Author Archives: marvinjrees

Equal Pay Day and the Gender Pay Gap

Today’s guest blog is from Jackie Longworth, from Bristol Women’s Commission’s
Economy Task Force and Chair of Fair Play South West.

Today – 18 September 2021 – is International Equal Pay Day. It’s a day on which we take stock of where we are in terms of the gender pay gap here in Bristol, and shine a light on what more is needed to achieve gender equality.

Bristol Women’s Commission was set up eight years ago to deliver on the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. Without equal pay, we will never achieve this. Last year, the UN predicted it would take 250 years to achieve equal pay between women and men globally. Bristol One City has an ambitious goal of 2040 – which, of course, we are all hoping to deliver even sooner.

We know that the pandemic has hit women harder than men. Last year, our Economy Task Group produced Delivering an Inclusive Economy Post-Covid-19, a report which outlined many of the ways in which women have been disproportionately affected; from taking on more unpaid care duties to being more likely to be furloughed or made redundant.

Equal pay for equal work

Equal pay means that a woman is paid the same per hour as a man for doing either the same work or work assessed as of equal value. It is a legal requirement in the UK and a woman can take an employer to tribunal to have it enforced. However, failures to comply with equal pay laws are not common enough to explain the ‘Gender Pay Gap’; most of the gap is due to the different jobs which tend to be done by women and men and whether they are full-time or part-time.

Gender pay gap refers the average hourly pay of a group of women employees compared with that of a group of men employees. There are many different gender pay gaps that can be calculated: relative to geography or other identifying factors, salary range/pay grade and different work patterns. Most measure the average based on the median: the mid-point at which half earn less, and half earn more. 

In Bristol in 2019 (later data is confused by the pandemic), the gap in median pay between full-time women and full-time men was 6.3%. However, nearly half (41%) of employed women work part-time compared with only 16% of men and there is a big hourly pay penalty for working part-time (27% for women, 37% for men). In terms of weekly pay, women have the double disadvantage of both lower pay per hour and fewer hours of work, which is why women tend to rely more on social security such as Universal Credit than men do. 

Impact of caring duties

The main reason more women than men work part-time is that they are unable to access high quality, local, affordable childcare, particularly for enough hours to enable them to work full-time. In Bristol, resolving this problem is a priority and we are working with partners to find innovative ways of supporting the childcare sector at the same time as joining with nationwide campaigners to seek improvements in Government policy. As well as childcare, more women than men care for disabled, sick or elderly relatives, a situation which will persist until there is better provision of publicly-funded social care.

The jobs available for part-time working tend to be in low paid sectors such as caring, cleaning, retail and hospitality. Many of these jobs are essential, skilled and undervalued and these very low pay rates need to be increased. Bristol is encouraging employers to pay all workers at least the Real Living Wage which would be a start. 

Gender Pay Gap reporting

Employers are required by law to report their internal pay gaps and encouraged to have action plans to reduce them. This could reduce the extent to which they illegally pay part-time workers less per hour than full-time workers in equivalent jobs. Despite the requirement to report these being suspended during the pandemic, Bristol City Council has voluntarily published figures for 2020 and is encouraging other employers to do the same.

Reduction in the part-time hourly pay penalty requires employers also to ensure that higher paid jobs are available for part-time working. The data show that many young full-time women move to lower paid part-time jobs in their thirties – often coinciding with becoming mothers. This is reflected in the gender pay gap between all women and men, which increases at age 30 and never recovers.

Bristol Women in Business Charter

Bristol Women’s Commission set up the Bristol Women in Business Charter to try and help address the gender pay gap here in Bristol. We have seen real progress since then, with signatories pledging to take steps to close the gender pay gap – including by supporting women into more senior leadership positions but more work is needed to close the gap completely. Has your employer signed up to the Charter yet?

Protecting Bristol’s renters

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Homes and Housing Delivery and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward

Today, we took another step forward in protecting Bristol’s renters — with an updated policy on enforcement action we will be taking where landlords charge fees that are now banned under the Tenant Fees Act (2019). It also noted an updated enforcement policy we have introduced where landlords fail to deliver their obligations around electrical safety.

This progress will allow us to continue to take enforcement action under the Tenants Fees Act 2019 and associated lettings legislation. Local authorities must adopt an enforcement policy detailing how we will deal with decisions under the policy, including financial penalties and how we make decisions to prosecute. Our policy is also widely used as the foundation for enforcement policies adopted by other local authorities.

The private rented sector has grown enormously in Bristol – we estimate there are over 60,000 rented properties, making up 30% of the 202,000 properties in the city. The national average is 19%.

We have limited opportunities to redress the power imbalance between tenants and landlords and to ensure tenants are not exploited by those unscrupulous landlords that focus only on profit and not on providing good quality, well maintained and safe homes. Therefore it is important that we have policies which reflect the powers and responsibilities we do have as the enforcing authority and that we use them.

In accordance with our enforcement policy, most landlords and agents were given the opportunity to repay banned fees and were then audited to ensure compliance with other Trading Standards legislation. Out of a total of 24 breaches, only 3 were dealt with by way of enforcement action against the same persistent landlord. In total £24,153 was recovered for tenants in Bristol during the last financial year.

New regulations in relation to electrical safety in rented properties will protect most renters by requiring landlords to have regular safety checks on the wiring in their homes by competent electricians. Any unsafe works must be attended to by landlords, otherwise they face potentially significant financial penalties. Tenants can now by law also expect to be provided with a current electrical safety certificate before they start a new tenancy. Landlords are also under a duty to advise the Council when unsafe installations have been made safe.

These are more tools we have in the work we are doing protecting Bristol’s renters and making sure that all homes in Bristol are safe and landlords responsible. If you are a tenant in Bristol and concerned that you may be being charged illegal fees, then I would encourage you to access support available to you to enforce your rights. Want to know more about types of fees that are banned? You can read more in this guide produced by Shelter.

Bristol’s buses – where to?

Today’s blog is from Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport.

During the summer, Bristol’s One City Transport Board met to consider how to further improve Bristol’s buses. As a bus user myself, and as a councillor who represents a ward in the outer estates of our city, Bristol’s buses are a real passion of mine.

This comes ahead of our West of England Combined Authority bidding for some £40-50 million from national Government. Buses don’t stop at local authority borders, and so a joined-up regional approach is crucial to keep things moving.

One City partners are ambitious for the future of Bristol’s buses, building on the work to deliver an integrated network with underground mass transit and rail. To do that, we need to keep working collaboratively through WECA, local bus operators and passengers.

With the post-pandemic recovery in passenger numbers still uncertain, we need to continue to innovate – and WECA should use revenue funding to sustain services where passengers are low for the time being. At the other end of the scale, revenue support could also radically strengthen evening and weekend services on main routes. For workers, there remains a need for higher frequency services to all Enterprise Areas/Zones, including Avonmouth-Severnside in the ward I represent.

Funding could also kick start a series of high quality, high frequency orbital routes. These new services should go around Bristol, connecting communities and key corridors – to complement a network which largely connects places to town. Interchange hubs would be critical to ensuring the success of new orbital routes, including at Temple Meads and other rail stations.

We remain committed to working with neighbours to deliver a ring of Park and Rides, to reduce commuter traffic into the city and build on the success of existing sites. There is also the potential to reduce fares and, as we set out in our manifesto, subsidise travel for younger people to make transport more accessible. The entirety of the West’s bus network has yet to catch up with contactless card payments, and a fare-capped system across operators should be accelerated.

As Bristol’s 99 bio-gas buses show, together with our ambition for the rest of the fleet, public transport can be more sustainable transport. This continued progress sits alongside other policies, including the upcoming Clean Air Zone. And, of course, walking and cycling remain complimentary to bus services – not a competitor to them. Integrating the planning and delivery of schemes so that public and active transport are aligned is essential.

There’s even more to cover, but this gives a good flavour of the investment One City Transport Board is pushing for. This clear vision from Bristol, as part of our wider region, can deliver a step change for Bristol’s buses and our transport system.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes.

Friday 10 September marks World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day close to my heart and dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and getting us all to think about what we can do to prevent it.

The latest statistics showed that in 2018, more than 6,800 people died by suicide in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Approximately three quarters of these were men.

This year’s theme is all about ‘creating hope through action’. So, what does hope mean? It will be unique to each individual. To me, it’s about:

  • The stability of a home you know is secure and of good quality.
  • Being able to have security of your finances and employment.
  • Just knowing there are good people you can call upon in times of need for a coffee or a walk in the park.
  • Knowing there are others who will fight your corner and support you to be the best version of yourself.

My own journey has been complicated. During my formative years at university, three of my friends took their own lives, including my best friend at the time. All very different sets of circumstances, all causing similar devastation for family, friends and wider networks who knew them. For the parents, dealing with the grief that comes with something you never expect to happen – losing your child. For friends and wider networks – losing someone who was cherished and loved, even if they didn’t see that themselves and felt better off not in this world.

Whilst I have been able to move forwards, in some ways what happens never leaves you. It filled me with a fire to not just accept the situation as it is. We can and need to do better. I firmly believe every suicide is preventable, and our aspiration must be to achieve the goal of zero suicide. I am so proud to know that many organisations across the country and the West of England have signed up to the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA). This includes Bristol City Council, and we are calling for 10,000 people to sign up to the zero-suicide training across the area as part of this.

What else are we doing?

Through my own organisation, the Independent Mental Health Network, we launched the Shine On campaign in late 2019. This has focused on bringing more organisations together, to work in partnership to end suicide. We know that by working as a collective we can achieve more together than we can as individuals. This has seen us hold two highly successful regional summits on suicide prevention, both supported by leaders in the health sector and beyond, including Bristol’s Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig.

We work with organisations such as Changes Bristol, who are leading the charge locally on building peer support networks that are genuinely peer-led. We have collaborated with Second Step to support the Hope Project, which supports middle-aged men, the highest risk group when it comes to suicide. We have also funded Suicide Prevention Bristol, who are doing phenomenal work to support people thinking of taking their own life. Their latest campaign, “Not The Last Stop”, will be working with taxi companies to help them better recognise the signs of someone who may be struggling.

There are a range of resources to access if you need support or know someone who does. Here is one starting point: Guide – IMHN – Independent Mental Health Network.

Reach out, be that hope for someone who may be counting on it more than you realise.

Bristol’s Ecological Emergency Action Plan

Mayor Marvin Rees at Eastwood Farm in Brislington, with Councillor Nicola Beech, to launch Bristol's Ecological Emergency Action Plan. Marvin and Nicola are holding vegetable boxes, smiling alongside Lisa Jones, Head of Communities and Engagement at Avon Wildlife Trust, and Stuart Gardner, West of England Nature Partnership (WENP) Manager.

Bristol’s Ecological Emergency Action Plan is how the council will protect species, restore habitats, and embed nature into decision-making.

Crucially, it sits alongside our wider environmental efforts, and takes us up to 2025. Last year, we declared an Ecological Emergency, and are working together with city partners to deliver our One City Ecological Emergency Strategy.

Bristol’s ecosystems are vitally important to us all. After all, many of us have enjoyed the chance to connect – or reconnect – with nature in our parks and green spaces. All Bristolians should be able to access greenspaces and wildlife in their neighbourhood.

Progress so far

Our administration has overseen an 80% reduction in direct council emissions and we are working to be carbon neutral by 2025. Meanwhile, Bristol beat it’s 40% reduction target by 2019. We need that same ambition – with local and national support – to tackle our ecological emergency.

And, while it is true that climate and ecology are interdependent, they are not the same. As Ian Barrett, Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust, rightly says: if we tackle climate change but our eco-systems collapse, then that will still be an existential threat.

Importantly, we’ve got more than just the green shoots of recovery. Our administration has already planted 60,000 trees and reduced mowing to help pollinators. Moreover, we have also brought cows to Stoke Park, goats to the gorge, and are investing in new wetlands as part of flood defences in Severnside. But the challenge cannot be understated. Amid a global collapse, 96% of Bristol’s songbirds have been lost; we need to continue to adapt and invest to safeguard our ecosystems.

Our Ecological Emergency Action Plan

Bristol’s Ecological Emergency Action Plan has five key points to do just that:

  1. Integrate best ecological practice into each area of the council’s activity, allowing us to lead the city by example
  2. Demonstrate the council’s commitment to the One City Ecological Emergency Strategy alongside the One City Climate Strategy and its objectives
  3. Support and influence action by partners and through partnerships
  4. Support and enable action by citizens
  5. Develop evidence and knowledge to support decision making and innovation in addressing nature-related issues

In partnership with communities, organisations, and businesses, we can create a healthy, happy, habitat-rich city. Together, we can ensure that 30% of Bristol’s land is managed for the benefit of wildlife and reduce the use of pesticides in the city by at least half. Likewise, all our waterways should have excellent water quality with reduced consumption of products that undermine ecosystems around the world.

Mayor Marvin Rees at Eastwood Farm in Brislington to launch Bristol's Ecological Emergency Action Plan. Marvin is smiling, alongside a volunteer posing with a scythe.

The Paralympic Games

Gina Hopkins is the Chair of the Mayoral Group on Participation in Sport and Physical Activity. Gina poses, smiling, with her hands wrapped for sparring. Gina writes today about the Paralympic Games.
Today’s guest blog is from Gina Hopkins, Chair of the Mayoral Group on Participation in Sport and Physical Activity and CEO of Adaptive Martial Arts CIC. Photo credit: RichMCD

As we begin what must be the most anticipated ever Paralympic Games, we already know that we have an uphill battle.

In the wake of our Olympic medal turnout being modest but still very competitive, we know that Team GB has to maintain the dominance that we have been used to in the Paralympic Games. After all, in Rio 2016, we were second only to China.

The Olympic Games has its flaws and, in my personal opinion, the Paralympics are an equally flawed but necessary celebration of our Disabled athletes – and their even more incredible achievements.

The history of the Paralympic Games

The cherry blossoms in Gina’s garden

It could be suggested that the United Kingdom ‘invented’ the Paralympic Games, through Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s work as a Neurologist at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Born in Germany, he fled as a small child with his family from Nazi persecution. Guttmann became a British citizen in 1945, and his career led him to believe that exercise and sport could play a role in extending the quality and life span of spinal injured patients, at the time mainly veterans of the Second World War. He refused to believe that nothing could be done for the indirect life expectancy of two years for paraplegic (lower limb) patients and encouraged participation in sports and games as a means of rehabilitation.

It is therefore no surprise when you think of the literal fight for life at Stoke Mandeville that the Tokyo Paralympic mascot is called “Someity”, which originates from the cherry blossom “so mighty’. Our Paralympians have had to adjust their training schedules and thrive with the lack of facilities and support and still risk their health to travel to the games. I perceive this as a mighty achievement indeed.

The pandemic and Paralympic Games

Coincidentally, due to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic, we have seen increased community organising by and on behalf of Disabled people in Bristol. Both long and short Covid can cause permanent injury or illness – increasing the amount of people with ‘invisible disabilities’. People affected will also require rehabilitation, and will benefit from the physical and mental health benefits that sport and physical activity brings.

One lesson we can all take away from living through the pandemic is the value of our physical and mental health. We all need  little encouragement, whether you have been motivated by the Euros or the Olympics, or are about to be inspired by the Paralympics. I urge everyone to follow and celebrate the Paralympic Games with equal enthusiasm and to encourage your friends and family to start moving once again and enjoying doing sport, as well as watching it.

To discover a taste of what Bristol has to offer please visit www.bristolactivecity.org.uk and www.ignitebristol.co.uk

Bristol Disability Equality Commission – new chair

Alun Davies, the new chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission, sits, smiling, with a background of grass and daisies.
Today’s guest blog is from Alun Davies, the new chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission

My name is Alun Davies, and I’m the newly appointed first Chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission. The commission is being established in recognition of the inequalities faced by Disabled people in the city, and the negative impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on Disabled people. The Disability Equality Commission will join the Commission on Race Equality and Women’s Commission as Mayoral commissions taking forward equality in the city.

I am just about an adopted Bristolian having moved here in 1991. I’ve lived all over the city, worked for the public and community/voluntary sector, and served on a number of voluntary sector management bodies. I was a city councillor, a non-executive on a health board and chaired the Disability Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. On a personal level I was the parent of a Disabled child who sadly passed away at 11. I love music both listening and playing, and I have a probably slightly unhealthy interest in 1970’s rock music, tv and cricket!

I became totally blind in 1978 and have been active in the Disabled people’s movement since 1986. I understand disability entirely as a political issue. I am an adherent of and firm believer in the social model of disability.

The social model is clear and simple. People with any kind of impairment – learning difficulty, neuro diversity, mental health issue physical or sensory -are disabled not by their impairments but by cultural, economic, political, and social barriers which cause inherent and institutionalised discrimination.

That is why the commission is a Disability Equality Commission. Its role is to work to remove these barriers. My vision for the commission is that it brings together Disabled people from all backgrounds and impairments to work together in collaboration and partnership to make Bristol a city where Disabled people have choice, control, and equality.

I am under no illusions that it won’t be an easy task. Many Disabled people are unemployed, experience disability hate crime and do not have full choice and control over their own live. Housing choices are very limited, much of the pavements and physical environment is still inaccessible and Disabled people are significantly under-represented in decision-making groups and structures. Disabled children and young people often do not get either the support they need in education or the choice of the best education to meet their needs.

However, I would not have applied for the role if I wasn’t also hopeful and optimistic. The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 followed by the Equalities Act in 2010, despite neither going as far as I and many other Disabled people would like, have at least given us some legal recourse. This has meant businesses and service providers have had to make adjustments to their services. Public attitudes and awareness is better than it was 40 years ago and Disabled people are more evident and accepted around the city.

Most of all I am positive because of what I believe the Commission will bring to the city. We will be recruiting commissioners during the next three months, and I believe we will put together a team of enthusiastic, experienced, and skilled Disabled people who will bring a vast amount of passion and wisdom to the task.

I also believe there is a genuine commitment amongst everyone involved in the city to use the opportunity coming out of the pandemic to build back better. We must use the situation we have to make equity and social justice the heart of our response, and disability equality must be fully part of this. It is a privilege and honour for me to chair the Disability Equality Commission and I look forward to playing my part with the Mayor and everyone else to make Bristol a city I and other Disabled people are even more proud to live in.

Bristol’s NHS is under pressure

Maria Kane, Chief Executive of North Bristol NHS Trust, covering one half of Bristol's NHS
Today’s blog is from Maria Kane, Chief Executive of North Bristol NHS Trust, covering part of NHS healthcare system in Bristol

I joined North Bristol NHS Trust in April 2021 and I’m delighted to be here at this significant point in the NHS’ history. I have relocated to Bristol, where some of my family live, and can already see what a fantastic city it is. I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know the area and the local people.

Summer is usually the chance for Bristol’s NHS to recover from the busy months that have come before and prepare for the Winter ahead. But for this year that has not been the case.

We are in the middle of a Summer that feels like Winter. People are suffering with respiratory illnesses that are usually prevalent in the colder months. As a result, we are seeing more people coming into our Emergency Department, alongside complaints that do not need the expertise of our teams and could be better managed closer to home.

We have also seen a rise of patients in Southmead Hospital with COVID-19, which brings challenges because we need to care for these patients in dedicated areas. This limits the number of beds we can safely make available.

These extra challenges come at a time when all of us – particularly our NHS staff – need to recover more than at any other time in our NHS’ history, having come out of a prolonged period of pressure on our services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  I pay tribute to and thank our NHS wonderful staff who have worked so hard over the last 18 months. We needed this Summer to recover from the demands of the busiest period we have ever faced, to start catching up on the waiting lists which grew over lockdowns.

And so, my ask of you is to please help us and our staff.

How can you help support Bristol’s NHS?

If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, please book your vaccination, or attend one of the walk-in clinics. You can find details on grabajab.net. You can even get vaccinated while doing your shopping with the new clinic that has opened in Cabot Circus!

If you become unwell or suffer a minor injury, you may be able to take care of yourself at home. If you’re not sure how to deal with a minor illness or injury, such as a cold or sprain, your local pharmacy can help. They will probably be able to advise you much quicker than our busy Emergency Department, which is intended for serious and life-threatening emergencies. Obviously, if it is an emergency you must call an ambulance and we will be here waiting to treat you in a timely way.

You can also help by supporting your loved ones if they are ready to leave hospital: perhaps by preparing things at home so that they can leave hospital sooner, or by picking them up so they do not need to wait for hospital transport. All of these things take pressure off our services and our staff and mean your friends and relatives get to where they will best finish their recovery sooner – home.

We are still all in this together and your support of our NHS team is really appreciated.

Mining in Bristol – A Rich Seam of Solidarity

While Durham may be almost 280 miles away from Bristol – the 150th anniversary of the Miners’ Gala yesterday has given me cause to think about the legacy of our city and region’s mining history, and the ongoing importance of the trade union movement in Bristol today. The Durham Miners’ Gala has a special place in the heart of the trade union movement, alongside the South West’s own Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival.

Coalmining in and around Bristol has a long history. Bristol sits on the Bristol and Somerset coalfield which stretches for over 240 square miles, and was likely mined for coal by the Romans (more information about the history of the coalfield is available from the University of Exeter’s The Mines of the Bristol and Somerset Coalfield project). More recently, however, in the 19th century there were pits in Easton and Bedminster, as well as in Kingswood. The Dean Lane Colliery employed over 400 men and children. By the early 20th century, most pits in Bristol had closed, though coal mining continued at two pits just outside Radstock in Somerset until 1973.

Mining was dangerous work. It is estimated that one worker a month died in mining accidents at Dean Lane Colliery. An explosion in 1886 claimed the lives of 10 people, the youngest just 14 years old. Even outside the pit, health concerns for miners and their families remained – work was not well paid (particularly for children who worked in the mines) and densely packed terraced housing which sprang up particularly in Bedminster were often vectors for disease.

It is the trade union activism which sprang up in response to these dangerous conditions and low pay that is commemorated by events such as the Miners’ Gala and the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. That energy extends beyond remembering the strikes by mine workers in Easton in 1911 for fair pay, and the solidarity shown to those participating in the miners’ strike in 1984-5 after mining had ended in Bristol.

Dean Street Colliery

The closure of the pits destroyed communities and still today, unemployment remains high in ex-mining areas. The changing attitudes to coal and fossil fuels and a better understanding of the impact of carbon on the environment mean the coal industry may have been unworkable today. But the adverse impact on the communities for generations highlights the urgent need for a just transition to green jobs. Investment and transition needs to ensure jobs aren’t just removed. We link the need for a strong economy and high employment to the demands of our response to climate change.  

Today, we work closely with trade unions in the city to continue to secure good pay and healthy working conditions across all parts of our city’s economy and public services. Working together, we have secured important advances for working conditions in Bristol. Chief among these is our recognition by the Living Wage Foundation that Bristol is a Living Wage City. But we also recognise we work in a new context where, for instance, the delivery of public services is more fragmented than previous generations, and institutions like the NHS or the city council have less direct oversight over how contractor’s deliver services and treat their workers.

That’s why we continue to take a collaborative approach, ensuring we use the Council’s purchasing and procurement powers to achieve social value, and engaging with initiatives like Unite’s Construction Charter and Unison’s Ethical Care Charter. We want to continue to make Bristol a city of good work by mapping our goals in the One City Plan and our Economic Recovery and Renewal Plan to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Working collaboratively with our trade unions in this way allows us to understand the complexities and realities which shape people’s experiences of work in Bristol.

International Youth Day – a voice for young people

Today’s blog is from John Wayman and Alice Towle, Bristol’s Youth Mayors. Both John and Alice also sit on the Bristol Youth Council, representing north and east-central Bristol respectively, and were elected in 2019 through the Bristol Big Youth Vote.

This year’s International Youth Day comes at perhaps a sobering moment when considering the future (and for many the present) of today’s young people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s damning report concerning humanity’s destructive impact on the climate once again reminds us that this generation seems to have been born into a world on fire, both literally and metaphorically. Indeed, to avert disaster, action needs to be taken on multiple fronts by both current leaders and young people.

The transformation of food systems, the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, certainly constitutes a key aspect of our global response to the climate crisis given the significance of both food production and food transport to global greenhouse gas emissions. It will require the aid and input of young people to ensure we strike a balance between radically transforming food systems to remove their impact on the climate and maintaining food security to avoid disastrous consequences of another kind.

What has the Youth Council been up to?

In a world more globalised than ever before, as both the climate crisis and the covid-19 pandemic have thrown into stark relief, making global connections has been more important than ever before. This need for collaboration is the reason that we started the International Youth Mayors’ Association (IYMA) , a group of young leaders from five countries (and growing) who meet every month to discuss best practice and the various youth issues we face, both similar and different. Past topics have included how to set up youth mayors, youth involvement in environmental politics, and different countries’ political systems. Although we are a relatively new organisation, we hope to expand our membership and grow into a group that can represent both the unity and diversity of young people around the world.

However, although taking action on an international level is important, local action remains crucial. For instance, active travel brings benefits to both the environment and to students’ mental and physical health. That is why the Youth Council’s Environment and Transport group have been running a project centred on encouraging young people to walk and cycle to school. Earlier this year we launched a survey hoping to identify the primary barriers that stop young people from walking or cycling to school. The survey was immensely successful. We had over 1,300 responses from around the city and now we aim to run a series of focus groups to brainstorm solutions to the barriers identified by the survey. Hopefully the views of the city’s young people will be able to meaningfully shape its transport policies.

Although the looming threat of climate change combined with the immense uncertainty of covid-19 may present a bleak reality facing today’s young people, there is still hope for the future. With young people sharing their voices and leaders acting on them, perhaps a fairer and more resilient world can be built.