Former rough sleeper becomes Bristol's new Lord Mayor

Bristol has had a lord mayor since 1216 Credit: Bristol Design

A former rough sleeper has become Bristol's next Lord Mayor.

Councillor Paul Goggin has promised to “recognise the unrecognised” during his year in the historic, ceremonial role.

Minutes after being sworn in, the Labour backbencher got engaged to his long-term partner of 17 years.

He then returned to the chamber to tell everyone that she had said "yes".

Cllr Goggin said he had been asking himself how he got to the position and outlined his chequered life - from growing up in London and dropping out of school.

Cllr Paul Goggin got engaged to his partner of 17 years just minutes after being sworn in Credit: Bristol Design

He said: “I moved to Bristol in 2003 but in 2005 I became homeless through no fault of my own and had to sleep on the streets and sofa-surfed with friends.

“Then Bristol Council stepped in to help me. I lived in emergency accommodation for six months, alongside refugees, asylum seekers and other unfortunate Bristolians.

“It was a difficult time, to say the least and I saw things that would make the devil blush.”

The new Lord Mayor said the local charity Second Step helped him find temporary accommodation before he moved into a council bungalow in Knowle West where he still lives.

He said: "As some of you know from my previous speeches, I live with bipolar disorder and complex PTSD.

“In a way they don’t hamper me, they enable me to think slightly differently from most others – my secret superpower. I also have chronic anxiety, and I can’t put into words how difficult this is today because I’m talking about myself.

“But we must keep speaking out about our mental health issues, not be ashamed or embarrassed – own it, normalise it to fight against the stigma so many suffer from.”

“I will of course still champion all the faiths in this wonderfully diverse city"

Cllr Goggin is a humanist, the first one to be sworn in as lord mayor in Bristol but he said: “Don’t be mistaken into thinking this is in any way anti-religious – it’s quite the opposite.

"I will of course still champion all the faiths in this wonderfully diverse city but also the increasing number of those with none."

Tabling the motion, Labour group leader Cllr Steve Pearce said that for many of the eight centuries the position existed, it was reserved for Bristol’s elite.

“Anyone who knows Paul will know that that label doesn’t quite apply to him,” he said.

“He’s been very open about his past and it’s why there’s nobody better suited to becoming Bristol’s first citizen.

"Someone who truly understands the lives of all Bristolians, especially those that are underrepresented in the council chamber.

“And ‘understanding’ is the word I’d like to use – his understanding of the challenges facing the working class and as lord mayor has promised to work with mental health charities, alcohol charities and to help those organisations that helped him.

“This is what we need from a Lord Mayor.”

Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter