PROFILE: Geoff Gollop - "I'll be a safe pair of hands"
The Post is taking an in-depth look at each of the candidates bidding to be Bristol's first elected mayor.
Today, Geoff Gollop.
Birthplace: Bristol Maternity Hospital
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Valid until: Monday, May 27 2013
How long lived in Bristol: All my life
Job: Chartered Accountant in Bristol advising small owner managed businesses
Marital status: Married, Bernice, 21 years
Children: Mark 19, Lorna 18
Secondary school : Clifton College
University: Fitzwilliam College Cambridge
Have you ever been a member of a political party? If so, which ones (current and past): Yes Conservative party all my adult life.
City or Rovers' fan? Both, supported Rovers as a youngster, but City in later years, my father in law, Bernard Cripps, was a life long supporter and honorary Vice President of the Club.
Odds (Ladbrokes): 33/1
GEOFF Gollop likes to see himself as a safe pair of hands with the ability to deliver what is required to make Bristol reach its potential. As an accountant who admits to wearing a grey suit, he said: "I understand finances, I have run my own business, I have run other businesses and I have advised businesses how they should be run.
"I understand how to motivate and achieve respect from people I work with and I understand the importance of public service.
"I think all these things put me in a unique position to be the city's first elected mayor."
It would be easy to think that he had little chance of becoming Bristol's first elected leader because voters tend to vote against the party in Government at local elections.
But if the voting moves to a second round in November, then Geoff is in with a chance of being first over the finishing line. After all, it was the wards in the leafy suburbs rather than Labour's heartlands which showed the highest turnouts and this could work in his favour.
The Secondary Voting System for the mayoral election on November 15 will mean voters will have to show two preferences. If the winner of the first votes does not have a 50 per cent majority, then the runner up stays in the race and the second votes of the eliminated candidates are taken into account.
Geoff is a number cruncher who can drill down to the nitty gritty of the civic budget and ask the right kind of questions to keep the council's top executives on their toes.
But he sees the task of an elected mayor as much more than that. "My vision for the city is first of all where people to talk with each other to make sure we get the best for the city but with the view of a can-do culture.
"My concern is that we get plenty of reasons why something cannot be done but what we have got to start doing is being positive about what can be achieved – that requires a concerted effort and a clear vision."
Geoff sees transport and education as the city's top two issues.
"We have got to stop this daily gridlock which is costing unimaginable sums of money to the local economy," he said. He agrees in principle with the rapid bus system but would want to examine some parts of the routes such as the section in Harbourside and is against a park and ride site on allotments in Stapleton.
It was education which compelled him to enter politics 11 years ago because he was so incensed that when his son left the junior school, 100 pupils went to 26 different schools.
"That is no way to develop a strong community and what I discovered when I first came onto the council was that everywhere in the city, there was a massive flow of pupils into schools in neighbouring authorities.
"I see it as fundamental that our children should get an acceptable level of education within the community they live."
He believes the educational tide is turning and results in Bristol's schools are starting to get better.
But he wants to see expectations much higher – not only in terms of results but when students leave education, they either have a job to go to or a training course or apprenticeship. "Their expectation should be to become employed rather than accept unemployment," he said.
He therefore sees education and transport inextricably linked to help encourage new investment in the city and therefore create jobs and promote prosperity.
He sees the opening up of the Portishead line to passengers as a "no-brainer" and is a perfect example of how an elected mayor can take on such major issues and make sure the funding is secured for them.
But he is against a company car parking tax to raise the funds for alternative forms of transport because he believes it sends out the wrong kind of message to firms who want to invest in the city. Instead, he said that the new City Deal which allows Bristol to borrow against the growth in business rates as a suitable revenue stream.
Last year, Geoff was Lord Mayor, a ceremonial office in which he represented the city at major events and chaired full council meetings.
"I thought I knew a lot about the city but I discovered I knew far less than I thought," he said.
But he and his wife, Bernice, loved the role of Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. "We felt constantly humbled by the lengths people went to in order to make us welcome. We spent the whole year with permanently smiling faces."
Geoff was born in Bristol and brought up in the Henbury area of the city before attending Clifton College and then onto Cambridge before training to become an accountant.
He worked for a large accountancy firm before becoming a partner in another firm for 17 years. After a merger went through, he was made redundant which led to him setting up his own business and now employs four staff.
He has therefore seen the workings of business through different perspectives and would like to encourage a culture of council staff being proud of what they do.
He said: "We shouldn't just be treating people as customers because that's what it says in the manual.
"We need to provide people with services they need and to get it right first time. When things start to go wrong, we need to sort them out straightaway, not wait until enough people complain."
Geoff said that many staff who worked for the council were extremely loyal and hardworking but not necessarily as efficient as they could be.
He said: "Public service is key to our community and staff shouldn't be embarrassed to work for the local authority – it's something they should be proud of. A lot of this comes down to style of leadership. If someone is failing to perform well, then it may be the employee but it might equally be the fault of their manager. In either case, we are accepting it. We have to change that culture so that staff can do things better and enjoy doing so."
Geoff believes that his passion for the city means that he will have no difficulty in fighting Bristol's corner with ministers or civil service mandarins in Whitehall.
But he said a different, consensual approach was needed when dealing with neighbouring councils because an elected mayor would only be equal to leaders of other local authorities.
He said: "A lot of the issues are not even political but the key will be to work together in order to solve them. We have got to get away from politicians getting on their soapboxes and simply looking after their own vested interests. We have to work together in order to generate the economy."
Geoff is clear that he would appoint a cross-party cabinet because he would want the best talent in the best jobs, irrespective of their political party.
He said: "People have had enough of ya-boo politics. They want to see people working together to get the best possible outcome for the city."