The minister bringing forward the elected mayor referendum in Bristol has said the new leader’s powers could be extended geographically, should the city ask for it.
Cities minister Greg Clarke said that if people in Bristol and surrounding areas asked for a wider ‘metro-mayor’ style system, then the government would listen seriously to the request.
In advance of the May 3 referendum, in which Bristol will be asked if it wants a directly elected mayor, Mr Clarke backed calls from some in the ‘yes’ campaign who have called for the powers of the new role to extend beyond the city council’s boundaries.
“What’s on offer on May 3 is a directly elected mayor for the Bristol City Council area – that’s what Parliament agreed. But if people vote yes for a mayor and if the people of Bristol and the surrounding area come back to the Government and say ‘We’d like the mayor to cover a wider area’ of course we would listen to that,” he said.
On Monday, Warwick University published its findings on the reform of Local Government, saying there was “no point” in electing a mayor whose role did not extend beyond the city boundaries.
It added the mayor’s powers needed to reflect the wider geographical area which would “foster economic growth”.
A spokesman for the ‘Yes’ campaign said he endorsed the findings, but said the reforms had to be taken one step at a time.
An expert on local government at the University of the West of England (UWE) has also strongly backed an elected mayor.
Robin Hambleton, Professor of City Leadership at UWE, said: “The choice facing voters in Bristol is not between more powers for local government or more mayors, as some have suggested. Reform should bring about progress on both these fronts.
“We live in the most centralised state in the western world. A vote for a directly elected mayor is a vote for more outgoing local political leadership. A directly elected mayor for Bristol will be in a position to speak out for the city and to strengthen local democracy. The case for introducing a directly elected mayor for Bristol is very strong.”
Meanwhile, the ‘No’ campaign have reacted angrily against claims by their opponents that they are only motivated by “political self interest”.
Ian Campion-Smith, is a Liberal Democrat member of the Bristol Says No campaign and husband of executive member for education Councillor Claire Campion-Smith.
He told The Post this morning: “In the light of the increasing levels of political backing for a ‘yes’ vote, it is disingenuous for the yes campaign to try and portray the referendum debate as being between a group of non-political, altruistic, small business people on one side and a group of politically-motivated, self-interested, councillors on the other hand.”
For more information about the referendum and the issues, call Bristol City Council on 0117 922 3400 or visit www.bristol.gov.uk/