Labour could ban all its councillors from George Ferguson's new cabinet
THE Labour Party could tonight scupper elected mayor George Ferguson's vision of a rainbow cabinet to run Bristol.
Just a day after councillors of all parties gathered in the council chamber to express their willingness to work with Mr Ferguson, the Bristol Labour Party will be discussing whether to ban its members from joining his administration.
The Post has seen the text of a motion members will be asked to vote on tonight, which says that: "No Labour MP, councillor, PPC (prospective parliamentary candidate), council candidate, officer of either CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) or the BLP (Bristol Labour Party) or members shall sit in the cabinet of George Ferguson, act as an advisor to George Ferguson or allow themselves as being described as acting as an advisor to George Ferguson."
On his blog, "Turning Bristol Red", Bristol Labour Party chairman Darren Lewis wrote only that the meeting tonight would "decide together how we engage with our new mayor".
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Accusing Mr Ferguson of running "an unashamedly anti-Labour campaign" in the run-up to last Thursday's election, he added: "We should not sit in his cabinet but remain a constructive opposition."
A source told The Post that if the motion is passed, it could "tie the hands" of Labour councillors by ordering them not to co-operate with Mr Ferguson. And he said if the councillors refused to abide by the veto it would be referred to the Labour Party nationally.
Mr Ferguson is expected to name a cross-party cabinet next week and Labour city councillors expressed their willingness to work with him in an amicable first full council meeting of his tenure yesterday.
Gone was the back-biting, side-swiping and political point-scoring as Mr Ferguson was politely and warmly welcomed by all parties.
He had a seat at the chamber's top table, but did not chair the meeting at the newly-renamed Bristol City Hall. That task remains with the Lord Mayor, Councillor Peter Main.
Addressing the council, Mr Ferguson said: "I was last in this chamber in 1979 as a rebellious young councillor. I'm now a rebellious old man and I think it's vitally important that we all get on together.
"I think the people of Bristol have spoken. They want a new way of working and I want to regard us as Team Bristol – let's bury our differences. I hold no grudges, I never do."
He later added: "We have severe cuts to make in the budget. We've got to minimise the effect of these cuts in every way we can.
"We're here with only one purpose and that's to look after the welfare of the citizens of Bristol – to spend the money wisely and make sure that we are all proud of the decisions we make in our hearts, and we search our hearts whenever we make a decision for the city of Bristol."
Labour leader Peter Hammond said: "We will, along with you, continue to work in the best interests of the people of Bristol because, after all, that is the role ascribed to the mayor, as it is for local councillors."
Liberal Democrat leader Simon Cook said it was important that members held Mr Ferguson to account in a constructive way, before describing him as a "red-trousered wizard of democracy".
Peter Abraham, on behalf of the Conservatives, offered his party's "warmest congratulations".
"We wanted a mayor, we have a mayor and we will work with the mayor," he said.
Green Party group leader Tess Green described City Hall, Mr Ferguson's new name for the Council House, as "posh and grand", but said she was looking forward to hopefully having a voice on his "rainbow cabinet" and agreed with his idea of closing the city centre to cars one Sunday every month.
In his address, Mr Ferguson said he supported several "good ideas" that emerged from his rival candidates during the mayoral election campaign, including the "living wage" proposed by Labour's mayoral candidate, Marvin Rees.
After an amended motion from Gus Hoyt (Green, Ashley) was voted through, a living wage proposal will go to the authority's human resources committee to produce a report, with a view to it becoming a reality. All parties agreed it would be a good idea to introduce a policy covering all council employees, and possibly sub-contractors, to "ensure low-paid workers earn enough to provide for themselves and their families". That could be as much as £7.45 per hour, compared to the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour.
Mr Ferguson also said he would like to look at the issues of adult social care again, but would not want to "cause upset" by reversing decisions that have already been made to close certain care homes.
It was not until Mr Ferguson left after more than three hours of the meeting for a prior engagement in Bath that a bad word was said about him.
John Kiely (Lib Dem, Easton), who had been hoping to ask the new mayor about the derelict Elizabeth Shaw Chocolate Factory in Greenbank, said: "It's not acceptable for the mayor just to disappear to Bath."
But Mr Main, said: "I cannot force the mayor to stay. He doesn't have to come in the first place, but I will pass your sentiments on."
Public consultation on next year's budget will begin in January.
Mr Ferguson was not available for comment on the Labour Party motion last night.