‘Complete backwards step’ – Bristol divided as mayor role scrapped

The people of Bristol have been voicing their opinions after it was revealed that the mayoral system in the city is to be scrapped.

Yesterday, more than 90,000 people ventured to their local polling station to vote on whether they wished to keep the current system of an elected mayor in place, or introduce a committee system instead. The results were announced just before 3:30am (May 6) and revealed that 56,113 people voted for the committee and 38,439 people voted for the mayor.

In light of these figures, it may be safe to say that the majority of Bristolians are quite pleased with the results, however, there is still much debate on social media platforms and message boards offering up a whole range of points and ideas – from the idea that Bristol ‘always votes against things’ to another which suggests that the mayoral system was ‘not as fair or as democratic’ as a committee and many are wondering what happens now.

Read more: Local Election 2022: What happens next after referendum result ?

‘To get rid of Marvin Rees’

Whether you love him or loathe him, Bristol’s Mayor Marvin Rees may have played a key part in voters’ decision-making.

Twitter user @LewseyIan responded to a tweet from BBC Bristol to say: “Rather than a referendum to scrap the Mayoral role, this became a vote to get rid of a man who had become a bit of a local dictator. I thought George was bad but Marvin was worse”.

And @ems_richard tweeted: “Can’t help feeling this has little to do with wanting committee decisions back but much to do with wanting Marvin Rees gone. Years of doing little to promote the city but lots to promote his personal political ideologies means time is up.”

While @EmilySteph2 said: “It’s a shame people couldn’t see past their dislike for Marvin Rees yesterday. I’m not his biggest fan but genuinely believe the mayoral model is best for this city.”

And @Illuminatekat wrote: “It’s not like Marvin Rees would have been seeking another term anyhow so making a political point by voting out the mayor did not make sense to me. Bristol’s next mayor would probably have seen a green candidate represented & strong leadership on #ClimateCrisis #WeDontHaveTime

‘Bristol always votes against’

One Bristolian brought up the idea that the people of the city usually use their voting power to vote ‘against’ things, rather than ‘for’ them.

@BristolRed tweeted: “I’ve thought for a long time now Bristol is a city that votes against things. It rarely votes For something.

“The last Mayoral Referendum was a vote against Cabinet Govt. Fergusson’s election was a vote against Party Politics and Marvin’s election was a vote against Fergusson.”

Who do we hold accountable?

While some were arguing that Bristol didn’t scrap the mayoral system as a principle, but rather the individuals that have been elected as Mayor so far and the decisions they have made, others were asking who people in need would turn to or hold accountable for certain issues such as housing, foodbanks and the like.

On Facebook, Steve Wood said: “Had we had better candidates who put the interest of the city over their own self-serving agenda, people would have voted for the role.”

@BristolianDream tweeted: “Not sure that Bristol is against the Mayor as a principal. It’s the individuals that have been voted in failing to deliver what they have been elected on, and trying to force through unpopular decisions. In South Bristol Marvin was cooked by where he insisted the ring road went.”

And @angiebual asked: “I’m pretty happy about the loss of #bristolmayor. No place can be shaped by one man and his opinions, life experience and policy. Am I missing something though. What do we lose?”

While BBC Radio Bristol presenter @johndarvall asked: “Two years to answer this vital question- if you were 1 of the 1000 in temporary accommodation in Bristol, with no mayor or council leader, who do you hold to account for that?”

And Diego Da Rae took to Facebook to comment: “At least with a Mayor we know who to blame . There will be a team that will cost 11 times the wages of the Mayor , that will agree on nothing with a lot of drama and costs.”

What does it mean for future projects?

In response to the news on Facebook about the referendum results, some wondered what this change in leadership would mean for projects and plans that Marvin Rees had put forward or promised he would deliver.

Andy Greig wrote: “Wonder if the Bristol Underground will be scrapped ? Time will tell if The Arena will ever get built after the constant dithering. Its supposed to open in 2024 – two years is not far away.

“Glad Rees is going as he was only interested in building housing developments. He didn’t do much else.”

In response to Rees’ statement that the results were “no reflection on his leadership”, Robert Hosken said: “Who is it about then you lemon, you have wasted nearly 50 million on Bristol Energy, you wasted millions on the Temple Meads arena, you have approved thousands of new build houses with no infrastructure for Health, Education, the roads in Bristol are appalling, I can go on but am just glad your going, good bye and good riddance. [sic]”

‘Calls for immediate change’

And some Bristol Live readers in particular have called for the changes to come into effect immediately.

One comment on our site reads: “He should go now. When you consider that many people who are being hurt by him won’t have even voted–they’ll be too young/immature to figure it out or have been unable to get time off work or get transportation to vote-it’s very clear that a majority of people want him gone.

“I see the consequences of his leadership when I run around the harbourside and through Leigh Woods. Someone who last went there two years ago wouldn’t recognize it today. It’s all luxury housing that most people can’t afford, that’s being bought up by the newcomers Rees has relentlessly been attracting despite our not having the resources to transport or house them or give them medical care.

“He hasn’t done a thing about the housing or bus crises. Rubbish in the parks is an increasing problem. All he has done is eat fancy lunches with developers who are building housing for wealthy newcomers.”

‘Going backwards’

While some are happy with the change, others are worried that Bristol will be going ‘backwards’.

@AmyMorse_Mentor tweeted: “I really hope you (the Bristol Green Party) can now have an impact in Bristol. But I am concerned the city may be dragged backwards to a time where nothing ever got done because the council were constantly infighting!

“Please prove me wrong and change our city for the better!”

@winematcher wrote: “absolutely gutted that Bristol will no longer have a mayor. A backwards step from a great city to one that will operate like a Parish council.”

@CFrankpitt said: “Complete backwards step and self-sabotage for Bristol. Incredibly disappointing.”

And JoeFrankie commented: “Welcome back to Old Bristol, where nothing gets done. Well done, Bristolians. Short-sighted as ever.”

What are your thoughts on the referendum results? Let us know in the comments below.

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