£1m for our Clean Streets campaign

Today we are announcing a spend of £1m on our clean streets campaign. The success of the city’s business sector in 2018/19 meant that greater than forecasted business rates were collected, allowing a portion of that surplus to be invested in the Clean Streets Action Plan in this financial year.

This is great news for the city. We have received great support for the campaign, including the introduction of fines for people who litter our streets.

But our Bristol Clean Streets campaign has always been about much more than litter. It has been about transforming the nature of the relationship between our city and its waste.

The transformation we are pursuing extends from the generation of waste, to the way we dispose of it, to its transportation, reuse, recycling, conversion to energy or other end state.

Waste is one of the foremost challenges – and opportunities – facing cities in a world that is rapidly urbanising. It’s one confronting every city on every continent, those in the global North and South, rich and poor.

If we succeed in meeting the waste challenge, we will improve the quality of life in the city and reduce our impact on the world around us – in particular reducing the plastics to sea, securing access to new sources of energy and saving money.

I recently met with the heads of our own Bristol Waste company. We talked about the importance of this challenge for Bristol and the urgent need to see and evidence we are making progress as a city.

It was clear to me coming out of the meeting that as a city we need to view Bristol Waste and those who work for it not as the people who come behind us dealing with the aspects of life we no longer value. Rather, they are in front of us, using their expertise in waste to lead us. There is something very proverbial in this, that those who have sometimes been undervalued turn out to be those with the solutions to one our most pressing problems and biggest opportunities.

For their part I have asked Bristol Waste to live up to this leadership challenge. Their job is not only to collect our waste. Rather it is to speak into the wider city system. They must also challenge and support business to change practices to reduce the amount of waste generated, drive the practices and partnerships that increase recycling and re-use, while scanning the horizon for the latest technologies and opportunities to give waste a second life as things such as energy.

Bringing Intellectual Fire Power to Bear on our City Challenges

Last Friday (29 March) saw the inaugural Bristol Forum taking place in City Hall. The Forum marks an innovative new collaboration between the Bristol City Office, University of Bristol (UoB) and University of the West of England (UWE), and aims to advance the problem-solving capacity of our city. With cooperation at its heart, the daylong event was co-created by a Collaborative Design Group comprised of organisations including Power to Change, Creative Youth Network, Babbasa, We the Curious, Bristol Health Partners, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Voscur, Care Forum and Black South West Network, working alongside the City Office, UoB and UWE.

Attended by almost 200 people from across academia, the business, third, and public sectors, the Forum brought together research and creative approaches to address challenges relevant to the city and its communities, set out by the One City Approach. The programme saw sessions taking place across the day, with each session seeing academics collaborating positively with a wide range of city leaders to explore themes that are central to the goals set out in the One City Plan [hyperlink]. Topics tabled for discussion ranged from high level city wide initiatives to more focussed interventions. Discussions included improving the city’s air quality, new approaches to talking violence and abuse, education and social mobility, economic inclusion, and the role of communities and universities in developing solutions, to name just a few. We hope that the Forum will be an annual opportunity to share solutions, ideas and constructive challenge.

It is clear that Bristol City Council acting in isolation is unable to achieve the aims set out in the One City Plan. The Forum marks the perfect example of the One City model of working – coming together to collaboratively explore creative solutions to long term challenges. For me, the Forum is about bringing the intellectual fire power of our City Region’s two world class universities to bear on our city challenges. Most importantly, it is also about ensuring that the policy decisions we make as a city are underpinned by a clear evidence base.

Examples of the civic university are seen in the United States where universities play an important role in tackling problems of the cities in which they are based. The Bristol Forum provides Bristol’s Universities with a platform to engage in the national debate about this topic and demonstrate the role they can play in local policy making and problem solving. Professor Robin Hambleton, a key pioneer of the civic university model and Chair of the Bristol Forum planning group recently wrote an article on this theme, which is available to read here. I look forward to the next Bristol Forum and the positive influence that wide-reaching city collaboration continues to play in building a city of hope and ambition where everyone benefits from Bristol’s success.

Better Lives at Home – how we’re delivering extra care housing

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

One of the very best parts of my job as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care is having the chance to visit some of the excellent initiatives we’re delivering to help transform the lives of older residents around the city.

Last week was no exception, when, alongside my colleague Cllr Ben Stokes from South Gloucestershire, I attended the formal opening of the brand new retirement village at Stoke Gifford. Bristol City Council has contributed over £3m to the development and, with South Gloucestershire, we are nominating to 81 of the flats there. This means that there are 81 flats that will be open for older people currently supported by Social Care either from Bristol City Council or South Gloucestershire Council.

The facilities here are exceptional, with spacious flats and a restaurant, games room, craft room, gym, library and more all on site. Meeting and chatting to some of the new residents who are enjoying a new lease of life since moving in, really gave me a picture of just how important it is for us to do more of this. We need to give older people the best possible quality of life in their later years – it makes sense for the individuals and it makes sense for the public purse too, it means there is much less chance older people will need nursing or residential care.

The next extra care scheme like this that will open is Haberfield House in Stockwood, which is being developed for our residents by Bristol Charities.  You can find more information about Haberfield House here: https://www.bristolcharities.org.uk/housing/stockwood

Back in Stoke Gifford, it was a joy to meet Sheila and Brian – who moved in last November. When they moved in, Sheila was dependent on a wheelchair to get around, but as she told me, “I had never set foot in a gym before I came here, but thought I would give it a go, now after just a few weeks, I can just use my walker.” It is this sort of fantastic story that really motivates me to deliver more extra care housing.

In May I will be bringing a report to Cabinet that will set out our plans for just how we do that.

I will leave the last word to Sheila and Brian, who told me that when their family want to come to visit, they both have to check their diaries as there are so many activities they want to participate in. This is exactly what we want for all our older people – better lives at home.

To find out more information about the Better Lives programme and what it means you can click here: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/documents/20182/2678414/Market+Position+Statement/bdd21e05-0a76-94ae-4094-246ad9eb5739

To find out more about the Extra Care, like the one at Stoke Gifford you can click here:
https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/extra-care-housing

World Social Work Day 2019

Today is World Social Work Day.  It’s an opportunity to pause, recognise and celebrate the great work of our social work colleagues across the city and around the world. We’re grateful to have so many dedicated and passionate people making lives better for people every single day, often in challenging circumstances.  My guest bloggers are Principal Social Workers Maria and Vanessa, who both work for Bristol City Council.

Here, Maria tells us what it means to be a social worker.

I came into social work to make a positive difference to the lives of others and almost 20 years later I believe that social work is still the best way I can make that difference. We work in the places where people are at their most vulnerable, supporting them to take control of their lives and the way they want to live them.

I was speaking to a social worker last week who had been working with someone with dementia who was extremely reluctant to even open the door to us.  This incredibly skilled social worker was able develop trust, which ultimately meant she was able to offer support to help this person stay safe and well in their own home, despite enormous pressure from others to place them into residential care.

Another colleague stayed out late into the night last week to ensure that a very traumatised young adult in mental health crisis was safe until a hospital bed was available. She stayed with that vulnerable young person, making sure they were safe and supported.

Examples like these show how each day brings with it a fresh scenario you never imagined you might encounter. I don’t think we always realise the amount of creative thinking that is needed to be an effective social worker. Each day social workers explore different ways to support individuals to live the life they want to live in the context of people having access to often very limited personal resources. We work with people and their families to find a way through their difficulties by acknowledging their needs whilst highlighting strengths in complex and often emotionally demanding situations.

So this year’s theme for World Social Work Day is human relationships, which is very poignant for me.  Supporting people to maintain their relationships is essential to delivering good social care.  The importance of human relationships cannot be underestimated in terms of sustaining wellbeing for all of us and when these relationships break down so often does people’s mental health.  Social isolation and loneliness are key factors in predicting poor mental health.

I am observing a real shift in social work practice in Bristol.  Back towards having conversations with people to discover what they want from life and their care and support and moving away from traditional more formal solutions.   This, for me, is returning to social work’s good roots, and this makes me proud to call myself a social worker in Bristol.

Vanessa, who works with children and their families in Bristol, tells us about her chosen career.

Social working with children and families in Bristol is one of the most rewarding jobs that anyone can have. It’s fast paced and demanding but it is also really rewarding.  We work hard to help families stay together safely wherever we can and, where necessary, we take action to protect children from harm.

Our focus is always on building relationships with children and their families so we can understand what life is like for them, and working with them to make the changes needed to keep their children safe. We are also lucky to have such great colleagues in Bristol. We celebrate each other’s successes and help each other through harder times.

Today we are hosting a ‘Wellbeing’ afternoon for practitioners to mark World Social Work Day and to show just how much we value our social workers and what they do for people in our great city.  We are looking forward to welcoming to City Hall our guest speakers Dr Nina Smyth, senior lecturer from the University of Westminster, and Jane Evans, parenting specialist and expert in self-care.

Smart phones, social media and cyber-bullying

Today’s guest blog comes from Dr Susie Davies, Founder of Papaya, and considers the impact of smart phones, social media and cyber-bullying on the mental health of adolescents.    

Never before has one small object with its shiny gleaming surface and multiple apps been such an iconic symbol of modern life. From alarm clocks, to bus passes, calendars, and contactless payments our phones have become an essential part of the mechanics of our every moment. In addition are the social media platforms which help us to connect to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Even as adults, there is no doubt that smart phones, and especially the social media apps which they arsade home to, hold an addictive lure. However, most of us over the age of 30, can still remember a time before we owned a smart phone and the forgotten days of reversing charges from a phone box late at night to beg our parents for a lift home.

However, it is different for those born in the so called iGen generation (1995-2003) and the years there-after. Today’s young adults’ neuronal pathways have been formed alongside apps, social media and smart phones. Many haven’t had a tech-free window in adolescence in which to develop their sense of self or relationships without technology at the core of their interactions.

Concerns about the impact of social media and smart phones are reported in the press almost daily. The recent tragic case of Molly Russell has highlighted to parents one of our deepest fears. Even from the supposed safety of their bedrooms, our children can access harmful content online, which can potentially lead to the most devastating of consequences. But Molly’s case is sadly not an isolated one. The BBC reported that more than 30 parents have approached PAPYRUS (a support charity for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts) to say they believe that social media was implicated in their child’s suicide (1). However, suicide is but the tip of the iceberg. There is a huge mountain of mental health issues, which are potentially triggered or compounded by social media, affecting our children today.

The evidence for the effect of the potential harm of social media and smart phones has been contested. Despite this Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, has advised that parents should take a precautionary  approach with regards to phone use  in children because of the potential risks, which are as yet unmeasured.(2) Personally, it feels similar to the denial of the smoking – lung cancer link in the 1950s. The rise of lung cancer and the potential link to smoking was becoming apparent, but the evidence was not yet clear (or as was the case with smoking the evidence was actually being hidden by those who sought to profit from tobacco). Do we as a new generation of parents shut our eyes and pretend the negative impact of social media is not happening? Or do we have the courage to decide to act differently for our children?

Apart from the obvious issue of lost time – time which could be spent pursuing hobbies, doing home-work, and socialising with real people – what are the other issues?

To me, the real heart of the issue is the effect that social media is having on our young people’s ability to develop a robust self-esteem. Self-esteem is our unique internal mirror. It can be a true reflection of self, or as is often the case in adolescents, it is a negatively warped perception of our true self and value. This is rather like looking at a distorted image of yourself in a fairground mirror! Self-esteem goes up and down with the world around us or even more importantly varies according to how we perceive our role (either good or bad) in these events. Adolescence is notoriously a period for poor self-esteem. Puberty, exam pressures and relationship issues all arise in a narrow window of time when many teenagers will inevitably experience some emotional turbulence.

It is into this toxic mix of hormones and self-doubt that the Pandora’s Box of social media has arrived. Instead of learning to self-reflect in a positive way, which is an essential part of the healthy  adolescent journey, social media sites have externalised self-esteem to social media platforms making young people dependent on ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ for their self worth. The search for the perfect selfie or the need for an affirming response from followers is, at best, an exhausting place to inhabit.

“Social media and its dopamine induced high of likes and followers doesn’t actually translate into real life experiences or happiness.”

Social media is inadvertently reducing young people’s ability to self-evaluate. By making them dependent on other people’s opinions, it is having a dramatic effect on their ability to develop a robust self-esteem and to build emotional resilience. At the simplest level, it is virtually impossible to feel happy if you don’t like yourself. Young women seem to be particularly affected by this with a quarter of 17-19 year-old females having a diagnosed mental health problem.(3) This is a very significant statistic and it should ring alarm bells to parents, politicians, and anyone who cares for the future welfare of our nation.

Recently, I received a despairing email, in the middle of the night from a mother whose daughter was being cyber-bullied. The mother was desperate and said her daughter was self-harming and suicidal. This had been caused by the hateful messages she was getting online. I don’t think anyone can really deny the potential harmful effect of cyber-bullying on young people’s well-being.  Issues traditionally resolved in the playground are now, very publicly and relentlessly, being played out online, both during the day and, worse still, at night. A recent study found that 18% of children have been bullied online.(4) This is a potentially public and highly humiliating experience which can, and often does, result in anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide.

“The experience of being cyberbullied was associated with greater stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness. Victims were also more likely to exhibit a range of behavioural, emotional and somatic symptoms, and the findings identified a moderately strong association with suicidal intention. This suggests that victims were significantly more likely to have contemplated committing suicide.” (5)

However, research suggests that only 13% of children being bullied online will delete the app. On the other hand, 24% turn to self-harm and a further 22% will attempt to change their appearance in response to the abuse. (6)

These figures reflect the power that social networking sites have over children; that they are almost twice as likely to self-harm as they are to delete the app on which they are being bullied.

Returning to my story, I was able to advise the mother to encourage her daughter to delete the app she was being bullied on or alternatively to have a period without her phone. Her mother emailed back to say her daughter had voluntarily given up her phone and was now a different child. She was back in control of her life and had cut the magnet by which the bullies could access her.

In my work as a GP I am regularly seeing young adults with significant and enduring mental health problems, which include anxiety and depression, personality disorders, self-harm and suicidal intention. Is it more than coincidence that these young people are the first generation of adults to grow up with unlimited access to smart phones and social media?

As parents (I have three children) what can we do in this tumultuous season? We don’t want to live in fear but equally, none of us want our child to be the victim of cyber-bullying or of self-harm algorithms on social media. All of us, I believe, would want our children to thrive in making personal connections and relationships.  Cynics will say that it is a digital world and that tech-savvy teens will have an advantage in their future work place. However, social skills and resilience are essential if the next generation is to navigate the complexities of the real world and relationships.

What do I propose? The charity I have set up PAPAYA (Parents against Phone Addiction in Young Adolescents) aims to help children thrive in the digital age. It is also to support parents to make good, positive choices around their family’s use of technology. However, to achieve this, we as parents, need to be prepared to work together. We all know how hard it can be to say no and the persuasive tsunami that our children assault us with when they really want something. However, how much easier is it to set positive boundaries when we know other parents are doing the same thing? One parent that I recently met said their community of parents had all agreed their children could only play Fortnite (a very addictive online game) at weekends (and even then for only set periods of time). Another mother, phoned all the parents of the children that her son was gaming with. They agreed a set time that they would all get their children to stop.

As parents, what are our options? At PAPAYA we encourage parents to come up with their own personal solutions and also solutions at a community level. There are no set answers and each family will find something different that works for them. Some groups of parents have collaborated and sent their children to secondary school with nothing more than a basic phone. By doing this en masse you ensure your child is not alone. However, this is not the answer for everyone. A huge step forward would be to follow the advice from Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, not to allow phones in rooms at night. It is within the isolation of a bedroom that most of the dark side of technology occurs (such as online grooming, pornography, inappropriate content about self-harm and cyber-bullying).

If as parents we can get back on the front foot and make unified decisions together we can see our children advantage from all the positives of technology without being negatively affected by its darker side.

Dr Susie Davies

Founder of PAPAYA

www.papayaparents.com

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47019912
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/07/children-parents-screen-time-electronic-devices-bedrooms-uk-medical-officers
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46295719 
  4. The Health behaviour of school aged children survey http://www.hbscengland.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/National-Report-2015.pdf
  5. Kowalski,R.M.,etal.,Bullying in the Digital Age: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of Cyberbullying Research Among Youth. Psychological Bulletin, 2014
  6. https://www.ditchthelabel.org/research-papers/the-wireless-report/

papaya

Fizz Free and Sugar Smart

Last month, I took part in Fizz Free February to highlight the health issues associated with sugary and fizzy drinks. These include increased dental problems, obesity and diabetes, especially among children. In Bristol, more than half of adults and more than a third of children in Year Six are overweight or obese. Almost a quarter of kids in the city have at least one decayed, missing, or filled tooth. And more than a fifth of added sugar intake for 11-18 year olds comes from sugary soft drinks.

Bristol was one of the first places to achieve Sugar Smart City status two years ago, and the Council has since been running the Bristol Eating Better Awards to help local restaurants and takeaway to offer healthier options. We’re also looking to increase the exclusion zone around schools and youth clubs for new fast food places through the review of the Local Plan. One public-spirited local business in Southmead has installed a water fountain outside, which is also a good deal for the planet as it encourages the use of refillable bottles and cutting down on single-use plastics. Water is always the healthiest option, and should also always be the cheapest and easiest.

I was happy to meet with Labour’s North West MP Darren Jones and Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who also took part in the initiative, at Southmead Hospital at the end of February. Celebrity chefs have also backed Fizz Free and Sugar Smart and Tom has managed to reverse his own type 2 diabetes as a result of improving his health through diet and exercise. It was great to hear that the hospital has reduced the amount of sugary drinks sold, and meet NHS staff at Southmead about the work they’re doing to tackle these issues, but the scale of the problem is still shocking. I also encouraged the NHS to stay involved in our joined-up work across Bristol through the One City Plan.

For people in the poorest parts of Bristol these problems and health inequalities are at their most acute. Food deserts – where there are limited options for fresh, healthy and affordable produce – still exist in the city. Some on social media made jokes when I opened a new supermarket recently, but access to a better food at cheaper prices and jobs which pay a real Living Wage are not sniffed at for a second by most Bristolians.

All of this isn’t to say that – as part of a balanced diet – the occasional fizzy drink or sugary snack isn’t ok. They are, but it doesn’t do anyone any harm to be more mindful about what we eat and drink. And policy-makers have a real duty to try to encourage healthier choices.

International Women’s Day 2019

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

In 2018, I became Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, the only dedicated city cabinet member with responsibility for Women in the UK. No other city makes such a clear statement about the importance of a focus on women. In Bristol we know that unless we ensure our women are safe, free from violence and abuse, supported and healthy then our families cannot thrive. We consider childcare an economic issue and have made affordable childcare a city priority. We want to improve health outcomes for women; in some parts of Bristol they are amongst the lowest in the country. We are determined to eradicate period poverty in Bristol, an issue that affects too many of our women and girls.

The work of extraordinary women keeps this brilliant city moving, thriving and improving. And in my role, I am lucky enough to meet many great women whose names you may not recognise, but who give so much to their communities, organisations and in turn to Bristol.

In Southmead, women lead our community. Southmead has so much going on; from knitting groups to poetry workshops to a soap opera.  But there is one extraordinary  woman who is at the centre of everything. Deana Perry is committed to ‘resident power’, she fights to make sure that people living in Southmead always have their say (as well as running bingo, Team Southmead, Young Mums, going to Royal Weddings and playing skittles!).

Every community has a Deana, women who work tirelessly to make things happen and give so much of their own time to others. At Felix Road Adventure Playground, Mandy Watson has steered the organisation back from the brink and now chairs this  amazing space that really is ‘home’ for so many children. The playground is thriving with exciting plans for the future and Mandy continues to lead whilst showering children and staff with love and support.  

Saada Jumale does endless work in the Somali community and has done for the past 14 years, she runs a girls group, founded a women group and organises an elders women’s lunch. She quietly makes things happen and is a lynchpin for many Somali women.

Lorraine Bush has been a champion for Hartcliffe for many years. She is an inspirational leader, whose commitment to families and individuals with drug and alcohol problems never diminishes. Lorraine has ensured that Hawkspring has survived and grew, despite financial challenges in the past.

Nikki Lawrence leads the Family Nurse Partnership in Bristol, working with young mums and their babies, providing vital support in keeping families together and helping young women to access education. Her team are a lifeline for families across the city.

Unique Voice and Community of Purpose are two brilliant organisations, led by women, working to support our most disadvantaged children. Unique Voice, led by the unbelievably passionate Krystal Keeley, Claire Farnham and Cat Sparkes, uses drama and the creative arts to work with children on anti-bullying, internet safety and provides free holiday provision. Amy Kington and Holly Maurice at Community of Purpose champion Bristol’s amazing young people through the Bristol Young Heroes Awards  and their work combatting holiday hunger.

Debra Newick and Diane Bunyan led The Women of Lawrence Hill project , an amazing piece of work focussing on the development of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, over 100 local women contributed to ensure there will be employment opportunities for them. This research will be shared with Bristol City Council, and was led by Bristol Women’s Voice.

In business, Heather Cooper, at Hargreaves Lansdown is leading a cultural change.  Staff are encouraged to volunteer across the city and diversity and mentoring are championed. Heather’s Harbourside neighbours, We The Curious are shaking things up too. The organisation is now led by the effervescent Donna Speed and Anna Starkey who have led an incredible reinvention of one of Bristol’s key attractions and are determined to make We The Curious a place for all of Bristol.

Of course the list goes on. There are hundreds of women who deserve to be recognised for the work they do in Bristol and I wish I could name them all. Instead, we can all use International Women’s Day 2019 to recognise and thank the women in our communities and the work they do for all of us.

Bristol Talks

Bristol has a long history of debate and dissent often delivered through a biting wit. We are a city that is simultaneously immensely proud and robust with itself. This includes a rich commitment to publicly debating every potential weakness of the city and those who rise to prominence within it.

This can be an asset. It speaks to the city’s authenticity and is a safeguard of our democracy. Bristol has harvested the fruits of this. It’s enabled it to carve out a niche in the nation as the city that does things differently. It’s enabled the city to avoid “group think”, driven creativity, innovation and political change. But there is a view that in some ways this great quality may have become so distorted that it now hurts the city. People have been racing back and forth on Twitter and the comments left beneath news articles.

This distortion is part cause and part consequence of the tendency in today’s culture to polarize and “other” those who hold a different goal or even those who share a goal but may differ in their view of how to get there. It is part cause and part consequence of the social media platforms that drive us toward short, single dimensional arguments of a complex world, feed addictions to faceless affirmations through “likes”, “retweets” and “reposts”. It reaches its height of toxicity when this culture and these means of communication become THE means of interaction between politicians, journalists and the public as journalists look for division and conflict, politicians serve up division and conflict, and the public are entertained by division and conflict.

Although politicians have come to expect a poor public reception, but we know that some political debate has reached new lows when threats of violence are commonplace. It would be bad enough if this remained in the political world. But I fear it doesn’t.

Over recent months a number of people from business, public sector, voluntary community sector, health, faith groups and the media have come together to share concerns with me about what they see as a deterioration in the tone, quality and as a consequence usefulness, of Bristol’s civic discourse. By civic discourse they mean the conversation the city has with itself about itself.

A doctor friend of mine runs a charity tackling phone (social media) addiction in young people. Poor mental health is a huge consequence. We were discussing the implications of the way we undertake our civic discourse for young people. The question we got to was this: to what extent does the example set and culture created by fifty odd year old keyboard warriors sitting around late at night writing mean things about people shape the way young people begin to communicate with each other? We struggled to see an upside. We concluded the consequences of the culture our young people are growing up with are real, with consequences that will resonate through the decades to come. It suggests to me that how we behave and disagree as city leaders, journalists, private citizens and commentators is as important an input into the lives of our young people as the houses we build, services we fund or campaign for. The ability to disagree well could be one of the most important gifts we give our children in what seems to be becoming an increasing fractured world.

A cartoon I was sent had a little boy sat at his computer about Cartoon - Civic discourse

to post in the comments. His father is standing next to him with furrowed brow saying:

“Son, if you’ve got nothing nasty to say then don’t say anything at all”

It’s an amusing cartoon, but the humour fades if we reflect on the possibility that this is actually what we have come to, that nastiness is the mode of communication we are making the norm for our young people.

Those who have come together have suggested we need a city debate. Let’s have a chat with ourselves about the way we chat about ourselves. In a school, in a workplace, in a home we can be intentional about reviewing our culture. I think we can and should do the same as a city. We can take a proactive approach to assessing the quality of the civic discourse we currently have. Let’s take a view on it. If we like what we have, then fine. If not, then we can think about what we would like and how we get there. I don’t think its beyond us as a city to do this.

Here is a suggestion: let’s take Lent to do this. 40 days. #BristolTalks.

Let me know what you think.

The first few weeks

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Steve Pearce, Cabinet member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

When the Mayor asks anyone to join his Cabinet it’s a very great honour. For a born and bred Bristolian like me, it is doubly-so.

The change in role hasn’t been without its humour. The irony that I am the newly appointed cabinet member for Waste wasn’t lost on me when my own recycling collection was recently missed in the aftermath of the snow! But I’d like to repeat Marvin’s thanks for all the hard work done during the disruption caused by the inclement weather.

The new fleet of vehicles should begin arriving at Bristol Waste over the next few weeks and months. This should see a steady improvement in the reliability of the collections that residents get as the older, more unreliable vehicles are progressively retired from service. Keep an eye out for the new trucks.

The city should also see increased activity around our Clean Streets agenda as we continue to raise the profile of this work still further by making the streets measurably cleaner by 2020. The public has a right to be able to take pride in the state of our city. I am proud to see the large army of volunteers and committed community groups to tidy our neighbourhoods. We will come down even harder on the minority that seem to think that littering and fly-tipping restrictions are things that other people should take heed of, not them.

We’re progressing with (what I will insist on calling) our Household Waste Reuse & Recycling Centres at Avonmouth and Hartcliffe Way at a pace that was started by Kye Dudd, my predecessor. The team is working hard to get these built and operational as soon as we can. I receive fortnightly reports on this work. This was not only a manifesto promise; it’s a matter of the city’s carbon footprint and a financial & social benefit too.

Deputy Mayor Asher Craig and I had a very exciting meeting with members of the Pesticide Safe Bristol Alliance in the last couple of weeks following the debate at January’s Full Council on the use of glyphosate to control weeds. We will work on a One City basis to develop new methodologies to control weeds that are less dependent on pesticide use, especially glyphosate. Not just on council owned land but across the city. Watch out for more news on this work in the coming months.

My promotion to the Cabinet hasn’t been without an element of sadness but relinquishing my Licencing, Scrutiny and Audit committee roles goes with the territory. I give thanks to the team in Licensing for their help and support over the last few years, both elected members and officers. Not only has it been a total blast but I’m certain that we’ve saved lives and made Bristol’s night-time economy a safer place to be. I know that they’ll continue the great work.

The Scrutiny team will joke that I’ve joined the Dark Side but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time on several of our Scrutiny Commissions over the years; for a while serving as Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Management Board. Again I want to thank friends and colleagues, for their kindnesses. Their help and advice over the last several years have helped to secure this new opportunity for me. I couldn’t have done it without you.

And there’s more. But I suspect my editor will already be losing patience with me because of the length of this piece. Three hundred words, I was told. That was never going to happen. So I’ll just have to elbow the Mayor to one side on another occasion if I’m to blog about some of those other things!

Apprentices building Bristol’s economy across all sectors

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Anna Keen, cabinet lead for Education and Skills.

Apprenticeships play a huge part in our efforts in building an inclusive, flourishing economy that doesn’t leave people behind.  They bring together training and real life experience to ensure the individuals completing each programme are work-ready, demonstrating first class experience of work, transferable skills that most employers look for and high quality qualifications.

Yet there are still myths about apprenticeships, who can do them, the types of subjects they cover and they often still come with a stigma of being a second class choice. I often see schools and parents guiding their young people towards other options, perhaps not fully understanding a modern day apprenticeship.

This week is National Apprenticeships Week, which shines a light on apprentices and their employers across the country and how much apprenticeship programmes have changed over the years.

Did you know…

  • Apprenticeships are suitable for anyone aged 16 or over?
  • Apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from Level 2 for those just starting their career to Level 7 Master’s Degree equivalent across professional and management roles?
  • Apprenticeships cover a range of sectors, including law, finance, education, sales, marketing, IT as well as more traditional subjects?
  • Doing an apprenticeship can increase your long term earning potential and are also great for those returning to work or changing career?
  • Apprenticeships offer a competitive salary whilst all your training costs are paid, including at degree level?

For the employers that take on apprentices, the benefits are far-reaching. Across the UK, 78% of these organisations reported improved activity across the workforce, 74% reported improved product or service quality, 65% recognised the new ideas that apprentices bring to their organisation and 83% would recommend other business take on apprentices (Learners and Apprentices Survey 2018 report).

At Bristol City Council we currently have 160 apprentices across all areas (including one in the Mayor’s Office) and aim to increase that to 200 by 2020. Some of the council’s apprentices recently interviewed Mayor Rees on what apprentices bring to Bristol and the organisation.

This week there are a number of opportunities across the city to find out more about apprenticeships, including:

  • A digital open day on Wednesday 6 March, 10am-3pm with a range of organisations answering questions about apprenticeships on Twitter.  Anyone with an apprenticeship question can get in touch with one of the participating organisations via Twitter using the hashtag #ApprenticeOpenDay 

Drop in sessions at The Mall, The Galleries and City of Bristol College

  • Employer events at Aerospace Bristol

For more information about all of these events, visit www.bristol.works/apprenticeships

This week also sees the launch of a brand new website, as part of the Healthier Together partnership, which promotes apprenticeships across the region’s health and social care services.

Bristol is also taking part in the government’s Five Cities Apprenticeship Diversity Hub project, which is a pilot scheme designed to broaden the appeal of apprenticeships to more diverse audiences. It includes Bristol alongside Birmingham, Leicester, London and Manchester. Locally it is also supported by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).

Apprenticeships provide us with a talent pipeline for the future and help us develop leaders for the future – I am proud to be supporting National Apprenticeship Week as a celebration of the energy and passion that apprentices bring to our city.