The following is an extract from a speech by Councillor Paula O’Rourke, Bristol Green Group leader, made at the Council’s first post-election Full Council meeting on 25th May. In recent local elections Greens more than doubled their seats on the Council, to match Labour’s 24 councillors. Bristol’s Labour Mayor has declined to offer Greens seats in his cabinet at this time.
“In the recent election the people of Bristol voted for a strong Green voice in this Chamber – they did that because they want us to influence policy and decision-making. The electorate made us the joint largest party because they want Green voices to be making bold choices for the city. We want to honour the trust put in us by the voters who expect that we will have real power and influence.
Cabinet is where decisions are made and the holders of Cabinet office are the members with the decision-making power to shape the future of the city. From the correspondence and dialogue I’ve been having, it is clear that citizens want Greens involved in City leadership and they expected that we would be offered roles in cabinet.
People think that this council chamber works like the House of Commons and expect that where one party doesn’t have a majority, it would share power. But what citizens don’t always remember is that the constitution – in our mayoral model – makes cabinet appointments the decision of the Mayor alone. And Marvin has decided not to offer roles to Greens – at this time…
We have control of more committees and will use that influence to improve scrutiny of policy and decision making. Information about council decisions should be available to elected councillors and the public as a rule, not an exception. With effective scrutiny of decisions before (not after) they take place, we can ensure Bristol is accelerating progress towards reaching our carbon neutral target and work to build a fairer, greener city for everyone. The report here today will lead to improved scrutiny and we will be ensuring that the scope of scrutiny is set to a broad agenda.
Marvin, you say you want people to come to you with an offer and an ask. So here is our offer – we will be a powerful ally when we see the Mayor is moving in the right direction, and we will provide a strong, principled opposition, challenging him to change course when we see him going in the wrong direction. And our ask? That you respect the will of the people of Bristol who voted for Green councillors to be given real influence and power in decision-making.”