Bristol City Hall

Bristol City Council to return to committee system of governance

Voters in Bristol have voted to scrap the directly elected mayoral position, which will see the council return to a committee system of governance from 2024 for at least a decade.

In total, 59% of electors in the city backed the option of ‘In favour of one or more committees made up of elected councillors’, compared to 41% who voted for ‘In favour of one or more committees made up of elected councillors’.

The turnout in the referendum on the governance arrangements of Bristol City Council, which was approved by councillors in December 2021, was 28.59%.

The position of Mayor of Bristol, which entails a £65,738 annual salary, was created after voters backed an elected mayor over a cabinet system by 53% to 47% in a referendum held in 2012, being the only one of ten English cities to back a mayoral system.

In total, there have been two Mayors in its history, George Ferguson, who held the role between 2012 and 2016, and current incumbent, Marvin Rees, who was first elected in 2016 and retained his position at last year’s election.

Since the role was created, devolution has intensified in the region, with Bristol being part of the West of England Combined Authority, along with Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

The combined authority, which has powers over homes, transport, skills, jobs and support for businesses has a directly elected mayor, currently Dan Norris, meaning that Bristol effectively has two mayors.

Commenting, Mr Rees, who was in favour of keeping the mayoral system, said:

“Despite real concerns, I hope the committee system can deliver for our city, continuing our administration’s momentum building a better Bristol in the face of enormous challenges, not least the national cost of living crisis, global migration crisis and the climate and ecological emergencies.

“We’ll keep working hard over the next two years to keep delivering for Bristol.

“2024 will see different council governance, but will also see a further transformed city, our arena and the Bristol Beacon open, over £400m of clean energy investment rolling out, completing the largest council housing building project in a generation, bringing more jobs like Channel 4 to Bristol and building even more new affordable homes for Bristolians.”

The referendum sees Bristol City Council becoming the fourth authority to scrap its directly elected Mayor, after Stoke-on-Trent (2009), Hartlepool (2013) and Torbay (2019), with Liverpool City Council currently consulting residents over how it is governed.

Outside of Bristol, there are 16 local authorities across England which have directly elected Mayors, including Croydon, whose electorate backed a mayoral system in a referendum held in October.

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