State of the City Address 2019

INTRO

THIS IS BRISTOL

Recently, I spent the afternoon at one of the holiday hunger schemes. Feeding Bristol gave out over 60,000 meals this summer, serving many of the tens of thousands of children we know are likely to go without food

The staff told us about a mother. The week before, she had quietly approached one of the volunteers asking if there was any left-over food. She stressed she was not going to eat the food herself. It was for her children. She had no food in the house and £2.50 to get through the weekend.

MY STORY

40 years ago my mum and I were facing the same challenges

I’ll set the scene. When my mum fell pregnant with me she was an unmarried working class white woman with a brown baby on the way. Health workers pressured her to have me aborted. When I was born she was told told, if she was a good woman she would give me up for adoption

Incidentally, when I was born my mum could hear “I was born under a wandering star” playing in the background from Lee Marvin’s film, ‘Paint your Wagon’. And in the film, he was a drunk with a red face. My face was really red… hence the name Marvin.

But the themes set in those first months continued through my childhood. We eventually moved to a refuge in Devon before moving back to Bristol on the Long Cross estate and then Easton. Throughout those years my mum went without food so I could eat. We struggled. And much of my childhood was clouded with a faint unhappiness.

I was blessed in that I had a loving family – my Nan, Grandad. My Aunty Glenys. My cousins Denys and Anthony. And we had a supportive church community. But it was tough.

This is Bristol.

It’s not the whole of Bristol. We are the city of culture, creativity, sustainability, rebellion, advanced manufacturing, world class universities and aerospace, the city that justifiably prides itself in doing things different and makes a net contribution to the treasury.

In fact we are a city of contrast, contradiction and inequality, where wealth lives alongside poverty and hope lives alongside hopelessness.

I deliberately put things in that order because too often the Bristol of the ‘left behind’ comes after the story of success.

VISION

As Mayor it is my job to advance our city’s successes but it is the fullness of my role as a city leader to ensure we understand that our true greatness will be found in our collective commitment to making Bristol a city in which everyone can find hope in that success, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.

I have long been committed to the idea of hope in part because it is so much more mature than optimism. Hope doesn’t refuse to see suffering and failure. It engages with them so that they become an opportunity to develop perseverance which produces character and character hope.

Our city can also be a force for good in the world.

We are an international city, a global people of 92 languages and 180 countries. What happens in the world: be it an earthquake in Kashmir, a typhoon in Beira, the displacement of the Rohingya from Myanmar, families drowning in the Mediterranean or Black Lives Matter movement – our people have emotional, cultural and blood connections

Our influence must extend to leadership on the critical issues of our time: climate emergency, migration crisis and the rise of reactionary right wing politics.

CHANGE

So, tinkering around the edges is not enough. Snatching small victories – a junction here, and a traffic light there is not enough. For too many years, we haven’t had the kind of change Bristol has needed.

The city has tinkered around with transport for decades and the result is a transport system that is failing the city.

We’ve tinkered around on housing for years – the result is our housing crisis with over 500 families in temporary accommodation, 12,000 on the waiting list and tens of thousands more wondering if they’ll ever have their own home.

Add to these challenges today

  • the Brexit threat to our economy and jobs and
  • the fact that national government at its best, has gone absent and at its worst is making people poorer through policies such as universal credit
  • that Bristol will grow by nearly one hundred thousand people over the coming 25 years and
  • unprecedented levels of inequality and a loss of faith in public institutions
  • the climate emergency making the kind of homes we deliver and where we build them of critical importance.

The scale of these challenges, present both the opportunity and demand for change. At the C40 summit last week vice president Al Gore said we need changes in policy and changes in the people who make policy.

  • It will mean change in the way the city looks as we build new homes and regenerate the old city.
  • It means greater diversity of the people who take up positions of leadership and an explicit commitment to ensure the economy works for people and planet rather than treating them as mere factors of production.

The Bristol of old just did not deliver. We can no longer afford to carry the old order – we need the next iteration of Bristol.

Doing nothing doesn’t mean things will stay the same. If we don’t proactively design the next iteration of Bristol, we will find ourselves increasingly on the back foot, responding to challenges that are out of our control, with a city that is ill-equipped for the task.

But when I look around the city today, I see the start of the change. We have cranes on the horizon and the collaboration of the City Office and One City Plan. We have the declaration of the climate energy, City Leap and a city commitment to inclusive economic development.

DELIVERY

Evidence of the change we are bringing is that my cabinet and I have actually delivered the commitments we made to you. In 2016:

  1. We said we would build 2,000 new homes – 800 affordable – a year by 2020.

Many said this target was unachievable and we knew it was a stretch. But, we are on course to hit and exceed it.

Developments underway ACROSS the city right now include:

  • The Ambulance Station
  • Wapping Wharf
  • The Paintworks
  • Hartcliffe Campus
  • The Launchpad housing scheme
  • The Zedpods housing scheme, being built above a St George car park

We have houses being built in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods

  • In Hengrove at Hengrove Park
  • In Lockleaze, at Romney House, Shaldon Road and Bonnington Walk
  • In Southmead at Dunmail
  • In Henbury, we are building Council houses in Richardson Close, as we are in Alderman Moore, in Ashton Vale.

At the recent Built Environment Networking conference, Kelly Hillman Head of Land Acquisitions at Homes England said:

“Bristol is leading the way in the UK with planning, the environment and effecting positive change”

She said this was “down to the city leadership”.

The cultural change we’ve brought to our leadership and our strong grip of council finances has enabled us to turn Bristol City Council a housing delivery organisation – focused on delivering sustainable and affordable homes.

We’ve committed 82% of our five year capital programme, £857 million to infrastructure investment, including new homes and redevelopment schemes such as Temple Quarter and Temple Meads Station.

We committed £85 million to accelerate home building, and £61 million for Goram Homes, our new housing company.

And this year our housing revenue account has £15.7million freed up, to invest in building council homes

2. We said we would deliver work experience and apprenticeships .

When I came into power, 56% of young people were not getting meaningful work experience. We have changed that. Through The WORKS programme and the commitment of city employers, three and a half thousand meaningful experiences of work delivered in the last year alone.

This year is ‘Youth Options Year’, with a series of events, activities and workshops supporting young people to engage with employers and trainers and take up opportunities with confidence.

This is hope in action: raising aspiration, opening doors of opportunity and supporting young people onto the right track

3. We promised we would stop expansion of RPZs and review existing schemes.

And we did.

Working with local councillors in each area, RPZs were reviewed and revised and we are now engaging with residents in some new areas and will work with communities where there is overwhelming support.

4. We pledged to protect children’s centres.
And despite the devastating austerity programme, we kept them all open.

The national picture is of a £3.1billion funding gap contributing to the closure of more than 1,000 children’s centres and a further 722, no longer offering the full range of services.

But in Bristol, children’s centres will remain at the heart of our offer to families.

5. We told the city we would increase school places, with a fair admission process

We have committed £25m to a new school in Lockleaze;

A new secondary school in Silverthorne Lane is in progress, that will serve children from the centre and east of the city and there will be a new school in the South, in Knowle West.

It’s unheard of to be delivering three schools at once but we are doing it. We are delivering on our promise to parents and we will continue to build and expand yet more schools as our population grows.

6. We made a promise to put Bristol on course to be run entirely on clean energy by 2050, and introduce a safe, clean streets campaign

And we have accelerated this promise, taking steps for Bristol to be run on clean energy and to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. We launched the City Leap project, a £1 billion investment package that will transform Bristol’s relationship with energy.

And we are extending Clean Streets, including fines for offenders, smart bins and have launched the big tidy which will deploy crews to deep clean city hot spots.

7. We committed to lead a European Capital of Culture bid and promised to make culture – and sport – accessible to all.

Brexit got in the way of this one but we still delivered on our commitment to make culture and sport accessible to all.

  • We secured UNESCO City of Film status through a collaboration of the Bristol Film Office, the University of the West of England, University of Bristol, Screenology, Destination Bristol, and Bottle Yard Studios.
  • We underwrote £48.8million for the redevelopment of Colston Hall and £1.5million to enable the modernisation of Bristol Old Vic and St Georges.
  • and we overcame around 30 other towns and cities to be chosen by channel 4 as their new home – they are opening their offices this month.

And on sport:

  • We protected pitches for participation in grassroots sport and are working with Sports England and local sports clubs to increase sports hall provision.
  • And our Sport gatherings have brought together the sector like never before in the city to find opportunities to improve participation, enhance elite talent pathways and bring world class events to the city.

SUMMARY

That’s called keeping your promises. I am delighted to be able to demonstrate delivery for the city.

AND ALSO DELIVERED

But of course, we didn’t stop there and have delivered so much more

So, I will give you a brief rundown of some of our achievements. I want to start by expressing my gratitude to my hard working and dedicated cabinet, my office, the council leadership and workforce and city partners. And, to my Labour colleagues who have delivered the budget year on year in the face of political opposition – to make all this possible. Bristol is a collective endeavour.

  • The Parks Prospectus and the new funding for Tree planting as part of our city plan commitment to double the tree canopy by 2045.
  • The Stepping Up Programme has delivered training for 104 participants from BME backgrounds and women and disabled people. 70% of the first cohort went on to get promotions and so far 46% of the second cohort.
  • We also have a cohort of 35 Somali Women. 25% have now got new jobs. This is economic inclusion being delivered.
  • The Bristol Equality Charter successfully launched with 70 signatories to the Bristol Equality Network and the LGBT+ Voice & Influence Partnership
  • And the Reading City project with an army of reading volunteers and ambassadors, particularly in harder to reach communities. And of course, we kept all of our libraries open.
  • We have led on Period Poverty and have been invited to be part of the government taskforce.
  • We continue to develop the ‘Strengthening Families’ as part of the ACES programme with a focus on early intervention and prevention.
  • Learning from Glasgow, we have taken a public health approach to street violence and knife, to prevent the worst of what we have seen elsewhere.
  • Children with special educational needs have been neglected by government and served badly by the city. Going forward, we must stand with families and put it right for their children – and we will.
  • We have delivered extra care housing, starting in Stockwood and Stoke Gifford.
  • Our HomeFirst service is supporting people to return home quicker after a hospital stay, reducing readmission and we are paying care workers the living wage and travel time. Using technology to support independent living for disabled and older people.
  • Care leavers up to the age of 25 are now exempt from council tax and we are the only core city to have retained a 100% council tax reduction scheme
  • We are creating the first project to provide housing for young homeless, care leavers and students in partnership with United Communities, 1625independent people and Bristol University.
  • We have prioritised housing for women escaping domestic violence and abuse.
  • We opened a 24 hour homeless shelter in St Anne’s which has just opened for its second year.
  • We will pilot the closure of school streets during drop off and pick up times
  • and we safeguarded the future of ‘Skemers boxing Gym’ in Knowle West

YTL will continue to receive our support as they deliver a state of the art, 17,000 seater Bristol Arena, ready to come to planning in the next few months. And in doing so, we have saved so much carbon footprint from the original plans. Instead of driving, trucking and delivering steel and pouring tonnes and tonnes of concrete, it’s being built with the best carbon neutral solution: retro-fitting an existing historic building.

We have brought together key players as part of our commitment to Bristol’s nightlife, with clear proposals to safeguard the venues

We established a city centre revitalisation group if the face of major challenges to city centres and retail across the country.

And crucially we are building a brand new household waste and re-use centre at Avonmouth for opening around the turn of the year and are on track to deliver the new Recycling and re-use Centre in Hartcliffe Way.

I could go on…

A VISION FOR THE CITY

But, without any great fanfare, the single biggest change is the change in governance.

We have worked with the city to develop a city plan that sets out Bristol’s future to 2050, transcending the electoral cycle. We have set up the City Office to oversee the plan. This is a move from local government – and a focus on the workings of the council – to city governance – working together with all the city’s decision makers.

We have shared city leadership with six thematic boards, made up of partners from across the city. Each is taking responsibility for shaping and updating their piece of the one city plan.

There is inclusive, cross -organisational work going on in a way it never has.

And we have the City Funds which will be investing in agreed city priorities with ethical investment and giving.

The significance of these changes should not be underestimated. These successes have been recognised around the world, from the EU’s iCapital awards, to the FT and Reuters.

DISCOURSE

All these achievements cannot be taken for granted. Delivery has not previously been the norm and sustaining the city office and the one city plan needs the new form of political leadership. Let me share a few reflections…

  • It means being delivery focussed. You would be surprised how often we come into conflict with processes that prioritise the structures rather than outcomes for people.
  • We must go beyond the transactional relationship between candidate and voters where a candidate promises a couple of projects to purchase a vote. Our offer is: a working relationship built on a shared set of priorities and values and delivering against them.
  • “Complexity is not a vice”. This is a complicated city in a complicated world. Campaigns are already gearing up that are about are about 10 word soundbites on leaflets. But cities cannot be run with approaches built on 10 word analyses. You need the next ten words and then the next. Bristol needs leadership that grapples with reality and acknowledges that good things can sometimes have negative consequences for some people. As Donald Trump is demonstrating, meaningful leadership and debate cannot be conducted through 280 character Twitter posts.
  • On this last point, we urgently need an improvement in the quality of our civic discourse. The misinformation and attempts to reduce nuanced issues to binary options really underserves us. The truth is there are positives, negatives, risks and uncertainties to most options. Despite what you might hear and read, the scale of collaboration in the city in the name of getting things done is of far greater relevance than ANY conflict that centres around the council chamber.

The city is in the business of getting stuff done while the chamber wants to stay focussed on division and our media are stuck with the clickbait of pointless point-scoring and 30-second soundbites of opposition. WC Fields said, “I never voted for anyone, I just opposed” but we are turning that joke into a city pattern.

So, let me tell you what’s coming in the next few months.

I used to play rugby. If you’re up against a better team, you want rain, a muddy pitch, you want to make it a scrap. And you want them to stop playing rugby and get into that scrap. That is the leveller.

Some people will want to throw the mud in this election, to get us in a back alley and confuse the issues.

We will stay focussed on the fact that we have delivered and built a new city leadership, restored the council’s financial credibility and will continue to focus on the issues that matter to people.

As Michelle Obama said, “when they go low, we will go high”. We will do positive politics!

JOINT SOLUTIONS

Bristol is a collective endeavour. Good leadership is about not being afraid to have premier league people around you. It’s about finding great people who want to make things happen and give them the space and the backing to do it.

And so many people have been part of our city leadership.

People like:

  • The late Lorraine Bush, at Hawkspring. She got things done. She touched lives. She liked to say “life is measured not by how much you love but by how much you are loved”. This spoke to Lorraine. She just got it done.
  • Like Paul Hassan does, with local communities.
  • And Jez Sweetland, leading the innovation of the Bristol Housing Festival
  • Marti Burgess, who brings expertise and entrepreneurialism to so many things
  • Dick Penny, who has done so much for our city’s cultural offer

People like:

  • Sado Jirde, of Black South West Network
  • Mohammad Elsharif, who made Bristol his family home after fleeing Sudan
  • Kass Majothi and his son Rashid, who fled Amin’s Uganda founded SweetMart, at the heart of the regeneration of St Marks Rd
  • Silas Crawley, supporting men leaving prison
  • Jean Smith from Nilaari, doing so much on drugs and mental health
  • And my old youth leader Dennis Stinchcombe, who played a huge role in mine and so many other lives

And I want to thank our international ambassadors, Chris Sanigar, Caroline Hassan and Ivor Anderson – DJ Bunjy – who have championed our city on the world stage.

And tonight, we welcome our new international ambassadors:

Dr Mena Fombo, Founder of the Black Girl Convention – and Silas Adekunle – Co-founder of REACH Robotics.

LOOKING FORWARD

With a council fit for purpose, City partners fully engaged and a plan to deliver, these could be exciting times. Delivery for people on homes, transport, jobs and the environment.

HOMES

Our homes targets will be met. And we will meet the challenge of building them in a way and in places that minimise our carbon footprint.

The plans for the Western Harbour is central to our ambition.

How and where we build homes will be one of the biggest determinants of our climate impact over the coming years.

A recent report on climate change by Robert Muggah, for the World Economic Forum, tells cities they need to build centrally, more densely and higher to reduce demands on energy through more efficient buildings and reducing the need for cars.

Western Harbour represents:

  • around 2,000 homes within a seven minute bike ride and 25-minute walk of the city centre
  • the opportunity to introduce flood defence at the same time and in sympathy with the development
  • life being brought into the city centre to support the retail offer and that of North Street
  • the opportunity to turn the waterfront into a city destination accessible to all.

And we will deliver on other major infrastructure and housing projects, from the Temple Quarter to St Phillips Marsh and climate resilient housing at Frome Gateway alongside the university campus and Temple Island.

And, we will redevelop the St James area of the city.

TRANSPORT

Also, within our grasp is a truly transformative transport solution.

We start with a Bus Deal that will double services on key routes as well as regular commuter services down main arterial routes. This is public investment in prioritisation and infrastructure that will trigger private investment in services as the first step towards making public transport the mode of choice.

This will bring greater reliability and connectivity with a loop service – a circle line that will connect the city central areas of Broadmead and Cabot Circus, to the Centre, Redcliffe, Temple Meads, and Old Market every few minutes.

Through traffic will bypass the city central areas completely. This will enable pedestrianisation of the old city and the city centre.

This will deliver cleaner air, safe space for walking and cycling while supporting our local economy, jobs and connectivity.

And then we will deliver Mass Transit. A promise to the city that is both deliverable and essential if we are to offer a real alternative to the car.

Developed within the next decade, this will bring four lines of mainly underground, low carbon, rapid and reliable mass transport.

The first line will connect Temple Meads to the airport, looping through the south of Bristol, connecting people to jobs and opportunity.

The next line will connect the northern fringe, from Cribbs Causeway to the centre and the south and east central areas of the city.

And then we will connect the rest to the east, going as far as Lyde Green and Hicks Gate.

And by also enhancing and growing our urban rail network, these plans will transform public transport.

We will work closely with our local authority neighbours and with the combined authority – but we must not and will not face away from the ambition and the transformative impact of these plans.

JOBS

And to deliver jobs for everyone, we need investment and we must grow a diverse economy.

We are working with seven cities and surrounding regions to build an economic powerhouse for the West. This is supported by government departments, local economic partnerships, business and city leaders – and linked with the emerging national 2070 plan. This will bring the western region of England and Wales to the table, for government and international investment in the way the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine has for their areas.

And, with the support of unions and business, we will make Bristol a Living Wage city, where well paid decent jobs are the benchmark, not the aspiration.

And by protecting employment land in key areas, we will promote business and diversify our economy. While our high tech sectors grow and prosper, so we have a fundamental need to protect and grow jobs in all sectors including food, care and retail.

ENVIRONMENT

Bristol has been a leading voice in the UK’s response to the Climate Emergency:

  • The first council to declare a Climate Emergency,
  • the first to embed leadership of the New Green Deal with a named cabinet lead
  • the first UK city to undertake a voluntary local review against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and
  • the driver of a motion to the Local Government Association which saw 435 councils declare a Climate Emergency and commit to the SDGs.

But declarations and motions are only the first step. The climate emergency requires action. We have the action plan, which has been published today on the council’s website.

From setting a ground-breaking ambition for a carbon neutral and climate resilient city by 2030 to driving forward a £1bn programme of investment in cleaner, greener energy, to progressing the actions requested of councils by Friends of the Earth, we are telling the truth about the Climate Emergency and acting now to tackle it, in concert with the linked challenge of social justice.

We will finalise our Local Plan to ensure our planning policies match our ambition. New planning policy will drive zero carbon buildings, affordable housing, community self-build and appropriate student developments.

We will find a way to make Bristol a plastic free city and we are Going for Gold on food sustainability and have plans with the Avon Wildlife Trust and food growing groups to establish local food growth in every ward in the city, tackling food poverty while protecting wildlife habitats.

CITY OF HOPE

City Hall is about to install a blue plaque declaring Bristol a City of Hope.

It was presented to Bristol at the July City Gathering in recognition of what we have all been trying to do and encouraging – and challenging – us to continue.

We have the opportunity to make Bristol a better place for all citizens, of all ages, throughout their life.

From childcare and children’s centres, to more and better schools, a diverse, inclusive and sustainable economy with jobs for all, a transport system that is fit for purpose, connecting people and jobs and cleaning our air – to keeping people in their own homes with better support.

To deliver that city we need change.

I started tonight by telling a story of a Bristol mum that was struggling to feed her children. I shared that 40 years ago, my mum was facing the same struggle.

We don’t want to be telling that story in another 40 years.

We have the opportunity now, to make Bristol a better place to live and work for all of our citizens.

Let’s continue the change – let’s do it together.

Thank you.

Sons and Daughters Month

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, my Cabinet Lead for Women, Children and Families.

This October, across the country, we celebrate the contribution of the children of foster carers during Sons and Daughters month.

The theme of this year’s Sons and Daughters Month is #FosteringTeachesYou. This event, established by national fostering charity The Fostering Network, aims to celebrate the vital contribution that the children of foster carers make to foster care.

The sons and daughters of foster carers play an essential role in welcoming fostered children into their families and ensuring successful fostering placements. Many of those thinking about fostering express concern about the potential impact on their own children, which can act as a barrier to becoming a foster carer.

In reality, we speak to many young people who enjoy supporting these children and have turned into exceptionally empathetic adults as a result, often going on to foster themselves. In fact, we have four families in Bristol who grew up in a fostering household as children and now foster alongside their parents as adults!

During the month, we are organising fun activities such as pizza making, climbing and trampolining for these remarkable young people. This is just a small way in which we can show our gratitude, while providing the space to meet up with other children and young people in a similar situation.

To those children and young people who share their families and their homes with children coming into care, we thank you. Your kindness and love really does make a huge difference to those in care. We know you recognise that their backgrounds are often different to yours and we know you often do your best to ensure they are able to experience the same stable and loving upbringing you have.

We filmed a group of sons and daughters of foster carers who told us what it is really like being in a fostering family. You can see the film below and you can keep an eye on @bccfostering and @BristolFostering for more stories.

For more information on how you can support Sons and Daughters month visit: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/championing-fostering/sons-and-daughters-month

If you could consider becoming a foster carer visit: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/fostering-and-short-break-care

City Funds

Today’s guest blog comes from Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive of Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC), following the launch of Bristol’s £10million City Fund in Bristol.

It always amazes me what can be achieved in the City of Bristol. I’ve lived here for ten years now – running BBRC for nearly five – and when it comes to shaping the future of the city, the possibilities for collaboration are strong. Bristol definitely has an ‘all-hands on deck’ approach, and the hard work of many of our Bristol citizens is now beginning to bear fruit via City Funds.

BBRC was built on collaboration, but in terms of new ways of collaborating, I can confidently say that this year has been the busiest yet against the backdrop of the hope-filled vision outlined by the One City Approach.  Alongside Bristol City Council, Big Society Capital, Power to Change and Quartet Community Foundation, BBRC has managed to secure just over £10million in investment for this initiative to get going.

These resources, entitled ‘City Funds’ have been created to fund Bristol-based initiatives that are working to solve some of the biggest social and environmental challenges that the City faces.  City Funds seeks to achieve this by funding organisations with real social purpose that are seeking to make a change in the system.  Part of our approach will be to fund smaller socially and environmentally focussed organisations to access the kind of finance previously not accessible for them.

City Funds has already been recognised nationally as being the ‘first of its kind in the UK’ due to its approach to collaborative place-based funding model – in other words a variety of grants and investment focussed on only one place – Bristol.

But it is more than just money, what makes this fund really work is the wide variety of citizens, drawn from our City, who have volunteered to shape this initiative.  So I am particularly grateful to those citizens who work tirelessly to innovate alongside us.

Regarding investment, both Big Society Capital and Bristol City Council have invested £5 million each into the fund, so that the fund can invest between £50,000 and £1million into social and environmental projects. This first round of funding is now available for organisations to apply for via www.bristolcityfunds.co.uk/apply. Power to Change has also provided £250,000 into the fund, this money is specifically for community businesses to access grant and loans alongside the other available investment.

So, this is a positive start, but we have only reached the starting line.  City Funds will only succeed via the positive impact that it generates once the funds are deployed.

But there is another opportunity for Bristol, not only to create positive impact, but also to create a locally led not-for-profit legacy fund for our city, a revolving fund that outlives us, as well as the economic and political cycles that will inevitably come and go.

So how the money will be deployed?  We anticipate that we will be active across a broad spectrum of sectors, but our focus will be determined by our funding themes. This means that we will be actively seeking opportunities within clean energy, circular economy, food and agriculture, affordable housing and community assets, to name a few.

However, we’re mostly focussed on the outcomes that the project creates: if your local organisation is helping people into employment or providing a needed service to the local economy, we’re interested in talking to you.

Reflections on World Homeless Day

Yesterday was World Homeless Day. Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet lead for Housing, attended a service of remembrance at Bristol Cathedral to remember members of the community who have died while homeless on the streets of Bristol.

Two people a day are dying on the streets of Britain.

They are not dying of old age – the average age of the people dying is under 50.

They are dying of neglect.

They are dying of disrespect.

They are dying of austerity.

They are dying so the Government can balance its budget.

They are dying in the national interest.

Some of them are dying on the streets of Bristol.

They are the people you try to avoid eye contact with.

The people who you walk around.

Sometimes you might give them money.

Money which may end up in the hands of the drug dealer who is providing them with the source of their final destruction.

We are the fifth largest economy in the world and still people are dying on our streets.

Whatever we are doing as a society it’s not enough.

Not all the homeless are on the streets.

Caring in Bristol says its only 3%.

In Bristol over 1,400 people are living in hostels and supported housing.

In Bristol over 200 people are living in vehicles

In Bristol we have no idea how many people are sofa surfing.

In Bristol 500 families, many with children are living in temporary accommodation.

It may be nowhere near the childrens’ schools.

It may be nowhere near families and friends.

Landlords and families are still evicting families who have nowhere to live.

“The council will have to house you”

Over 20,000 Bristol council homes were sold under the right to buy.

Many are now owned by private landlords, charging private rents.

Homelessness is not a crime.

Homelessness is a disgrace.

Homelessness shames our society.

Homelessness is killing two people per day.

Homelessness is not a crime – but homelessness can be a death sentence.

Global Climate Strike

Today’s blog comes from Bristol Youth Mayors Siena Jackson-Wolfe and Mohamed youth mayors 2Aidid.

It is of the utmost importance that on an issue as complicated and prevalent as climate change we all work together to come up with tangible solutions.

The strikes across the world show a passion in people that is exciting and promising for our future. What we think is even more promising is the fact that this is ultimately led by the youth. The young people of the world, starting with Greta Thunberg, are standing up and voicing their opinions. Letting the world know what they want and making sure they’re heard. What is more it is working.The strikes nationally and globally have been instrumental in pushing the climate problem up on both local and national governments agenda.

However, it is now important to engage in a high-level debate and join in the dialogue with change makers to ensure that actions are being implemented. Bristol’s One City Plan has outlined Bristol’s aims in tackling this issue. When compared to Friends of the Earth list of actions that all local government should take, Bristol City Council is currently either doing or scoping all but three of them. In one case this failure to match is because the council has already got separate plans in place. For example Bristol is implementing alternative-fueled buses (50% of Bristol’s buses will be alternative fuel by 2028) opposed to Friends of the Earth’s call for electric buses.

The strike today is forecast to be the biggest one yet and this show of youth passion and enthusiasm for such a demanding issue is inspiring. However as with all causes there are still some issues.

We have the young and old coming together but now we also need to ensure a more diverse demographic is being reached to express their opinions on this issue to enable more young people to have a voice. Without this diversity the strikes fail to have the same impact in their demands as the calls aren’t necessarily representative of the entirety of Bristol’s young people.

In this strike today we both hope to see a wider spectrum of Bristol’s youth present because we cannot brush away the conversation around race and representation. We know that the youth climate strike group have been pushing for areas not before represented to be present and we hope this is obvious today.

Greta Thunberg has famously said, “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire.” 

The strikes are just the start of this action and now we need to make sure we are communicating with Bristol’s change makers to help make tangible change. Our voices are important but we need to follow through and be part of the solutions.

 

Green New Deal

KyeToday’s guest blog is by Cllr Kye Dudd, Cabinet lead for Energy, Transport and Green New Deal. 

Last week, I visited Thrive Renewables’ Wind Farm in Avonmouth to celebrate their 25th birthday and I also launched the City Leap prospectus: recognising the history of renewables in Bristol and taking a massive step forward for delivering a decarbonised energy system for Bristol. This is a world first. We are seeking £1 billion of investment to lead the way on carbon reduction, to help enable Bristol to be the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2030.

Bristol has always been at the cutting edge of environmentalism, and we’re proud to carry on this tradition. We were one of the first cities to own a wind turbine or an energy company, and were the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency. Marvin has taken telling the truth on the dire global environmental straits which we face to the national stage, winning the support of 435 councils across the country both for the climate emergency declaration and for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – which will see us continue to prioritise delivering social justice and environmental justice hand-in-hand.

Friday 20th will see a national climate strike, and we are expecting demonstrations in Bristol to show solidarity with youth climate strikers, demand climate action from central government. As a trade unionist I know the importance of standing up and taking action when change is necessary. As it happens on the morning of the 20th I will be holding a gate meeting at a delivery office to encourage workers in Royal Mail to vote yes to take strike action in the forthcoming national industrial action ballot that the CWU has called.

KD turbine

Although protest has a place in raising awareness, it won’t deliver the solutions the climate crisis needs. Where Labour is in power, our focus is on action now. Just in the last fortnight or so this Labour council has signed off an extra £7 million investment to progress world-leading new technology in the city which cuts energy bills and carbon emissions. We are busy delivering low-carbon heat networks in Bristol – including a new low-carbon water source heat pump in the Floating Harbour.

Also last week, as the UK’s first council cabinet member for the Green New Deal, I was proud to move and support our motion backing the campaign to radically transform and clean up our economy. And in the council chamber I was proud to highlight the need not only for hundreds of thousands of green new jobs but also the just transition for workers. That means skills programmes together with the investment which both people and planet need to survive and thrive in the future.

A practical example of this would mean retraining gas fitters in engineering heat pumps and other green technology. How we engage with workers in jobs at risk from climate change, the need to tackle climate change and automation is extremely important. The Green New Deal is about offering the right economic and skills package to support the current workforce and the future workforce. It is also about looking at world of work and the time spent at work with policies like a four day working week – bringing people with us, rather than blaming them for the jobs they do. The way we tackle this is through the right national regulations, taxes, and incentives, engaging throughout with workers and their representatives, enabling people struggling to make ends meet to make greener choices.

As I said in the chamber, this is not just a nice thing to do, or the right thing to do, but key to delivering our objective. Because if you don’t bring people with you on this journey, they’re against you, which makes delivering carbon neutrality almost impossible to achieve. We need take action to make the transition to a greener economy a just one that puts working people at its heart.

Spaghetti Western

Western Harbour - CB Bristol Design 2019 (1)

Our initial engagement on the future of Western Harbour is now completed – although we remain open to receiving paper copies of the feedback forms.

The opportunity Western Harbour presents for Bristol is so significant because the challenges our city faces are so significant. We face a housing crisis with over 12,000 families on the waiting list and the worst affordability ratio of rent to wages of the Core Cities. Add to this the fact that our population is set to continuously grow. We must minimise the environmental impact of our city’s growth through sustainable buildings and developments that reduce car dependency.  We must significantly strengthen our flood defences as Bristol faces the increased likelihood of the 1 in 100 year flood. Like other cities, our city centre retail is threatened by weakening high street sales.

All of these challenges mean we must proactively put residential, employment, retail and destination venues in the city to ensure Bristol isn’t “hollowed out”. And in the face of growing inequality and social and political division, we must make spaces for people from all parts of Bristol.

The opportunity is to build over 2,000 homes including much needed affordable. These homes would be a seven minute bike ride or 25 minute walk to jobs, shopping and entertainment in the city centre. The opportunity is to build the flood defenses into the development in a sympathetic rather than intrusive way. And it is to remove the 1960s flyovers that have dominated that part of Bristol since before I was born and to open up the waterfront as a welcoming destination for more people.

There has long been ideas for the potential of the land and waterfront – one of the most attractive areas in the city that has been lost to the spaghetti of flyovers and on ramps. But the ideas put forward have remained just that, ideas.

But we have identified a window of opportunity to make ideas real, one that we believe cannot be missed. We face the end of the life of the swing bridge and flyover and the prospect of having to spend £40m to maintain it. We could sink this money into maintaining a status quo that represents lost social, environmental and economic potential, or we can turn it into an investment that releases something better for Bristol. I believe investing in our ability to provide affordable and sustainable homes, increase active travel and reduce car dependency, defend ourselves against floods, strengthen our city centre and make our waterfront a destination for all to be the best use of scarce public money.

There have been a number of concerns raised about the prospect of change to Western Harbour. For our part, we wanted to talk with people as early in the process as possible, to get their views. That is what the past few months have been about. It’s not been a formal consultation, but an effort to ensure as many of the challenges and opportunities were presented at the very start.

The flyover has never been a popular road layout and was built when roads were king and when the city’s population was so much smaller and effective use of land was less crucial. The changes to the road and bridge are simply what’s needed to be moved to free up the land and water.

I can understand people’s concerns about change and I can see that where there has been space – due in part because we are engaging so early – that people may fill these spaces with their worst fears. But we should all be thinking more of Wapping Wharf than Canary Wharf. Last week I was at the ‘topping out’ ceremony of the second phase of that successful development that has quickly become so vibrant.  It also shows what is possible with mixed communities. That development now has 256 homes, 49 homes for shared ownership and 81 affordable. And it is now a destination.

We will publish the wider plans for the housing and mixed use in Western Harbour as soon as we can and I look forward to working with communities, business and all stakeholders on the next stages towards development.

City planning can not be carried out in the abstract. Our context is that the world is changing and our city is changing at break-neck speed. The status quo is not an option and these changes demand that we act now. But we will not act from fear or on the back-foot. Instead we will be proactive and driven by our values. Our values that drive us to deliver homes, mixed communities, opening up the city centre to all, of jobs and a vibrant city centre, an inclusive economy and by our commitment to build a carbon neutral city are at the heart of these plans.

These are exciting times.

Hot Coffee, Hot Topic with the Warmer Homes Advice and Money project

Today’s blog comes from Hannah Spungin, Programme Manager for the Operations team in Bristol City Council’s Energy Service.

This morning, we partnered with the Mayor and colleagues in Public Health to put on a Hot Coffee, Hot Topic session. The event promoted the Warmer Homes Advice and Money (WHAM) service and explored how we can support residents on low-incomes living in cold homes.

Working Collaboratively

We know that living in fuel poverty can have an impact on mental health as individuals stress about high fuel bills and the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma. By partnering with Lynn Stanley, Senior Public Health Specialist in Public Health and the Thrive Bristol program, we hope to link fuel poverty initiatives with an opportunity to improve mental and physical health in Bristol.

Since publishing the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) chapter on Fuel Poverty in December 2018, the Energy Service have also been working collaboratively with colleagues across the city to implement the chapter’s recommendations and tackle fuel poverty. The expansion of the Warmer Homes Advice and Money (WHAM) project is an example of a step we have taken to increase collaboration and create a single-point-of-contact service to better support those in fuel poverty.

WHAM is a multi-agency partnership between the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Talking Money, WE Care Home Improvements, Citizens Advice, Bristol Energy Network and North Somerset Council, funded by Bristol City Council. The organisation’s caseworkers provide advice on energy and finance (i.e. income maximisation and budgeting), while arranging for the installation of energy efficiency measures.

Next Steps

Our next steps include developing an action plan for reducing fuel poverty. Alongside a commitment to make Bristol a carbon-neutral city, the One City Plan includes the target that nobody in Bristol suffers from a cold home because of fuel poverty and/or the absence of insulation and heating by 2030.

Utilising the One City approach, the action plan will be governed by the Health and Wellbeing Board, with input from the Homes & Communities and Environment boards. The action plan will be produced by the No Cold Homes steering group, which is a collection of organisations in the city who take an active role in helping to alleviate fuel poverty. We will be hosting an event in early November as an opportunity to bring together agencies from across the city, to determine potential actions to be included in the plan to be published in early 2020.

This morning’s session included heart-warming discussions of clients who benefitted from support through WHAM and conclusions that more joined-up conversations regarding fuel poverty and poverty, in general, need to be had. As we’re steadily approaching the winter season, we are keen to get the conversations started and actions in place. If you are interested in finding out more or being part of the conversation, please contact Hannah Spungin at . hannah.spungin@bristol.gov.ukThis morning’s session included heart-warming discussions of clients who benefitted from support through WHAM and conclusions that more joined-up conversations regarding fuel poverty and poverty, in general, need to be had. As we’re steadily approaching the winter season, we are keen to get the conversations started and actions in place. If you are interested in finding out more or being part of the conversation, please contact Hannah Spungin at Hannah.Spungin@bristol.gov.uk .

Zero Waste Week

Today’s guest blog comes from from Cllr Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

Did you know that this week is Zero Waste Week?

Since 2008 Zero Waste Week has helped individuals, businesses, schools, universities and community groups reduce their landfill waste, save money and preserve resources.

At a time when we are all becoming more aware of waste and our own environmental responsibilities the movement has mushroomed. It began with 100 participants and it has reached over 56 million people just 10 years later. This national award-winning campaign has even been recognized by former Prime Minister Theresa May (who of course was famous for recycling her EU withdrawal bill multiple times). You can join the mailing list to find out more about how it can help us all as individuals, at work or as we engage through schools or community groups.

Bristol has led the way on this issue, with the best recycling rate of any of the English Core Cities. Award winning initiatives such as the ‘Slim my Waste’ campaign have captured the public’s imagination, and led to a direct increase in food waste being recycled.

But we know we can do more, and Zero Waste Week is a great opportunity to highlight our own responsibilities as individuals and as organisations.  It can be a challenge to engage our residents with their recycling and it is sometimes a struggle to create a buzz. So we also need to produce tangible, solid results through education, investment and improved services as we strive to lead the conversation.

This is why we have invested in a new efficient, sustainable, safer and reliable fleet of recycling vehicles for Bristol Waste. They will help drive recycling rates while reducing other environmental impacts.

As we transform the Avonmouth “tip” into a Household Reuse and Recycling Centre it shows how we have to change the mind-set to one of the potential of our ‘waste’ as a ‘resource’. The improved site will include a reuse shop, selling pre-loved items from the waste stream. (Please check the website for the changes in opening hours while the upgrade takes place).

And of course the Hartcliffe Way Household Reuse and Recycling Centre is moving forward. This will deliver our pledge to make it easier for people in the South of the city to dispose and recycle household waste in an easier, more accessible and environmentally sustainable way.

Zero Waste Week’s mission is to empower us all to think again about what we call ‘rubbish’ and think of it instead as the valuable resource it really is. They encourage us all to make those small changes that can lead to more sustainable consumption patterns. They educate so that we can easily and effectively reduce landfill, save money and participate in the circular economy – in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As individual householders, if there are things in your bin that you don’t know how to eliminate, or if your Zero Waste lifestyle is causing stress, threatens to overwhelm you or causes you to feel guilty, you can join the programme and contact the Zero Waste team for 1-2-1 coaching.

Bristol and Brexit

I am dismayed and angered that Government has moved to shut down Parliament in order to push through its Brexit plans – potentially taking us into a No Deal future. Bristolians are represented in Parliament by four MPs who have now had their voices, and by extension our voices, silenced.

This sits in a wider failure. Over the last three plus years, Governments have failed to engage with political leaders outside of Westminster as to what was needed from any negotiations. People are always shocked when I share that during his two years as Brexit Secretary, David Davis did not once come to discuss Brexit with the Core Cities, which represent some 19 million people in their greater areas and around a quarter of the national economy.

What has fermented is a Brexit crafted in the dark backrooms of Whitehall and corridors of Westminster, with no reference to the rest of the UK – regardless of how places and people voted in 2016. But it is local councils like ours who are putting in place the emergency plans. It will be left to the local authorities to pick up the pieces if the UK leaves the EU with No Deal, as Keir Starmer (Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary) and I saw first-hand when we visited companies and citizens in Bristol last week and heard their concerns.

It has been frustrating hear of the huge sums of money spent on failed ferry contracts and “tally ho” publicity campaigns  – money that we could have invested in mental health, house building, and low carbon transport solutions. At the same time local government has continued to have austerity imposed upon us, resulting in a the loss of government funding of 60p in every pound since 2010.

The entire bandwidth of Government has been consumed by Brexit, with all that bluster seemingly doing nothing to stop the slide towards No Deal – which Parliament has already ruled out. At the same time the Climate Emergency, housing crisis, and migration crisis have meant  local government has needed an engaged Government that is visionary and leading rather than reactionary and pandering with slogans rather than solutions.

It’s is a false promise that 31 October will draw this to a close. If we leave with a No Deal we will face the costly and all-consuming task of rebuilding an architecture to cover trade, migration, defense and alliances, and, of course, how to protect peace in Northern Ireland.

What we really need is for the Brexit debate to leave Westminster and come to the cities, putting local government at the forefront of planning. In the coming days, I will be further working together with other party leaders from Bristol.