Mawlid 2021

Today’s blog is from Afzal Shah, Deputy Chief Executive of Wellspring Settlement in Barton Hill. Afzal was previously Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, and Inclusive Growth
and Labour Councillor for Easton ward.

The 12th day of Rabi`Al-Awaal, which is the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar, known as Mawlid, is a day celebrated by Muslims the world over, marking the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him). As a Muslim, I believe the Prophet was sent a mercy to humanity, and even as a young man was known as, “Al Amin”, or “The Trustworthy”.  

Born in the city of Makkah, in what is now Saudi Arabia, in 570AD, in the backdrop of an austere society, he promoted social justice, equality, charity, and women’s rights. After the Holy Qur’an (“the book that must often be recited”), the Hadith (based on his sayings), and Sunnah (his way of life), are the key Islamic text, reminding us all that his, was a life immersed in assertively promoting social justice. He openly called out racism in Arabian society, stating, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of an Arab over a non-Arab, and no superiority of a white person, over a black person, or a black person over a white person, except on the basis of piety”. These words continue to have immense significance, especially in the context of the current civil rights movement.

In the Prophet’s last Sermon, made in front of the largest audience he ever had, he also spoke about social justice. Addressing humanity, “O people!” before sharing his message – a sign that his message really needed every human being to understand, he spoke about the rights of children, particularly orphan’s, the rights of women, economic inequality, and the responsibilities of the state. 

It is heart warming to have witnessed the charitable actions of our communities in Bristol, and in particular how Bristol’s Muslim community rallied for the welfare of humanity during the pandemic. We are reminded of the saying of the  Prophet, “A person’s true wealth is the good he does in this world”. Befitting then, how numerous individuals and groups, from every corner of our great city, cooked, processed, and delivered food, and other essentials for the most needy and vulnerable.

Note: Tomorrow, Saturday 23 October, the Children’s Procession commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad will take place between Eastville Park and the left-hand side of Fishponds Road from 11:30 to 13:30. There will be likely be some minor traffic delays.

Bristol’s Pesticide Amnesty and the UN Biodiversity Conference

Today’s guest blog is from Savita Willmott, CEO of the Natural History Consortium

The UK is preparing to welcome the world to Glasgow on 31 October for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference.  There are no shortage of lead-up events in Bristol, and across the UK, as organisations prepare to influence the significant discussions.  

Last week, a different group of leaders participated in the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15). Covid has affected many international meetings and events, and this one is no different. The decision was taken to have the initial conversations online then bring international leaders together in Kunming next spring. The summary from the online meeting indicates commitment from countries around the world to spend the next few months negotiating a significant framework to be agreed in May.  

It is now widely understood and agreed that our net zero and nature positive ambitions are, and must be, linked. In Bristol, our One City Climate Strategy and One City Ecological Emergency Strategy must be addressed together as we tackle our city’s environmental emergencies.  

As we keep our eye on the international declarations and agreements, we must focus on taking action locally. One of the four targets of the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy is to reduce the city’s pesticide use by 50% by 2030. To help everyone get started,  The Natural History Consortium is running the UK’s first household Pesticide Amnesty on October 23rd and 24th,. Collections will be at Redcatch Park on October 23rd between 11am and 3pm, and at Blaise Nursery on October 24th between 11am and 3pm. Residents of Bristol are encouraged to have a ‘garden shed’ clear out at the end of the growing season and bring along garden and household pesticides in return for a free pack of wildflower seeds and information on pesticide-free alternatives.  

After the events, all containers will be safely disposed by Bristol Waste, and a log of everything handed in will be used for a major citizen science project in partnership with University of Bristol School of Chemistry.  The university will be supporting a final year student to develop a new experiment for future students to examine soil samples across the city, to monitoring change over time focusing on the most popular chemicals from the pesticide amnesty. 

Join us – and take action for nature! 

State of the City 2021

*check against delivery*

Last week, our city faced the tragedy of a young man killed on our streets.

I extend my respects to his family and do want to share that I have received numerous messages from people telling me that he was, at heart, a good young person who just needed support.

I had actually met him myself and had invited him to come for a cup of tea but sadly we never got to do that.  

His tragic death should remind us that we all have different experiences of Bristol and we must respect those differences if we are to build an inclusive city.

I have some thanks to give now.

Thank you, Hugh Brady for again hosting my annual State of the City address, we wish you all the best for your next chapter in life as the Vice Chancellor of Imperial College London.

The work you have done to develop a civic university and deliver the new Temple Quarter campus, leaves a real legacy.

And thank you to Andrew Kelly.

Andrew has been CEO of Festival of Ideas – now Bristol Ideas – for 29 years.

He has contributed hugely to Bristol’s cultural life and the quality of our public discourse, making Bristol better and raising our profile on the national and international stage. 

And I also want to thank you, Bristol.

This is my first State of the City since being re-elected.

The mayoral position isn’t mine.

It’s loaned to me by you, and I thank you for entrusting it into my care again.

Coronavirus and the syndemic

We are 18 months on from the first covid lockdown.

From the beginning we explained we were not just dealing with the virus itself, but the consequences of the actions needed to stem the spread of the virus.

We have seen the impact – death and bereavement, the disruption to education, loneliness, hunger, mental health, domestic violence and job losses.

At the same time, our underlying inequalities have been compounded as the most marginalised have been hit first and hardest and then found themselves least well placed to benefit from any recovery.     

We will be living with the effects of the pandemic for decades.

That makes it all the more important that we don’t allow the pain to be for nothing.

There are three interdependent lessons we have the opportunity to learn, if we choose to.

The First reinforces points I shared in my address last year.

I cited Richard Horton from The Lancet. 

He argued we aren’t suffering merely from a pandemic but a syndemic, in which two categories of disease are interacting: the communicable disease, Covid 19, and the non-communicable diseases that cluster around poverty and inequality. 

He said:

“The most important consequence of seeing COVID-19 as a syndemic is to underline its social origins. The vulnerability of older citizens; Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities; and key workers who are commonly poorly paid with fewer welfare protections, points to a truth so far barely acknowledged…. that unless governments devise policies and programmes to reverse profound disparities, our societies will never be truly COVID secure.

“The economic crisis that is advancing towards us will not be solved by a drug or a vaccine. Nothing less than national revival is needed. Approaching COVID-19 as a syndemic will invite a larger vision, one encompassing education, employment, housing, food, and environment.”

And so we must have that broader vision.

If we don’t then we will remain individually and collectively vulnerable to future health shocks with all their consequences.

And it’s this collective vulnerability that takes tackling social inequality beyond an issue of social justice and makes it an issue of national security.

In this respect, we can learn from Bristol’s past. 

In 1832, Cholera killed 584 Bristolians from a population of 96,000.

The poorest were hit hardest, the impact exacerbated by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in slums and workhouses.

We came to learn that while water was the means for transmission it was the drivers and consequences of poverty that were the accelerants.

Both then and today, the resilience and weakness of population health are not just bio-medical questions, they are determined by social conditions, themselves the product of political and economic systems.   

Second, covid has humbled us and warned us.

It has given us a taste of a natural world reasserting its authority.

In the modern era we have believed that we have the ability to control things; that whatever the crisis, “someone somewhere” could solve it.

We could decide not to go to war, or to feed hungry people or to house the homeless.

But we have tasted living in a world in which no-one, no-where could make a decision to end the crisis.

Until we had the vaccine, the virus stopped us in our tracks – the economy stopped, elections were postponed, schools were closed, and our flagship public service teetered on the edge of being overwhelmed.

We do have the vaccine and, with it, the hope that we will eventually be able to live with covid.

The Climate Emergency

We now need to apply that experience of loss of control to the Climate Emergency.

If we pass the tipping point, there will be no hope for recovery. 

Weather chaos and disorder will feed on each other with rapidly worsening social, economic, and political consequences.  

This threat points to what Civil Rights activist and Harvard scholar Marshal Ganz called the “urgency of the now”.

And this leads to the third insight, which is the importance of cities.

Climate change will be won or lost in cities.

Cities are home to over half of the world’s people.

They consume over 70% of the world’s energy and generate three quarters of global carbon emissions.

Cities do offer amongst the most sustainable lifestyles.

Higher density living can offer lower carbon footprints than sprawling settlements, if they are done right.

The Former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, said “most of the things that make cities better, cleaner, healthier, and more economically productive places also reduce carbon emissions”.

It’s a simple statement containing a profound truth that cities are the places where good social policy will lessen the carbon footprints of the greatest number of people and offer the greatest opportunity to minimise the price the planet plays for our growing world population. 

So, we have two major crises, the pandemic and climate, pointing us to the need to expedite delivery of progressive social policy and better living conditions, through cities.

Let me take you through some of the ways we are doing that in our city. 

Climate

On climate, we have worked with the city to agree and collectively commit to the One City climate strategy and it’s 2030 carbon neutral and climate resilience targets.

We launched our Ecological Emergency Action Plan last month.

The plan was led by Avon Wildlife Trust and developed with 36 organisations.

It commits us to:

  • 30 per cent of our land being managed for nature;
  • A 50% reduction in the use of pesticides;
  • 100% of Bristol’s waterways being fit to support healthy wildlife;
  • And a reduction of products that undermine the health of wildlife and ecosystems.

We have invested £42m on retrofitting council-owned homes, with:

  • 6,500 homes having had gas boilers replaced
  • 800 houses and 1,000 flats have wall insulation
  • 1,000 have new insulated roofs
  • 2,500 have double glazed replacements
  • 2,000 have had loft insulation top ups

Today, 99% of publicly owned homes have double glazing, 98% have insulated cavity walls. 

We’ve also planted 70,000 new trees through One Tree Per Child, a programme commenced by my predecessor George and continued by us.

More than 9,000 were planted last year, including Bristol’s first mini forest in Southmead. A business scheme has set a target to plant 250,000 trees.

All this contributes to our One City Plan goal to double the tree canopy by 2046.

And we are working with the University of Manchester and the Met Office to understand our city’s vulnerability to overheating and how we can protect ourselves from severe heat waves. 

We’ve invested £22 million in renewable energy projects and low carbon heat networks.

Our district heating network already serves Old Market, Redcliffe and Hartcliffe – with Bedminster, Temple Quarter and St Phillips soon to join them.

We are installing a zero carbon water source heat pump in Castle Park that will heat 1,000 council homes and Castle Park View, and the Bedminster heat network will source its energy from waste water.

Bristol City Funds has invested £750,000 in Ambition Lawrence Weston’s wind turbine, that will  provide renewable energy to over 4,000 homes.

And our City Leap partnership promises to transform our relationship with energy through a £1 billion investment package to support system change from the generation and distribution to the storage and smart usage of energy.

We are building new flood defences at Avonmouth and Severnside. 

This is an incredible scheme that combines flood protection with restored natural wetland habitats.   

We are working with the Environment Agency to deliver flood defences for the city centre and the land along the River Avon.   

We are working with developers to build flood defences into new developments in flood plain areas.

And as the country starts asking Government how it will fund its zero carbon strategy, we are already working with the World Economic Forum and the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission, to connect cities with the public and private finance we need to fund our de-carbonisation.

The cost of decarbonising Bristol alone is nearly £10 billion and this is part of the 200 plus billion package needed to de-carbonise the UK’s Core Cities and London. 

Housing

We will have built some 9,000 new homes, in the past five years, by the end of this year, with 12,000 more homes with planning permissions in the pipeline, having been delayed by Covid and Brexit.  

We have 173 homes being built by BoKlok on Airport Way.

In Lockleaze, we have 185 homes in Bonnington Walk – and 268 homes in Romney House, being built by our council owned company, Goram Homes.    

And many more.

We have at least 1,400 new homes on their way in Hengrove.

Not only will around 50% of these be affordable but they will set a benchmark for offsite modern construction methods and low carbon development.

And now, with Bristol Zoo relocating, we have an incredible opportunity to deliver affordable homes in Clifton.

We have set ourselves another stretching target of 2,000 homes a year by 2024 and we have set up ‘Project 1,000’, a council board whose sole aim is to deliver 1,000 affordable homes a year by 2024. 

On top of that:

  • We’ve launched an estate renewal programme;
  • We’re overhauling HomeChoice;
  • We’ve extended the moratorium on evictions for council tenants;
  • We’ve joined the advisory board of The Kerslake Commission, on ending rough sleeping;
  • And we’ll become a Living Rent City.

Transport

On transport, our flagship policy remains the mass transit system including the underground.

All routes have been identified linking the north, east, south, and airport to the city centre.

It will integrate buses and trains and include new stations, to form a transformative, low carbon transport system.

We laid the foundations with our Bus Deal with First Bus.

This gives priority to bus travel to support growth in passenger numbers.

This is a key step in building the business case that will secure the over £4billion investment needed for the mass transit system.

We’ve introduced bus prioritisation including bus gates on Bristol Bridge and Baldwin Street. This has increased reliability and taken five minutes off bus journeys through the centre.

We delivered new City Centre bike lanes, pedestrianised the Old City, King Street, Cotham Hill, Princess Victoria Street, and four pilots are now running for School Streets, closing roads outside schools at drop off and pick up time.

We are about to launch a consultation on the introduction of bus prioritisation for the Wells Road, to the city centre, over the Downs and the whole length of the A4018. 

We will ask you to comment on proposals to remove parking that causes congestion on key routes and the closure of Park Street to private cars.

This has the potential to re-invent public realm up to the Triangle and remove rat runs from the Downs.

We submitted the full business case for the Clean Air Zone which will come into force next year.

We are negotiating with Government a package of support including:

  • £2 million for clean buses;
  • £720,000 for a new cycle scheme through Old Market;
  • Free electric bike loans and cycle training;
  • Free bus tickets;
  • Discounts on car club membership;
  • Support to buy electric cars;
  • And financial support for business and residents to upgrade polluting vehicles.

We estimate the CAZ will reduce traffic travelling into the City Centre by approximately 2,000 vehicles per day, while delivering protections for lower paid workers, hospital patients and visitors, and blue badge holders.  

Over half a century ago, Bristol lost its trams and, twenty years ago, lost out on an opportunity for ‘supertrams’.

This was down to poor leadership, impenetrable council structures, and regional squabbles.

We have the opportunity today to get beyond these historical failures and deliver something transformative.

We need government funding and we must ensure the West Of England Combined Authority unlocks the investment Bristol and the city region needs.

We need substance, not soundbites.    

Infrastructure

We are fixing the city’s aging infrastructure, the Chocolate Path, key bridges around the city, the sea walls and our road network.

These have been deteriorating for decades with no clear plan for their maintenance.

We now have a plan and a capital strategy in place.

We’ve also taken on the new infrastructure challenges such as the arena where we showed our ability to make the right decision rather than the politically convenient decision.

The  YTL Bristol Area is on track to open in early 2024 and the Massive Attack gig showed us people can and will travel from all parts of the city and beyond. 

And repurposing the aircraft hangers rather than building a city centre arena from scratch was the right thing for the environment.  

Using the footprint and fabric of the existing buildings saves 21,400 cubic metres of concrete, the excavation and removal of 28,000 cubic metres of soil, and the manufacturing and transportation of 4,000 tonnes of steel.

The environmental impact of the Temple Island Arena, in development and production in steel alone, would be the equivalent of 13,000 flights from Heathrow to New York.

Contrast this with YTL’s building of one of the most environmentally sustainable arenas in the world, with solar panels, reused rainwater, and a sustainable transport plan. And of course, all at no cost to the taxpayer.

Social care

On social care, we’ve been tackling the crisis that is local government finance. 

The real costs of Covid and over a decade of austerity mean that the city again faces the challenge of an under-funded council budget. 

We are working through the numbers but, as of today, we have a potential shortfall of £42million, that may lead to more difficult decisions for the city.

Other cities have similar challenges.

Projected shortfalls in other Core Cities range from £15 million to £65 million.

Covid has accelerated the already increasing demand for adult social care at the same time as the cost of care services has increased.

We’ve had a 21% increase in mental health demand at a cost of £4 million a year.

There’s been a £45 per person per week increase in unit costs for Learning Disability services resulting in costs increasing by more than £3 million per year.

And we are now finding care providers unable to recruit workers to fill their positions, contributing to 115 ‘handbacks’ from domiciliary care providers, driven by an increase in the availability of higher-paid employment in other sectors; reduced access to EU nationals due to Brexit; and an increased demand for care staff in other organisations, including the NHS.

As we have accelerated delivery for Bristol, taking on opportunities and challenges, we have experienced increasing opposition, resisting change and highlighting the downside of every intervention.

The truth is no intervention comes without risk and cost.

But, as Shirley Williams said “there are hazards in anything one does, but greater hazards in doing nothing”.

Bristol is a city of 42 square miles.  We aren’t getting any more land. 

We have a residential population of around 460,000 people which is expected to grow to 550,000 by 2050.

The population grows to over a million people when the workforce travels in.

We have more than 15,000 people on our housing waiting list, with over 1,100 families in temporary accommodation.

1 in 5 of our children live in low-income households.

In 2015, the Runnymede Trust ranked Bristol as the 7th worst area of England for racial inequality and went on to charge that “ethnic minorities in Bristol experience greater disadvantage than in England and Wales, in education and employment.”

While almost 100% of Clifton teenagers progress to university, it’s just 1 in 12 in Hartcliffe.

Almost 10% of our households experience fuel poverty and 4% experience moderate to severe food insecurity.

There is a gap in healthy years life expectancy of over 16 years between the richest and poorest areas in Bristol.

We need the city and public leaders to agree and hold themselves accountable to the depth and complexity of these challenges.

There is not a different kind of reality.

As the University of Virginia’s Professor Gerry Warburg said: “you’re entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts”.

Activism

Bristol has been a city with a high profile of activism over the years.

And activism is welcome and valuable but in and of itself, is not enough.

In September’s Full Council, three people made statements, in turn. 

The first argued against housebuilding on Western Slopes and urban sprawl. 

The second, concerned about private rents, told me to sort out the housing crisis – that would require me to build homes.  

The third made a statement against children living in tall buildings and there is of course a wider campaign against height.

I suggested that they all need to talk to each other.   

All three made an argument, that to be solved, required compromise from the other two. 

It’s fine to point at me but what’s needed is a city conversation.

To solve the complexity of the problems in our city, we all need to work together and be on receive as well as transmit. 

I’ve learnt those lessons.

In my 20s, I was all transmit.

In 2000, I was protesting outside the World Bank in Washington, DC, with a crowd, shouting at low paid security workers, for defending neo-liberalism. 

That’s activism at its worst, more focussed on the emotional gratification and of the activists’ brand than the outcomes of the cause they are fighting for.   

The historian and writer Paul Gilroy said: “It is imperative to remain less interested in who or what we imagine ourselves to be than in what we can do for one another”.

At its best, activism creates the conditions for and builds the unlikely alliances that make more radical politics possible.   

In 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson succeeded in bringing the Civil Rights Act into law. 

Martin Luther King Jr then approached Johnson, congratulated him, and said ‘now we need a Voting Rights Act. 

Johnson told King he couldn’t do it as he had cashed in all of his political capital to deliver the Civil Rights Act.  

So King organised the Selma March.

Many of you will know the marchers were brutally attacked by police.

But the world was watching and this changed the political climate.

It was a new climate that only made the Voting Rights Act possible but necessary.

On the 6th of August 1965, the Bill was signed by President Johnson, banning States from passing laws prohibiting voting laws based on race, and bringing into force what is often described as the most effective civil rights law ever enacted and changing America forever.   

People often say we haven’t got time to waste but it is also true that we haven’t got time to get it wrong.

We need a new settlement in how we understand each other and work together.

National and international leadership

We rarely talk about our global and national leadership but we should be proud.

What happens in Bristol isn’t just down to the decisions we make. 

We are shaped by national and international events.

To serve Bristol fully, we must be able to shape the context within which Bristol has to live, and exert influence over those external forces that impact on life in our city.

Trying to tackle city challenges without tackling this context is like straining gnats while swallowing camels.

I sit on the Mayor’s Migration Council and the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities of Tomorrow.

I sit on the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission, where we have identified over £200 billion of de-carbonisation opportunities across the Core Cities and London.

This year, I was asked to become of chair the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board. 

I also sit on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Housing Commission, Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK’s Future, on the advisory panel of the Work Foundation.

Bristol plays a leading role in the Global Parliament of Mayors, Eurocities, UK100, Core Cities and helped to set up the Western Gateway.

We have set up our own International Strategy Board to mobilise city partners to represent us on the global stage.

As part of that, today we can announce the appointment of three new international ambassadors for the city.

They are:

  • Marti Burgess, Partner at Bevan Brittan and Chair of Black South West Network;
  • Clare Reddington, the CEO of Watershed; 
  • Fuad Mahamed, CEO and Founder of Ashley Community Housing.

Welcome to the role and I know you will all promote Bristol brilliantly, joining our existing alumni of city ambassadors. 

History Commission

I want to finish tonight by thanking the members of the History Commission. They have shown emotionally intelligent leadership as we navigate a challenging time in Bristol’s history, following the hauling down of Colston’s statue.

They helped put together an excellent display in the M-Shed and received 14,000 responses to their survey on the future of the statue.

Their work will help us to understand our own past, bringing a fuller understanding of how our city has become what it is today.  

Our past has been shaped by poverty and slum clearances, investment, slavery, wars, strikes, protest, Chartists and Suffragettes, the harbour and the docks, manufacturing, innovation and technology, migration, faith, and much more.

Within that, we have our difficulties and our demons.

We have our highs and our heroes, including those who we are yet to learn about. 

At the same time, building on the History Commission’s ‘Bridging Histories’ programme, our culture team is working towards a family history project, that will support people understand their own personal history, and why their families came here or why their families were displaced to the parts of Bristol that they were born in.

Looking at this opportunity, I have started to look at my own family tree and, during a recent trip in which I saw my Jamaican family, I discovered an important part of my own history.  

Samuel Richardson was hung by the British.  

In 1865, not far from Kingston, Jamaica, in Morant Bay, a popular Baptist preacher Paul Bogle led the rescue of a black man who had been arrested for trespassing on an abandoned former sugar plantation.

Hundreds of people joined him as he led a call for reform.

Troops were sent and spent weeks indiscriminately killing black Jamaicans.

Executions followed and among those was Samuel Richardson, my great, great, great grandfather.

I have thought about him since finding out, how he felt when he stood on the gallows and wondered about descendants to come.

Discovering him has made me, more me.

I encourage you all to join in this project and uncover your own family history.

Those histories are our history and will make us more Bristol.

Hope

I’ve spoken tonight about the conflicting pressures alongside the fundamental challenges both now and in the future and our need to deliver.

To deliver at the scale and pace of change we need, we must be honest about the nature of those challenges, make space for alliances, and bring the many with us – keeping the city together. 

We must be solutions focussed.  

As The novelist, Raymond Williams said: ‘To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.’

Let’s choose hope.

Thank you.

Our Belonging Strategy

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children Services, Education and Equalities and Labour Councillor for St George West ward.

On 18th October we will launch our new Belonging Strategy 2021-2024 for children and families. This new strategy sets out how we will continue to work as a city to ensure that this is a city for all children and young people, one which young people can be proud of and a place where they and their families can thrive.

Co-constructed with local children, young people and parents/carers, we asked Bristol’s children and young people if they see themselves, their histories, cultures and identities reflected in their city. We also asked them how it feels to grow up here and what more we should do to ensure that families can thrive and children achieve their ambitions, and how can we create communities and a city that belongs to us all – one in which everyone sees themselves and benefits from its success.

The result is our Belonging Strategy – a true One City approach to achieving what children, young people and families want for themselves. It focuses on how we work together across health, education, voluntary, community and business sectors as well as across the council to empower families and be ready with a little extra help when it’s needed to ensure we have strong, resilient families in safe and inclusive communities and a city that children and young people feel able to own.

One City partners will be working together through the Children and Young People’s One City Board to drive our work on inclusion, equality and social justice in Bristol.

Our work on Belonging has been organised into four themes, and a strategy has been developed for each of these, as follows:

•            Belonging from the Beginning

•            Belonging in Education

•            Belonging in Families

•            Belonging in the Community

These strategies support and will deliver on the intentions of the Bristol One City Plan, the Bristol Children’s Charter, and the Bristol Equalities Charter.

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on children and young people, some of the impacts we have yet to see, they account for around 20% of our population but they are 100% of our future, if we want to recover within a generation and provide an excellent future for the city, we have to work together and invest in our children and young people now. The Belonging Strategy provides a road map setting out how we will do this.

Local Democracy Week

Today’s guest blog is from Alderwoman Marg Hickman, who was conferred with the title on Tuesday – after representing Lawrence Hill for ten years and also serving in my Cabinet and as Leader of the Bristol Labour Group – as we mark Local Democracy Week 2021.

Her ceremony and speech at Extraordinary Full Council is available to watch back from 32:35 and reproduced below.

“Being made an Alderwoman is a real civic honour, though not nearly as much of a privilege as I found serving the people of Lawrence Hill for ten years.

“I most enjoyed getting to know the communities of the ward and would like to think that, feeding in that daily local intelligence, I was able to help us make a positive and lasting difference to their lives.

“This is surely the only real reason why anyone stands for election.

“I am proud to have seen Marvin re-elected to continue to do just that,
and I am proud to carry on serving as a trustee of Felix Road Adventure Playground, which continues to go from strength to strength.

“During my time on the council, I met lots of dedicated councillors and council officers – all trying their best, all trying to do much more with far less over the past decade. Over the past eighteen months of the pandemic, Bristol’s local authority key workers have rightly, at long last, had some of the wider recognition that we know they richly deserve.

“One of my lower points may have been getting overheard, unmuted, during my last Budget meeting – but I console myself that it was not as bad as Handforth Council’s webcast, or the Department of Health’s CCTV!

“I was also proud to serve on the Women’s Commission, and I know that we still have more work to do to make this chamber look like the city it’s there to serve – especially in terms of female representation.

“Having chaired and then led the Labour Group for a number of years,
I want to thank party colleagues and workers for their support.

“As well as Marvin, and my friends being conferred with titles today, it feels right to take a moment to reflect on the contributions of those who have not been honoured today – I am thinking particularly of Ruth, Carole, Tom, Gill, Kye, Afzal, Celia, and Jon.

“While I might not always make it to the Aldermen and Alderwomen’s bench for every Council meeting, I do hope to be there when Full Council confers the status posthumously on the late, great Mike Langley.

“Finally, I’d like to share one of my favourite quotations from Maya Angelou:

“‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

“Thank you.”

New funding for Barton Hill

Image from building survey (below)

In March, Councillor Hibaq Jama and then-councillor Marg Hickman brought together community anchor organisations to look at the derelict former Tenants’ Hall in Barton Hill.

We then commissioned an independent assessment of the building (published below). It found repairing and converting the current building would cost over £1.4 million.

This brownfield site has the potential to be part of building in and up, not out. Projects like this are essential as we continue to tackle the housing crisis and invest in creating successful, healthier neighbourhoods.

We recently secured almost £200,000 as part of a wider national government programme to cover the costs of demolition to clear the site, if that route is supported by the local community.

Demolition would create a blank canvas for the site in Barton Hill, without the limitations posed by the existing building. It would likely create more opportunities for interested parties to work with the community towards a potential mixed use development. This project could include much-needed new affordable housing and modern, purpose-built community space, and, in line with our land disposal policy for community-led housing, we will be exploring potential for transferring the site to a community organisation.

Our successful bid comes ahead of further community engagement work, talking about the current nature of the building and the potential for new community space and new affordable housing. We are hoping to be able to share details of community workshops soon, for local people and organisations to co-create future options for the site.

Bristol’s Heat Network

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Energy, and Waste, and Labour Councillor for St George Central

To play our part in the fight against climate change, Bristol has committed to becoming a carbon neutral city by the year 2030. The expansion of Bristol’s Heat Network to new communities across Bristol is one key ingredient in securing Bristol’s energy future and providing businesses and homes with heat and energy form low carbon sources.

Heating and hot water currently account for 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and 40% of Bristol’s emissions come from heating our homes and workspaces, so it is vital that we continue to invest in technology like this to support our transition to net zero.

What’s Bristol’s Heat Network?

Heat networks are a network of underground pipes that deliver affordable, low-carbon heat and energy to homes and businesses across the city. Bristol’s Heat Network is divided into different sections that cover areas across the city, with each section powered by a local energy centre. Heat networks are not new technology and are commonplace across Europe, with Copenhagen topping the charts with its heat network supplying around 98% of the city’s heat demand. Heat networks are less common in the UK and Bristol really does lead the way here.

Our existing heat network now supplies over 1,000 properties with low-carbon heat with pipe spanning over 8km underground. The neat part of heat networks is that they can draw their heat from many different sources – from the river to sewers to underground geothermal. So as our city continues to transition to 2030 and other heat sources become available, our heat network can live on.

But timing is everything and our cabinet paper brings forward our investment into Bedminster Green where 2,000 new homes are being built. By taking this decision, we are ensuring that we minimise disruption during the installation of the underground pipes and low carbon energy centres and have the energy solution in place ready to serve new developments as they are built.

What’s next for Bristol’s Heat Network?

The approved Bedminster section of the network will use heat extracted from waste-water in our sewer system to provide homes with warmth and warm water. We are living our waste nothing values by recycling Bristol’s hot shower water to heat homes elsewhere.

We are also continuing with the construction of a new Water Source Heat Pump in Castle Park, a renewable technology that will create heat from water in the floating harbour and the largest in the country.

As we see global shocks in gas prices forcing consumer bills up, I am really proud to be part of an administration which is creating the energy infrastructure Bristol needs, putting us in control of our energy future and taking big leaps on our journey to 2030.

You can find out more about Bristol’s Heat Network at: www.energyservicebristol.co.uk

BoKlok on the Brook and the UN’s SDGs

Today’s guest blog is by Graeme Culliton, Managing Director of BoKlok UK

When BoKlok was founded back in Sweden in the 1990s, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) weren’t around yet. Much like the UK today, at that time Sweden was experiencing an urgent shortage of homes, specifically for people on average incomes.

One person who saw the need for change was Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA. He recognised that new homes had to be made accessible for ‘ordinary people’, and his vision was to give everyone the same opportunity to live well.

Fast forward to today and we are proud to be continuing this vision right here in Bristol. One reason we decided to start our business in the city is because it’s here that you’ll find the people that think most about sustainability and saving our planet. These are the people open to new thinking and ideas, much like Mr Kamprad.

A key to unlocking this vision has been through implementing the SDGs into our way of working. We use them to guide us in delivering homes for ordinary people, whilst – at the same time – meeting the needs of a wider community.

The main seven key goals we work to are:

  1. Good Health & Wellbeing (SDG 3)
  2. Gender Equality (SDG 5)
  3. Reduced inequalities (SDG 10)
  4. Sustainable Cities & Communities (SDG 11)
  5. Responsible Consumption (SDG 12)
  6. Climate Action (SDG 13)
  7. Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17)

Sure, we are a for-profit organisation, but it’s not just NGOs and political bodies who are responsible for following the SDGs – it’s everyone. It’s down to the private sector to adopt the goals, and we take our role in this seriously.

Sustainability and climate

You can’t read through the SDGs (or Bristol’s One City Plan for that matter) without recognising that careful attention must be given to our carbon footprint in the UK. That’s why building sustainably is one of our main drivers. But how do we do this?

We start by manufacturing all our BoKlok homes offsite in state-of-the-art production facilities using advanced timber frame construction technology. Timber is one of the most sustainable materials you can use in construction, so you won’t see a single BoKlok module made with anything else. Building our homes offsite in a factory also means that we reduce waste considerably, cut deliveries to site in half, and even reduce our time on site by over 50% compared with traditionally built houses. Good news for the planet (and great news for our neighbours!). 

Levelling the playing field

Alongside reducing our environmental impact, the UN’s goals call us to also reduce inequality in our communities. In Bristol, local policy looks to safeguard this by holding house builders like us to selling a minimum of their new builds as affordable housing (30% in our case). On our Bristol-based site, BoKlok on the Brook, that would mean 52 new affordable homes. I’m proud to say that we have gone beyond that and raised this to 46%. That means 27 more affordable homes than required, and a total of 79 homes going to the vulnerable individuals and families in the community that need them the most.

Delivering safe, quality homes for people that really need them is a major way we’ll see a reduction in inequalities in our cities. A stable home environment has many benefits: educational achievement leading to better chances on life and increased quality of health and well-being, to name just two. These matter and have a very real impact in changing the direction of people’s lives.

The BoKlok vision may have begun in Sweden back in the 1990s, but since then our ‘BoKlok way’ has taken shape and with it, our commitment to the UN’s SDGs. Are we as far along as we want to be? Of course not. We only started in the UK two-and-a-half years ago and that means we’re still making mistakes and learning from them. But through collaboration with committed partners (see SDG 17) such as the Bristol City Council or the Bristol Housing Festival, we’re extremely confident that we’ll start to see these goals realised here in Bristol, sooner rather than later.

World Habitat Day

Ian Barrett stands, smiling, in a black fleece with Avon Wildlife Trust's badger logo, with green hills and trees behind him. Ian writes for World Habitat Day.
Today’s guest blog is from Ian Barrett, Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust (photo credit: Jon Craig)

The United Nations recognises the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day, which is intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.

We live in challenging times, but there is reason for hope and things that we can all do to help to restore the health of our planet for people and wildlife.

An Ecological Emergency

Next month, countries from around the world will meet in Glasgow to talk about how we tackle the challenge of climate change. Next year they will be meeting in China to look at how we tackle the challenge of declining wildlife and the ecosystems that support life on Earth.

The figures are stark. We’ve lost 68% of the world’s wild vertebrates since the 1970s. Nationally, we’ve seen massive and accelerating declines in previously common species such as songbirds and hedgehogs. In Bristol we’ve lost 96% of our swifts and swallows since the 1990s. This matters not only for wildlife, but also for all of the things nature does for us, ultimately including clean air, clean water, and the pollination of food.

Reasons for Hope

It’s easy to get down about the state of the world’s natural environment. “Eco-anxiety” is a growing issue for people of all ages. But there are signs of hope. We have wild beavers back in the river Avon for the first time in over 400 years. Lapwing are raising chicks in the Gordano valley after a 20 year absence. We know that where we restore damaged habitats and give nature a helping hand, wildlife can recover and thrive. 

Bristol has led the way in facing up to today’s environmental challenges. We were the first major UK city to declare a climate emergency in November 2018 and the first to declare an ecological emergency in February 2020.

What You Can Do

Our ecological emergency strategy sets out the actions we need to take as a city and as individuals to restore nature and bring wildlife back. This includes managing more land for nature, reducing pesticide use, cleaning up our rivers and reducing the impact of the things we buy on wildlife and habitats around the world. Our ambition is to see 30% of land managed for the benefit of wildlife by 2030, including wildlife friendly gardens, green spaces and business parks and more nature-friendly farming.  

We want to create and support a movement for change, with people and communities coming together to take action for wildlife. Every little action can help, from planting bee-friendly plants in window boxes to rewilding local green spaces, creating a pond or bug hotel, choosing to buy food from local, organic producers. You can find 30 things you can do to help wildlife on the Avon Wildlife Trust website. Join us today in helping to secure the future of our planet for people and wildlife.

Avon Wildlife Trust's banner, showing a wild beaver in the river Avon, with the following text: 

"30% of land and sea by 2030: help aid nature's recovery - donate today."

Ian writes today for World Habitat Day.

West of England Black Interns Pilot

The West of England Black Interns Pilot offered 50 paid internships to black students living or studying in the region for four weeks beginning 6 September 2021. In the South West, Mayor Marvin Rees and Chris Hill, the CEO of Hargreaves Lansdown, have been inspired by the ambition and the simplicity of the #10000BlackInterns initiative. This sits alongside other projects, including Stepping Up.

In order to maximise the impact on young people in the region at a time when unemployment is rising, Hargreaves Lansdown launched the West of England Black Interns Pilot with the support of the Bristol City Council.

To gain insight into the programme, interns have provided a review of their time with Bristol City Council, exploring key responsibilities, skills developed and highlights of their time as an intern.

Abraham – the Mayor’s Office

As an intern at the Mayor’s Office, I gained great insight into the many projects being commissioned by the Bristol City Council and was provided the opportunity to work with the Mayor of Bristol.

A highlight from my time as an intern was accompanying Marvin Rees to a speech at Oasis Academy Brightstowe, in which I gained invaluable insight into Mayoral leadership in the city. From the very first moment I entered the City Hall, I was met with a positive can-do attitude embodied by all the council’s workers, thus making the work environment motivational and enjoyable. The support received from my two supervisors Paige and Hannah was above and beyond, providing me with key insight into the many career paths available following the internship.

My time in the Mayor’s Office has also given me the opportunity to network with partner organisations and a variety of departments within the council. Following a meeting with the Head of Finance, I was given the opportunity to work alongside experts in the field and assigned a report/briefing to publish. I would greatly recommend a career within Bristol City Council, as the ethos of the organisation/working environment is beyond welcoming and the support provided by the Mayor and members of staff has been life changing.

Musa – Finance

My favourite part of the internship experience has been the opportunity to network within a prestigious environment. Working in an environment where everyone is friendly and collaborative provided me with the opportunity to network with experts as well as gain advice and perspectives from their professional careers. Something I found surprising during my internship was the organisation of the Council. Upon entering the office, I was taken back by how large the building was, how the teams and departments were set out, all the digitised data and documentation systems as well as other programs/platforms used daily.

I liked the variety of challenging tasks set by my managers and the opportunity to assist in tasks set by the finance and auditing departments. The internship has greatly pushed me and motivated me to achieve success in my future career. I encourage everyone coming in after me to have a positive mindset and not to be afraid to communicate your reservations to your managers especially if you ever start to feel overwhelmed, as everyone is very understanding.

Adila – Communications

While interning in the Communications department for Bristol City Council, I gained great experience working with different teams, sharing ideas and learnt lots. I heard inspirational accounts by guest speakers on their career journeys, taking tips as I continue to embark on my own journey. My best moments include meeting the Mayor, receiving valuable insight, talking to cabinet members and attending a Full Council meeting live in the Council Chamber. Designing, forming and presenting a self-directed mini-campaign within the departments I worked with at City Hall was surely another highlight, as well as networking with other interns on the programme. The internship provided a valuable opportunity to navigate your interests into the world of work, helping form your next steps.

Biniyam – Energy Team

During the time I spent with Bristol City Council, I have gained different invaluable skills by working with the energy team. The ability to work collaboratively on different projects has given me an opportunity to build communication, team-working and time-management skills. Furthermore, I have boosted my critical thinking skills by applying the theory I have learnt at university to the work environment. During my four weeks, I really enjoyed the site visits and events I attended in person, which I believe both assisted to observe the technical aspect of the work and network with professionals from various areas of experts. Overall, I am delighted with the structure of the internship, my time working with the council and am grateful for all the support I received.

Liam – Finance

My internship experience was incredibly valuable. I learnt about the intricate workings of the council, particularly the finance department. There were many opportunities to develop soft skills whilst better positioning me to applying to a graduate scheme and a Master’s in Finance. One of my favourite experiences, which demonstrated my analytical skills, was the opportunity to work on financial forecasts which directly influence documents presented to cabinet and publicly published financial plans. Other highlights were participating in weekly calls with senior staff within the financial department and attending Full Council and Cabinet.

The opportunity to meet the Mayor of Bristol and the Chief Executive was an inspiring experience providing me with valuable career insights. Talking to senior directors within the council about their careers greatly helped me plan for my goal of entering financial services industry. I have gained worthwhile career contacts and friends, memories I will never forget, clarity around my career goals and the skills to get to my chosen destination. I would recommend applying to the internship program as it offers a great opportunity to improve your employability skills and gain valuable work experience.