International Day of Education

Today’s guest blog comes from Matt Gillett, Unite Regional Education Officer.

As we celebrate UN International Day for Education it’s worth noting that learning is something that does not end with school or university but continues, both formally and informally, for all of our lives. And for trade unions, access to ongoing learning and education is an issue that is central to so much of what we do. Ensuring that our members in the workplace and the community have the chance to refresh and add to their skills and knowledge to support them in every aspect of their lives.

Learn with Unite is my union’s lifelong learning section. We are part of the Unionlearn project, a government funded initiative, started in the late 1990s to support workplace learning. By working constructively with employers right across industry we have ensured workers have had the opportunity to complete functional skills courses in English and Maths, and vocational qualifications right through to adult apprenticeships. This has been done with the active participation of the more than 40,000 Union Learning Reps who have been trained since Unionlearn was set up. This means we have a quarter of a million learners able to access courses each year through the project. Unite alone currently has over 450 learning agreements with employers that cover around 800,000 workers. Our aim is to build sustainable learning through these agreements and the involvement of our Reps and partner colleges and training providers. Our work with the Bristol Mayor’s office and the Learning City initiative will also help us do this.

Working with those partners we also provide key support to those affected by redundancy with courses in employability skills such as interview techniques, CV writing and job searches. Through our online courses, we provide a further range of recognised and transferable qualifications. Recognising that computer skills are becoming increasingly important in all of our lives we provide computer training from basic through to Level 1 and 2 qualifications. Digital exclusion is a huge equality issue that should concern us all.

Through our focus on equality and diversity we work to increase inclusion and overcome barriers to learning. Our offer of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) allows us to support migrant workers. In Bristol we have a learning centre in our Unite Regional Headquarters in Tony Benn House which offers support to the community through a jobs club, computer classes and ESOL conversation as well as one off sessions such as diabetes awareness. Working with key organisations in the city we are pursuing ideas to make learning available to refugees and asylum seekers.

Lifelong learning, and the access to it, is vital to every aspect of our lives.

“I was homeless, I was you”

“A few weeks ago, me and my daughters moved into a council house. Now we can finally put down roots. I feel like I have my life back.”

Lola, aged 40, Barton Hill.

This week you may have noticed letters addressed to those who are experiencing or facing homelessness posted across our city. These letters carry voices that are heard too rarely – the voices of those who have experienced homelessness, reaching out to those who need similar help and support.

Lola, John and Danni’s experiences of homelessness are all different, but their message to those who are facing homelessness is the same: you can turn your life around.

Ending homelessness in Bristol is one of our major priorities – last year we agreed our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy which will support our efforts to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027.

We are also delivering on our promise to provide the homes Bristol needs to tackle our housing crisis. Before Christmas I visited a brand new council housing development in Brislington, and met residents and families whose lives are being transformed by having a safe and secure roof over their head. We are building affordable homes that can help people like Lola reclaim control over their lives in every corner of our city.

Reading Lola, John and Danni’s letters, however, shows that those who are homeless face a range of different challenges and therefore need different programmes of support. One thing is common throughout the success stories shared by Lola, John and Danni – it is crucial to get help early.

That’s why the work we do with city partners to provide a range of support services is so important in helping people who are experiencing homelessness to find and maintain a safe and secure home. From our welfare rights and money advice services, to our Youth Homelessness Hub, we helped more than 3,600 people from becoming homeless in 2018. In the same year, Bristol City Council and homelessness support services in the city helped more than 900 people who were homeless, through support services like the St Anne’s Winter Night Shelter. We are also support residents in private accommodation, by cracking down on rogue landlords and introducing licencing schemes to drive up standards and security in the private housing sector.

So if you are worried that you or a family member might be at risk of homelessness, seek help now. Information is available on the Bristol City Council website on the ways we and other agencies in the city can help.

As homelessness continues to increase across the country, I am acutely aware of the difference that a safe and secure home can make to a family like Lola’s. That’s why I will continue to put delivering new housing at the top of the city’s agenda. Families across the city like Lola’s, facing homelessness or living in temporary accommodation, rely on us to deliver our pledge for safe, secure and affordable homes across the whole of Bristol. I’m proud that in this campaign we are hearing their message of hope loud and clear.

Recognition for Making Bristol a Living Wage City

This week, I feel proud to be able share the news that the Living Wage Foundation has formally recognised Bristol for its commitment to becoming a Living Wage City.

Not only are we amongst the first cities to achieve this, we are the biggest city to be recognised so far – an example of what we can achieve when we pull together as a city.

The TUC took to the stage at our City Gathering exactly a year ago to challenge the city to improve wages. Therefore, it seemed fitting that we used the City Gathering on Friday to share this major success with hundreds of employers across Bristol and launch this new status.

I was struck by how fair pay became a theme for the morning. It was highlighted as a crucial factor in reducing crime and Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, also shone a light on the importance of rising wages for the economy as a whole.

Financial security, or the lack of, affects every aspect of life. It impacts on a person’s housing situation, their mental and physical health, their educational attainment and their likelihood to be involved in crime.

Increasing the pay of those living and working in our city is key to unlocking improvements in each of these areas. As a tool for social justice, it’s vital. But it’s also good for business.

As Pete Gibbs, owner of the Volunteer Tavern, said to a room full of Bristol employers on Friday: ‘My staff are your customers, and your staff are my customers’. Higher wages means more money to put back into the economy.

In fact, the Living Wage Foundation has found that 93% of Living Wage businesses have benefited since accrediting, through improved recruitment and retention of staff, as well as fewer sick days taken.

As a city, we now have a 3-year plan, with ambitious targets: we want to double the number of Living Wage Employers in the next three years, lifting thousands more people out of in-work poverty. We plan to start by targeting those sectors where workers frequently find themselves trapped in low pay, such as hospitality, retail and tourism.

Working with a key Action Group of organisations representing different sectors, we will continue to influence change and strive for a future where everyone earns a fair wage for a hard day’s work; where earning a real Living Wage is the benchmark, not the aspiration.

This is just the start of our journey – and we need more organisations to work with us.

We’re organising a Living Wage Meet and Greet on Monday 17th February at 3.30pm at City Hall. It’s an opportunity to meet other employers and the Living Wage Foundation to learn more about how you can get involved. Please get in touch with the team to register your interest for this or future events by emailing

Making Bristol a Living Wage City is a perfect example of something we, as a council, could not achieve on our own. It demonstrates the collective power we have to make Bristol a fairer city for everyone and a true city of hope.

Thank you to all those who have helped us on our journey so far, by becoming Living Wage accredited employers, coming to events we’ve organised or being part of our Action Group.

In particular, thank you to our fellow Action Group members for being part of Making Bristol a Living Wage City, namely: University of Bristol, Triodos, DAC Beachcroft, Wessex Archaeology, the Soil Association, Bristol Credit Union, Business West and the TUC.

2020 City Gathering

This morning the City Office held its bi-annual City Gathering. These meetings bring together leaders from all aspects of society, public, private and third sector and today’s was the largest to date with over 250 attendees. City Gatherings are key to how we work collectively as a city to get things done.

Following the success of last year’s One City Plan launch, this morning’s gathering saw the launch of the second iteration of the plan. This year’s iteration includes updates on the plan to include increased ambition towards carbon neutrality as well as updates from the City’s thematic boards. This year’s plan is also now available in a filterable format through the City Office dashboard which is a first attempt to improve the accessibility of the One City Plan.

The gathering also saw a review of what the City Office has achieved over the previous year. Last year’s City Office priority objectives (Period Friendly Bristol, Affordable Childcare and Tackling Street Conflict) were reviewed and are covered in the City Office annual report which is now live on the City Office website.

Our January City Gathering also establishes the City Office’s three priorities for the year. Our Youth Council and Babbasa youth ambassadors voted to select the City’s Connectivity priority to explore funding measures for mass transit systems in Bristol. Gathering attendees then voted for the two remaining priorities, and they chose the Environment Board’s Going for Gold Food Sustainability programme and the Homes and Communities priority of reducing the number of families in temporary accommodation.

We were also incredibly honoured to have Dame Caroline Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, and former Ambassador David Donoghue. Dame Caroline spoke about the need for more positive engagement between business and Bristol’s schools. David facilitated the negotiation process of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gave a strong endorsement for the work of the University of Bristol and the City Office to embed the SDGs in Bristol and the One City Plan.  

The positive, collaborative and incredibly productive nature of today’s gathering is a testament to what we can achieve as a city when combining our efforts. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the One City Plan. If you would like to share your solutions and get involved, please get in touch with the One City Office.

You can hear more about today’s gathering in the video below.

Period Friendly Bristol

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

After a whirlwind 14 months of endless meetings, email and lots of hard work; today is the day that we launch Period Friendly Bristol.

This project, born out of the desire to correct an injustice that many didn’t know existed in Bristol, has involved some 200 different people or partners and has demonstrated how Bristol can truly work as One City, with this having been identified by city leaders as a key priority for the One City Approach for 2019.

In 2017, 140,000 young people missed school because of period poverty. In Bristol 40% of students have missed school because of their period. These are huge numbers that undeniably have an effect on education and especially, physical education.

These shocking statistics gave us the impetus and energy to focus on making a real change in Bristol. We used all mechanisms open to us – we passed a unanimous full council motion, we held the world’s first Period Poverty Summit and took our ambitions to the whole city where it was voted as a key aim for 2019.

So we set to work with a small but dedicated team determined to make a change that no other city in the world has attempted. We came up with two key strands of work.

We commissioned local menstrual health experts, the Real Period Project, and anti-plastic campaigners, City to Sea, to develop a Bristol standard education programme that is free to access  for all schools in the city. Our intention is to change attitudes to periods through education – we want boys to understand menstrual health, as well as girls and we want to raise awareness of product choice in line with our ambitions to reduce plastic use. We also want to educate school leaders around toilet policies, access to products and ensuring that teaching staff are sensitive to the needs of young people.

We worked with the Youth Council and Plimsoll Productions to develop a short film and survey to explore young people’s views and experiences of Period Poverty and Stigma. The experiences of young people then informed the work of the education programme ensuring our programme is fit for purpose.

A key and innovative element of the work is a city wide donation and distribution network. We want Bristol to be a place where no one has to worry about having their period. Working alongside corporate partners we are now poised to redistribute donations in the communities that need them most. From January our pilot will launch with 16 community centres, GP surgeries, leisure centres and libraries involved from the outset. A really exciting element of this project has been working with Bristol’s tech and data community to create a web app to support our network. Seeing people come together on a rainy weekend in September to spend their time researching and creating a site to support vulnerable people in Bristol was humbling and uplifting.

Today is our opportunity to share this body of work with the city and to ask for more engagement and support. We want businesses to step forward to become involved, we want to see donations across the city and we want to truly make Bristol a city where everyone can afford to have their period.

Whitchurch Lane – Joint Statement

This is a joint statement issued on behalf of the Mayor and campaigners from the South Bristol Wrong Road group following a meeting on Thursday 5 December at City Hall:

The Mayor and his office, the Head of Strategic City Transport and South Bristol Wrong Road group representatives met on Thursday 5 December to discuss future proposals for transport infrastructure developments in and around Whitchurch. It was a constructive conversation about the timeline and decision-making process for any plans, as well as some more detailed points about the alternatives.

Mayor Marvin Rees opened the discussion by welcoming residents to City Hall. He acknowledged the community’s concerns about proposed transport developments on Whitchurch Lane, including:

  • noise pollution
  • the impact on Bridge Farm School and local businesses
  • air quality
  • the capacity of the local road network
  • road safety

The Mayor also offered his view on the wider context that this conversation takes place in – a housing crisis with thousands of families on the BCC waiting list, the need to invest and transform Bristol’s transport network, and the recognition of a climate emergency.

The Mayor set out his desire to have an ongoing and constructive dialogue with the community, he offered to meet regularly with campaigners to keep the community informed about the evolution of different proposals. This was agreed to and a subsequent meeting will be arranged for the new year.

The Head of Strategic City Transport at Bristol City Council gave an overview of the decision-making processes involved in progressing new transport links in the Whitchurch area. It was explained that we are at the very earliest stages of working with neighbouring local authorities and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to identify future transport infrastructure need. The authorities are undertaking a high-level discussion about range of possible options, and – given no feasibility studies have been conducted yet – any works are likely to be a decade away at the earliest.

He confirmed that no work is being undertaken to develop proposals at the moment. If funding is secured from the government, potentially as part of the HIF bid, it would be to progress further study and design work to examine the options available. It was stressed, that even if funding was agreed and the resulting work found options that are viable, there will be several decision-making processes in which the community will have opportunities to feed into public consultation.

Discussion then moved to the potential viability of a number of possible options that could meet the area’s changing transport needs, including tunnelling, routes to the south or a Metrobus-only road.

It was agreed that Bristol City Council, and partners, should have done a much better job of explaining the timeline of events to residents and local businesses as many were not aware that any plans are many years in the future. It was appreciated that BANES are the lead authority for much of this work and the conversation highlighted that that the Mayor of Bristol and Bristol City Council has only limited decision-making power over this regional, strategic infrastructure project.  As a result, the Mayor and residents agreed to request further engagement from WECA and BANES.

We look forward to continuing to work together to develop positive dialogue about the future of sustainable transport infrastructure in the area.

Small Business Saturday

Ahead of this weekend’s seventh annual Small Business Saturday today’s guest blog comes from Simon Dicken, Chair of Bedminster Business Improvement District.

Since 2013 Bedminster BID has been working closely with local businesses to further develop the economic viability of Bedminster, by championing the area, its businesses and residents. An estimated £812m was spent in small businesses across the UK on the corresponding day last year and the day is important in supporting small businesses which are a vibrant part of our city against the backdrop of a challenging time for the high street.

As many people’s minds at this time of year turn to preparing for Christmas, from presents to the food, I believe this is the perfect opportunity to consider our high streets and small businesses up and down the country.

As we move together as a generation towards sustainability and increased environmental awareness, I am certain our high streets and local shopping areas are going to be a pivotal part of our future. What can be better than a place where we can walk to and support local people who have either taken the brave step of going it alone or maintaining, in many cases, a family legacy.

Most of these businesses directly on our doorsteps source locally, live locally and employ- locally.

As chairman of the Bedminster Business Improvement District (BID) we have seen many changes over the last seven years with new businesses appearing across the area catering for the needs of the community they serve. This is one of the fantastic opportunities open to the small business owners who are able to adapt virtually overnight to trends in customer habits which, with the rise of social media, alter in a fast and unprecedented way than ever before.

We have seen over the last few years many larger businesses fail by not being able to adapt to the retail landscape quickly enough. The loss of these larger businesses and the subsequent job losses and vacant units have been hard on our local economies but I feel this is part of the commercial evolution in our country and opens doors for individuals and co-operatives to move into the gaps left behind.

Out of town and larger shopping centres give us a convenient and consistent offer, which certainly has its place for us all; but caution must be made on not losing the beating heart of the high streets across the land that provide not only a more sustainable shopping mission but for many of the elderly and vulnerable of society a safe place to come and engage socially.

I am sure you would agree that we don’t want to live in a future where we have lost our local shops and are all reliant on cars to get our goods while parts of the community sit in isolation.

So I appeal to shoppers and policy makers alike to support their high streets and the businesses that rely on them to overcome these current challenges and changes to ensure we have them today, tomorrow and forever.

From the ground up

Today is UN World Soil Day. Concerns over the health of agricultural soil might not seem like an issue that would concern us, living in a major city. However, with the highest levels of obesity found in urban areas, improving access to healthy food has to be a key priority.

The UK doesn’t eat enough fresh fruit and veg. Only 29% of adults and 18% of children eat the recommended daily amount of fruit or veg and almost 10% of reception aged children have a BMI categorised as obese, growing to 20% of children in year 6.

Programs to encourage better diets are valuable but the problem goes much deeper than education. People know that an apple is better for them than a bag of crisps, but often the choice isn’t that straightforward. Fresh produce (especially organic foods) are considerably more expensive that junk food alternatives and aren’t as readily available in low-income communities, where obesity levels are highest.  Many Bristol residents live in ‘food deserts’ with limited access to affordable fresh food.

Due to a decade of government led austerity, many families are limited to purchasing cheap food of low nutritional value. The two-tiered food system cannot continue.   It must not be the case that only the wealthiest people can afford to purchase healthy and nutritious food while the most vulnerable families in our city can only afford to purchase food that is high in salt, fat and sugar. The lack of affordable food choices in the UK condemns a generation of low-income children to poor health, shortening their life expectancy and reducing the long-term likelihood of escaping poverty.

To reverse trends in malnutrition and diseases across the city, there needs to be a radical re-imagining of how we produce and consume food – every citizen in Bristol needs access to healthy and nutritional food and no Bristolian should go hungry.

We are working hard to become a Gold Sustainable Food City, developing a stronger Bristol food system that promotes dietary health for all citizens. Our Bristol Going For Gold campaign is encouraging a citywide commitment to reduce food waste across the city and improve catering and procurement by increasing the weighting placed on food quality, with local production being a key consideration.

We also need to grow more food locally and encourage urban farming right here in Bristol. To tackle food poverty we aim that by 2040, 15% of Bristol’s annual fruit and vegetable supply will come from a network of market gardens and farms within the city-limits. This could mean more high-tech solutions from companies like Grow Bristol, who are using innovative hydroponic systems. It will also mean increasing community gardens across Bristol to allow more people the opportunity to grow their own vegetables.    

In my 2020 campaign for Mayor, I pledge to have community gardens and allotments in every ward and I will pledge that affordable fresh food will be available within a 10-minute radius from every home by 2031.

It may surprise you to know that Bristol has almost 1,500 hectares of designated farmland, some of it in the top 3% of food growing land in the country, but as we wrestle with the housing crisis and a city which will grow, it creates a difficult tension.  It is essential that we build more housing to accommodate an ever-growing population, but we cannot lose green spaces that are essential for environmental health and physical activity.

Changing the food infrastructure and supply chains, I want a permanent food hub in the heart of Bristol so that small-scale farmers, growers and food producers can sell their produce throughout the year in a high-spec facility. This would also provide a new landmark for the city and provide a gathering place for the city to share food and build connections.

Healthy food must be something that we can all afford and enjoy – our farmland and soil is at the root of achieving that goal.

Women in leadership

At Cabinet on Tuesday Nicola Beech had her 10 month old son Alex. As we worked through agenda covering Adult Social Care, South Bristol’s Recycling and Reuse center, the Portway Park and Ride station, our budget, road maintenance and the Harbour review. He sat there squeaking and making noise. I was proud.

Cllr Helen Godwin had stressed the importance of Family Friendly politics. It’s vital our politics is more inclusive and in turn expressive of different life experiences. With the burden for childcare disproportionately falling onto the shoulders of women, making politics family friendly makes it more possible for women to take leadership roles. For too long our politics in general – and local authority politics in particular – has been dominated by retired white men. And we have reaped the consequences.

We made a 50:50 commitment for our cabinet. And we have delivered: with five women appointed to four men and one woman as a Deputy Mayor. We have women in leadership. Between myself and my cabinet we have 13 school aged kids between us.

I was talking to young women this afternoon about women in political leadership and I was struck by the role modelling, the number of women in leadership in Bristol,  has brought.  

And most importantly, we can look at the city looks like through parent’s eyes. The result?

There are implications for this commitment. School plays, parent’s evenings, pregnancies and sick children are normal parts of every family and have all impacted on our cabinet. They have not impacted on performance but we have had to find a way to support each other to navigate the unending supply of council meetings. If we don’t do this we will lose younger, more gender and ethnically diverse councillors. Staying real with family is critical to remaining rounded political leaders who understand the city and continue to deliver.

Despite this, an opposition councillor last week made a complaint to the press about Helen Godwin our Cabinet lead for Women Children and Families for not attending a Scrutiny meeting. The circumstances are important. Her son was off school with a fever, along with 50 other children from the school. She had talked to me beforehand, ensured her work load was being taken forward. What’s more, the setting of the time and dates had not been checked with the member. It is Helen that instituted and led the development of the Bristol Children’s Charter, work on care leavers (including exempting them from council tax up to the age of 25yrs), childcare, street conflict and knife crime and a campaign on period poverty that’s influenced national policy and won the admiration of the Mayor of Los Angeles, amongst many others.

Our Cabinet member for strategic planning, Nicola Beech leads some of our most complex work around urban planning and large developments worth billions of pounds whilst being a mum to two children under three. The pace of city development and cranes on the horizon are evidence she is doing a great job. No complaints from credible developers in the city or government until an opposition councillor raised questions about her attendance at some council meetings. Again, an unwell baby had come in between her and those meetings but had not come between her and other council meetings or the true role of councillors of delivering for Bristol. Its Nicola who has taken leadership of the Temple Meads redevelopment, setting out minimum standards and on climate resilient housing at Frome Gateway .

It’s evidence of a failure of the opposition to either understand or take seriously the need to make politics more inclusive – particularly in this instance for women – and what it takes to make it more inclusive.

I am proud of my cabinet. We are the most diverse cabinet in the most diverse political party Bristol has ever known. We have delivered inclusion alongside an ambition and excellence that has won national and international plaudits. The emphasis for this administration has always been on working with the city to deliver rather than talking to ourselves in meetings that offer councillors anonymity as they fail to get anything done. We are delivering where the old systems have failed.    

These attacks are not real political debate. Rather it’s symptomatic of the deterioration in the tone and quality of our civic discourse. Michelle Obama might call it “low” politics, and we are all paying a price for it.

And this week an opposition councillor has raised questions over Anna Keen, our cabinet lead for Education and Skills. Anna is a Primary school teacher. She reduced her work hours to part time to make space alongside family to take on the cabinet role. Again, Anna has delivered not least by bringing genuine expertise in the education system and professional knowledge of what’s happening on the front line i.e. in the classroom, to the decisions we make. And yet an opposition councillor has suggested she shouldn’t take the full allowance if, as he wrongly suggests, she isn’t full time.   

Again, there is no question over Anna’s performance. In fact, even on the challenge of SEND, the recent inspection said that while Bristol was not where it should be (a consequence of both local and national failures that have been building for many years), it is since Anna became the lead that the green shoots of recovery began to appear.

But we need to keep the following in mind: working people have to keep their existing jobs because of the insecurity of political appointment and election cycle. Working people then have to balance two jobs, or a part time job if they have an understanding employer. Working people can’t spend all their time in cabinet and then drop off a cliff after election or cabinet change by mayor. People who aren’t independently wealthy need the income to supplement what is a modest allowance  when compared the quantity of work and scale of responsibility they take on and they need career security afterwards.

We want people in political leadership who face the same challenges as the city, who look like them, have to behave like them and face financial and family challenges, like them.  If we start attacking them when life gets in the way of council meetings, we’ll lose them. This will be both an injustice in itself and bad for us as we are thrown back in time to a world in which only the wealthy had the time and financial means to become political leaders. 

Somebody recently asked me about what the hardest part of my job as a mayor was. I told them that it was trying to juggle the responsibilities as a husband and father with the demands of office and diary.

No-one is asking for sympathy. That is not the point. What we need is a better quality of political debate, a more representative political cohort made up of broadminded people with lived experience of the array of life challenges and a city council ready to make provision needed to make that possible.

I don’t usually respond to the efforts to throw mud and create fake debates. But I thought I would on this occasion. We made a pledge to make politics in the chamber child friendly and we have. And we will stick with it in the face of whatever criticisms the opposition may try to dredge up and pass off as real politics.

Taking Root

Last week was National Tree Week, and I joined over 60 pupils from Begbrook Primary Academy, Deputy Mayor Asher Craig and volunteers from Plastic Pollution Awareness and Action Projects to help plant 210 trees in Begbrook Green Park. This tree planting event was part of our Replant Bristol campaign, which will build on our ambitious One Tree Per Child project, and encourage employers and partners to donate land and provide volunteers to we can plant One Tree Per Employee In Bristol.

By working in partnership with the Woodland Trust, the Bristol Tree Forum, the Forest of Avon Trust and a range of city partners, we have pledged to double the size of Bristol’s Tree canopy by 2046.

Increasing the number of trees in our city makes a big impact in our fight against air pollution and climate change. Bristol’s trees remove an estimated 100 tonnes of pollutants from our air every year, and remove up to 14,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. That’s equivalent to the annual emissions of 9,000 cars. Trees also soak up 90,000 cubic meters of water each year. They are also crucial to maintaining and improving our city’s biodiversity, helping us create natural wildlife corridors across the city. We have even considered the environmental impact of the materials we have used to help these young trees grow: instead of using plastic protective coating, the trees have been planted using biodegradable mats which will naturally decompose as the trees grow.

The trees the pupils planted last week will do even more, however. They will enrich our natural environment, making our city a greener and more pleasant place to live. The children I met all shared their excitement about making a difference to their local area, how much they enjoy having green space such as Begbrook Park on their doorstep, and how much they were looking forward to one day climbing and playing around the trees they have planted today.

I’d like to extend my thanks to the staff and pupils at Begbrook Primary Academy, and Plastic Pollution Awareness and Action Projects’ founder Naseem Talukdar, who has pledged to plant 1,000 trees across the city to support our ambition.

You can find more information about how to support Replant Bristol here.