West of England metro mayor: Meet the candidates for May 2021 elections

west of england metro mayor 2021 candidates
The candidates for West of England Mayor.

The West of England metro mayor heads up the West of England Combined Authority, the post was created in 2017 and this is the second election to the role.

The authority includes three local council areas - Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The Mayor of Bristol and the leaders of the other two councils make up the cabinet.

The West of England Mayor has power and responsibilities in three areas - transport, housing and job creation, they also have a budget of one billion pounds. However, the role mainly focuses on trying to attract investment and attention to the region as well as getting the whole region to work better together.

The mayor is someone who would be based in the region and regularly represent it at Westminster to encourage the Government and businesses to spend money developing the West or creating jobs there.

Tory Tim Bowles was the first person to get the job, having been elected in May 2017, he is standing down so the region will be getting a new mayor in May.

ITV West Country's political correspondent David Wood has been catching up with each of the candidates to find out why they think they're the best person for the job.

Samuel Williams - Conservative

Samuel Williams, Conservative candidate. Credit: Samuel Williams

Samuel Williams will be fighting to keep the mayoralty within the Conservative party as he takes over Tory candidacy from incumbent metro mayor Tim Bowles.

He said he should take up post because he will "drive the region forward" following on from the difficult circumstances of the past year.

He said: "We need someone how is a connector, who is a facilitator, someone who is low bureaucratic but high in collaboration."

Mr Williams is pushing his campaign with the promise of a new 'collaborative growth forum' if he is elected, claiming he will be the conduit for communication between the region and greater powers within central Government.

"What [collaborative growth] will look like is physically bringing together people from across different sectors, so that across sectors we can begin to really understand what the needs of the future will be and how the West of England combined authority can start resourcing and funding those needs."

  • Watch Samuel Williams' full interview

Quick-fire questions

  • Favourite place in the region? There are beautiful views all over... I live in south Bristol and the view from my local park is wonderful

  • Bristol Bears or Bath Rugby? This is difficult! I can't choose.

  • Dream job? To be the mayor of the West of England, absolutely.

  • Prime Minister you have most admired? I talk about being a Conservative of Cameron's era... I'm very passionate about communities being empowered to serve communities so I suppose Cameron was influential in that way.

  • Why should you be elected? We need someone who can lead our region into the fullness of opportunity that there is open to us and I am that leader.

Dan Norris - Labour

Dan Norris, Labour candidate. Credit: Dan Norris

Representing Labour in the metro mayor election for the South West is former MP Dan Norris.

With a history in politics and his roots running through the South West, Mr Norris told ITV News West Country he can be a true voice for the people who live in the region.

He said: "The role is about locality rather than party politics to be frank. I've grown up all my life and worked all my life in the area."

Mr Norris recognises the face of government politics has changed since he was the member of parliament for Wansdyke from 1997 to 2010, but he says being removed from the Westminster bubble is a benefit rather than a disadvantage.

He said: "Being out of politics for a little while has been a really good thing because it's helped me see how the public see politicians and all their shortcomings and failures so I think that's a very good lesson to learn if you've been a politician like I've been."

In terms of changes, Dan Norris said if he were to be elected he would immediately source more for the region both financially and politically.

He said: "I would apply for more powers and more money, because that's the one thing our current Tory metro mayor hasn't done, he's the only metro mayor who doesn't have more powers than when he started."

  • Watch Mr Norris' full interview

Quick-fire questions

  • Favourite place in the region? Hard to say, they're all very lovely! But there's beautiful names like Nempnett Thrubwell and Pucklechurch.

  • Bristol Bears or Bath Rugby? Bears, just!

  • Dream job? I'm sure every candidate will say this, but this is the dream job for me. I love representing the local community.

  • Prime Minister you have most admired? Tony Blair is the best politician I have ever witnessed and ever seen.

Stephen Williams - Liberal Democrat

Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat candidate. Credit: Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams is fighting the corner of the Liberal Democrats in the metro mayor election and despite having just one West Country MP, the party is the largest in the region at local council level.

Mr Williams also has a political past, having served a local councillor and the member of parliament for Bristol West from 2005 to 2015 - the later years of which he spent as communities minister.

On the scope of the job he said: "It's an enormous role it's on a par with the mayor of London and the Mayor of Greater Manchester... what the west needs is a big hitter who can establish themselves on the ground here in the West Country and also be a champion for the region in London."

The South West has fallen behind other regions in the country when it comes to transport infrastructure, and that is something Mr Williams said residents could see an "immediate impact" on if he were to be elected.

He said: "On day one in office I would tell officials to start working on the franchising of all our local bus services. Bristol and Bath have probably got the worst public transport network in the entire country... There are various new railway stations I'd like to open as well, lots of things we can do quite quickly."

  • Watch Stephen Williams' full interview

Quick-fire questions

  • Favourite place in the region? I quite like walking around the centre of Bath, I'm a history buff.

  • Bristol Bears or Bath Rugby? I think that's the equivalent of the City or Rovers question in football! I wish both of our teams well.

  • Dream job? Being Mayor of the West of England, I think it's a job where I could make a huge difference to an area where I've lived all of my adult life.

  • Prime Minister you have most admired? Admiring someone is not necessarily the same as agreeing with everything they did but I think the Prime Minister I admire most is Tony Blair.

Jerome Thomas - Green

Jerome Thomas, Liberal Democrat candidate. Credit: Jerome Thomas

Hoping to make a mark for the Green Party in the metro mayor elections is Bristol's Jerome Thomas.

With a past which involved both politics and business, Mr Thomas said he has the right mix of experience to listen to the needs of the community and make sure they are delivered.

He said: "I'm a local lad, I grew up in Gloucestershire and I've raised my family in Bristol. For the past six years I've been an active councillor and before that I managed to grow a successful business, and as a result of that I've got the right mix of management and leadership skills we need to address the challenges we need to face."

Mr Thomas said the responsibilities that need to be taken on by the new mayor will be integrated with the fight against climate change, and that his entrepreneurial past will lend itself to spotting opportunities for improvement.

Transport is one of the key areas metro mayors have to make changes and improve the region they preside over, but not all the arguments are about upping the routes into our towns and cities. The controversial expansion of Bristol Airport has been debated for years, with many concerned about the damage it could cause to the environment.

Jerome Thomas said: "The key first priority would be making sure the airport expansion is opposed... we've seen national government say that regional airport expansion is not compatible with our climate targets, the Green approach has to make that very clear."

  • Watch Mr Thomas' full interview

Quick-fire questions

  • Favourite place in the region? Taking a bike ride through Bristol into the countryside... it gives you the best combination.

  • Bristol Bears or Bath Rugby? Bristol Bears I'm afraid!

  • Dream job? This would be my dream job - the job my career and my councillor background prepared me for to be the metro mayor.

  • Prime Minister you have most admired? Clement Attlee, he put in place a transition which really favoured the whole of society after the depression of the 1930s.