It’s time to cast your votes

BRISTOL will see a change in the way it’s governed this month following the local elections on May 2.
The mayoral system that’s been in place for 12 years is being scrapped and the city council is returning to a committee system.

Critics of the mayoral model said too much power was invested in the hands of one politician, leading to some unpopular decisions. Supporters said having one strong leader enables more decisive action to take place, while a committee system could lead to excessive dithering.

The main difference is voters directly choose a mayor, who cannot be removed by councillors halfway through their term. Meanwhile under the committee system, councillors will decide among themselves who should become a council leader, and power is spread more evenly. This could lead to a more collaborative politics, but also more indecision and bickering.

All 70 council seats are up for grabs and a political party will need to win at least 36 of them to take power. If there is no outright majority, a coalition administration might be formed.

Labour has been running Bristol since 2016, although since 2021 it has not had an overall majority. The outgoing administration comprised 24 Greens, 23 Labour, 14 Conservatives, five Liberal Democrats, two Knowle West Community Party, and two independents.

Much of Kingswood comes under South Gloucestershire Council, which does not have elections this year, although there is a by-election in the New Cheltenham ward.

Everyone in the area will be voting in the Avon and Somerset Police & Crime Commissioner election.

Photo ID is now needed at polling stations following the government’s introduction of a controversial new law to clamp down on electoral fraud. Accepted forms of ID include a passport, driving licence, or older person’s bus pass.

For the city council election, the area within the Bristol boundary, which includes Two Mile Hill, Speedwell and Meadow Vale, is mostly in the St George Central Ward. The two Labour councillors for the ward, Steve Pearce and Nicola Beech, are standing down.

Five parties – Conservative, Green, Labour, Lib Dem and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are contesting the seats this time. The Voice invited the parties to provide profiles of their candidates.

Kris Barker
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Bristol has had enough. We’ve have had enough of the cost of living crisis and austerity. The Tories continue to punish working people. Both Labour and Greens have track records of continuing these draconian cuts. This needs to end, we need a working class party. TUSC will fight to reverse all cuts and provide decent the jobs and services we’ve long been desperate for. We’ll cap rents and build thousands of council houses. We’ll take busses back into public ownership and fund youth services.

James Hinchcliffe
Since moving to East Bristol in 1984, I have been deeply connected to communities like Speedwell, Fishponds, and St. George. Educated locally, I now aim to serve the area that shaped me. As a director of the South West’s leading community engagement firm, I understand the importance of listening and responsive governance. If elected, my priorities will include speaking up for our most vulnerable residents and ensuring development is planned Bristol-wide near jobs and public transport to benefit local needs. I am committed to enhancing communication through weekly digital ‘In Your Street’ surgeries, addressing your concerns directly.

Justyna Hinchcliffe
No information supplied.

Abi Finch
Green Party
Abi moved to the area over 4 years ago after completing a PhD in Physics. She now runs Kingswood’s Library of Things and is passionate about building community, helping people live more affordably and protecting the environment.

Abi has loved working with co-candidate, Cara Lavan, listening to and supporting residents in the area over the past year.

Abi said`; “Cara’s care and compassion for people here alongside her incredible determination and hard work will make her an excellent councillor. We really hope to be able to continue working together to serve the people of St George Central.”

Cara Lavan
Green Party
Cara has lived in BS5 for 9 years. She is mum to an 11 year old and works as an independent film-maker and child advocate. She prides herself on multi-tasking: running her own business, parenting and volunteering.

Cara says she has loved working alongside Abi Finch, adding “Abi has incredible organisational skills and is so committed to the community. Between us, we’ve knocked on almost every door in the area. We’ve had brilliant conversations with so many people, have a good idea of what the area needs and how we could work together as Councillors to make it happen.”

Sally Bowman
I’ve lived in the St George area for four years and I’m proud to have made this area my home. As a mental health researcher in the NHS, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of budgets cuts. As such, I want to make our communities and services stronger and more resilient.

Over the last year I’ve spent time listening to residents and helping with issues that matter to them. I’ve worked to improve parks, increase community activities, and get street lights fixed to help residents feel safer. If elected, I pledge to be an active and positive advocate for the community.

Henry Palmer
My family have lived in the area since at least the 1950s, and so I have a deep connection to our community. Growing up locally, I experienced deprivation; I want to serve as your councillor to help tackle those same realities.

Residents’ satisfaction with the area is significantly worse than the Bristol average, and I want to help improve that by responding to everyday needs: from cleaner, safer streets and air, to significantly less traffic pollution and congestion.

To the people who raised me and those who’ve made the area home, I promise to serve you well and make you proud.

Alistair Kirtley
Liberal Democrat
Alistair is standing to build a council that cares and listens to our community. He wants to invest in our libraries, making them fit for the next generation; create a decent park for every community and a play park for every child; and take every opportunity to expand social housing to meet the housing crisis. Also, he wants to put an emphasis on supporting local NHS services to improve patient outcomes and tackle the crisis in dentistry services that is leading to people resorting to DIY dentistry.

Brian Price
Liberal Democrat

Brian is an Alderman and served on Bristol City Council for 15 years. He has a wealth of experience in local government and is committed to making Bristol a better place for everyone. He is passionate about improving children’s services and wants to expand their reach in the city with a particular focus on helping those with special education needs and those suffering from poor mental health. A committed environmentalist, he will also push the council to accelerate our city’s transition to 100% renewable energy and commit to planting a million trees over the next decade.