World Tourism Day

Today’s guest blog is from Kathryn Davis,
Director of Tourism at Visit West

The United Nations World Tourism Organization recognises 27th September as World Tourism Day. Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors, responsible for approximately 1 in every 10 jobs globally.

Tourism Bristol’s Visitor Economy

In 2019, Bristol’s visitor economy was estimated at £1.2 billion, supporting thousands of jobs across the hospitality, cultural, retail, entertainment, nightlife, and transport sectors. 

Visitors come to Bristol for many reasons. We know that international visitors are generally split equally into three groups – for a holiday, to visit friends and relatives, or for business. Of course, often it will be a combination of these, but we know that Bristol is a rising star. We received an award from National Geographic readers in 2018 as the global rising star destination.

What motivates people to visit is fascinating. Visit Bristol has thousands of pages of information to help people plan their stay, discover what’s on and find inspiration. The most popular pages include Bristol’s Street Art, especially the Banksy Walking Tour, Christmas events, family travel and food and drink, as well as what’s on.

As well as the economic value of visitor spend, the soft power of tourism is critical.  Pre-pandemic we would host around 200 media a year, from across the world, generating hundreds of articles inspiring visitors to come and discover what Bristol has to offer. There’s something for everyone in Bristol, from our food and drink scene (see the latest edition of Food and Travel Magazine with 11 pages of Bristol content), to family breaks to festivals to conferences to LGBTQ+ stays

Bristol has been recognised through a series of awards from Group Travel Magazine (Best X destination) to the World Food Travel Association (best Culinary Destination).  It’s not just the city that is a winner, our own convention bureau team are currently shortlisted for two major industry awards, recognising their outstanding contribution to the industry, plus the ‘Bristol from Home’ campaign delivered through the early days of coronavirus, was recognised as by Rough Guides as one of the best in the world.

The Visit West team deliver campaigns and content through our Visit Bristol channels, with millions of visits to the Visit Bristol website every year providing ideas and inspiration through social media.

It’s also important to remember that tourism doesn’t just happen. It is the result of co-ordinated work taking place across years, building relationships with the global travel industry, and taking Bristol to the world. There is a vast network of decision makers and buyers who we work with either independently or in partnership with others. After winning the bid to host the UKInbound convention, in 2020 Bristol hosted around 300 of the key decision makers in the industry, a very significant opportunity for the city. What we didn’t know, was that this was to be the last live industry event for almost 18 months.

The impact of Coronavirus

The impact of the pandemic has hit every world tourism economy, with cities hit hardest of all. Locally, we have seen businesses close and people leave the industry.  Some of these businesses have been partners with us for 20 years and so it has been devastating both professionally and personally.

While businesses may seem busy, it is worth remembering that some have taken on a phenomenal amount of debt to keep going. The industry has a huge challenge in staffing, with hundreds of vacancies meaning some businesses are unable to trade at capacity, so making recovery even more of a challenge.

Our work changes overnight from sending out emails with campaign opportunities to the latest government advice and information on claiming grants. We supported other sectors looking for accommodation for key workers. Actual visits became virtual visits.

What now?

For many, the summer has been a time for cautious optimism. However, consumer confidence is still rebuilding.

The industry has been incredible in its response to visitor safety, and so while things still are a little different, the steps they have taken have been enormous. Around 100 signed up to VisitBritain’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme, demonstrating their commitment to customers.

We are just starting to see the return of our international visitors. We were able to ensure that our first US media trip was able to join a hot air balloon ride at the extended celebration of the Balloon Fiesta. We have our first trade mission next month. Normality seems to be returning.

While you may be thinking about your next trip away, remember to support your local tourism and hospitality businesses. They need you. And there is no better place to visit.

Bristol sings!

Today’s guest blog is from Val Williams, alto in Bristol Choral Society

Bristol has many reasons to be proud of its amateur music scene, but this is our chance to express that pride in a public vote.

Bristol Choral Society and our musical director, Hilary Campbell, have many reasons to celebrate right now. The most important is that we have been shortlisted for the Inspiration Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society. This is a bit like a BAFTA for musicians! And Hilary really is an inspiration to the many singers, friends and other musicians who support the choir today. This is a public vote, so it would be great if all of Bristol could get behind its choir by voting before the deadline of September 30th!

There is a vast range of choirs and other music-making groups in Bristol. Despite the pandemic, many of us have kept going and still fill our city with beautiful sounds. But none is as established as Bristol Choral Society, founded in 1889, and still going strong today.

An inspirational leader

What has Hilary meant for Bristol over the pandemic? Social isolation and ‘keeping safe’ have been the mantras for well over a year now, and the emotional outlets provided by music making have been limited. There may not be much that singers can do by rehearsing alone in their garden sheds! Members of Bristol Choral Society however soon took up opportunities to rehearse, to learn new music, and to keep meeting week after week. We have hardly missed one week in the past 18 months, and the choir rehearsals have been a real anchor in the lives of over ninety singers who regularly joined in by zoom.

We probably all know by now that joint music making online is almost impossible. But Hilary still found ways of making this experience real. Although singers were on ‘mute’, it really did feel that Hilary could hear us, as she commented on our singing, praised our enthusiasm, or suggested better ways of tackling the dots. Supported by Steve Kings, our amazing accompanist and deputy, Hilary forged ahead with her creativity and musical leadership. She engaged professional singers to make guide tracks for the choir to follow, and she even arranged for the choir to tune in on live rehearsals which she set up with professional singers in London.

As tenor Julian Rivers comments:
“In a time of unprecedented difficulty for musicians, Hilary responded with unbounded creativity and optimism. Week by week her cheerful energy and encouragement kept us singing, exploring new repertoire, improving technique, and constantly reminding us of our shared hope that we would in time experience real choral singing once again. She has been a model of courage in adversity and a bright point during the dark weeks of lockdown, worthy of wide public recognition.”

Choir celebrations and honours

It was only 18 months ago, but in that other world before the pandemic, the choir recorded its first ever CD in over 125 years! Along with Bristol Youth Choir, Hilary led the singing at St George’s Bristol in January 2020. Little did we know that this would be almost the last chance for rubbing shoulders and actually singing together. But the CD was released during the pandemic, and has been a great success!

The CD features female composers, such as Judith Weir, many of whom have been overlooked over the years. Diversity has also been the keyword in other choir projects during the past year. For instance, the choir went ahead with a planned Christmas carol competition in December 2020, where new composers were invited to submit a carol. Over 70 compositions were received from all over the world, and were whittled down to a shortlist of five. Last autumn again we could not meet in person, but choir members submitted tracks for a virtual recording of each carol.

The competition was eventually won by Pam Slater, a retired music teacher. The carol project was named in memory of Mary Otty, daughter of Sue Otty, a well known local musician and choir member. And we now have confirmation that we did them proud, since the project has just been recognised with another award in the ‘Making Music’ ceremony on September 8th.

In fact, in an exceptional evening for the choir, we also learnt that Hilary had succeeded in winning the ‘best vocal music director’ award from Making Music. So now we are geared up for a hat trick of three awards, with the RPS award open for public vote until the end of September.

What next for Bristol Choral Society?

Come and see Hilary Campbell in action and hear Bristol Choral on November 6th, as well as the return of Handel’s Messiah on December 11th – both in Bristol Cathedral. And thank you for voting for us!

A harbour for the whole of Bristol

The Western Harbour from above, with fields on the other side of the River Avon, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and Cumberland Basin Road network.

Tides of history

For many of the people that enjoy walking around Bristol’s harbour, between solid redbrick structures and lapping water, it seems permanent. But in fact, the tides of history continuously change and rearrange this place and people as it responds to the needs and hopes of our city.

The edge of the Western Harbour, looking across the water, through the lock towards the river Avon.

The most significant change might have been the engineering works to create the New Cut and Feeder Canal over two hundred years ago. The SS Great Britain now reminds us of the Victorian ambition and scale that followed these constructions.

These physical changes have coincided with other changes in demographics and uses. The slum clearances of Bristol communities in the early 20th century scattered dockers and their communities across the city into new council estates, while regeneration and redevelopment in the 1980s and 1990s eventually saw a gentrification of the area. 

Renewed engagement about our harbour

Given this heritage and history, it is clear the harbour belongs to the whole city.  That is why, as part of our renewed engagement on the Western Harbour project, we will make sure as many people, from right across Bristol speak into the future of the area as part of our ambition to make the harbour an inclusive place where people and families visit from the very fringes of the city.

We’re trying a creative approach to this engagement, with a variety of ways for people to share their thoughts. In-person and online workshops, which are open to the community in and around Western Harbour at Riverside Garden Centre, as well as Lawrence Weston, Easton, and Knowle, are designed to draw out stories of the area and establish what the harbour means to people.

Local Creative Ambassadors, and City Poet Caleb Parkin, will connect Bristol’s talent in photography, film, illustration, and poetry with local people, to help better understand the character of the area and bring ideas to life. There is an audio walking tour that gives an insight into the changing history of the area. The Harbour Hopes website and Instagram page have been created so you can follow and share your own hopes for the harbour using the hashtag #HarbourHopes.  

We’re right at the start of this process, no designs have been decided and there will be plenty more opportunities to have your say in 2022. This engagement is about getting a sense of people’s thoughts and aspirations, before developing a masterplan which will include formal consultation and the wider planning process too.

Why Western Harbour matters

Western Harbour is a huge opportunity for the city because it gives us the space to deliver:

  • Much needed homes – a thriving, mixed community with variety of tenures, including affordable homes.
  • Sympathetic flood prevention engineering – future-proofing the location and wider area.
  • City Centre revitalisation – bringing families (and customers) to the city centre and North Street at a time our high streets are struggling.
  • A sustainable, climate friendly development, inside a high active travel area – connecting people to jobs and leisure, enabling people to live without a reliance on cars.
  • Opening access to the waterfront and enhancing the important heritage there – making it a destination all of Bristol can use and enjoy.

These are important goals for Bristol, but we know that in a complex city any decision has trade-offs. We must recognise that any decision is balanced. Our responsibility is to balance them as a city to achieve the best for us all.

Building in and up, not out

Two weeks ago at Full Council, members debated a motion about the protection of green belt land in the face of our housing need. I will continue to work with councillors as we develop a revised Local Plan which will take into account these considerations. But as I keep asking people that ask me not to build somewhere – “if not there, where?” I look forward to those councillors now, supporting and advocating for the development of this brownfield site in the centre of the city.

The harbour, from beneath a bridge of the Cumberland Basin road network. The red brick 'A' and 'B' Bond warehouses sit across the water.

The raw material of the city isn’t changing. We are a city with an area of 42 square miles, a population of around 460,000 and rapidly growing. 15% of our residents live in areas that are among the 10% most deprived in England and 16,000 people are on our housing waiting list. This all happens while we face a climate and ecological emergency requiring urgent action.

If we are going to avoid urban sprawl and protect space for nature, we need to build more densely on the brownfield sites.

Bristol’s harbour has adapted to respond to the challenges our city faces, and in the 21st century, as we wrestle with housing and climate crises, taking the opportunity to plan for what could replace an ageing 1960s road system is a citywide discussion. Everyone has a role to play in that and we want everyone to have a voice.

Organ Donation Week – Leave Them Certain

Today’s guest blog is from Dr Ian Thomas from Southmead Hospital, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Clinical Lead for Organ Donation in the South West of England.

Organ donation is remarkable in many ways. It is, perhaps, the ultimate gift that one human being can provide to another and the transforming effect an organ transplant can have on the lives of recipients and their families is nothing short of incredible. It literally can, provide new life, hope and joy. Yet without organ donors, no transplantation programme can work.

Organ Donation Week

This week marks national Organ Donation week and as we remember all our patients who made the selfless choice to become organ donors, we also remember their families who, in the very darkest of moments, were able to support their relative’s choice.

I regularly speak to the relatives of patients who became organ donors and the overwhelming sense of pride they feel in the fact their relative chose to help others is clear. Fi joined the Organ Donation register at 14 years old, after a talk at school. The below video recounts her family’s journey, after he tragic death in 2016.

Both locally and nationally, demand for organs for transplantation still outstrips supply and many patients on transplant waiting lists will sadly die. It is therefore crucial that strategies are implemented to promote and facilitate organ donation at a personal, institutional and societal level.

It’s Your Choice: Leave Them Certain

Importantly, whether or not to become and organ and/or tissue donor is your choice. If there is one thing I would encourage you to do this week it is to let your relatives or those closest to you know what your choice is. Whether you would or would not wish to be considered as an organ donor. Communicating this choice, either verbally or by registration on the Organ Donor Register will ensure that your choice is known and respected and will ease the emotional burden on families that uncertainty brings if you are ever in a position where organ donation can be considered. The recent change in law to a system of deemed consent does not alter the fact that any decision about whether you wish to be considered as an organ donor remains your choice. The change simply means that unless you have communicated a decision not to become an organ donor there will be an presumption that you have no objection.

The Bristol Picture: Organ Donation Week

Here in Bristol, both North Bristol NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust have dedicated teams of specialist nurses in organ donation whose role is to support potential donor families whilst exploring individual patient views regarding donation. Working alongside doctors, nurses and allied health professionals within the intensive care units, between April 2020 and March 2021 they were able to support 42 patients to become organ donors across our city’s hospitals despite the incredible challenges and pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic. This resulted in 93 patients receiving a life changing or life-saving transplant and demonstrates the city wide support that organ donation has here in Bristol. Yet we never lose sight of the human story behind every single patient who became an organ donor.

We recognise the pain and loss that those surviving relatives may endure and support for them continues after their bereavement. Both our hospitals have artwork installations dedicated to those patients who became organ donors acting as a very public and permanent demonstration of the selfless choice they made. This is a picture of Jack Baker, a staff nurse on the Intensive Care Unit at Southmead Hospital who died whilst cycling home from work in 2020. Put together by his family, it hangs in the public atrium at Southmead Hospital alongside similar pictures of other patients. We should recognise and celebrate the gift that each of these patients made.

Our Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Communities

Yet more work is needed to allow us to build on these figures. We know that those with a Black or Asian background are more likely to require an organ transplant but are less likely to have opted in to becoming an organ donor, so meaning there are less suitable donors for those in greatest need. Many colleagues are actively working with all communities across our city to provide information and challenge myths to ensure that your choice around organ donation is made from as fully an informed position as possible.

So, as we enter organ donation week, we pause and reflect on those patients who made the choice to become organ donors, we remember their relatives and recognise the life changing and life saving act that an organ transplant has had on the transplant recipient. So please, have that conversation, make your choice known to your relatives and/or register it via the Organ Donation Register. But above all, make it known and ‘leave them certain’ – and help share our message with your friends online.

Equal Pay Day and the Gender Pay Gap

Today’s guest blog is from Jackie Longworth, from Bristol Women’s Commission’s
Economy Task Force and Chair of Fair Play South West.

Today – 18 September 2021 – is International Equal Pay Day. It’s a day on which we take stock of where we are in terms of the gender pay gap here in Bristol, and shine a light on what more is needed to achieve gender equality.

Bristol Women’s Commission was set up eight years ago to deliver on the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. Without equal pay, we will never achieve this. Last year, the UN predicted it would take 250 years to achieve equal pay between women and men globally. Bristol One City has an ambitious goal of 2040 – which, of course, we are all hoping to deliver even sooner.

We know that the pandemic has hit women harder than men. Last year, our Economy Task Group produced Delivering an Inclusive Economy Post-Covid-19, a report which outlined many of the ways in which women have been disproportionately affected; from taking on more unpaid care duties to being more likely to be furloughed or made redundant.

Equal pay for equal work

Equal pay means that a woman is paid the same per hour as a man for doing either the same work or work assessed as of equal value. It is a legal requirement in the UK and a woman can take an employer to tribunal to have it enforced. However, failures to comply with equal pay laws are not common enough to explain the ‘Gender Pay Gap’; most of the gap is due to the different jobs which tend to be done by women and men and whether they are full-time or part-time.

Gender pay gap refers the average hourly pay of a group of women employees compared with that of a group of men employees. There are many different gender pay gaps that can be calculated: relative to geography or other identifying factors, salary range/pay grade and different work patterns. Most measure the average based on the median: the mid-point at which half earn less, and half earn more. 

In Bristol in 2019 (later data is confused by the pandemic), the gap in median pay between full-time women and full-time men was 6.3%. However, nearly half (41%) of employed women work part-time compared with only 16% of men and there is a big hourly pay penalty for working part-time (27% for women, 37% for men). In terms of weekly pay, women have the double disadvantage of both lower pay per hour and fewer hours of work, which is why women tend to rely more on social security such as Universal Credit than men do. 

Impact of caring duties

The main reason more women than men work part-time is that they are unable to access high quality, local, affordable childcare, particularly for enough hours to enable them to work full-time. In Bristol, resolving this problem is a priority and we are working with partners to find innovative ways of supporting the childcare sector at the same time as joining with nationwide campaigners to seek improvements in Government policy. As well as childcare, more women than men care for disabled, sick or elderly relatives, a situation which will persist until there is better provision of publicly-funded social care.

The jobs available for part-time working tend to be in low paid sectors such as caring, cleaning, retail and hospitality. Many of these jobs are essential, skilled and undervalued and these very low pay rates need to be increased. Bristol is encouraging employers to pay all workers at least the Real Living Wage which would be a start. 

Gender Pay Gap reporting

Employers are required by law to report their internal pay gaps and encouraged to have action plans to reduce them. This could reduce the extent to which they illegally pay part-time workers less per hour than full-time workers in equivalent jobs. Despite the requirement to report these being suspended during the pandemic, Bristol City Council has voluntarily published figures for 2020 and is encouraging other employers to do the same.

Reduction in the part-time hourly pay penalty requires employers also to ensure that higher paid jobs are available for part-time working. The data show that many young full-time women move to lower paid part-time jobs in their thirties – often coinciding with becoming mothers. This is reflected in the gender pay gap between all women and men, which increases at age 30 and never recovers.

Bristol Women in Business Charter

Bristol Women’s Commission set up the Bristol Women in Business Charter to try and help address the gender pay gap here in Bristol. We have seen real progress since then, with signatories pledging to take steps to close the gender pay gap – including by supporting women into more senior leadership positions but more work is needed to close the gap completely. Has your employer signed up to the Charter yet?

Yom Kippur – G’mar chatima tova

Rabbi Mendy Singer stands, smiling, in a grey suit, pink striped tie, and black hat, in front of a green bush.
Today’s guest blog is from Rabbi Mendy Singer, Director of Chabad of Bristol, Rabbi to the Park Row Synagogue, and Jewish Chaplain to Universities, Prisons & Hospitals
across Bristol & the South West.

Shalom Friends, we are now in the days between the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashana) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Although these are Jewish high holidays, this year, they carry a universal message that is timely and relevant on a universal scale. Here’s why.

Once we thought we could make firm plans, now everything is far more tentative. Covid has introduced massive uncertainties on a global scale together with unrest and many protests worldwide and here at home in Bristol too.

This year is a Sabbatical (Shemitah) year based on an ancient count from biblical times until today. The Sabbatical is the seventh year in the agricultural cycle when farmers in Israel allow their land to lie fallow. Beyond the soil, there are many important lessons for the soul.

In addition to the agricultural value of letting the soil rest, The Shemitah is a lesson in humility. A farmer toiling over their crops or any breadwinner working hard naturally feels proud of their accomplishments. The sabbatical year reminds us that the Creator gives us our land and our seed; he makes the rain fall, the sun shine and our crops grow.

For farmers to rest for the whole year goes against their natural instincts and concerns about providing for their families. This kind of behaviour would generally be a formula for disaster, and farmers who follow this work ethic could prepare for bankruptcy! Yet, in the holy land, it produces tremendous results, material and spiritual. This reinforces our faith that the land belongs to God, that our success flows directly from His blessing, and that we must be grateful to Him for everything we have.

It is easy to share with others when we can afford to share, have a steady income, and know how we will pay for tomorrow’s expenses. It is much more difficult to be charitable when we are unsure of what tomorrow holds. Agricultural farmers have no income during Shemitah, yet they abandon all crops that grow spontaneously during the year, leaving them available to the public. In this way, Shemitah strengthens faith in God’s blessings and enhances unity.

On a global scale, this element of Shemitah is expressed in giving Charity. Conventional wisdom dictates that the more we give, the less we have. From God’s perspective, however, the more we offer, the more He blesses us. This is especially true when we give more than we think we can afford to. Charity thus also strengthens our faith and sense of community.

The belief that the world belongs to God and that our success depends on Him is a liberating notion. It enables us to release the burdens that we carry. We still toil, but we breathe easier. We still labour, but we sleep easier. We know that God guides our footsteps and that everything happens for a good reason. We learn to see God’s hand in everything we do and His presence in everything we see.

These lessons of the Sabbatical Year can guide us all through the uncertainties thrown our way into a calmer and more liberating year ahead. We hope and pray that the coming year of rest will usher in a much better future with peace and harmony across the world.

With best wishes for a safe and healthy year ahead, filled with meaning, growth, joy and much happiness.

Protecting Bristol’s renters

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Homes and Housing Delivery and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward

Today, we took another step forward in protecting Bristol’s renters — with an updated policy on enforcement action we will be taking where landlords charge fees that are now banned under the Tenant Fees Act (2019). It also noted an updated enforcement policy we have introduced where landlords fail to deliver their obligations around electrical safety.

This progress will allow us to continue to take enforcement action under the Tenants Fees Act 2019 and associated lettings legislation. Local authorities must adopt an enforcement policy detailing how we will deal with decisions under the policy, including financial penalties and how we make decisions to prosecute. Our policy is also widely used as the foundation for enforcement policies adopted by other local authorities.

The private rented sector has grown enormously in Bristol – we estimate there are over 60,000 rented properties, making up 30% of the 202,000 properties in the city. The national average is 19%.

We have limited opportunities to redress the power imbalance between tenants and landlords and to ensure tenants are not exploited by those unscrupulous landlords that focus only on profit and not on providing good quality, well maintained and safe homes. Therefore it is important that we have policies which reflect the powers and responsibilities we do have as the enforcing authority and that we use them.

In accordance with our enforcement policy, most landlords and agents were given the opportunity to repay banned fees and were then audited to ensure compliance with other Trading Standards legislation. Out of a total of 24 breaches, only 3 were dealt with by way of enforcement action against the same persistent landlord. In total £24,153 was recovered for tenants in Bristol during the last financial year.

New regulations in relation to electrical safety in rented properties will protect most renters by requiring landlords to have regular safety checks on the wiring in their homes by competent electricians. Any unsafe works must be attended to by landlords, otherwise they face potentially significant financial penalties. Tenants can now by law also expect to be provided with a current electrical safety certificate before they start a new tenancy. Landlords are also under a duty to advise the Council when unsafe installations have been made safe.

These are more tools we have in the work we are doing protecting Bristol’s renters and making sure that all homes in Bristol are safe and landlords responsible. If you are a tenant in Bristol and concerned that you may be being charged illegal fees, then I would encourage you to access support available to you to enforce your rights. Want to know more about types of fees that are banned? You can read more in this guide produced by Shelter.

Bristol’s buses – where to?

Today’s blog is from Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport.

During the summer, Bristol’s One City Transport Board met to consider how to further improve Bristol’s buses. As a bus user myself, and as a councillor who represents a ward in the outer estates of our city, Bristol’s buses are a real passion of mine.

This comes ahead of our West of England Combined Authority bidding for some £40-50 million from national Government. Buses don’t stop at local authority borders, and so a joined-up regional approach is crucial to keep things moving.

One City partners are ambitious for the future of Bristol’s buses, building on the work to deliver an integrated network with underground mass transit and rail. To do that, we need to keep working collaboratively through WECA, local bus operators and passengers.

With the post-pandemic recovery in passenger numbers still uncertain, we need to continue to innovate – and WECA should use revenue funding to sustain services where passengers are low for the time being. At the other end of the scale, revenue support could also radically strengthen evening and weekend services on main routes. For workers, there remains a need for higher frequency services to all Enterprise Areas/Zones, including Avonmouth-Severnside in the ward I represent.

Funding could also kick start a series of high quality, high frequency orbital routes. These new services should go around Bristol, connecting communities and key corridors – to complement a network which largely connects places to town. Interchange hubs would be critical to ensuring the success of new orbital routes, including at Temple Meads and other rail stations.

We remain committed to working with neighbours to deliver a ring of Park and Rides, to reduce commuter traffic into the city and build on the success of existing sites. There is also the potential to reduce fares and, as we set out in our manifesto, subsidise travel for younger people to make transport more accessible. The entirety of the West’s bus network has yet to catch up with contactless card payments, and a fare-capped system across operators should be accelerated.

As Bristol’s 99 bio-gas buses show, together with our ambition for the rest of the fleet, public transport can be more sustainable transport. This continued progress sits alongside other policies, including the upcoming Clean Air Zone. And, of course, walking and cycling remain complimentary to bus services – not a competitor to them. Integrating the planning and delivery of schemes so that public and active transport are aligned is essential.

There’s even more to cover, but this gives a good flavour of the investment One City Transport Board is pushing for. This clear vision from Bristol, as part of our wider region, can deliver a step change for Bristol’s buses and our transport system.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes.

Friday 10 September marks World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day close to my heart and dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and getting us all to think about what we can do to prevent it.

The latest statistics showed that in 2018, more than 6,800 people died by suicide in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Approximately three quarters of these were men.

This year’s theme is all about ‘creating hope through action’. So, what does hope mean? It will be unique to each individual. To me, it’s about:

  • The stability of a home you know is secure and of good quality.
  • Being able to have security of your finances and employment.
  • Just knowing there are good people you can call upon in times of need for a coffee or a walk in the park.
  • Knowing there are others who will fight your corner and support you to be the best version of yourself.

My own journey has been complicated. During my formative years at university, three of my friends took their own lives, including my best friend at the time. All very different sets of circumstances, all causing similar devastation for family, friends and wider networks who knew them. For the parents, dealing with the grief that comes with something you never expect to happen – losing your child. For friends and wider networks – losing someone who was cherished and loved, even if they didn’t see that themselves and felt better off not in this world.

Whilst I have been able to move forwards, in some ways what happens never leaves you. It filled me with a fire to not just accept the situation as it is. We can and need to do better. I firmly believe every suicide is preventable, and our aspiration must be to achieve the goal of zero suicide. I am so proud to know that many organisations across the country and the West of England have signed up to the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA). This includes Bristol City Council, and we are calling for 10,000 people to sign up to the zero-suicide training across the area as part of this.

What else are we doing?

Through my own organisation, the Independent Mental Health Network, we launched the Shine On campaign in late 2019. This has focused on bringing more organisations together, to work in partnership to end suicide. We know that by working as a collective we can achieve more together than we can as individuals. This has seen us hold two highly successful regional summits on suicide prevention, both supported by leaders in the health sector and beyond, including Bristol’s Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig.

We work with organisations such as Changes Bristol, who are leading the charge locally on building peer support networks that are genuinely peer-led. We have collaborated with Second Step to support the Hope Project, which supports middle-aged men, the highest risk group when it comes to suicide. We have also funded Suicide Prevention Bristol, who are doing phenomenal work to support people thinking of taking their own life. Their latest campaign, “Not The Last Stop”, will be working with taxi companies to help them better recognise the signs of someone who may be struggling.

There are a range of resources to access if you need support or know someone who does. Here is one starting point: Guide – IMHN – Independent Mental Health Network.

Reach out, be that hope for someone who may be counting on it more than you realise.

Greening schools, inside and out

On the left is Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet member for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy. On the right is Councillor Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport.
Today’s blog is from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet member for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy, and Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet member for Transport,

With young people’s voices playing a key role in tackling the climate emergency, we have made greening schools a top priority for our administration. Their enthusiasm can clearly be seen in Bristol Youth Council’s Environment and Transport group survey results, which recorded over 1,300 responses from young people keen to promote sustainable transport. Listening and developing their ideas is key to setting up future generations for success, and we will continue to work with young people towards a better and more sustainable Bristol.

We were the first city to declare an Ecological Emergency. Since then, we have focused on delivering ambitious green policies and goals, such as setting a ground-breaking goal of becoming carbon neutral and climate resilient city by 2030. We know this is an ambitious challenge and will involve the action of everyone in the city, including our schools.

Our Schools Energy Efficiency Scheme has helped support local schools to cut carbon over the last 3 years. We have invested £1.3 million in 30 schools and this will save a staggering 6,320 tonnes of carbon emissions over the next 10 years, equivalent to 1,150 homes’ electricity use for one year. This has complemented our work connecting our schools to Bristol’s Heat Network, a £6.9 million project which provides local businesses, organisations, and housing with heat and power from more sustainable sources.

Oasis Community Learning, and their partner, Eden Sustainable, have done some fantastic work towards our shared goals. Oasis John Williams, their school in Hengrove, has recently installed 408 solar panels on the roof, which will produce free electricity and help support Bristol becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030.

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees visiting the newly installed solar panels with the student from Oasis Academy
Visit to Oasis Academy

Equally, it has been gratifying to see the enthusiasm across the city for the Bristol School Streets pilots, which have not only been designed to reduce the volume of traffic around school gates, but also to improve the air quality around schools as we work with communities towards Liveable Neighbourhood schemes.

We work with schools to encourage sustainable lifestyles and reduce vehicle traffic through a range of options. This includes ‘Bikeability‘ training for pupils, setting up park and strides, providing parking buddies to help keep the school entrances clear, providing signage such as ‘Show you care, park elsewhere’ and delivering road safety education.

We know that the challenges that face us in terms of living more sustainably will be there for years to come. Therefore, we want to build long-term, sustainable solutions. That’s why we have also been encouraging schools to get students involved in developing their own ideas for being greener, such as installing smart meters or turning waste into wildlife habitats. One example of this is the Bristol Education Partnership Climate Challenge, which brings together schools with colleges and universities to address the climate crisis.

So as we look to the year ahead for our schools, we would like to thank them for their engagement as we move towards our goal of carbon neutrality. Through changes to the curriculum, travel, and building infrastructure, they are helping us to take significant steps forward as a city – and setting a brilliant example while doing it.