Column by Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall.

On May 6th we have the opportunity to vote for our next ‘West of England Metro Mayor’ for South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset.

Its a big job - and at this crucial time, it matters who does it.

The Mayor controls how hundreds of millions of pounds of central Government money is spent in our area, and they will have the power to address key issues including housing, transport and skills.

As we recover from the pandemic, this role is vital in supporting our local economy in its recovery.

The Mayor provides us with an additional, powerful voice, who can plan for the future of our region, allowing us to share in the proceeds of growth that can happen if we work together with our neighbouring councils to sort out our transport and infrastructure problems.

For example, thanks to the support of our current Mayor, we have been able to see great success in our Positive Plan for Transport, such as; building our brand new Yate Park and Ride, working to rebuild Charfield station progressing with plans to implement half hourly trains from Yate to Bristol.

We’ve also got to hold this election safely. Secure elections where residents have confidence voting are fundamental to our democracy, which is why the Government is putting together a set of measures to ensure the polls are COVID-secure and everyone can feel confident casting their vote.

Anyone attending polling stations can expect to see many of the protective measures which we are all familiar with; hand sanitiser will be available, screens, distance markings and protective barriers will be in use as appropriate. Social distancing will be in place both inside and outside polling stations and all voters and staff should wear a face covering.

Anyone who is shielding, or anyone who would prefer not to attend a polling station, can apply for a postal or proxy vote in advance of the elections.

Anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus, or who is displaying symptoms, should self-isolate, and to support anyone who has tested positive, the Government have put in place new rules to allow for emergency proxy voting leading up to polling day and until 5pm on the day itself.

This will mean that voters who are self-isolating due to coronavirus exposure, testing or symptoms can still have their say in these elections without having to leave their home.

If local people don’t vote, we run the real risk that this election will be decided by Bristol, and decisions taken by the new Mayor will be dominated by the interests of Bristol alone, and not of Thornbury, Yate and the surrounding towns and villages.

So keep an eye out for more information about the Mayoral elections coming through your door.

Just don’t leave it to someone else to vote in this election, they might be leaving it to you!