Cabinet councillor Craig Cheney to step down from Hillfields seat

HILLFIELDS ward city councillor Craig Cheney will stand down at next May’s local elections, it has been confirmed.

The deputy mayor and cabinet member for finance said it had been a “difficult decision” not to seek re-election after nine years.

The announcement came days after the Labour group announced that the council’s longest serving councillor and former leader Helen Holland would not contest her Hartcliffe & Withywood seat again.

Cllr Cheney has been in charge of council finances for the last eight years, during which time the administration has had to contend with real-terms cuts in central government funding and has also come under fire for controversies including the collapse of Bristol Energy, which lost around £42 million of council taxpayers’ money.

He said he had been “exceptionally proud” to represent the ward he lives in and grew up around.

Cllr Cheney said: “During my time as a local councillor, I’ve worked with local people to improve our ward – securing funding to improve the community centre, co-locating the children’s centre in the library and founding the Friends of Coombe Brook Nature Reserve – creating the positive changes our area so sorely needs.

“I’ve also spent eight years as cabinet member for finance and seven years as deputy mayor.

“It’s been a challenging period of time – government austerity has forced councils to pass on its budget cuts, but I’m proud that we’ve managed to protect frontline services like libraries and children’s centres, when many councils couldn’t afford to do so.”

Already selected to replace Cllr Cheney on the ballot paper for Labour next year is Kelvin Blake, who was previously a councillor for Filwood ward from 1997-2003, and was chairman of the authority’s regeneration committee.

Hi will run alongside Cabinet councillor Ellie King, who was first elected in 2021.

Kelvin grew up in Hillfields and is a trustee for organisations including Second Step, the Robins Foundation and the SS Great Britain.

A disability activist after a motorbike accident left him unable to walk and in hospital for six months, Kelvin has served as chair of the Vassall Centre-based West of England Centre for Inclusive Living and is a non-executive director of North Bristol NHS Trust.

He was the election agent for both Mayor Marvin Rees and Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy.

Kelvin said: “I was a community activist long before the accident but since it I have a renewed focus on making Bristol a more inclusive place for disabled people.”

Next year’s elections will see the current mayoral system, which currently has an all-Labour cabinet in power despite the Greens being the largest group in the council chamber, replaced by a committee system where councillors decide on the council’s leadership.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service