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Bristols political landscape NR

Bristol's Changing Political Landscape

Bristol’s political landscape is undergoing a transition as it abandons its Mayoral system. The change, being implemented at the May 2024 local elections follows a decisive referendum in 2022 where Bristol residents voted to abolish the role of Mayor and opt for an alternative system of governance in a Committee structure.

In a committee structure, key decisions are made by committees with a specific area of jurisdiction. Committee membership will be reflective of the composition of the Council, with each party having a commensurate representation on each Committee. While Committee governance allows more Councillors to be more active in the decision-making process, decision-making can become inefficient and drawn out.

Under the new committee system, the city Mayor will be replaced by a Council Leader with similar responsibilities, but fewer powers than the outgoing directly elected executive Mayor. Many are concerned that the loss of a Mayor could reduce the city’s power to advocate for itself on a national and international stage.

Seven committees are set to govern Bristol City Council, including key domains such as 'Strategy and Resources,' 'Economy and Skills,' 'Health, Care, and Wellbeing,' 'Transport,' 'Children and Education,' and 'Homes and Communities,' according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Turning to the makeup of Bristol City Council, more than half of the current Cabinet, including Mayor Marvin Rees, are not seeking re-election in 2024. The Council is therefore set to see significant personnel changes in strategic positions, regardless of the election outcome.

While Labour controls the Council, they do so by virtue of having the elected executive Mayor; now having fewer seats than the Green Party. Labour currently hold 24 seats and the Green Party holds 25 seats.

The Green Party secured its position as Bristol City Council’s largest political party in February 2023, winning a tight by-election.

The Green Party interprets its majority on the Council and recent by-election victories as a clear mandate for change in Bristol’s political direction, and in parts of the City, voter sentiment seems to match. The upcoming election in May 2024 could mark a historic shift in political power, with the Greens mounting a significant challenge to wrestle control from Labour, which has governed Bristol City Council since 2016.

In Parliamentary news, the West of England’s metro mayor Labour’s Dan Norris has been selected as Labour’s candidate to take on Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg in the North East Somerset and Hanham constituency. If successful in dethroning Sir Jacob, Mr Norris will attempt to perform both roles simultaneously. Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, failed in his bid to become Labour’s candidate for the new Bristol North East constituency. The Bristol Heavyweight, Mr Rees, was beaten by then Mayor of Lewisham in Greater London, Mr Damien Egan, who also won the February by-election in Kingswood, following the resignation of Conservative MP Chris Skidmore. At the General Election, the Kingswood constituency will be dissolved; forming the new Bristol North East seat, with parts of the former constituency being enveloped by Filton & Bradley Stoke, and with less than 1% being taken in by Thornbury & Yate, currently held by Conservative Luke Hall MP.

By Nicholas Roberts

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