Watch Richard Payne's full report here
Bristol's first elected Mayor, George Ferguson, has told ITV News the role should be scrapped to increase the influence of the wider West of England region.
Resisting pressure to rejoin the race for May's elections, the entrepreneur and campaigner is leading calls for the public to be given the vote to decide on the local political system it wants.
In an exclusive interview, he also had some radical views on the city's transport problems, saying it would make sense to ban all cars from the centre.
This is his open letter on why he's decided against standing for Mayor in May.
There are several political reasons why, in spite of my strong belief in the people of Bristol, that it is not for me:
We have moved on with the Government decision to invest in ‘Metro Mayors’ exemplified by Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Andy Street in the Birmingham city region (West Midlands) and Bristol & Liverpool are left as the only ‘core cities’ with a two tier mayoral system.
We now need to invest in the post of Metro Mayor for the Bristol & Bath city region (West of England) and earn the same national authority as has been gained by Manchester and Birmingham.
We need shared objectives from all four of the WoE constituent District Councils, Bath & NES, Bristol, S. Glos and N.Somerset to work co-operatively on strategic planning, transport, housing, environment and public health.
4.Two competing elected mayors in the same city region weaken each other and confuse government as to who they should listen to. We need a clear leadership structure if we are to gain the necessary powers.
There are also personal reasons:
value my freedom and time for family and friends and it would be a huge personal sacrifice to return to a job that gave no time for play!
I have several social enterprises and businesses to run and contribute to for which I had no time when serving as mayor.
I am now able to use my experience, including that of running the UK’s best and most admired city, to promote Bristol and to share experiences with other cities across the world. This I can do with minimal flying as I now have time for trains!
I am free to campaign for the environment which means so much to me and is vital for our childrens’ future
enjoy writing and speaking and want more time to do so
So where do we go from here?
We should hold a referendum at the first possible opportunity, in May 2022, to decide as to whether the City of Bristol wants to continue to have its own elected mayor.
This requires a petition by 15% of the electorate – about 50,000 people – which is a challenge but achievable.
If a referendum is permitted I am pretty sure that the people of Bristol would now vote to end the mayoral role and return power to the elected members of Council. This would mean the mayoral role could cease in May 2024 and whoever is elected this May would be the city’s last elected mayor.
Meanwhile I do believe that we need to elect a new mayor for those four years - one that is more collegiate in his or her behaviour, really believes in the climate emergency and sticks to their promise to create a politically mixed ‘rainbow’ cabinet. In order to do that we need to rally round a single candidate – of which I will have more to say later this month…"