Splits in the Labour Party in Bristol emerged yesterday over the upcoming referendum on an elected mayor for Bristol.
On the day a group led by the Chair of the Bristol Labour Party called for “a new form of leadership” in the city, the party’s leader in Council demanded answers over what powers an elected mayor would actually have.
Meanwhile, Conservative leader Councillor Peter Abraham is set to officially launch the Tory vote ‘Yes’ for an Elected Mayor campaign today, saying “there is every indication that there will be a majority ‘Yes’ vote at the polls”.
The Tories in Bristol have been generally united in their support of the government’s plans for elected mayors in the city. The ruling Lib Dems though have reflected Labour’s splits.
At an event on Friday at Bristol Speakers’ Corner on College Green, Cllr Tim Kent spoke against Lib Dem colleague Stephen Williams in objecting to the plans, arguing political power in the city should not be concentrated in one person’s hands.
While Labour has been generally agnostic on the issue in recent weeks, as the referendum date of May 3 approaches, those for and against the plans are now becoming more vociferous.
Yesterday, Cllr Peter Hammond, leader of the Labour councillors called for clarity from local government minister Greg Clark.
“Currently we have more heat than light being cast on this issue – and the main problem is that the government is asking people to vote blind. No-one knows what any new City Mayor could do. Before they vote, electors should know exactly what power an elected mayor would have.
“Bristol needs to know exactly what is on offer – that would be straightforward, open and fair to everyone – after all it may affect the outcome of the vote.”
His statement appeared to pour cold water over a statement released over the weekend by Darren Lewis – chair of the Bristol Labour Party – who said he and some Labour councillors (see below) believed it was now “time to open up the Council to local people”.
“If the last decade has shown us anything it is that Bristol needs a new form of leadership. The status quo does not work,” the group said.
“The success of our City is often in spite of, rather than because of the actions of the Council. Bristolians are enterprising, ambitious and creative while the Council is bureaucratic, sluggish and indecisive. The indictment is damning when a Comedia report supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation described Bristol as a city which is ‘less than the sum of its parts’.
“Now is the time to open up the Council to local people. Time to liberate the leadership of the Council and move it out of the shadows, with no more stitched up deals in closed rooms by the majority party. Now is the time for the people to be trusted with the selection of their leader. Now is the time for a powerful advocate for Bristol who fights for a fairer deal for Bristolians on the national stage and raises our profile internationally.
“While some look to the past for some glorious era of local Government we look to the future. In doing so we are brave and confident enough to look beyond fearful self interest. Let the people decide who leads our city.Let us have a directly elected Mayor.”
Meanwhile, people in Bristol are being urged to let the council know if they have not received a leaflet about the mayoral referendum.
The booklet was supposed to have been delivered to all addresses in the city by the end of March.
Councillor Gary Hopkins told the BBC: “We want people to complain if they’ve not had the leaflet so we can send one out to them.”
Labour supporters of elected mayor statement
Darren Lewis: Chair Bristol Labour Party, Former Chair & Sec Bristol West Labour
Mark Bradshaw: Cllr Bedminster
Margaret Hickman: Cllr Lawrence Hill
Helen Holland: Cllr, Former Leader of Bristol Council & Bristol Labour Group
Sean Beynon: Cllr Southville
Paul Smith: Former Cllr, Former Candidate for Bristol West, Alderman
Kelvin Blake: Former Cllr, Non Executive Director of University Hospitals Bristol
Terry Cook: Former Cllr/ Former BCC Exec member/ Former Chair Bristol Labour
Ben Mosley: Cabot Ward Candidate
Mhairi Threlfall: Eastville Ward Candidate
P Kennedy-Chapman: Clifton East Candidate
Marvin Rees: Labour Future Candidates Programme, Legacy Commission Member
Gus Baker: President of University of Bristol Students Union/Labour Students
Calum Sherwood: Chair Bristol University Labour Students
Hannah Pollock: Chair Bristol University Labour Students
Josephine Suherman: Vice Chair Bristol University Labour Students
For more information about the referendum and the issues, call Bristol City Council on 0117 922 3400 or visit www.bristol.gov.uk/