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Bristol’s big question – should the city have an elected mayor?

Press release issued: 20 April 2012

The fate of Bristol is in the hands of voters on 3 May as they decide whether the city should be governed by an elected mayor. But what are the issues and why is this referendum so important? Three debates involving experts from the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol aim to help the public decide.

Polling booths will be open on 3 May for residents to cast their vote – a decision which could spark the beginning of the biggest upheaval to local democracy since the dissolution of Avon County Council in 1996.

The key areas for debate will be examined on Monday [23 April] when representatives from the ‘yes’ camp will put their case forward at Bristol Grammar School. Ray Mellon, who was elected as Mayor of Middlesborough in 2002, will share his experiences of leadership over the past decade.

Architect George Ferguson, the first candidate to declare an official interest in taking on the role, will be joined on the panel by Peter Abraham, Leader of Bristol Conservative Party, Labour Party Alderman Paul Smith, James Durie from Business West and Gus Baker, President of University of Bristol Students’ Union.

  • The debate at Bristol Grammar School on Monday begins at 6.30pm and places must be booked online.

Dr David Sweeting, from Bristol University’s School for Policy Studies, will set the scene for the debate by giving a brief history and insight into the wider context of directly elected mayors.

He’s also lending his expertise to a further two debates which are taking place on the eve of the elections, on Wednesday 2 May, at both the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.

Professor Robin Hambleton, Professor of City Leadership at UWE Bristol, will set the scene for the debate by discussing the role of directly elected mayors in different countries. This will be followed by 'for' and 'against' presentations.

Dr Sweeting will explore reasons why Bristol would benefit from having a mayor, while Professor Alex Marsh, also from the School of Policy Studies, will argue the case against such a change.

Dr Sweeting, Lecturer in Urban Studies, said: “This is a crucial matter for Bristol and for everyone who lives here. The forthcoming vote could change the way the city is governed, locating powers and responsibilities to a single individual for four years, chosen directly by Bristolians.

“There are strong arguments on both sides, for and against the idea of directly elected mayors. There is also the matter of whether or not a directly elected mayor is right for Bristol. Therefore, it is very important that the people of Bristol are informed about the issues and, crucially, vote in the referendum.”

  • The two University events on 2 May are free and open to everyone. The first one is from 1pm until 2pm in Room 1R026, R block, Frenchay Campus.
  • The second debate is from 3.30pm to 4.30pm in Room 2D3, Social Science Complex, Priory Road, Bristol.