I was in Westminster for the last two days, calling for more powers and funding for cities as well as seeking investment in Bristol. Speaking at the Social Policy Forum and at a town planning event where I argued that cuts were damaging our citizens today and also for the long term, by making planning difficult.
There is a local story today that I am calling people to do more than shout from the side-lines and some seem vexed by that approach. This is my view – I feel strongly that people need to help find solutions and I feel that as strongly as I feel that the government must reverse the cuts and give cities funds and powers to grow an inclusive economy as well as protect it’s most vulnerable citizens. My own journey into policy began with the same challenge. Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote challenged me saying “you have a great analysis on what’s wrong but what are you going to do about it?”. He challenged me to step up with solutions because the poorest and most vulnerable needed more from me than a declaration of my values.
The latest two days in Westminster has been to clearly express my view again, and I will be meeting direct with government ministers to call for funding and powers and I won’t stop. I will work with our four city MP’s to do the same. But – at the same time, I will continue to call on our city. The national cuts are a challenge for all of us, not just the city council. As the government forcibly shrinks the council’s footprint in the city, we must find alternative solutions and through our current round of consultations or by any means you like, come forward with ideas and join your community to work together for all of us.
To take part in our consultation visit www.bristol.gov.uk/yourneighbourhood
On the warmest day of the year, people are talking about how cool Bristol is.
In an article titled Redefining ‘Cool Britannia’ outside the capital in Demos Quarterly today, Journalist John Harris says that Bristol’s ‘abiding culture mixes egalitarianism with the urgent excitement of a people who do not wait for anyone’s permission before getting started.’
I think we have some way to go to become more egalitarian here in Bristol and I am committed to improving social mobility and closing the gap between richest and poorest areas in the city. But I believe that Bristol is innovative, unique, subversive and, while it doesn’t seem like it today, pretty cool.
Today my Cabinet Lead for Education, Claire Hiscott, and I met today with head teachers from secondary and primary schools from across Bristol.
I have made a clear commitment to giving every child the best possible start in life and schools are key to this. So it was essential to hear from them about how they think the city must work to enable our schools to flourish.
Funding is a key issue. That goes without saying. The Government’s National Funding Formula sets out the budgets schools have and in total 92 city schools would lose out financially. The figures show that while support for secondary schools has increased on average by £2,524, primary schools have lost £9,940 on average. We are writing to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, to ask how her commitment to ensuring no Bristol school loses out financially will be made real. We’ll share our approach with the Core Cities network and ask them to join us in lobbying government. Our new MPs will play a key role in ensuring Westminster understands that education is an investment, not a cost.
We must also get the health service in the city working in a more joined up way with schools, especially around mental health. I am going to take this challenge on, working through the Learning City Partnership and the Health and Wellbeing Boards.
We also discussed the need for better internal communications between schools to share support and best practice. At the moment there are pockets of connected schools but the whole city remains fragmented.
I was saddened to hear news of the tragic events of the fire at Grenfell Tower in London yesterday. My thoughts and sympathies are with the friends and families of all those affected.
I would like to reassure Council Tenants that the Council and Avon Fire and Rescue Service work extremely closely on fire safety and all our tower blocks have Fire Risk Assessments in place which are checked annually. We also have a number of other safety measures in place, such as smoke detectors in every home.
We do not believe that there is any cause for concern about the council’s housing blocks, but the Council will of course consider the details of the fire in London as they emerge, including whether there are any other steps which may need to be taken.
You can hear my Cabinet Lead for Housing, Paul Smith, speak on BBC Radio Bristol this morning about the safety of high-rise blocks in the city via: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054dcbb (2:06:30)
We have now launched the consultation to Bristol as a result of the budget and government cuts. Please make sure you take part in the consultation before it closes on 5 September. The reductions in funding mean that the council will not be able to provide all the services in the past. This is a challenge for the whole city.
You can take part in the consultation here: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/en_US/council-spending-performance/your-neighbourhood-consultation-2017
This morning I gathered together a group of transport experts from across the Bristol region to bring the city some hope for our badly congested and unreliable transport network.
This is an opportunity to move away from individual transport projects and look at how to deliver a transport solution for Bristol.
I explained to the group they will be driving the agenda. They will work together to look at what the city needs to tackle congestion and unlock economic growth for all. I want, and we need, a transport network that connects people to people, jobs and opportunities.
You can read more here.