Poverty kills: my reflection on 10 years of the Marmot review

“England has lost a decade.”

That was the conclusion of Sir Michael Marmot on this week’s publication of his review of the government’s attempts to tackle inequalities in health over the last 10 years. In particular, his review is scathing of the government’s lack of action on the recommendations of his landmark report, Fair Society Healthy Lives. The longevity and intensity of austerity imposed by the government over the last decade has meant they have utterly failed to address the link between deprivation and health inequalities.

Some of the key findings of the review should make for deeply uncomfortable reading for national policymakers:

  • For the first time since 1900, increases in life expectancy have stalled.
  • Life expectancy is strongly linked to your social and economic circumstances – the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy.
  • In the 10% most deprived areas in England, life expectancy for women has fallen.
  • The difference in healthy life expectancy is even sharper – people in more deprived areas live shorter lives, and spend more of that time in ill-health than those living in more affluent areas.

This is a huge social injustice. It makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s Brexit-driven boasts about Britain being the sixth largest economy in the world. How can a country that fails to lift its population out of poverty, take on the world?

The report sets out clearly how poverty and deprivation affect people’s health:

“Living in poor quality housing, being exposed to poor quality environmental conditions, poor quality work and unemployment, not being able to afford nutritious food and sufficient heating for example all impact on health. Poverty is also stressful. Coping with day-today shortages, facing inconveniences and adversity and perceptions of loss of status all affect physical and mental health in negative ways.”

To put it bluntly, when we plot differences in life expectancy and health outcomes against deprivation, one trend becomes clear:

Poverty kills.

This is not just an issue of social justice: an unequal, fragmented and unwell population means an unequal, fragmented and unwell workforce. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for democracy.

The original Marmot review challenged public services, community groups, and local and national leaders to reduce health inequalities by focusing work on six areas:

  • Give every child the best start in life
  • Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives
  • Create fair employment and good work for all
  • Ensure a healthy standard of living for all
  • Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
  • Strengthen the role and impact of ill-health prevention

Where leadership from national government has been found wanting on these six themes, Bristol has stepped up. As Marmot says, “some local authorities are leasing the way in demonstrating how to make local and regional approaches to reducing health inequalities both practical and effective and there is much for national government to learn.”

Marmot’s praise for local authorities like Bristol is all the more remarkable given we have delivered this under a government that has imposed austerity policies that have generated the conditions that have driven demand. In the face of crippling budget cuts, political instability which constantly undermine our ability to plan for the long-term, Bristol has put the principles for a healthier population at the heart of what we do.

Delivering affordable, high-quality and sustainable homes in balanced communities across the city; investing in the dramatic transformation of our transport network to connect people to people, people to jobs and people to opportunity; keeping all of our children’s centres open and safeguarding the future for our library service; supporting Feeding Bristol to provide nutritious meals so families don’t go hungry in the school holidays; preserving green space, and developing opportunities to take up sport and physical exercise; bringing city partners together to harness the whole city’s energy to agree and achieve the vision of a One City Plan.

These are all steps we have taken to unlock inclusive economic growth, empower people and communities to shake off entrenched poverty, and improve health outcomes so people can enjoy longer, healthier and more independent lives.

Yet they are all steps that need to be taken on a bigger journey. National government needs to face up to the reality that we in local government have been grappling with for the past decade – that austerity, and the poverty it engenders, is bad for all our health.

Youth Strike

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families.

Like so many other Bristolians, I was really excited to hear the news last weekend that Greta Thunberg has chosen to come to speak in Bristol.

Our city has led the way in declaring both a Climate and Ecological Emergency and putting the environment at the heart of our plans for the future and we are proud to listen to our young people through the Youth Council and the work of the Bristol Children’s Charter.

Greta’s commitment, resilience and passion for making climate change pivotal to global political discussion can only be admired. Her ability to inspire young people has had an impact in my own family; my children’s awareness of the delicate future of our planet can be attributed to her worldwide campaigning.

As my children are primary aged I have been considering all week whether it would be appropriate to take them out of school to hear Greta speak tomorrow. It feels like a once in a lifetime event and opportunity to hear from a young woman who has used her voice so powerfully to change the world. However, the statement released by Avon & Somerset Police and Bristol City Council has led me to reconsider. The main concern for tomorrow has to be the safety of children, and, as a parent I respect the concerns that the police have in terms of safety, especially of primary aged children.

The nature of the Youth School Strikes is ‘organic’ and as such it is really difficult for a city to plan for crowd sizes, transport implications and moving people around. We simply do not know how many people are planning to come to Bristol or the exact plans of the organisers. Bristol is a city with a long history of protest, and we are rightly proud of this and everyone who wants to take part tomorrow should be able to do so proudly and safely.

For those families who decide not to come to College Green tomorrow, I know that many schools are planning to do extra activities during the school day – I’ve pulled together some of these for inspiration!

  1. Encourage all students to walk or cycle to school
  2. Host a class litter picking competition in your local area
  3. Ban the plastic with a plastic free day (including no plastic school chairs!)
  4. Make some placards out of recycled materials to wave outside the school gates
  5. Come up with a student climate plan for the year ahead with pledges everyone can sign up to which will reduce their carbon footprint.

In January, the Mayor and I hosted 10 schools and their eco-groups. We discussed how we can make our schools greener, how we can work together as a city and built eco-bricks. We also had a fascinating discussion in the council chamber on school strikes. Everyone agreed that they had had a positive impact on the climate change agenda and the children all concluded that along with protest there must be real action.

Bristol’s fight to save the planet will continue long after Greta leaves Bristol tomorrow, but her words and inspiration will stay with us as we work together across all ages.

Budget Full Council speech 2020/21

This is the full speech that I delivered at Budget Full Council on Tuesday 25 February 2020, prior to the Council’s budget for 2020/21 being passed.

I am proud to present our fourth budget to council today, one that is both ambitious and fiscally responsible.

No new cuts budget

This is no small achievement. Councils have lost 60p out of every £1 that the last Labour Government was spending on local government. We have faced unprecedented political turmoil. Since my election I have had five governments under three Prime Minsters with a churn of Ministers; Brexit; the chaos and callousness of welfare reform and the ongoing problems that accompany our being one of the most centralised countries in Europe.

These challenges sit alongside the cuts imposed on our public sector partners across health, schools and colleges and policing. They have come together as fronts to create a perfect storm of disinvestment in our country that has served to drive up the need for the services we are finding increasingly harder to deliver.

Michael Marmot’s follow up report to his 2010 fair society healthy lives was released today.

He says, “England has lost a decade”, and describes the damage to the nation’s health as “shocking”.

“If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving”.

It is in the face of these challenges that we are delivering a no new cuts budget and we remain the only city that has been able to maintain so many of its public services.


I am pleased you have had the chance to go over the budget with your groups and members. Since before I was elected, I have heard councillors express a desire for an opportunity to engage in a better quality of politics in this chamber – moving away from the grandstanding toward grappling with the complexities and contradictions of a modern city.  Where we not only say what we want but stand by the consequences of what we want.

This budget is our opportunity to engage in that higher quality debate.

Joe Biden once said “Don’t show tell me what you believe, show me your budget”.

It’s in the budget that we find out what’s important to you through your priorities because we see how you apply your inadequate and finite funds to growing and competing priorities.

I am happy you have had the opportunity to work through the £395m investment in Bristol outlined in this budget. I appreciate that you haven’t made major attempts to overhaul it which I take as a positive sign.

In fact Cllr Hopkins and his Liberal Democrat colleagues have submitted revenue amendments totalling £250,000 this year, Cllr Comley and her Green colleagues totalling £130,000 this year and Mark Weston and the Conservatives £256,000 this year.

Alone they represent less than 0.03% of the budget, together 0.08% leaving over 99% of our decisions untouched. Undoubtedly we will have differences, but I hope there will be some appetite for the tone of our discussion this evening to reflect the fact that we appear to agree on 99.92% of this budget.

Financial responsibility

As the final budget of this mayoral term, it’s appropriate to remember the scale of our journey.

When we came in to office, we discovered we had inherited an organisation in financial and governance chaos with a £32m hole in its budget. We commissioned former Chief Executive of the Audit Commission, Stephen Bundred, to undertake an independent review of exactly what we had on our hands.

It was a shocking report including his finding that:

“An entire annual budget – 2016/17 – approved on the basis of a “false” assumption that previously-agreed cuts had been fully carried out and savings delivered…and an assumption that a balanced outturn would probably be achieved can at best be described as artful.”

Mr Bundred concluded by saying:

“I am in no doubt that the sequence of events described in this report represents a collective failure of leadership within the Council for which several people, including elected politicians, bear responsibility”.

This only served to confirm our sense that Bristol City Council needed to be transformed. Local Government doesn’t have the reputation of having the most dynamic of organisations, but with a change of leadership, the support of unions and so many of our staff who’ve wanted to be an organisation performing at the top level, we changed direction.

Two years in we invited the Local Government Association to undertake a Peer Review Challenge. It was our opportunity to bring in objective, expert judgement on our performance. Their report said:

“Two years ago the council was facing a funding crisis and commissioned an external review to assess its root causes and make recommendations to address them. Two years on the council’s financial management and grip is stronger. Overall, BCC’s ‘green shoots’ of improvement are visible but there is much more to do in order to turn that potential into reality.”

It’s this recognised fiscal responsibility – taking the public’s money and treating it with respect – that means this administration has been able to deliver.

It’s one of the reasons we have been shortlisted for four national awards by the Local Government Chronicle, including Local Authority of the Year; One of the reasons we were European iCapital innovation award winners, winning €100,000, and one of the reasons our reputation with Homes England has been transformed and being seen as a city where business can be done.

It’s also why we can see the progress – you can’t walk around the city now without seeing so many cranes in the city, something the Bristol Post described as evidence of “major transformation”. Homes are being built, schools are being built, and for the first time in decades the people of Bristol seeing the city perusing the ambition and change the city needs.


It’s why we have been able to deliver on all my 2016 pledges:

  • Delivering homes including social housing, in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the city.  Meeting the stretching targets we set ourselves, with over 8000 homes being completed from 2016 to the end of this year.  From a standing start, that’s some achievement and now we’ve committed £85 million to accelerate home building, £61 million for Goram Homes and freeing up a further £15.7 million to invest in building council homes.
  • It’s how we have kept children’s centres open and delivering for families, with three and a half thousand meaningful experiences of work delivered in the last year alone.
  • We have increased school places, with £25m already committed to a new school in Lockleaze and two more new schools in progress.   
  • We’ve put Bristol on course to be run entirely on clean energy by 2050 and to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. We launched the City Leap, a one billion pounds package of investment that will transform Bristol’s relationship with energy, the way we generate, distribute, store and use it.
  • We’ve been able to invest in the Bristol Clean streets initiative including modern Big Belly Bins and the Big Tidy.
  • And invest in Bristol’s culture offer including underwriting £48.8million for the redevelopment of Colston Hall and £1.5million to enable the modernisation of Bristol Old Vic and then to bring Channel 4 to the city.  

And of course we’ve:

  • Committed nearly £40 million pounds to be the only Core City to maintain a fully funded 100% council tax reduction scheme supporting over 35,000 of our most vulnerable households;
  • Safeguarded our Adult social care services. Over 6,000 adults are supported by adult social care with over 2,000 of who are in care homes. Last year 65% of our net spending was on social care services and the responsible management of our finances has avoided a fate like Northampton County Council’s.
  • Invested in Feeding Bristol to tackle child hunger. 5,000 children benefitted through the Healthy Holidays scheme last summer and 53,000 meals provided across the city
  • Invested in the reinvention of city leadership through the City office and the One City Plan – something for which we were awarded 100, 000 euros as a finalist in the European I Capital awards.

This budget will:

Support older people to live independent dignified lives in their own homes for as long as possible, and transform adult social care services in order to ensure a more joined up and efficient service for people. We have invested in technology and our Home First service is returning people home from hospital sooner. We are paying Care workers the Living Wage and travel time, and having been awarded the status of a World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly City we will continue to work across housing, transport and health services to live up to that status.

This budget invests in a three year programme to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.

In addition to the £1.6 million funding we have already approved to support children with special educational needs, this budget will allocate a further £1.5 million to complement the £1.3 million identified in the Direct Support Grant, getting it right for children who have been failed.

The budget will keep all libraries open and will now modernise them, equipping them for the 21st century.


The challenges remain – as they do for all cities. And as yet we are getting no certainty from central government on the details of devolution or the nature of levelling up they have been talking about.

But we have a great team here and I want to thank Denise, Tian, Mike and the rest of the finance team, and all our officers for the hard work that’s gone into this budget. And I’ll steal a bit from Craig and thank the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group. And of course I thank the Bristol Labour Group  and membership for all their contributions, my cabinet who have led on taking very difficult decisions and in particular Craig Cheney.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020

Today’s blog comes from Nicaraguan Fairtrade coffee farmer Gloria Gonzalez on the importance of Fairtrade to communities like hers.

Through the partnership between the Bristol Link with Nicaragua, which manages our official twinning with Puerto Morazan in the North West of Nicaragua, and SOPPEXCCA the union of Fairtrade Co-operatives based in the country’s highlands, we are able to host Gloria for two weeks of schools presentations, public talks and business meetings. Working closely with Bath Spa University Alumnae Fund and the Bristol and South Glos Fairtrade Networks, Gloria will speak about the benefits of Fairtrade to over 2,000 local children and adults by the end of her visit.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti and our economy is based strongly on our coffee production as well as our beef and gold exports. Coffee prices fluctuate dramatically and currently they are at an all-time low. This impacts directly on co-operatives like mine and we are forced to diversify into cocoa, citrus and vegetable production. Being part of a Fairtrade certified co-operative means not only do we benefit from a stable price but also from the Fairtrade premium which means we as a co-op can decide together how we spend this.

I started working in coffee production when I was a 12 year old child because during those times of the US funded Contra war, there were no opportunities to study. Also, we were seven brothers and sisters and my father’s salary was not sufficient for him to support the family. Now my co-operative can use the Fairtrade Premium to build a new school for our community, offer every child a school pack or fund our children to go on to further education which was unthinkable before.

Now like many of the co-operatives in our region, we are having to use the Fairtrade Premium to mitigate the devastating effects of Climate Change. Any rise in temperature means we lose our coffee bushes at lower levels on the hillside. The fungus La Roya has killed off thousands of our coffee bushes and although we burn and replant it takes at least three years of growth before we can harvest the coffee beans. The rainfall patterns have changed markedly and although we still have the same total rainfall, it now arrives in huge downpours and washes away the nutrients in the topsoil. This means we have to keep spending on organic fertilizers and also introduce more plants to shore up the hillsides.

In Nicaragua, unlike other neighbouring countries, women are allowed to own land and my co-operative has helped me through the paperwork to obtain my titles. I am now responsible for Women’s Empowerment within my co-op and this issue is also a big part of the Fairtrade criteria which people don’t always know about. Gender equality is a priority in my country where now over 50% of our MPs are women and we are fifth in the world after the Scandinavian countries in terms of the World Gender Gap.

Of course I am a keen supporter of Fairtrade and I would encourage everyone reading this to continue to buy Fairtrade goods where you see the FT Logo because this logo is the only guarantee that people like me are getting a fair price and that we are looking after the planet at the same time.

Gloria Gonzalez, Member of the “Julio Hernández” co-operative, one of the UCA Soppexcca 16 grassroots co-operatives, responsible for Gender Equality and Health and Safety

Translated informally from the Spanish by BLINC Executive Committee member Nick Regan

Come and meet Gloria at this free public event, with Q&A

  • Date: Tuesday 25 February, 6:00-7:15pm,
  • Venue: Better Food Café, Wapping Wharf, Bristol BS1 6WE
  • Entry: Free – just turn up!

Hotwells community meeting 22/01/2020: Western Harbour

I want to thank local residents for organising and attending the meeting in Hotwells in January to discuss the future of Western Harbour. I am sorry the previous meeting had to be postponed. The general election got in the way.

The format I was asked to work within consisted of 55 minutes of statements and contributions from the floor, with me being asked to listen and then respond for ten minutes or so at the end.

I made notes of the comments raised and I’m sharing these alongside my responses. These can be downloaded in full by clicking the button below, but I’ve also provided a summary beneath.  

1. The Challenge

I mentioned in my response at the meeting that it was essential to agree our starting point with the shared challenges the city faces.

  • We have our current housing crisis, with over 100 people rough sleeping on our streets, 550 households in temporary accommodation, and 12,000 households on the council house waiting list.
  • The housing crisis is more than homelessness and impacts affordability too. In 2018 Bristol had a housing affordability ratio of 9.12 for average house prices to average earnings. This is higher than the English average of 8.00, and the highest of all of the English Core Cities (who all have affordability ratios lower than the national average).
  • Bristol currently has a population of 460k, which is estimated to be 550k by 2041 so the housing crisis is only going to grow. This crisis has the ability to undermine the economy and be the basis of social and political resentment which will impact all of us.
  • A failure to deliver affordable homes is not an option for us. If people’s needs are not met, we risk creating the conditions for a reactionary, populist politics that comes with a message of protecting people through stronger borders and rolling back environmental measures that undermine employment. It’s critical we are ahead of this. It’s one of the reasons I stress the interdependence of homes, environment, jobs and equality.

We are working to meet this housing need in the face of a climate and ecological emergency. The types of homes we build, and where we place, them will be one of the biggest determinants of the carbon price we pay for Bristol’s growth. We need to minimise the carbon price by building densely within an active travel distance of employment. Every time you don’t build centrally you have to build somewhere else. The further away it is, the bigger the carbon consequence, even as we drive standards for more energy efficient homes and travel.

2. The Opportunity

Western Harbour is a huge opportunity for the city because it gives us the space to deliver:

  • Much needed homes – a thriving, mixed community with variety of tenures, including affordable
  • Sympathetic flood prevention engineering – future proofing the location and wider area
  • City centre revitalisation – bringing families (and customers) to the city centre and North Street at a time our high streets are struggling
  • Active travel area – environmentally friendly location for people to live without cars, and also means improving existing connectivity for the area
  • Opening access to the waterfront and enhancing the important heritage there – making it a destination all of Bristol can use and enjoy

These are important goals for Bristol, but we know that in a complex city any decision has trade-offs. We must recognise that any decision is balanced. Our responsibility is to discuss these and balance them as a city to achieve the best for us all.

3. What stage are we at – Pre-process

The situation has come about because the current layout of slip roads and flyovers is nearing the end of its lifespan. With an estimated bill of £40m to replace it as is, the sensible thing to do with the city’s money is to look at all the possibilities.

We haven’t ruled anything out – but I don’t see how repairing an inefficient 1960s layout can help with the city challenge we face of building homes in a climate emergency.

A tunnel remains my first preference. We are told the costs are considerably higher and the engineering incredibly difficult – with challenging gradients, tunnelling under mud and the potential impact on the river bank ecology. But I will keep this option alive as we look at every option.

I want people to know that we are in the pre-process stage. Before any formal work is done we’re trying to get views and table the issues. That’s why there isn’t the detail some expected during engagement, because we want to work with them and whole city to get this right and deliver the potential the area has.

The engagement raised issues and we picked up some of these at the event. I have heard many of these concerns before, having met with Riverside Garden Centre and heard their views directly, as well as the responses to the engagement exercise and also at churches in the area and people contacting me and my office. They include:

  • The impact on the gorge/view/heritage – a new bridge to the west might restrict views  of the gorge and suspension bridge
  • This is a road-based development – we shouldn’t be increasing road capacity to bring more vehicles into the city
  • Damage to ecology/nature – development might have harmful impact on existing green spaces and people’s enjoyment of them.
  • The development will not be high quality or sympathetic to the existing architecture

I appreciated these and the other points made, including the recognition of the need to build homes, and the concerns over cost – because that’s what we’re grappling with every day.

This was the first meeting and we will be looking to arrange a follow up so I can go again in the near future with a more interactive format.

This page has more details about the project as it develops:


On The Spot

This week we’re launching an exciting new podcast series called On The Spot.

It’s the Council’s first venture into the world of podcasts. We’ll be uploading an episode every week in which a different guest interviewer gets the chance to ask me their burning questions about Bristol. We’ll be talking education, diversity in senior leadership, transport, climate change, Bristol’s heritage and much more.

On The Spot is a chance for Bristol people to go deeper than the headlines, to learn more about the work we’re already doing, and what needs to change. It’s all about elevating the voices of Bristol’s people, and giving them a public platform on which to share their views – it’s an invaluable learning opportunity for me, my team and for the city.

The first episode of the podcast is all about the ecological emergency, which Bristol was the first city in the UK to declare. The declaration provides a focus for the whole city to come together and take positive action to protect our wildlife, animal habitats, green spaces and parks. The statistics are heart-breaking. 15% of British wildlife is now at risk of extinction. In Bristol, bird species like swifts and starlings have almost been wiped out and habitats for hedgehogs, birds and insects have all but been destroyed.

CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust, Ian Barrett, joined us on our first episode to talk about the action behind the declaration. AWT have played a vital role in the declaration and in their continued efforts to protect Bristol’s natural wonders. The MyWildCity project is a 3 year project led by AWT and supported by the Council, and has already done so much to raise the profile of eight wildlife sites across the city.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out more from Ian about the brilliant work already being done by individuals, organisations and city partners, and what more now needs to be done in a collective city-wide effort.

It was a pleasure speaking with Ian for the first in our podcast series, and I look forward to sharing the conversations I’ve had with other Bristol citizens over the coming weeks.

You can download and subscribe to On The Spot on Anchor, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Episode 1: The Ecological Emergency is available to listen now. This podcast is created and hosted by Bristol City Council: https://anchor.fm/bristolcitycouncil

Can Do Bristol

Last week saw the launch of the Year of Can Do 2020, a year of activity to inspire, motivate and support the citizens of Bristol to get involved in their community. It’s about sharing skills, knowledge and time, accessing volunteering opportunities and celebrating the huge positive impact social action has on our city.

The Year of Can Do is being led by local Bristol community organisations including Knowle West Media Centre and Up Our Street, and will be packed with events, training and opportunities.

Having spent time working in the voluntary and community sector, I know the vital role these organisations play in shaping the identity of a place. I’m proud of Bristol’s reputation for independent spirit and community action, and of the things we have achieved by collectively stepping up and demanding better.

There are thousands of people in the city who give their time each year to helping others. Many volunteer with third sector organisations or with other services such as hospitals, schools, parks and libraries. But there is also a groundswell of individuals who offer support or give their time for free to their friends, neighbours, local communities, faith and cultural groups.

I want to thank all those who give their time to making our city a better place for everyone. We want to celebrate all these acts of kindness, large or small, during the Year of Can Do. Those that are already active in their community serve as inspiration to us all – and we want to encourage more people to get involved.

But it’s not just about what you can give – there is so much to gain from getting involved in your local community. Volunteering can offer you skills, keep you active and allow you to connect with others. It can be a channel through which to empower those who may not typically get a seat at the table, and then there’s the sense of satisfaction that so many volunteers report.

A great way to get involved is to connect with your neighbours and others Can Do Bristol (www.candobristol.co.uk), Bristol’s dedicated new web platform for enabling and celebrating community action in the city.

It has been developed by partners across Bristol and is an easy way to find information on campaigns, events, training and volunteering opportunities throughout the year. You can use it to find out what’s happening near where you live, take part in local initiatives or create your own.

There will also be a Can Do Festival running from 2nd-15th March. The festival will offer the opportunity to attend training, take part in events and activities, share your learning or discover something new.

So, what is it you feel most passionate about? What change would you most like to see and how can you help to make that a reality?

Bristol belongs to the people who live, work and study here. We want to empower more people to positively shape their communities through volunteering and neighbourly activity. Together, we can deliver a Bristol that works for everybody.


It’s just over a year since we formed the Bristol@Night advisory panel. On Monday night I was delighted to be joined by Amy Lamé, the Night Czar for London, along with many of those working in the night time economy, to celebrate all that’s been achieved so far. Complete with Jamaican food, Bristol-based musician Harvey Causon and a sound system provided by Motion nightclub, it was a proper Bristol get-together.

Bristol has a reputation for being a bit loud. From Eats Everything to Massive Attack, Portishead to Roni Size, we have a long history of making noise. But this aspect of our city can too often seem removed from the everyday workings of City Hall.

Councillor Nicola Beech, my cabinet lead for Spatial Planning and City Design, came to me two years ago when it became clear that those working in the night time economy didn’t have a voice in the council. In creating the Bristol@Night panel, we wanted to bring partners together to work through the challenges and support a safe, vibrant and inclusive night time economy.

With so much change going on in our growing city, and as we tackle competing priorities from housing to transport,  we mustn’t forget the importance of our culture. And I don’t just mean ‘high culture’, which is of course vitally important in its own right. I mean grassroots culture and all those smaller, independent venues that make Bristol such an attractive place to live, but are all too often left vulnerable in the face of change.

The city is complex and there are going to be changes that need to happen. Cleaning up our dirty air must happen, but there will be consequences in implementing the measures we need to take. That’s why we need a range of voices at the table to help mitigate the impact of these measures and protect business and nightlife. Only by coming together can we support businesses to thrive and adapt to the changes going on around them.

There’s a real opportunity for those working in this sector to step up and shape the future of our city. Bristol’s night time economy, and particularly its underground music scene, attracts a diverse audience. The night time economy is worth 6% of UK GDP or £66billion annually and provides jobs for 1.3million people in the UK, so the opportunity is huge.

So how can we support more young people from a range of communities to view this industry as a potential career?

We want to explore how this sector can support a pipeline of diverse and inclusive leaders for the future. One way we’re hoping to do this is through sharing some of our Apprenticeship Levy Funds with employers who would otherwise be unable to support such an opportunity due to costs or lack of funding.

We are particularly interested in hearing about apprenticeship opportunities that will diversify the workforce and help fill skills gaps. To find out more about how your business can tap into these funds, contact bristol.apprentices@bristol.gov.uk.

But it’s not all about bars, pubs and clubs. Amy Lamé spoke about being a Czar for all Londoners at night, whether you want to get a good night’s sleep, you work at night time or you want to be out dancing until the early hours. That’s why the panel will work closely with our emergency services, our transport colleagues and developers to ensure that Bristol is a safe and inclusive place to be at all hours of the day or night. 

The foundations have been laid for a new relationship with the night time economy. I’m excited to see what the Bristol@Night panel achieve in their second year as we strive to ensure Bristol continues to be an open and vibrant place for visitors, residents and workers alike.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020

Today’s blog comes from Donna Speed, Chief Executive of We The Curious on the importance of marking International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020.

The theme for this year is ‘Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.’ 

I’m proud to say that We The Curious was the first science centre in the world to declare a climate emergency and has inspired more science centres to act. In Bristol, many organisations have united to address the causes of climate change, before the impacts become irreversible.

We hear daily accounts describing the devastating impact that the actions of humans are having on our planet. We are moved by the bravery of those trying to turn the tide before it’s too late; such as Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speeches challenging those in power to do more. For me, Greta is incredibly inspirational as a young woman and as an advocate of the power and importance of science. Greta’s focus has always been on the facts, looking at the research and what it tells us:

These numbers are not my opinions. They aren’t anyone’s opinions or political views. This is the current best available science. Though a great number of scientists suggest even these figures are too moderate, these are the ones that have been accepted by all nations through the IPCC.”

Given the challenges we face on a global scale, it makes sense to have as many brains – as many different ideas, experience, talents and views – as possible working on scientific solutions. Yet science, in education and in industry, is still very much the province of men. Barely over a quarter of girls choose to go into science subjects in education, with women making up a similar percentage of research posts and just 25% of the STEM workforce. 

We need more girls and women in science. We need to be included in both post-GCSE science education and going on into research and industry. We need to recognise the power that we possess and the value we bring, and take inspiration from brilliant women, because the problems we face are going to need all of us working together to solve them.

For those of you think that science ‘Is Not For Me’. I myself thought the same way at school, because I didn’t have all the answers. But science isn’t about answers, it’s about questions, and it’s EVERYWHERE. If you’re curious or concerned about any aspect of the world – from the technology that gave you the phone in your hand to the science that may help to solve the climate emergency – then you’re interested in science. Why not follow that interest and see where it leads?

Protecting Bristol’s Nightlife: an update from Motion

© Photography by Ollie Kirk for Here & Now (fb.com/wearehereandnow)

Today’s blog comes from Dan Deeks, Managing Director of Motion Bristol

Today marks a milestone for Motion, and for our nightlife more broadly. As we work to protect city-centre venues from the changes going on around us, we have succeeded in securing a deed of easement.

Motion as a venue has existed in the industrial area of our city, with little residential properties in proximity. As part of our city’s growth a university campus will be situated over the river from us with residential property coming with it. This is much-needed regeneration, and we welcome the change. However, these new properties leave us at risk of potential noise complaints.

A deed of easement of noise will give our venue the right to make noise up to pre-existing levels without the risk of legal action from the owner or tenant of a newly developed home. This means Bristol’s cultural offer can be protected and our world-famous music and nightlife can continue to exist in a growing city.

Where deed of easement has been used to protect nightlife previously in the UK, it has mostly involved one development and one venue. Our situation is unique in the fact that we have six proposed sites around us. Although we have secured only one easement so far, it still feels like a massive success. The natural progression here would be that the rest of the developments followed suit.

For my partner and myself we found the situation very daunting. This has been a steep learning curve. I specialise in dark rooms, high tech laser and lighting systems, not planning terms. My partner, Martin, specialises in Chemical Brother albums and every condition you have ever seen on a premises license.

Cllr Nicola Beech has been working alongside us since very early on. It wasn’t long before Nicola, armed with her Bristol @ Night panel, supported the proposed measures we suggested. Nicola has spoken publicly of the cultural and economic importance of nightlife to our city, and her interest in supporting to re-generation of existing and new spaces for potential nightlife use in the future.

We worked with Bristol City Council’s Planning and Pollution Control Officers to ensure that suitable mitigation measures were enforced, and began collectively looking at other cases and learning what we could – easements of noise are in fairly new in their application.

These conversations were followed by talks with developers themselves. The conversation with Summix was initiated by Nicola and Jim Tarzy our planning consultant. Stuart Black from Summix was very willing to look at several options. The easement of noise idea comes with a lot of stigma with developers and is pushed away without really looking at the facts. Stuart diligently looked through case studies and decided he was happy to go ahead with it.

I’m certainly very happy with the outcome. Our city has rich heritage of music culture, and a lot of this culture stems from our multicultural roots. It’s something we should be proud of.

There are still hurdles ahead for the Night Time Economy. Action such as the business rate cut for music venues announced by the government is a massive boost but does not solve wider issues. Public Transport, including later running trains and buses, would have massive benefits. We have empty shops and shopping centres, and this creates a unique opportunity to re-purpose spaces, but as a city we need to have open minds.

Nightlife in Bristol provides thousands of jobs – we must work to safeguard these jobs and the people that do them.  We must focus on making our nightlife venues safe places where everyone is welcome. We are so grateful for the courtesy others gave us in listening to our views and ideas, and I hope we can use this experience to help build a bright future for nightlife in Bristol.