Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees
A majority of elected members of Bristol City Council backed a motion to hold a legally binding second referendum ten years after the first which created the post of Mayor of Bristol in 2012.
The referendum in May 2022 will offer Bristolians the choice of keeping an elected mayor or going back to the committee system of governance that was in place before George Ferguson became the city’s first directly elected mayor in November 2012.
Critics of the mayoral system say it has put too much power in the hands of one person and undermined the role of local councillors, while opponents of the committee system say it meant decision-making was too slow and nothing got done.
The committee system saw full council appoint cross-party committees to make decisions on specific matters such as transport, but retain the power to set the annual budget and make other large decisions. A core executive of members of the majority party retained the right of veto.
The motion to let the people of Bristol decide whether to ditch the mayoral system and return to the committee system at the end of the second term of current mayor Marvin Rees was put forward by the Liberal Democrats with the support of the Green Party, whose national policy favours committee systems.
After an impassioned debate on Tuesday night (November 7), the motion passed with the support of almost all opposition members, with 41 votes in favour of holding a referendum next year against 24 votes from the Labour group.
Two councillors abstained from the vote – Labour’s Zoe Goodman and Tim Wye from the Greens. Four councillors did not vote, according to the electronic voting system, including Paula O’Rourke, the former leader of the Green group, who did not attend the meeting.