You can read my speech from last week’s State of the City Address below. It’s also available to watch online.
LAST YEAR/THIS YEAR
Last year, I used this speech to outline my desire to drive aspiration, tackle poverty and close our city’s growing inequality gap. I used this as a thread connecting all my plans and policies.
Eradicating poverty means putting jobs, homes and transport at the centre of a thriving, inclusive and sustainable economy. It means building a city where we all have hope: university graduates and those with few formal qualifications, those who come here from outside whether as students, migrants or refugees and those whose families have roots in the city going back generation, those born into wealthy families in wealthy wards and those born in those parts of our city that are amongst the most deprived.
This must be a city where talent, work, opportunity and the city’s compassion rather than the wealth of your parents is the key determinant of your life chances.
In this year’s annual address, I want to look at two things:
Our city performance, our challenges and achievements, and what we are planning to deliver. And I want to look at the city in global governance
Bristol remains a city of challenges. We are a wealthy city, the only region outside the south east to make a net contribution to the Treasury. We also have all the challenges of a modern city – air pollution, democratic deficit, education inequalities, health inequalities, congestion, housing shortages and insecurity.
The key tool I have at my disposal is the council. To be effective, I need a council that is of the city in its diversity, a council that doesn’t merely provide services but empowers people and partners, a council that can sometimes stand aside. A council that convenes, listens, asks and enables.
Our inheritance as an administration has only gradually revealed itself alongside government cuts, we faced our own failing financial system, highlighted by the Bundred report, pointing to a tendency to kick difficult decisions down the road. I asked my deputy Mayor, Craig Cheney to lead on finance, placed the Finance Director in the senior leadership team and asked them both to deliver an organisation that is financially disciplined.
Balancing the budget remains tough but we will do it with transparency and our values. I am grateful to Craig and finance director Denise Murray for their commitment. I also want to thank the wider council team for stepping up to the challenge.
I have announced our re-structure to a streamlined management team that will save the council three quarters of a million pounds a year and I am working with staff to introduce a set of organisational values, and a philosophy of work that will take us toward being the development organisation we need to be.
Nobody is going to vote for us because of it (although you can if you want to) but one of the most important things we can do is give the city, a council that’s financially competent.
But Finance is not our only challenge. The city elects its political leaders, all councillors of all parties. Some have fallen into a tired mis-understanding that political leadership means scoring cheap points, tripping up the Mayor with a tricky question, or taking debate into the weeds of council processes.
The city elected us to lead, not play placard politics, and again tonight, I say to all parties, you have three years before the next election, step aside from party divides and come and tell me what you want to achieve, work with me and the Labour group to get it done. If results are more important to you than headlines, we will make space for you.
We are not alone in the budget challenge. Every council now has what’s called a ‘graph of doom’ that shows the funding gap created by reduced funding versus the rising costs of adult social care and children’s services. Councils have reached breaking point with everyone expecting someone to fail and hoping it won’t be them. After a decade of austerity, the UK is heading rapidly towards the bottom of the league table on public spending.
We are left balancing the need to protect life and limb crisis services against the need to invest in early interventions such as children’s centres and mental health which pay off over the medium term and in turn, against non-service areas such as the city’s cultural offer.
I am sometimes asked to set a ‘no cuts’ budget, effectively a budget that doesn’t balance, or use reserves or borrow. I feel the temptation as austerity is a mistaken philosophy for both moral and strategic reasons, it’s hurting people and undermining our economy. But the no cuts budget argument is flawed.
First, we would of course, cede political control of our city to un-elected officials from Westminster.
Second, on the use of reserves and borrowing, this is an ephemeral solution and each year, will effectively worsen the situation, although we do use some reserves.
Third, the argument for an unbalanced budget misses a vital fact: that the council is integral to the health of the wider economy and a failure to manage our finances would damage the whole city’s reputation and undermine the confidence of government, private sector and international investors. The developers we need to build our homes would withdraw, the major infrastructure schemes we are planning would struggle to secure the finance needed and the ability to grow our economy would be undermined. The price the people of Bristol would pay through lost growth and lost jobs would be greater than the total value of the services the advocates of an illegal budget are fighting to protect.
So I say again clearly tonight, I will set a balanced budget during my administration. I will continue to point out the damage being caused by austerity and campaign for a better deal from government, but the city cannot afford for us to carry forward the attitude of previous administrations of kicking difficult decisions down the road.
So, the council faces those well publicised financial challenges but it would be wrong to see the council just through the lens of decline. We approach city leadership knowing that trial produces perseverance, perseverance character and character, hope. Public spending and the workers who deliver outcomes make a huge contribution to the city, with a billion pound presence. We often overlook the impact we are really having, bringing Labour values of fairness and equality of opportunity.
Bristol remains one of very few cities to keep the impact fund, investing 3.3 million pounds in community organisations.
Over the last few months, we have been working hard to find the best way forward for local libraries, working with Bristol’s schools, churches, charities, and children’s centres.
Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig has promoted an innovative new model, drawing on our communities’ creativity. That way forward could see a library service continue for most areas currently served, including those in the most deprived parts of our city. This would be a remarkable achievement in the face of a reduced spend of 1.4 million pounds.
We are keeping a key pledge I made to the city and plan to keep open all 22 children’s centres, maintaining our commitment to early intervention. We are also in the early stages of developing a children’s charter working with partners and children from across the city to develop our pledge to all children, to get them off to the best possible start in life. I pay tribute to the imagination and leadership of my cabinet lead for children and young people, Helen Godwin.
We are also the only core city that retains the full council tax reduction scheme, and with the support of my Labour colleagues, for this year at least, will recommend to full council that we retain this scheme intact.
We saved other important elements of the budget, including: passes for carers, community transport, the cascade mental health programme. We have maintained our commitment to being a living wage employer, continued to invest over 5 million pounds per annum in the supporting people intervention budgets and invested over 10 million pounds in homelessness prevention.
Our Learning City project recently accepted a UNESCO progress award for a culture of collaboration in education. Praise came for our strong governance model and the wide range of partners involved in shaping our vision. I thank my Cabinet Lead for Education and Skills, and my favourite Conservative, Claire Hiscott for her leadership and the many schools and education partners who contributed.
As they did in Project Rainbow, helping young people with special education needs to live independently, again collaboration with City of Bristol College, parents and the young people themselves.
The Bristol Boys project has been established to address the under-achievement of early age boys;
the Bristol Scholar programme has been initiated – 42 scholars started at the University of Bristol, three quarters of those students became the first in their family to go to university.
Our Works programme has been rolled out. The programme brings together employers, learning providers and communities and will deliver over 1000 meaningful work experiences in the next year, especially for people from low income households. Contributors include EDF, Bristol green Capital Partnership, the Bottleyard and GENeco.
The Excellence in Schools Group will be submitting joint bids for the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund, to support schools most in need, to improve school performance and pupil attainment.
We are aiming to boost the number of chess clubs at schools so that every child has the opportunity to learn chess and at City Hall, we hosted our very own chess tournament for primary schools.
We have facilitated 154 thousand pounds of grant funding, to 28 community-led projects for clean energy initiatives and we actively promoted the sugar smart campaign.
We had our first Exceptional People In Care (EPIC) awards and we are grateful to the city partners and organisations who sponsored. The awards showed our appreciation for amazing achievements and encouraged them in their journey towards a successful life, after care.
We have refreshed our Corporate Parenting Strategy, committing the council as a caring and ambitious corporate parent to children in care.
We continue to provide social care to our most vulnerable adult citizens. The Care Act of 2014 brought additional responsibilities for local authorities but we have found new ways of making a difference, as well as increasing our social care budgets by over 17 million pounds. I thank my cabinet lead for adults, Helen Holland, who has taken over this challenging portfolio.
With community and faith partners, we launched Feeding Bristol as part of Feeding Britain, a national project aiming to end food poverty, targeting a ‘Zero Hunger Bristol.’
Community breakfast clubs have been founded and groups have been formed to provide vulnerable children with activities while sharing food and teaching cooking skills.
And we launched the Enterprising West of England Programme, to provide business support to new and growing companies that support disadvantaged areas and groups traditionally under-represented in enterprise. We are supporting 700 companies, creating 230 new jobs.
And we are getting our streets clean. Hundreds of people have taken part in community clean ups, we launched a Litter superheroes campaign with primary schools, posters on 1000 bins, digital signs on 170 bus stops, inside 200 buses.
We are developing a new graffiti policy to tackle tagging, have tripled the number of eco-schools and provided litter picking kits to thirty schools. The Great Bristol Spring Clean, the ‘Poo Patrol Big Spray Day’ and now, the Autumn Litter Blitz. I pay tribute to my cabinet lead for waste and energy, Fi Hance, project lead, Kurt James and to all the volunteers who have made an effort, to Bristol Waste Company and to all those who put their own litter in a bin or take it home.
But we must go further. 7,000 tonnes of waste annually costs us 6 million pounds to clear up, money we could spend elsewhere. So tonight, I promise you, we will take enforcement seriously. Starting from the 6th November, enforcement teams will be patrolling the streets issuing £75 fixed penalty notices to people caught dropping litter and 80 pounds for leaving dog mess. To offenders who persist in making our city dirty, I say, clean up your act now.
In tandem, the Broadmead Business Improvement District (BID) have given one thousand pounds worth of gifts to the city. These will be randomly handed out to people spotted doing something to clean up Bristol. I thank John Hirst of Destination Bristol and the business community for their efforts on this initiative.
Cities are prime examples of interdependency. No institution can deliver alone. What we can do is create the conditions in which success is more rather than less likely and we increase those chances when we work together.
We have great city partners from the police to the NHS, business, unions, voluntary and education sectors. People consistently come forward in the name of contributing to Bristol’s common good.
I am proud that we have Joanna Holmes and her team at Barton Hill Settlement, providing employment and financial advice, supporting hundreds of families across that area.
Alex Kittow and his team at Southmead Development Trust, who, with Mark Pepper at Ambition Lawrence Weston are leading the way in the building of new types of housing, shaped and led by their local communities.
Carolyn Hassan at the Knowle West Media Centre promoting innovative approaches to manufacture and digital inclusion; Steve Sayers and his team at Windmill Hill City Farm rolling out new social enterprise and creating volunteering and employment opportunities for local people; Roger Griffith, Paul Hassan, Kevin Philemon, Pat and Sherrie Hart at Ujima Radio and BCfm providing a platform for different voices and Poku Osei at Babbasa offering bespoke mentoring and career guidance for the city’s youth.
One more person I have to mention is someone, who because of the huge amount he does around the city and the sheer level of projects he is involved in, many of you will know, and that is Andy Street. Andy has delivered the hunger programme, the city office, our rough sleeping initiative, has helped to create a modern day Muller Fund, promoted a debt service and is working with me on establishing a city fund. He is an inspiration and I have no idea where he finds the time.
52% of our citizens already help out in their community at least 3 times a year and we have launched a Social Action Plan. To make community action more accessible, we have opened the website Can-Do Bristol, a digital platform designed purely for communities to help themselves, connecting people and businesses looking to help, to projects looking for that help.
I have continued work with Ed Rowberry and Bristol Bath Regional Capital to create a ‘City Fund’, or more accurately a family of city funds. We want business to commit a portion of existing corporate social responsibility spend to a single pot to be spent at scale here, rather than in 100 different places.
Several Business, Charity and Civic Leaders have already engaged in the discussion and I have asked Bristol & Bath Regional Capital and Quartet to help recruit more partners to the initiative. All are welcome.
Let’s return to where I started, with a clear recognition of the key building blocks in a thriving, inclusive city. Jobs, Housing, transport and infrastructure underpin our economic growth strategy and the city plan.
On these, we have big aspirations. There is a tendency in our city to think we can’t deliver big, that we have to think small because we failed to deliver in the past. I reject that.
On Housing, we initiated eight new-build council housing developments, in Henbury and Lawrence Weston. And we recently announced the next phase of our new build programme: a council owned site at Alderman Moore, in Ashton Vale, for 130 more new homes.
My Cabinet lead for housing Paul Smith is doing a great job.
We have worked hard to make the development of Temple Quarter, a government priority. As a result, and with the support of our colleagues across the combined authority, we have submitted a bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund. Like all government funds, it will be substantially over-subscribed but we know our bid is strong and has a reasonable chance of success. The bid would bring 100 million pounds to Temple Meads to unlock additional housing and we also plan to continue with the developments in Hengrove, Lockleaze and Southmead.
That bid brings an additionality of over 4000 homes to the city centre.
We will use those housing plans to try and breathe life back into Temple Meads Station. I am happy to announce tonight we are working with Network Rail, The Homes and Community Agency and the university to leverage a plan to redevelop Temple Meads Station and the surrounding area, bringing a new retail and hospitality offer to Temple Meads, with a more direct link to the city centre.
We also have plans to bring ambitious development to the Cumberland Basin. We are putting together a proposal that will tear down the old, ugly road network across the western end of the harbour, build a new bridge across the river at a lower point and develop the available land on both sides of the Avon, bringing more affordable housing to the city centre, extending the harbour as a residential area to the west.
My administration inherited a Joint Spatial Plan. My cabinet lead, Nicola Beech has worked hard to ensure we get the best deal for Bristol. That plan is a starting point, and we have pledged to raise our own ambitions, significantly increasing the number of homes planned for Bristol in the next 20 years. Nicola will head up work to identify land suitable for housing and as I announced last year, we will re-write the local plan and build more densely and higher.
I have also met with city partners with proposals for interim housing to help ease short term crisis and build a bridge between people and the housing market. And, when I leave here tonight, I am going to the ‘we can make’ model home in Knowle West where I will spend the night with local councillor, Chris Jackson.
On transport, as I said I would last year, I launched the congestion task group and they have been operational for 6 months, 20 experts in a room, led by my cabinet lead for Transport, Mhairi Threlfall. No political games, no obstructions, no vested interests, just people finding solutions.
They are looking at the Bristol Transport Plan that will form the basis of a regional transport plan and inputting into the City Plan for long term aims.
I can also announce our intention to implement a No Idle Roadworks policy. We will tackle the frustration of idle roadworks and improve on road information, providing the opportunity for citizens to report inactive scenes.
I have been working with James Freeman, MD at FirstBus to introduce contactless payments on their entire fleet. I can announce tonight, the technology is being fitted and tested with a target operational date of January the 8th. I am extremely grateful to James and his team at First for working with us.
This announcement comes on the back of the previous announcement by First to invest in clean air and they are working to introduce 110 Bio Methane fuelled buses with the fuelling infrastructure. I encourage other operators to invest in the same technology.
There is always talk about modal shift reducing congestion but that won’t happen unless there are viable alternatives and we remain the only major city without a mass transit system.
Metro Bus will help but is only part of the solution. Congestion remains one of our most serious problems. It hinders people movement, worsens air quality and weakens our economy. I previously announced, we have commissioned a pre-feasibility study for underground with our partners in the West of England Authority, and initial feedback is that ground conditions don’t look too problematic and that with the right level of investment, is perfectly buildable.
A mass transit scheme, that connects the northern fringe, the south and the east to the centre and connects the city, to our growing airport and people to jobs, has the potential to be transformative for the city and region. Accordingly, my city leader partners, Tim Warren in B&NES, Matthew Riddle in South Glos, Nigel Ashton in North Somerset and of course, our Metro Mayor Tim Bowles, all recognise the generational opportunity this presents and will support the full feasibility study being commissioned this month.
JOBS AND ECONOMY
So, we will shape our housing and transport actions towards inclusive, sustainable growth and we will ensure we secure land for industrial use as part of a clear intent to maintain a diverse economy. Bringing trade and investment and tourism remains a key focus, along with our cultural offer.
I support the TUC campaign for Better Jobs for a Better Bristol, we have celebrated European City of Sport, we are supporting our airport’s growth plans, and we are working to try and bring Channel 4 here.
Having looked at our challenges and achievements, there is a bigger context in which to see the city. The city you experience today is the product of past and present action and inaction by the whole range of public, private, voluntary and faith organisations. Add to this the national and international forces, trade and of course our personal decisions.
National governments the world over are finding they don’t have the tools to cope with the changing world around them and fail on everything from climate change, to inequality to democratic legitimacy and they risk dragging cities down with them. National governance continues to be important in so many areas but we must recognise it is shaped to face the challenges of the last century.
Central governments are weak partners for city leaders. This makes re-balancing sovereignty to empower cities, the great opportunity of our time. While the genie is out of the bottle on devolution, it often focuses in the wrong areas, has been ad hoc and inconsistent and does not come with the power to plan for the long term. As our very own Robin Hambleton put it a few years ago, “we need to move beyond the devolution deception”.
If we can do our bit and organise ourselves as a city, collectively agree what we want to deliver over the coming decades, and if we secure the necessary financial powers, freedoms and flexibility from government, there is little that is beyond us.
With globalisation and austerity changing the shape of the economy and as cities continue to attract people for work and community, so their economic impact and social resonance continues to grow in a way that builds the city identity. In their book, the Metropolitan Revolution, Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley describe this phenomenon as “Cities aggregate people and places in a geography that is large enough to make a difference but small enough to impart a sense of community and common purpose”.
And it is that sense of community and common purpose that we are using to drive forward the City Office and write a One Bristol Plan to map out Bristol’s future towards 2050, a plan for the city that we will all collectively write and deliver. I am grateful to Louise Sunderland from KPMG for co-ordinating this work for me and for the many city partners who are helping to plan and write it.
THE SIZE OF THE CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY
Quoting again, “The metropolitan revolution is of our era. Crowd sourced rather than close sourced, entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic, networked rather than hierarchical”.
And recognising the scale of the challenge, it is important to know we are not alone in this thinking. Last month I was in New York with 50 of the world’s most progressive cities and global institutions, already working in recognition of shifting challenges and the key role of cities in meeting them. Those cities, from the US, Africa, Asia, Europe as well as in the UK are working to ensure cities have the power to control what goes on in their boundaries and also the national and international context in which they live.
Cities from around the world have far more powers and the UK ranks well down the city sovereignty league table. UK is the most centralised state in the democratic world and it’s an old model that has to change. I will be calling on my own party for a parliamentary strategy that doesn’t just argue for the policy of more funding, although we need that, but widens the debate to work towards a new city government model, that reflects the size of the city contribution to our state and to the world.
The argument is growing. In the UK, the Local Government Information Unit is calling for a Mayors senate, for the mayoral model to be expanded, for a systematic review of public finance and for a new constitutional settlement.
In their report, they recognise that capacity, knowledge and expertise at city level is more essential than ever and they acknowledge a painful truth – that the relationship between city and national government is not one of equals but a hierarchical relationship where cities go cap in hand.
Patricia de Lille, the Mayor of Cape Town and Chair of the Global Parliament of Mayors says we should be talking about spheres of government rather than tiers of government.
And my colleague and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said recently, “if the 19th century was the century of empire, the 20th century the century of nation states, then the 21st century is surely the century of mayors and cities”.
Bristol is now at the forefront of this movement. I have been elected to the steering committee of the Global Parliament of Mayors and Bristol will be hosting the next parliament of Mayor’s in 2018. This is a huge opportunity for the profile of the city and region around the world, and a chance to showcase our investability, our tourism and trade match-ups. We will work with the core cities, the department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of International Trade to maximise the impact we gain from the presence of 100 mayors of global cities, in Bristol. I welcome the vice chair of the Global Parliament of Mayor’s, Peter Kurz, the Mayor of Mannheim, here tonight.
ASK AND OFFER
Tonight, I have set out the challenge and opportunity, so come forward and make Bristol a big offer. Tell me what great thing you want to get done for the city, tell me what you need from me and the rest of the city in order to deliver it. Let’s work together to make a difference.