Mayor calls for a new transport authority and closer co-operation
BRISTOL'S Mayor George Ferguson has called for the creation of a new transport authority and closer working between councils in the city area.
The new man in charge has been speaking to the leaders of the three other unitary councils in the Bristol area and believes a new joined-up approach is needed.
In an exclusive interview with The Post, Mr Ferguson unveiled his plan to make Bristol one of the leading city's in the county.
He said: "If you look at other city's such as Manchester they take a much more joined up and pragmatic approach.
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"I have been speaking to the leader of Manchester City Council to see how they work together with the other councils in the area in such a successful way.
"Manchester is a very successful metropolitan area and is a good example of how neighbouring authorities can work together."
Although he stopped short of calling for a return to the days when Avon County Council covered the whole of the area, Mr Ferguson believes closer working arrangements between Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset would lead to clearer strategy and the opportunity to make savings at a time when local authority budgets are coming under ever increasing pressure.
He added: "I think we should move towards being a metropolitan area in the way we run things.
"The first step towards that would be creating an integrated transport authority and an integrated planning authority.
"What is needed is a strategic overview for the area. I think we have been moving in the right direction but we could be doing a lot more."
The Government has made it clear that they would look favourably on a transport authority for the area.
The issue of a new transport authority will be discussed when the full council of Bristol City Council meets next Tuesday.
The council is being urged to back the creation of a new transport authority, which would include representatives from all four councils, from the business community and from the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Although Mr Ferguson did not go as far saying that the next Mayoral election in four year's time should cover the whole of the area, he still believes there is more scope for the four unitary authorities working closer together. He said: "The four local authorities have a lot in common and also have many shared aims. The old days of operating in isolation are not really going to work in the current climate."
Although Mr Ferguson has only been in office for a couple of months, one of his first tasks was to make budget cuts of £30 million.
He said: "I think there is an opportunity for councils to share a lot more resources at a time when we are all making cuts.
"What we should be doing is concentrating on maintaining essential frontline services while sharing resources in areas.
"This should be about protecting our essential services and making savings in areas where there are shared services.
"We could be looking at areas such as legal services, collection of council tax and human resource functions. We are in a financial climate where we need to be looking at all our options and thinking in much more creative ways."
He added: "If you look at three boroughs in west London they are pretty much working together as one local authority.
"I think this would be a move in the right direction and in the current environment the public expect us to be cost conscious."