George Ferguson leaves empty chairs at cabinet meeting

First cabinet meeting under George Ferguson, Bristol
Image caption Political reporter for BBC Bristol Robin Markwell was at the meeting in Knowle and took this picture

Three chairs meant for Labour councillors, who have refused to join a cross-party cabinet, were left empty at a Bristol City Council meeting.

The symbolic gesture was made at the first cabinet meeting for new independent mayor George Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson had invited Labour to join his cabinet but the party's National Executive Committee blocked it.

Labour's Sean Beynon said it was "immature" but Mr Ferguson said Labour was doing a "disservice" to Bristol.

"They should think about where their priorities lie. Their priorities lie with serving Bristol, not with serving themselves," Mr Ferguson added.

Peter Hammond, former leader of the Labour group, resigned in November after Labour's governing body, the National Executive Committee, overruled a decision by party councillors to join the cabinet.

'Slimline cabinet'

Earlier this month Mr Ferguson announced that he would be taking on extra work as a result of Labour's absence.

The other positions will be taken by Gus Hoyt for the Greens, Simon Cook for the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Geoff Gollop.

Mr Hoyt will be in charge of environment and neighbourhoods, Mr Cook will be responsible for arts and culture, and Mr Gollop will head up finance.

"[It is] important that we have an effective but small cabinet, a slimline cabinet," added Mr Ferguson.

"But I do hope that within a short time, and certainly after the next council elections in May, that we end up with a full council of six as I originally intended."

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