“Huge honour” for Dan Norris as he is elected West of England mayor

Labour’s Dan Norris has won the West of England metro mayor election.

The new West of England Mayor, Dan Norris | Photo © WECA

The former government minister beat runner-up Conservative Samuel Williams by 125,482 votes to 85,389 in a run-off after the pair won through from the first round of voting.

Mr Norris had an unexpected healthy lead going into the second round where second preferences from eliminated candidates Jerome Thomas (Green), who finished third, and Stephen Williams (Lib Dems), who was fourth, were added to their totals.

Newly elected Mayor Dan Norris said: “It’s a huge honour to be elected as Metro Mayor for an amazing part of the world that I am so proud to call home. I will show the difference an active Metro Mayor makes for our region.

“This role is about collaboration and I will be a Metro Mayor who listens carefully and works cooperatively. I’m determined to hit the ground running with a Jobs and Skills summit in my first 100 days and my Green Recovery Plan.

“I also know that the pandemic has been tough and as we build back, invest in jobs and our high streets, we must learn key lessons. Together we can create a society where we keep looking out for each other and value what’s truly important.”

In round one, the Labour candidate received 84,434 votes while Samuel Williams got 73,841.

Mr Thomas and Stephen Williams were knocked out of the contest with 54,919 and 39,767 votes respectively.

After the second round decider, which was required under the supplementary voting system because no one earned more than 50 per cent of the vote, Mr Norris was declared the winner with a total of 125,482 votes.

The Tory candidate, who would have become the UK’s first black metro mayor outside London had he won, received 85,389.

He topped the poll in the first round in both South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset but was a long way behind his Labour rival in the Bristol City Council area where the Conservatives slipped to third behind the Greens.

Mr Norris was also much closer to the Conservative than expected in B&NES, just 143 votes adrift.

During the campaign, the Labour hopeful criticised his own party’s stance on Bristol Airport’s proposed expansion and said he was opposed to the development, which will be decided by a planning inspector at a public inquiry this summer.

Among the policies in his manifesto, the new mayor has pledged to be a “jobs first” metro mayor, boosting the economy by holding a jobs summit in his first 100 days and creating 23,000 new green jobs.

Other promises include:

  • Create “truly liveable towns and cities with high quality and zero carbon design” and have a firm requirement for 35 per cent of all new homes to be genuinely affordable.
  • Intervene directly in housebuilding by doubling the current spending plans to £80million.
  • Establish a Retrofit Accelerator programme, and create a Homelessness Taskforce.
  • Create a transport system for the 21st century, with green and reliable buses, trains, and walking and cycling options to connect our region.
  • Start a wide-scale transformation of our public transport network, investigating options such as mass transit and bus franchising.
  • Implement smart ticketing, with simple tap-in-tap-out payments, and effective advertising of cheapest fares and routes.
  • Oppose the expansion of Bristol Airport.
  • And tackle the climate emergency and protect nature by creating a £20million Green Recovery Fund, backing local producers while cutting food miles with an Eat Local campaign, and making the West of England the UK’s Bee Capital.

The overall turnout in the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) area was 36.6 per cent – higher than four years ago when it was less than 30 per cent.

It was also higher than the 2021 metro mayoral contests in Liverpool, Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Tees Valley.

In Bristol alone it exceeded 40 per cent – almost 10 points more than 2017 – although residents here were also voting for Bristol mayor and city councillors, as well as Avon & Somerset police and crime commissioner.

Tory incumbent Tim Bowles, who is retiring from politics, became the region’s first metro mayor four years ago with 51.6 per cent of the vote after the second round, with Labour’s Lesley Mansell runner-up on 48.4 per cent.

Mr Norris was MP for Wansdyke from 1997 until the seat was abolished in 2010 when he lost to Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg in the race for the newly created North East Somerset parliamentary seat.

He was appointed an Environment Minister by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009, having begun his political career as a Bristol city councillor 20 years earlier, serving also on Avon County Council in the mid-90s.

What does the West of England metro mayor do?

The regional mayor isn’t responsible for collecting the bins, filling potholes or providing libraries.

They lead Weca which is responsible for the region’s strategic development of business, skills, housing and transport.

Weca also spearheads the recovery plan for the region to make sure the right support and infrastructure is in place for residents and businesses to overcome the economic blow of Covid.

Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter

Bath Echo