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Bristol mayor George Ferguson names cabinet

3 December 2012
Monday, December 03, 2012
The Bristol Post
By Michael Ribbeck

BRISTOL'S new mayor has named the cabinet team who will help him run the city – but he's keeping the biggest jobs for himself.

George Ferguson had been hoping to unveil his cabinet within days of his election victory but has been forced to hold fire until the Labour group decided if it would accept his invitation to take part.

The new man in charge last night exclusively revealed to The Post that his ruling body would have just three members beside himself. And he will take direct control of transport, planning, services for the elderly and education.

The architect and businessman warned tough decisions would have to be made on spending cuts and took a swipe at the Labour Party in an article penned for The Post.

Mr Ferguson had offered three cabinet seats to Labour after its candidate Marvin Rees came second in the mayoral race, with the rest to be split among the other parties.

After days of discussions, debates and in-fighting which led to the resignation of senior figures, Labour rejected the offer.

So rather than share the seats among other the parties, Mr Ferguson is shouldering the responsibilities himself.

His slimline team will be:

- Geoff Gollop, the Tory mayoral candidate and a chartered accountant, in charge of the city's finances.

- Simon Cook, former Liberal Democrat leader of the council, will be responsible for culture and sport.

- And Green councillor Gus Hoyt will be in charge of neighbourhoods and environment.

The cabinet is the smallest that was legally allowed. The mayor will personally be in control of:

- Transport: one of the most important issues affecting the city with multi-million-pound schemes such as the bus rapid transit in the pipeline.

- Planning: a hot potato that takes in the likes of Bristol City and Rovers' stadium plans.

- Social services, with day centre closures and care home shake-ups among issues on the horizon.

Mr Ferguson also told The Post there were hard decisions ahead due to a £35 million budget black hole.

He said: "This is nearly ten per cent of the net budget for all services and is going to hurt, even in areas that will affect the most vulnerable.

"It is my determination, at this 11th hour, to protect those areas and people as much as I possibly can and make sure we weed out unnecessary administration costs, although some very significant cuts in services are unavoidable."

Mr Ferguson criticised Labour for putting politics ahead of the city.

He said: "I believe the real cause of Labour's decision at a national level is not the childish reaction that it has been characterised as.

"Instead it is a self-serving party calculation that involvement in any cabinet which is associated with savage cuts will result in damaging Labour's electoral prospects next May."

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