Labour has lost overall control of Bristol City Council as the “Green surge” saw the party’s new main rivals more than double their seats.
Both groups now have 24 councillors, with Labour losing nine members at the local elections, which were declared on Sunday (May 9), and the Greens gaining 13, while the Conservatives remained on 14 and the Lib Dems lost one to leave them on eight.
Notable casualties included two Labour cabinet members – Kye Dudd and Afzal Shah – who both lost their seats on a disappointing day for the local authority’s former ruling group.
Lib Dem deputy group leader and Cotham ward Cllr Anthony Negus, deputy lord mayor and Ashley ward Labour Cllr Carole Johnson and ex-cabinet member and Horfield Tory Cllr Claire Hiscott, also lost their seats as the council saw a huge shake-up.
Among the new members elected is 18-year-old Lily Fitzgibbon, the youngest candidate standing at the polls, who took one of the two seats for the Greens in Bishopston & Ashley Down.
Other notable results included the Lawrence Hill ward where Labour held onto one of the two seats, but the Greens managed to take the other by overcoming a mammoth deficit from the 2016 elections when their candidate who finished third received 732 votes – 1,268 behind the second-placed Labour councillor.
This time, the Greens’ Yassin Mohamud clawed that back and then some to beat Labour into the crucial runner-up spot with 1,675 votes.
In Clifton, held by two Greens, the party extended its majority over the third-placed finisher from 122 votes in 2016 to 1,393 now.
And the party replaced both Labour seats in Lockleaze where the two incumbent councillors were stepping down – overcoming an 891-vote deficit from five years ago.
Cllr Dudd lost his seat by only 14 votes after a recount to fellow Labour candidate Farah Hussain, with Green Ani Stafford-Townsend claiming the Central ward’s other seat with the highest votes.
Fellow cabinet member Cllr Shah was one of two Labour members to lose the party’s seats to the Greens in Easton.
Attention will now turn to Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who will be sworn into office for a second term on Monday (May 10), and whether he will now have to revert to a rainbow cabinet of cross-party councillors, which he axed during his first term in office.
Mr Rees has a vote at full council, which would give Labour a slight edge in the chamber, but the group fell 12 seats short of restoring the overall majority it lost when now-former Cllr Jo Sergeant defected to the Greens weeks before the election.
That left Labour with 33 members compared with 34 for the opposition parties combined, although it was too late in the civic cycle to matter.
The former ruling group won overall control five years ago but a series of defections and retirements cut its majority.
In 2016, Jo Sergeant won 1,475 votes in Avonmouth & Lawrence Weston, a 24.75 per cent share when she was elected as a Labour candidate.
She received more votes this time as a Green – 1,534, trailing just 16 votes behind Conservative James Scott.
Her old Labour colleague Cllr Don Alexander was reelected on 1,695 votes, alongside Conservative newcomer John Geater on 1,563.
Labour’s Daphne Chikwere received 1,481 votes.
Ms Sergeant said after the declaration that her ward had been moving towards the Tories since December 2019, so she was “not at all surprised” at the result.
“I don’t think it’s fair that people who run against Labour get blamed for everything that goes wrong for the Labour Party,” she said.
“They’ve got to stop doing that. They’re going to run out of excuses soon.
“Labour has performed pretty badly. I’m pleased that some very good candidates have been elected.
“Tim Rippington is fantastic. One to watch out for is Kerry Bailes.”
Cllr Alexander said he was grateful to those who voted for him in the close race and Ms Chikwere was waiting for another chance to stand for election in the ward
Lily Fitzgibbon, one of two new Green councillors in Bishopston & Ashley Down, said she had felt reasonably confident of being elected.
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She said: “The ward is an area that feels really positive about the Greens.
“I am very pleased. There are so many things I would like to do as a councillor.
“I believe tackling climate change starts at a local level.
“We need to be reducing the air pollution in Bishopston and protecting urban trees.
“There is so much we can do.”
Long-serving councillor Anthony Negus, who lost his Cotham seat in one of the many Green gains, said voters had decided to “vote for a colour” but added that his party would be back because people understood the Lib Dems were committed to free speech and liberalism.
Cllr Guy Poultney, one of two newly elected Green members for the ward, said he had refused to believe the party could win there until it happened.
He said: “It was always going to be close.
“The Liberal Democrat candidate was hard-working and conscientious in his ward and it was a privilege to run against him.”
Bristol’s oldest councillor, 82-year-old Conservative Peter Abraham who served for 55 years, did not stand for reelection and was replaced by the party’s youngest councillor, 23-year-old Henry Michallat.
There is a new husband-and-wife team on the council after Sharon and James Scott were elected to represent Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze and Avonmouth & Lawrence Weston respectively.
Cllr Craig Cheney, who was deputy mayor for finance before the election, retained his Hillfields seat, one of the earliest to be declared on Sunday (May 9), and said he was “very happy and very excited”.
Asked whether he was expecting many Labour losses, he said: “It’ll be an interesting day.
“I wouldn’t like to call it at the moment. Some seats are very, very tight in Bristol.
“I think we will lose some, but we shall see. There’s definitely been a ‘Green surge’.”
The Greens picked up two seats in Windmill Hill, where newcomers Ed Plowden and Lisa Stone beat off the competition to fill the seats where Labour incumbents Jon Wellington and Lucy Whittle stepped down before the election.
They also picked up a seat in closely fought Bedminster, where Labour’s Celia Phipps lost to Tessa Fitzjohn, making it a bittersweet victory for surviving Labour Cllr Mark Bradshaw who said it was “painful” that Celia had not been reelected with him as the pair had worked as a team.
Cllr Fitzjohn said: “I’m really looking forward to it and I bring with me a lot of knowledge of the creative industries because I’m an arts producer and public art consultant, so I’m looking forward to bringing that knowledge into the chamber.”
The Greens held onto Southville, with newcomers Tony Dyer and Christine Townsend replacing outgoing colleagues Stephen Clarke and Charlie Bolton.
Conservative group leader Mark Weston, reelected in Henbury and Brentry, said: “It’s been a strange campaign – we couldn’t knock on doors until March 8.
“To have such a resounding result, such a firm mandate, we’re delighted. Work carries on tomorrow.”
Speaking with many results still to be declared, he said: “It’s going to be a very different council. I don’t think Labour will have the majority.
“Maybe the mayor will have to moderate that autocracy he loves so much.”
Tory Cllr Chris Windows, also reelected in the ward, said it was a pleasure and an honour to be a councillor.
Here is our very handy tool to find out the results for every ward in the city: