ON THURSDAY, May 4, residents in Bath and North East Somerset (BANES), South Gloucestershire and Bristol will go to the polls to elect the first ever West of England mayor.

The role is hugely important as the West of England mayor – working alongside us as council leaders and the Labour mayor of Bristol - will have a budget of nearly £1billion and powers over the economy, transport, housing and other vital issues that affect all of us.

Across the West of England, Labour hold three parliamentary seats in central Bristol whilst the Conservatives hold six seats across the rest of the area.

That means, with just a few weeks to go, this election is set to be a close race between Conservative Tim Bowles – a local businessman and experienced councillor - and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn-backed candidate Lesley Mansell.

This election is our chance to ensure that our region has a strong, effective voice representing our interests to the government and working alongside the local council for the benefit of every community in the West of England.

As a Conservative, Tim Bowles is in prime position to work with the government, local MPs and councils to deliver investment in our area and make the improvements we need in B&NES and South Gloucestershire.

A Conservative mayor would be able to deliver important transport schemes, such as the A36/46 link road, the A4174/M4 link road and the new Junction 18a, as well as invest investment in local bus services and rail projects, and tackle other big issues for the benefit of all our communities.

Labour’s Lesley Mansell recently launched her manifesto in Bristol, with Corbyn at her side and focusing on issues in Bristol.

If Labour won on May 4, the future prosperity of B&NES and South Gloucestershire would be put at risk from Corbyn policies imposed by a Bristol-centric Labour Party.

Investment would be focussed on Labour’s Bristol heartlands, and the needs of B&NES and South Gloucestershire sidelined and taken for granted.

Lesley Mansell recently said on Twitter: “First we took Bristol, next we’ll take the West of England and after that, we’ll take the whole South West.”

Separately, she urged people to have their say at the ballot box. We agree!

The future of our region is at stake, and so it is vital that voters in B&NES and South Gloucestershire turn out on May 4 to support Tim Bowles and ensure we have a mayor who will represent the whole area and not just Bristol.

Matthew Riddle, leader of South Gloucestershire Council and Tim Warren, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council