PROFILE: Jon Rogers - "First takes too much of our money"
The Post will be taking an in-depth look at each of the candidates bidding to be Bristol's first elected mayor.
Political editor Ian Onions will be going beyond the manifesto pledges to the background of each candidate and look at how they arrived at this point.
Today, he talks to Jon Rogers.
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Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Birthplace: South Croydon
How long lived in Bristol: 39 years
Job: Retired GP, Ashley ward Lib Dem councillor, Deputy Leader Bristol City Council
Marital status: Married
Children: Four grown-up children
Secondary school: Trinity School, Croydon
University: Bristol University to study medicine
Have you ever been a member of a political party? If so, which ones (current and past): Yes. Liberal Democrat
City or Rovers' fan? No allegiance. Happy to support both to get new stadiums.
Odds (Ladbrokes): 4/1
THERE'S no doubt that Jon Rogers is taking his election campaign very seriously. He's cast off the old woolly cardigan and corduroy trousers and these days he wears a smart suit, shirt and tie.
You could even say this retired family GP is fighting fit for the campaign because he has even deliberately lost two stones in weight by cutting out those calorie-filled puddings and chocolate biscuits.
"I took a decision to smarten up my act to make people feel I could do this job," he said. "I've lost two stone in weight and I'm fit and raring to go."
He promised me that if he becomes Bristol's first elected mayor, he will phone up David Cameron on his first day of taking office and demand extra powers to sort out the city's chronic transport problems.
Everyone is fed up to the back teeth with the constant traffic jams which cost the local economy many millions of pounds every year.
But Jon said the key to ending the congestion was to set up an independent transport authority which would have the powers to take the action that is needed.
He said: "The council is currently looking at setting up quality contracts which allows us to take control of the buses without having a transport authority.
"But quality contracts are very bureaucratic and take a long time to get Government approval. If I'm elected mayor, I will be on the blower to David Cameron on day one and say to him, 'You promised extra powers for the elected mayor of Bristol.
"Well, I need Transport for Bristol in the same way that Boris Johnson has got Transport for London so will you please keep to your word and let me do this so I can sort out Bristol's transport problems.
"I want these extra powers and I need them now.'"
Jon used to be the cabinet councillor in charge of the council's transport department and tried to work in partnership with First, the privately-owned bus operator which has a stranglehold on services in Bristol.
Jon said: "I tried to work with First and I understand it has to make a profit but frankly, it has done nothing to help.
"They are taking far too much money out of people's pockets for fares and we can change that. We can set up a system so that we run specific routes at laid down prices.
"People say it is expensive to run a bus service but Abus runs a good service for £1 a fare – it is not doing it for charity. Why can't we have those kind of fares across the city?"
Jon said he was keen to work with neighbouring authorities because many bus services straddle the civic boundaries between Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and the Bath area.
But he added: "I want to work with the other authorities but we cannot have a situation whereby the needs of Bristol are dictated by the surrounding authorities. We have to work together but we are stuck with a transport arrangement which does not deliver the goods."
Jon supports the rapid transit bus system which should be coming on stream during the next few years because he wants a fast, reliable public transport system.
He said it would be a catalyst for encouraging new investment to the region because commuters would be able to travel fast and reliably across the city.
He said: "I know there are concerns about some of the routes and the details. But at last, we have got £200 million worth of Government investment and we need to make sure we don't lose that."
He said Bristol was on the verge of getting a new tram system 15 years ago, but a disagreement over the route sent the wrong message to the Government and we lost the funding.
Jon, who is a cabinet councillor and deputy leader of the council, said the other big issue for Bristol was education.
He believes there is a long way to go to improve schooling but he said we were turning a corner because exam results were starting to improve and the Government and the council were both providing extra funding to build new primary schools to cope with the thousands of extra places needed in the years to come.
He said: "The key to education is to make sure we get the investment we need to provide primary schools.
"We have had some very generous contributions from Government as well as funding from council taxpayers but we will need more because we are going to have to provide 3,000 places during the next few years."
Jon admits to campaigning against an elected mayor in the run-up to the referendum in May which decided that Bristol should have a figurehead to lead the city.
He said: "I campaigned against it because it meant too much power for one person, there was the cost of setting up the new post to consider, and the post was only for Bristol, not the neighbouring areas, so I didn't think it would actually solve any problems. But the people of Bristol have spoken and I am a democrat. I accept we are going to have an elected mayor and I think I am the best person to do the job.
"I can see the limitations for the elected mayor but I can also see the possibilities. There is a big difference between the elected mayor and the council leader. Technically, they are the same because the elected mayor becomes the council leader. But whereas the council leader is the leader of 70 councillors, the elected mayor is the leader of the city which includes the council, the business community, transport, all the voluntary organisations, every aspect of our lives. The elected mayor will have a mandate from the people of Bristol which can be used to create jobs, improve the quality of people's lives and make sure that every young person aspires to something great."
If elected, one of his first tasks would be to appoint a ruling cabinet of between two and ten councillors. He has promised to draw members from all parties for his team because this would encourage a more consensual approach.
He also accepts that he cannot single-handedly sort out Bristol's problems as well as champion the city on the national and international stage. He therefore sees a more ambassadorial role for the city's MPs to generate business and investment from foreign climes.
Jon, a keen cyclist and avid user of Twitter, is now a retired GP after working in a family practice in Avonmouth until earlier this year.
As a cabinet councillor, he has not only been in charge of transport but more recently, the council's vast social services' department which has the second biggest budget after education.
But he has also been at the sharp end of the effects of business when he was made redundant as medical director of a firm which made computer software for GPs' practices.
He lost his job in 2002 and soon began to help Shirley Marshall win her Ashley seat in the local elections. He campaigned for Stephen Williams to become Lib Dem MP for Bristol West in 2005, the same year he was elected to represent Ashley ward.
He has spent most of his life in Bristol, first coming to the city from Croydon in 1973 to study medicine at Bristol University. After finishing his training, he took a job at Southmead Health Centre and has remained in the city ever since.
He is married with four grown-up children and lives in St Andrew's.