Firstly, let me reiterate my thank you to everyone who came to the rally for Bristol last Saturday. In ‘changeable’ weather conditions, it was inspiring to march with so many people who care about our city. The Rally had so many excellent speakers who talked about pride in their city, including Hibaq Jama, Joanne Kaye, Rob Wotherspoon, Marti Burgess, Cleo Lake, John Rees, Owen Jones, Forward Maisokwadzo, Anjali Gohil, Amirah Cole, Jendayi Serwha, Kevin Courtney, Lauren Gavaghan and Karen Passmore. We also had the visible passion of City Poet, Miles Chambers and the excellent hosting of BCFM’s Pat Hart.
While I am loathe to pick anybody out, I will mention The Rev Dave Jeal, a Bristolian who grew up in Lawrence Weston and Southmead and today lives and works in Lockleaze (You can learn more about Dave in this Radio Four interview). He talked starkly about the poverty, inequality and division in our city and the need for all of us to work together to take the challenge on. His own Kennedyesque summary summed up our challenge, “ask not what your city can do for you, ask what you can do for your city”.
It was important to hear Bristol people talk about their vision and hope for the city and the challenges we face. The government’s austerity programme goes to the heart of these challenges while we as a Local Authority (along with the public sector as a whole) face doing more with less.
The Core Cities Green Paper for Cities was launched yesterday in Parliament and acknowledged by the Secretary of State. I had a conversation with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, yesterday and then the Core City leaders also met with Rebecca Long-Bailey. It is clear the official opposition will support the call for additional funds and powers for cities. I am also pleased to say we were the only city to have all of its MPs turn up in support: Kerry McCarthy MP, Darren Jones MP, Thangam Debbonaire MP and Karin Smyth MP. Bristol finds itself at the forefront of the efforts to raise the city voice.
We will keep the momentum as we move into the party conference season and then turn our attention to the Autumn financial statement.
A huge positive to come out of the Green Paper is a meeting between core city leaders and the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier. This is real progress because despite the negotiations about nation to nation relationships from Brexit, it is city to city relationships that will matter most in economic terms. As our national government’s standing on the international stage becomes more uncertain, it is cities that offer the international relations that will drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Also, next week I will briefly be in New York for the New York Global Mayor’s summit. I will be progressing Bristol’s international ambitions to drive trade and investment into our city. City to City relationships across the world, as well as in Europe, are essential to the success of Bristol’s future economy and I will continue to make these a priority.