Listen: The Debrief – Bristol is ditching its mayor, but what can it learn from Sheffield?

In just a few weeks, Bristol will wave goodbye to its mayor Marvin Rees – and to the model of governance that he has represented.

Instead of one person being directly elected to lead the city, as has been the case since 2012, the council will be run as a ‘committee system’.

Groups of councillors will be responsible for decision-making in different areas, with supporters arguing that this will increase the level of scrutiny and democracy.

But how will this work in practice? Has the new model been given the resources to make sure it will succeed? And with Bristol’s past use of the committee system not always having been popular, could the city be replacing a model criticised for being too centralised with one that instead creates democratic gridlock – meaning nothing gets done?

Seeking to answer these questions, Isaac Kneebone-Hopkins, a freelance writer and organiser of the Bristol Transformed festival, spoke to councillors involved in the city’s transition process. Freedom of information requests sent by Isaac also raised questions about how much Bristol has invested in the process compared with a similar-sized city that’s also undergone recent political change and embraced a committee system – Sheffield.

The Steel City’s governance changes do not exactly mirror Bristol’s, but Isaac’s research – reported in the Cable’s most recent print edition – suggests Bristol could still learn some valuable lessons from its northern peer if it wants to make a success of the new system.

With voting cards arriving in postboxes across Bristol – and the Cable about to kick off its local election coverage in earnest – now is the perfect time to be thinking about how the city will operate after the ballot on 2 May.

Join Isaac, in conversation with the Cable’s Priyanka Raval, for a fascinating chat about what could change for the better – or worse – under the committee system.

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The Bristol Cable