On Monday 25th March I was invited to speak at the Bishopston Society Open Meeting about ‘The Future strategy for Bristol and how this might impact on the Gloucester Road and the Bishopston Area’. You can read about my talk on the Bishopston Society Blog
This Friday I’ll be answering questions from the public in the first of my live #askgeorge sessions between 12.15-12.45pm. A journalist from The Evening Post will choose from questions submitted by the public, their readers and Twitter users to make sure we cover a good range of issues. I’d like to encourage people to send me send me a question via twitter (@georgefergusonx) or email your questions to The Post by Thursday 5pm (re: askgeorge). The Post interviewer will independently choose the questions prior to us going on-air and I’ll answer as many as I can during the live webcast at www.bristol.gov.uk/askgeorge.
I won’t know which questions will be asked to keep me on my toes! You’ll be able to watch the recording if you miss the live webcast.
This is part of my desire to be as open and accessible as possible. In December I held my first Cabinet meeting outside City Hall at the Park in Knowle West – this was very successful and attracted a much bigger attendance from the public than usual. I’ve pledged to hold at least six Cabinet meetings a year in various locations across the city.
Earlier this month I also took part in a very lively radio phone-in on BBC Radio Bristol for over an hour. I hope to repeat this again next month. Also in early March I am planning to hold my first public question time session where members of the public will be able to raise issues with me direct. The first one will be here at City Hall, but I hope to stage follow up sessions throughout the city.
The aim of all the events is to hear direct from you – your big ideas for the city, your thoughts about how services could be improved. Together we can make a difference to this great city so do not hold back!
This evening I was honoured to deliver the Inaugural Canynges Society lecture.
The Canynges Society is a charity that raises money for the maintenance of St Mary Redcliffe Church.
Citing past city achievements, I expand on my emerging vision for how we can make Bristol a better place for those who live, work and visit.
I’ll be publishing my major speeches and lectures on my blog site, and you can see the text version of tonight’s lecture here.
Welcome to my blog – part of my promise to be an open, transparent and accountable mayor.
I’ll be using this blog site to give people a better idea of what I’m working on or to explain in greater detail my thinking on an issue. Although I’m relatively new to Twitter, I’ve been greatly impressed by its ability to connect with people and how it enables citizens to give me their feedback! However, there’s only so much you can say in 140 characters so I wanted to add a blog to the way I keep Bristol citizens informed about my progress as their elected mayor. I’ll also open up the two-way exchange of views I’ve been having on Twitter by hosting some city conversations on this blog site in the near future.
So now you can follow me on Twitter @georgefergusonx or leave your email address on this site to get my latest blog posts.
I look forward to sharing information with you and listening to your views.
Unable to draw breath after being elected on Friday Nov 16th, I found myself in the leader’s office the following Monday morning in the re-named City Hall in charge of the city that has given me so much and for which I feel so proud to serve. Just 6 weeks on and I am well under way with plans for the coming three years or so – some more certain to be achieved than others:
Wish 1: To strike a deal with the bus companies to get a better and more affordable service with special deals for young people, disabled and elderly, including journeys before 9am, and implement changes to unsatisfactory Bus Rapid Transport scheme.
Wish 2: Bring 1000’s of new jobs to Bristol by attracting investment and encouraging small firms to grow by breaking down barriers to doing business. I want to see our universities and colleges working closely with industry to create a high skill economy and for our schools to continue to improve standards.
Wish 3: Bristol to become the most welcoming, healthy and caring city, where we all look out for each other and for newcomers, and where we provide good community day care and make a step change in providing affordable housing to rent and buy.
Wish 4: Bristol to be well known across the world and to make sure that by the end of the year we are universally recognized as being a great British city, building on our history, creative industries and green technologies. I want BIG Green Week to be BIG in 2013 and for both our football teams to bounce back!
Wish 5: To make Sundays special by freeing much of the city centre and some of our high streets of cars. I would like to see the streets animated by children playing, pedestrians, considerate cyclists and roller bladers, market stalls and all forms of artistic and family activity.
Wish 6: To work closely with Sue Mountstevens the new Police and Crime Commissioner with the aim of achieving a safer and cleaner city free of street prostitution, drug dealing and other activities that are an affront to decent citizens.
Wish 7: A ‘rainbow’ Cabinet that better reflects the democratic will of the people of Bristol. A three party cabinet is no mean achievement and I look forward to working closely with Cllrs Geoff Gollop, Gus Hoyt and Simon Cook and two elected Youth Mayors to achieve great things in the face of a huge financial challenge.
First Cabinet meeting at The Park Centre in Knowle.
If you look back just over six months to the referendum on whether or not Bristol should even have an elected Mayor, there were all sorts of scare stories about how it would cost the earth. The people of Bristol saw through that, and made us the only city to vote in that referendum to switch from having a Council Leader chosen from amongst the 70 councillors by their colleagues, into having a Mayor elected directly by the public. The rest is history!
I do want to be able to reassure people though that the runaway cost nightmare is nonsense, so let’s talk facts.
I don’t set my salary. It is recommended by an independent panel of experts giving their advice on what is reasonable and voted on by the Council members. They recommended the same as an MP – that is £65,700, about one third of that of the previous Chief Executive. To start with I’m paid £52,474 – exactly the same, to the penny, as the Council Leader who came before me who’s responsibilities were considerably less. I have agreed to take my salary in Bristol Pounds – which means that every penny of my wages will be spent in local shops, bars and restaurants, employing local people, not in multiple-national chain stores which take all their profits out of the city.
Maybe I’ll be appointing a big entourage of support staff on the rates? No – one new staff member actually, directly helping me develop the initiatives and partnerships on which I was elected. She’ll be helping me out, alongside the existing Personal Assistant I’ve inherited from the former Council Leader. This compares rather favourably with the three members of staff who work for the Liberal Democrat councillors, the three for Labour, and the two for the Conservatives.
My sole new staff member is an independent person, who’s never been a member of a political party. Her skills and professional career background are in building initiatives and partnerships – because those are my values, and that is what I want to achieve as Mayor.
The workload may mean that I shall in due course need to appoint a second person to help out – but not if it ends up meaning it costs more having a Mayor than what we had before.
Will I be splashing more cash on extra payments to councillors then, to help oil the wheels with taxpayers’ hard-earned money? Wrong again! I don’t set these payments to councillors either – but I do control how many people I appoint to my cabinet, each entitled to an extra £20,065 each. Before I took office, there were 7 cabinet members – but I’m only appointing a maximum of six (and currently only 3 since one party very publicly turned me down). That’s at least one extra saving of £20,065/year because we have me as Mayor. While there remain vacancies in the cabinet there will be a further saving of up to £60,000 some of which may be used to cover the expenses of advisors and Youth Mayors.
Will I be having a chauffeur driven car then? A clothes allowance? Travelling in first class train carriages? No – none of it! I might take an occasional taxi when rushing around to meetings, or upgrade seats at my own expense in order to be able to work, but you are far more likely to see me on foot, on my bike, or in my own personal little electric powered Smart car. When I go to London by train to persuade ministers to give more to Bristol, I travel second class, off-peak where possible, and save the city money by using my senior railcard!
When I stayed over in London for the night last week to cram in more meetings, I stayed at my daughter’s home, rather than run up a hotel bill. I am serious when I say that I will look after tax-payer’s money as carefully as we all look after our own. For a day and a half in London, cramming in nine meetings, I cost a grand total of £75.
How about a fancy office, with plush new furniture? No – I’m just using the same modest room in City Hall that the Council Leader has done for years, with the same bog standard office furniture. I’ll also save by using my own personal laptop instead of needing a council computer.
The election must have cost a pretty penny though – doesn’t that mean having a Mayor costs more in running elections? Not if I have my way, no. Earlier in the year, the 70councillors put off having a vote on whether to move away from the expensive system of having elections three years out of every four. They said they wanted to wait till a Mayor was in place, so they could join in that discussion. Well – I’m here now, and I say let’s get on with it and move to all out four-yearly elections. This will mean we’ll have fewer elections saving hundreds of thousands of pounds and an awful lot more stability, and hopefully better government.
Maybe you’ve got the idea by now. With me as Mayor, it costs less.
I am already working hard though at bringing in more money to Bristol. More money in investment and jobs from companies large and small moving here and growing here. And more money in infrastructure investment from Whitehall and Brussels too. This will sometimes mean bearing the cost of foreign travel – but we don’t achieve valuable inward investment for waiting for it to come to us.
Judge me by what I deliver, not just by ill-informed speculation, cheap jibes or lazy rumour when the simple facts tell a very different story.
I’m your Mayor. I work for you. That’s my word, and you can hold me to it.