Bristol's new Liberal Democrat council leader Simon Cook elected
BRISTOL'S new Liberal Democrat council leader has told colleagues the next year would be a momentous one in the city's history.
Simon Cook said the city would have its first ever elected mayor in November and he appreciated that the way in which the council conducted itself during the next six months was vitally important.
Mr Cook was elected unopposed at the council's annual meeting yesterday, to follow Barbara Janke as leader of the council. His party, which is the largest but does not enjoy an overall majority, will continue to run the administration.
The Lib Dems have 32 members, Labour have 22, the Tories, 14, and the Greens, two.
Mr Cook, who represents the Clifton East ward, said: "We do recognise there are potential contentious issues which are already in the leader's forward plan and Councillor Rogers has already pointed out that we are a minority administration. We sincerely undertake to have discussions with the other party leaders to find agreement on any contentious issues that might be coming up."
Although Mr Cook did not name any of them, they include the future of day care centres and elderly people's homes in the city.
He said that council officers will be drawing up a transition plan so that the reins of power can be handed over to the elected mayor as smoothly as possible.
"It will be a difficult period but I am confident that with good co-operation, we can make sure there is a smooth transition," said Mr Cook. "If we do this, then we can make sure the elected mayor finds the council in a good state in which to take the city forward in the best possible circumstances."
The elected mayor will have the power to run the council and be responsible for setting the annual civic budget. They will also have to appoint a cabinet of between two and ten councillors.
Labour leader Peter Hammond said there was a delicate balancing act for the council leader between ensuring continuity and influencing a future agenda. He warned that if any Lib Dem proposals "did not enjoy the support of the people of Bristol", then his group would have to oppose them.
Mr Hammond said it would be "disastrous" if the ruling Lib Dems made decisions on some key issues which the incoming elected mayor did not agree with. He said the Labour group would look at each key proposal on its merits.
Tory leader Peter Abraham said it was crucial that the elected mayor was presented with a coherent policy with which to take the city forward.
Green Party leader Tess Green was delighted to hear such conciliatory remarks about cross-party co-operation. She said: "One of the reasons why people voted for an elected mayor is because people don't like political bickering – maybe that's why they think an elected mayor will help."
Mr Cook paid tribute to Mrs Janke, who had led the Lib Dem group for 14 years, saying that she had left behind a "fantastic legacy".