Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Mayor for Bristol - Yes or No?

The truth is that no one knows which way Bristol will vote on Thursday.  But I've decided to vote 'no' for the following reasons (apologies for any inaccuracies but, as we did not receive any official explanation of the referendum proposal I've had to rely on my own investigations):

  • We don't know exactly how much it will cost and, at a time when key public services are being cut, I don't believe we should be spending money on unnecessary reforms.
  • We don't know exactly what powers will be vested in the mayor.  I believe these will be decided at a later date - when it will be too late for any of us to change our minds.
  • Although the process of electing the mayor is democratic, it will shift power from the whole council to the hands of one individual and her/his handpicked cabinet.
  • The mayor will be able to push through her/his budget on a mere 30% vote from council, as opposed to the majority approval currently required.
  • The election process will favour candidates put up by the major political parties (politicians/councillors past their sell-by date?), entrepreneurs backed by (and beholden to?)  business interests, single issue campaigners and celebrities.  I can't see manygenuinely independent candidates being in a position to mount a successful campaign.
  • The party political impasse in the council chamber is cited as reason to elect someone who will be able to cut through the wrangling, but I can't see that a mayor of one political persuasion would fare any better with a council of another.
  • I am anxious about suggestions that we might lose recourse to central government in issues such as planning.
  • I'd be grateful for a mayor who drove through projects that I believed in, but what if s/he were to drive through ones I objected to?
  • I am suspicious of top down localism.
  • While Bristol's mayor might negotiate a favourable deal with central government, where does that leave communities who have not been offered a mayor, or who have declined the offer.  Will this not lead to two tier cities?
  • It's not impossible, but nonetheless very difficult, to get rid of a bad mayor.
I'm sure there are readers who disagree with some or all of the above.  I'm happy to hear from you (provided you're civil, of course).  And feel free to correct any errors.

As for the rest of you.  Are you being asked to vote for a mayor on Thursday?  Which way will you vote?  Do you already have a mayor?  Are you happy with her/him?

I don't have to make my final decision until Thursday.  There is still time to convince me to vote 'yes'!


  1. I see the result is still not out yet. Which way do you think it will go?

  2. I have just learned that Bristol has bucked the trend and voted for an elected mayor, but only on a 24% turnout. 76% of Bristolians couldn't even be bothered to get down to their polling station. It's very depressing.

    A few prospective candidates have materialised, only one of whom would get my vote. Let's hope he manages to inspire a greater turnout for the election. Otherwise we are truly lost!

  3. Let's hope it all turns out better than you fear. Perhaps the intrepid 24% are the ancestors of Bristols brave and pioneering seafaring folk. Whoever they are they seem to want to give the idea a try. Hope they don't turn out to be foolhardy instead.

  4. I'm afraid it was only 13% who voted in favour of a mayor. Hardly a ringing endorsement of a radical reorganisation of local government.

    However I hope it works out alright.