By Lynne Hutchinson and Rachel Clare
CITY council leader Barbara Janke has been re-elected unopposed to head the Liberal Democrats, despite the party losing its majority in the local elections.
Mrs Janke was voted back in at the group’s annual general meeting and will now be its candidate for leader of the council at the authority’s annual meeting a week tomorrow.
The council’s Labour group has elected Peter Hammond as its new leader, replacing Helen Holland.
And Peter Abraham, currently Conservative group acting leader, looks set to become leader when Cllr Geoffrey Gollop steps down to become Lord Mayor.
Mrs Janke, who retained her own Clifton seat with an increased majority, said: “I’m delighted to continue to serve the interests of Lib Dems in Bristol as leader.
“Up and down the country we have paid the price for our party’s involvement in the Coalition Government and, in particular, the public spending cuts brought in to pay for the last Labour government’s extravagance.
“I fully expect to regain our majority and win back seats at the next local elections in two years’ time.”
The Lib Dems remain the largest group on the council – with 33 of the 70 seats – even though they lost five seats and their overall majority.
Labour have 21 seats and the Conservatives 14 and the Greens two.
With no party having overall control, the Lib Dems have now invited the other parties to meet to discuss how to run the council. The Lib Dems will meet again on Wednesday (May 11) so members can elect a cabinet.
New Labour group leader Peter Hammond, 59, who was elected in a secret ballot, predicted the party would regain control of the council at the next election in 2013.
The college lecturer from Stapleton first became a city councillor 32 years ago. He has represented St George East, Southmead and now St George West.
He also previously led the group from 2003 to 2005.
Labour now have 21 councillors after adding another five in last week’s elections.
Mr Hammond said: “Voters in Bristol have not taken to the Lib Dems in government, where ‘savage cuts’ were promised and were more than readily delivered by the Lib Dem administration in Bristol.
“The perception has been that the Lib Dems are Tories in sheep’s clothing. Voters have protested and it’s clear the Lib Dems are in crisis.”
Peter Hammond elected for St George West
Mr Hammond promised to continue to campaign against the sell-off of some of Bristol’s green spaces.
He also said the current primary school places crisis was another issue he and his Labour colleagues would be focusing on.
Acting Bristol Tory leader and former Lord Mayor Peter Abraham said he would like to see some of the current council’s “very unpopular” policies reversed if the party was to negotiate a deal with the Lib Dems.