Ex Mayor George Ferguson on Mayoral System Referendum Vote Bristol City Council Tue 07 Dec 2021




Published on Dec 4, 2021

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees denies he is a "bully" and an "egoist" as he criticises councillors


Should Bristol keep the Mayor? Starting gun fired on debate future of elected role


Vote imminent on whether the city should have another referendum, ten years on

The starting gun has been fired on the debate around whether Bristol should continue to have an elected mayor.

The Liberal Democrats at City Hall are proposing that the future of the position of Mayor of Bristol should again be put to the public, with a referendum next year.

Meanwhile, a new project has been launched by key figures in the city’s creative establishment, which says it wants to ‘better inform’ people in Bristol about the mayoral leadership model.

The Liberal Democrat motion will go to full council on December 7, and call for a binding referendum on the Mayoral system in Bristol.

The motion calls for the people of Bristol to be offered a choice between the current mayoral system and an alternative - having the city run by elected councillors on committees.

Cllr Alex Hartley (Lib Dem, Hotwells & Harbourside) is proposing the motion and said the mayoral position was ‘autocratic’. “Bristol has suffered through ten years of the Mayoral model, and it is time for the people of Bristol to make their voice heard. From the arena to Cumberland Basin, from RPZs to Neighbourhood Partnerships, the Mayor has consistently ignored the wishes of Bristolians and councillors, because the Mayoral system allows it.

“This must change. I hope that councillors will vote to put the question back to the public,” he added.

Former Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cllr Jos Clark (Lib Dem, Brislington West) is the leader of the Lib Dem group at City Hall.

“We fundamentally believe that the people of Bristol deserve a vote on this,” she said. “Back in March we were just a few votes shy of securing a referendum. Given the changes to the political composition of the council since the local elections, we are confident that a majority of councillors will back a referendum. This mayoral mess cannot continue.”

As Cllr Clark said, it’s not the first time the Lib Dems have brought a motion to ask for a referendum on the mayoral model to City Hall.

Back in March, before May’s city and mayoral elections, the Lib Dems proposed a similar motion, but this was roundly defeated when Green Party councillors largely voted with Labour and turned down the idea.

That vote did throw up controversy about the mayoral model. Soon-to-step-down Labour councillor Mike Davies broke ranks from the Mayor Marvin Rees and said having a mayor running the council meant the role of councillor was made ‘hollow’.

“There has been such a disparity between my hopes before I got elected and the reality of being a councillor under the mayoral system,” he said at the time. “It has been a demoralising experience. Under the mayoral system so much experience, talent and expertise has gone wasted.

“Councillors are not a relic of the past or an inconvenience despite being made to feel that way much of the time. The reasons we’ve had councillors for hundreds of years is so communities can have a genuine voice when decisions are made.

“But for the most part the mayoral system has minimised the role to one of responding to complaints and undertaking case work. Without being able to effectively realise change, our role is hollow and our communities are let down,” he added.

But now, the Lib Dems say they are more confident that their new motion will get voted through - which would mean Bristol would be going to the referendum polls early next May to vote on the future of the Mayoral model.

Firstly, many Green Party councillors said they voted against the first motion in March because they said it didn’t offer an alternative model for the way Bristol should be run. Now, the motion offers the alternative of a proportionally-filled committee system - which is very close to the national Green Party policy.

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