Fire safety update

This guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes,
and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward.

Since 2012, we’ve invested around £2.5 million each year in actions across our council housing estate aimed at improving building safety for our tenants. That investment has seen us replace fire doors, carry out works in flats to improve barriers between walls and floors to prevent the spread of fire, and work to provide better information to tenants on safety arrangements.

During the past seven years we’ve prioritised practical efforts to minimise the risk from dangers posed by fire, and other threats that buildings face. Throughout this period, we’ve followed the advice and guidance from various sources including national regulations and fire service expertise, and feedback from tenants.

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we’ve seen changes in this advice with the introduction of new regulations in relation to inspections and new advice from fire services on building safety. This changing picture has required us to act to keep pace and ensure that council homes remain safe and the risk from threats is minimised.

In response to this changing regulatory environment, we committed to invest around £96 million over the coming years to introduce new safety measures into our high-rise blocks, alongside the 24-hour safety patrols already put in place across the blocks that need it. This investment includes installing new sprinkler systems and temporary fire alarm systems, which will be getting underway next month. 

We are also proceeding with the removal of expanded polystyrene cladding (EPS) from blocks with it installed, following new advice given by Avon Fire and Rescue in the wake of the fire at Ecclestone House last year.

Residents of seven blocks* will receive letters this week, informing them of the imminent works about to begin in their properties to install sprinklers and fire alarms. This work will begin in October, with a second batch of blocks to follow later in 2023**.

Further planned programmes are in the diary for the spring months of 2024, and by the end of this financial year we expect to see most blocks in the city fitted with fire alarm systems, and the sprinkler programme moving into phase two. These programmes are being prioritised on a risk basis, depending on the needs of their block.

During that time, we expect to complete another set of cladding removals, with four more EPS removal projects commencing in early January 2024 to have their EPS cladding removed. This follows the recent removal of cladding from Gilton House and Rowan House, in addition to Ecclestone House and Phoenix House earlier this year.

This new investment into safety measures sits alongside that commitment to annual investment in safety measures and a regular cycle of inspections to keep sight of any additional measures we may need to fund in future. This also includes a £2 million investment being made to carry out stock condition surveys of over 20,000 council homes by end of 2025.

Those living in council housing can also expect to see further information on building safety sent to them and a chance to feedback their views, in the latter months of the year. Tenants can also expect to see council officers going from door to door, seeking out views and feedback as we step up our work to inform our investment.

Our aim is to ensure that every person living in a council housing block has access to the right information, in a way they can understand, about what to do in an emergency and what action they can take to maximise the safety of their household.

As the anniversaries of the fires at Twinnell House and Ecclestone House approach, I look back on the past twelve months and recognise the difficult journey many of our tenants have been on with us. There’s been lots of passionate discussion, all of it listened to and heard as part of shaping this next phase of our building safety programme.

*The seven blocks that will form part of the first phase of the work are:

  • Croydon House – fire alarm
  • Hayleigh House – sprinklers
  • Lansdowne Court – fire alarm
  • Middleford House – sprinklers
  • Millmead House – sprinklers
  • Rawnsley House – fire alarm
  • Twinnell House – fire alarm

**The second batch of blocks are:

  • Barlands House – fire alarm
  • Barwick House – fire alarm
  • Brookridge House – fire alarm
  • Sedgewick House – fire alarm
  • Southbow house – sprinklers
  • Whitemead House – sprinklers
  • Winterstoke House – sprinklers

World Alzheimer’s Day 2023

Councillor Helen Holland is pictured, smiling, with Bristol Cathedral and trees on College Green behind her.
This guest blog is from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and the Integrated Care System, and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood Ward.

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day, aiming to raise awareness globally and challenge the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. In Bristol there are more than 4,000 people living with dementia, with as many as 3,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Our loved ones are our world and our world changes when we, or someone we love is told ‘you have Alzheimer’s disease.’ For anyone who is living with Alzheimer’s or supporting a loved one with the illness, we know that Alzheimer’s is more than ‘just’ losing memories or becoming forgetful, or simply just ‘getting older.’

Some people live well with the disease for several years and more, others simply will not. Alzheimer’s will progress too quickly, and the person will lose their memories and their ability to live a healthy, independent and full life.

Unlike cancer, there are no treatments to halt and stop the disease, no chemotherapy, no surgery to remove Alzheimer’s from the brain, no opportunities for a recovery. Across the city, dedicated dementia researchers are working hard to develop medications, treatments, and better understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

BRACE Dementia Research, a leading local charity, has been funding important research in Bristol since 1987 with the aim of one day, defeating dementia. BRACE has supported the development of an early, accurate and fast Alzheimer’s diagnostic test, Fastball. The test has shown promising signs of accurately diagnosing the disease years before noticeable symptoms.

A volunteer is pictured wearing the wireless EEG cap and doing tasks on a laptop for BRACE's Fastball Alzheimer's diagnostic test.

Why is early diagnosis important?

To stop Alzheimer’s, researchers need to be targeting the disease at the earliest possible stages and this test offers hope.

The Fastball test is now being researched at the Bristol Brain Centre, thanks to the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) who have provided additional funding to the researchers who invented the test. If positive and accurate results are produced on a large scale, then the Fastball test will be developed for wider use across the NHS.

If researchers can accurately study Alzheimer’s years earlier than previously possible, which the Fastball test may be able to do, then it changes how the disease can be tackled and how treatments, including drugs, can be developed and how soon these can be offered to people living with the disease.

The new Alzheimer’s drugs hitting the headlines are an exciting breakthrough, showing positive research results in slowing down the disease, but there is still more work to be done, and perhaps Fastball may play an important part in this work.

Alzheimer’s and loved ones

While no one wants to receive the news ‘you have Alzheimer’s,’ an early diagnosis also gives an individual, and their loved ones, time to prepare and to choose the next phase of life.

What do they want to do, see, achieve in the next five years? Travel the world or make adjustments to their home to live there independently, for as long as possible, are just a few priorities.

Research also shows that lifestyle choices can protect the brain for longer, even once an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is given, such as stopping smoking, regular exercise, and a healthy diet.

I sincerely hope that in my lifetime there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s. We must keep talking about it, supporting people living with the disease and investing more into dementia research.

A red logo is pictured against a white background, with a microphone on the left of text reading: BRACE; Lets Talk Dementia.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s

If you are living with Alzheimer’s, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or interested in learning more, I encourage you to join BRACE at their free Let’s Talk Dementia event on Saturday 30 September between 10am and 5pm.

The free public event at Paintworks is a chance for families to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia in a friendly setting. Meet dementia experts, therapy dogs and enjoy many other family friendly sessions such as visiting the inflatable brain dome for a short show, or take part in an art session.

Tickets are free and it is recommended to book in advance:

Supporting low-income households: Bristol’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme

Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, is pictured, smiling, in a dark suit against a white background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for City Economy, Finance,
and Performance and Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

Our Labour administration is proud to support people across our city, no matter where they come from or where they live.

That’s why, since the Mayor’s election in 2016 and then re-election in 2021, Marvin’s administration has delivered over £325 million of support for families across Bristol. We also recently secured £8 million through the Household Support Fund to continue to support residents.

When I was growing up, my own family was support by Council Tax Benefit. This national programme was abolished nationally in 2013, since when Bristol has remained one of the last councils in England to provide a fully funded Council Tax Reduction scheme. The scheme helps people on a low-income with their council tax. This means that currently up to 100% of a household’s council tax bill can be paid for through the scheme, with 75% of eligible low-income households currently having their bills paid in full.

Unfortunately, like most councils across the country, we face an extremely challenging financial position. This is due to a number of reasons, such as the national cost of living crisis and inflation, which means a cost of operating crisis for many organisations; and more than a decade of ongoing national austerity led by this current government. In this challenging climate, the budget agreed by Full Council in February 2023 was set on the basis that the Council Tax Reduction scheme would be reviewed for 2024/25. No other parties moved amendments suggesting alternative savings or income generation in place of this review and, indeed, no opposition parties have meaningfully voted to continue the scheme in its existing form at Budget meetings since 2016.

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme provides 23,000 working age households with up to 100% off their Council Tax bills. In 2022/23, the scheme cost £43.4 million. This represents 8.9% of the council’s total annual revenue budget, which covers day-to-day spending on council services. Of this £43.4 million, working age households collectively receive £30 million of support each year. Support for pension-age households is protected nationally.

The review agreed by Full Council looks at how to make saving of around £3 million through changes to the support available. This is after collection rates and monies collected on behalf of the Avon Fire Authority and Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset are considered.

The council has launched a consultation asking for your views on the options for how low-income households in Bristol will be supported to pay their council tax in 2024/25. Ten options have been proposed in the consultation, which provides you with the opportunity to shape the final proposals for Cabinet, and then Full Council, to consider.

It is only fair that we continue to be realistic with people about the significant financial challenges that local authorities face. Difficult decisions have to be made in the current climate. If savings are not made from the Council Tax Reduction scheme then they will need to be funded from somewhere else, and the consultation provides an option for people to suggest exactly how else to save or raise the money to make this happen.

During a national cost of living crisis, when many Bristolians remain worried about their finances, it is a matter of real concern that some people are seeking to mislead people with incorrect information on this topic.

So, I encourage everyone to review the consultation materials and share their views before 25 September.

Your feedback will provide us insight into making this incredibly important decision and help us consider the future approach to take. The consultation is open until midnight on Sunday, 25 September and can be completed on the Ask Bristol website.

Bristol’s Race and the City 3 events

Councillor Asher Craig is pictured, smiling, with greenery in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities, and Labour Councillor for
St George West ward.

Bristol is a wonderfully diverse city, one we should all be proud of, where we all do our bit to make sure no-one is left behind. However, we need to ensure that local organisations truly reflect the diversity of the people we serve. So, together with our city partners, we put race equality firmly on the agenda with ‘Race and the City’. This annual programme aims to break down many of the current barriers facing our racially minoritised communities in key aspects of local life such as employment, criminal justice and health.

Now in its third year, we have organised a great programme of events to take place between September and May next year, all led by the multi-agency Bristol Race Equality Strategic Leaders’ Group (BRESLG). This group looks at ways we can all work together as one city, to tackle some of the challenges we face and find ways to improve opportunities and experiences for our racially minoritised communities. BRESLG works closely with a range of sectors and includes representatives from local public sector organisations as well community groups and the voluntary sector.

These latest events kick off with a large citywide recruitment event called ‘Our City, Your Jobs’ on Thursday 28 September from 4 to 7pm. Register for this free event on Eventbrite, it is taking place in central Bristol at City Hall and everyone is welcome to attend. We would especially like to encourage members of racially minoritised communities who are often under-represented within many city employers to come along and see the vast range of career opportunities that will be showcased. I am looking forward to meeting lots of people at the event so feel free to share the event as widely as possible among your friends, and networks.

Those who join us on the day will be able to speak to over 30 major Bristol employers and access a wealth of information about jobs, education and progressing in your chosen career. Attendees can:

  • find out about hundreds of live jobs and vacancies
  • learn about courses and other exciting opportunities that might be of interest
  • speak to experts about careers with the opportunity to ask interview related questions
  • get help and support with completing application forms if needed
  • discuss career goals and how we can match opportunities for you
  • see a variety of full time, part time and flexible working paid roles at a range of career levels
  • get information on available internships, apprenticeships and volunteering as well as other Board Member and School Governance opportunities

The event has been purposefully planned to coincide with National Inclusion Week, where we encourage more employers to ‘take action and make an impact’ so we can see more inclusive workplaces in the city and encourage more minoritised applicants to apply for a range of roles.

Following Our City, Your Jobs, we will be hosting other citywide events, which will be advertised shortly, to focus on areas such as criminal justice and health inequality.

We have received such strong support for our previous events, and we hope to see this continue as we all get ready for Race and the City 3 and build on the important work and progress made from the previous two years.

As a result of events such as this and other associated race focused partnership initiatives we have seen a continuous increase in the representation of racially minoritised communities in the workforce of Bristol’s major public sector organisations. 

During the previous Race and the City 1 and 2, we saw attendance from over 900 people from communities, sectors and organisations right across Bristol at our citywide recruitment events. Last year, 65 percent of attendees were from minoritised communities and 87 per cent of all attendees said the experience was either four or five stars (out of five). Feedback afterwards also indicated that people were able to identify opportunities at the event, make connections and find out new information including insights into career paths.

Other events focusing on a range of Bristol’s most significant race equality challenges also saw excellent attendance and engagement from the city. Developing and delivering Race and the City in partnership with sectors and partners across Bristol has been a key factor in its success and engagement.

A graphic shows a number of people placing their hands on top of one another's hands. Logos for 'Race and the City 3' and 'Bristol One City' are shown on the right in white, with the Bristol flare on the left of the image.

Tackling the root causes of homelessness in Bristol

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Deliver & Homes and Labour Councillor for Horfield Ward.

I’m thrilled that we will be able to continue supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol after a successful bid for grant funding of £886,000. This is on top of the almost £10 million that we were awarded last year, to keep vital homelessness services running.

In 2022 the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) confirmed a three-year funding award of £9.88 million for Bristol City Council from the Rough Sleeping Prevention Initiative (RSI) in 2022.

This money will be used to provide access to accommodation and support, improve residents health and reduce the physical and mental health impact of living on the streets.

It will fund a programme of 24 services and initiatives working with people experiencing, or at risk, of sleeping rough in Bristol, all of whom are known to services. We aim to further reduce the number of people found sleeping rough.

Our teams have worked with service users, providers, people who work with those who are rough sleeping, and central government advisors, to develop a programme of services that includes an offer for every person at risk of homelessness in the city.

There is capacity in the council’s homelessness services to work with more than 2,100 people per year across the four main groups experiencing, or at risk, of rough sleeping in Bristol. These include people a risk of rough sleeping for the first time, people returning to rough sleeping or sleeping rough longer term, people leaving prison or hospital and people without recourse to public funds – including refugees and asylum seekers.

The RSI programme will allow the homelessness teams to develop existing services that have been successful, including rationalising services set up quickly during COVID-19.

This funding will also allow the council to employ more specialists, and add new initiatives, including specific employment support for rough sleepers and an enhanced offer to help people access private rented accommodation.

We have identified areas where there are gaps in this system and added more staff in some services to respond to an increasing demand thanks to the cost-of-living crisis, the lack of affordable housing in the city and welfare benefit levels.

Other support available for specialist clients includes the Homeless Move On Social Worker Team and High Stability Housing, both working with people with social care needs at risk of rough sleeping. The Respite Rooms service offers accommodation and support to women fleeing domestic violence and the Young Person’s Rough Sleeping Navigator provides intensive support around entering and sustaining supported housing.

The additional award of £886,000 for 2023-25 provides the opportunity for the council to bolster existing services to cope with demand as more people come onto the streets.

However, while this money is extremely welcome, these factors, which are leading to the increasing levels of people coming onto the streets, will make it difficult achieve the targets as set out in the government’s Ending Rough Sleeping strategy of ending rough sleeping by 2024.

In addition to this, Cabinet also approved the decision to apply for Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP) funding, which offers capital grants to secure homes for specific homeless groups, along with revenue grant funding to support clients in their homes.

The council will now be putting in a bid on behalf of Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA), who want to buy 15 one-bed properties, which would be used to provide a Housing First model of support for single adults with long histories of rough sleeping or complex needs.

Housing First offers homeless people a tenancy with intensive floating support. It is a model that works particularly well for people where other interventions have not worked.

The council is in continued discussion with three registered providers with a view to them submitting bids for SHAP funding, and are also currently exploring the possibility of directly applying for SHAP capital funding to acquire a number of one bed properties to use for Housing First. This proposal is being developed with a view to applying to the November 2023 SHAP round.

Existing supported accommodation is oversubscribed, increasing the use of expensive temporary accommodation. SHAP funding offers an opportunity to increase the supply of high-quality supported accommodation which is needed to help individuals recover from the root causes of homelessness and reduce rough sleeping in Bristol.

SHAP provides flexibility in how registered providers acquire and deliver homes, which can allow for greater creative delivery of accommodation throughout the city.


  • The annual snapshot count of people rough sleeping in Bristol reduced from 68 in November 2022 to 58 in November 2023 reflecting the positive impact of the Rough Sleeping Initiative funded services.
  • The RSI5 programme of services is part of wider homelessness provision including adult and young people supported accommodation pathways and Bristol Street Outreach.
  • In Bristol rough sleeping support does not finish when a period of rough sleeping ends. All services either provide or link with ongoing support during new placements to prevent people returning to the streets.
  • The design of rough sleeping services builds on the development of RSI-funded services since the launch of the scheme in 2018 and on the success of the Everyone In scheme in Bristol during the COVID19 pandemic.


  • The Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) have launched SHAP – a new £200 million programme offering grant funding to increase the supply of high quality, specialist supported accommodation to address gaps in the existing homelessness pathways and achieve a sustainable reduction in rough sleeping.
  • The programme aims to provide an additional 2,400 units of accommodation nationally.
  • The programme is primarily aimed at funding Registered Providers (RPs) or local authorities to deliver units. However, the programme leaves the door open for other providers to deliver accommodation where explicit agreement is given by DLUHC.

Bridges, bridges, bridges

Councillor Don Alexander is pictured, smiling, with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for transport and Labour Councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston Ward.

At 5pm today, the newly restored Gaol Ferry Bridge will reopen.

Our £1.5 million investment has saved the much loved structure from being lost. Inspections showed the bridge needed extensive structural work to make it safe after years of under investment in the harbour estate by previous administrations. These were, after all, the first major repairs in almost a century.

To celebrate restoring this vital and busy route, which links south Bristol and Spike Island, Wapping Wharf will be celebrating from 5pm today (Friday 8 September). After the patience of local residents and businesses, events will include live music, offers, and shops open well into the evening.

The repairs have given a new lease of life to this lightweight suspension bridge, which has been doing a lot of heavy lifting over the years as it is such a popular route with pedestrians and cyclists, and the bridge has been carrying more people than it was originally built for.

On top of structural repairs, Gaol Ferry Bridge has been repainted and looks fantastic, although we do have a small number of finishing touches to make. Some temporary decking has been installed in places, after the permanent decking that was being stored at the site was stolen – more has been ordered and will be installed at a later date.

Gaol Ferry Bridge is pictured with trees surrounding it.
Gaol Ferry Bridge

I am thrilled we have safeguarded the bridge for the future, however, there is an ongoing conversation to be had about the longer-term need for another bridge in the area. As we continue to tackle the backlog of repairs that we inherited, and as our city’s population continues to grow, our administration is also looking ahead to future opportunities for a new crossing. The previous administration cancelled plans for one over the New Cut (between the Coronation Road/Camden Road junction and Cumberland Road), despite planning permission and Department for Transport funding being in place. We are now in the process of revisiting those proposals as we look to reassess the business case for a new crossing.

The reopening of Gaol Ferry Bridge has followed the completion of the £3 million refurbishment of Redcliffe Bascule Bridge. I recently had a fascinating tour of the control room and the below water level bascule retraction chamber to see the inner workings of the bridge. With its remaining structural, mechanical and electrical repairs complete, the bascule span can now be lifted for larger boats. The new automation system means lifts can be supervised remotely.

But Gaol Ferry and Redcliffe Bascule bridges are just two in a series of Bristol bridges that need structural repairs. We have secured £16 million from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, administered via the West of England Combined Authority, to restore a total of six bridges that cross the New Cut as part of a rolling programme over the next five years.

In the coming weeks we will be moving our attention to Vauxhall Bridge, which links Southville and Spike Island, and Sparke Evans Park Bridge, which links the Paintworks development with Sparke Evans Park. Both of these footbridges need urgent structural work, and we are looking to close them temporarily later this year so we can assess their condition and design a programme of repairs.

Sparke Evans Bridge is pictured, with trees surrounding it and the park in the background.
Sparke Evans Bridge

Just like Gaol Ferry Bridge, we expect to carry out the repairs using scaffolding and working in a phased approach. More news will follow about these repairs along with signage at the bridges and diversion routes.

Work is also set to start soon on New Brislington Bridge, which will not affect use of the bridge as it will involve a detailed assessment on the condition of the structure. Work to assess the overall condition of St Philips Causeway will also take place in the coming months.

The remaining bridges on our list that we need to repair include Banana Bridge (Langton Street Bridge) and the twin bridges of Bedminster Bridge and Bath Bridge.

It is not only the harbour bridges that are part of our plan, as we’ll be starting work on the restoration of Kingsweston Iron bridge this month.

This will kick off with a detailed inspection of the Grade II listed cast iron footbridge. To do this safely, we will need to close Kings Weston Road on Saturday 16 and possibly Sunday 17 September.

A diversion will be in place, but we know it will cause some disruption over the weekend, so I would like to thank you for your patience in advance.

This is a key step in the project and will help us to plan how the bridge can be dismantled and repaired off-site. Not only will the restoration include repairing the structure, but it will also see us raising the bridge up and adding steps at either end, so it will no longer be at risk of being struck by passing vehicles.

Kingsweston Iron Bridge is pictured, with scaffolding on it.
Kingsweston Iron Bridge

Bridges are vital to our city and have been overlooked for too long; I am proud that our administration is tackling these difficult infrastructure projects to keep Bristol connected.

Speaking of Bristol’s important infrastructure, today will also see the reopening of the Chocolate Path after extensive work to stabilise Cumberland Road and the river retaining wall.

I am delighted this handy walking and cycling route away from road traffic will be open once again for everyone to use, and I will be taking my bike out the first chance I get and enjoying the views along the river.

Creating more space for the memory of Bristolians’ loved ones

South Bristol Cemetery is pictured, with a bench in the foreground and trees in the background. Credit for the phot goes to Bristol Live.
South Bristol Cemetery

Cemeteries are completely unique spaces in a city’s environment, combining architecture with landscape, wildlife with people, silence with reflection. They are memorials to the dead and the past, Bristolians of years gone by, that serve an essential and present purpose to the living.

These spaces touch everyone’s life in some way and serve as a constant reminder of those that they loved. Burials, and the lasting memories they provide, are landmark events for those who are grieving a loss. Everyone deserves to be able to give their loved ones a fitting burial and to have a space, if they want it, to come to remember them.

That’s why we have taken important steps to expand the existing South Bristol Cemetery and Crematorium, onto land that has been allocated for its expansion since the 1960s. This will include 1,500 adult and 260 baby burial plots, new memorial plots, associated roads, footpaths, and more key infrastructure to support this.

Arnos Vale Cemetery is pictured.
Arnos Vale Cemetery

Bristol City Council owns eight cemeteries across the city, from South Bristol to Greenbank, Canford, and Arnos Vale. They are beautiful spaces that offer a break from the busy city and time to reflect and remember. But their capacities are limited, part of the finite 42 square miles that make up our city, which has increased by 48,000 people since 2008.

Council cemeteries, including South Bristol Cemetery, need more room. So, we are acting now to ensure residents from across the city, of all faiths and none, have the space and opportunity for burials in the city.

The proposed expansion entails enough land to cover 25 years of ongoing burials in Bristol, including vital space for a diverse range of faith burials to address community needs alongside an adjacent area for infant burials. This is a necessary decision to make and the correct one.

We are able to enact this expansion now, thanks to a long-sighted agreement between the Council and Yew Tree Farm. In May 2021, council officers met with the farm, providing a generous temporary grazing agreement on the land beyond the scope of the initial expansion set to take place over ten years, in the knowledge that some of that land would be claimed back for the necessary burial expansion.

The current proposals are to use less than ten percent of the land currently used (without tenancy) by Yew Tree Farm. The Council is presently in direct discussions with Yew Tree Farm on granting a long-term lease for the remaining 90% of grazing land. The council has continued to engage the small farm during the application process.

Similarly, officers have taken steps to submit a robust set of flood monitoring and ecological assessments, including a new wetland pond habitat, new hedgerows, and tree planting. These measures will ensure a rich bio-diversity is maintained across the site, supporting local ecology to continue to thrive.

This application is vital step in the city’s future. In years to come we can be proud that the council’s foresight to protect space for our cemeteries, ensured that we could continue to meet demand. Proudly maintaining them as special places, close to the hearts of residents for generations to come. It’s important that we take decisions that look to protect the long term future of Bristol, and I hope that the Planning Committee will do so today.

Your chance to tell us about life in Bristol – Quality of Life Survey 2023

Park Street, Bristol is pictured with vehicle lights captured with long exposure photography – drawing red lights going up the road. Wills Memorial Building is seen at the top of the image.

As a large city with of the fastest growing populations in the country, Bristol’s residents are diverse and varied. While this brings so many positives to our city, it also brings about challenges. With so many different needs present in our local communities, it’s important that we continue to take time to listen to citizens to better understand them, especially in times of real need.

The Quality of Life Survey is an annual questionnaire that asks residents about their experiences of living in Bristol and what matters to them, and is sent to over 30,000 households at random. Questions ask for views on a range of topics from safety and public services, to sustainability and health.

This is your chance to have your say and voice your opinions. We want to know what you like about living in Bristol and what you think could be better.

Now in its 24th year, the findings of the Quality of Life Survey help us understand what residents want and need, and what they value most about where they live. The results also give us a picture of levels of inequality in the city and how quality of life varies between communities. We can then take this information and plan public services that will be fit for the future needs of the population, and so can city partners.

This week, invitations to fill out the Quality of Life 2023 survey will be arriving at 33,000 homes across the city. Households are chosen randomly to make sure that the sample is representative of our city’s diverse population.

If you receive an invite, please do put some time aside to take part and complete the questions before 23 October. The survey should take around 30 minutes to fill out and can be done online by following the link or scanning the QR code included on your letter. We will also be sending out paper copies later this month for anyone that isn’t able to complete it online.

It’s important that everyone has the chance to have their voice heard, but each year we typically receive fewer responses from minoritised communities. It’s so important that we understand your views, regardless of your background. We need responses from everyone so that we have a clear picture of life in Bristol. 

In 2022, around 4,000 people took part in the survey. The results unsurprisingly highlighted the substantial impact that the national cost of living crisis has had on people’s finances and mental health.

We asked if people were “worried about keeping their home warm this winter” to which almost half (48 per cent) responded that they were extremely or moderately worried. There was also evidence of widening inequality between communities as this figure rose to 62 per cent in deprived areas. The same trend was seen when we asked people about their food security with eight per cent telling us they are now experiencing moderate to worse food insecurity, doubling to 16 per cent in the most deprived areas.

Last winter we had anticipated these concerns and responded to the national cost of living crisis by coordinating a network of 105 Welcoming Spaces in the city, places where people could go to keep warm, access support and socialise with others. It was important that we could respond quickly and as a city to support people in times of difficulty.

The Quality of Life survey is an important tool for shedding light onto inequalities such as these, and showing us where people’s worries currently lie. Read my previous blog for a full overview of results from 2022.

Each year the results are used by services across the council to help make decisions about policy, to inform planning and as evidence when securing vital funding for projects. Last year findings supported a range of work including suicide prevention, our drug and alcohol strategy, digital inclusion, and fuel poverty.  They also form the basis of all our Equality and Impact Assessments, ensuring that we accurately assess how our work is going to impact people in Bristol.

To find out more about the Quality of Life Survey and reports from previous years, visit the council’s website.

Don’t forget to complete your survey if you receive one before 23 October 2023.

The challenge we face decarbonising Bristol and where we are already

Councillor Kye Dudd is pictured, smiling, with trees and College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy and Labour Councillor for Southmead Ward.

Since we took office, much effort has been put in across Bristol’s communities to ramp up the work to lower our carbon footprint.

Bristol’s journey to becoming climate neutral and climate resilient by 2030 stepped up a notch three years ago, when the ambitious One City Climate Strategy was launched by Bristol’s Environment Board.

Since the council is responsible for just 0.5% of direct emissions in Bristol, to reach the city-wide climate goal, it’s essential that businesses, organisations and individuals also play their part.

To lead by example, the council have taken significant steps to generate the activity needed to reach that goal. Across every sector, and every community, the council, along with partners of all shapes and sizes, are putting in the hard yards needed.

Probably the most significant of those steps so far was the establishment of Bristol City Leap, our partnership with Ameresco and Vattenfall Heat UK, which plans to deliver some £630 million of investment over the next five years to decarbonise the city’s economy. This landmark deal is already seeing the partnership deliver programmes to introduce heat pump technology into homes, expanding the city’s vital heat network and working with the council to continue our success in decarbonising our buildings. By 2028, we expect to see over 1,000 jobs created and 150,000 tonnes of emissions saved, as well as wider social value return. In the longer term, the partnership builds towards £1 billion of investment.

The programme of decarbonising the council has been ongoing throughout our administration. It involves reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings, primarily through either reducing their energy usage or moving to more sustainable forms of electricity and heat supply. It also includes developing our vehicle fleet to ensure that we’re operating in the cleanest way possible.

This programme has seen much success to date with the council’s direct emissions being halved since 2015. We’re now into the phase of the programme that we always knew would be the toughest to deliver and have taken the steps necessary, such as the formation of Bristol City Leap, to have the tools available to meet our target of being a carbon neutral council by the end of 2025.

Later today, I will lay out the challenge ahead of us at the next meeting of the city’s Cabinet.

Our approach to continue the decarbonising of our estate includes prioritising the work to connect council buildings to the city’s heat network, installing alternative low carbon heating sources, moving some buildings onto a “green gas” supply, and increasing the use of electricity generated by the council’s own renewable energy assets.

The effort to develop a lower-emission vehicle fleet is also one we’ve been working to deliver since the early days of the administration. The latest proposals I will consider at Cabinet include recommending up to a £1 million investment in additional electronic vehicle charging infrastructure across five council sites as well as trialling the introduction of home-chargers for drivers of vehicles who take their council vehicles home overnight.

The overall investment required for this work is estimated to be around £31 million and is proposed come from a mix of our own investment, grant funding and the funding secured through Bristol City Leap.

These proposals follow other recent decisions I’ve taken at Cabinet to forward our net zero ambitions for the city.

In July, I approved the acceptance of £1.3 million of European Union funding to establish an innovative approach to generating the additional finance needed for the city to meet its goals. This decision will now see us lead the creation of a Net Zero Investment Co-innovation Lab – a multifaceted project that will research and pilot a number of methods of accessing funding for citizens, business and communities to invest in their projects to reduce emissions and to generate a return. As the programme develops it will bring forward a new scheme for citizen investment in climate action and open opportunities for philanthropic investment in projects all targeted at driving the city towards carbon neutrality.

The decarbonisation of our economy will generate substantial business opportunities and will require all individuals, businesses and organisations to make changes, in the bid to avoid the worst effects of climate change. For inspiration and personalised advice visit Bristol Climate Hub.

Whether you’re well on your way to net zero, or just beginning your journey, join your fellow businesses and sign up to the Bristol Climate Ask. There’s help and support available to get you started.

To help inspire others to take action, if your business or organisation has a story to tell on its journey to net zero, publicise it on your website and social channels using the hashtag #BristolClimateAction

For residents, a wide range of energy-saving measures are available to low-income households through Bristol City Leap’s Bright Green Homes scheme, which offers free solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. Visit the Bristol City Leap website for information on the Bright Green Homes scheme and to check the eligibility criteria.

My Bristol Strive internship journey

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured second in from the right. smiling, stood alongside Strive interns.
Today’s guest blog is from Najma Ali, 2023 Strive intern for the Mayor of Bristol’s Office

I recently had the privilege of completing an internship in the Mayor of Bristol’s Office, through the Strive Internship Programme. Strive was set up in 2021, as a partnership between Bristol City Council, Hargreaves Lansdown, and the University of the West of England. It offers paid work experience placements (75 so far) to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic university students across 25 key organisations in the West of England.

I found out about this opportunity from a friend who was also applying, she mentioned there was an opportunity to work at Bristol City Council. I was interested in working at the council because of my interest in policy making and the priorities of the Mayor’s administration.

The application process was to fill out a form. Then when your application form was approved, you were allowed to pick three places that you would preferably intern at. Once you were placed at the organisation, you completed the interview process and awaited your results.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, smiling speaking at the Strive intern closing event.

During my time at the office I had the opportunity to engage in a variety of tasks and projects. Every task I undertook, deepened my understanding of local governance and its impact on Bristol’s residents. Even things that I would not have given much thought to in the past. The Mayor’s Office gave me a comprehensive view on the city and where it was going, whether that was strategic planning, Full Council meetings, or liaising with external partners and key city-wide organisations.

My work in supporting the office in liaising with a business regarding a traffic regulation order (TROs) highlighted the complexities of city politics and business operating, trying to find an effective compromise. That experience it illustrated how multidimensional one situation can be. It highlighted the importance of being an effective communicator, in order to bridge the gap of potential misunderstanding.

Moreover, one aspect that struck me during my time was the office’s unwavering commitment to inclusiveness and fostering community engagement. Witnessing the relentless efforts put into various initiatives to uplift marginalised voices and promote inclusivity has reinforced my belief in the power of local government to effect positive change.

The Mayor’s Office is a true hub of knowledge and expertise, and I was fortunate to work alongside individuals who are genuinely committed to making a difference. Their mentorship, guidance, and encouragement have been instrumental in my personal growth during this internship. I leave this experience with newfound confidence in my abilities and a deeper understanding of the immense responsibilities that come with public service.

My experience with the Strive Internship programme is one that genuinely has changed my life. I know it’s the same for all my colleagues who also undertook the experience in other organisations. I recommend that anyone that is looking for opportunities to make their next career move, take a look at this amazing programme.

I am excited to continue on this journey of civic engagement, inspired by leadership and the incredible work being done here in Bristol.

The Strive interns are pictured at the 2023 Strive Internship closing event, hosted at Bristol City Hall.