Bristol votes to get rid of mayor after 'disaster for democracy'

·3-min read
Undated handout photo issued by Bristol City Council of their Mayor, Marvin Rees who has spoken of his surprise that four people were cleared of criminal damage for pulling down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston. Issue date: Thursday January 6, 2022.
Marvin Rees will remain as Mayor until 2024. (PA)

Bristol has voted to abolish its mayor in a local referendum as a Tory councillor branded the position a "disaster" which grants too much power to one individual.

City residents were asked to vote on the choice of a mayor or a committee system which sees decisions made by groups of councillors.

The referendum was held 10 years after Bristol switched to a mayor and cabinet model of local governance.

In a vote on Thursday, 56,113 opted for the committee system, with 38,439 opting to continue with an elected mayor.

The turnout was 28.6%.

The referendum result is likely to be ratified at an extraordinary meeting of the full council on 24 May.

Labour’s Marvin Rees will continue as Bristol’s mayor until May 2024, when the new system will start.

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Photo taken in Bristol, United Kingdom
Photo taken in Bristol, United Kingdom

Speaking after the result was announced in the early hours of Friday, Rees said: "I've shared that I think the committee system is a very poor system," he said.

"I hope I am wrong, because certainly the city faces all these challenges and the city needs a leadership that can lead it in the face of the challenges and opportunities."

Speaking of what he would suggest to those will be taking over he added: "Work hard, get some clarity on what the committee system actually is, how it will work, stay absolutely focused on delivery.

"This is not just about self-congratulatory times on the campaign, now you've got to take responsibility."

Conservative group leader Councillor Mark Weston said: “The mayoral model has proven a disaster for Bristol – too much power at the whim of one individual.

"The public have rejected this unaccountable model of government.

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"We now need all parties to work together to bring in a more conciliatory form of politics to Bristol.”

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.”

Councillor Jos Clark, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The Bristol Liberal Democrat group brought the motion for this referendum to full council in December last year and in the spirit of cross-party working were happy to let the Green Party second the motion.

“This is a good example of working together for the good of our city and we look forward to more collaboration in future and under a fairer system.”

Mary Page, the co-founder of the campaign for change, said: "I'd like to start by thanking the people of Bristol who came out to vote, this is their victory, it was about them, because it is our city, it belongs to us, the people of Bristol, and that is what it is all about.

"The committee system will allow more people to be involved, to be engaged in democracy."