On Thursday Bristol decides who leads our city until 2020. While all of the mayoral candidates can talk endlessly about the meaning of 'leadership', our record of delivering city-wide projects should be what really matters. My time as Bristol's first independent mayor has been rooted in the belief that a city leader's primary focus should be on getting things done. Unlike in 2012, subject to ratification of our devolution deal with the treasury, the next Mayor of Bristol will have greater leverage over transport, housing and skills.
After 50 years of learning, living, working and delivering projects in Bristol I decided to stand as an independent candidate, because I was frustrated with how Bristol was run. Before 2012, our city had become a byword for inaction and indecisive leadership, largely due to political to-ing and fro-ing. My ambition was simple: to deliver a vision unashamedly pro Bristol, without being deflected by party dogma or direction, a vision born out of my long standing attachment to this city. Over the last three and a half years, we've realised that vision and have real momentum towards creating a successful and more inclusive city.
The first 18 months were focussed on filling the managerial vacuum into which I arrived. This involved in creating a streamlined management structure following the appointment of a rainbow cabinet of 5 representing all party groups, once the Labour party had given approval to their involvement.
The results speak for themselves: we now have more people employed than any other core city, pay higher salaries than the UK average, lead core-cities in start-ups, lead in green technology, increased the use of greener forms of transport, and more.
One of the most significant results of the last couple of years, was working with the LEP and our surrounding local authorities to secure the £1bn devolution deal we so desperately needed if we are to address decades of lack of investment in transport and housing planning and infrastructure and to create the necessary skills for a high skilled economy. While this isn't a silver bullet for Bristol's problems, devolution will allow us to better tackle inequality and deprivation across Bristol enabling us to become a more socially resilient city. This opportunity should not be squandered. It needs someone with experience of handling big projects and budgets, in what is certainly not an entry-level role.
During the last 50 years I have taken on many projects and roles, locally, nationally and internationally. This has been the best job yet. I won't pretend I have got everything right over the last three and a half years, but I have pushed the boat out and inevitably it results in some resistance and some pretty strong abuse! However, I hope the political stagnation we once knew is now firmly in the past. We are moving forward, and my vision for a second term will build on this success. It is a long-term vision, of a fair, environmentally healthy, and progressive city that looks fifty years ahead.
As a city we must be realistic. Nationally, we still face austerity, and during the last few years our cities have seen severe cuts from Westminster. These have made life much more difficult for many here, but I have not protested idly. Instead, I've used my knowledge and experience to protect vital services,secure more funding for city-wide projects tackling core issues, and increasing social mobility. This involved tough decisions and a leader who finds solutions that benefit all, if not always appreciated by all. The mayor's role is about running Bristol, not debating national policy.
Whatever happens on the 5th of May, I shall forever be grateful to Bristol for having given me this unique opportunity. The last three and a half years have been remarkable. Throughout them, I have engaged with this city like never before and had the privilege of representing it across the world. The decision on Thursday is about who Bristol feels can deliver and get things done. Let's continue to move forward, not backwards. We buck the trend nationally in our culture, business, and attitude and we like to do things differently. Let's keep doing the same in politics and not return to box-ticking party-politicians with no agenda more than furthering their own political career.