2018 Full Council Address

Below is the text from my Full Council Annual Address, given on the 17th July 2018.

Two years in and I’m feeling extremely confident that we are on a good delivery curve. We have a strong management leadership in place and a council that’s leaner, lower cost and focussed on delivery. I would like to thank all the council employees for their hard work, who do so much for the citizens of Bristol even when they haven’t had the leadership they deserve. I would like to particularly thank Shahzia for her help and support – Monitoring Officer is a key role, and I wish her well in her new role. Enjoy your last Full Council meeting. I know you’ll miss them.

Alongside the management, we have been served by a strong and dedicated cabinet with genuine expertise and commitment to deliver. When I say that, I refer to everyone who has served in cabinet over my two years.

Turning the council round has been a much bigger job than expected.   There has been a history of failure that you all recognise, with a lack of focus, inability to deliver for the city and the failure of recent administrations to make the council responsive to political leadership.

When I talk to government, I hear the same story over and over again. Of how Bristol hadn’t been outwardly focussed for too many years,  I even learnt the Department of International Trade didn’t have Bristol on its register of projects for investment for years.  Not surprising when we inherited a total absence of pipeline infrastructure projects.

But all of that mood music is changing. When I talk to government and business today, I hear over and again that we are now seen as a positive city better placed to attract the inward investment we need to deliver. We had a collection of investors in the city just recently and now we have lots of interest across the UK and the world.  Only yesterday I received a text from the chair of a major government agency asking if he could come to Bristol to ensure alignment to our delivery plans.

Let’s look at some key areas:

Housing is a key focus for this administration.

We are delivering on our key promise: by 2020, to build 2,000 homes a year by, at least 800 affordable.

We are reversing the decline from the previous two administrations, letting out more than 90 older council properties that had been previously agreed for auction and reduced the number of empty council homes by 250.

We have changed council structures to deliver, creating a housing delivery team with a pipeline that means by 2020 there will already have been over 3,000 homes completed and over one thousand of those are affordable.

This is a substantial build of Council homes for the first time in thirty years, with 56 new council homes complete in the last year and a plan to complete 80 more over the next year.

We are building a further 1,000 homes in working class communities.  We’ve secured seven million pounds to Unlock the Lockleaze Development project of eight hundred new homes, with more than a quarter affordable. We’ve secured over three million pounds to develop the Arnside and Glencoyne Square Regeneration area with the Southmead Development Trust.

The Hartcliffe Campus site has outline plans submitted and the Hengrove Park plans have been prepared for delivery, while we have also agreed land releases with Ambition Lawrence Weston.

It’s easy to talk about house building in the abstract as units and numbers, rather than see the real picture: families getting homes and being able to plan for the future.

On top of all that, we are focussed on building a re-energised city centre for the future. We will expand the city centre east to Temple Quarter and west to the Western Harbour.   By building several thousand homes in these two great and long-term underused areas, we will bring people and families back to the city centre.   More people living in our city centre means more life, culture, footfall and spending power to sustain shops and business.

City partners are keen to work with us to achieve these aims, and with them, we will host a housing festival to look at new and innovative ways of providing housing over the coming years.

By revising the local plan, we will build higher and with greater density, delivering an exciting skyline that reflects a bold and ambitious city. We will increase incentives for affordable homes in the city central areas and we have supported the launch of a £57 million fund for housing associations to buy land and properties from the private sector.

When we announced two thousand homes a year by 2020, we knew it was a challenge but we are delivering on that pledge and will exceed that target and any targets in the Joint Spatial Plan. This Labour administration is building the homes people need and want.

And we are tackling homelessness, another growing consequence of the shocking austerity programme, imposed on the country and on Bristol by the coalition government of the Tories and their Lib-Dem supporters. Austerity has eroded the support services and increased the pressure but despite these challenges, we are working as a city to respond.

BCC and key partners successfully prevented 4,486 households from becoming homeless last year.

We are making people aware of the services available before they reach crisis point, working to address rent arrears and supporting those on the verge of homelessness with the right interventions and working with agencies to mitigate the impact of universal credit.

We are taking people off the streets and out of encampments, through hostels and emergency accommodation and then into homes.

We will be the first city to open a new 24-hour homeless shelter this winter, providing new accommodation in addition to a multi-agency drop-in facility, food provision and activities.

We have a responsibility to support the city economy. The UK retail crisis is affecting many cities. Provided we behave like a major city, shaking off the village attitude that often prevails in our political environment, we can face that challenge.

Bristol has forty-six high streets that offer retail but if we harness our growth and shape our own development with our eyes open, our city is big enough and strong enough to support both a vibrant city centre and out of town centres. This includes supporting diversity in our economy, providing a wide range of jobs, meaningful work experience and pathways to employment.

Our international strategy and growing our profile abroad is crucial for trade and inward investment and Bristol is increasingly growing as a global brand.

We all know transport remains a key challenge. Many people lobby for their vested interest and can’t escape the inevitability of their prejudices pre-determining their proposed solutions.

People movement is crucial to our city economy, our wellbeing, culture, to the future of jobs and education. Transport needs to pull our city together, not be used as a political weapon to drive us apart. We are focussed on outcomes – connecting people to jobs and opportunity.

The Congestion Task Group has been crucial to that and I thank those councillors involved, including the leader of the opposition. It has delivered some quick wins and we will now continue that progress with a Transport Board that will bring together the expertise of city partners with the knowledge of our own transport team, to face this key challenge.

We are in an exciting discussion with First Bus about the next phase of growing bus use.   We have had the fastest global growth of bus use, now accounting for eleven percent of journeys to work. Smart cards, biofuel buses, park and rides and millions invested in public transport has been delivered and MetroBus, a project badly managed by the former administration is being delivered.

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.

We are working with local primary and secondary schools to encourage more pupils to walk to school, are providing match funding for businesses to help them invest in sustainable travel facilities and supported cycling initiatives across the city.

We have secured funding to support taxi drivers to transition away from diesel.

However, the key challenge remains making a systemic change to the way people travel in and to Bristol. I do not support the flawed belief that modal shift will occur simply by making it harder to travel around the city or that car drivers are the enemy – and the planned consultation on the Bristol Transport Plan will shape a new policy that changes that. We will not achieve modal shift or accelerate a move away from private cars without an affordable, sustainable alternative – and the mass transit system remains a key ambition for me and my team.  We will announce more progress on that shortly.

Enabling our city’s young people to get off to the best start in life and raising aspirations has always been a focus for me and we now have an urgent need to increase school places. Over ten thousand additional places have been created in Bristol by expanding existing secondary schools and building new ones.  We have allocated twenty five million pounds for a new twelve hundred place secondary school in Lockleaze, opening in September 2019.

We also know that we need new schools in South Bristol and East Central Bristol. We’ve secured land for the largest secondary school in Bristol: Oasis Academy Temple Quarter will have a capacity for 1,600 students.

We have secured £1.7million to permanently expand Bristol Brunel Academy for eighty more places. Work is underway at Cotham and St Bede’s schools to provide more places immediately and we have expanded Whitehall Primary School’s capacity by over a third.

We are making Bristol a city in which people of all ages are supported to flourish by maintaining our commitment to early intervention. Not only have we kept all of our city’s 22 children’s centres open, but we are investing £1.8million in transforming children’s services to reflect the needs of communities.

From this Spring, all care leavers under the age of 25 in Bristol are exempt from Council Tax and we are developing a Social Impact Bond that will enable us to work with care leavers.  We have secured £1.7million to focus on young people who need the most support and modernised our Corporate Parenting Strategy – confirming our commitment to delivering better outcomes for children in care. We will soon launch the Bristol Children’s Charter as a collective statement of our aspirations for the city’s children.

As part of our commitment to Bristol as an age-friendly city, we applied to the World Health Organisation to become part of a global network of cities taking measures to improve the lives of anyone over fifty and next year we are hosting the European Cities network for best services and outcomes for BME elders, those most likely to experience isolation.

And we are committed to inclusively growing our already strong cultural offer.   We have saved the venue that will soon no longer be known as Colston Hall for the future, leveraging support from the Arts council and city partners.

Our Cultural investment programme requires every arts organisation in the city to demonstrate inclusivity and diversity if they want to secure council funding.

By working collaboratively with our media sector, the second largest outside London, Bristol has been shortlisted to be Channel 4’s new national HQ.   This would bring a huge boost to local opportunities for young creatives and provide a catalyst for creating meaningful talent pipelines.  It has been a huge achievement to get shortlisted and we continue to work for Channel 4 to come to Bristol.

Regardless of their decision, bringing together the media sector will improve future opportunities for our city.

We continue to work with city partners to put early intervention in health at the top of our priorities. The Cascade and Thrive programmes have been a successful part of that work.

Staying on health for a moment, my cabinet member, Kye Dudd, was right to say this is the most pro-sport administration that the city has seen in decades.

We have supported Gloucestershire County Cricket Club to keep international cricket, going with them to present to the ECB.

We have worked hard to protect our city’s football and rugby pitches, and continued to invest in built sporting facilities increasing the number of people taking part in physical activity.

On the back of the City of Sport successes, we launched Bristol Active City, to connect people from across the city with activities and sporting events for people of all abilities.

Through strong negotiation, we were able to bring the Cycling Grand Prix back to the city at no cost to the council and we will continue to bring major events to the city.

Some people merely talk about the environment, using it as a platform to display their sense of moral superiority.

We are delivering on the environment and as a result of strong financial management, we will double the number of trees in Bristol by 2050 through the Talking Trees programme, combatting air pollution and improving our urban environment for the long term.

We have launched the LEAP prospectus that offers £1 billion package of investment that will transform the ay the city generates, stores, distributes and uses energy. Our financial competence and credibility is key to attracting that investment.

And of course, by the same strong financial management, we have taken the pressure off of libraries, opening up the opportunity for communities to work with us to find long term sustainable futures for all of them.   With strong community engagement, libraries can become community hubs at the centre of citizen activity, be an integral part of our community assets and be a long term success.

And we have a strategic piece of land in Temple Quarter that holds a key element of the future of the city.

Let me now lay out for you the parameters of that decision I will make. I have said repeatedly, the questions must be asked in the right sequence:

Firstly, can we afford to build the arena on Temple Island?

Those who supported building the arena six months ago or even earlier wanted the city to borrow almost two hundred million pounds.   One of those was the former Mayor claimed he wished he had signed the agreement – there is a reason he didn’t and it wasn’t because he forgot – it was because borrowing two hundred million pounds for a vanity project was a step too far.

By holding our nerve, that project is now deliverable for more than 50 million pounds less. A lesson for those sat here who don’t take the public’s money seriously.

Secondly, what is the best use of Temple Island?

Now we have brought down the cost, we can make a genuine decision for the first time.   The sequencing of the questions is crucial because the location of the arena is only important if we believe the city is better served by doing something else on Temple Island.

In that case, a discussion on location happens within a positive context.

I have to consider the Value for Money reports that say that over 25 years:

Building the arena on Temple Island brings £375m of economic out turn and 650 jobs.

While a mixed use development, including a conference centre, hotel, office space and residential brings an economic out turn of £900m and over 2000 jobs.

It would be a big decision, a big statement and a big impact on the city to walk away from that difference.

I also know the mixed use site has interested developers, has financial backing, support from national organisations and is deliverable at pace.

I must also look at the impact on the city centre from increased traffic and congestion.     We now know that using any average across existing comparable arena locations, 3,500 hundred cars will come into the city centre for every sell-out event.   That’s 3,500 cars driving into and around the city centre and neighbouring wards looking to park.

On events where teenagers are the target audience, this number will go up as experience shows us that parents mostly choose to ferry younger people to and from the event for security.

And all without a car park in the original flawed plan.

I will also consider the size and usage of the arena. Many existing venues are already looking to upsize their arena as the 10,000 seats allocated in the potential Bristol Arena is not enough to attract the right calibre of acts. I need to be sure we are building an arena that will bring the expected attractions to Bristol that citizens want to see, not just deliver a profit for the operator, who is determined to leverage this decision for his own benefit.

And finally, I will ensure you that when I make this decision, it will be without emotion.   It determined by facts – facts that make sure I make the right decision for Bristol and for the next fifty years.

And in conclusion tonight, I want to renew an offer I have made several times.

If you came into politics to make a difference to people’s lives and you want to get stuff done, put down your party political games and come and work with me.  Tell me what you want to achieve for the city, bring some solutions to the table, and I am all ears.   If you want to play the headline chasing game and continue to talk down Bristol, I will leave you to it.

And I finish by saying this, I made pledges to the city and I will deliver on them.   This administration has brought financial credibility to the city.  We take Bristolian’s money seriously, spend it wisely and by being responsible, we can and will deliver on our promises to Bristol.

Thank you.

Singapore, Slings & Arrows

I’ve just returned from participating in the World City Summit in Singapore and a trade trip Trade to Malaysia hosted by the Department for International Trade.

I was there to promote the city’s LEAP prospectus and the £1bn investment programme that would transform the way Bristol generates, distributes and uses energy. The components of the package include: heat distribution networks, renewable energy, smart efficient energy use and the “Bristol Battery and retrofitting the city’s buildings.

The successful delivery of LEAP is key both to our long term commitment to be a carbon neutral city by 2050, and our immediate commitment to tackle fuel poverty. Delivering LEAP would set a standard for cities around the world to aspire to. The good news for Bristol is that we already have over 60 expressions of interest from major and smaller investors. The deadline is Aug 31. The City Leap Prospectus and our short expression of interest form is on our energy service website.

I also talked with developers about our plans for the Western Harbour. Rather than simply replacing the old 1960s swing bridge and flyovers, we want to be able to redesign the space, build thousand of homes and make the waterfront accessible to people. This drew a lot of interest with developers recognizing the as yet untapped potential of this area with its views across Ashton Court and up the Avon Gorge. And I promoted our plans for a city mass transit system. Again, there was healthy interest in Bristol as a city that is setting out a programme of ambitious, realistic and cost effective series of city developments that will enable us to deliver the inclusive, sustainable development we have committed to.

While my administration is working on delivering for the city, I note that in contrast some politicians in the city and city region have been indulging in unpleasant politics. I wouldn’t normally pay this any mind, but with the Trump protests and the rise of populist dog-whistle politics, I do believe it needs to be called out.

A statement in one of Cllr Richard Eddy’s Bristol Post columns was followed by a letter from his fellow Conservative Jack Lopresti MP accusing me of “failing” to celebrate Armed Forces Day. Cllr Eddy launched the campaign accusing the council under my leadership of displaying “insulting and warped values… it does not bother to lift a finger when acknowledging the huge debt we owe our brave servicemen and women.” The “snub” he said was “inexcusable but, sadly, not surprising”.

Jack Lopresti came alongside demanding an explanation for the lack of recognition. The South Gloucestershire MP wrote “I think this an appalling situation that one of the UK’s greatest cities, for which you are mayor, has no armed forces day.”

Let me first be clear, the allegations are untrue. We held our flag raising at City Hall to celebrate the start of Armed Forces Week. The event was open to the public, attended by the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor and leader of the Bristol Conservative Group. Neither Mr Lopresti nor Cllr Eddy were there, but it was attended by armed forces personnel from across the region.

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I talked with a number of service personnel about the role they could play supporting our efforts to help young people experience Outward Bound and what we could do to support people leaving the services. I am putting them in touch with an old school friend of mine who served in the Gloucester’s and today is a counsellor. He had approached me  about supporting veterans in general and those who have ended up homeless, with mental health conditions or in prison in particular. I didn’t seek a headline out of it. I was simply proud to support our armed forces. We will continue to not merely celebrate their service but do our level best to provide the practical support services they need on departure.

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But let’s be real. It doesn’t take much triangulation to understand the angles at play here: the interplay of patriotism, betrayal, foreigners, militarism, values and sexuality. People like me who have grown up with these tensions can sniff this stuff out for what it really is a mile off. It’s a high stakes play (risking exacerbating the conditions for social division) seeking an insignificant political win (a one day headline in the local papers). I would like to be able to say I am sure it was not meant that way, or that it was beneath both politicians. Unfortunately, Cllr Eddy has form when it comes to this kind of politics and I would not insult Mr Lopresti by suggesting that as an MP he wasn’t smart enough to know the full meaning (intended and received) of pushing this mischief into the current political climate.

In Cllr Eddy’s statement he pointed out that this “Labour council is always keen to promote foreign countries’ national days or sing the praises of causes such as Transgender and Non-Binary Awareness”. Ignoring the discrimination in his comments at least he’s technically correct. The Armed Forces flag raising ceremony, last weekend’s incredible Pride celebration and St Paul’s vibrant carnival the week before,  shows how Bristol is a diverse city which celebrates all of its communities. I am committed to delivering the infrastructure and growth we need to make sure nobody is left behind, and shaping a political environment where we embrace and respect each other’s differences.

Let me finish this by making it about real politics rather than cheap shots based on misinformation. We need to recognise the sacrifice of our armed forces. But that can’t stop at political ceremonies. Homes to transition into; a properly resourced NHS providing physical and mental support for those injured; an inclusive economy retraining and jobs for those returning to civilian life; schools for their children with the resources to support their development but also support them while parents are away on service. That’s what I’m focusing on, and where those who care should focus, rather than using the welfare of service personal as political ammunition.

Jack Lopresti’s open letter to me, and my reply, are both available here:

180709 Jack Lopresti Armed Forces Day event

180705 Letter from Jack Lopresti MP


hambleton-1Today’s guest blog comes from Robin Hambleton, Emeritus Professor of City Leadership at the University of the West of England. He is discussing what lessons local government leaders can learn from England football team manager, Gareth Southgate.

The disappointment of England losing the World Cup semi-final to Croatia does not undermine the fact that Gareth Southgate has raised the bar for international football management.

His calm and self-effacing manner, coupled with his inspirational leadership, has won admiration from football fans in many countries.

Here in England Southgate has become an enormously popular public figure. His influence already extends well beyond the world of sport, not least because of the rapid expansion of the hilarious Twitter movement ‘GarethSouthgateWould’, which provides hundreds of amusing suggestions on ‘What Gareth would do’ in all manner of situations.

Can we draw any lessons for local leadership from the ‘Southgate approach’ to leadership and management?

Some will answer ‘no’. They will argue that managing a national football team is entirely different from exercising effective place-based leadership. For a start the overall objectives of leadership are far more straightforward in sports management. The metrics for measuring success are pretty clear – basically adhere to the rules of the game and win against opponents.

In contrast, local leaders are required to pursue multiple objectives and respond creatively to a wide range of expectations and pressures. The metrics for measuring performance are contested and power struggles between competing interests are endemic. Moreover, different interests will disagree over whether a given policy outcome is good, bad or indifferent.

Notwithstanding these important differences I believe that the ‘Southgate approach’ to leadership provides three pointers for local government politicians and managers.

First, his leadership style is collaborative. Fabio Capello, England manager from 2008-2012, was, for sure, previously an exceptionally talented footballer and a successful club coach. But his leadership approach was very top-down. Indeed, he had a reputation as a disciplinarian and was criticised for not allowing his senior players to have tactical input. As England manager he was less than successful.

The leadership approach adopted by Gareth Southgate could hardly be more different. He is very strong on listening and on motivating the whole squad, coaches and staff.

For example, in interviews he almost invariably refers to the important contribution of players in the squad who have not appeared on the pitch, explaining that their solid commitment to work on the training ground enables whoever ends up playing for England to be better than they otherwise would have been.

Second, Southgate is emotionally intelligent. He understands that leadership is first and foremost about feelings, and he recognises that successful leaders need to make an emotional connection. His leadership approach has shown that if people are respected and feel valued they can perform at an unprecedented level.

His success in enabling such a young team to perform so well stems from the way he has cultivated a culture of common commitment and an emphasis on positivity. In interviews and discussion he demonstrates not only his advanced tactical knowledge of football but, just as important, he comes across as warm, light hearted and liberating.

It is possible that you could say the same about Sven-Goran Erikkson, England manager from 2002-2006. While the Swedish manager was always courteous and friendly, he was criticised for being unenthusiastic on the touchline. His deliberate ‘ice cool Sven’ body language backfired.

In contrast, Southgate knows when to damp down the feelings on the touchline. But he also knows that it is important for the manager to let it all out when the team does well. Southgate is certainly soft-spoken but he can also shout very loudly when the occasion demands.

Third, Southgate recognises that effective leaders do not simply focus on the leadership of their own organisation. In more than one interview he has noted how proud he is to be “part of a team that has a chance to affect things that are bigger than football”.

By his squad and team selections, as well as through his personal leadership style, Southgate is contributing to the national debate about what it means to be English in 2018. It would be misguided to believe that a successful multi-ethnic national football team can put an end to racism in any given society, but sport can play a role in shaping national feelings of identity. Southgate is very aware of this and believes that football can play a role in uniting people.

My definition of leadership is ‘shaping emotions and behaviour to achieve common goals’. This definition draws attention to how people feel, and it emphasises the collective construction of common purpose.

Many political and managerial leaders in local government now recognise the importance of the three ‘Southgate approach’ criteria. They are committed to collaboration; they are emotionally intelligent; and they are fully aware of the larger purposes guiding their leadership efforts.

My suggestion is that even the most accomplished place-based leaders can learn from studying how Gareth Southgate leads the English national football team.


First published by Local Government Chronicle on 12 July 2018, reproduced with permission. Robin Hambleton’s recent book, “Leading the Inclusive City”, can be found at http://policypress.co.uk/leading-the-inclusive-city-1

My week with the Mayor’s Office: Joseph

Today’s guest blog comes from Joseph Evenden, who has spent the week gaining work experience in the Mayor’s Office and Labour Group Office at City Hall.

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My name is Joseph Evenden and I have spent a week’s work experience working with the Mayor’s Office and the Bristol Labour Group. The purpose of my placement was to learn and understand how Bristol City Council (BCC) functions and how it manages public issues throughout the city.

After taking the BCC induction courses I learnt about how the Mayor’s Office manages the Mayor’s diary and prepares for meetings and appointments he has coming up. This was really impressive to me as the members of the office worked incredibly fast and I learnt how important diary scanning is in the Mayor’s Office.

My main tasks for most of the week were related to understanding and summarising documents. These summaries are important for the officers and councillors as they may not have the time to read through a whole document and require it to be broken down into smaller sections so that the office can run efficiently. I really enjoyed the responsibility of this long term task.

Joseph Evenden.jpgThe office environment was completely new to me and I had no idea what to expect when joining on work experience. But the people I met were really nice and by the end of the week I felt like part of the group. Now that I have been part of the environment I understand how flexible people in the office have to be and it’s really quite impressive.  People are constantly moving and never in one place for long, because of this I had to update them when I saw them as it could be hours before I saw them again.

While here on work experience I took part in a meeting inside the council chamber. During the meeting I saw two parties discuss planning permission for a university development which was interesting to see in the news the next day. The meeting gave me real insight into how political debate is put into real actions and how parties come to a conclusion.

I also watched an interview take place with a cabinet member and it will be interesting to see how a ten minute interview will be edited and presented on TV.

In conclusion I have really enjoyed my time here on work experience I have loved getting to know the people in the office and I feel that this has really set me up for the future.





The return of Carnival

My earliest memories of St Pauls Festival (as it was known back then) are of running alongside the floats trying to get a big kid to haul me up on board. After a while we’d jump off and get hauled onto another float. It was a right of passage for us “yoots”. Once the procession was over we’d wander through the crowds, linking up with friends and family, trying to raise a few pennies to get a drink or piece of watermelon. When I was exhausted, I’d return home listening to the bass echoing across the city as I walked across the M32 bridge and Danny River to Stapleton Rd. Strikes me all my memories of Festival are of sunny days.

And this Saturday after three years away St Pauls Carnival is back and in a great piece of un-orchestrated poetry, its 2018 return coincides with its 50th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush.  Fears had been expressed that Carnival might have been lost to the city but with the perseverance of community activists, council officers and partner organisations such as the Arts Council, Carnival is here again.

There’ll be 17 different stages and sound systems. 16 schools, 500 children, 1,500 participants and numerous floats are taking part in the procession. There will be activities, games and after-parties held around the city once the street activities close and there’s also the small matter of the England quarter final against Sweden from 3pm! A great weekend of culture and sport.

Carnival brings people from across the globe to witness the strength of community and the vibrancy of our city. Upward of 100,000 people will be on the streets of Bristol participating in one of UK’s biggest showcases of Afrikan Caribbean culture and heritage. With all of the music, food, dance, community stalls, parades, costumes and the sounds of Carnival carrying us through the streets of St Pauls, it’ll be easy to forget just how big an operation this is for those involved in bringing it to life.

I would like to thank those in the community who have sacrificed their free time to dedicate themselves to bringing Carnival home, council officers for their dedication to supporting Carnival, partners in Arts Council for their continued commitment to our diverse cultural offer and the emergency services for the huge operation they have put in place to ensure we all remain safe and free to enjoy the weekend.

My week with the Mayor’s Office: George

Today’s guest blog comes from George Cole, who has spent the week gaining work experience in the Mayor’s Office and Labour Group Office at City Hall. 

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My name is George Cole and for the past week I have been having my work experience in City Hall with the Mayor’s Office and the Bristol Labour Group. The purpose of my placement, which I applied for through the WORKS programme, is to learn and understand how Bristol City Council (BCC) functions and how it manages public issues throughout the city.

Before I started, I had to partake in an induction to BCC and its strong policy on equality of opportunity and tolerance of diversity. This was followed by meeting the Bristol Labour Group, where I wrote a summary of recent press articles, from a variety of news sources. The purpose of this was so members of the Labour Group were able to be made easily aware of current events and issues that may affect the public or the public’s opinion of the Council.

Part of my week was also observing various meetings and briefings where I experienced, first hand, the discussion of important topics in Bristol and Councillors debating the most efficient way of handling said topic. By far the largest meeting I attended was the Cabinet Meeting in which members of the public and Councillors can question the Mayor on his recent decisions and actions, for example, a large portion of public questions were based on the situation with libraries around the city.

Before this Cabinet Meeting, I, the Mayor and senior officers from the mayor’s office went through the prepared answers for each of the questions Councillors and members of the public had submitted. The process involved considering phrasing and reactions from both the public and the press, as Councillors’ questions are usually written to search for a particular answer and can put the Mayor under pressure.

On another occasion, I studied the Mayor’s diary, which lists all the activities the Mayor engages with, which can be anything from meeting with important people to speaking at events. The diary is published so the public are able to follow what they Mayor is up to during his week.

A further activity I participated in was the research of other UK Councils, which was conducted in order to inform BCC on other possible methods and strategies on modernising how public libraries are the run in the city.

Overall, my time at Bristol City Council has been both interesting and enjoyable and I would recommend anyone interested in local government and politics to apply here for their work experience.

Taking Pride In Our People

Pride Flag.jpgEvery year across the world the LGBT+ community comes together to celebrate Pride. This year Bristol Pride Festival takes place from 2 – 15 July, with a number of other events happening all across the summer.

Most people see Pride as a carnival – a time to have fun. That is an important part of it, but it of course represents so much more than that. Pride is an active stance against discrimination and violence towards the LGBT+ community. It increases visibility of this social group, helps build a sense of community and celebrates diversity, recognising the significant value that it brings to our city.

At this time of year it’s important to look back on the origins of Pride, which commemorates the Stonewall Riots that broke out in Greenwich Village, New York in the summer of 1969. The police raided a popular gay club, prompting people to fight back in protest. To mark this event, a small group of people proposed the first Pride march to take place on the last Saturday in June.  This served as an annual reminder to highlight the wider injustices that the LGBT+ community came up against. In the 1980s and 90s there was a cultural shift, and grassroots parades evolved into the formally organised events that we currently have, which millions of people enjoy every year across the world.

180701 Bristol Pride Month 2018

It is also important to remember that Pride is for everyone that wants to show support for the community. Given some of the struggles that continue to exist for the LGBT+ community here and across the world, visible support from allies is meaningful. We need to collectively take a stand against any forms of injustices wherever they arise, and Pride is a time to remember this, as well as a time to celebrate the progress we have made since the Stonewall Riots.

This year the main Pride Day in Bristol is Saturday 14 July, and I look forward to joining Councillors and Bristol City Council’s LGBT+ staff-led group on the Pride March taking place that day. Many other events are also taking place in the run up to the 14 July. Visit the Bristol Pride website to see what is going on and find out how you can join in.

Holding Our Nerve

There are some people, who like to shout loud, gasping to sign an agreement on the arena in Temple Island. There are others, demanding to know why it wasn’t signed 2 years ago. And then there are those who think being dogmatic is a badge of honour.

The answer to these unquantified demands is straightforward. Two years ago when I took office, just like three months ago when the Green party carried a motion to build the arena, we would have committed the city to almost £200 million of debt to build one of the most expensive arenas in the UK.

Anyone can make decisions – getting them right is the challenge. And this is a decision that will impact on the city for 50 years. Just saying “let’s build an arena with no clear criteria for success and the costs, jobs, effectiveness and sustainability don’t matter” is the very definition of a vanity project. I will not sign up to that, I will make an evidence based decision for the best outcome for the city using public money.

Much of the conversation, including in some parts of the media and at the council scrutiny committee last week, has erroneously fallen into a binary choice of the Temple Meads Island location versus the Brabazon Hangar in Filton. If it were a simple choice of “where to put the arena” with no other economic and social factors, everyone would opt for the Temple Island location.

But that simplistic debate misses a fundamental point. There are bigger questions around the potential developments of Temple Quarter, starting with the very basic premise of what is the best option for that land.

The KPMG report has been crystal clear on that point. An alternative option with a conference centre, hotel and a mixed use site of retail, commercial and housing would deliver at least three times as many jobs and over twice the economic output for the city. That cannot be ignored and all the people calling for the jobs and economic growth for Bristol South and East should welcome that clarity.

On top of those socio-economic factors, we have to consider the transport and environmental issues alongside the sustainability and the ability of the arena to do the very job it was predicated to do; bring the best entertainment to the city.

On transport, around 70% of people arrive by car and leave straight after the event. On an average of 2.5 people per car, that’s 3500 vehicles arriving into the city centre on every sold out event night into the most congested areas of the city and then looking for somewhere to park.

On environmental issues, those same vehicles would be arriving into the worst air quality areas of the city. It does surprise me that some politicians who purport to fly the flag of environmentalism conveniently gloss over that important fact. An arena would also be the highest of the options for carbon output in the city. As a rough estimate, using figures from a 2010 report, there are around 18 kg CO2e per ticket for an arena music event in the UK. For a 12,000 sell-out crowd at the suggested Temple Island arena that’s 216,000 kg CO2e or 216 metric tons. With 200 events a year, there would be 43,200 tons of CO2e generated.

Despite the demands for instant agreements, we have held our nerve. We inherited a project that was underfunded and far more expensive than had ever been told, but we have worked to make an arena deliverable.  We mutually terminated the agreement with the first contractor because costs were too high. Since then, we have reduced costs by working with Buckingham to value-engineer building costs. Then, a private developer entered ‘the arena’ and offered to build one at their cost and at their risk, meaning the city could possibly release tens of millions for other development. Then the operator made an improved offer to add revenue to the project, even if the numbers they stated in Scrutiny aren’t recognised by us.

By holding our nerve the operator has suggested they can do more and we are discussing that with them.

By holding our nerve the contractor has suggested it could come under the current target price and remove risk to the council. We have immediately asked them to formally table that offer.

We remain with a substantial funding gap to build Temple Island arena and those who claim it is ‘shovel ready’ are ignoring that basic point. Those that do bother to deal with that question, simply say ‘borrow it’. That’s easy when it’s not your money, but I will not risk council tax payers money when we have worked so hard to bring the city back into financial shape.

I have made space for Buckingham Group to table their publicly stated offer and then we will proceed.

I am committed to delivering an arena which our city needs, can afford, and which Bristolians can be proud of.

National Clean Air Day

Today, June 21st, is National Clean Air Day: a chance to take action against pollution to make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone. It is unacceptable that air pollution continues to place lives at risk. Whether by causing lung damage in children, or contributing to heart and lung disease in older people, this pollution is seriously affecting the long-term health of Bristol citizens, especially for low-income households with fewer transport options. This is why I’m calling on central government to help cities like Bristol fight pollution in our communities. To mark this event, I would like to invite you to attend a public drop-in event on College Green to discuss how the city can improve air quality and shape future Council proposals. Community events are being held across the city including at Easton, Totterdown, Bishopston and Southmead Hospital. It is important for all of us to work towards improving the air in Bristol, and I would encourage you to get involved. To find out what you can do, or for more information, visit www.cleanairforbristol.org.

Under my administration, Bristol is developing a Clean Air Plan targeting harmful traffic emissions, one of the key sources of air pollution. One of the aims of this plan is to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution, which mostly comes from vehicle emissions, in line with international air quality limits. By changing traffic management and investing in sustainable transport solutions, we can reduce the pollution caused by road traffic. We have already been hugely successful in making our transport systems more sustainable by investing in public transport and cycling infrastructure. More people in Bristol are walking, cycling, and using clean-fuel public transport.

Clean Air Promo 2s CB Bristol Design 2018
Cllr Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Energy with responsibility for air quality, joined council colleagues on College Green to talk about what we are doing to reduce air pollution in Bristol. The Clean Air for Bristol stand gave the public the opportunity to ask questions about the developing Clean Air Plan, which includes a range of options being explored to tackle the problem, including charging some vehicles to drive in the city centre.

Yesterday, I attended the National Air Quality Summit to call on the government to support local leaders in our efforts to tackle air pollution. This summit brought together leaders including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham and local councillors such as Arlene Ainsley from Newcastle to identify common priorities, discuss best practice to mitigate harmful pollution, and work to lobby government to support local initiatives. I was able to share the valuable insight of Bristol and help shape national plans to ensure policies are fair and work for everyone.


I am using my strong partnerships with the private sector to help unlock sustainable transport. Bus use continues to grow strongly in the city, bucking the national trend, and MetroBus was launched to sustainably meet this growing demand. First Bus, our largest local operator, has switched over 150 buses to low emission or low carbon fuelling, and more are on the way to transform the entire local fleet to Euro VI standard in the next few years. I believe air pollution is one of the most important issues facing Bristol. Cities are leading the solutions to pollution, but we need the support of government. This is why I am using both local and national partnerships to facilitate a culture shift towards clean air for all.

Future-Proofing Our Libraries


This morning at Wick Road Library I was pleased to announce our plans to keep all libraries open. Despite the reduction in funding from the Conservative government in Westminster and inheriting a shortfall caused by the former Mayor’s overspend, we have found a way to safeguard funds.

My Cabinet in July will receive a report which recommends that the budget saving of £1.4m be withdrawn, meaning all 27 libraries be retained, and explore further options for community led facilities.  I am grateful for the work my Deputy Mayor with responsibility for finance Craig Cheney has done to make the report’s recommendations possible, and the work Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Communities Asher Craig has done with community groups to plan for the future of libraries.

I have listened to the results of the consultation and other public forums and I recognise the concerns people have about losing their library service. Working with councillors and local community campaigners, I am proud that the strong financial management of my administration enabled us to reach this position.

I have always believed in the outcomes libraries contribute to in our communities – literacy, digital inclusion and social contact.  This has always been a discussion around the best way to support those outcomes and we know the status quo is not the answer.

The library service has grown over time without a strategic plan of operation and continues to operate an out of date structure. We are now taking a strategic approach to Bristol’s libraries so that we can provide a library service that best meets the needs of the whole city for the 21st century.

With the council’s footprint reducing and with many libraries needing investment, we must adapt to ensure we have a sustainable library service people across the city can enjoy.

I hope local groups can take this opportunity to step forward and work with us to trial new ways of delivering library services. With time, libraries have already adapted: beyond free books and information, libraries are increasingly relied upon as social spaces and sources of digital facilities. By working to keep the libraries open, we will have more time to explore community led options and ensure we consider potential changes carefully and in line with the pace of community support and action. Now is the time for everyone to come forward and make sure we continue to build a library service we can all be proud of.