LIVE BLOG: Bristol City Council, Full Council AGM, Tuesday 31st May 2016, 2pm

LIVE BLOG: Bristol City Council, Full Council AGM, Tuesday 31st May 2016, 2pm


It’s all change in Bristol. 70 new councillors and a new Mayor were elected on Thursday 5th May and all that remains to be seen is who will be elected as referee (i.e. Lord Mayor) for the next year. Bristol hopes to have eight Full Council meetings this civic year (2016/17), but even that is up for discussion today, and in previous years councillors (most notably former Lib Dem councillor Alex Woodman) have amended the meetings schedule from the floor – but the new Labour administration will want today to go without a hitch. It’s new Mayor Marvin Rees’ coronation and there will undoubtedly be a fair amount of applause from excited Labour councillors – both new and old – who haven’t had a working majority in the council chamber since 2002.

Rumours are circulating that the council’s seating arrangements have immediately become more progressive upon the move back to City Hall – well, as progressive as you can be in a 1950s council chamber designed without disability access in mind. Cllr Harriet Clough (Lib Dem, Hengrove & Whitchurch Park) uses a wheelchair and has seemingly single-handedly got the seating positions in the chamber switched so she can use a wheelchair-accessible space. Great work Harriet, but it does raise questions about the multi-million pound refurbishment of City Hall and why the council chamber was not substantially changed with disability access in mind.

Labour negotiated with the other groups to take the Lord Mayoralty this time, despite the fact the Greens have not yet held the Lord Mayor position. This begs the question of how the rotation will now work itself out. Logic would say that it will simply go on an annual basis to each political group based on their share of council seats at this year’s elections (Labour, Conservative, Green, Lib Dem), but council decisions are not always based on logic.

Cllr Jeff Lovell (Labour, Filwood) was put forward as the Labour candidate for Lord Mayor, and all parties will say “aye” to him in the next hour’s time – a recognition that each party should get their go at the ceremonial position, seen as “Bristol’s first citizen”.

There has been a recent example of a party’s candidate not being universally popular, when the questionable comments of Cllr Chris Windows (Conservative, Henbury and Brentry) meant he withdrew his application for Lord Mayor. This was a result of campaigning by Bristol’s civic and LGBT+ groups and some Green and Lib Dem councillors, most notably Gus Hoyt and Peter Main – Bristol’s first LGBT+ Lord Mayor.

Labour must also use today to answer some questions about scrutiny and how they will be “responding” to the Labour Mayor’s speeches in the council chamber. Traditionally, there been the space for each party group to do so…but now that Labour’s leader and deputy leader have taken seats on the Mayor’s Cabinet, who will be responding – if anyone?

14.08 Cllr Chris Jackson (Labour, Filwood) says he is pleased to be putting forward a fellow Knowle Wester for Lord Mayor and First Citizen of Bristol. “This proves that you can aspire to great things.” Apparently Jeff’s wife took a bit of convincing that it was a good idea for Jeff to become Lord Mayor, and Cllr Jackson says like all Lord Mayors, Jeff will be “dragged into” the council chamber…!

14.11 Brief comments from Tory group leader Cllr Mark Weston (Conservative, Henbury and Brentry), says Jeff Lovell will have “not only the respect, but the affection of the chamber”. Lovell served as chair of a number of committees and is known for his humour and positive, collegiate style with councillors from all parties.

14.12 Unanimous vote of “ayes”. Jeff Lovell is about to be dragged in as the Lord Mayor of Bristol.

14.17 Full bling attached, the Lord Mayor of Bristol Jeff Lovell begins his speech. “Welcome to the revamped chamber, what a difference it’s made.” Already love this guy.

14.25 Outgoing Lord Mayor Cllr Clare Campion-Smith (Lib Dem, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) will not take on the traditional role of Deputy Lord Mayor, due to her being appointed to the new Mayor’s Cabinet, as Assistant Mayor for People. The role will instead be taken by one of the previous Lord Mayors, Cllr Chris Davies (Lib Dem, Knowle).

14.33 Jeff Lovell says he will have “three visions” for the Lord Mayoralty, but he says he will let everyone know when he knows what they are. And that’s it, onto the vote of thanks for the retiring Lord Mayor.

14.35 Cllr Anthony Negus (Lib Dem, Cotham) proposes vote of thanks, says that outgoing Lord Mayor Clare Campion-Smith knows how to “discipline with authority” and that there are people in the chamber who are “a lot ruder than I am”. Those who regularly watch or attend Full Council meetings will know the councillors he is talking about…

14.40 Cllr Martin Fodor (Green, Redland) says that Clare Campion-Smith only the 9th female Lord Mayor in the city. Thanks CC-S for her patience, keeping order and getting through the agenda in the face of all the different parties waving at you to get heard. Fodor points out that Lord Mayor chairs the Downs Committee – which is a mixture of councillors and Merchant Venturers. (Surely it is time to end this archaic relic of a bygone age?)

14.43 Cllr Brenda Massey (Labour, Southmead) hopes CC-S will continue to work to increase the number of young women who take up the STEM subjects, and help for those who are disadvantaged.

14.51 Retiring Lord Mayor says she has had 700 engagements throughout the year: “Hard work, covered by laughter and joy.” Thanks those in the Lord Mayor’s office who keep the role relevant. Says “today is Jeff’s day” and will support them in their role.

14.52 Vote of thanks for the retiring Deputy Lord Mayor. Cllr Geoff Gollop (Conservative, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) says this is a difficult speech as he has lost Alistair Watson (former Conservative councillor for Westbury-on-Trym) not only as Deputy Lord Mayor, but also as a fellow ward colleague. Somewhat pointedly, he does not mention that it was outgoing Lord Mayor Clare Campion-Smith who took the third Westbury seat off him. Awkward?

14.55 Cllr Mark Brain (Labour, Hartcliffe & Withywood) cites International Trans Day as an important thing for Alistair Watson to support as a Conservative Lord Mayor. A pointed comment about who the Conservatives originally put up: a candidate who was said to have made homophobic comments. Cllr Chris Windows was forced to withdraw his application for Lord Mayor due to a public campaign by the LGBT+ community.

15.06 Alistair Watson goes for the witty speech option, but unfortunately the outgoing Lord Mayor didn’t get one of the references to her wearing of a denim jacket. It’s a remarkable speech in its length and tone. He gets onto how to address people by the correct title, then acknowledges the elephant in the room – his loss to Clare Campion-Smith, and jokes that he will be changing his last name to “Alistair Aardvark” as a result. He reels off a long list of things he’ll be doing to stay in touch with things in Bristol.

15.07 Now we’re onto the vote of thanks for the Lord Mayor’s Consort. In other words, the partner/husband/friend of the Lord Mayor. Cllr Tim Kent (Lib Dem, Hengrove & Whitchurch Park) again mentions the curse of the alphabet (Ian Campion-Smith is to be thanked for her keeping her seat for contributing his high-up-the-alphabet surname). Incredibly brief speech from new Green group leader Cllr Charlie Bolton (Green, Southville), thanking Ian for his work. New Lord Mayor Jeff Lovell asks Cllr Gary Hopkins (Lib Dem, Knowle) to take note (Hopkins is known for long, rambling speeches.)

15.18 Gary Hopkins doesn’t take the advice, but it’s short by this standards. Cllr Steve Pearce (Labour, St George Central) does a short one to say Chris Davies has been excellent on licensing committees. The Deputy Lord Mayor then gets sworn in. Of course, he doesn’t get any bling, but he does get a medal. Frankly, I’d prefer it.

15.19 And that’s it. Tea break time.

15.59 Full Council about to resume.

16.00 The telltale nod: Labour no longer has a group leader?
By convention, the Lord Mayor nods at all group leaders on the way into the council chamber. Cllr Lovell nodded at Green, Lib Dem and Tory leaders, but did not know the protocol for nodding to the Labour group, and Cllrs Holland and Tincknell pointed up to the dais, where new Labour Mayor Marvin Rees is sitting.

16.08 Minutes approved (with small typo amendment) and no declarations of interest given. Lord Mayor’s announcements includes recent deaths of former Bristol councillors. The new Lord Mayor prefers to say “two-oh-oh-nine” when saying 2009. This may be a bit annoying after a while…

16.10 Tribute from Lib Dem group leader Gary Hopkins to Patrick Hassell, and the first Peter Abraham tribute speech of the year (for all the named people). Charlie Bolton (Green group leader) thanks particularly George Micklewright who helped him with advice in his early days as a councillor.

16.27 Cllr Asher Craig (Labour, St George West) pays particular tribute to Carmen Beckford MBE, known as one of the seven saints of St Pauls (the founders of St Pauls Festival, which later became St Pauls Carnival). Carmen trained as a nurse and campaigned to write the wrongs of racial inequality, being encouraged in 1968 to apply for the community and race relations officer for Bristol City Council by the Jamaican High Commissioner and Chief Medical Officer. She was the first black senior officer at Bristol City Council and made a huge contribution to the city’s life, becoming the first black recipient of an Honour for the  in 1982. Emotional speech from Cllr Craig, who was with Carmen Beckford when she passed away. A minute’s silence is impeccably observed.

16.29 Marvin Rees starts his speech: the Mayor of Bristol’s annual statement to Full Council.

16.32 Marvin starts by thanking the incoming and outcoming Lord Mayors. He also thanks all outgoing councillors, everyone who stood in the elections and outgoing Mayor George Ferguson.

16.36 “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” says Marvin. The days of the council being an “all-powerful place-making force” are over. He champions the need for cross-authority working. We are interdependent and must work with everyone to build a better Bristol, says Rees.

16.42 Marvin lists all of his Cabinet members and says what they will be doing. He says he is “honoured” by the Green, Lib Dem and Tory councillors joining his Cabinet. He says Cllr Claire Hiscott (Conservative, Horfield) understands the challenges of the education brief, seemingly an additional point to be made about the NUT criticising this appointment.

16.43 “Environmental and social justice are inseparable”. And Marvin brings one big policy announcement out of the bag – the Hartcliffe Way Recycling Centre will be built.

16.45 Biggest applause is for review of Residents’ Parking Schemes. Rees says he will get Neighbourhood Partnerships and council officers to review. He says that he will freeze RPS permit charges and stop enforcement of blue badge holders in all Residents’ Parking Schemes.

16.46 Rees says he will produce a Bristol Charter for Corporate Social Responsibility and ensure the Living Wage is upheld. He wants all to remember the council’s workforce.

16.50 Rees says he will seek the views of all. He wants councillors to be empowered in their communities. Marvin concludes with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt and says “we are in this together”.

16.55 Mark Weston (Conservative group leader) responds to the Mayor’s annual speech. He thinks housing delivery vehicles and removing 20mph from arterial roads are the top priorities. He wants the tone of the political debate to be raised.

17.03 “Oh my god, I think I’m going to agree with Mark Weston”, begins Charlie Bolton (Green group leader). Jeremy Corbyn being leader has clearly had an effect, he says, and hopefully this will start to affect Labour Party policy. Housing is the first priority that Marvin Rees has to solve, says Bolton, and you will be judged by your ability to do it. Talking inequality is easy, but it’s unclear how this will happen. The cuts are the third problem that Rees will face. We need to radically improve air quality. We do not hope for, we demand improvements in public transport. I would be appalled if 20mph zones were abolished. We will give you a chance, but we will be watching closely.

17.08 Gary Hopkins (Lib Dem group leader) lambasts poor delivery of libraries changes, and happy that Hartcliffe Way Recycling Centre (which he says always included re-use in the plans) will be progressed. He seems very down today. Tony Dyer (who is sitting right by me) says that “reuse” is more than just a five-letter word you add onto your plans.

17.16 Marvin Rees says that he wants councillors to “drive into” the mayoral office. (I think the Greens will probably cycle.) He makes reference to Paul Saville getting thrown out of City Hall during the tea break and how housing will be a challenge. He also reiterates that the council needs to be working across boundaries. It’s really hard to liveblog Marvin, because he is a fast talker, but also because it’s not always clear where each sentence is leading.

17.17 And the speech, responses and response to the response are over. This blog will end now, as I have to go and meet Caroline Lucas…! Keep watching for the Bristol Youth Council’s annual manifesto…


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