewable energy systems. While making the case for public investment, he has said that this infrastructure should be developed in partnership with the private sector, and that ‘speed is more essential than public ownership.’

He said, during the climate hustings, he was against the expansion of Bristol Airport, because we need to send a clear message to the aviation industry that we need to tackle our carbon emissions, and won’t expand aviation until we find a solution. He also said he would put forward a motion for Avon Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels. 

Green Party metro mayor candidate, Jerome Thomas, said he would lobby the national government for tax reforms to support the growth of green jobs. His manifesto – a Green New Deal for the West of England – also includes green jobs as a priority.

The Lib Dems have committed to making Bristol carbon neutral by 2030. Mayoral candidate Caroline Gooch said they would invest in hydrogen technology for public transport, and redirect road building plans to make segregated cycle lanes, and other cycling infrastructure, more possible.

Environmentalists, economists, and legal experts have drafted a Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill designed to limit global temperature rises, and involve citizens in a just transition. Gooch has pledged to work to make the Bill law. 

She said she was against airport expansion, supports a frequent-flyer tax, and wants to work on hydrogen aviation as a greener alternative. She added she wanted the Avon Pension Fund to be investing in green initiatives, not fossil fuels, and would push them to divest, and invest in the hydrogen economy.

The Lib Dem manifesto includes pledges to plant ten million trees over the next twenty years, establish a citizen’s climate assembly to make recommendations on how best to tackle green issues in the city, and develop opportunities for hydro-power from the Floating Harbour and tidal lagoons in the Severn Estuary. Other policies include working with local energy cooperatives to invest in more renewable energy production for Bristol, and a green investment bank to help fund green projects.

The Lib Dem WECA candidate, Stephen Williams, said: “I would set up a centre of excellence for green technology, bringing together our four universities and leading world-class companies, to innovate together to design those products of the future, and put together training packages so people will be equipped for those green jobs.

“Most of our carbon emissions come from our homes, so I want to make sure all new homes, which are needed to deal with the housing crisis, are built to the highest possible environmental standards.”

Speaking on Bristol Unpacked, Alastair Watson, said he’s been “an environmentalist for decades”, has solar panels on his house, and drives an electric car. Despite this, Watson said, at a recent hustings, that the conservative group has not set specific targets to address climate change. He said that the net zero by 2030 ambition was ‘out of reach’ and that ‘enormous’ sums of money would be wasted. 

He has said it is only going to be the central government who can make us net zero carbon by 2030, but some of the government’s green schemes around insulation have not been good enough.

At a climate hustings, he said that although he has given up air travel himself, and the government needs to look at charging frequent flyers, he neither supports nor opposes the expansion of Bristol Airport.

Samuel Williams, the Conservatives’ prospective metro mayor, said: “It is important we invest in low-carbon construction for new buildings, and retrofit current properties. I will prioritise the regeneration of brownfield sites, making the most of our underused spaces.”

Read more on the climate crisis

Improve public transport

Bristol’s buses were highlighted as not sufficiently affordable, reliable, or well-connected to be a good choice for getting around the city. Some suggested the bus network should be brought under council control.

Many called for a greater investment in public transport, helping to reduce traffic and reliance on cars, as well as ensuring public transport options are green and less polluting. Investing in supporting active travel, like cycling and walking, was mentioned by many as a way they wanted to see public transport improved.

Labour’s headline transport pledge is the mass transit system, including underground, overground, rail and segregated bus lines. The council has recently released more detail about the plans, which could cost £4 billion, but it remains unclear when this would become a reality. 

Marvin Rees told Bristol Unpacked: “We need a chapter change in the public transport offering for Bristol, to give a viable alternative to private cars. We should have done it years ago.” He added the mass transit system was achievable, that the finance and engineering has been confirmed, and different options are being considered with the Department for Transport. 

Marvin Rees has also pledged to double the frequency, and improve the reliability of Bristol’s buses, through the Bus Deal. Most power over transport lies with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). Labour candidate Dan Norris is the only candidate to have not signed up to franchise bus services (bringing services under local control) or at least look into it if elected. 

Other transport pledges from Labour include a one-touch integrated ticketing system across different modes of transport, like there is in London, free travel for apprentices and students under-25, expanding electric car infrastructure, and continuing to invest in making all of the city’s buses powered by biogas.

Green mayoral candidate Sandy Hore-Ruthven said we can’t wait 15 years or more for the mass transit system, so we need to invest more in public transport services now. 

His campaign pledges include half price bus travel for young people under the age of 21, introducing corporate work-place parking levies for large businesses, and bringing back car-free Sundays. Their manifesto also has the ambition to make Bristol a 15-minute city, with everything you need nearby, thereby reducing the need for travel. 

Hore Ruthven has announced plan to scrap the South Bristol Ring Road, and repurpose £200 million of funding for road-building to invest in new cycle lanes, walking routes and public transport.

At a mayoral hustings, Hore-Ruthven said: “Public transport should be publicly owned. Franchising is not the best option.” However, the Green metro mayor candidate, Jerome Thomas, has signed up to ACORNs demand to franchise the buses – which would give the council more control over services.

Stephen Williams said Bristol and the region suffered the “worst public transport system” in the country and had “stood still for two decades” while other areas had much better suburban rail and bus networks.

“Hardly anything new has happened apart from metrobus, which runs along three routes, so we need a transport revolution in the region,” he said.

“I want to take up the power of bus franchising, so we can say to any operator ‘these are our terms and conditions if you want to operate in a highly profitable part of the country’ “.

Mayoral candidate Carline Gooch has also said she would invest in decarbonising buses, using hydrogen technology, increase the number of park and rides, and repurpose multi-storey car parks for electric vehicle charging, 

The Lib Dems’ manifesto also includes pledges to set up a sustainable transport forum, create a young people’s bus pass (5-25yrs) to give all young people reduced bus fares, integrate public transport services to make it easier for commuters to switch between modes of transport, as well as a smart ticketing system – the Brunel card.

Conservative candidate Alastair Watson said he will work with the metro mayor to deliver more rail links, better bus services, and improved infrastructure for active travel. Speaking to Bristol Unpacked, he described the idea of a Bristol underground as “bonkers” and “completely unachievable”. He said mass transit was needed and the rail networks needed to get going again.

Conservative candidate for metro mayor, Samuel Wiliams, has said he will look into franchising the buses, in response to campaigning by community union ACORN.

Read more on transport

Reduce air pollution

Air pollution was a big concern for readers, and the related issue of feeling like the city is dominated by cars. Multiple people mentioned the link with inequality, as the poorest are often those living with the worst air quality and poor transport links. Pollution was of particular concern in areas being redeveloped. 

Lots of people mentioned the Clean Air Zone, but also asked about exemptions for people who need to drive, and called for more action on reducing cars in other areas, and tackling particulate pollution from sources such as wood burning stoves. Several readers mentioned the opportunity that Covid presented, but that the council had been too slow to tackle air pollution.

During Marvin Rees’s time in office, the council has finalised plans to bring in a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charging private and commercial vehicles that are more polluting. The zone in the city centre, which will come in from October, is expected to bring pollution down to legal levels by 2023. 

During the pandemic, the council has also experimented with restricting through traffic in certain areas, such as Bristol Bridge, the Old City and some of Baldwin Street. The council has also been consulting on making changes to access of certain roads across the city, but pedestrianising St Marks Road in Easton will not happen after local backlash.

On restricting cars, Labour’s manifesto pledges are to roll out at least two Liveable Neighbourhood pilots, which will get surplus funding from the CAZ, and expand the School Streets project to more primary schools. The party has also pledged to double the tree canopy over the next 25 years.

The Greens have pledged to implement the Clean Air Zone and Liveable Neighbourhood schemes, to ensure that no planning applications would make air pollution worse, to provide more funding for local communities to monitor air pollution, and to oppose all major new road-building schemes. At the climate hustings, Sandy Hore-Ruthven said he supported the CAZ, but asked for it about four years ago. 

The Greens would also introduce a workplace parking levy for large businesses, and reinvest income into public transport, an idea that was recently voted down by councillors. 

Their manifesto also includes promoting car sharing, reducing the number of public car-parking spaces in the city centre, continuing to install electric-vehicle charging-points, and reintroducing car-free Sundays.

The Lib Dems have said they would implement the Clean Air Zone, pedestrianise parts of the city, and introduce a workplace parking levy. Their manifesto also includes pledges to switch all taxis and private hire vehicles away from diesel and petrol before 2030, and promote hydrogen technology for public transport vehicles.

Other pledges include expanding provision of shared car schemes, planting ten million trees over the next twenty years, and requiring all new housing developments to include a range of new trees to support biodiversity.

The Conservative manifesto said they support clean air for Bristol but believe that the current proposals from the council are flawed. Mayoral candidate Alastair Watson has said that the Portway should be removed from the Clean Air Zone, to avoid “cutting the city in two”. He said he would lobby the government to do so.

Read more on air pollution

Protect green spaces

Concerns about loss of green spaces and the natural environment in Bristol came up again and again. Readers highlighted the importance of free urban green spaces as important for people’s physical and mental health, as well as for biodiversity and absorbing air pollution. Many also demanded an end to the felling of urban trees.

Many people said green spaces should not be sacrificed to urban developments, e.g. the proposed housing development on the Western Slopes in Knowle West. Many people also said existing green spaces should be better funded and protected, in particular parks. Many people also raised concerns about fly-tipping and litter as issues affecting their local environment.

Labour’s Marvin Rees has pledged to create 80 hectares of wetlands through a multimillion pound flood defence scheme, dedicate 30% of council land to nature, and to double Bristol’s canopy by 2045 by planting 60,000 trees. But the council has also been criticised for not protecting trees and green spaces threatened by new housing developments.

Labour’s manifesto also includes rolling out a programme to make it easier for people in flats to recycle, increasing the number of bins in each community, and increasing the number of fly-tipping and litter enforcement officers deployed across Bristol.

Marvin Rees told a climate hustings that increasing space for nature from 15 to 30% would be “not easy”, but it would be at the forefront of the council’s mind in the local plan. On the balance between building new houses and protecting green spaces, he said: “Higher density living in the middle of cities on brownfield sites is one of the principles we need to put in place.”

Green candidate Sandy Hore-Ruthven has pledged to double Bristol’s tree canopy by 2040. He has said he would support rewilding, ringfence current maintenance budgets for Bristol’s green spaces, and take a stance against allowing commercial billboard advertising in parks.

The manifesto also includes pledges to increase green space in public places in Bristol through living roofs, and create a network of wildlife corridors, using parks, streets and gardens. 

At a hustings on climate, Hore-Ruthven said we need to build more densely, use brownfield sites, and ensure new housing developments see a net gain in biodiversity. He said what was needed was to “make our whole city an ecosystem that is encouraging wildlife and biodiversity rather than killing it off”.

The Lib Dems have pledged to create a “living garden” along the M32, and invest £19 million in children’s play parks in Bristol. They say they would also offer greater consultation with residents over controversial plans to revamp the Cumberland Basin, with a view to protecting green spaces. 

Mayoral candidate Caroline Gooch has said all new housing developments would include green spaces and trees, as well as protecting mature trees. Other policies include litter-picking schemes to help wildlife, a citizens’ climate assembly, expanding recycling to cover soft plastics, supporting community farms, and helping community projects to minimise food waste.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto for Bristol includes commitments to protect the environment by safeguarding green-belt land, expanding allotment provision, and cracking down on litter with “strategically located bins and more litter police to fine those that pollute our city”.

Mayoral candidate Alastair Watson said he would like to see park budgets restored, and would ensure new developments also include green spaces. “We don’t want a high rise in the Cumberland Basin for example. We don’t want to be too densely packed in, which means people need to live further out and travel in and out of the city.” He accused Marvin Rees of not consulting enough with communities about developments

Read more on green spaces

Strengthen local democracy

Many readers said they are sceptical of how the mayoral system is working in Bristol, raising concerns that the role is too powerful, and not sufficiently collaborative with councillors. Lack of transparency around decision making was another concern raised, with concerns about accountability, especially around “fiascos” like Bristol Energy.

Following the recent protests in Bristol, many also wanted to know how peaceful protest would be protected in the future.

Bristol City Council has been experimenting with democratic engagement, running the city’s first ever citizens’ assembly, as 60 Bristol residents came together to make recommendations on the climate, transport and health. 

However, both the mayoral system and Marvin Rees’ management style have come under fire from current and retiring councillors, particularly recently during a row over the decision to freeze rents for council tenants.

Asked on Bristol Unpacked if he is an “egoist”, Rees said: “I don’t think that’s the way people in the city have experienced me over the last 20 years.” He also denied the charge that he is a bully. “No, I’m not a bully,” he said. 

Rees also said that Bristol now has “the most inclusive and diverse political leadership the city has ever known”. “The danger is that goes unappreciated,” he added. “Sometimes that stuff is cast aside as a ‘nice to have’ by people who don’t understand representation.”

He also said the mayoral model is more democratic than the leader of the party being the council leader, because they’re directly elected by the people of Bristol. “The council in and of itself has been a democratically broken organisation in the city for a long time,” he said.

The Greens have promised they would redistribute power held by the mayor, if Sandy Hore-Ruthven is elected. Their manifesto proposes various measures to increase the say that councillors have, increase scrutiny of major decisions, and continue work on citizens’ assemblies and other ways to involve local people more in council democracy.

Their manifesto says they would hold a referendum on whether to scrap the Bristol mayor if enough signatures are gathered, appoint a cross-party cabinet, where all parties with over seven councillors are represented, make sure the mayor commits to being bound by any decision of Full Council that is passed by a three-quarters majority, and boost the role of the Youth Council to give young people more of a voice.

Lib Dem candidate Caroline Gooch would hold a referendum on whether to scrap the position of mayor if she is elected, because she believes too much power is given to one person. 

The Lib Dem manifesto lists numerous ways to devolve power to councillors and increase scrutiny of council business, lobby the government to allow Bristol’s next elections to have proportional representation, and for the voting age to be reduced to 16. They also want to hold more citizens’ assemblies, and re-establish Neighbourhood Partnerships as a precursor to moving to new Neighbourhood Councils, where communities want them.

Gooch said:The people of Bristol should be empowered to make decisions for the city, not sidelined and disregarded. The mayoral system is unnecessary, and it has failed us.”

The Tory mayoral candidate, Alaistair Watson, told Bristol Unpacked that Bristol doesn’t need a mayor anymore, and pledged to hold a referendum in 2023 on abolishing the position. 

“I don’t think George [Ferguson] nor Marvin have really respected the role of how council members work,” he said. “I really don’t think Marvin thinks councillors can help, unless they’re in his cabinet and are his handpicked people.”

The Conservatives have pointed to what they see as wasteful spending on big projects, and the running of the mayor’s office. They also say the mayor’s power means crises were allowed to happen, including wasting £50 million a piece on Bristol Energy and refurbishing Bristol Beacon.

Read more on democracy

Enable active travel

Lots of readers mentioned the need to make Bristol a less car-centric city in order to enable walking and cycling, but also just make the city a nicer place to live. 

Some people described cycling as unpleasant or intimidating at best, and dangerous at worst. Many called for greater cycling infrastructure, as current cycle lanes aren’t segregated, and often are full of potholes and parked cars. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were mentioned as a good way to reduce the dominance of cars outside the city centre, while other suggestions included financial support to get people from poorer areas cycling, and car sharing schemes. 

Readers mentioned pavement parking as a real problem, particularly for people with mobility issues and parents with buggies.

On restricting cars in certain areas in order to enable cycling and walking, Labour have committed to rolling out at least two Liveable Neighbourhood pilots later this year. They have begun consulting on changes to 12 roads across the city, which could include making them access only to cars, changing the road layout, making pavements wider, or bringing in new bike lanes. The pedestrianisation of St Marks Road in Easton was recently ruled out after consulting residents, while parts of Cotham Hill have been closed to cars in a temporary scheme, which could become permanent. 

Labour’s manifesto pledges also include more on-street bike hangars throughout the city, and expanding the School Streets project to more primary schools (seven this September) so fewer parents drive their children to school. 

Subject to more funding, Labour have committed to Bristol Cycling Campaign’s demand to start implementing the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), incorporating the improvements suggested by the campaign, with three key strategic routes completed by 2024.

On pavement parking, Bristol City Council has said it is outside the limits of the council’s legal powers, and requires police enforcement. 

The Greens have said their aim is to create a ’15 minute city’, where “all your basics are close by, you don’t need to get into a car”. 

Their manifesto includes pledges to reintroduce car-free Sundays, reduce the number of public car-parking spaces in the city centre, introduce more residential parking zones, and campaign for the government to end pavement parking. They have pledged to improve the quality of cycle routes in the city, including a network of dedicated cycle lanes, push for more funding for cycling infrastructure from WECA, and increase bike-parking.

Sandy Hore-Ruthven told a hustings on active travel: “I would work with WECA to repurpose the hundreds of millions of pounds that have been allocated to the four miles of the South Bristol Ring Road that cuts through our greenbelt and put it instead into public transport, cycling and walking routes.”

He said he would increase the number of low-traffic neighbourhoods, close Prince Street Bridge to traffic, and expand the School Streets programme started under Labour.

The Lib Dems have said they would pedestrianise, with local consent, the city centre, Clifton Village and other suitable areas, and invest in new cycle routes, prioritising segregated routes as part of a joined up network. 

They have also pledged to set up a Sustainable Transport Forum, expand the council’s bike hangar scheme, direct money from road building plans to active travel and public transport, and increase the number of residential parking zones. 

Metro mayor candidate Stephen Williams’s manifesto says he would appoint a cyclists’ and walkers’ champion to give advice on how to make the West of England an exemplar region for both cyclists and walkers, join up existing cycle paths, pay particular attention to fixing potholes on roads often used by cyclists, and work with the police to address enforcement of parking infringements that block cycle routes and pavements.

The Tories have also pledged to improve cycling and walking provision, while recognising that “car travel remains important for many”. Their manifesto also says they would clamp down on pavement parking, and develop a ring of park and ride facilities around the city to reduce traffic.

Mayoral candidate Alastiar Waston has said he would work more closely with the regional mayor on transport. He did not respond to Bristol Cycling Campaign’s pledges. 

Read more on active travel

Fight inequality

Lots of readers said economic inequality was a big concern – the gap between the rich and the poor, and the number of people with low paid or insecure jobs. Many said Covid-19 had shed new light on how we live in an unequal city, in terms of wealth, education and health. 

Support for people in and out of work was a central theme – from becoming a Living Wage city, to piloting Universal Basic Income. Some people also spoke about some areas of the city feeling neglected, being affected by gentrification and needing greater investment. 

Readers also mentioned other types of inequality and discrimination as a problem, from racism to homophobia and disability rights.

Labour’s manifesto includes pledges to implement “community wealth building” strategies to ensure a “fair and equitable” distribution of wealth, expand its apprenticeship scheme, increase jobs and training in the green and low-carbon sectors, and “maximise” assistance for local residents facing redundancy.

Labour would tackle food inequality by encouraging local food production in every ward, and close the digital divide by distributing new or refurbished laptops to children who need them, improve digital connectivity in deprived areas with free broadband hotspots and distribution of digital hardware.

Other pledges include lobbying the government to allow Bristol to pilot a safe drug consumption room, investing more in parks, expanding the community toilet scheme and introducing an app with locations.

Marvin Rees has said Labour would launch a Disability Equality Commission, which would look at disability equality in a similar way to Bristol’s Women’s Commission and the Commission on Race and Equality. Their manifesto also promises to commission a Mayoral Equalities Report to look in to and address LGBT+ discrimination in Bristol. 

On economic inequality, the Greens have pledged to lobby the government with a proposal to set up a pilot of Universal Basic Income, and set up a maximum pay ratio for the council and council-owned companies

Their manifesto also includes pledges to support Bristol’s work in becoming a city free from any form of gender-based violence, abuse, harassment or exploitation, tackle discrimination of transgender people with trans-inclusive council funding policies, and support provision of LGBT+ venues. They would invest in specific services for marginalised groups, such as mental health services, homelessness shelters and domestic violence refuges.

The Lib Dems support a Universal Basic Income pilot scheme and would lobby the government for the powers to bring one in, and work with other core cities to push the idea forward. They also support the idea of trialling a safe drug consumption room in the city. 

Caroline Gooch has been outspoken about how they would tackle the issue of council support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Parents have been particularly critical of the council’s failings over the past five years. The party’s manifesto includes policies on how to improve mental health services, public health, support for older people, and how to improve education for young people. 

The Conservative manifesto doesn’t directly address the issue of inequality, but does pledge to invest in and protect local facilities. They point to public toilets, libraries and children centres that have had funding cut under Labour (although this is a result of the council’s funding from central government being cut dramatically since 2010).

Promises include investment in libraries, secondary shopping centres to encourage local shopping, improve public toilet provision across the city, reversing Labour’s cuts to this, and a fairer distribution of funding across different communities in the city.

Read more on inequality

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