Lib Dems pick Simon Cook as new leader of Bristol City Council council
SIMON Cook has been chosen as the new leader of the city council's Liberal Democrats.
It means Mr Cook, a ward councillor for Clifton East, is now destined to become leader of the council at a meeting next week.
But his powers will dramatically diminish in November when Bristol chooses its first elected mayor.
Mr Cook, a former Lord Mayor and an actor by profession, was chosen at a private meeting of Lib Dem councillors in the Council House last night.
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Mr Cook had previously been deputy leader and has been involved in a number of major projects such as the new leisure complex and swimming pool at Hengrove, the new Foyer at the Colston Hall and the new waterfront museum, M shed.
Unless there is a major upset at the council's annual meeting on Tuesday, the Lib Dems are expected to continue in power and Mr Cook will be chosen as council leader.
As the largest party, the Lib Dems are currently running the council, although they do not enjoy overall control.
The council is hung which means no party has a majority.
The current split is Lib Dems, 32; Labour, 22; Tories, 14 and Greens, two.
A new Lib Dem leader had to be chosen after Barbara Janke announced her decision last week to step down after 14 years as leader of the group and nearly eight years as council leader.
She decided to resign before last week's historic referendum, which ended in an emphatic 'yes' vote for an elected mayor for Bristol.
The Lib Dems have chosen Jon Rogers as deputy leader.
Dr Rogers, a retired family GP who worked at Avonmouth and is a ward councillor for Ashley, has been the cabinet councillor in charge of the council's social services department.
After the meeting, Mr Cook promised to press ahead with Lib Dem policies, including the campaign to win the European Green Capital award next month, if he is chosen as council leader.
He said: "Since we returned to power in 2009, we have had three years of fantastic achievement under Barbara's leadership.
"There have been tough budgets but we have delivered improved services at the same time."
Tributes were made at the meeting to Mrs Janke, who has seen her group grow from just a handful of members to winning a majority on the council in 2009.
Councillor Jackie Norman (Brislington West) was re-elected chair of the group and Mark Bailey (Windmill Hill) as chief whip.
One of Mr Cook's first tasks will be to give portfolios to his newly-elected cabinet.
The seven cabinet councillors will be chosen at another private meeting of the Lib Dem group tomorrow .
Meanwhile, Peter Hammond has been confirmed as leader of Bristol's Labour group for a second year.
His new deputy will be Ron Stone, who has replaced Mark Bradshaw, who stood down.
Mr Hammond, ward councillor for St George West, who has already declared his intention to seek his party's nomination for elected mayor, said: "We've strengthened our team of campaigners to challenge the austerity measures being introduced by both the government and the council in Bristol."
Labour's shadow Cabinet Team are: Sean Beynon (Southville) Children and Young Peoples' Services; Jenny Smith (Southmead) Older People and Health; Ron Stone (St George West) Neighbourhoods and Housing; Mark Bradshaw (Bedminster) Transport and Communications; Derek Pickup (Hartcliffe) Regeneration and Jobs; Brenda Massey (Southmead) Culture and Leisure; Mike Wollacott (Brislington East) Green Issues and Sustainability; Mark Brain (Hartcliffe) Human Resources and Finance; Jeff Lovell (Filwood) and Mr Hammond, Equalities and Community Cohesion.
â Former Tory councillor Spud Murphy has declared his intention to stand for elected mayor.
Mr Murphy, 74, an Avonmouth businessman who still works 18 hours a day, said nothing gets done under the current system of running the council.
Mr Murphy who runs a warehouse in the town, said: "The city council is the biggest employer in the city.
"But you can never get anything done.
"The three political leaders can never agree on anything - if they were directors in a private firm, it would go bust."
Mr Murphy was a councillor representing Avonmouth for nine years but he lost his seat after seven recounts in 2010. The seat was eventually taken by Labour's Doug Naysmith after his name was taken from a hat when the two candidates were found to have received the same number of votes.
Mr Murphy said he would not take a salary for being elected mayor and his priorities would be transport, education and the elderly.