What is WECA?
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is a tier of local government that has substantial powers and funding covering South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES).
Why it’s important
Bristol, South Glos, BANES and WECA have all declared climate emergencies and adopted a policy of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. To achieve this, it is essential that emissions reduction is at the heart of all WECA policies, particularly following the COVID-19 lockdown when there is pressure on all authorities to get the economy moving regardless of the environmental cost.
WECA is the lead authority for:
WECA is responsible for the region’s transport strategies from walking, cycling and electric scooters through public transport and cars to freight. It also works with neighbouring authorities on regional schemes. Importantly, WECA administers central government money for transport regionally.
Transport curently amounts to 25% of CO2 emissions and the proportion is rising. To get emissions down the region needs to get people out of cars and reduce car journeys by 80%. For those who need cars there needs to be the appropriate infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Industry, skills and training
The training necessary to tackle the region’s decarbonisation comes under WECA’s remit, particularly for jobs in heat engineering and insulating buildings. A building ‘retrofit revolution’ for energy efficiency and conversion to low-carbon heating and cooling is vital, along with developing more renewable energy supplies such as wind, tidal, air and ground source pumps and solar.
The low uptake of the government’s recent Green Homes Grant was partly due to the lacek of accredited installers and contractors, so it is an essential and urgent area for skills training and accreditation.
Decarbonisation strategies for all insustries and businesses also need to be top of the agenda, and it is critical that the mayor makes sure the industries encouraged to develop in the region are truly sustainable. Any industrial strategy should recognise the difference between truly green jobs and jobs which are not in heavy industry. Too often ‘green’ simply means ‘not obviously polluting.’.
Housing and land use
Where new developments are in relation to the transport infrastructure, and jobs is important not only in reducing CO2 emissions from transport and avoiding flooding but also in creating healthier communities.
WECA currently has a green infrastructure plan as part of its land-use remit. The authority recognises that green places are needed for biodiversity, pollination, our physical and mental health, recreation as well as to absorb CO2 and provide a cooling mechanism. The plan needs to be as robust as possible to preserve and enhance natural habitats we already have in the South West and to develop resliance against climate change, flooding, drought, etc. This means giving it equal importance to other parts of the mayor’s brief rather than simply paying lip service to these issues.
Friends of the Earth have developed ten ‘Asks’ which are being put to the WECA Mayoral candidates for endorsement. This will provide information on which candidates are most likely to take positive action on the above issues.
1) Ensure all infrastructure plans, programmes and investment decisions (including plans to build back better) are in line with the environmental and ecological emergency.
2) Commit to ensuring the voices of those impacted most by climate breakdown and nature are heard and centre-stage in decision making.
3) Commit to protecting workers and communities through a just transition to a low-carbon, nature-rich, circular economy.
4) Introduce the policies and measures necessary to ensure new development is zero-carbon and to bring existing homes up to high-energy standards, thus reducing fuel poverty.
5) Commit to at least doubling public transport use, cycling and walking within the next 10 years to cut climate emissions and ensure everyone can breathe clean air. (Some groups may be asking that money be spent in relation to the transport hierarchy the government has suggested, which means active travel at the top)
6) Power the region by clean, renewable energy and reap the economic and job opportunities that this brings, while ensuring fossil-fuels are kept in the ground.
7) Green the city-region through increasing tree cover, protecting nature and eliminating green space deprivation
8) Commit to becoming a zero-waste city region by 2030 without reliance on landfill or incineration to reduce pressures on nature from resource extraction and pollution.
9) Call on the local government pension scheme to divest from fossil fuels to stop profiting from environmental harm.
10) Initiating a massive green-retrofit skills training programme to create the workforce to make all our homes net zero carbon
These points are further explained at:
Candidates standing in the WECA mayoral election are:
- Dan Norris – Labour Party
- Jerome Thomas – Green Party
- Samuel Williams – Conservative Party
- Stephen Williams – Liberal Democrats
Further candidate information can be found at:
An environment-themed hustings where people could virtually meet candidates and ask questions was held on 19th April. All candidates had agreed to take part but Dan Norris apologised that he had to withdraw at short notice due to circumstances beyond his control. An indexed video of the event is available on youtube .
How to vote
Which elections am I eligible to vote in?
In order to be eligible to vote, you need to be over 16, and have a right to live in the UK (you don’t need to be a full UK citizen to vote in local elections). You also have to be resident in the area of the local election, but students may register and vote in local elections at both their term-time and home addresses.
You should receive polling cards detailing the elections you can vote in at your registered address, and if you have successfully applied for a postal vote you should receive ballot papers in the post from about 2 weeks before the election.
The website https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ lists all the elections taking place at a particular postcode. All the mayoral candidates are listed here, plus any candidates in local council elections and candidates for the police and crime commissioner elections – many people in the WECA area have 4 elections to vote in.
Where do I go to vote?
If you have a postal vote, you can fill in the ballot papers sent to you and either post them back or take them to a polling station in the area of the election on polling day.
Alternatively, you can vote in person at the designated polling station for your registered address. This will be detailed on your polling card or can be found at https://wheredoivote.co.uk/ . Polling stations will be open from 7am – 10pm on election day.
Further information is available at gov.uk/how-to-vote .