Valuing our communities and cities – an international perspective

From tackling inequality, the climate emergency and urban security, to access to health, education and employment, cities are at the forefront of the most urgent global challenges.  

Now cities, and the communities within them, are on the frontline of managing the spread of, and recovery from, the Covid-19 pandemic. In the UK, we are also faced with Brexit and the challenge of ensuring we continue to have a strong inclusive economy.

Today is the United Nations’ World Cities Day: ‘Valuing Our Communities and Cities’. Never has this been more important.

In the context of Brexit and Covid-19, the relationships Bristol has with other cities internationally are vital. At the very start of Covid-19 in the UK we reached out to  cities around the world – we shared ideas on communications campaigns, shared insights into education changes as schools shut, shared information on supporting local businesses as they were required to close. Now, we continue to speak to other cities about how to strategically plan for recovery and the longer-term support our communities and city need to flourish.

We are also a champion of ‘city diplomacy’. Issues like migration and the climate emergency are debated and agreed at the United Nations, where cities are represented by their national governments. But it is in the cities that these challenges are most acutely played out. So we are part of a global cities movement calling for the voice of cities to be heard nationally and internationally to be better represented in the global decisions that impact our future.

We are doing this through collaborative relationships with global city networks such as EUROCITIES, the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Global Parliament of Mayors and the Mayors Migration Council to deliver for Bristol and globally.  

Because of our history as a trading port, we have always had economic relationships with other cities, and these will continue to be key as we look to an uncertain future outside of the European Union. By using these existing networks and strengthening new connections, we can share best practice on these challenges, but also share the practical resources, the technology and access to direct investment[SM1]  which will help us deliver on them.

Recently, as Mayor of Bristol, I have been selected to represent local authorities across the country on the Commonwealth Local Government Forum’s (CLGF) Executive Committee, joining representatives from countries across the Commonwealth.

As a child of the Commonwealth, I know that as well as its colonial history, this existing network of countries across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific provides an opportunity to promote Bristol’s cultural, educational and business links. This is an opportunity to focus on:  

  • Local delivery of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that underpin our One City Plan and Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy, including influencing innovative financing mechanisms that help finance our city needs in the long-term.
  • Promoting trade links between our Commonwealth cities and regions; with a focus on sectors that support low carbon sustainable urbanisation, already a growth area in Bristol, such as green technology.
  • Supporting increased engagement from young people in the Commonwealth partnerships and institutions.

I am delighted that Bristol’s Youth Mayors, Alice Towle and John Wayman, have already taken steps to establish an International Youth Mayors Association to help build these international links. They will focus on the challenges and solutions that are felt by young people in cities across the world and help ensure all young people are heard in decision-making.

Today, as ever, it is also important to value the international links of Bristol’s communities who contribute to our vibrant, outward looking and welcoming city. Together we represent over 187 countries of birth, with 91 languages spoken and 45 religions.  

Our citizens of international heritage, as well as our international citizens who have chosen to work or study here, link Bristol to the world and help us to strengthen cultural, educational and business opportunities. From our twinning associations and community groups, such as the Bristol Hannover Council and Africa Voices Forum, through to international students and staff at our universities and in countless organisations across the city.

Over 36,000 of our citizens have applied for the EU Settlement Scheme. Everyone who chooses Bristol as a place to live, work or study is welcome, valued and respected. I hope that regardless of the UK’s future arrangements with the EU, everyone still feels at home here and I would remind our EU citizens that the deadline to apply for the scheme is 31 December, if we leave the EU without a deal.  

On World Cities Day, and as we look to build back better, post-Brexit and post-Covid-19, I welcome us all working together to support and strengthen these local and international links; to value and respect one another, bring prosperity to the city and ensure everyone is part of the story and sharing in its success.

You can find out more about our international strategy and engagement here.


Defending Bristol from floods

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

Bristol and the River Avon are intrinsically linked. Some of our most iconic places are spread along the River Avon and it is a central part of life in the city.  

Having a river with the second highest tidal range in the world at the heart of the city does, however, present a challenge for the future. Flooding can result from the tide coming up the River Avon from the Severn Estuary if there is a tidal surge, and it can also flood after prolonged heavy rain, as Bristol sits at the bottom of the Avon’s 2,200km2 river catchment.

Climate change and rising sea levels are increasing this risk of flooding in the city centre and in neighbouring communities along the river. Today, around 1,100 homes and businesses in Bristol are at risk in a severe flood. Without action, up to 4,500 properties could be at risk by the end of the century.

While we cannot prevent floods from occurring altogether, we have been working with the Environment Agency on a long-term plan to address the risk of flooding from the River Avon. Our preferred approach to flood defences is to create new defences or raise the height of existing defences. This will be adaptive, meaning that we will build in a way that means defences are only as high as they need to be in the short term, but can be raised in the future to respond to a changing climate.

Our ambition is to go further than just building new flood defences. As cabinet member with responsibility for spatial planning and city design – and, more recently, flooding – I know the importance of making sure that the broad strategic needs of the city marry up with the more immediate, local concerns of Bristol’s citizens.

That is why we have worked hard to ensure that the critical need for a flood strategy is also used, wherever possible, as an opportunity to improve public spaces, create better access to the river, protect and enhance heritage features in the city, and give a boost to active travel by creating new walking and cycling routes along the river and into the city centre.

In short, we want to deliver a strategy that works for Bristol and Bristolians year-round, not just when the river floods.

An example of submergible paths

Examples from around the country and further afield show that it is possible to achieve both flood defence and better public spaces and active travel. Using methods like submergible paths, where defences are set back, with cycling and walking routes that can be enjoyed along the river when there is no flooding, but which are designed to flood, protecting infrastructure and homes. This technique has been used to great success at Bath Quays, where the need for flood defences has seen the transformation of the area into a landscaped public space.

If higher defences are needed, terracing can be used to reduce the apparent height of the defence and maintain views over the river. At the Southbank in London, this technique has created a popular area for people to walk and socialise.

This is what we aim to achieve from the Bristol Avon Flood Strategy so that we can future-proof Bristol and enable a greener, more active city.

Now we want to know what everyone who enjoys the River Avon and the areas around it, whether that is for work, travel or leisure, thinks about our proposals. The public consultation on the strategy runs until 20 December. I hope as many of you as possible will read more about our proposals and tell us what you think. Click the link below to take part.

https://bristol.citizenspace.com/bristol-city-council/bristol-avon-flood-strategy/

Renewable energy doesn’t need to be owned by big companies – it can be owned and run by communities

Guest Blog by David Tudgey – Project Development Manager Ambition Community Energy C.I.C

Photo: Wind turbine site Severn Road Avonmouth Bristol: Mark Pepper, David Tudgey, Kye Dudd, Dr Charles Gamble, Roger Sabido (Oct 2020)

Community hub Ambition Lawrence Weston is celebrating the news that they’ve been awarded planning permission for the largest wind turbine in England. The tallest structure to be built in Bristol, the wind turbine is proof that renewable energy can be owned by communities, not just by big business.

Once installed the turbine will produce enough low carbon electricity to power 3,500 homes and make CO2 savings of 1,965 tons every year.

Our community energy journey:

Ambition Lawrence Weston (ALW) is a grassroots, resident-led and driven Development Trust, Registered Charity and Company. It was founded by local residents in 2012 to deliver their Community Plan that brings together the aspirations of over 1,200 residents who responded and gave their views.

After working with ALW to deliver a fuel poverty workshop in 2014  with Bristol Energy Network, I was invited to become their community energy consultant and co-create and help deliver energy projects funded by The Big Local Trust and the Bristol Green Capital in 2015.

In 2016, local resident and member of ALW Energy Group Roger Sabido suggested that we build and own a community wind turbine. To which I replied, ‘well, I do know of a wind engineer who happens to be a volunteer with Bristol Energy Network’ (Dr Charles Gamble now Operations Manager for the project).

Recent changes in the planning law meant the project wouldn’t be permitted without a change to either our local plan or the Neighbourhood Development Plan. Undeterred, we found a potential route to planning by applying to the Urban Community Energy Fund which was supported by local organisation CSE. Bristol City Council Energy Services Team agreed to help us identify suitable council land.

Our application was submitted the same day my son was born in March 2016, so I have a wonderful time stamp of how long we have been working on this project. You can watch the project’s development – and all ALW’s other energy projects on YouTube.

It’s been a long journey from that first conversation to planning consent. Our achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the engaged support from residents of Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston Ward, local community groups, and local councillors – in particular Jo Sargent who helped to canvass residents in 2016 for their support for onshore wind.

Bristol City Council has supported us from the very beginning, with Mayor Marvin Rees and energy cabinet member Kye Dudd giving us their backing, and Council officers lending practical support including development funding through the Bristol Community Energy Fund development loan and Port Communities Resilience Fund grant. This led to other funders including Power to Change sandbox program, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital who have committed a £150,000 development loan this year, and the West of England Combined Authority who have committed £500,000 capital grant funding through their Low Carbon Communities Fund.

Since the planning policy changes in England in 2016, on-shore wind deployment has dried up. Only three on-shore windfarms were completed in 2019. We hope that the success of ALW’s wind turbine has turned the tide and set a precedent for further community-led applications across the country. Ambition Lawrence Weston has shown the power of communities and grass-roots driven projects, and demonstrated that our communities, given the right support, can take control over their destinies, push the shift to renewables and play an important role in bringing forward a Just Energy Transition. This will help Bristol go carbon neutral by 2030, and provide a blueprint for the hundreds of other community energy groups around the UK to create green jobs in the midst of a deepening recession and quicken the transition to a zero carbon energy system.

The Cusp of Change: Why values must drive housing strategy

Today’s blog comes from Jez Sweetland, Project Director for Bristol Housing Festival.

The Bristol Housing Festival is currently hosting our Virtual Expo 2020, which brings together experts in the industry, local government and residents to discuss innovation in housing, and how it benefits our communities, particularly as we look toward recovery post COVID-19. As the discussions have unfolded, one thing remains clear to me: values must drive our housing strategy.

We’re in the midst of a housing crisis, a climate emergency and a construction skills shortage, and now we also have the repercussions of a global pandemic to consider. Although one of the priorities must be to get more affordable homes built, there is an opportunity to engage with a longer-term industrial strategy that also considers how we drive the values that will support the quality and sustainability of those homes.

In a recent report called ‘Build homes, Build Jobs, build innovation: A blueprint for a housing-led industrial strategy,’ Mark Farmer and Mike De’Ath suggest we are suffering from a market failure in the UK’s ability to deliver truly affordable housing and that innovation, engaging in a new supply of manufactured housing known as Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), can be a critical part of the solution. In the context of that existing market failure, various industry reports are concerned that the housing sector is soon to face increased mortgage hurdles, rising unemployment and impacted savings deposits, all of which may lead to a significant reduction in people’s ability to buy homes as we emerge from the pandemic. As with other recessions, we may see a downturn in the traditional supply of housing post COVID-19.

While this looks bleak, the urgent need for affordable homes and the recognition of our existing market failure also provides an opportunity to look at supporting a new supply of housing. MMC is looking well set to provide some of the solutions in that space. Both national and regional governments are already committed to seeing a diversification of supply, so we are already on the cusp of change. Within Bristol we are now seeing a number of new MMC housing developments progress (ZEDpods, BoKlok and Legal and General Modular) to deliver high quality, sustainable homes which are all making contributions to the affordable housing needs in Bristol with a significant number of these homes being retained by Bristol City Council to provide social housing for the city. 

Those new developments are all part of a wider Innovate UK project of which Bristol City Council is a lead partner. The project looks to help ensure MMC can be wisely deployed to provide the housing the city needs, designed around shared objectives on quality and sustainability.

On 16 October Bristol One City and its partners set out priorities for Recovery post-COVID-19 with the launch of its Economic Renewal strategy. In that context it is crucial to not only think about the change that is needed to meet housing demand, but how new tools and new supply can also be part of our recovery and meet our sustainability goals.

To do this, we must also consider how to shape, co-design and protect the values of this emerging MMC industry and ask ourselves how Bristol and the South West can be right at the centre of creating the right kind of jobs and keeping the focus on the quality and sustainability of our housing. One of the ambitions of the Bristol Housing Festival is to help enable the South West to become one of the UK’s leading regions in the technology and deployment of zero carbon, quality and affordable homes delivered at pace.  There is a compelling case for the South West to make, building on local needs, economics, opportunities and existing momentum.  

It is critical that MMC doesn’t become about creating cheaper homes more quickly without that objective being underpinned by values around quality and sustainability.  The driving force behind those values depends upon public and private collaboration around shared objectives. If we keep values at the core, we have an opportunity to drive a revolution in how we think about and deliver affordable housing in the UK.The Virtual Expo 2020 runs from the 12 October – 1 November 2020. If you’d like to stay up to date with Virtual Expo news and events, you can join our Virtual Expo 2020 LinkedIn Group here, or visit our website.

World Food Day

Today’s blog comes from Joy Carey, strategic coordinator of Bristol Going for Gold, a collaborative initiative led by Bristol Food Network, Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Bristol City Council.

What is World Food Day?

Today, 16th October 2020, is World Food Day. It marks the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. This year, with countries around the world dealing with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is a simple message: it is time to take action together to make a better food future – every single one of us has an important role to play.  World Food Day is calling for global solidarity to help all populations, especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the crisis; to make food systems more resilient and robust; to deliver affordable, sustainable, healthy diets for all; and to ensure decent livelihoods for food system workers. 

What is the call to action?

We all have the power to influence change, individually and through collective action. There are everyday practical actions that all of us can take to make healthy food and sustainable habits a part of our lifestyles.

– Choose healthy, diverse, local and seasonal food

– Use our own positive powers of influence in our social media posts or in our conversations

– Support food-related initiatives in our local neighbourhoods and communities

– Learn to grow food at home

– Respect food and the environment by wasting less

How does World Food Day relate to what’s going on in Bristol?

A signatory to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (a global city network) and a member of the UK’s Sustainable Food Places network, Bristol is in the vanguard of the move towards the World Food Day goals but it has to be a collective effort.  As Bristol recovers from the immediate effects of the pandemic, we can all contribute to building a better food system that works for the future of our city.

  • Better for our communities: a food system that is local – supporting the local food economy, maintaining diversity on our high streets and putting the power in the hands of community food initiatives to make food work for them.
  • Better for each one of us: a food system for better health – enabling people to cook from scratch and grow food for their own wellbeing; and ensuring that everyone has access to good food.
  • Better for the planet: a food system where we all value food by reducing food waste and making the most of the food that we have; eating less meat and dairy; prioritising nature-friendly food and growing; and choosing local, seasonal food.

Becoming a ‘Gold’ Sustainable Food City and the road to 2030…

The second UK city to gain a silver award in 2016, Bristol aims to become recognised as one of the UK’s first ‘Gold status’ Sustainable Food Cities by 2021. By doing so, we’ll lay the foundations for the next decade of building a diverse, inclusive and resilient food community, and demonstrate that Bristol’s individuals, communities, organisations and food businesses are acting together to make real change by 2030. This year we’ve all been made more aware of the strengths of our food system, in particular the inspirational community-based emergency food response during lockdown, as well as its flaws. Now we’re asking Bristol to #BiteBackBetter now to support a greener recovery, to help us reach our Gold ambitions, and to pave the way for a decade of transforming food in our city. You can learn more and be part of the city’s movement to build a more resilient food system that benefits all by getting involved here.

Debating Bristol in Parliament

Today’s blog comes from Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East.

In Parliament this week I secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Capital Infrastructure Projects in Bristol. In the spirit of ‘One City’ co-operation, I shared my allotted speaking time with my Labour colleagues, Karin Smyth (Bristol South) and Darren Jones (Bristol North West), and Conservative neighbour, Chris Skidmore (Kingswood).

We spoke about Bristol’s economic and cultural success, but also recognised the challenges. There is still too much inequality in the city, and too little social mobility. Not everyone benefits from the opportunities on offer, and that needs to change. House prices are soaring upwards, and without better public transport our city could grind to a halt. To compound this, 2020 has thrown up its own challenges: Covid-19, a looming economic recession and the possibility of reaching the end of the Brexit transition period without a deal.

I have every confidence that Bristol can still prosper. The One City approach is paying off and all around the city we can see signs of renewal. But we can’t do it alone. If we are to realise our ambitions to regenerate neglected parts of our city, to build more affordable housing, and to significantly improve our transport infrastructure, we need help from the Government.

The Government says it is keen to invest in “shovel ready” projects, as a way of trying to prevent the UK plunging into a post-Covid recession. I highlighted the fact that work in Temple Quarter – which would mean 22,000 new jobs, at least 10,000 new homes and an economic boost to the city of £1.6 billion per annum – could start in January 2021. Without Government backing it would be delayed for another 3 to 5 years. I also spoke about the University of Bristol’s new Enterprise Campus, the need for flood resilience infrastructure and Temple Meads (the last major upgrade was in 1936 – and it shows!) Other MPs talked about the 1400 new homes planned for Hengrove Park; a mass transit system, the reopening of the Portishead line and rail electrification; and the need to revitalise our high streets. We stressed to the Minister the need for better joint working: you can’t plan for new housing without also considering transport and pressures on local services like schools and GPs.

In his response the Minister said he was heartened by what he had heard about the collaborative work being done across the community and across the city. He said he’d be happy to pay another visit to Bristol to see the work of the One City partnership. He didn’t go so far as to confirm that we will be getting the investment we have asked for – I wouldn’t have expected that! – but I think we managed to impress upon him that Bristol is a city that can deliver, and a city that is worth the investment

State of the City Address 2020

This is a transcript of this year’s speech for my State of the City Address. You can watch it back here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g4SVXUMH8Y

Our year

It’s been a humbling year.

In the modern age, when we’ve looked at any crisis, we’ve generally had the view that someone, somewhere could solve it, if they chose to. We’ve been of the mind that CEOs, politicians or scientists could make decisions to end poverty, end hunger, house people or even stop wars.

I think this might be the first time in the modern era that we’ve had to confront the limits of human power in facing up to the fact that there is no individual or group anywhere who can just solve this, even if they wanted to.   I have three main reflections on the year:

  • First, Covid is testing every system we depend on. Our education system, our food system, our transport system, our democratic system, our economic system. And while we have our heroes who have fought to keep things going, the systems themselves have been found wanting. School and exams have been missed, jobs have been lost. People have gone hungry. Transport has ground to a halt. Elections were cancelled and we are on the cusp of the deepest economic depression since the 1930’s.
  • Second, Covid is not indiscriminate.  Viruses get disproportionate opportunity to attack vulnerable individuals through weaknesses in our systems.  It has exposed our inequalities.  It’s those in the lower socio-economic groups, in overcrowded housing, front line jobs, black people, Asian people, poor people, those with pre-existing health conditions, who have been hit hardest by Covid and the consequences of the lockdown. It has exposed the national weakness resulting from the political and economic system in general and ten years of austerity and the disinvestment in society in particular.  This not least because it has left public organisations, local government and public health under equipped for this shock.   
  • Third, Covid is a crisis that is forcing us to rethink who and HOW we are.   For some, Covid will become a point of difference, division and suspicion. For others it will drive them to think about our interdependence.  Think back to those early reports from Wuhan. If you are like me, you cared but it was one of THOSE crises “over there”.  I think back to the Global Parliament of Mayors conference we hosted in Bristol in 2018.   Nearly 100 Mayors, their staff, the UN, World Health Organisation and others.  We focussed on three priorities: Urban security and Migration made sense to me. The third was city preparedness for Pandemics.  Even then, to me, pandemics felt like a distant threat, something for mayors from the global East and South to plan for and address.  Today the threat that was over there is causing pain, loss and death for families over here.  

2. Recognising loss

I want to begin by expressing my sympathy and condolences to all those families who have experienced loss.

I think particularly about those who have lost loved ones and not been able to hold the funerals, families would have wished and then having to grieve in isolation, alone.

And the losses we have faced haven’t just been about death. Many people have lost jobs, personal relationships and their financial security. Others have lost mental health and fallen into depression. 

Domestic violence has increased. Calls to childline have risen. People have lost their homes as places of safety.

In a recent comment Prince Charles warned:

“there has never been a time as uniquely challenging as the present, when the pandemic has left perhaps another million young people needing urgent help to protect their futures. The task ahead is unquestionably vast, but it is not insurmountable.”

The consequences will not disappear the moment we get a medical breakthrough. The legacy of this will be with us for many years. We will not be able to heal all the hurts. But we can commit to being a city in which healing and hope is possible.   

Thank you

I want to say thank you to those many people who are helping make that healing, hopeful Bristol a reality. From the medics who risk their lives to deal with the virus, to the community organisations who have distributed food, to businesses and unions who have tried to keep people in work, safe. I talked earlier about Covid testing our systems.  Something that has stood up to the test is society. Thousands of people volunteered through the Can Do Bristol website. Many thousands more set up their own groups or simply took care of family and neighbours. And we tasted something special and spiritually fulfilling as we turned out together to clap for our carers.    

There are many, many people and organisations I could name. But I will pull out a few:

  • Our nurses and doctors, NHS support staff, pharmacists, paramedics and ambulance crews and all the public health professionals. I want to mention Caring in Bristol and the Cheers Drive project.
  • Our care workers looking after people in their homes and our care homes.
  • Our foster parents – those who had to shield AND those who came forward in response to our appeal for more families for Bristol children.
  • Bristol’s cleaners, in hospitals, health centres and in all buildings. We now know how critical they are.
  • Our hoteliers, who worked with us to provide shelter to our homeless
  • Retail workers who kept local shops and supermarkets open and delivery drivers who kept shops and homes supplied.
  • Of course I need to mention the Bristol Food Union, Feeding Bristol, Bristol foodbanks and the Hunger Programme volunteers like the Dawa-te-islami charity, a mosque based foodbank, and particularly the work of James Edwards, Projects and partnerships manager of the Bristol City Robins Foundation and Adam Tutton, chief executive of the Bristol Rovers Community Trust.
  • There are individual examples from all over the city – like Mr Chattha who runs the Fulford Fish Bar in Hartcliffe.  His business had to close for the lockdown but before doing so, he offered ‘fish and chip lots’ to people in the local community who were struggling.    I want to celebrate USDAW’s campaign to protect retail workers from abuse, threats and violence and thank the Community Meals team, and our National Food Service.
  • Our drivers – in Bristol Community Transport, First West and Stagecoach South West who kept public transport moving.    To our taxi drivers, many of whom became delivery drivers as we sought to get emergency food out to people.
  • We owe so much to our teachers and school support staff for getting kids back to school and meeting the educational and pastoral needs of children when they were home under lockdown. 
  • Parents, who have balanced family life, home schooling and work.
  • Also our postal and logistics workers.  From Royal Mail to Amazon, they have all literally continued to deliver.
  • We owe huge thanks to our community centres and the people that work in them.  These people and places open their doors to often isolated people and keep communities together. Places like Lockleaze Community Orchard project & The Vench, as well as their near neighbours, Southmead Development Trust & Greenway Centre. And, the volunteers of the Ardagh Community Trust, breathing life back to community places that were in decline.
  • If we didn’t know it already, we do now… that our voluntary community sector is critical to our resilience. People like Off The Record and One25 reaching people in ways that many of the big providers cannot or will not. The same goes for organisations like Empire Fighting Chance, transforming young lives through boxing and who all found innovative ways to keep their support going.
  • The volunteers working in community media, Ujima and BCFM in particular and the critical part you  played working with us to get the Covid messages to people too easily missed.  And the mainstream media who supported our key public health messages, particularly Radio Bristol.
  • Bristol waste crews, who continued to collect our rubbish and clean our streets
  • Our Park Services teams and park volunteers, our Housing Responsive Repairs team and tenant support groups.  
  • And I want to thank our cemeteries and crematoria teams who have stepped up in difficult times…..

Together, we have lived, worked and cared for others in a way that has kept people safe and supported those in vulnerable situations.

Scale of the challenge to come

I must be clear about the scale of the challenge facing us. It is significant.

We have the scientific challenge of fighting the virus itself, protecting the NHS and the search for a vaccine. But we have to face up to the reality that a vaccine will not come down and cover us with an impenetrable shield that allows us to return to life as we once knew it. We need to prepare now for new normals.  The virus will continue to be with us, mutating into new strains, targeting the most vulnerable. 

And we face the consequences of the lockdown measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus including what is likely to be the deepest economic depression in decades.

The employment rate in Bristol in recent years, has been the highest of British Core Cities and 1% above the national average. But from March to August, unemployment had more than doubled to 4.5%.

By August, 70 000 people of eligible employment in Bristol, were furloughed.   That’s 30% of employees. That was a third higher than at the end of May.   It was the highest amongst 16-25 year olds where 44% of eligible employees in that age group were furloughed.

Bristol’s economy has at least 8000 fewer jobs.

A recent Business West survey showed that 37% of firms are looking to reduce labour costs, even as they were accessing the national furlough scheme and only 6% of companies are recruiting compared to 15.7% at the same time last year.

The employment of young people in Bristol is heavily concentrated in the retail, hospitality and food sectors, with around 40% of young people in employment in our city, in these industries.  That is double the rate for all ages in employment – in the very sectors at the biggest risk.  

Looking at the furlough numbers can guide our understanding of projected jobs at risk.  

In the region:

78% of workers in the accommodation and food services sectors were furloughed. 

72% in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector

63% in construction

42% in the wholesale, retail and motor trades sectors – huge numbers of jobs that will undoubtedly be at risk in a prolonged recession. 

4.5% of the UK workforce is employed in the Cultural and Creative Industries.  That’s over 10,000 workers in Bristol.

70% of those are, or have been furloughed and many are therefore at risk.

  • 56% of Film & TV production companies have cancelled planned work. Events and festivals have lost 11.5m  visitors nationally.
  • Average combined weekly loss of incomes across the city’s cultural organisations range between £315 000 and £375,000 with predictions that many organisations will have exhausted unrestricted reserves by the end of Autumn.
  • The combined economic impact on our museums is over £35m lost
  • Nearly two-thirds of festival and event organisers were forced to cancel planned events, 42 of the large outdoor/indoor festival and live events who responded identified a £5million loss due to cancellations in summer 2020, with a further £6.5million impact on the wider supply chain.

There has been a 40% reduction in civil aerospace orders and jobs already lost in the north of the city in that sector. The retail sector alone in Bristol is forecast to cut 1,600 jobs during this year.

We anticipate inequality widening. It is the most vulnerable and working people who will take the biggest hit from the downturn. And it is they who will be least well placed to benefit from any economic upturn when it comes.  Hardship will be particularly pronounced in lower super output areas in neighbourhoods from Hartcliffe to Hillfields, from Lawrence Hill to Lockleaze and Lawrence Weston.

Further and rising infection rates, a winter spike alongside the usual winter pressures on the NHS, will build pressure on our health systems.  We face business failures and rising unemployment, a return to evictions, burnout of workers in public services and schools, a spike in mental health pressures and maybe a more dramatic public reaction along with greater community tensions and rising crime.     

And as need in the city rises, we in Bristol are joining other local authorities across the country in challenging national government to face up to the reality that the amount of financial support they are providing is not enough to enable us to meet the scale of need. Government have put £10 billion into the problematic national test and trace system, much of it going on contracts with private firms like Serco and G4S. This amounts to more than 100 times Public Health England’s £90 million annual budget for infectious diseases and 25 times the £400million divided amongst the 343 English local authorities to spend on test, trace contain and outbreak plans.   Bristol is actually facing a £14million hit this year and £22million next, of funds not covered by the government..  

And so we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, on the cusp of an economic depression, with a model of national governance that holds power tightly in Westminster and Whitehall who are looking increasingly likely to add a no deal Brexit to our uncertainty. If there is one thing I hope government is learning – it’s that; the huge resource and expertise available to them, if they work effectively with local leaders and place shapers, in towns and cities across the country.

How will we build hope?

At the City Gathering in the summer of 2018, Bristol was presented with a plaque declaring us a City of Hope. As with all such declarations, they are as much about the possibility that is in us and what we want to be – as they are about what we actually are. Hope isn’t merely an attitude, belief or status; it is something we continually work to create.

I have often cited the proverb:

Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope.

The suffering we are facing CAN be a step toward hope. But the movement from suffering to perseverance is not guaranteed. Without support and leadership, suffering can pull people and communities apart. It’s our job to fight for the investment in lives that mean we come through these trials stronger, more resilient, more sustainable, more together than we were before. That is how we build back better. And it takes thoughtful, good policy.

In an article in The Lancet, Richard Horton, the Lancet’s Editor-in-Chief, and a former student of Bristol Grammar school, argues we need to develop our understanding of Covid.   He suggests we are not suffering merely from a pandemic but a syndemic in which two categories of diseases are interacting:  the communicable disease, Covid 19, and the non-communicable diseases that cluster around poverty and inequality such as cardio vascular disease and obesity. The aggregation of these diseases on a back ground of inequality exacerbates the adverse effects of both.

As Richard went on to say:

“The most important consequence of seeing COVID-19 as a syndemic is to underline its social origins. The vulnerability of older citizens; Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities; and key workers who are commonly poorly paid with fewer welfare protections points to a truth so far barely acknowledged—namely, that no matter how effective a treatment or protective a vaccine, the pursuit of a purely biomedical solution to COVID-19 will fail. Unless governments devise policies and programmes to reverse profound disparities, our societies will never be truly COVID-19 secure.”

He continued:

“Our societies need hope. The economic crisis that is advancing towards us will not be solved by a drug or a vaccine. Nothing less than national revival is needed. Approaching COVID-19 as a syndemic will invite a larger vision, one encompassing education, employment, housing, food, and environment. Viewing COVID-19 only as a pandemic excludes such a broader but necessary prospectus.”

This speaks to the warning that we and other local authorities have made to government since the beginning, that this crisis is short changed if we only measure it in terms of NHS capacity and ICU beds.

This is a social crisis and unless we deal with the underlying weaknesses in our society, we will be constantly vulnerable.   Moreover, that vulnerability will be with us as we move into future where shocks, be they economic, environmental or socio-political are predicted to be more likely.

The themes Horton points out resonate with the foundations of our approach in Bristol. We will continue in our commitment to deliver them:

On employment

  • With Bristol partners, we have developed our Economic Renewal strategy and we will deliver on it.  We must increase the city’s resilience and sustainability alongside enhancing the social and economic wellbeing of every community.   Our priorities include working with business and unions with the aim of protecting existing employment levels, building skills and pathways to work for young people, where the impact is currently being felt most profoundly and create opportunities for employment, especially by supporting green industries.    We will support business, promote digital innovation and work to attract new and established businesses into the city, in the way we did with Channel 4, now up and running and employing Bristolians.    And we have allocated capital funds to a Covid Response fund; £4 million will be available this year and £6 million next year to support recovery.
  • We are asking government to frontloaded investment in our green infrastructure to bring forward funding for infrastructure, to bring forward jobs and support the local supply chain.  While also allowing us to benefit from the decarbonisation of economic growth from now.   Investment in Temple Quarter will bring homes, jobs and a renovated train station.   Western Harbour will bring over 2000 homes in a sustainable location.  A transport plan will bring new and reopened stations, more biogas buses and a low carbon mass transit system that will transform people movement in the city.   We will rebuild our flood defences for the 21st century and beyond; and renew the city’s bridges and harbour walls.   We will also continue to make Bristol attractive to investors in the UK and around the world. 
  • Along with former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and other Labour mayors and leaders, we have laid out the need for a clear programme of  job retention schemes and to use this opportunity to  invest in a greener economy.   To invest in transitions to lower-carbon operations, transport and machinery replacement schemes.  And to invest in advanced research and development to retrofit and invest in new technologies. 

I have written to the government to request a boost for job retention schemes in the aerospace industry and other key sectors.  Along with my colleagues from the core cities network and the city’s trade union leaders, we have asked this government to do more to protect jobs, support key industries and do as much as governments in other European countries.  

And we want to deliver decent quality jobs.  We have now been officially recognised by the Living Wage Foundation as a Living Wage City.     This is more than 1750 people earning the real living wage, reducing the risk of in work poverty for hundreds of families. 

  • We are driving our economy by coming together with local authorities and businesses from Cardiff and Newport, from Swansea to Swindon, Gloucester to Bath-  to launch the Western Gateway. It gives us a place at the government’s table alongside the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

We need central government to back local and city governments to find more of the answers.   The government references levelling up but continues to drive a Westminster led agenda, underfunding city and local government that undermines the possibility of an inclusive recovery.

The impact of Covid-19 on our economics and fiscal outcomes is huge – now we have to invest in communities, in sustainable led industry and in social and economic infrastructure.  As has recently been said by the Centre for Progressive Policy:   “Having borrowed at record levels, now we must invest in local economies and local institutions that that can deliver rapid, systemic and sustainable change

With the devolution white paper delayed and a lack of commitment to localising solutions when that is clearly required, I echo the comments of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said

the new normal of living with covid-19 will only be sustainable –or even endurable – if we challenge our addiction to centralisation and go back to an age old principle; only do centrally what must be done centrally”.

On housing, the virus has already had a dramatic impact on our biggest existing challenges.    To have a home is the single biggest determinant of life outcomes.   Both the Brexit uncertainty and the covid crisis has had a significant  impact on the construction sector but we know the housing crisis is sharper than ever and we will return to our stretching targets and continue to build homes including affordable homes and council houses.

I am proud of our delivery on housing.    We have converted the council to a delivery organisation from a standing start, and the numbers speak for themselves, as do the cranes on the city’s horizon.

We have built just short of 7 000 homes since 2016, with around 1000 affordable. 

And we have built up a council housing programme of over 1,200 homes: the largest council housing development programme in this city for over 35 years. When we add the pipeline of projects our housing company is working on, this rises to almost 2,500 council homes to be built in Bristol.

The days I visit people in their new home, often the first time a family has had a quality, stable home, are the best days in the job.  Knowing we have delivered security, health and better life outcomes for real people gives the job meaning.   

That’s why building homes remains a key focus. 

  • Quality affordable homes are essential to building an inclusive city.
  • The kind of homes we build and where we put them will be the biggest determinant on our environmental footprint, reducing our carbon emissions and impact on nature and wildlife.
  • And on Covid, Building homes that build communities means people will live within the kind of social support networks that we have seen are crucial to our resilience and our ability to overcome shocks.  

On education, we are delivering on thousands of work experience placements, continuing the Reading City project, keeping libraries open.  We are supporting the Commission on race equality to increase diversity of teachers in the classroom and increasing spend for children with special educational needs and disabled children, expanding classroom spaces and building new schools.  

On food, tackling child hunger has remained a key focus as one of my core 2016 pledges.  We have delivered with partners in Feeding Bristol and other schemes, set out our ambition to achieve Going for Gold standard and are exploring plans for food growing schemes in every ward to support sustainability and tackle food poverty.

On environment, we are working with partners through the Environment Board to deliver our climate change response plan.   Accelerating our work to complete pedestrianisation of the old city,    a bus  gate at Bristol Bridge and closure of Baldwin Street to through traffic are steps towards cleaner air and healthier and more vibrant retail and entertainment led, city centre areas.     Rather than expand the simplistic and outdated residents Parking Zones, we are working with communities towards liveable streets, improving the public realm, enhancing public transport and active travel.   We are seeking more powers to tackle solid fuel burners, and polluting construction equipment. 

As the city continues to grow, we must also improve our transport infrastructure.   Changing the way we manage ‘through traffic’ and working with the city on travel change and shifting working patterns.   We will clean our air without financial penalties on the very households and businesses who need financial support – and who need to be able to access jobs now and in the future.    And we will deliver against Bristol’s transport plan, with the bus deal  and the strategic outline business case for the mass transit by next spring. 

We have taken key steps towards enhancing our lives by reversing dramatic declines in wildlife and restoring the natural environment.   Along with the environment board, Avon Wildlife Trust has led on design of a city ecological emergency strategy

That commits to 30% of land to be managed for the benefit of wildlife, to halve the use of pesticides, improve water quality and to work with communities and business to reduce the consumption of products that undermine the health and habitat of wildlife

The dash for growth

We will build recovery but we will be alive to the risk of a dash for growth subjecting us to a growth strategy that is values free. We cannot afford that. We need to build back with our values, to deliver a new normal that has inclusion and sustainability at its core.   We need to plan and build our future against the likelihood of future shocks while reducing the contribution we make to the likelihood of future shocks.

That is why we have put the economic recovery strategy, climate strategy and the ecological strategy at the heart of our planning.       We built these strategies to deliver the sustainable development goals.    We have a strong local commitment to tackle global challenges through local initiatives and collaboration.   Through the global goals, we will harness the private, public, voluntary and academic sectors in solutions.   Poverty, hunger, public health, wellbeing, education, equality, clean air and water, clean energy, decent jobs, innovation, sustainable inclusive growth, climate, wildlife and habitats, justice, partnerships – the sustainable development goals underpin the way we work and will underpin our recovery, our journey to hope.    The global goals will allow us to contribute to the conversations happening now in the global network of cities, stepping up to lead, while national governments flounder.  

Moreover, It’s our judgement thatinvestment will flow to the most resilient cities – those cities that are least vulnerable to climate shocks, floods, economic collapse and social disorder. And investors will gravitate toward green growth opportunities and all the reputational advantages that will bring in addition to the financial returns they seek.

We have set out our city plan as a road map for the future, led by the sustainable development goals, recognising inter-dependency, acknowledging that tackling poverty must go hand in hand with improving health and education, reducing inequality, stimulating growth and tackling climate change. 

Conclusion

My final message tonight is this:

  • This crisis can only be overcome by the city coming together;  our citizens and organisations
  • We must recognise this as a syndemic.  We must tackle the social determinants of health and inequality as well as the bio-medical determinants of health.
  • We must come to terms with the fact that the virus will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.    We must learn to adapt to the new normals; we will need to design and build covid secure environments and learn and adopt covid safe behaviours.
  • There will be no certainty from the top and so we must familiarise ourselves with the principles of how covid is passed on from one person to another and allow this knowledge to shape our behaviour, to keep ourselves and others safe.

And I want to reflect once more on our commitment to be a city of hope.

It is in our One City Plan. It’s in BCCs corporate strategy.

It is one of our core commitments and we will hold strong to that commitment.

The Arena – coming soon

I was surprised over the last few days to see coverage given to claims being made about the Bristol Arena. The topic even came up as a question in my most recent Facebook Live.

I expected a recognition of the existential threat to pubs, clubs, theatres and stadiums from lockdown, and that it would be financially catastrophic for us to be trying to make a go of an arena right now. We would have just borrowed £160m+ to build an arena during the largest pandemic in a century, been on the cusp of the deepest economic depression since the 1930s, and had the added economic uncertainty of the government’s negotiations for a deal on Brexit. We’d be in possession of a £160m building in the middle of the city, empty and earning no rent, while we continued to make our annual multi-million pound mortgage payments on it.

But I’m always happy to revisit the processes we worked through and the sober, evidence-led approach that enabled us to take the decision that assured the interests of Bristol came ahead of political vanity.

The myths

Before setting out the decision, it is worth tackling the myths shared recently on social media – which is never the best place to tackle complex issues.

The first myth is that the Brabazon Arena is not going ahead. YTL have confirmed that, following the Council’s and Secretary of State’s planning approval earlier this year, they still are on schedule. The UK’s third largest event space and most sustainable arena will be opening in the repurposed Brabazon hangars in 2023.

They have said: “YTL is committed to building a world-class arena and live entertainment venue for Bristol and the South West. The venue will be privately funded and there will be no cost to the public purse.”

A claim has also been made that the Temple Island arena was due to be delivered at a fixed cost. This is not true. These kinds of contracts – where the cost is fixed – don’t exist on major capital projects like an arena. In fact, by the time the serious work had been done, the costs had already increased to £160m (2018) from the initial optimistic promise that Bristol would get its arena for £95m (2013). And that cost increase happened before anyone had even put a spade in the ground. Under the terms of the contract, Bristol City Council was liable for 50% of all increased costs.  

The decision

The decision we made in 2018 was about the best use of Temple Island – it was not about where to build the arena. The location of the arena only becomes an issue if there is a better use of Temple Island – which there is. Temple Island is Bristol’s land. We get to use it once and we need to get the maximum benefit for the city. The numbers speak for themselves. Over 25 years, the mixed-use scheme outperforms an arena on every measure:

 Arena    Mixed use scheme
GVA£350-400m£900m
Jobs6502,000
Homes0500

Add to this the following environmental considerations:

  1. Even if large numbers came by train, there would still be thousands arriving by car, driving down the M32 and A4 into the middle of Bristol for a 7pm gig. That’s not ideal and makes no sense when you set that against our efforts to improve our air quality.
  1. Building an arena from scratch creates demand for the manufacture of thousands of tonnes of concrete and steel, two of the dirtiest industries on the planet. The amount of concrete and steel required would produce tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2. If we are to have an arena, recycling an existing building is the more planet-friendly option.

In the explanation I made at the time of the decision, I explained the precarious financial position we would have put the council and future generations in. It was not the case that there was an arena ready to go. We would have had to borrow £160m to build it and we would be locked into a circular relationship. It is one in which the council, on your behalf as the taxpayer, held all of the risk:

  1. BCC borrows £160m to build the arena
  2. BCC builds the arena  
  3. BCC finds private contractor to run the arena. Contractor generates a revenue from which they pay rent and take a profit.
  4. We use that rent to may repayment on our debt.

You can watch me set out this argument at the time here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqv2SDScu9E

I warned that once entered into, there were only two components of that circular relationship that would not change: the existence of the physical arena and the debt repayments. I explained there was a risk of the operator (Arena Island Ltd which was owned by Live Nation) declaring themselves, for whatever reason, unable to make the rent we had agreed. What if they came back to us asking to renegotiate the amount of rent they were paying? And what if that were below the amount we needed to cover our debt repayments? They could then have given us a choice: reduce the rent or we have no choice but to walk away. 

I noted when the decision was taken: “There’s a lot of risk in music venues: they are not great at making money”. At the time I shared a number of warnings I was getting from industry professionals that 10,000 seats was too few for a venue to be profitable, that any operator would struggle and that Brexit posed a risk.  

In 2018 nobody would have predicted a global pandemic. But I did set out the small margins and scale of risk that existed even without the pandemic.

On 6 August this year, NME reported that Live Nation’s revenues were down by 98% due to the coronavirus lockdown. In Europe, during the second quarter of 2020 there was a total of just 131 concerts, down from 3,309 during the same period in 2019. On 13 August, Rolling Stone reported:

“Live Nation has taken other cost-cutting measures as well, including hiring freezes, reduction in the use of contractors, rent renegotiations, furloughs, and reduction or elimination of other discretionary spending. Live Nation is targeting $500 million in savings for 2020 through the new measures.”

On 14 August, AE Daily reported“Live Nation Entertainment is live music’s dominant force and among the biggest occupiers of space in the events business. But the company is now looking to make big spending cuts, including renegotiating on $2.3 billion in lease deals.If we had ploughed ahead, we would now be part of those renegotiations. 

Instead, L&G are pressing ahead with the plans for Temple Island as part of the wider regeneration of Temple Quarter, including the new university campus and renovation of Temple Meads. And YTL are repurposing an existing aircraft hangar with its thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete already in place. They are doing this at their cost and risk. Transport links are already scheduled for the housing planned for the same site, including a train station, MetroBus stop and bus links. Bristol will get its arena.

Conclusion

I am not happy about the circumstances which we find ourselves in with coronavirus, far from it. But when an issue as significant as the arena is contested, it is important we step in to lift the lid and share the insight you deserve. It is also shocking that the press repeated the unfounded allegation without any scrutiny. Not once was the person making the claims on social media asked to defend the allegations with any evidence.

Bristol City Council had no more business getting into the entertainment venue industry than in had getting into the energy business. They are alike in that they were two ventures Bristol City Council were led into, making wildly optimistic promises to the city, while ignoring the seriousness of the risks. On both occasions it fell to us to discover the true fragility of the situations and try to delicately navigate our way out of them.

I have always publicly shared my reasoning behind the arena decision. The situation we would face today is we would be over £160m in debt, with an empty arena. I am sure you will agree that Bristol’s interests have been served.    

You can reread the blogs I wrote at the time here, and about the work we are doing to support Bristol’s nightlife and hospitality during the pandemic at the links below:

https://thebristolmayor.com/2020/10/02/saving-our-scene/

https://thebristolmayor.com/2018/08/15/arena-a-good-use-of-your-money/

https://thebristolmayor.com/2018/09/05/arena-cabinet-speech/

World Mental Health Day 2020

To mark this year’s World Mental Health Day, today’s blog comes from Shelagh Hetreed, Business Officer & Training Coordinator at Nilaari.

The stillness that this pandemic provides us allows reflection and new purpose to stir within us.

Since lockdown began, Nilaari has continued creating safe spaces for meeting the mental health needs of BAME communities, including university students, public sector workers and the many who found themselves on no other agency’s list for receiving support. We have worked to find different ways of engaging and maintaining contact with many newly anxious and distressed people, helping them to help themselves in psychological and practical ways. We find new themes emerging, alongside the familiar ones, which demonstrate the increasing demand for culturally sensitive therapeutic services across the City of Bristol.

For World Mental Health Day, some Nilaari practitioners have reflected on the new ‘usual’, of meeting the needs of all who reach out to us:

One day we were seeing clients 1:1 at our Stapleton Road offices and the next, we were at home, creating a private space to speak to the clients by phone. We quickly needed to establish different methods and skills to meet our clients’ needs, from our home space into theirs. The Nilaari therapy service managed to continue seamlessly, although for clients and therapists alike, we needed to adapt to no longer meeting face to face, despite this being such an important part of building a healing relationship.  

No longer could we ‘read’ body language or facial expressions, but we quickly learned to tune in to tone of voice. Our clients now needed to find a safe space to speak, to have sufficient credit on their phone and to know that they could be heard and understand. Not everyone could adapt but many more have found ‘voice only’ liberating and have felt able to speak more freely. Some see advantages in avoiding travelling across the city or not worrying about how they look (which probably applies to therapists too). Others who have faced extreme isolation and hardship see us as a lifeline and the only continuity and ongoing support they receive. Others express feelings of being abandoned by other services who are now unable able to offer support. At Nilaari, we are first of all respectful listeners, treating each person with respect, dignity and patience as the therapeutic journey begins.

Statistics inform us that mental health referrals may increase by 30% due to the pandemic. Nilaari’s challenges increase as we experience increasing anxiety and depression through fear, loss and uncertainty. Our team undertook trauma training in the first few months.

For some from BAME communities, there is growing distress exacerbated by conflicting information about Covid 19 and the stark statistic that those from some communities may be disproportionately affected. How do you stay safe in multi-occupancy homes, as frontline workers, working in less safe conditions while also trying to protect your family and friends by keeping a distance?

Many of our clients have been greatly impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement. The outpouring of media responses have been troubling, frightening. For many, it has been a reflection of their own life experiences.  Sadly, some folk feel entitled to express their opinions in the faces of any member of the BAME community they meet. BLM has stirred up emotions and feelings around race inequalities and injustice that have perhaps been previously suppressed. 

We are now hearing first-hand about micro-aggressions in the workplace and systemic racism, which is having a negative impact on mental health. Clients may express feelings of isolation, exclusion and not being taken seriously, while feeling powerless to take action. Anxiety, depression & frustration are rising way above peoples tolerance levels. 

This last 6 months has made time for self-reflection, unsettling feelings and facing unresolved issues.

Some new clients express how they feel things have become magnified with the pandemic, hence their need to seek support. Many choose Nilaari because they feel that they will be understood. It can be emotionally intense hearing our clients suffering such hardship but we listen and offer tried and tested therapeutic methods to move the person to a more positive and resilient ‘place’.

It has been and continues to be a challenging time for practitioners, constantly reflecting on the hardships of our clients.  As waiting lists grow, the team are poised ready, phone in hand to continue to reach out to all our communities and are rewarded by the trust that is placed in them by our fellow citizens.

Clean Air begins at home

Well before the pandemic, we recognised the moral, ecological and legal duty to clean up Bristol’s air. And today, on Clean Air Day, we are setting out the next steps in our plan to deliver cleaner air for the city and to do so in a fair and just way which brings all parts of the city with us.

We have taken steps to lock in the benefits that lockdown brought to our environment and air quality. Bringing forward major transport improvements – such as the closure of Bristol Bridge and Baldwin Street to through traffic, and the pedestrianisation of the Old City – have allowed us to improve traffic flow, reroute polluting vehicles from areas with low air quality, and to give priority to public transport, walking and cycling.

Before lockdown, we were also well on our way to making public transport in our city even more environmentally sustainable. We have worked closely with Firstbus to introduce biogas-powered buses, which cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%. We have also secured funding for businesses in Bristol to loan free electric vehicles, in addition to launching the region’s new electric vehicle charging network (including a rapid charging station at Eastville Park).

All this has allowed us to make big improvements in Bristol’s air quality. We are covering all bases, however, and today we have launched our consultation so you can have your say on our revised proposals for a Clean Air Zone until 22 November. These include charging commercial vehicles, but also charging non-compliant private cars. We have long warned that charging non-compliant private cars would have a disproportionate effect on our poorest households who are more likely to own older vehicles which emit more pollution. That is why we want to press ahead with our more radical plans of redirecting traffic forward to bring Bristol’s air quality to compliant levels without a charge for private vehicles.

However, I want to stress that the retention of the benefits we saw during lockdown and the delivery of cleaner air in Bristol won’t come through the stroke of a pen in Whitehall, or solely from the efforts of the City Council.

We all need to minimise our contribution to air pollution in the city. Changing our transport habits are a big part of that, but we can – and must – do more. Unlike the government, the World Health Organisation particularly highlights how reducing particulate matter (PM) is crucial in order to cutting premature death through pollution. For us in Bristol that means, obeying the rules of the smoke control area that covers the whole city, and not burning wood on an open fire; and recycling waste rather than burning it on a bonfire.

Cleaning up the air in Bristol will require the whole city – all of us – to come together with a common purpose, adjusting the way we live to protect each other from pollution, particulates and toxic fumes.