Author Archives: marvinjrees

How Bristol is helping its citizens with the energy crisis  

Councillor Kye Dudd, smiling, with College Green in the background.
Today’s blog is by Councillor Kye Dudd, Cabinet
Member for Climate, Ecology, Waste, and Energy
and Labour Councillor for Southmead ward

As the national cost of living crisis continues into the New Year, many households across Bristol remain in financial difficulty. Our cost of living support site has a dedicated page signposting citizens in need of help with their energy bills. 

Across Bristol, charities and organisations are stepping up to support citizens in helping with bills and making their homes warmer and more energy efficient. 

Bristol Energy Network (BEN) will be attending the New Monday event at The Galleries in Broadmead on Monday 16 January, between 11am and 2pm, to offer guidance and advice to citizens looking to reduce their energy use and save money. There will also be a dedicated Energy drop-in morning at Easton Community Centre on Tuesday 24 January between 10am and 12pm. 

For people working or volunteering in their communities, BEN will be running free, online ‘Energy Help Desk’ training sessions. If you’re interested in attending, please contact coordinator@bristolenergynetwork.org for dates and times. 

Last month we shared a guest blog from the Centre for Sustainable Energy, who provide support to people experiencing fuel poverty, including advice for what to do if you can’t pay your bills, ideas for how to stay warm for less plus a useful tool that tells you how much electricity common appliances use: what uses watt?  

Older buildings across Bristol are less likely to be insulated, so a great way to make your home warmer is to draughtproof and insulate where possible. The Centre for Sustainable Energy have ideas for lower cost options with their DIY draughtproofing tips, and you can hear from Bristol resident Simon on how they made their home more warm and comfortable in his short film: 

Households aren’t the only ones struggling with rising energy costs; charities, community organisations, and small businesses in Bristol are also feeling the pinch. Bristol Climate Hub have tips for making your community building energy efficient and Bristol Green Capital Partnership have a guide to reducing emissions from energy for businesses.

Making our homes and premises more energy efficient will not only help households and organisations save money but will help reduce Bristol’s carbon emissions. 2022 was the hottest year since records began and many countries across the globe are reporting that this month is their hottest January. We’ve also seen more and more extreme weather events in recent years.  

Overuse of energy is a primary contributor to climate change, so by reducing energy use, we’re all helping Bristol reach its goal to be net zero by 2030. 

A heating engineer checking a boiler.

Our administration has secured the City Leap partnership, creating 1,000 new jobs and reducing 140,000 tonnes of emissions over its first five years. It will, amongst other things, deliver energy efficiency measures, renewables and decarbonisation projects to the council’s corporate estate reducing our emissions. As part of the project’s initial £424 million investment, energy efficiency and renewable energy measures will be delivered across the council’s social housing. You can find out what else the council are doing to reduce our own energy use on Our climate action on electricity and Our climate action on heat and buildings web pages. 

The council, however, is responsible for around 0.5% of the city’s emissions, meaning we need organisations and homes to play their part. Last year, we launched the Bristol Climate Ask, which encourages Bristol businesses and organisations to declare their ambition to work towards net zero, it’s great to see so many signing up and reporting that many of their measure are proving good for business. 

If you’re not effected by the cost-of-living crisis and would like to help those who are struggling, you can donate to the Share the Warmth appeal (Centre for Sustainable Energy), Bristol Emergency Winter Fuel Fund (Bristol Energy Network) or Donate to the Local Crisis Prevention Fund: Discretionary Giving

Urgent appeal launches for more Bristol foster carers

Today we are launching an urgent fostering appeal, asking Bristolians to take on the hugely important role of giving a home to a child in care.

Why now?

We’re calling on residents across the city to become foster carers following a steady decline in the number of people coming forward to foster with the council. At the same time, the number of children coming into care is continuing to rise.

We now have more than 750 children and young people in care in Bristol but only 353 fostering households in our city through the council. We are incredibly grateful to every single one of them for their support. But, unfortunately, it’s not enough. 

Because of the shortage of foster carers and the increase in demand, we need to place around 40 per cent of our children with private fostering agencies, or, in some cases, in children’s homes. Although a necessity, it can sadly lead to sibling groups being separated and children needing to live outside of our city, away from their communities, schools and friends.

That’s why we’re running an urgent appeal for the first three months of 2023, to encourage potential foster carers to come forward and offer local children secure and loving homes.

Previous response

When we reached out to you in 2020 with an appeal for emergency foster carers – to help us place a high number of children in short-term care during the pandemic – your response was incredible.

It resulted in twice the usual number of enquiries about fostering, leading to an extra 24 households being approved as emergency foster carers.

We need people to step up again as we’re at crisis point. This time we’re again looking for all types of foster carers – from short to long term as well as weekends and short breaks.

Who can foster?

If you have space in your homes and in your lives for a child who desperately needs you, please contact us to find out more about becoming one of our incredible foster carers. All you need is a spare room and to be over 21 years of age.

Foster carers come from every sector of society, income level, ethnic group, religion and sexual orientation.

You don’t need any qualifications to become a foster carer, but it helps if you already have experience with children or caring for people – whether that’s with your own family, childminding, or having worked in a caring profession.

Why foster with us

Bristol is not the only local authority to be facing a critical shortage of foster carers. It’s a national trend experienced in many parts of the country. One possible reason is the increased cost of living we are all facing. That’s why we’re offering a welcome grant of £500 to you, along with a weekly allowance and other benefits, when you start your journey with us as an approved foster carer.

Unlike fostering agencies that are run for profit, all our funding is spent on supporting local children through difficult times, placing them with kind and loving carers in homes where they can feel safe and thrive. 

All our foster carers get one-to-one support from a dedicated social worker, as well as training and skills opportunities, and wellbeing support so to be the best possible carers to Bristol children.

We also offer a range of benefits, such as free access to Everyone Active leisure centres and free events, such as theatre trips and social events at parks. 

What’s more, when you foster with us, you become part of a wider fostering family through Bristol Foster Carers Association, which links you up to other local foster carers and looked after children, which is a useful support network to draw on.

What it’s really like

Our foster carers tell us that, despite the challenges, fostering is the most rewarding thing they’ve done.

Alex Kear, a bus driver with First Bus, has been fostering with his husband for 11 years. He’s shared with us the impact fostering has had on his life and the lives of the children they’ve welcomed into their family.

Alex Kear

Alex told us: “The best bit is seeing children having fun, being relaxed and able to enjoy life which was difficult when living at home.

“It’s a joy to be able to see them progressing at school and achieving good results and making new friends in the fostering community. 

“The advice I would give to people considering fostering is to do it. It can be very rewarding to see the children you look after turning difficult corners in their lives that you have supported them through.”

If you’ve been thinking about opening up your home to a child who needs stability, love and support, now is the time to act.

It’s a lot to consider, which is why we recommend contacting our fostering team first for an information pack and an informal chat.

Visit our fostering website to find out more or call Bristol Fostering on 0117 353 4200.

More specialist school places planned for Bristol

Today’s blog is from Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education, and Equalities.

Choosing and applying for a school place for your child or children is one of the most important decisions that families will make. It’s a process which can sometimes be fraught with anxiety about making the right choice. As a parent myself I know this feeling all too well. And if you are applying for a school place for your child or children who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), knowing that the school will be able to meet their individual needs and provide the specialist provision required will be paramount. 

As a local authority we recognised that our city needed more specialist provision places back in 2021, and we made the decision to set this work in motion, making a Mayoral pledge to create 450 new, specialist provision places within three years. Specialist provision places are for children who have an education, health and care (EHC) plan. Creating these new places across our city takes time and proper planning, and we know this won’t feel quick enough for all families, but real progress is being made. 

Just this month, Cabinet approved a competitive tender and subsequent award of a block contract for 30 new placements in an independent special school in the Bristol area (BS1 – BS16), over the next five years. These placements will be for children who present with a range of complex additional learning needs. 

Phase One of the specialist provision Mayoral pledge will establish 142 new places in total. Over 106 of these have already been delivered and the remaining 36 are coming between January and April 2023. Over 80 specialist places are also being delivered as part of other capital projects including Knowle DGE, Elmfield School for Deaf Children, and City of Bristol College (Project Rainbow)

In addition, the number of High Needs places at the city’s existing special schools have been increased by 37. These additional places have been created at Soundwell Academy, Venturers Academy, Elmfield School for Deaf Children, Briarwood, and Kingsweston School

In September, Cabinet approved funding for the progression of a variety of projects as part of Phase Two of the specialist provision project, which will deliver hundreds more new places to complete the 450 pledge and probably more. 

Through forecasting, we have also identified the need for a new special school in our local area and have applied to the Department for Education for funding, as part of their new special free school wave. Local data suggests the need for a 164-place school providing specialist provision for children with a range of needs. We anticipate the school will be for pupils aged from 4-19 years and will support the need of our community by offering a flexible provision, catering for Trauma; Neurodiversity; Speech, Language, and Communication Needs (SLCN); Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC); SEMH (Social, Emotional, and Mental Health); Severe Learning Difficulty (SLD); and Cognition & Learning Needs (C&L).      

Our proposed site for the school will be located to the north of Bristol, on the Elmfield Site, in the neighbourhoods of Southmead, Westbury-on-Trym, and Henbury. Bristol City Council are deeply committed to ensuring the new proposed school truly benefits the local community, so we ran a consultation in autumn this year which showed the vast majority were in favour of the location for the new school, with most of the responses coming from parents and carers of SEND families. We will find out if our bid for the funding has been successful in January 2023.

This work is part of our SEND Sufficiency and Capital Proposals. Cabinet approved an investment of over £28 million in Bristol’s special schools, which included major improvements to current special schools as well as significantly increasing the number of specialist provision places in new and refurbished buildings for students with SEND.

As noted in our recent positive Ofsted/CQC revisit inspection, the identification and assessment of CYP with SEND in Bristol is improving, with the Ordinarily Available Provision document detailing interventions to meet needs, within typical school assessment and support processes. There has been a cultural shift in the way that professionals and schools, work together which is improving the way that they work together to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.

It’s important to know that not every child with an EHC plan will need a specialist provision place. For many, their needs can – and should – be met by a mainstream school place and that, depending on their needs and the school, this environment is the better option. 

In Bristol we have a clear Ordinarily Available Provision offer on Bristol’s Local Offer website, which details the resources and support we expect to be available for all children and young people with SEND in mainstream education settings. Mainstream schools in our city are working towards becoming more inclusive and aim to provide an environment, culture and education ethos that enables all our children, no matter what their additional needs are, to feel a sense of belonging. However, the level of need and increasing demand for specialist school places in Bristol means it is right that we have this 450 target and ambition in place. 

Bristol wins FSB award for helping businesses grow

We are a city that champions inclusive growth, where businesses as well as people who live here are given equal opportunities to succeed and grow. One project helping to do just that in the south of Bristol, is the South Bristol Talent Pathway Project.

In recognition of the dedicated work that has been done so far, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has recently awarded the project with the ‘best in the region’ South West award for being ‘All Round Small Business Friendly’. The award was gratefully accepted by Bristol City Council from Lee Nathan, the South West FSB chair, and Sam Holliday, their regional development manager.

The project is fully led by the council, co-funded by the European Social Fund and the West of England Combined Authority as part of Workforce for the Future.

South Bristol Talent Pathway helps small to medium sized businesses to grow by showing them how to access the support they need for training and development, as well as linking them up with talented young people from local schools and colleges via Bristol WORKS, a city wide collaboration between employers, learning providers and local communities. The team has recently expanded their support even further by offering funding to businesses if they can give work experience opportunities to any members of their local community.

The project has been up and running since November last year. In a relatively short time, they have helped nearly 70 businesses to improve and grow, by bridging gaps in their staff training, recruiting new members of staff and helping them to take on local apprentices to learn on the job.

Businesses involved so far have been really varied, from hairdressers (Eden Hair), trades (Davis Roofing) and hospitality (The Steam Crane), to charitable organisations such as BS3 Community.

The project has provided such a benefit to businesses in the south, it is hoped that we can continue to build on its success and potentially widen it out to enable even more businesses to access tailored support and guidance from the team.

In the meantime, if you have a small business in South Bristol, drop the team an email to see how they can help you or go to their webpage for more information.

Building new homes on brownfield

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured, smiling, with College Green behind him.
Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes

With Christmas just a few days away, we are reminded once again of the importance of having somewhere of your own to call home. I had the opportunity to visit a site in Horfield, the ward I represent with Councillor Hulme, where we have just started building some new, much needed, council homes for the area. Building new houses and addressing the shortage of adequate affordable accommodation remains one of the key priorities for the council, especially during the national cost of living crisis that we are all facing.

Construction work began on the former Elderly Person’s Home (EPH) site on Bishopthorpe Road, Manor Farm, at the end of last month. The development will deliver a total of 29 new council homes, made up of houses and apartments, and a new community facility for local people to come together. This building is important, as we are not just building housing, we are trying to build stronger communities. The homes on the site are being built using a “fabric first” approach that provides excellent thermal insulation, alongside the use of ground source heat pumps which will also provide heating and hot water for the development. This will result in energy efficient properties which will see household utility bills dramatically reduced.

Local councillors Tom Renhard (centre) and Philippa Hulme (right) are pictured in a group, in front of a differ, wearing high-vis and hard hats.

I am really pleased to see work underway at this site, as there have been a number of challenges to overcome for us to get to this point. Our teams have worked really hard to get as many houses as possible on the site, while still complying with all relevant planning policy and making sure homes are big enough and people living there will have plenty of outdoor space. There have also been issues with contractors going into administration, rising costs associated with COVID, Brexit and the current financial crisis, and poor ground conditions. Many of these problems can be seen across a lot of the sites we are currently bringing forward.

The homes are part of the council’s New Build Housing Programme, regenerating brownfield sites, to provide new high-quality homes across the city. To date 260 new homes have been completed.

A sign illustrates plans for 29 new council homes and a community centre in Horfield. It includes sketches of the development, and that the Housing Delivery Team can be contacted for more information via 0117 352 5284 or housing.development.hra@bristol.gov.uk

The new build programme aims to deliver more than 1,750 new homes for the city over the next five years. As well as the Manor Farm development, we are also due to start construction on a number of other sites in the New Year. Work to build 57 homes across five sites in Lawrence Weston will start in January; the former Brentry EPH will be turned into 34 new homes; and construction is set to start at the former Brunel Ford garage on Muller Road in the spring, providing an additional 32 new homes. With Bristol only constituting 42 square miles of land, building in and up on sites like these – and ones more centrally – is essential to minimise sprawling out.

All these new homes will form part of our Project 1,000 plans, our commitment to see at least a thousand much needed new affordable homes built each year from 2024. Every property we build is important to the city, and we are exploring all options to accelerate our building programme. But, we recognise that we cannot do this alone, and we are working with a range of partners and organisations to build homes across Bristol, including a number of projects on council owned land and community led housing.

More widely, this fits into the context of getting Bristol building more homes to tackle the housing crisis. Last year, a manifesto-exceeding 2,563 new homes were completed in Bristol – including 474 new affordable homes, the most in 12 years. Of these homes, 90% were built on previously developed land, and another 3,500 new homes were under construction as of 1 April 2022.

We are also further exploring the use of innovative, low-carbon Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), which can help to increase the scale and pace of the delivery of high quality, sustainable, affordable homes in the city. We have secured planning permission for 33 MMC council homes across three sites, which we hope will all start on site next spring.

To keep up to date with housing developments, visit www.bristol.gov.uk/newcouncilhomes

£6 million funding for Resilient Frome project

Councillor Nicola Beech, smiling, standing on the ramp of City Hall.
Today’s blog is from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience & Floods

I’m excited to announce that we have been awarded more than £6 million from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to unlock innovative and nature-based solutions in the River Frome catchment area to make homes, businesses and jobs more resilient to flooding in the future.

We’ve been working in partnership with South Gloucestershire Council, Wessex Water, and the Environment Agency since January 2021 to develop six projects that will deliver sustainable solutions to land and water management, improve flood resilience, respond to climate change and bring a range of benefits to communities in the River Frome catchment area.

The River Frome starts in Dodington Park, South Gloucestershire, and flows for 20 miles through rural countryside and urbanised environments to Bristol where it joins the River Avon and the floating harbour. Some of the proposed improvements to the river catchment will be localised in the city, but because we will be working across the whole catchment, the project will bring multiple benefits to multiple locations.

This project, under the new name “Resilient Frome”, is a fantastic opportunity to work collaboratively with partners beyond Bristol’s borders on a ‘whole-systems approach’ to tackle flood risk management and biodiversity – issues that are not limited just to Bristol. By working together, we can improve the entire catchment area at the same time as creating multiple benefits for Bristol’s residents and businesses.

Flood management techniques used in Soutmead.
Flood management in Southmead

Six distinct project areas will be worked on over the next five years, from 2022 to 2027, as part of the Resilient Frome project. These include:

  • Sustainable land management practices, such as the creation of new ‘storage’ ponds and woody dams in rural upstream areas of South Gloucestershire, to improve water quality and ecology as well as help to reduce flood risk. Nature-based solutions used to reduce the impact of flooding will not only help communities be more resilient to future climate change they will also benefit wildlife and water quality and improve the urban environment.
  • Installing flow monitors that will allow us to understand how much water is coming down the river and into the floating harbour. Flow monitors at three key locations will go in during summer 2023 at Wade Street where the river disappears under Cabot Circus, Broadweir near the Galleries, and Netham Lock, to help us better understand the risk of flooding in the city centre when water is not able to be discharged from the floating harbour.
  • Exploring the challenge of meeting important national planning policy requirements, ensuring new development is safe and adaptable to climate change risks. We are investigating innovative ways to regenerate brownfield land to deliver much needed housing and new community spaces in areas at risk of flooding. This work will seek to ensure new development is safe in respect of flood risk and resilient to climate change.
  • Restoration of the river as part of the Frome Gateway regeneration project the restoration will be a key component of the emerging development framework, building on community engagement and what local people would like to see. We will continue to work closely with the local community and businesses to ensure the river restoration project aligns with the Frome Gateway regeneration project, to put the river at the heart of a transformed area with new homes, jobs, and public spaces.
  • Retro fitting Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDs) to enable better management of rainwater to prevent surface water and sewer flooding and overflow discharges. SUDs provide storm water storage to reduce surface water flooding and improve water quality, as well as transforming local public spaces by introducing green infrastructure and improving biodiversity in more urban areas.
  • Bringing funding from businesses and land managers together to find environmental solutions that deliver multiple positive outcomes within the catchment area.

Resilient Frome is vital to supporting our ambitions to create a more resilient city and protect our densely populated urban areas. The Frome catchment is largely rural, but the water all flows downstream and meets in the city centre, so it is crucial we take a whole system approach and work across boundaries. The six project areas will help us to protect areas in the city currently at risk of flooding and will also enable us to regenerate brownfield city centre land to safely build housing and new community spaces in the future.

The Resilient Frome project is funded by Defra as part of the £200 million Flood and Coastal Innovation Programmes, which is managed by the Environment Agency. The programmes will drive innovation in flood and coastal resilience and adaptation to a changing climate.

Oldbury Court Estate
Oldbury Court Estate

Albert Kennedy Trust’s new Bristol offices

Dominic McGovern, smiling, with a tree and buildings behind him.
Today’s guest blog is from Dominic McGovern, Marketing and Communications manager for akt

“Good society happens… because we make it happen” is what Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said last month at the opening of akt’s new offices in St Paul’s Learning Centre. Mr Rees kindly came down to the opening to speak about some of the socio-economic issues that face young LGBTQ+ people in the UK. 59% of LGBTQ+ young people have faced some form of discrimination or harassment while accessing services.

More than two-fifths of local authorities and housing associations in the UK have not received training on LGBTQ+ inclusion or LGBTQ+ homelessness. akt is committed to helping educate public bodies about the myriad complex issues that affect young LGBTQ+ people, and we are looking forward to working with the mayor of Bristol and his team over the coming weeks and months to help find long-lasting pathways into safe and affordable housing for the young people of Bristol.

akt was founded in 1989 by Cath Hall, a foster carer and ally who noticed a lack of specific care and support for young LGBT+ people facing issues surrounding homelessness. Since then, akt has spent 33 years supporting LGBTQ+ young people into safe homes, employment, education, or training. 24% of young people facing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+ and 77% of the young people who use our services told us that family rejection and abuse after coming out or being outed was the primary reason for their homelessness.

Many of the issues that faced young LGBTQ+ people at akt’s founding, including rejection, abuse, and lack of access to housing support and services, are still as present today as they were in 1989. Part of akt’s long term strategy is to work with policymakers and successive governments to develop a national youth homelessness strategy that will directly benefit young LGBTQ+ people by prioritising education for local authorities on issues that affect the community and monitoring data to make sure that there is specific housing support for LGBTQ+ communities in areas that need it.

Data from the young people who use akt’s services has shown that 63% of the young people we helped in Bristol between 2021 and 2022 identified as trans, non-binary or were questioning their gender identity. This is a full 15% above the 48% nationwide. Up until 2022, akt worked remotely in the area, and lots of the young people in Bristol who use our services do so digitally, so akt’s new office will be a vital lifeline for many of the young LGBTQ+ in the South West.

Wellspring Settlement, one of Bristol’s Welcoming Spaces

Haylee Cowley, smiling and looking to her right, behind her is Arnos Vale cemetery cafe.
Today’s guest blog is from Haylee Cowley,
Communications Manager at Wellspring Settlement

Bristol City Council’s Welcoming Spaces scheme has given us the chance to further support our local community over the next few months.

Wellspring Settlement has had a café at the Ducie Road site for years, and after it closed during the pandemic there was a big push to get it open again. Being a Welcoming Space has given us the freedom to think beyond just being a café – it’s now a real community hub! People can turn up and stay as long as they like, and as the food and drink is pay-what-you-feel, there’s no pressure for them to buy anything in order to stay.

The café itself is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11am to 1.30pm, but people are welcome to come and make use of the space even if the café is shut. There is an over 55’s group, who meet up on a Monday between 11am and 1pm, where people are welcome to come along and take advantage of the free hot drinks and biscuits. They can also speak to a tech volunteer and ask any questions they have around using their smartphone or laptop.

People are able to charge their phones and laptops here for as long as they need to. This means they can stay online to manage bills, check emails, and stay connected with friends and family. We’ve got a host of activities running alongside the café, and a children’s corner with toys and books.

We also offer information about the other services on offer at Wellspring Settlement, which include money advice, support in accessing other community activities, family services, community arts, physical activities and more.

All the food we’re serving is hot and healthy, with veggie and halal options. It’s all cooked by us – except on the days when we have our guest cooks from the Bristol Somali Women’s group who are serving up some amazing meals every Thursday.

One of the highlights of being a Welcoming Space is that it’s created volunteering opportunities for local people. We’ve got volunteers who are giving their time to help out, and also developing valuable skills that will help them in the future. To connect with volunteering opportunities, check the Can Do Bristol website.

Wellspring Settlement has a really positive atmosphere, and it’s great to see people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying each other’s company. People are enjoying the food and we’ve had a mix of people taking up the offer of a free meal, and people who are able to make a donation. The children’s corner has been really popular, with mums hanging out there rather than having to keep buying cups of tea to stay in a café.

We are very aware that for some people the worst of the national cost of living crisis, is yet to come. We have been lucky with a warm autumn so far, but temperatures have started to drop.

Residents in Barton Hill are likely to be among the hardest hit by increased energy and food bills, both of which are factors that contribute to wider health issues. Many local people live in poor housing which will only become worse if not heated over winter, and they already struggle to afford and cook healthy food.

We’re happy at the moment that the space is being established as one that is truly welcoming, whatever the need might be. As we move into winter, we’re confident our community will know where they can go to access healthy, hot food, save on bills, and find support from each other, from Wellspring Settlement and community and city partners.

If you need any cost of living advice or support visit the Bristol City Council cost of living support webpage to find organisations who can help you. You can also call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Pioneering harm reduction work launched

Today, Bristol starts to deliver another first in the UK – if not the world. We become the first city to take a truly coordinated approach to reducing the harm caused by drugs and alcohol in the night time economy, with a new toolkit and campaign launched to improve safety in the sector.

This latest campaign from Bristol Nights, backed Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Police, and a number of city partners, begins a unified, safety-first approach towards drug and alcohol use in our city.

This approach encourages venues to recognise the risks of drug and alcohol use and aims to train everyone involved in the night time economy with the information and tools to promote safe environments. In practical terms, this will likely mean supporting intoxicated people with trained staff, who can get medical assistance when needed, rather than ejecting them. As a harbour city, ensuring that our vibrant diversity of night time venues adopt and practice harm reduction will help to save lives.

Taking a One City approach to collaborating across the institutions that make up Bristol fits perfectly with other night time economy initiatives, including the award-winning Bristol Rules campaign. We’re also building on the success of other previous campaigns associated with Drink Spiking, taking a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and delivering a Women’s Safety Charter.

It will no doubt mean challenging conversations but this city-wide approach to harm reduction really can stand apart from the venue-led approaches of other cities like Amsterdam and Zurich.  Venues on the frontline will know that all of Bristol, including the police and licensing authority, have their back in taking steps to reduce the wider harms caused by drugs. We hope that this will offer a blueprint to the sector, and cities elsewhere which are split across different licensing authorities or continue to take a zero-tolerance approach.

Bristol Nights Drug and Alcohol harm reduction guide poster. Two women looking at posters that read: 'Look Out For Your Mates', 'Know Your Highs And The Lows' and 'Take It Easy'.

Carly Heath, our Night Time Economy Advisor, and Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, are focused on working with partners to develop a human-centred approach and provide judgement-free solutions to reduce risk, while continuing to encourage people to report anyone involved in the supply of illegal drugs to local police. This approach will be supported by the first regular drug checking service of its kind, provided by The Loop.

This latest campaign is part of a series of actions being taken to improve safety in the night time economy and further delivers the Drug and Alcohol Strategy adopted in 2021.

In the past couple of weeks we have also committed over £1.2 million of grant funding over two years to provide housing support for individuals with drug and alcohol dependencies who are facing homelessness.

Whilst today’s campaign launch will focus efforts on reducing harm in the night time economy, it joins a suite of activity that aims to evolve the approach we take to deal with the impacts that drugs and alcohol have on our city.

Freedom of the City for Bristol Bus Boycott leaders

Councillor Asher Craig, smiling, with a bush behind her.

Deputy Mayor Asher Craig spoke in Bristol City Council’s extraordinary council meeting today, as Guy Bailey, Barbara Dettering, Roy Hackett, Owen Henry, Prince Brown, and Audley Evans were awarded Freedom of the City for their work leading the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963. Paul Stephenson has already been conferred with Freedom of the City for his work.

*Check against delivery*

Freedom of the City is a rare honour bestowed upon people who have served in an exceptional capacity in contributing to life in Bristol and beyond.

Today’s recipients are not just being honoured for the prominent role they played in the Bus Boycott Campaign, but also for their many years of community service and continuous fight for race equality for Bristol’s black communities.

There were many Black and Asian people denied a position with the Bristol Omnibus Company due to their “colour bar” and who played a part in the Bus Boycott campaign back in 1963, many of whom remain unknown. But it was the campaign led by Paul Stephenson, Guy Bailey, Dr Roy Hackett, Audley Evans, Owen Henry, Barbara Dettering, and Prince Brown that brought about the actions which ultimately led to the 1965 & 1968 Race Relations Acts – which outlawed discrimination in public places

The boycott would of course not have been successful without the participation and willpower of the whole community but sadly, it is not feasible to bestow the honour on everyone who played a role in the boycott or was a victim of the Bristol Omnibus Company’s racist discrimination.

But I want to acknowledge people like Ena Hackett who was denied a job , alongside many other people (who remain unknown) who marched, boycotted and stood shoulder to shoulder with Bristol’s Black & Asian communities until the colour bar was removed.

I had the privilege to have known and worked with most of today’s recipients – all of whom were on the board of Bristol Council for Racial Equality which was created off the back of the 1968 legislation. I was a member of BCRE board in the 1990’s and little did I know at the time that I was in the privileged company of history makers.

So much has been written about the Bus Boycott over the years and the role that todays honourees played and the time does not allow me to reel off all their accomplishments

Last month the Lord Mayor of Bristol presented Bristol Boycott Campaigner Mr Guy Bailey a letter of apology on behalf of Bristol City Council for the hurt & racism he experienced when he was refused a job at the Bristol Omnibus Company. An apology that was well overdue

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol & I are grateful to the Bristol Lord Mayor Paula O’Rourke and Party Group Leaders for agreeing to bestow this honour on our elders many of whom are no longer with us, in recognition of their fight for racial equality & justice nearly 60 years ago. A fight that we continue to this day.

Considering the lasting impact that the campaign had not only for race equality in Bristol, but across the UK, awarding the leading members of the boycott the Bristol’s highest civic honour is a fitting way for our City to show our appreciation.

Councillor Asher Craigs speech from 7:09