On 6 April at Birmingham Council House we jointly hosted a Metro Mayor hustings with campaign group Rail Future who are an independent organisations campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight. The main candidates competing for election to West Midlands Metro Mayor came along to talk about transport related issues. We at BFOE wanted to highlight air quality, walking and cycling issues.
Candidates in attendance were in party alphabetical order:
Conservative- Andy Street.
Green- James Burn.
Labour- Sion Simon.
Liberal Democrat- Beverley Nielsen.
United Kingdom Independence Party- Peter Durnell.
A lot of work, was put in prior to the night itself, involving a great deal of communication, collaboration and meetings with the Rail Future group to establish the tone and format of the meeting. BFoE volunteer, Elin created an excellent set of projection slides on a transport and air quality theme, and together with Libby after some input from Rail Future, designed some eye catching promotional leaflets for the event.
This, and the fact that it was a free event to attend, resulted in a good turnout from the general public, and members of groups and organisations with an interest in public transport and environmental issues.
Questions were asked on a variety of topics within the remit of the event (transport and air quality) and all candidates were given the opportunity to air their views. BFOE, Railfuture and members of the public had submitted pre-prepared questions.
The event was scheduled to take place from 6pm until 9pm. James of the Green Party had announced in advance that he regretfully had to leave early at 8pm. Unfortunately, there was little time for the general public to air their questions, as Sion Simon passed a motion to the other candidates, that they would all also leave at 8pm, when James Burn left. This understandably caused much consternation and rumblings of discontent from the assembled throng.
All in all, it was a rewarding experience, especially forging links with Railfuture, and there was discussion at the end, of the two groups working together again in the future.
By Stuart Minal