Arena: A good use of your money?

When I took office in May 2016, I was surprised to learn that there was no agreement anywhere near ready to sign to build an arena. Also, the first figures I was ever shown, two years ago, meant the real total cost of the entire arena development was close to £190 million. So let’s put headlines, sensationalism and speculation aside and talk evidence and facts.

I was faced with spending your money on an arena that would be one of the most expensive in the UK. I made the difficult decision to pause and review the whole project and commission value for money assessments. What has become clear is that:

  • the proposed Temple Island arena is the most expensive build in the UK and all the money has to be borrowed, creating substantial public debt for the city,
  • an alternative mixed use development including a conference centre on Temple Island would offer up three times as many jobs and over twice the economic return for the city,
  • the proposed Temple Island arena design is potentially not fit for purpose because at 10,000 seats it is considered too small for world-class acts.

I was not prepared to simply plough ahead, spending council taxpayer’s money without addressing all of these difficult issues.

1.  Follow the Money: 

My own life experiences mean I know how hard it can be for many people to find the money for their Council Tax when you also have to balance putting food on the table and money on the electric key.

I am determined that every penny of the Council’s income is spent improving the city for the long term. I am not prepared to treat your money like Monopoly money and borrow hundreds of millions of pounds like it doesn’t matter.

Through strong management and holding our nerve, we have now driven the arena price down to around £135 million. For the first time, the arena is now deliverable, thanks only to the efforts of my team and this city leadership – but that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. Now we have genuine options both on the arena and on the use of Temple Island. Rather than being locked onto a single option we have the opportunity to consider the best combination of decisions for Bristol.

2. Going to Market

Arenas have been built around the world with various different financial models. Where arenas and venues are built with public money, it is not because cities want to make a profit out of them, it’s because there is no private sector organisation who want to build one. So, at risk, councils invest millions to replace what the market cannot deliver. Working with the University to regenerate the Cattle Market Road site and part of the Temple Island site has proven the impact we can bring to the city with private sector partners, providing the catalytic economic boost the arena was initially set out to achieve.

For Bristol, the Temple Island arena means borrowing at least £135 million to build it, using Council Tax payer’s money to pay it back with interest and never seeing a real commercial return on that investment.

The questions we must ask are: how important is an arena to Bristol? Can we get it built with someone else’s money? And if we can, how best should we use the freed up money?

Although the market hasn’t been fully tested, we know at least one private sector organisation is prepared to take the risk, invest £100 million of their own money and spend more to get the project ready, take it through the planning processes and get it built. Do we know if there are others and are there investors who would also want to share the risk to build an arena? At a fraction of the cost to the city, of course we must consider these options.

3. Yesterday’s Plan

The plan to build an arena in Bristol has been knocking around in one form or another since the early 1990s. The current proposed Temple Island arena gives us a 10,000 seat venue, with potential for 2,000 standing customers, for some sell out events.

The reality is the Temple Island arena, with its 10,000 seats, is probably already a decade out of date. Arenas built ten years ago are becoming obsolete as the bigger ones are drawing the bigger performers. If we want to genuinely be ‘on the circuit’ we need to compete with the O2 arena and Manchester. Other cities are already looking at extensions and re-builds to their arenas, just to keep up.

Some want to downscale their ambitions with smaller events and smaller crowds but I want to reach for the stars.

Evidence based decisions

Homes England, incoming chair of Bristol RIBA, the Universities, members of the business community and many others support our use of evidence to make an informed decision but are being drowned out by the shouting voices that attract media interest.

Shouts, personal attacks and the loudest voices won’t influence me and shouldn’t influence any decision. The decision must be evidence-led and in the best interests of this city and its residents. When someone makes an offer to build an arena at a fraction of the cost to the Council Tax payer, that must be taken into account too.

Tough decisions aren’t easy business. Balancing the budget so services don’t collapse, protecting our children’s centres and our libraries, keeping the Council Tax reduction scheme for the poorest households and working with city partners to build an inclusive economy has not been easy in the face of austerity, but my cabinet and I have delivered on it. Many of those decisions have been made in the face of loud and often personal criticism.

Leadership is about doing the right thing for the people of Bristol and that sometimes means not making the easy decision. I took a closer look at the real, hard evidence – I was prepared to say ‘not at any cost’.

It’s just possible, if we play our cards right and keep holding our nerve, we could get a conference centre, an arena, more homes and a huge economic boost for Bristol whilst only spending a fraction of your hard earned money. That needs looking at in the round and with open eyes as to any risks.

A decision on the future of the land at Temple Island will be made at a public cabinet meeting on September 4th. It needs to be the right decision for the city.

Up, Up and Away!

Over the weekend, despite the unfortunate weather, balloons once again took to the skies to float above Bristol as the Balloon Fiesta returned to the city.

Balloons Harbour

Throughout the year, Bristol hosts all kinds of fantastic events, but many of our most famous events take place during the summer. In just the past few weeks we have had St Pauls Carnival, Pride, the Harbour Festival, and Upfest. But when people think of Bristol, they often think of the iconic balloons which feature on countless mugs, shirts, and tea towels across the world.

Every year, the Balloon Fiesta attracts tens of thousands of tourists to Ashton Court from across the country and around the world. The free event has truly become a staple of our summer events calendar and the weekend was its 40th anniversary year. Although it is Europe’s largest gathering of hot air balloons, the accompanying fairground offered its own entertainment for visitors. While weather for most of the weekend sadly wasn’t suitable for flying, the night glows and even the balloons themselves drew attention – to celebrate the 40 years of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, 40 special shaped-balloons from over the years returned to Bristol, including Bertie Bassett, the Superbike, and Rupert the Bear.

The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is great for summer entertainment, but it’s also great for Bristol’s economy. In 2017, 500,000 visitors travelled to Bristol for the Fiesta, with 48% of people travelling 50 miles or further. According to the Balloon Fiesta’s 2017 Impact Report, for every £1 spent at the Fiesta, an additional £25 is spent across the local economy, which in total brings about £15 million of net economic benefit to the city which would not have otherwise been spent. Research by Destination Bristol values our entire calendar of world class events as being worth £1.3 billion in 2016, and the tourism industry generates 29,000 jobs for the local area. This is clearly of huge benefit for the people of Bristol. Whether its buying food from local traders, or staying in hotels, tourists are spending their money in Bristol, and this is something I am keen to encourage.

Balloons from Plimsole

Bristol is a lively and dynamic city with a reputation for unique opportunities you simply can’t find anywhere else. Seeing so many visitors choosing to come to Bristol makes me proud of the city we live in. Our annual calendar continues to deliver the world-class events Bristolians love and are rightly proud of, while also giving domestic and overseas visitors a glimpse of the great culture that thrives and continues to grow in Bristol.

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to contribute to this year’s Fiesta, especially the Ashton Court Estate team and the local emergency services. We are indebted to the Board of Trustees and planning of the Organising Committee, namely Don Cameron, Muir Moffat, Joanna Case, Chris Allcock, Clive Bailey, Peter Mossman, Phil Dunnington, Sue Atkinson, Mike Wadsworth, Robert Barnes, Jane Oakland, Emma Custance Baker, Pete Dalby, Ian Martin, and Phil McCheyne, without whom this event would not have been possible. To all who are involved in the local tourism sector, thank you for your part in making Bristol so attractive.

Whether you watched the balloons from Ashton Court or from a window in your own home out of the rain, I hope you were able to enjoy the Balloon Fiesta. Our summer festivities attract tourists from around the world, and also help to make Bristol the vibrant city I am proud to continue working for.

Promotion Prospects

A lot of Bristol citizens will be looking forward to the start of the English football league today. Ashton Gate will be full for the visit of Forest and the loyal traveling support of Gasheads will be making their way to Peterborough.

At 3 pm today so many hopes for the coming season will be put to the test and the passion of Bristol’s football fans will roar in the new season.

Bristol is a fervent football city and even those that don’t attend the matches today will be listening in or at the very least following the scores.

Football is important to our city and our two professional clubs are key city institutions.

When the clubs are successful, the city prospers.  It was calculated that when Swansea were promoted to the Premier League, it brought around £60 million annually to the city economy. That would be higher for Bristol that starts from a higher economic base. On my international trips to bring trade and investment to Bristol, in China and Malaysia particularly, investors are most interested in cities where they recognise premier league brands. A premier league football club genuinely boosts the local economy as well as bringing excitement and colour to the city.

Bristol also has a hugely vibrant local football scene. From the semi pro players and decent crowds in the southern league and western league to the grass roots of the parks pitches, thousands more will soon be a regular weekend feature of our parks and green spaces.   Football has been played on the Downs since the  1880s and the Downs League officially launched in 1905, still the biggest self contained single league in Europe.

Many will be looking forward to today’s season and football again seems on a high after a successful England performance at the World Cup.

Football fans are usually partisan but the banter and competition between Rovers and City fans is generally healthy for the city.

Promotion for both clubs will be great for the whole city so I wish them both well today to get off to flying starts on the road to promotion.

Taking Off

It’s summertime, and many Bristolians will be travelling abroad to make the most of the holiday season. Every year across the UK, the number of air-travel passengers continues to grow, and Bristol Airport plays a key role in connecting the South West with the wider world. In addition to its transport links, Bristol Airport is a catalyst for future growth and jobs in the local economy.

This summer, more than 20,000 seats are on sale from Bristol Airport to some of the most popular leisure destinations in Europe; an increase of 20% compared to last year. The current route network connects Bristol to 120 destinations, including 18 capital cities, in 34 countries. This is great for people looking for a holiday, but it also enables Bristol-based companies to easily access international markets. As demand for travel abroad grows, Bristol Airport is updating its Master Plan to ensure its long-term development is sustainable. The airport will submit an application to North Somerset Council later this year to increase from 10 million to 12 million passengers a year. This phased increase will make the best use of the existing site while still delivering the services people in the Bristol city region need.

Bristol Airport offers more than just connectivity – it’s a key strategic infrastructure location that attracts investment and provides jobs directly. The airport employs nearly 4,000 people, and in total generates £675 million of Gross Value Added to the economy of the Bristol city region. Forecasted demand for air travel says that by the 2030s Bristol Airport could be contributing more than £2.9 billion GVA across the local economy.

Frustratingly, Bristol Airport remains the only major UK airport without access by either a dual carriageway, motorway or rail link. A study by Capital Economics showed that even a 5% improvement in journey times to and from airports has a significant impact on passenger numbers, potentially generating an additional £1.9bn for the economy. We are working with North Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority and other crucial partners to improve the road links. Improvements to the A38 South Bristol Link will expand the capacity of the road network to manage existing traffic and reduce congestion. By supporting the Bristol Temple Meads Flyer service, our public transport links to the airport will offer an effective alternative to private car journeys. Proposals to establish a mass-transit underground system to the airport would create access choices within an integrated transport network.

Expanding the airport must be managed in a responsible and sustainable way. Aviation contributes 2% of all global carbon emissions, and as a city we take climate change incredibly seriously. All development proposals will incorporate an Environmental Impact Assessment to consider any environmental effects. Bristol Airport aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, and as part of its emerging Sustainable Growth Strategy it has received Stage 2 Carbon Accreditation from the independent Airports Council International. By making the most of the existing site before expanding , the airport will help protect its surrounding area, including the Mendips Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In addition, by improving the services offered, Bristol Airport can reduce traffic forced to travel to larger airports for other flights. But the simple fact remains that the airport is necessary for the clear economic benefit and connectivity it brings to everyone in Bristol.

Bristol Airport is an essential part of our economy. Beyond the many passengers who use it to reach their holiday destinations, it is a key part of our infrastructure for Bristol businesses. By responsibly expanding the airport and our transport networks to meet growing demands and environmental commitments, we can provide more jobs, attract investment for the city economy, and connect Bristol with the world.

Keeping Bristol Moving

MhairiToday’s guest blog comes from my Cabinet Lead for Transport and Connectivity, Mhairi Threlfall.

Keeping the city moving is one of the biggest challenges facing Bristol. Reliable and affordable transport options in some parts of the city are still limited, resulting in poor access to jobs and opportunities. Bristol’s poor air quality, mainly caused by pollutants from vehicle use, contributes to hundreds of early deaths a year. And we will be developing thousands of new homes and jobs to accommodate growth in the city over the next 20 years, which means there will be more people to move around on an already congested network.

In many ways we have already made progress in improving the transport and connectivity from our homes to our places of work or leisure. We have rising levels of public transport use in Bristol, bucking the national trend, and we secured funding to provide free bus vouchers and loan bikes for people not in education, employment or training to help them get to interviews, training and work placement opportunities. As the first Cycling City in the UK, we attracted high levels of investment in our infrastructure, and we now have higher levels of cycling to work than Sheffield, Nottingham and Liverpool combined. We are also responding to need to tackle air pollution through our Clean Air Plan, which looks at sustainable clean-fuelling alternatives for our buses, taxis and diesel cars.

Although getting the right policy and processes in place is important to solving our transport challenges, the world does not stand still. To be able to respond to current challenges as well as new and emerging ones, we are taking a strategic approach to our transport. The Bristol Transport Strategy is the first of its kind: it lays out clearly the key challenges we face, it will act as a “linchpin” policy document for our other mode-specific strategies, and it will set out the vision for transport in the city of the next 20 years. It will be going out to consultation in the early autumn, and will be a chance for you to have your say. Our Transport Strategy uses the technical assessment captured in the Joint Transport Study to identify how we can all work together to improve transport in Bristol.

Transport movements go beyond our city boundaries, and so our Bristol Transport Strategy will feed into the Joint Local Transport Plan to reflect our regional plans for transport also for the next 20 years. Our proposed Joint Spatial Plan will help us respond to the need to build more homes by pairing sustainable transport schemes recommended by the Joint Transport Study with unlocked development sites to mitigate the impact of growth. The Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Local Transport Plan gives us this opportunity to plan ahead with a “transport first” approach to new developments, and includes a ring of park and rides, rapid and mass transit and active travel.

We are continuing to deliver on our current programmes, including Better Bus Area Fund 2 and Cycling Ambition Fund 2 projects. Bristol remains committed to the delivery of Metrowest phase one and two, we recently solidified our commitment to the Portishead line, as well as securing funding to deliver the Portway Park & Ride station. Our increased focus on walking and cycling is fundamental for a heathier and more resilient city network. The Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure plan is examining our walking and cycling networks to identify the “missing pieces”, including where we can create safer, more pleasant journeys. This is incredibly important as many quote inappropriate infrastructure as a disincentive for getting on a bike.

There is a lot going on, but getting the right policy framework in place will enable us to respond much better and keep Bristol moving into the future.

Detail on current major projects can be found on the Travelwest website.

Showing Bailiffs the Door

CheneyToday’s guest blog comes from my Deputy Mayor, Craig Cheney.

This week the Council has announced our new ethical approach to debt and enforcement. This approach builds on the plans laid out in our 2016 manifesto and has been driven on by Councillor Paul Goggin.

Our ethical approach strikes a sustainable balance between recovering debts owed to the council and avoiding undue pressure on those with money struggles. Working with people to address their money problems means the Council is more likely to prevent future debt issues, rather than just collecting owed council tax. We’re also working to develop financial literacy skills for people to help address their money problems. This is all part of our vision for Bristol to be a city of hope and aspiration, where everyone can share in our success regardless of their difficulties – financial or otherwise.

Debt can be a complex and difficult issue. In many cases, people require support to manage their money in ways which do not worsen their situation. For many, it is easy to fall into a ‘cycle of deprivation’ where linked problems reinforce the difficulty of escaping debt. As a council, we want to work with people to support them in meeting their commitments without them slipping further into debt. Using enforcement agents, or bailiffs, passes the cost of collection onto the debtor, and has the potential to exacerbate an already difficult situation with more stress and pressure by adding even more debt to someone that is already struggling.

In the past, the Council has used contracts with external enforcement agencies as a cost-neutral way collect this money, but our new approach aims to be a more-ethical form of debt recovery. We recognise the mounting evidence that concludes early intervention and support for those facing debt is a more effective strategy. The Council is already using early-intervention to signpost vulnerable people towards advice and information services early before their situation becomes too serious. This approach has already proved to be effective: collection rates in 2017/18 were the highest ever in Bristol at 96.79%, and the number of council tax debt recovery cases passed to enforcement agents has dropped by 8% against last year. By using bailiffs as a measure of last resort, we will be the second local authority to commit to ethical debt collection.

This being said, debts are still a problem for the Council. Unpaid council tax is a major concern for the Council, and any money we don’t collect is money we can’t spend on delivering services to Bristol. Council tax exists so that the Council can afford to provide the services people across Bristol depend upon for their day-to-day lives. As it forms such an important source of revenue, the Council will still use formal legal methods to address owed council tax. For people who are able to pay and simply choose not to, the Council will act to recover the money owed by the necessary means.

This new approach is building on what we’re currently doing, and will reduce the stress and add support for those who need it most.  Let’s be clear – our vision for this approach is that we collect more money owed than ever before, while reducing the impact on vulnerable people or those struggling with debt.  It’s a model that speaks for itself.

Our Children’s Charter

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

Today is a very special day for Bristol’s children, as we celebrate the 16th Annual Playday on College Green. Playday is our annual celebration of play – every child in the city is welcome to come along and join us for a free day of fun, activities and celebration. This year is even more special as we are launching our Bristol Children’s Charter: a city-wide vision of how we can make Bristol the best possible place for all our children.

We are ambitious and determined that Bristol should be a brilliant place to grow up for all children, and we believe this can happen if key organisations come together to make a pledge to put children at the heart of how we govern, develop and enjoy the city.

Marvin and I first discussed the concept of a charter over a year ago. The charter itself is aligned with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and adopts many of the same principles. However, we also wanted to give the Charter a uniquely Bristol feel, and have included some of our own pledges that reflect the challenges and opportunities here in our city. We wanted to be bold for Bristol’s children and are unafraid to be aspirational. We are acutely aware that there are too many children here growing up in poverty and in unsuitable housing. We want to declare that as a city we will work to change this, and that we will focus on the health and education of our children, while also enabling them to shape the city and access the best of Bristol’s culture and sport. We want to give children safe places to be and play while learning about the world around them and their wider, global community. Importantly, we are pledging to support parents and carers too. Our ten pledges set the rights and best interests of children as a priority for decision makers in Bristol.

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Over the past year I have had the joy of working and engaging with many groups that work with young people and most importantly, with lots of Bristol’s children and young people as we have worked together to create the Children’s Charter. I have been struck by the passion and interest in the project and we are thrilled to have so many organisations that want to join us in making this commitment.

I am delighted to have so many brilliant Bristol organisations with us on launch day to sign our charter; organisations as diverse as City of Bristol College, Gloucestershire County Cricket, Fareshare South West, the University of Bristol, Barnardos and of course Bristol City Council are some of the initial signatories to the charter.

Today will be the first step in bringing together the best of Bristol to deliver for the most important people in the city – our children and young people. I look forward to working together to bring our Children’s Charter to life.

Urban Paint

This weekend sees the next festival in our summer’s long line up which celebrates and promotes Bristol’s heritage and culture. These events help to make Bristol world renowned for its independent attitude, a city that does things differently.

Punching above its weight Upfest Street Art and Graffiti Festival is the largest event of its type in Europe. It comfortably stands on the summer programme which includes Harbourside festival, Bristol Pride, St Paul’s Carnival and the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, which this year celebrates 40 years.

2018 is the 10th year Upfest has been staged and will see 400 artists from 70 countries coming to the streets of South Bristol. These artists will create works of art in front of 50,000 visitors during the 3 day festival. Matt Groening creator of The Simpsons is this year’s headline act and has hand chosen 3 artists to work on artwork inspired by the iconic animated sitcom which demonstrates how far the festival reaches.

squwarksAlso in this centenary year of women’s suffrage (for some) there will also be a strong emphasis on women artists with Bristol Women’s Voice being invited to work on commemorating this significant milestone.

Bristol has been at the forefront of changing the conversation on graffiti and street art for more than 10 years. This demonstrates our thriving arts scene and culture of innovation and disruption which adds to the mix in our continuing ambitious bid to be the location for one of Channel 4’s creative hubs.

However we must acknowledge that the look of the city plays an important role in how people feel about their neighbourhoods. While an imaginative piece of street art can increase people’s sense of belonging, tagging can make people feel unsafe and the neighbourhood appear uncared for. All graffiti done without permission is criminal damage and illegal. Graffiti and tagging is a problem in many areas of the city, and we work with communities to address this where possible. Bristol City Council’s Clean Streets team and Bristol Waste will also work with the graffiti and street art community to pilot a ‘permissions wall’ project. As a council we have to find a balance with clear guidelines about graffiti and street art, which includes how the city continues to support artistic expression where permission for graffiti has been granted.

 

This Sporting Life

KyeToday’s guest blog on sport comes from my Cabinet Lead for Sport, Kye Dudd.

I am pleased to lead on Sport in the Mayor’s Cabinet – delivering the most pro-sports administration the city has ever seen.  Our approach to sport involves three priorities: to increase physical activity and sport participation, support the development of professionals, and to bring major sporting events here. By creating working groups including Bristol’s sporting community, we will move these three areas forward.

Sport and general physical activity has an important role in both physical and mental health, and we want to inspire people to get involved. Participation is very good in Bristol: 70.3% of residents do at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity, the highest of all the Core Cities. I am proud of this statistic, but I know we can do better in certain areas.

We have launched campaigns such as ‘Bristol Girls Can’ to promote sport and physical activity in under-represented groups, and we are working with community groups to understand how we can build on the existing offer of accessibility to council sports facilities.

This administration also provides the platform from which athletes and professional sportsmen and sportswomen from Bristol can thrive, which in turn can inspire the next generation. Successful professional sports clubs bring major economic benefits to Bristol, and we will continue to work with all of Bristol’s professional clubs – football, rugby, cricket and others – to help them achieve top-level success.

At our Cabinet meeting on July 3rd it was a pleasure to adopt the Sports Facilities Strategy. Following the legacy of our Playing Pitch Strategy, European City of Sport 2017, Bristol Active City and Sports Gatherings, this underlines the Mayor’s commitment to sport in Bristol.

The Sport Facility Strategy identified that although facilities were generally good, there were several areas which need investment. There is a need for increased swimming provision in East/Central Bristol and for new larger multi-court sports halls with 12 or more courts (sometimes known as mini-arenas) to attract more indoor events. In addition to building these facilities ourselves, we will also work with partners like Sport England, the professional clubs and our new schools programme to deliver some of this provision. We are investing heavily in cycling, including the potential for a new closed road circuit.

Our partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association to provide a new sustainable city-wide parks tennis model includes investment of over £500,000 in The Ardagh, Canford Park, St. George’s Park and Eastville. We are working with the FA and the Football Foundation to improve football provision across the city, including looking at new modern changing facilities for the Bristol Downs League which hasn’t seen any investment for decades. We are also supporting Bristol Rovers with their Memorial Stadium redevelopment, Bristol Sport with their new indoor sports arena and any further improvements to Ashton Gate.

We are proactive in organising and delivering major sporting events for Bristol. The city hosted the Bristol Grand Prix through our partnership with British Cycling and we have the Tour of Britain coming this autumn, at no cost to the council. We introduced new events, such as the inaugural Power8 rowing sprints during the Harbour Festival, and Two Cricket World Cup matches to be held at the County Ground in 2019. The Mayor was in the delegation to meet the English Cricket Board earlier this year, which delivered a future of T20 internationals for Bristol. The Mayor will push for Bristol to be a host city for the 2030 World Cup if the FA proceed with our bid.

Sport isn’t only of physical, economic and cultural benefit to Bristolians, it can be a positive intervention in the lives of young people and provides an important structure that keeps many on track and out of trouble. Both the Mayor and I have personal experience of this, which is why this is such an important focus for us.

This is why, whatever your sport and however you play, it will now be supported to flourish in Bristol.

Supporting Families in Summer

Today’s guest blog on ‘holiday hunger’ comes from my Cabinet Lead for Education and Skills, Anna Keen.

keenerOur schools broke up for the summer this week, and while children and staff are ready for a break, as a mum I know that facing a long stretch of unstructured time can be challenging for a number of reasons. We all know that children are expensive and filling their days with activities can be a huge pressure on families.

Just over a year ago, we formed ‘Feeding Bristol’. This collaborative charity is striving for a city where no-one goes hungry. We work on a range of projects, from cooking and nutrition, to growing local food and even raising awareness towards key political issues surrounding food poverty. However, one key priority that has emerged with the greatest urgency is the critical need to address the issue of ‘holiday hunger’. Many of our children in Bristol receive a free school meal Monday to Friday during term time, but there is currently no such provision over holidays, meaning that our children and young people are at risk of holiday hunger.

One of the ways we are addressing this is through holiday clubs. There are a number of initiatives happening across Bristol to provide free activities for children and we have ensured that food is provided as part of this offer. These include Fit and Fed, which operates in parks across Bristol, Unique Voice, who run creative courses over the summer, and Break Free, a programme run by Youth Moves in secondary schools across South Bristol, which reaches some of our most deprived communities.

As well as being the Cabinet Lead for Education, I am also a teacher. Like many teachers, I know first-hand how long it can take for my pupils to get back into the mindset of learning in September each year. Since being involved in Feeding Bristol, I have begun to question whether, for some children, there is a link between their ability to learn after the summer break and whether or not they may have had insufficient nutrition over the holidays.

Education is about the whole child being ready and able to learn, and food poverty is an issue that impacts massively on the ability of our schools to deliver this.

For more information or to get involved with Feeding Bristol, please see our website: https://www.feedingbritain.org/bristol