Mayor of Bristol election: Meet the candidates

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Four of the candidates for Mayor of Bristol.

The Mayor of Bristol is the most powerful person in local government, with a budget of nearly £400 million to spend on local issues.

Issues the mayor has authority over include setting the cost of council tax (within restrictions set by government), public transport, infrastructure of roads, council housing and social care.

Incumbent mayor Marvin Rees, standing again for Labour, has held the position since May 2015 when he knocked independent George Ferguson from the job.

Two of the candidates in the race for the job hope they will be the last mayor the city of Bristol elects - as they both hope to hold a referendum to abolish the position if they are successful.

There are nine candidates in the running for the position and you can find a full list of them at the bottom of this article.

Marvin Rees - Labour

Marvin Rees, Labour candidate. Credit: Marvin Rees

Marvin Rees made history when he was elected to office almost five years ago, becoming the first mayor of a major European city from black African descent.

Mr Rees worked for international development and social justice organisations as a young adult before finding his feet in politics through a Labour Future Candidate scheme.

He says his track record as the city's mayor is a good one and that under his leadership there has been tangible change.

Mr Rees says: "[We were] the first administration to really grab the transport challenge by the scruff of the neck, bringing forward biogas buses, bus prioritisation. I think what we've brought to Bristol is a healthy combination of ambition - look at us going for Channel 4 - but also with compassion - we've made sure children are fed, we've tackled period poverty, taken care of kids in the care system."

However Mr Rees admits it hasn't all been plain sailing as the target to build 2,000 new homes a year, 800 of which classed as 'affordable', has been missed. He attributes the difficulty of achieving the numbers set out to a mixture of Brexit and Covid saying it "adds complications to the supply chain".

The next goal for the Labour candidate is to get the high streets back on track after one of the hardest years they've ever faced.

"Getting money out to those businesses to support them, that is the immediate challenge."

Quick-fire questions

  • Where is your favourite place in Bristol?

I always found the top of Cabot Tower very liberating. Also the doorsteps of people who have new homes, that is an incredible feeling to stand with someone in the doorway.

  • Bristol Rovers or Bristol City?

Bristol Bears, and I love all football clubs

  • What is your dream job?

This [Mayor of Bristol] is it at the moment - I've just wanted to try and make the world fairer whether it's through community development work, the national health service, being mayor, being a journalist, that's what it's been about.

  • Who is the Prime Minister you've most admired?

It's between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, no one is perfect but they both done some phenomenal things.

Alastair Watson - Conservative

Alastair Watson, Conservative candidate. Credit: Alastair Watson

Former Lord Mayor of Bristol Alastair Watson is the Conservative contender for this year's Bristol Mayor race.

Mr Watson has previously served as a councillor for Westbury-on-Trym. He lives in Redland and used to own the former No Man’s Grace restaurant on Chandos Road with his son.

He says it time for a change at City Hall: "I should be mayor because I'm more competent than the one we've got at the moment... I'm genuinely angry with the way things have gone at City Hall over the past few years, the waste, the money that's gone on vanity projects."

Among the changes Mr Watson wants to see over his tenure should he win the votes is to actually scrap the job of mayor all together.

He says: "Here I am going for a job that over the next three years we would like to abolish and bring back some democratic accountability to the role."

Acknowledging the challenge the city is facing to sufficiently house those who live there, Alastair Watson has said housing is a frontrunner when it comes to priorities in office.

He said: "Housing is an issue in all cities, but Bristol in particular... in a way we're a victim of our own success, there are more people wanting to live in Bristol and the population over the next ten years will grow dramatically.

"We're looking at building council houses, which you might think from a Conservative mayor isn't expected."

Quick-fire questions

  • Where is your favourite place in Bristol?

The Harbourside, it's just got everything. History, heritage, bars, restaurants, fun, festivals and rowing - I'm a rower and I like to watch the watersports out there.

  • Bristol Rovers or Bristol City?

Neither I'm afraid - Bristol Bears for me!

  • What is your dream job?

The dream job of running Bristol is absolutely there.

  • Who is the Prime Minister you've most admired?

I've admired them all in different ways, but funnily enough John Major is up there... he's a good ,decent man doing a good, decent job.

Caroline Gooch - Liberal Democrat

Caroline Gooch, Liberal Democrat candidate. Credit: Caroline Gooch

Dr Caroline Gooch, a medical consultant from Sheffield who now lives in Westbury Park, is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats after a last minute change.

Originally supposed to be a behind-the-scenes worker for the Bristol mayoral race, Dr Gooch stepped up to the plate after the previous candidate dropped out of the race.

Like her Conservative opponent, Caroline Gooch is of the belief that the job of Mayor of Bristol should be made redundant with the powerful decisions being made by the people of the city instead.

She says: "The mayoral position allows the mayor to overrule the local councils, even when it's a majority decision. For example with the arena, every single councillor voted for it to be at Temple Meads, but the mayor overruled them."

Making clear that she is not running single policy campaign, Dr Gooch says there is "plenty" on the Liberal Democrat manifesto worth voting for.

To solve the Bristol housing problem she says: "We'd definitely want to have more social housing. When the Liberal Democrats were last in power, before the mayoral position came in, we actually built more houses in our worst year than Marvin Rees or George Ferguson built in their best years. We have a track record of delivering social houses."

Quick-fire questions

  • Where is your favourite place in Bristol?

The Harbourside.

  • Bristol Rovers or Bristol City?

I don't follow football!

  • What is your dream job?

I've always wanted to be a doctor but it's too late for me now! I ended up getting into science instead.

  • Who is the Prime Minister you've most admired?

I think I see the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ahern as doing a really good job, I'd quite like to be like her.

Sandy Hore-Ruthven - Green

Sandy Hore-Ruthven, Green candidate. Credit: Sandy Hore-Ruthven

The Green Party candidate is Sandy Hore-Ruthven, CEO of the Creative Youth Network with a background in outreach and charity work.

Mr Hore-Ruthven has had time to fine tune his manifesto as he was the first of all the candidates to announce he was running back in September 2018.

He says his "economic recovery plan" will help the city bounce back from the challenges it has faced over the past few years, and says he has the experience to back it up.

"I have a good understanding of the city, a good understanding of how to make things work and get big projects off the ground."

Mr Hore-Ruthven says the key to getting the city comfortably back on its feet is by reinvesting and supporting local high streets and by solving the housing problem.

"We need to bring people back to, particularly our local, high streets. I've got plans to invest £10 million in doing up our local high streets and creating local jobs for local people. In the longer term we need to build 2,000 new council homes and insulate all the existing council homes."

With a smaller target than the current goal brought in under Mayor Marvin Rees, Mr Hore-Ruthven says his goal is to build 2,000 homes over the space of 10 years to help the most vulnerable.

He says: "We need about 35,000 new homes in total, but what I'm concerned about is those people who are vulnerable, those people who don't have a home. We have an issue with street homelessness and I want to make sure those people have the homes that they need to start their lives and get their lives back on track, and let the private sector do its thing for the rest of us who can afford to rent or own their own home."

Quick-fire questions

  • Where is your favourite place in Bristol?

It has to be Ashton Court, it's been great to go up there in an open space and the fresh air. I'm a keen cyclist so I like making use of the mountain bike track up there too.

  • Bristol Rovers or Bristol City?

Neither, I'm not going to answer that question! I want to see two great football teams in our city.

  • What is your dream job?

I've got my dream job at the moment which is Chief Exec of Creative Youth Network - but the other one would be Mayor of Bristol.

  • Who is the Prime Minister you've most admired?

In my lifetime it would have to be Tony Blair, he managed to invest and bring some of the poorer communities forward in life.

Candidates for Mayor of Bristol:

  • Marvin Rees - Labour

  • Caroline Gooch - Liberal Democrat

  • Sandy Hore-Ruthven - Green

  • Alistair Watson - Conservatve

  • Sean Donnelly - Independent

  • John Langley - Independent

  • Tom Baldwin - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

  • Oska Shaw - Rights for Nature Campaign

  • Robert Clarke - Reform UK