Candidates for the job of Mayor of Bristol were at the Arnolfini on the Harbourside last week to answer questions from over 200 residents and businesses.
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The sold-out event was organised by the Bristol Pound with Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC, Bristol Cycling Campaign, Friends of the Earth and Sustrans. BBC Radio Bristol presenter Laura Rawlings chaired the debate with candidates George Ferguson (Independent), Kay Barnard (Liberal Democrat), Tony Dyer (Green Party) and Marvin Rees (Labour Party) in attendance.
The local economy section was kicked off with the question:
The council spends over £350 million of public money each year and lots of it is spent with businesses outside Bristol, including large multi-nationals. What practical steps will you take to increase the amount of money staying in Bristol?
Tony Dyer pointed out the increasing problem with tax havens, but offered his solution: “We have a big problem with tax avoidance and lots of money going overseas – however none of them accept Bristol Pounds. If you are spending your money with Bristol Pound, you are stopping tax avoidance and bringing money back into our local economy.”
George Ferguson believes in the benefits of using Bristol Pounds and encourages the audience to invest themselves and spend across the city: “I want to see Bristol Pounds become more available across institutions and businesses to use across the city, whether it be paying for a council tax bill, energy bill or your bus fare.”
Marvin Rees stated Bristol is one of the more prosperous city’s in the country, yet the gap between the rich and poor is growing: “People are feeling excluded. To drive a good economy, we need to equip young people for work. There are practical things we can do; plan ahead, have apprenticeships in place, skills pipeline in place and of course, pay the living wage.”
Kay Barnard, also in favour of more apprenticeships in local businesses to address social exclusion. “One of the main problems is smaller, local business are excluded from local procurement in favour of big, national companies.”
Read more from the hustings: