Profile: new Bristol Labour group leader Helen Holland
Former council leader Helen Holland has been chosen to lead Bristol’s Labour group.
Ms Holland, who represents Whitchurch Park on the city council, was voted in at a private party meeting held at City Hall last night.
She replaces councillor Peter Hammond, who resigned after being overruled by his party on the issue of joining Mayor George Ferguson's cross-party cabinet.
Ms Holland, who has led the party before, told This is Bristol: “I’m extremely pleased and very excited to be taking on this role because it’s very different to the role I had before because the political context has changed because of the Mayor.
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“I voted ‘yes’ in the referendum because I think it’s the right thing to look at how local government is run and to modernise it.”
Ms Holland was first elected as a local councillor in 1991. Prior to this she enjoyed a 12-year teaching career, working at primary schools in Bristol.
She later taught adults with learning difficulties at City of Bristol College.
Ms Holland, who turned down the role of deputy Mayor in November last year for “personal reasons”, was leader of Bristol City Council between 2007 and 2009.
“That was a fantastic period,” she said. “Having been the leader I saw some of the restrictions that that model had and that was one of the reasons when it came to the referendum I was a ‘yes’ supporter.”
Ms Holland was also the leader of the Labour group on the council until 2011. She was re-elected as councillor in May that year with “more votes than all the other candidates put together”, according to the Bristol South Labour party website.
Ms Holland fought for the redevelopment of Symes Avenue, and worked with local MP Dawn Primarolo to secure the South Bristol Hospital.
Aside from her role as councillor and now Bristol Labour group leader, Ms Holland is the company director of Watershed Council of Management Limited. She also works closely with Hartcliffe & Withywood Ventures, a not-for-profit company which tackles youth unemployment.
Reflecting on her time as a Whitchurch Park councillor, the mother-of-two said: “Things have changed hugely. That carries on making the role so interesting. You can see that you can have a real impact on your ward.
“The secondary school in Hartcliffe has been rebuilt, and the area has been regenerated with the building of Morrisons. I have seen the power of investment on a community that is often overlooked, and of bringing jobs and resources.
“It’s been very rewarding”.
Looking forward, Ms Holland said: “We need to make sure we are seen as the legitimate main opposition group to the Mayor within the council.”