Time for action

The announcement that over 12,000 redundancies are being made by UK firms in two days are the first shockwaves from an unstable economy as we look to rebuild following the Covid outbreak. 

Of particular concern in Bristol are the announcements by Airbus that 15,000 of its workers will be laid off, 1,700 in the UK. This will put the livelihoods of many of the 3,000 people currently employed at their site in Filton at risk.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the immediate prospects for the whole aerospace/aviation industry – a sector of strategic importance to the UK economy. Alarmingly, the New Economic Foundation has warned that 70,000 jobs in the wider aviation industry are at immediate risk. Without government intervention, there are potentially devastating consequences for aircraft manufacturers and regional airports (both major employers in our area), the people who work there, their facilities and the communities in which they live. 

This is why I have written, along with other Core City leaders, to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, asking him to consider implementing a financial support package to secure the long-term viability of the industry, to protect thousands of jobs across the country.

In the South West, 20,000 people are directly employed in this sector, meaning this region accounts for almost a quarter of all aerospace employment across the UK.  As the proud home of Concorde and still as our biggest employment sector, aerospace and the Filton site are a treasured part of Bristol’s industrial heritage. We have always protected and defended our manufacturing base and it is crucial that Airbus continues to manufacture here, as a key part of its European supply chain, making it part of our future too. Bristol Airport is also a significant employer in south Bristol and faces challenges as works to survive and recover from the economic crisis. International seat capacity has dropped almost 80% from a year ago and half the world’s airplanes are in storage. 

Bristol’s local economy will be severely hit by large unemployment figures in Filton. We must remember that these are people with families to feed, homes and bills to pay. For anyone experiencing wage insecurity, there is no more worrying time. That’s why, along with my city colleagues elsewhere across the UK, I have asked the government for a job retention scheme. Keeping people in work is a crucial challenge while the sector recovers and will lessen the economic impact as well as protecting families. When the industry recovers, it will be the same skilled people the companies will go looking for, so the best thing the government can do to bring effective support is finance the retention of those jobs now. 

I am also asking for an airplane replacement programme. This brings the biggest opportunity to the sector to both continue and grow jobs while supporting the transition to more efficient and greener travel operations as part the country’s recovery plans. This should be accompanied by a commitment to accelerate research and development and publication of a clear programme of transition to more efficient and greener travel operations. This is why we are calling for measures now to secure local employment in this industry, and investment in its efforts to meet our net-zero obligations. Again, this protects and creates jobs while supporting a rapid transition to lower carbon industry.  

Simplistic, zero-sum, binary positioning won’t help us. We must take on the world as it is – a balance of risks. We know that actions and conversations are taking place across the sector about the need to reduce its environmental impact and this is encouraging. There is no going back – we simply cannot turn our back on a huge employer and so many jobs and nor can we the future return of flights bring with them the level of pollution they brought before. The German and American governments are protecting their aerospace industries with strategic support so the manufacturing of aircraft won’t stop. If we don’t protect ours, and infuse it with our values, it will go elsewhere, take the jobs with it, and may not carry the commitment to greening we would require.

The Climate and Transport Working Group of Cutting Carbon Now and The Climate Coalition (representing Aviation Environment Federation, Possible, Greenpeace, Transport and Environment and Friends of the Earth) argue that this is a chance to build back better by including aviation in the drive to net emission, harnessing the technological expertise of the sector to further reduce emissions and change taxes.

Unite the Union has written an ambitious and radical blueprint to allow the sector to continue to operate and meet new demands in the wake of coronavirus and the transition to a green economy. Unite’s blueprint highlights how the early retirements of older aircraft should be accelerated, and that additional government support and investment for research and development is also needed, so that new technologies can be brought to market more quickly. This includes the wings of tomorrow, new engines and electrification.

Recently the government announced a ‘Jet Zero’ project to work with the industry to produce a zero-carbon transatlantic flight. While we might be sceptical of exactly what this will do, it shows that technology will be an important part of reaching our climate goals.

We are committed to jobs and to a green economic recovery. We need strategic government investment now.  

Reopening the Hospitality Sector

Today’s blog comes from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet member for Strategic Planning and City Design.

As anyone who lives, works or studies here will attest, Bristol likes a night out, and we’re fortunate to have a wealth of independent restaurants, bars and venues showcasing our diverse and vibrant culture.

The announcement that social distancing rules are to be reduced from 2 meters to 1 meter plus, where 2 meters cannot be maintained and suitable mitigation measures are in place, will be encouraging to many in the hospitality sector. But challenges remain. Although the road back to trading will start when restrictions begin to ease from 4 July, social distancing measures are set to remain in place for some time and the future for many in the sector is uncertain.

As a sector that directly or indirectly supports the employment of around 91,600 people, representing 34% of the city’s overall jobs, we know how important it is to work with our night time economy.

We have been engaging with the sector throughout the crisis to identify ways in which we as a local authority can support businesses to adapt, survive and build back stronger. We have been signposting to available support, distributing grants to eligible businesses and lobbying for increased provision where it is lacking. We’ve also had a team of staff visiting more than 3,000 premises as businesses start to re-open their doors to the public to ensure they are safe and prepared.

Work has already begun to close some road roads to traffic, which will allow more space for people to travel safely around the city, and pavement-widening schemes are being introduced in local shopping areas such as Bedminster Parade, Stapleton Road, St Marks Road and Clifton Village to allow businesses to implement social distancing measures.

As rules begin to be relaxed, we know how important an effective track and trace system will be to support the sector to remain open and we will continue pushing for this to be delivered. Clear health and safety guidance will help with both business and customer confidence – businesses can find this on our website.

We also recognise how critical it is for us to have a robust outbreak management plan locally to avoid a return to the blanket lockdown measures that have been so damaging to business. As a local authority, we will be communicating this with businesses and we appreciate your full cooperation to ensure we keep our city safe and moving.

We know we must keep listening. Acknowledging this, and the challenges that lie ahead, we’ve been in discussion with BARBIE and the Bristol Food Union to organise a series of webinars with the aim of co-designing the solutions needed to support the sector.

These are intended to bring together clusters of businesses in certain areas across the city, acknowledging that one size will not fit all when it comes to what each business and each area requires to re-open. We’re keen to see businesses come together to think about what they will need as they plan to share physical space. This will allow us to be smarter about how we start to get the city eating, drinking and socialising again.

With some funding from the council to deliver this piece of work, BARBIE has approached businesses in identified areas and we look forward to getting the outputs of these meetings, which are kicking off today. Details are below and you can contact brendan@barbiebristol.com or visit their website for more information.

  • Tuesday 30th June, 5pm to 6.30pm – STOKES CROFT, ST PAULS, MONTPELIER
  • Wednesday 1st July, 1pm to 2.30pm – ST MARKS RD, STAPLETON RD, CHURCH RD AND NEARBY STREETS
  • Wednesday 1st July, 6pm to 7.30pm – WHITELADIES RD, COTHAM HILL, SOUTHLEIGH STREET, PEMBROKE RD, ST PAULS ROAD AND NEARBY STREETS
  • Thursday 2nd July, 11.30am to 1pm – GLOUCESTER RD, ZETLAND RD, ASHLEY DOWN RD, KELLAWAY AVE, CHELTENHAM RD (to Cloak and Dagger) AND NEARBY STREETS.

The areas that have organised above represent particular streets where there is a high density of bars and restaurants and don’t have Business Improvement Districts such as Broadmead or Bedminster to work through. We know it is certainly not exhaustive and want to work with the whole city to get this right.

Businesses can get in touch with us at business@bristol.gov.uk or go to our website to make a request to use the space outside their venue. 40 businesses have already had initial approval to do this and we welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with businesses who feel this could help them.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our businesses that have been working so hard in recent months, not just to stay afloat but to support the city. Despite facing an extraordinarily challenging situation, the sector has come together to provide meals for key workers and vulnerable citizens in a show of phenomenal community spirit. The past few months have seen many businesses really step up to support the city in a way that should make us all feel proud.

As we begin to recover from this crisis, we need to think about the kind of city we want to re-build. I can’t imagine a Bristol that doesn’t have a thriving night time economy at its heart, so it’s vital that we act now to support a sector that gives us so much.

Are you OK?

As the national lockdown continues to ease, together with the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership and partners we are encouraging people to focus on each other’s wellbeing, and consider whether friends, family and neighbours could be struggling. That’s why we have launched a new campaign, Are you OK?

Many people’s lives have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and this has placed a huge burden on their mental and physical health. The current situation also means that many of the most vulnerable people in our communities are still not seen by others as much as they normally would, and they may not be getting the right help. 

We all need to make sure that, with people leaving home more often, the most vulnerable in our society are not forgotten. Many people may still be isolated from others and struggling on their own.

Please continue to look out for friends, family and neighbours during the pandemic and beyond.  You don’t need to be an expert to reach out – we are simply asking you to check in with the people you know, see if they are ok and help them to get the right support, if needed.

Kayleigh is a volunteer at Can do Bristol, who has been checking in on her neighbours through lockdown. I asked her to share her experience on today’s blog. This is what she said:

“I have got to know so many of my neighbours and help people in my community that otherwise I may not have met. It has taught me how easy it is to get out of your comfort zone, even just for a second, to make small acts of kindness, say hi to your neighbours or call your nan to make sure they are OK.

I have been helping an elderly couple in isolation and I know that I am the only person, other than delivery drivers, they get to speak to in real life at the moment. You can see the impact that makes on their lives. 

 The lockdown has been eased for some but I have still been keeping in contact with neighbours, I have been helping out, to see how they are. One of them told me she was struggling to access services that she needed as a single parent. It didn’t take long to find the help she was looking for and I’m glad that I could help ease her worries.

I believe it is really important to keep that sense of community going strong, whatever the future may bring for us. That’s why I would really encourage everyone to check in on people they know and help them find the right help, if things aren’t quite right.”

Could you check in on someone you know, or are concerned about – and direct them to get help if they need it? The Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership website has all the information you need, including signs to look out for and details of services to contact: https://bristolsafeguarding.org/communities/i-am-a-bristol-resident/are-you-ok/. The police should be called if anyone is in immediate danger.

Windrush Day

Today’s blog post comes from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health.

Windrush Day is a moment of pride and celebration. Today we recognise and honour the generation that came from the Caribbean to the UK after the Second World War. They played a pivotal role in rebuilding our country, and our city. They made Bristol their home – starting families, building businesses, serving their communities. I think of my own parents who answered the call, my mother who arrived as a 21-year-old to become a nurse in the NHS and my father who worked at Bristol Temple Meads and then went on to help build Broadmead. And it makes me think of the likes of Paul Stephenson, Roy Hackett and Guy Reid-Bailey, whose role in the Bristol Bus Boycott led to the passing of the Race Relations Act 1965 which made ’racial discrimination’ unlawful in public places.  Bristol would not be the vibrant, inclusive and dynamic city it is today were it not for people like this. So today we say thank you to them for all they have given us as a city.

But of course Windrush Day is also a day for anger at injustice. For, despite their immense contribution, the Windrush Generation and their descendants have faced discrimination and mistreatment on a terrible scale, such that now the word Windrush is as likely to be associated with the word ‘Scandal’ as anything else. The ‘Hostile Environment’ policy implemented by Theresa May treated people who were legally resident in this country as if they were criminals. It has led to people losing their jobs and their access to basic services, and in some cases even being deported or denied the ability to return to the UK. Of course all of this has led to untold emotional and mental anguish for too many innocent people, including my friend, Jaswha Moses, who died before he could use the British Passport granted to him after years of fighting for the right to be here.

The Government response to this scandal has been nothing short of shameful. Instead of admitting their mistake and doing everything they could to put it right, they have sought to cover it up and get on with business as usual. The Hostile Environment, whilst no longer the official language of government policy, is still absolutely alive and kicking. And the Windrush Compensation Scheme, set up to supposedly make recompense to those who have suffered, has thus far given out just £360,000 to 60 people.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review, conducted by Wendy Williams, was conveniently published at the moment of maximum attention on the Covid-19 emergency at the end of March. It sets out in gory detail exactly what went wrong, as well as many sensible measures that the Government could take to put things right and make sure that such a scandal never happens again. We must all, therefore, play our part in holding the Government to account for their response to this review. And until that time when our national policy reflects the respect and dignity due to all those who come here from overseas to make Bristol their home, we must mark Windrush Day as a moment to redouble our efforts to fight for change.

World Refugee Day

Today’s blog comes from Forward Maisokwadzo, my Inclusion Adviser on Migration and also Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary (BCoS) and Caroline Beatty, Co-Chair of BCoS.

City of Sanctuary Launch (credit: Anita Hummell

IMAGINE… a world in which everyone can breathe.

…where the air does not contain hidden danger, and you can embrace a stranger or shake hands without fear of sickness.

…where it is your right to breathe whatever the colour of your skin, in which you stand tall and take a full place in society and community, without fear of being choked to death on the street by someone in power because you are black.

…where the air is clean, and no-one will be suffocated by fires from global warming because we are destroying the planet’s own lungs, the rainforests.

Today, on World Refugee Day, imagine that everyone throughout their lives can breathe the sweetest air of all, that of their own homeland. That sickness, persecution, conflict and climate change will not cause anyone the heartache of having to leave the land where they were born.

Three global issues – the pandemic, racial inequality and the climate emergency – show that what we have in common as human beings is far more important than our differences.  As a people we must treat each other with dignity and respect. During the pandemic we have understood better how to help each other out and especially how to support vulnerable people. We have witnessed and experienced the revolution of generosity here in Bristol, and in so many other places nationally and across the world.

Let us continue to insist that migrants in the UK with No Recourse to Public Funds who make vital contributions to the UK economy, are included in welfare provision and not denied support when unexpected things happen in their lives[i]. Let us continue to fight for the release of the stranglehold on people seeking sanctuary[ii], by lifting the ban on asylum seekers from working, providing an adequate living allowance, enabling equal access to health care, and by not leaving anyone on the street destitute while they struggle to pursue their quest to live in safety. Let us be ready, if the time comes, to include a welcome and a place for people who may have to leave their land because climate change has made it intolerable to stay.

Credit: Anita Hummell

Let us all be inspired by our Bristol City of Sanctuary vision of wanting to build a city of welcome, safety and hope for all, including people seeking sanctuary from war, violence, persecution and impact of climate change.

By working together we can make Bristol a city in which everyone can breathe!


[i] Bristol’s Mayor’s has written to the PM and Home Office on this issue – see letter

[ii] Bristol City of Sanctuary has written to the Mayor and all Bristol MPs asking for radical changes to the asylum system – see letter

[“IMAGINE…”  is the theme of this year’s National Refugee Week 15-21 June]

Looking after the mental health of BAME communities

Today’s blog comes from Jean Smith MBE, Director of the Nilaari Agency in Bristol.

Bristol’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led community-based mental health service has remained open for existing and new clients throughout the lockdown. Nilaari is now in its 21st year of meeting the needs of BAME and all communities.

Over the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has caused increased levels of anxiety across all communities but, specifically, has caused confusion and fear among the BAME population. Over the last few weeks, we have had the terrible events in the USA and the unrest caused by the responses to this crime which have both united communities, but also sadly divided others. Nilaari understands the feelings that can result from these terrible events.

We are very aware of the toll on mental health that the current crisis can have and believe that feeling heard and understood can help build resilience to deal with new and different situations that arise. Nilaari has been gaining the trust of a diverse range of clients, working towards redressing the acknowledged under-representation of these groups in services. Statistics show that a proportion of BAME communities may be more reluctant to seek support from services because of being unaware of what is available or may feel that they will not be fully understood. Currently, fears are heightened through media reports of the impact on some communities of the virus and sometimes confusing messages about how to stay safe. 

It can take courage to reach for the phone and ask for support. Everyone has their own story about the impact of Covid-19 and now the Black Lives Matter action. Nilaari can offer a listening ear, and an opportunity to be supported through your own difficulties before things get worse. We are located in one of the most diverse wards in Bristol, offering a city-wide service and know well through our long experience, the importance of listening first and responding with respect and sensitivity, a high level of competence and cultural understanding.

If you or your loved ones are feeling anxious and stressed, or the pandemic is impacting on your mood, making you feel overwhelmed, fearful or panicked, then Nilaari has a team of a team of experienced, trained therapists from diverse communities who are able to offer emotional therapeutic support by telephone. Our services are designed to be welcoming, empowering, empathic and affording dignity and respect to all sections of the population regardless of ethnicity, gender, orientation, faith, age or ability. We are finding new ways of reaching out to those who may benefit from starting the process to recovery.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling and looking for help, they can call Nilaari on 0117 952 5742 (during office hours) or email nilaari@nilaari.co.uk, leaving your name and contact details. For more information visit our website at https://www.nilaari.co.uk/

Make Caring Visible

This Carers Week we’re celebrating our dedicated unpaid carers, looking after those who can’t care for themselves during the coronavirus pandemic and all year round. Cllr Helen Holland and I have written an open letter to all Bristol carers to thank them for their enormous contribution to their families, local communities, and society, and ensure that they get the support they need. Please share this with carers you know.

To Bristol’s carers,

During national Carers Week (8-14 June), we would like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who provides unpaid care to a family member, friend or neighbour. We know things have been extra hard during the pandemic and many of you are caring alone or shouldering extra responsibilities. 

Many of you have also taken on this role since the current crisis by stepping in to support loved ones who are vulnerable or shielding.

We want to recognise the enormous contribution all of you make to families and communities across Bristol. You make a world of difference to individuals who need care, sometimes round-the-clock, supporting their health and wellbeing. Without you, the health and social care system simply would not work.

There are over 40,000 unpaid carers in Bristol, many of whom will be young people. However, we know there may be more who are caring for a loved one with very little help. Looking after someone can be a hugely rewarding, but it can also be challenging, and you may be struggling with poverty, isolation or ill-health. It’s important to know that you are not alone and we are here to help you.

If you provide unpaid care to a family member, neighbour or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness, substance misuse issue or needs extra help as they grow older – we encourage you to make sure that you are getting the right support in your role.

If you are under 18 years old and look after another person at home, you may be a young carer. You might look after someone because they are disabled, have a long-term illness, have problems with drugs or alcohol or find it hard to cope with being a parent or carer. You are undertaking an enormous task and your wellbeing is important to us.

You can get help as a carer using these resources:

Thank you for everything that you do.

World Environment Day

Today’s blog comes form Ian Barrett, Chief Executive at Avon Wildlife Trust.

Happy World Environment Day from all at Avon Wildlife Trust.

In these exceptional times, many of us will have spent more time outdoors noticing nature – exercising, watching the flowers bloom, bees and butterflies buzz by or even simply looking out the window to listen to the bird song or catch the dappled light shining through the gaps of fresh tree canopy.

Nature continues to bring us all a sense of joy and solace during lockdown, but even outside the current coronavirus pandemic it is essential for the way we live our lives every day. Clean air, clear water, healthy soils, food crops and natural flood defences are all benefits of a thriving natural world, and local green spaces are so important for many people looking to improve their health and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, our wildlife and these green spaces are under greater threat than ever. Recent reports have painted a picture of plummeting wildlife populations. There has been a 60% decline in wild vertebrates worldwide since 1970. 44 million nesting birds, 30 million hedgehogs and 2.8 million brown hare have been lost from the UK since the middle of the 20th Century. In Bristol, the city’s swift and starling populations are a fraction of what they were, with a 96% decline in numbers of these once-common birds between 1994 and 2014. Species extinctions are high and accelerating, with 41% of insects worldwide and 15% of UK species at risk.

The good news is that there is still time to build back a world that is better for wildlife and for people. Earlier this year we declared an ecological emergency in Bristol alongside Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees. This declaration recognises the scale of wildlife decline and the serious breakdown of the natural environment which we now face.

Human activities are reducing the space available for wildlife, and causing climate change and pollution. However, the timing of this announcement presents a crucial opportunity to address both the climate crisis and ecological emergency in a coordinated effort. Alongside the declaration of a climate emergency made by Bristol City Council in November 2018, we are working closely with the Mayor, the council and other local organisations to highlight the ecological crisis facing the city and to shape and lead work to develop an Ecological Emergency Action Plan by the autumn.

Already, ambitious nature targets for the city have been set out in the One City Plan, including increasing tree cover and wildlife abundance in Bristol by the 2040s. The February declaration paves the way for a much quicker pace of change and focus to create and restore places for wildlife in every neighbourhood. Many city organisations and businesses have pledged to commit to action and you can join us too.  

All of the actions we take in our homes and daily lives can make a real difference. No matter how big or small these actions are, they are needed now more than ever. People of all ages can take practical action in homes or in their local communities. Whether you have a garden to transform or a window box, you can create habitats and homes for all kinds of wildlife, including insects by letting your garden grow wild or by planting nectar-rich wildflowers that bloom throughout the seasons. By creating habitats on your doorstep, you’ll be providing wildlife on all levels of our local ecosystem with somewhere to live, feed, reproduce and play their part in helping nature thrive. This is vital in helping to combat the ecological emergency we are all facing and is a simple and enjoyable thing we can all do. Have a look at our website for some inspiration and ideas: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/actions

Over the next few months the Trust will continue to work closely with the council, city organisations and local communities and we’re looking forward to doing this collectively with others in the city. Through exploring nature-based solutions we can all do our part to tackle the ecological emergency and create a more resilient world for people and wildlife, restoring habitats and building connectivity across landscapes. If we all work together and take collective action, it is not too late for wildlife to fight back.

To find out more and to see how to help support our work visit: avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/ecoemergency

To reconnect with nature you can also take part in the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild challenge – committing to taking one Random Act of Wildness every day throughout the month of June.

#WilderFuture #ForNature

Don’t struggle alone

Today’s blog comes from Caroline Matthews, Development Manager at St Pauls Advice Centre.

It’s been over two months since Bristol’s advice agencies closed their doors and re-organised themselves so that they can continue to offer free advice to the people of Bristol over the phone and by email and text messaging. At St Pauls Advice Centre the team continues to give free, expert and confidential advice to the residents of St Paul’s and East Bristol, just as it has for five decades. Many clients, especially those who are older, vulnerable or speak languages other than English, really value a trusted and professional presence in the heart of the community because advice agencies have a ‘Friendly, Local and Here to help’ approach to everyone that calls.

Between them, Bristol’s advice agencies help people with debt, housing and homelessness, employment, benefits (including appeals), discrimination, financial management, energy bills, EUSS, immigration and asylum issues. Covid-19 has had a major impact across all of these areas; for some people their problems may be getting more complex, while others may need advice for the first time in their lives.

Bristol should be proud of its effective network of advice agencies, which includes experts in discrimination, benefit appeals and more. Some are community based and others work Bristol-wide. These services work closely together in ‘normal’ times and at the start of the pandemic quickly joined forces to get information about the help available to Bristol’s people as widely as possible – gathering their networks together and reaching out to all the new community groups that have risen up.

All Bristolians should know they’re not on their own; they can get free, expert and impartial advice. It’s vital people get in touch sooner rather than later – before problems get worse. Advice agencies are working closely with Bristol City Council and the We Are Bristol support line can direct callers to the help available from advice agencies so people can get good, fast and appropriate help. Contact details are as follows:

You can find out more details about Bristol’s advice services and how to contact them directly here.

No one yet knows what the new normal will be, but Bristol’s advice services are working hard to ensure that anyone who needs it will continue to receive help to manage the challenges they face.

Black Lives Matter

Many of us have been deeply affected by the events in the US. 

The murder of George Floyd was horrific. And it was a symptom of a deeper malady in the US. He joins a long list of black people killed at the hands of white police officers and self-appointed vigilantes: Breonna Taylor (Kentucky), Tony McDade (Florida), and Ahmaud Arbery (Georgia) among them. 

This is not just an American problem. It is not just an issue with the US criminal justice system. It reflects a systematic inequality that is prevalent across all major institutions and in countries around the world. We are all part of this.

Over recent days I have been talking to African Americans. Mayor Steve Benjamin, the 36th Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina and the first African American Mayor in the city’s history, Prof Sheila Foster and Scott K. Ginsburg, Professor of Urban Law and Policy and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University. I have also be talking with my own family living in Atlanta and Los Angeles. The situation is dangerous.

On Tuesday we lit up City Hall in purple light as a declaration of solidarity with George Floyd and a statement of our unwillingness to accept the kind of politics his murder exposes. I have enclosed below a copy of the open letter I and the UK Core City leaders have sent to the Association of African American Mayors. Copies have been sent to the US Conference of Mayors and Eurocities.

Plans are underway to hold Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Bristol over the coming days. I understand this. We are outraged and our voices must be heard. 

But after much thought, I am questioning the wisdom and any method of sharing that voice that encourages a mass gathering. I do not oppose the demonstration. Rather, I am concerned that anything that encourages a mass gathering while we have Covid with us and we have no vaccine is high risk, and the risk is disproportionately borne by black and brown communities. Responsible leadership must bear this in mind. 

First, the virus is killing disproportionate numbers of black and brown people. The Public Health England Report into Covid Deaths found people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other Black ethnicity had between a 10% and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British people. We are precariously balanced with many health professionals arguing we locked down too late and are unlocking too soon leaving us vulnerable to a second wave. A second wave, like the first, would disproportionately cost the black and brown lives we want to declare matter. 

Second, the lockdown is impacting the economy. And the jobs, wages, businesses and community organisations of black and brown people are being disproportionately lost. The Black South West Network shared with me that the economy has slowed drastically and the economic crisis which is due to follow will be felt most by those on the margins. According to the Runnymede Index of Ethnic Inequality, Bristol ranks 7th out of 348 areas in terms of most deprived areas. These are socioeconomic determinants of inequality which are rooted in history and the continued structural and systemic racism which has followed. Given that Black African and Bangladeshi households have 10p for every £1 of White British wealth, this means these households are ten times less able to cover the new costs, or to make up for lost income from Covid-19. A second wave would necessitate a second lockdown which would further undermine the economic (and by extension politics and health) standing of those communities. This would result in political weakening of the communities we need to see politically empowered. I have major concerns about this. 

I am for the message. I am merely very concerned that the Covid context means any method of delivering that message that encourages or requires mass gathering could have unfortunate unintended consequences for the communities we are trying to support – and that’s not just the individuals who attend but the people and community members they go home to.

I will not dampen down people’s passion. I support them. I would simply suggest there are other ways we can make our voices heard. We could put our minds together to create a huge digital presence, one that declares opposition to Trump’s politics and support for the mayors that are standing up to him. 

As I mentioned above, I have written a letter to the African American Mayors Association. We are speaking into the American situation. They need our support.

#TakeTheKnee in solidarity with George Floyd at City Hall 6pm today