Which parliamentary candidates will fight for a fairer, stronger and greener local economy for Bristol?

The Bristol Pound asks candidates for Bristol West and South how they will support a strong local economy.

The people of Bristol are gearing up for the final round of campaigns before we hit the ballot box on Thursday 8th June, and it’s a general election like no other.

The emphasis of party campaigns has been centred around important national and global concerns, but in such turbulent political times, it’s easy to lose sight of the local issues affecting the communities we know and love. Before you nail your colours to the mast, what do you really know about Bristol’s candidates’ policies on our local economy?

The UK’s economy has transformed beyond recognition over the last 30 years, from an economy centred around manufacturing to one profiting from its massive financial sector. The UK can now be seen as a playground for multi-national corporations, with the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20. The current financial system has given birth to all kinds of issues, the housing crisis being just one that has severely affected Bristol.

Whatever your political affiliation may be, the arguments for building a strong local economy are genuine; stimulating employment growth, procurement of local products without large carbon price tags and reducing inequality are just some of the things we can achieve by a fairer local economy.

I asked Bristol’s main candidates for South and West how they planned to create a fairer, stronger and happier economy in Bristol, and here’s what they said…

Tony Dyer, Green candidate for Bristol South

What practical steps are you planning to create a fairer economy in Bristol that benefits people over multinational corporations and banks?

“The Green Party is committed to using the government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland to create a network of local people’s banks for every city and region, obliged to lend locally and provide cheap basic banking services. Each bank would be a People’s Bank and its primary goal would be creating value for stakeholders, not just shareholders, by  balancing profit with social goals”

And what is your opinion of local currencies as a tool to grow the local economy and shorten supply chains?

“Local currencies are a valuable tool in that their geographical localisations offers the opportunity to maximise the multiplier effect. local currencies have an impact far above the purely monetary impact. They raise awareness of how the local economy works, they promote local independent businesses who often struggle to generate market awareness, and they can help to build networks and relationships within the local economy helping to create shorter supply chains.”

The Bristol 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?

“Bristol City Council is already at the forefront in using its £350m public spend in ways that benefit the local economy – for example it is already committed to increasing the proportion of public spend with SMEs to 50% of its annual budget. It is currently about a third.  By increasing the proportion of spend with SMEs who tend to be local businesses and who tend to pass on a much greater proportion of their further spend to local supply chains, we increase the impact of the multiplier effect thus benefitting the local economy. “


Ben Nutland, Liberal Democrat candidate for Bristol South

What practical steps are you planning to create a fairer economy in Bristol that benefits people over multinational corporations and banks?
“A well-functioning economy which works for everyone cannot be based solely on companies owned by and operated on behalf of a small group of shareholders who have no attachment or stake in the areas they serve. It should seek to foster a diversity of types of business, including encouraging alternative models such as mutuals, social enterprises or community interest companies.”

And what is your opinion of local currencies as a tool to grow the local economy and shorten supply chains?

“Local currencies such as the Bristol Pound have been hugely successful in growing the local economy and promoting a more ethical approach to business in our city. The first step to success in any currency is its use and reach, I believe the more businesses and individuals who sign up to use the Bristol Pound can and will have a dramatic effect on how it is then moved forward in the medium to long term. One of my election pledges is to work to bring more jobs and businesses into Bristol South, and establish a local business hub to help support new start ups. I believe that if these businesses could be shown the benefits of using the Bristol Pound to trade with private individuals and other businesses this will help to build a strong local economy where we are depended on each other to succeed and thrive thus shortening the supply chain.”

The Bristol 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?
“I believe we need to create an emphasis on sourcing contracts for Bristol City Council to companies who are located in Bristol and own a stake in our local community, we need to work progressively to ensure that local businesses are given the help they need to challenge larger established companies if they can provide a better service.”


Mark Weston, Conservative candidate for Bristol South

What practical steps are you planning to create a fairer economy in Bristol that benefits people over multinational corporations and banks?
“Things aren’t perfect but I believe that the wealthiest in our society are now paying more tax than at almost any point in history with the top 10% of earners paying nearly 60% of all tax. There is still more to do however and I think the Prime Minister was right to speak of allowing a year’s unpaid leave to help people care for elderly relatives is just one of the proposals that the Conservative Party has announced in recent days to make our Country, and our City a fairer place.”

And what is your opinion of local currencies as a tool to grow the local economy and shorten supply chains?

“I do not support the Bristol Pound nor local currencies. I prefer to be paid in her majesties pounds and to be able to use them in any business I wish rather than limit my choice.”

The Bristol 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?
“The City Council has an obligation to get value for money from the taxpayer which means that all bids for work need be competitive. It is already able to ensure ‘social benefit’ is taken into account as a means to ensure that local based SMEs are competitive. I think that the percentage that can be used for social benefit should be reviewed and potentially increased.

To my mind though it is less about how the City Council spends its resources within the City but actually attracting investment into the City from elsewhere. For example I will be campaigning for additional transport investment to regenerate our suburban rail lines and take traffic off our roads and targeted business rate relief & investment to regenerate some of our flagging retail centres such as Filwood Broadway.”


Thangham Debbonaire, Labour candidate for Bristol West

What practical steps are you planning to create a fairer economy in Bristol that benefits people over multinational corporations and banks?
“I am standing as a Labour candidate, on a manifesto which promises to deliver fairness in the economy, for the many, rather than just the richest few. We want to make big corporations and banks pay their fair share of taxes to contribute to what we need to pay for high quality education, health and social services.”

What is your opinion of local currencies as a tool to grow the local economy and shorten supply chains?
“I understand and respect the role of local currencies such as the Bristol Pound as a way of showing specific support for local companies. My way of supporting local businesses is to shop locally as much as possible. I also want to support trade with other countries, especially developing countries, which means that for some goods, supply chains are longer. A fair, sustainable global economy with fair trade across the world will help to reduce conflict, prevent war and famine and eliminate poverty.”

The Bristol 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?
A Labour government will give councils the power to require all public contracts to go to companies which treat their workforce properly and which have a fair pay ratio within the company. This will benefit local small businesses. It may be possible to go further, to score local companies higher than others in competitive tendering, provided they fulfil all other conditions – at the moment I understand that this is not straightforward legally, but I would like us to find ways of doing that if we can.


Molly Scott Cato, Green Party candidate for Bristol West

What practical steps are you planning to create a fairer economy in Bristol that benefits people over multinational corporations and banks?

“If elected to Westminster I will continue to argue (as I have already argued in the European Parliament) for a fair tax system. At present multinational companies are able to avoid taxes by using ‘creative accounting’ to shift money around between their branches in different countries to minimise tax, or put their money into tax havens. This is unacceptable and makes it impossible for local small businesses to compete on a fair basis.”

What is your opinion of local currencies as a tool to grow the local economy and shorten supply chains?

“Local currencies can be very useful if enough people take them up and are prepared to receive them as a form of payment. It is difficult for new local currencies to break through on this scale, but I am very pleased to say that the Bristol Pound has achieved this.”

The Bristol 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?

“Council officials are often very cautious about their interpretation of the ‘single market’ rules, which they see as preventing public bodies from favouring local suppliers. Already the existing EU rules allow for impact on the local economy to be taken into account, so this extreme caution is unnecessary. However one of the limited range of things which are positive about Brexit is that the UK will now be able to scrap these single market rules and positively favour local suppliers. I hope the UK takes up this opportunity, and if elected to Parliament I will be arguing for it to do so.”


Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat candidate for Bristol West

What practical steps are you planning to create a fairer economy in Bristol that benefits people over multinational corporations and banks?

“Bristol already leads the country in the formation of new small businesses. It is also home for many social enterprises. One barrier to their expansion is the lack of affordable space to rent. I work with the government and the new metro mayor to build (or secure from current office buildings) cheap spaces for the next stage of expansion. I would also try to persuade at least one bank to re-open in Stapleton Rd. There are currently none, compared to Westbury, where all main banks are represented.”

What is your opinion of local currencies as a tool to grow the local economy and shorten supply chains?

“I supported the creation of the Bristol Pound and met with the founders when it was still being developed as an idea. I would support other schemes to promote local products, for instance local food.”

The Bristol 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?

“All areas of the public sector (including the NHS) should break up contracts so that they can be bid for by local SMEs. There also needs to be streamlining of the paperwork to reduce the burden of making a bid.”


We also asked for responses from Karin Smyth (Labour, Bristol South) and Annabel Tall (Conservatives, Bristol West), but didn’t hear back.

Members and users of the Bristol Pound are already taking direct action to support our local economy with each transaction they make. We believe that positive change is possible and that together, we are making it happen. This general election gives us an opportunity to ensure those representing us at Westminster share our values and support our desire for a fairer, stronger and greener economy.

This article was written by Ruby Szarowicz, Membership Manager at the Bristol Pound to ensure the local economy is a part of the conversation leading up to Bristol electing new MPs in the General Election 2017. We focused on Bristol South and Bristol West as these are the parliamentary constituencies of the majority of our members. The candidates questioned are from those parties taking the top four spots in the last election.

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