A week is a long time in politics, as the old saying goes, but it’s never been more true than the last seven days, when we’ve seen the election of a new Mayor for the West of England, a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset and a new Leader for Bath and North East Somerset Council.
It’s got to be good news that all three live in our district because although two of them have much wider geographic responsibilities, their knowledge of our area will be that much more detailed and should stand us in good stead.
Whilst the office holders are three white men, so not a terrific advert for diversity, they do at least represent different political parties so they come at their tasks with varied perspectives.
What should be most pleasing for the business community is that they all acknowledge the importance of a thriving economy and they will be concentrating a lot of their efforts to help deliver that.
In advance of the election I spoke to all four of the Metro Mayor candidates and provided a briefing to our members. Labour’s Dan Norris stressed two points which should be music to the ears of people in business. First, he had clearly carefully read the Andy Burnham playbook in which the Mayor of Manchester made it his mission to speak up loudly for his patch in national conversations. Second, because the Mayor has such a wide constituency, he pledged to make decisions which were potentially unpopular, so avoiding the danger of being over influenced by petty local squabbles.
Former B&NES Conservative Councillor Mark Shelford is a strong character who will stand up for law and order at a time when the police face a range of challenges. Urban unrest is bad for business but the new Commissioner will shortly have the opportunity to appoint a new Chief Constable with whom he can work to tackle the current issues.
Meanwhile Bath and North East Somerset Council has a new leader, the Liberal Democrat Councillor Kevin Guy. Our members will have a chance to hear from him next week, but we’ve already been encouraged by some of his early pronouncements, particular his refusal to be hemmed in by ideology. Of course he will have his own political beliefs, but a willingness to test them against the best outcome for the wider community is a refreshing and encouraging approach.
In short, the last week has brought us three individuals who could help re-set the environment in which our businesses operate. The Chamber and Initiative will play our part to help them all achieve success which will benefit everyone.