Bristol Mayor position to be scrapped in 2024 after referendum

  • Watch Richard Payne's report on the mayoral referendum decision

The people of Bristol have voted to scrap the mayoral system in the city after the referendum votes were counted early this morning (May 6).

The choice was between retaining the mayor or scrapping the position in favour of a committee system with a council leader at the head of City Hall.

A total of 94,552 people voted in the referendum, almost 29% of those eligible. \

The current mayor Marvin Rees will continue in the role before stepping down in 2024.

He told ITV News: "I think this was a distraction but it was a distraction with major consequences for the city. I really hope that my fears about the committee system are wrong and we'll see over the coming years."

He rejected the idea the vote was a judgement on his time in office, adding: "It's always been about the system. The mayoral system offers a broader talent base from which to draw people who could become the leader and it gives Bristolians an opportunity to directly rather than the councillors deciding who that leader will be."

Mary Page led the 'It's Our City Bristol' campaign against the mayoral model and said the result was a comprehensive rejection of the current system.

"We are giving the people of Bristol the commitment that we will work together for the best of the city. This is a result for the people, this is about saying 'you are welcome, come into the council, we want to hear from you'

"People voted for change. They voted for the positive option. What I would ask of Marvin now is 'please allow all of the councillors more access to help set up the structures that we need in two years' time."

The last election was held on 6 May last year - delayed a year by covid - when the city chose to re-elect Marvin Rees of the Labour Party.

When he was elected last year, he said he would not run again after this current term.

But the Bristol voters have decided to do away with the role of mayor entirely after this term, 10 years after voting for it.

How will Bristol's political system work once the mayor is scrapped?

A committee system will see councillors from all parties forming groups to decide on issues such as education, transport and social care. The council leader will be appointed internally by councillors, not the public.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees

Supporters of having a Mayor of Bristol argued it is more visible and effective. Opponents that it puts too much power - and a budget of around £400million - in the hands of one person.

Committee system supporters who will now have a greater say in the way the city is run, argue its more democratic, but critics argue against only councillors appointing a leader and claim political in-fighting would slow decision making.

Opposition councillors welcomed the decision to scrap the post.

Heather Mack, leader of the Green Party group, said: “For many years now, important decisions affecting the whole of our city have been made behind closed doors by just one person whom the public and elected councillors cannot easily challenge.”

Mark Weston, leader of the Conservative group, added: “The mayoral model has proven a disaster for Bristol – too much power at the whim of one individual.

“The public have rejected this unaccountable model of government. We now need all parties to work together to bring in a more conciliatory form of politics to Bristol.”