Marvin Rees’ decision to fire Tory and Green from cabinet leads to criticism of “poor leadership” and “inability to accept criticism”.
Mayor Marvin Rees has sacked two council cabinet members following increasingly vocal criticism of his leadership, resulting in the eruption of a public spat between the local parties today.
Gone from the previously cross-party cabinet are Green cabinet member for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services, Fi Hance, and Conservative cabinet member for Education, Claire Hiscott, leaving only other Labour members in situ.
In May 2016, shortly after being elected, the mayor said, “I’m pleased to be standing by my word in creating a cross-party Cabinet and working across political boundaries in the interest of Bristol and its people.” But today the mayor announced that he was abandoning the cross-party cabinet because “behaviour of other parties has made this arrangement untenable”, adding that he recently called on other parties “to drop the race for headlines and work with us to deliver for the city”.
The Greens and Tories have hit back by slamming Rees’ leadership and ability to take flak. Councillor Eleanor Combley, leader of the Green Party, said the move was “disappointing, but not altogether surprising”, adding that the cross-party cabinet had always been a “political calculation”.
She went on: “Even though we often sought to avoid stepping on the Labour Mayor’s toes, he has repeatedly shown he is unable to accept any sort of criticism, constructive or otherwise. This is a worrying trait – a thin skin is not a helpful attribute if you want to be responsible for running a city.
“Denial of views other than your own and an inability to listen reflects poor leadership. The future of Bristol is simply too important to be held hostage to one man’s ego.
“For our part we will continue to hold the Labour administration and Mayor to account for their decisions and work for the good of the City, whether that means working with the administration, or when it refuses to do so (as it often has), against it. The Mayor called that ‘point-scoring’ – as far as we’re concerned it’s called ‘doing our job’.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by council Tory leader Mark Weston, who said: “It has also been noticeable lately that the Mayor has been very sensitive to criticism and less receptive to constructive opposition. The latest setback he received to his plan to close most of the city’s libraries may be another catalyst or explanation for today’s decision.”
He speculated that the mayor was becoming “increasingly political” to “satisfy the new left wing dynamic within the local Labour Party”.
Rees was recently forced into two U-turns on proposals to close city libraries and remove a council tax exemption from Bristol’s poorest households. The mayor is also coming in for heavy criticism from some within the Labour party and others for not doing enough to counter the austerity facing the city.
The new cabinet members are expected to be announced shortly.