Business leaders have called for an elected mayor for Bristol, in advance of a major public debate on the issue this evening.
Bristol Chamber of Commerce (BCC) said yesterday that an elected mayor in the city “could provide the drive and energy to help make Bristol a truly great European city”.
Mike Bothamley, BCC president, warned that businesses were not interested in local boundaries and wanted a “thriving” Bristol city region.
He added that he was worried that a city mayor would distract from the work done by neighbouring authorities via the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, and would prefer a “metro mayor”.
But despite the fears, he said: “We and our members do believe that the Bristol city region could benefit significantly in economic terms from the strong and effective leadership an elected mayor might bring.
“So while our preference would be for a directly elected ‘metro mayor’, if we can’t have that yet, we will support the offer on the table at the moment, which is for a city mayor for Bristol, as we see that as a significant step in the right direction towards local power and leadership."
His statement comes before the public debate at the Council House this evening. Bristolians have the chance to vote for or against an elected mayor in a referendum on May 3 – a result which could spark the beginning of the biggest upheaval to local democracy since the dissolution of Avon County Council in 1996.
Broadcaster Chris Serle will chair the debate with panellists including:
- Professor Alex Marsh, Professor of Public Policy in the university’s School for Policy Studies
- Mark Weston, Conservative councillor for Henbury and Deputy Leader of the Bristol Conservative Party
- George Ferguson CBE, owner and founder of Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre, and former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects
- Deborah Hallett, strategy consultant and recent adviser to the London Development Agency
- Barbara Janke, Liberal Democrat leader of Bristol City Council
Audience members have been invited to submit questions in advance and will be given the opportunity to cast their vote throughout the debate using hand-held devices.
Doors open at 6.30pm and the event begins at 7pm. Attendance is free but booking is required online: bristolmayordebate.eventbrite.co.uk.
PUBLICATION: Bristol 24/7, 23rd February 2012