Bristol Vote 2012: Lord mayor versus elected mayor

Bristol will hold a referendum on 3 May on whether to adopt an elected mayor.

But what would an elected mayor do? And how would the role differ from that of the Lord Mayor of Bristol?

Councillor Geoffrey Gollop is nearing the end of his time as the Lord Mayor of Bristol, a tradition held in the city for almost 800 years. Here he helps illustrate the two roles.

Lord Mayor of Bristol Directly-elected Mayor
Councillor Geoff Gollop, the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Bristol A silhouette of a man and a woman
Eyeglasses and fountain pen on top of a calendar How long do they spend in office?

Bristol's Lord Mayor takes up the position for one year, beginning in May. The lord mayor is typically selected by his or her fellow councillors, but in Bristol the political parties currently take it in turns to nominate an individual.

A directly-elected mayor of Bristol would be in office for four years.

A man in a suit points towards the camera What level of power do they have?

"The only decisions I make are what events I go to. The lord mayor has no power whatsoever. The lord mayor has influence, in that you are able to speak with council officers and ask for information, but it is out of courtesy that it is responded to. There is no authority whatsoever."

An elected mayor would have allocated to them all the Executive (also known as cabinet) functions and responsibilities. A cabinet of between two and nine councillors would then be appointed and one chosen to be deputy mayor. Together they would be responsible for a range of council services with a turnover of about £1bn a year. They would not have responsibility for non-executive functions such as planning matters.

Mission statement What is their mission statement?

"It's about promoting all the good things about the city - promoting the city's identity, encouraging people to believe in the city and seeing opportunities for the city."

There is no set mission statement for the position as it would be a personal agenda to be campaigned about and decided by the elected mayor. It would likely be along the lines of improving the lives of those living in Bristol and making it a greater city.

A smashed piggy bank with coins spilling out How much do they get paid?

"All councillors get an allowance. There is a special responsibility allowance which is paid to the lord mayor and is the same level as is paid to members of the cabinet who actually run the council. This allowance is in recognition of the fact that effectively you are unable to work in a full-time job during your term of office."

The elected mayor's pay would be decided by the full council following advice from an independent Remuneration Panel. As a guide, the current council leader is paid £40,473 a year, plus the standard councillor allowance of £11,416.

An old clock What is the history of the role?

"The history of the post is remarkable. Bristol has had a mayor since 1216 and a lord mayor since 1899. If you went back 30 years the lord mayor was still living in the official residence with in-house staff who would cater and provide for his every requirement. Things have changed very significantly now."

The role would be brand new to the city.

The desk that US President George W. Bush used inside the White House Oval Office Do they have their own office?

"I have an official residence but I don't actually get anywhere near it most of the time because I am out and about. I have a diary secretary and a modest amount of administrative support but I have no capacity for anybody to write letters or anything like that. They are basically dealing with the 800-odd engagements a year that I have to go to."

The current leader of Bristol City Council has an office, so this would likely continue if an elected mayor was to replace the current council leader.

A street party What social events do they have to attend?

"Eleven months in and I have completed something like 765 engagements in that time. Most normal weeks it's running at some 20 engagements a week. It's a totally wide range of events. One can be representing the city at formal dinners or a school visit or charity group. The wonderful thing about being lord mayor is that every event you attend you have been invited to, so people are pleased to see you."

There would be no legal requirement for the elected mayor to attend social functions, but it is likely they would choose to meet with guests and dignitaries in their role representing the city.

Mayors official chain and garments Do they have to wear civic dress?

"My choice has been to wear a suit on virtually every occasion or to wear morning dress if appropriate. When I visit a school I'll tend to wear my civic robes and hat because the kids love it. At all stages, other than informal internal meetings, I would be wearing the chain of office and I would normally be accompanied by my wife who would be wearing the lady mayoress's chain as well."

No civic dress.

A mayoral car Do they have a chauffeur?

"When I started it sounded like something of a luxury to have a chauffeur but in fact we would not be able to achieve anything like the number of events that we do without one. A lot of the events are in the central area of the city where parking would be impossible. The other reason we have a chauffeur is nothing to do with us but actually the security of the chains of office which have a significant value."

No chauffeur.

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