Bristol Mayor role will be scrapped after city referendum

May 06 2022
Bristol Mayor role will be scrapped after city referendum

BRISTOL'S elected mayor will be scrapped after voters decided to bring back committees to run the city council.

A city-wide referendum saw 59% of voters favouring the committee system, with 41% voting to keep the mayor.

It means that from 2024, when the city next holds elections, there will be no mayoral elections and councillors will take full responsibility for deciding policy and running the executive.

Opposition councillors who backed the Scrap the Mayor campaign following a full council motion last year that forced the poll, cheered as the result was announced in the early hours of this morning and then spoke of their hopes for the future.

Green group leader Heather Mack said: “The outcome of tonight’s vote marks a new chapter in the way our city is run.

“For many years now, important decisions affecting the whole of our city have been made behind closed doors by just one person whom the public and elected councillors cannot easily challenge.

“In the future, we look forward to a fairer, more open way of doing business where decisions are made collaboratively, at open meetings the public can attend and scrutinise.

“I believe empowering councillors will allow the council to take more action to sort out the city’s transport, care crisis and climate emergency, with all councillors able to contribute to and scrutinise crucial decisions.

“I’m not going to pretend it will be perfect – and we won’t always agree on everything – but that’s fine. Debate and discussion don’t undermine democracy, they are the essence of it."

Current Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, who was re-elected last year but has said already said he would stand down at the end of his second term in 2024, will remain in charge at City Hall until then.

The Labour mayor said the referendum had been "a distraction with major consequences for the city".

He said: "I really hope my fears of the committee system are not warranted and that it proves to be successful, because the scale of the challenges we face right now coming off the back of the pandemic, dealing with Brexit, the climate emergency, ecological emergency, housing crisis – that requires a city that is focused on making decisions and focused on delivering, not focused on internal wrangling and posturing and politics that gets sucked into City Hall.

“My job is to continue to deliver for two years and try to make sure that there is as much momentum in the city as possible so that if things do begin to seize up, that momentum will continue to take the city forward into the years ahead.

“I’ve been clear from the start that it’s not about me because I’m not running in 2024. This has always been about the system.

I won two elections, so in terms of my record, my time in office, my style, on a big turnout and the number of votes I’ve got, they eclipse these numbers here, so I’ve been tested twice and been returned twice and then said I was going to leave and reinvent myself."

Just over a quarter of the city's eligible voters – 94,937 out of an electorate of 332,028, or 28.6% - took part in the referendum.

That was below the 41.1% who voted in last year's mayoral election, but higher than the 24% who voted in the referendum that led to the creation of the post in 2012.

Bristol was the only city in the country that voted for an elected mayor under legislation brought in by the Coalition government.

Yesterday's vote means the city will go back to using the system used during the 1980s and 90s, where council decisions were made by a series of committees, overseen at the top by a policy and resources committee. The chair of that committee was effectively the council leader.

The committee system was replaced by a leader and cabinet system, with scrutiny committees to challenge cabinet decisions, between 2000 and 2012, when the elected mayor took over.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Picture: Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees at the referendum count. Picture: Bristol Live