Bristol mayor vote: City decides to abolish mayor post

Published
Image source, LDRS/Bristol Live
Image caption,
Marvin Rees is the current mayor of Bristol and will stay in place until 2024

Voters in Bristol have decided to abolish its directly elected mayor following a referendum.

The city was given the choice of having a mayor or a committee system in which decisions are made by groups of councillors.

Some 56,113 voted to scrap the post. The turnout for the referendum was 29%.

Bristol currently has a Labour mayor, Marvin Rees, who will hold the position until 2024. He was preceded by independent George Ferguson.

Image source, LDRS/Bristol Live
Image caption,
Mary Page, centre, from the 'Scrap the Mayor' campaign thanked those who had come out to vote

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."

With slightly more than 56,000 residents casting a ballot to introduce the committee system, 38,439 people wanted to retain the existing model of an elected mayor, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service

That equates to about 59% in favour of scrapping the mayor against 41% who preferred to maintain the status quo.

It means that from 2024, the political set-up at the local authority will change for at least the next decade.

Image caption,
Marvin Rees, right, said he hoped his "fears" for the committee system would not be realised

Analysis from BBC Points West Political Editor Paul Barltrop

So a decade after Bristol narrowly opted to have an elected mayor, it is being abandoned.

The role was controversial from the start. The first mayor was an independent, without a phalanx of supporting councillors, who took a lot of flak in the council chamber.

The present Labour mayor, Marvin Rees, has also clashed with councillors over the location of a long-awaited entertainment arena.

What ultimately made the difference was Labour losing its majority in the chamber.

Greens, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats co-operated to bring about this referendum.

They then got out on the ground to get voters to back their call for change.

Reacting to the result, announced shortly before 03:30 BST, Mr Rees said he hoped his "fears" for the committee system would not be realised.

"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."

Giving some advice to those 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."

Image caption,
The turnout was 28.59% – 94,937 voters out of an electorate of 332,028, including 379 spoiled ballot papers

The mayoral post was first created in 2012.

Bristol City Council said the result was likely to be ratified by councillors at a meeting later in May.

Work will now begin on the transition phase to a system where full council and a series of committees of councillors, such as for housing, transport, adult social care and children's services, will take over the decisions that have been made since 2012 by a mayor and cabinet.

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