Taxi Conference

Today we held our second annual taxi conference in City Hall. The conference is an opportunity to talk with the trade about the city’s transport challenges, the taxi trade and how we work together to build an inclusive, sustainable Bristol.

It was great to see so many representatives from the private hire and hackney carriage sections. As part of the day’s agenda, Chair of Public Safety and Protection Committee Fi Hance gave an update, and Cabinet member for Transport and Connectivity Mhairi Threlfall talked about the vital role the trade plays in our transport strategy and the long term plans for the city.

20180416_105102I thanked drivers for the support they’ve given us in our work to improve the city’s air quality. Many in the hackney carriage trade have responded positively. We acknowledge there is a cost involved of changing hackney carriages in accordance with the Euro 6 policy. As an administration, we are keen to hold this challenge alongside our recognition that taxi drivers are small businesses and will need support to transition to cleaner vehicles. Therefore I was pleased Mhairi announced the news on the Defra funding secured under the Hackney Carriage ULEV Incentive Scheme: A package of incentives offered to Hackney Carriage proprietors for purchasing electric vehicles.

Drivers also wanted to talk about taxi rank space and the work being done to rationalise all the local stands, the Temple Meads approach and licensing. The city centre framework is out for consultation and I asked those present to make sure they made their views known.

20180416_105705We also must tackle out of town licensing and cross border hiring. Due to the current legal framework we find ourselves unable to address directly. Over the last six months TfL has been working with licensing authorities and stakeholder groups across England to understand the individual challenges facing each authority and how a solution may be developed to respond to these challenges and have made a series of recommendations. Bristol’s Taxi drivers supported these proposals for change. I wrote to Nusrat Ghani MP, the Under Secretary of State for Transport in March to express support as the report highlighted many of the issues raised by the taxi trade in Bristol.

My key message for the trade is that we are listening – there are plenty of opportunities to feed into consultations but I encourage everyone in the room to take this opportunity to listen and share.


Coming Together to Support Care Leavers

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

helen gtIt was great to bring three reports to cabinet last week, each of them focussing on our role as corporate parents and how we better support children in care and care leavers.

During Bristol City Council’s last OFSTED report in 2014, serious concerns were raised about the outcomes for care leavers in the city. Since then, the council has been working hard to improve our Care Leaver Offer to ensure that young people have a good chance to live independently, access employment or training and to contribute to the city.

However, the story is not as positive as we would like. Despite some amazing success stories in Bristol – we have a number of care leavers in higher education and incredible care leaver apprentices making a difference in the council and for the city – there are some hard to digest statistics around leaving care. Care leavers are over represented in the criminal justice system and in mental health services, too many homeless young people grew up in care and substance abuse is prevalent.

For me the most shocking fact is the 1 in 6 care leavers will not live to the age of 30.

In 2018. In the UK.

It is heart-breaking and unacceptable.

Last week I brought two reports to Cabinet which will make a tangible difference to care leavers in Bristol. Having worked closely with Cllr Craig Cheney, we have announced that from 1 April 2018 all care leavers up to the age of 25 in Bristol will be exempt from Council Tax. This follows on from the Children’s Society ‘Wolf at the Door’ report which demonstrates that council tax debt can be a particularly frightening experience for care leavers. What can start out for many care leavers as falling slightly behind can very quickly escalate to a court summons and enforcement action being taken. We want to protect and support our care leavers as an authority, and help them towards independence and hope that this measure will allow us to do that.

We were also thrilled to announce that Bristol City Council, along with 1625 Independent People, are leading on the development of a Social Impact Bond that will enable us to work with care leavers to ensure that they are able to access education, employment and training. The award, from the Department for Education, is for c£1.7million and will focus on young people who need the most support. To be part of such an innovative project is great news for the city, and to be able to align this work with our key mayoral pledges around work experience and apprenticeships for all young people is especially exciting.

To make the impact we want to see on outcomes for care leavers will take a lot more work and focus, and will require input and partnership from across the city. We want to explain and promote the idea of corporate parenting beyond the council.

If you would like to find out how you can get involved in supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable young people please feel free to contact me directly –

Better Lives

Helen HollandToday’s guest blog is from Cllr Helen Holland, cabinet member for Adult Social Care.

The ‘crisis in Social Care’ is well-documented, and you can hardly see any news item without reference to it – the ageing population, the complex needs of an older population, delayed discharges and transfers of care from hospital, the impact of Brexit on the care workforce… the list goes on, and it would be easy to feel that there is little we can do to influence this.

The report I took to Cabinet today on ‘Better Lives’ shows how we’re tackling these issues – and more – in a comprehensive programme, not just papering over the cracks, but systematically transforming and improving the way care is delivered in Bristol.

I have been leading the Adult Social Care portfolio for just over a year now, and have spent much of that time fact-finding by visiting a whole range of projects and providers, partners, voluntary sector and charitable organisations, the two Health Trusts, hearing from families and carers, those who support them, training organisations, our own staff and many more.

Those visits have taught me a lot, and there are some common themes from them. First is the absolute dedication of staff in organisations large and small to do the right thing. They want to do their best by the people they care for, and regularly go the extra mile. They can often see how we could do things better, where waste is, and where bureaucracy sometimes gets in the way of the right solution. We’re open to those messages.

Secondly, people want to know that appropriate care will be available when it’s needed. This principle is at the heart of our three-tier model, where tier one is ‘help to help yourself’. This means moving towards a much more person-centred approach, with a detailed conversation finding out what the person really needs – maybe some help with shopping or cooking, or attending a community group like Men In Sheds or Knit and Natter, to help address loneliness and isolation. All of these may well prolong the length of time that someone can live in their own home – which is almost always preferred by them and their families.

Historically, Bristol relied on the use of residential care much more than our comparator cities. This is a very expensive approach, so strengthening the community offer (‘social prescribing’) and stabilising the home care market, including raising the hourly rate we pay, is already beginning to pay off in reducing admissions to residential homes.

The third theme is that all of these organisations often struggle with recruitment, training and retention. They invest in training staff, who then might move on, and there are few common standards amongst the different providers. We’re actively involved in the Proud to Care campaign, along with a wide range of care providers, because we want to show the benefits and rewards of care work and what a positive career choice it can be. With an ageing population, there is always going to be a need for a skilled and compassionate care workforce.

There is so much more in ‘Better Lives’, clearly stating our Labour administration’s commitment to doing our best to provide decent care for people to be able to live independently. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Visit from One25 and Pause

I was pleased to welcome service users and staff from One25 to City Hall yesterday. I sat down with Cllr Helen Godwin, cabinet lead for Women and Children, to hear two women share their experiences of how the charity helps them on their journey.

Launched in 1995, One25 is still the only organisation in Bristol and the city region specialising in supporting women in escaping street sex working and the resulting violence, poverty and addiction. These women are amongst our city’s poorest and most vulnerable individuals. Each year One25 help around 230 women; there are currently about 130 who are street sex-working. Last year, 37 women took tough choices to exit this type of work and to build safe, healthy lives. One25 continues to support 63 women who are moving away from sex work, violence, homelessness and addiction and they offer a ‘step away from the streets’: whether for a short respite on the night outreach van, an afternoon in the St Pauls drop-in centre or permanently with the help of their eight specialist caseworkers.

TH MR and CH

(L to R) Tabby Horsfall (student Social Worker at One25), Marvin Rees, Charlie Hignall (Pause practitioner)

Most of the women the dedicated staff encounter on the streets are homeless, acutely malnourished and addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Because of this their safety and health are neglected. The charity sees women who are deeply traumatised from childhood abuse/neglect and the violence of life on the streets. Each year their clients report around 150 violent attacks against them.

The women spoke about the impractical result the redesign of specialist drug and alcohol services has had on those committed to getting and staying clean by losing the services of a visiting prescribing nurse. Helen and Jacqui Jensen, my interim Executive Director of Care and Safeguarding will look further into our commissioning process to identify any avenues where this could be improved. I am also going to visit the offices in the next few months to see for myself the important work they do for women in the city.

We also heard from a young woman who has been involved in the Pause Bristol programme which launched in June 2017 to work with women in the city who have had two or more children removed from their care. The 18-month pilot programme is working with around 20 women using an innovative and proven model of care, which supports women to break the devastating cycle of having their children removed. Pause Bristol’s most recent internal report found that, between 2012 and 2017, there were at least 127 women in Bristol who had had a combined total of 414 children removed from their care. Pause Bristol is hosted by One25 in collaboration with Bristol City Council and the Pause support staff were able to report to us a positive response from partner agencies to the launch.

The work of One25 and their input helped shaped my manifesto pledge to target domestic violence and make changes to the priority housing system. We are now looking at other ways to help with the lettings process. They talked to me yesterday about the difficulty a lack of suitable housing has on their lives and their ability to build on the enormous changes they are making. This reminds us of the challenges my cabinet and I are working hard to tackle around housing to ensure that the city continues to benefit all citizens. Starting from a standstill with our housing stock to delivering 2,000 homes a year remains on track and later this same day I was pleased to see the announcement that a ground breaking partnership deal had been completed to deliver 161 mixed-tenure homes in Southmead.

Port & Airbus visits

Last week I visited two of the major employers in Bristol, Airbus, based in Filton, and The Bristol Port Company. Both have a huge and historic significance for our region, and will play a big part in our future inclusive growth. We need to make sure we are working together to deliver a city where everyone can access and benefit from the opportunities they offer.

I visited the Port along with Cllr Nicola Beech as cabinet member for Spatial Planning and City Design with Cllrs Don Alexander and Jo Sergeant as local councillors. Cllr Stephen Clarke was also there in his capacity as a board member.

Mayor of Bristol and TBPCAt the Port, I heard about their plans and had a tour of the site to see a small portion of the 1million square feet of warehousing there – the scale is incredible and sometimes hard to imagine. I was given a tour and showed the huge scale and variety of products brought through the port. It was also very obvious that the port is going to play a major role in the development of the Hinkley Point.

During my tour of the Airbus site I was invited to control the landing gear testing facility which tests the lifespan and durability of the structures. It was a small insight into the high-tech and advanced engineering which the company produces.

IMG_2216 DJH

The Port employs 564 full time and 80 part time employees. Their work generates a multiplier of 9,000 jobs locally, and 20,000 jobs nationally.  Airbus employs around 3,000 people in the South West of England. Their supply chain from businesses in the local area and elsewhere support further economic activity in the South West. They estimate that Airbus’ South West-based supply chain supports around 9,200 jobs in the region.

IMG_2225 DJHBoth of these companies have long term commitments to the city and so are conscious of their responsibility to bridge the skills gap and develop their workforce.  At the port I was told that 79 of the full time employees came through as apprentices and they currently have 20 apprentices. While at Airbus I was able to meet with some of the apprentices and hear about the great opportunities this multi-national company is able to offer young people from the region and beyond.

It is good to hear about the investment in their work force, but the future for both these industries cannot be taken for granted. Both exist in highly competitive environments and we need to make sure that we take on their views about how we ensure Bristol and the wider region has the capacity to support their growth.


Wait for the Evidence

Full Council debated the Bristol arena last night.

Firstly, let me be clear that the decision has not been made and we are building an evidence base to ensure that we are best positioned to make the right decision for Bristol. There are strong arguments both ways. Do keep in mind that we now have options. This should be understood as a good place for the city to be rather than a source of political argument.

The framing of the debate is problematic. The first question that needs to be asked in this debate is not where shall we build the Arena but is can we afford to build it?

Our first priority has to be to commit to delivering an arena for Bristol at a price the city can afford – we remain the only major city in the UK without one. But this debate is happening without key facts, and without a full understanding of the current situation.

We have commissioned three pieces of work. First, a value for money exercise around the current arena.  We inherited a project which we know has gone substantially over the originally  proposed budget or the available funding. That is our primary focus, identifying if we can and how we can build an affordable arena in that location. In addition, we have to review existing agreements to ensure they work for the city. Nottingham has only just broken even with its arena development because they built an ice rink alongside it – and we have a responsibility to ensure this project is sustainable and supports Bristol for 50 years.

Alongside this work, we are reviewing the economic assessment of this project – Leeds arena in the city centre brought fewer than 20 full-time jobs. All arenas bring temporary, casual and short term work. What’s more, in Leeds and other city centre locations, around 80% of all visitors arrive by car.

Second, it’s public knowledge that we have received an offer from the private sector to build an arena.  We would be foolish to ignore that offer, given what we already know about the rising costs of the existing project, the level of risk in running an arena and the risk in a construction of this scale. As part of that offer, we have to assess the infrastructure already planned in that area, what we would need to deliver to enable it to be built, and to obtain planning permission. We also need an economic assessment for that option.

Finally, we have to look at what options could be available on Temple Island if we couldn’t proceed with the arena, along with jobs and economic assessments. The land wouldn’t sit there empty. It is possible that if Filton was progressed, we could deliver a better economic impact for the city and particularly the south of the city through an alternative project on Temple Island. It’s also true the economic picture in Temple Meads and the Temple Quarter is very different today than in 2012, with the University project and our bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund for housing development in the area changing the catalytic situation there.

On top of these pieces of work that will inform the decision, we will have valuable and intelligent assessments that will mean we can make the right decision for the city.

We will bring together the evidence and you will have time to assess it before our decision – but it will be based on facts and evidence. We don’t have a limitless pot of money – if the arena was simple and affordable, it would have been built by now.

Keep in mind:

If we overspend as a result of a rush and make an ill informed decision, the council will end up having to choose what housing projects, what infrastructure and even, what services we don’t want to fund.

If we save the ring-fenced money through private development, we would open up tens of millions for alternative projects for the economic development of the city.

The decision hasn’t been made, but we have a responsibility to the city to consider these points.

In the 1990’s, I worked in the US with a veteran of the Civil Rights movement by the name of Jim Wallis. He used to talk about what he referred to as “wet finger politicians”. He described them as politicians who wet their fingers, stick them in the air, see which way the wind is blowing and followed it. That is not us. We will make a decision on the basis of the evidence. We will work with the city, but we also have to make a call on the basis of the evidence.

I say wait for the evidence – we will make sure councillors get the opportunity through the scrutiny process to look at it closely – and we can all ensure this major decision will be evidence based, managed well and deliver a long term solution for Bristol.

A Solid Foundation

Today’s guest blog is written by Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney.

Last week the Government published their best value inspection into Northamptonshire County Council:

Northamptonshire County Council has been in the news since February when they issued a section 114 notice, a mechanism which imposes spending controls. Believed to be the first one in two decades, the notice bans all new spending on anything other than statutory services for vulnerable people.

The effects are already being felt by the people of Northamptonshire, with plans to sell off the brand new council HQ, removing all bus subsidies and closing 21 of 36 libraries – all while 2,000 cases await allocation to social workers.

The report recommends that the government brings in commissioners to control the council’s finances and the break up the county council into two Unitary Authorities by the next election.

Whilst we’ve taken a lot of criticism over the past few years for taking difficult decisions, this was almost exactly the position we found ourselves in when we came in back in 2016. Poor financial controls and transparency were criticised by the Bundred review of Bristol City Council’s previous leadership structures. We have methodically and rigorously solved, or are solving, each problem identified. Now we’re coming out the other side.

The report states that “In Local Government there is no substitute for doing boring really well. Only when you have a solid foundation can you innovate.” The outside world won’t always realise or notice the work that goes on in the background to achieve the sound base the council is now on. I just wanted to highlight and thank those involved for all for the work done so far and to remind ourselves of what we’ve achieved in difficult circumstances.

As a Labour administration we deserve recognition for it, but it is satisfaction enough to know Bristol will be better off for years to come because of the groundwork we’ve put in.

Things are looking up from here as we protect and deliver services and begin to move forward with the infrastructure our city needs to continue to grow.

Our Commitment to Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence and abuse is an issue that permeates every area of society. While it is perpetrated by women against men, and by those in same sex relationships, the majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women. In 2012, the World Health Organisation described violence against women as “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”. In Bristol there were more than 6,700 reported domestic abuse related incidents and crimes in 2015/16. The numbers have risen in recent years. This is not just a women’s issue, but an intergenerational public health issue that affects everybody.

There is increasing social awareness of the extent and repercussions of domestic abuse on families. Local data indicates that children are in the same room in 50% of domestic violence cases. Almost every boy who enters the care system in Bristol has been exposed to domestic abuse. The impact of exposure to domestic abuse is compounded by other Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), and affects the lives of children, adolescents and adults in our city in the long term. ACEs include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, living with someone who abuses drugs and alcohol, parental loss through divorce, abandonment or death, and living with someone with a serious mental illness. Research shows that children who experience four or more ACE’s are significantly more likely to develop problems that they carry throughout adulthood.

At City Hall on Wednesday, council staff, representatives from the police, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, Bristol Women’s Voice, Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group, Second Step and other local charities, a joint commitment was set out to tackle the issue together. It’s also important to recognise that, while formal institutions have a key role, tackling the issue is not just about public services, but about culture. This is why it is vital that businesses, faith groups and community groups also play a central role in our city’s ability to prevent domestic abuse from devastating lives. It is also why teaching men and boys about acceptable behaviour is also pivotal to bringing about the cultural change we need.

Together with my Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, Helen Godwin, and Head of Children’s Services, we have made a commitment to embedding the goal of becoming an ACEs resilient city into the One City Plan, which sets out an ambitious 50 year vision for our city. This is part of our commitment to get our city’s children off to the best possible start in life and break the cycle of devastation caused by domestic abuse.


National Apprenticeship Week

amy-rodwell.jpgToday’s guest blog, in honour of National Apprenticeship Week, is written by Amy Rodwell. Amy is an apprentice in the Mayor’s Office at Bristol City Council.

I’ve been an apprentice at the Council since November 2015, most recently working as a Business Support Assistant in the Mayor’s Office. This involves carrying out general administration tasks and working closely with the office team to support the Mayor and Cabinet whilst at the same time completing my level 3 Business Administration NVQ.

When people said that you would only do an apprenticeship if you’d failed to get into University, I felt overlooked and cast aside. They said that apprenticeships are for the dumb kids – but that’s not the case. I had already passed my GCSEs and A-Levels before getting my apprenticeship, and now I’ve gained even more experience and skills through becoming an apprentice with Bristol City Council.

As part of the apprenticeship programme I’ve had to do exams and other assessments, including presentations and written work. It’s great how an apprenticeship pushes you out of your comfort zone, but still keeps you supported while you develop.

I have learnt so much over the last two years and massively boosted my confidence, so I would like to make other people aware of the opportunities they can take advantage of through apprenticeships too. Apprenticeships weren’t promoted when I was in school and I feel like there was a pressure on us to go to university. Most people knew very little or nothing at all about apprenticeships so I am passionate about making more people aware of them.  

I also want more employers to understand the value in developing their young people. Employers can encourage and develop a diverse workforce through employing apprentices and it can bring them significant benefits by bringing a different perspective and ideas into their organisations. That’s why I have recently applied to be an Apprenticeships Ambassador and through this I hope to raise awareness by going to events and speaking at schools.

I am looking forward to completing my apprenticeship and receiving my Level 3 qualification and I hope that other people considering their career options take the amazing opportunity to do an apprenticeship too!


International Women’s Day 2018

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

IMG_0043Today is International Women’s Day. It is a special celebration this year as we mark 100 years of women’s suffrage. All across the UK there are events taking place to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women and we hope to inspire our daughters to take up the mantle of their foremothers and continue to make the changes that the world needs.

As one of just seven Centenary Cities in the UK, Bristol has received government funding to stage a series of events throughout the year to celebrate suffrage. This weekend Bristol Women’s Voice held a ‘takeover’ of City Hall. Despite the bad weather and the best efforts of Storm Emma (another strong woman!) hundreds of Bristol’s women came to witness the bands, performances, awards ceremonies, talks, stalls, art, creativity and general buzz of energy that filled our civic heart of the city. A highlight for me is the amazing suffragette balloon sculptures in the lobby of City Hall. They remain on display for International Women’s Day today – pop in and have a look.

The reality is that for most women today is just another day. And for many women, it is another day in fear. In the 100 years since suffrage we have seen little progress in the fight to end gender based violence. Bristol has a high prevalence of reported domestic violence. There are women in our city living in fear of their partner every single day, seven Bristol women were killed by their partner last year. Thousands of children are suffering trauma and damage as a result of living in homes with abuse.

It is time for this city to step up, together, and confront this issue. The painful aftermath of domestic violence and abuse reaches across the city – in schools, housing associations, GP surgeries, maternity wards, hospitals, prisons, mental health units, businesses, charities, churches and beyond. Only by bringing the city together can we make a difference. Today the Mayor and I, along with our Director of Children’s Services, Jacqui Jensen, announced our intention to make tackling domestic violence a key city priority. We met with representatives from key organisations and front line workers to begin to shape our approach to this horrible, violent issue.

Bristol is a City of Sanctuary for all. And on this and every day going forward that must include all women and children.