Conservative is the first West of England mayor
Conservative Tim Bowles wins election to be the first West of England mayor
Pictured: Tim Bowles
THE WEST of England Combined Authority has its first mayor – Conservative Tim Bowles.
He won the May 4 election with 70,300 votes – over 4,000 more than the second-placed Labour candidate, Lesley Mansell.
Before the election, bookmakers Ladbrokes had the Lib-Dem and Conservative candidates neck and neck.
The surprise in the results was the strong showing by Labour, who beat the Liberal Democrats' former MP and government minister Stephen Williams into third place with 39,794 first preference votes.
Independent John Savage – a Bristol businessman and NHS boss who rpomised a supertram system if he won – polled strongly with 29,500 votes, beating the green candidate, fromer RAF engineer Darren hall, who amassed 22,054 votes.
UKIP's Aaron Foot, a dairy farmer from Somerset, trailed the pack with 8,182 votes on a night when his partydid babdly in local elections across the country.
As no candidate scored more than 50 per cent of the first preference votes, the result was decided by voters' second choices for the top two candidates, for Conservatives and Labour.
Lesley Mansell was the preferred candidate of Labour's left-wing Momentum faction and a supporter of party leader Jeremy Corbyn. This did not appear to deter voters, who gave her 22,296 second preference votes, far more than the 16,504 for Tim Bowles, but not enough to tip the balance.
Turnout was poor at less than a third of voters – 199,519 or 29.7 per cent voted out of an electorate of 671,280 in the three council areas of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset.
Tim Bowles will be sworn into office at the Engine Shed at Temple Meads, Bristol, at 11am on Monday May 9. It's not been decided where the new authority he leads will be based.
Mr Bowles, a councilor for Winterbourne in South Gloucestershire, now faces the challenge of working with three local council leaders, including Bristol's Labour mayor Marvin Rees, tackiing strategic challenges of housing, transport and skills.
It remains to be seen how much responsibility he will remove from councils such as Bristol. Mr Bowles sits on the the new Weca authority with the three council leaders.
It has already been reported that he wants to see a Clean Air Zone for Bristol and Bath – something on which Mr Rees would have expected to take the lead in Bristol.
Similarly, housing in Bristol has been the exclusive provice of the city council until now, when Weca has powers to decide where in the region new homes should be placed.
Co-operation between the new mayor and the three council leaders will be key. But with one Labour (Bristol's Mr Rees), and three Conservatives (Mr Bowles and the BaNES and South Gloucestershire leaders), there could well be friction.
Mr Bowles told the BBC his priority would be improving economic growth for the region.
"We need to address the challneges of traffic congestionand transport," he said. "We need to provide new opportunities for transport in the region.
"It's vital that we start providing the new homes that poeple need, where they need them, close to where they work, and providing the right mix of affrodable homes as well."
Ms Mansell told the BBC: "We turned up the vote in the Labour constituencies and we have taken Labour's message of hope deep into Conservative constituencies and won 43,000 [first preference] votes.
"We've done that by talking to voters on the doorstep, addressing issues and pushing for a fairer and more just society."
The result leaves Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem candidate, able to devote his energy to fighting for his old parliamentary seat of Bristol West, which he lost to Labour in 2015. He has not yet annoucned whether he will stand in the general election on June 8.
Second preference votes:
|BOWLES, Tim Charles||The Conservative Party Candidate||53,796||16,504||70,300|
|MANSELL, Lesley Ann||Labour and Co-operative Party||43,627||22,296||65,923|
First preference votes
|BOWLES, Tim Charles||The Conservative Party Candidate||53,796|
|FOOT, Aaron Warren||UK Independence Party (UKIP)||8,182|
|HALL, Darren Edward||Green Party||22,054|
|MANSELL, Lesley Ann||Labour and Co-operative Party||43,627|
|SAVAGE, John Christopher||Independent||29,500|
|WILLIAMS, Stephen||Liberal Democrats||39,794|
|Total number of votes