Bristol mayoral referendum to be held in 2022 to decide on role's future

  • Watch: Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees says referendum an 'attack' on him

Voters in Bristol will decide whether to keep - or scrap - the city's mayoral system in a referendum next year.

Bristol councillors voted last night (December 7) in favour of holding a referendum in May to decide on the future of the role.

The role is currently occupied by Labour's Marvin Rees, who replaced independent George Ferguson in 2016.

Councillor Jos Clark, leader of the Liberal Democrats, put the motion forward after describing the system as a "mayoral mess".

Mr Rees replaced George Ferguson as Mayor of Bristol in 2016.

"For one person to have such power is absolutely wrong, and I’m glad that our motion succeeded today in hopefully ending the over-centralised and unaccountable Mayoral system," she said.

"Communities across the city have been ignored by the Mayor, but not any more."

Members of the Green Party also voted in favour of the referendum and welcomed the result.

But Labour politician Dan Norris, who was elected Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority earlier this year, said he wanted the role to stay.

"Decisions are hard things to make," he said. "That's why we have politicians to do that.

"We should be really carefully giving up something that is better than what we've had previously.

The former Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, wants to see a council leader structure with a cross-party cabinet. Credit: ITV News

"I think there's room for two mayors but I think there's room for debate about what the names of both mayors should be because I do think it does cause confusion," he added.

"We must be careful when we make this decision that we make a good choice so we can get on with making decisions that help the community because that's what democracy is about."

Mr Rees has previously said he will not be running at the next election.

After the motion was passed, the Bristol Labour Group suggested the referendum will be a costly exercise.

Marvin Rees is the current Mayor of Bristol and says he will not be running for re-election anyway. Credit: Marvin Rees

Cllr Pearce, leader of the Bristol Labour Group, said: "We had an election in May where candidates that wanted to abolish the position of Mayor couldn’t even muster 30% of the vote.

"We have a new Covid variant, cost-of-living skyrocketing, environmental and housing crises - and yet councillors are choosing to navel-gaze rather than get on with their job.

"Increased costs in adult social care and a lack of support from the Government mean we have to make £23m in budget savings.

"This unneeded, unwanted referendum will add around £700,000 to that."

The referendum will be held on Thursday 5th May.