Bristol City Council leader Barbara Janke to stand down

The leader of Bristol City Council, Barbara Janke, announces she has made the "sad" decision to step down.

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The leader of Bristol City Council has announced she is to step down.

Barbara Janke said she would stand down as council leader and as leader of the Liberal Democrat group.

Ms Janke announced her decision to the Lib Dem-controlled authority's cabinet earlier. She said she made the decision as she approached her 65th birthday.

She said it had been an "enormous privilege" to serve as council leader in 2003-2004, 2005-2007 and from 2009 to the present.

She will remain leader of the Lib Dem group until the group's annual meeting on 8 May, when a new leader will be chosen.

She's been in charge through some troubled times - even within her own party.

Barbara Janke is proud of her record leading the Liberal Democrats, increasing their councillors, and winning the party overall control of the city.

But there was dissent within the ranks; for one year she was even deposed as group leader. And the Lib Dems' rise wasn't sustained: at times they've gone backwards, including in 2011 when they lost the majority they'd gained two years earlier.

And across the council chamber relations have sometimes been fraught. In 2003 there was deadlock when no group wanted to take charge. The eventual three-party power-sharing deal was never easy, and the "rainbow council" collapsed the following year.

However, success is sometimes judged by lack of failure. The fact that Bristol's no longer notorious for its high council tax and poor schools is a legacy she'll hope to be remembered by.

The successor will be the party's candidate for leadership of the council.

Ms Janke will continue in her role as councillor representing the Clifton ward.

Liverpool-born Ms Janke served as a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, London, from 1986 to 1994.

She stood unsuccessfully as Lib Dem candidate for the Surbiton constituency at the 1992 general election.

She moved to Bristol and was elected to the council in 1995, taking over as Lib Dem group leader from current Bristol West MP Stephen Williams in 1997.

Ms Janke said: "I am enormously proud of the Liberal Democrats' achievements here since then - growing from just a handful of members to become the largest party on the council, with a majority for two years."

She claimed the party had achieved "a great deal".

"Bristol is a highly successful city, on all the economic indicators we're the most successful economy outside London," she said.

"It was true to say a few years ago that Bristol punched below its weight, but now Bristol's really moving forward."

In September, Labour Peer Lord Adonis criticised the way Bristol was run in a letter to the government, and said the city needed an elected mayor.

He said Bristol had had seven leaders in the past 10 years and the "constant instability in the council" was leading to poor services.

Ms Janke wrote to the deputy prime minister to complain about Lord Adonis's comments.

Ms Janke disagrees with the idea of an elected mayor but claimed that the mayoral referendum, which takes place on 3 May, had not forced her out.

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