Ex-city boss Colin Sexstone backs George Ferguson for mayor
ARCHITECT George Ferguson has won support to become Bristol's first elected mayor from an unlikely source – none other than Colin Sexstone, former chairman of Bristol City FC.
The two men were at loggerheads three years ago over the future of Ashton Gate football ground. Mr Ferguson, who is standing as an independent mayoral candidate, was outspoken against the ground being used as a site for a new supermarket.
But the club insisted that only a supermarket could give them the best financial return to help pay for a new £92 million stadium at Ashton Vale.
Planning permission has since been given for Sainsbury's to build a store at Ashton Gate to replace the existing one off Winterstoke Road.
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But it will not be built unless the club is allowed to go ahead with its new stadium which remains at the centre of a long-running dispute.
Mr Sexstone's support is a massive coup for Mr Ferguson because he alienated so many Bristol City fans over his opposition to a supermarket. There is even a Facebook page which has been set by fans to oppose his candidacy.
But Mr Sexstone, an influential businessman in the city who now runs his own consultancy, said Mr Ferguson was the best candidate for the job.
He told the Post: "George and I have had our disagreements in the past but we have put those behind us. I have known George for a long time and there are many things we agree on.
"The most important thing – and this is absolutely crucial – is that the elected mayor has to have a large degree of independence so they can rise above the constant political bickering and inter-party squabbling.
"I am not convinced that the other candidates who have been nominated by the major parties will have that degree of independence which is needed. The elected mayor will have to work with the elected councillors but that is different from being part of a political machine.
"Secondly, I think it is also absolutely crucial that the elected mayor will represent Bristol to a much wider audience. Anyone who thinks that the elected mayor is just a glorified chief executive for the city council has got it entirely wrong.
"The elected mayor should represent Bristol's interests in the UK and the wider view including central Government so we get the best for Bristol. I think George has a better chance of doing this than the other candidates. He has some standing outside the Bristol area and I think that is really important. Thirdly, George has a record of achieving things. The Tobacco Factory is the obvious example but there are other things, too.
"In my opinion, he has the best chance of achieving the things we want to see for Bristol."
Mr Sexstone, who was born and brought up in Bristol, pledged to continue working to improve sport in the city, particularly professional sport.
He said: "I am Bristolian and Bristol is in my heart. I want the people of Bristol to come out and vote in the election on November 15 and George, in my view, will give them the best chance of promoting the city."
Mr Ferguson said: "I am delighted that as old sparring partners we are able to come together in the greater interest of helping Bristol realise its full potential.
"That is what my Bristol 1st campaign is about – a much bigger story about us all joining forces to create a 'premier league' European city with the resources and facilities that it deserves."
Mr Ferguson said that a politically independent mayor would provide a great opportunity to break the damaging stranglehold on the city by the political parties.
He said: "Colin is a great Bristolian and represents an extraordinary groundswell of people who are privately and publicly pledging their support. They are voting for real change rather than more of the same. If enough of us rally together on November 15 we can look forward to an exciting new chapter in Bristol's history."