The Mayor of Bristol’s annual address 2023

*Check against delivery; above, from 1:25:05*

Thank you Lord Mayor

As this is my last annual address, I want to thank all the Lord Mayors I’ve worked with. 

In 2016 I stood in this chamber and said: if you want to go fast, go alone and if you want to go far, go together.

And I’d say that together we have gone far in these seven years. We have got stuff done.

At the heart of that is positive working relationships with our city partners across health, higher and further education, unions, voluntary sector, private sector who want to go in the same direction. They have jumped at the chance to work with an ambitious, outward looking local authority clear on its values. That has translated into national partners such as Homes England, Network Rail, L&G and DLUC wanting to invest with us.

The common theme that made those relationships successful was everyone committed to taking on complex challenges and secure delivery for Bristol people.

And there have been great occasions where coalitions of the cabinet, the Labour group, and some councillors in other parties have worked with us to ensure delivery on issues of real local importance such as bus lanes, liveable neighbourhoods, citizen assembly and of course the budget.

I want to reflect on this record of delivery:

City Leap; four years in the making, at a cost of seven million pounds plus officer time. Now bringing £630 million of investment by 2028, saving over 150,000 tonnes of emissions and transforming our relationship with energy. Its being held up as a national and international example other UK cities are working to replicate.

That is one of the reasons our international profile has become so strong – City Leap was discussed at London climate week and will be on the agenda at COP 28 as the world understands that it is in cities that the battle against climate change will be won or lost.

Real and tangible cultural investment; Bristol Beacon, old Vic and St George’s. This year there are over 100 free events in Bristol, as well as the growth of our festivals including the return of St Paul’s Carnival.

Investment in children and young people – new schools: Elmfield school for deaf people, Oasis Academy Daventry Road and Oasis Academy Temple Quarter on Silverthorne Lane. That contributes to an increase in school places including SEND. And of course we have the Youth Zone, a major investment in young people in South Bristol but available to people across Bristol.

We have a Clean Air Zone, we have a moral and legal requirement to deliver compliant air quality in the shortest possible time. We’ve secured £42million to support people and businesses through the transition. We’ve just secured another £11 million of exemption funding. And we intervened by the way to ensure the threshold for targeted support was increased from those earning under £27,000 to £30,000 a year.

Other Public Health interventions were key as we navigated the pandemic and worked with NHS services to roll out the vaccine.

We overhauled the work to tackle violence and abuse against women and girls through the Women’s Safety Charter and the priority housing for women fleeing domestic violence and abuse.

Transport interventions such as closing Cotham Hill and Princess Victoria Street to cars and the introduction of other segregated cycle routes around the city. We’ve pedestrianised of the Old City and King street. And we’ve invested in bus gates and bus lanes to give them priority. We put bus gates on Bristol Bridge and Baldwin street to improve bus frequency and reliability.

And we’ve started the long overdue work on our bridges over the new cut with £16 million repairs now underway, from Gaol Ferry Bridge, through to Sparke Evans, Vauxhall Bridge, Bath Bridge, Langton Street and Bedminster bridge.

We are opening new train stations at Portway and Ashley Down, the first since the Beeching Report. And of course, we secured £95 million for Temple Meads unlocking the regeneration of temple quarter and temple island which will build out over the coming decades. Bringing 10,000 homes, 22,000 jobs and £1.5 billion into the city economy every year.

Looking to the future, we have the Local Plan – which will set a framework for how we use our 42 square miles for homes, work, ecology and leisure. This will come to Full Council to consider later this year.

Most importantly of all: we’ve built homes – Last year Bristol built 2,563 new homes with 474 of these being affordable, the most in more than a decade at a time when it is most difficult to get it done.

Over the remaining months of this administration we’ll continue to work with those who want to get stuff done for Bristol and deliver homes.

We are securing public and private investment, with £2 billion ready to be spent in Bristol. That means homes and commercial growth and jobs. And we’ve put the SDGs at the heart of our One City Plan which means this growth will be inclusive and sustainable.

These investments include:

Debenhams, the Galleries, St James Barton, our own development at Hengrove Park and the Western Harbour.

Building affordable quality homes in the right places is the single most significant intervention we can make to change Bristol into a city where our children get off to the best start in life, improve population health, build safe communities and reduce the price the planet pays for hosting us in our growing numbers.

There’s a point to make here – we get a lot of people agree we need to build homes, for all those reasons and more. But they lack either the political will, or political courage to see it through and deliver.  

With that challenge in mind, I offer a reflection for the next eight years.

Bristol is a collective act – what people get from Bristol is not the result of any single organisation’s decisions. People actually sit at the intersection of the decisions made by local government, health service, business, voluntary community sector, unions, faith groups, criminal justice system, national government. It has to be about more than Bristol City Council.

We have to bring all those institutions into alignment around shared goals.

Andy Marsh, our former chief constable said that world-class public sector leadership is not about what you control, it’s about what you influence.

That’s what the city office offers you, and that’s why the City Office is important.

I encourage you to reach out and take on the challenge; grow those relationships and maintain the levels of ambition.  

Lastly I will say – not for the last time – what an honour its been to represent this city and work for the residents of Bristol.

I’m connected to Bristol, I was born and raised here and this is my family’s home. 

It’s no secret I’m going though selection for Bristol North East seat at this time, but that will not take me away from my day job – I’m still putting the hours in preparing for this winter’s cost of living crisis, driving housing delivery, leading temple quarter regeneration and all the other work we have to do.

You won’t see me looking for a winnable seat in London, Plymouth, Manchester or elsewhere. Bristol is it for me.

I will continue to work to deliver for the next 10 months and whatever I can do after those 10 months to support Bristol I will.

Thank you