Bristol Green Party urged Labour mayor Marvin Rees to give them “real influence and power” on the council as it emerged they do not have a place on the mayor’s cabinet, the ruling group of councillors with significant power over key issues such as transport, housing, education, climate and environment and communities. Along with the mayor the new cabinet is comprised of Cllr Helen Holland, Cllr Tom Renhard, Cllr Helen Godwin, Cllr Nicola Beech, Deputy Mayor Cllr Craig Cheney, and Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig.
New leader of the Greens Paula O’Rourke issued her challenge to the city mayor after they were told they would not have any councillors on the cabinet, but were instead given Labour’s share of committee chair roles with Labour giving up positions.
The Greens became the joint largest party on Bristol City Council when Bristol voted in 24 Labour councillors, 24 Green councillors, 14 Conservative members and eight Liberal Democrats at this month’s local elections.
Having lost its slim majority on 6 May, Labour faced pressure from the Greens to grant positions in the cabinet. But Mr Rees will maintain a Labour-only cabinet, as he reappointed a fifth Labour member to the ruling group.
Relations between the Green Party and Mr Rees have not been smooth, before and since the election. Rees has spoken about the need to build trust with opposition members before appointing any to his cabinet. Last week Rees said: “Being in cabinet is not just a functional relationship,” Mr Rees said. “It’s a group that… works very, very closely with me. It’s all part of a collection of relationships of trust. I’ve met with all the party group leaders… and what we talked about was the need to build some trust.”
“Over the last five years, there’s been some very adversarial relationships, not necessarily creating an environment of trust that would facilitate that closeness of relationship.”
However, instead of seats on the cabinet, the Greens have been given more council committee chair positions than they are entitled to. O’Rourke said that they “will use that influence to improve scrutiny of policy and decision making.” and that the Greens would be an ally to Labour and opposition depending on the issue.
Green Cllr O’Rourke explained the mayor has the executive power to appoint who he likes to the cabinet. “Cabinet is where decisions are made and the holders of cabinet office are the members with the decision-making power which shapes the future of the city.”
O’Rourke added, “we’re not about earning his [the mayor’s] trust. We’re about building trust between us and that’s a two-way street.”
Of 12 non-statutory committees, Green councillors will chair seven, the Conservatives will chair three, and the Liberal Democrats two. Labour were forced by the opposition groups to give up the majority share of committee chair roles they would have been allocated according to the political make-up of the council. Notably, Green councillors will chair three of six scrutiny commissions and the human resources committee.
The council’s Annual General Meeting was the first full council meeting to be held after the elections and the first to be held in person since February last year. It was held in the Conference Hall, next to the council chamber in City Hall, with councillors sat in rows of socially distanced chairs.