Campaigners for a ‘Yes’ vote in next week’s elected mayor referendum in Bristol have said the resignation of Barbara Janke as council leader shows that Bristol is crying out for continuity at the heart of local government.
Yesterday, Ms Janke shocked councillors when she announced suddenly she would step down as leader of Bristol City Council and the city’s Liberal Democrats.
The Clifton councillor said she wanted to step away from the limelight after 15 years leading the party, and give a new leader time to prepare for local elections “in the coming months and years”.
But elected mayor campaigners said her resignation would lead to Bristol having its eighth change of leader in 10 years, a situation they described as unsustainable.
Jaya Chakrabarti, spokesperson for the Mayor for Bristol campaign, said: “It’s not the leaders it’s the system. We need an electoral system that helps a leader do the job, not hinders.
“It’s sad news that Barbara Janke has chosen to resign. I’ve seen her achieve amazing things under very difficult conditions. I hope Barbara will continue to play an important role in the affairs of Bristol.”
Ms Janke has been an outspoken opponent of an elected mayor, saying an elected mayor would have the same problems that the city faces now.
“It is unrealistic to expect one person to answer the expectations of nearly half a million people,” she told a public debate earlier this year.
She denied her decision was based on the forthcoming referendum, despite stepping down just a few days after the result will be announced.
Mayoral candidate George Ferguson backed Ms Chakrabarti’s comments, saying he believed she had been operating “with one hand tied behind her back” due to a system which was very party political and played “games in the city council”.
Ms Janke will remain Lib Dem group leader until the group’s annual meeting on the evening of Tuesday, May 8. Whoever is chosen at that meeting as her successor will be the party’s candidate for leadership of Bristol City Council at its annual meeting on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 15.