US style politics in Bristol, still

Joanna Booth
4 min readFeb 25, 2021

The mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, showed clear disdain for political processes at the full council budget meeting on 24 February and instead praised his ‘city partners’ for getting together to fund a one-off laptop distribution without argument.

In an astounding attack on democracy, the mayor said: “I see a flurry of additional meetings being called at the moment — two extraordinary full council meetings, four call-ins, extra HR committees — which I fear is more about using the internal processes to clog things up and make noise that may or may not win a headline than it is about securing delivery for Bristol.”

The HR committees have been dealing with the transfer of employment of “worried” employees from Bristol Waste whose jobs are being transferred while one of the call-ins has been about the decision to provide delegated responsibility for a £104m budget for housing decisions.

This antithesis to scrutiny isn’t new behaviour from the mayor though. He has previously said that “officers’ view of scrutiny is that it’s a game”

He has previously called scrutiny ‘political ping pong’ and has said that real scrutiny comes from external consultants such as KPMG.

The mayor’s frustration with democratic processes was one of the first topics in his taxpayer funded social media monitoring reports (at a cost of £110,000), which he uses to scrutinise residents.

The conversations that take place on social media are reported as positive and negative trends.

In the first report by Impact Social, covering March 2018, under the category Positive Trends, the item listed is: “ local political blogs and radio shows that the Mayor is ‘bringing US style business politics to Britain’”.

These were references to one Bristol journalist, Tony Gosling, and his webpage for his radio show on BCFM.

Joanna Booth

Freelance journalist and book editor.