Author Archives: marvinjrees

What’s next for open water swimming in Bristol Harbour

It’s been remarkable to see the positive response to our Harbour swimming pilot, which came to a close over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend. These swim sessions have been immensely popular, all selling out in advance even when additional spaces were made available.

We began with 80 swimmers per session and gradually increased spaces to 150 in response to demand, and to accommodate those who missed out after the swim sessions on the 6 and 7 May were cancelled due to the impact of the fire at Underfall Yard.

I know many of you will have seen the images of the devastating fire at Underfall Yard earlier this month. Although works are expected to begin soon, with a crane due on site next week to lower the burnt overhead beams and allow for a structural survey to be carried out safely, Underfall Yard Visitor Centre and Café remain open as usual to visitors and customers. Most of the businesses based at the yard are still trading and events are being planned to take place throughout the summer.

Over the five weeks, we ran eight two-hour swim sessions with a total of 653 swimmers taking a dip in Baltic Wharf. We took an amazing 920 bookings for sessions, not including the 200 for the cancelled sessions. The water quality was tested throughout the pilot and consistently met Excellent Bathing Water Standards. We also monitored costs, popularity, and any impact on our ability to maintain a safe environment​ and will be reviewing this information along with feedback from participants and the wider public.

Two people are pictured swimming in Bristol harbour.

I’ve really enjoyed hearing people’s stories of their experiences and the vibrant, uplifting atmosphere in Baltic Wharf during the swimming sessions. It’s been a great activity to bring to the city. We’re continuing our work and discussions with our partners, Uswim and All-Aboard Water Sports, to look at the possibility of providing a designated open water swimming area in the Harbour on a regular basis.

Feedback received so far has been very positive, with swimmers commenting on how well organised the sessions were, the friendly and supportive staff on hand and how great an opportunity it was to swim in the Harbour with the picturesque views of Bristol beside you.

Initial survey responses show that the majority of swimmers:

  • were very satisfied with their Harbour swimming experience
  • strongly agreed or agreed that the pilot was good value for money
  • rated the location in the Harbour used for the swimming pilot as a very good place to swim
  • are keen to return once a week or more if we make swimming sessions a permanent feature in the Harbour

We’re keen to hear from people who swam during our pilot sessions to find out more about what they thought of their Harbour swimming experience. Your feedback will help us understand how we might adapt the swim sessions and facilities (including for changing and storing belongings) to best meet swimmers’ needs, if the decision is made to continue swimming sessions beyond our pilot. So, I’d encourage anyone who has received a link to our online survey to complete it and submit your answers.

A huge thank you goes out to everyone, especially to the volunteers, who made sure that those taking part had a safe and enjoyable Harbour swimming experience, and in doing so contributed to the success and positive response to our pilot.

Swimmers are pictured, waving, in Bristol Harbour, with safety equipment in the background.

Please do remember, and continue to share with others, that, without prior consent from the Harbour Master, it remains unsafe and against the bylaws to swim in the Harbour, Cumberland Basin, or other waterways in Bristol.

Our city’s Harbour is a working one, with boats and other watercraft of varying sizes moving up and down the surface throughout the day. Without professional safety supervision and direction, there are a number of significant dangers associated with entering Bristol’s waterways. These include cold water shock, getting hit by a boat, hazardous or discarded objects under the water and occasional very strong currents due to tides.

Please stay out of the water and continue to use one of the many pools available in the city or formal open water swimming venues outside of Bristol. If you get into trouble near the water, or notice someone who needs help in the water, call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service.

Free city-wide events in June and July

Councillor Craig Cheney, smiling, looking towards the camera.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for Finance, Governance, Performance, and Culture.

All events through the City Centre and High Streets Culture and Events Programme are free and open to all, so everyone can visit, explore and have fun in Bristol over the summer.

St Nick’s Night Market returns for its second iteration on 2 June from 5:30pm to 10pm. You can expect an amazing line up of traders, entertainment and performers, and multicultural food and drink from local producers and suppliers.

Don’t miss your chance to see Weekends of Wonder on 3 and 4 June. Invisible Circus are renowned for their imaginative and creative performances and this line-up of street artists and performers does not disappoint!

Included in the Festival of Nature’s 20th anniversary, the Walking Forest will travel across the city centre on Saturday 17 June. Pop-up performances will take place in Broadmead, Old City, and King Street, with a chance to join in with free family activities and hands-on forestry crafts.

Join Bristol Cathedral on Sunday 18 June for Party on the Green. Bring a picnic and join communities from across Bristol for a day of live music, food and family friendly activities provided by some of Bristol’s best, including the SS Great Britain, Young Bristol and We The Curious.

A circus performer is pictured standing on a ladder in front of a crowd.

Bristol’s Summer Film Takeover celebrates unique aspects of Bristol’s culture and identity through film, and marks a number of major milestones including 50 years of hip hop’s influence on Bristol’s culture, the 75th anniversary of Windrush, and 100 years of 16mm film. The first events in June include:

  • Windrush 75: Stories Through Film, a specially curated programme of films screening on board the Vintage Mobile Cinema Bus in Broadmead from 22 to 24 June.
  • A Wall is a Screen: Secrets of the Old City on 30 June. Join a guided evening walking tour exploring hidden architectural gems in Bristol’s Old City and enjoy a selection of short films projected onto nearby buildings along the way. 

Led by performers and comedians from Bristol Improv Theatre, two squabbling tour guides will take you on the Bristol Comedy History Walk, a hilarious guided tour through Old City and Broadmead, to reveal some of Bristol’s most humorous and surprising secrets.

St Nick’s Market is hosting local musicians from the Bristol Institute of Music Management (BIMM) in its Summer of Busking series on 24 June, 29 July and 26 August, from 12pm to 3pm. Musicians will perform acoustic sessions at the market for people to enjoy as they shop and dine al fresco.

A busker is pictured playing the guitar in St Nicks market.

Running from 15 to 17 July, the Circus Playground will be on College Green at this year’s Bristol Harbour festival. Cirque Bijou will once again be bringing tricks and trapeze, children’s entertainment and pop-up performances to delight the crowds.

Ockham’s razor will be taking over Broadmead on 29 July with two showings of their new outdoor performance PUBLIC. These events mark the return of this internationally renowned company to the Bristol with a show that reimagines public space as a space for creativity.

Markets continue to take place on our priority high streets, including:

St Nicks Market is pictured, with big crowds of people walking through the market.

People from Stockwood are invited to join Brave Bold Drama on 10 June in Stockwood Square for the final session to help create the Stockwood Sounds Audio Trail, a playful new community audio trail celebrating all things Stockwood.

Events running on Stapleton Road celebrate the diversity, communities, cultures and flavours of the area. Around The World in BS5 is an immersive walking tour running every Sunday in June giving people the chance to explore the high street, sample the foods and enjoy music, dance and other performances along the way.

Welcome to Stapleton Road events take place on Saturday 24 June and Thursday 27 July. Opening out onto the street, businesses will showcase what they do with special offers, tasters and displays. There will be music, children’s activities, face painting, arts and crafts.

The Friends of Horfield Library (FoHL) are planning events on Filton Avenue including a Growers and Makers Market on 10 June and on 15 July a summer fete ‘Celebrating Filton Avenue’ which will be a family friendly day with a samba band, local performers, craft activities and facepainting.

People are pictured. walking through St Nicks night market, With food stalls either side.

St George Community Association will run their Summer Fair at St George Community Centre on 18 June from 1pm to 4pm with fun activities for children, face painting, music and have plenty of stalls to browse from local traders.

With this diverse and packed programme of events running throughout the summer we continue to help support Bristol’s businesses and the recovery of the culture and events sector and hope to build on the successes of last year’s events, where we attracted over 75,000 additional visitors to the city centre and generated almost £1.4 million of additional spend in Bristol’s businesses, all from an investment of £310,000.

The City Centre and High Streets Recovery and Renewal programme is funded by Bristol City Council and the West of England’s Combined Authority’s Love our High Streets project.

Banging the drum for Bristol: more jobs and investment

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured (third from the right) with a panel, speaking at UKREiiF Real Estate, Investment & Infrastructure Forum.

It was great to attend the UKREiiF, the UK’s Real Estate Investment & Infrastructure Forum, in Leeds on 16 and 17 May. Now in its second year, with a third planned, REiiF is becoming an important event in the calendar for property developers and investors to come together to discuss trends, innovation, and shape the future direction of the industry.  The forum covers how the public and private sectors can work together to deal with the challenges we face, such as providing the homes we need and responding to the climate and ecological emergencies.

The public sector has an increasingly strong presence at this event. As well as UK locations setting out their stalls for investment, leaders from across the political spectrum were taking a leading part in discussions.

Bristol is recognised as a leader in climate action, committing to our One City Climate Strategy and One City Ecological Emergency Strategy. As a city we are willing to share the benefit of our experience to support efforts nationally and internationally to achieve net zero in a fair and just way. In my keynote, opening address at the Beyond Net Zero stage, I highlighted how our Bristol City Leap Partnership plans to deliver £630 million of clean energy investment by 2028, creating over 1,000 jobs and saving over 150,000 tonnes of emissions.

But more needs to be done. During my time at COP27, it was highlighted that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $4-6 trillion a year. My attendance was as part of the Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci), where we advocated for what is needed to ensure successful public-private collaboration and unlock the private finance needed for a just transition of cities to net zero. Accessing this private funding is a crucial step on our journey.

Mayor Marvin Rees (Right), is pictured next to Metro Mayor, Tracy Brabin, speaking at UKREiiF Real Estate, Investment & Infrastructure Forum.
Mayor Marvin Rees (Right), is pictured next to Metro Mayor, Tracy Brabin, speaking at UKREiiF Real Estate, Investment & Infrastructure Forum.

I also had the opportunity at REIIF to celebrate the progress we have made as a city to continue to progress towards delivering 1,000 affordable new homes every year. In 2021/22, our city built 474 new homes, as part of the 2,563 new homes delivered, the most in more than a decade. I also emphasised the role cities have to play as agents of change. 

The majority of the world’s population now lives in urban environments – so change in cities can be significant in scale and happen at pace, as long as it is just. I see a role for a national plan for key infrastructure in cities, that gives central government an agenda to follow that supports cities and gives them a long horizon to plan for, whilst giving them the freedom they need to be fully responsive to the needs of their citizens.

A seminar on the opportunity at Temple Quarter attracted much interest. The landmark project, one of Europe’s biggest regeneration schemes, will unlock 10,000 new homes and 22,000 new jobs, alongside huge investment into Bristol’s economy. I’m grateful to the team, and those working under the banner of the Western Gateway and other partners, who were flying the flag at the event for Bristol and the west, for their contributions to what I consider to have been a successful few days.

Delivering for Bristol: Southmead regeneration

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured smiling, with college green and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes
and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward.

Finding new and innovative ways to build housing is a key part of our plans to meet ambitious targets for much needed affordable homes across the city. One way to do this is to work with local communities to enable them to build the homes that best reflect the needs of the neighbourhood.

A key example of this approach can be found in Southmead, where we are supporting an ambitious regeneration and housing delivery programme.

The community-led Southmead Masterplan was published in 2018 by the Southmead Development Trust (SDT). It is a community-led development project where the stakeholders and wider community meet on regular basis to review development progress and contribute to decision making.

The plan aims to deliver around 230 new homes in central Southmead, with a mix of new affordable and market housing options, including a development of community-led housing at Glencoyne Square. These new homes will add to the 474 affordable homes we built in 2021/22 and the 1,300 new affordable homes currently being built across the city. Goram Homes, our council-owned housing company, has a pipeline of more than 3,100 new homes – half of them affordable – alongside the around 11,000 homes our administration has helped get built in Bristol since 2016.

Planning permission for 120 new homes was granted in 2021, but the scheme has since been re-designed to improve viability. The new scheme, which is currently going back through planning, is expected to provide up to 187 homes – of which around 66% will be affordable – alongside a new shared library, advice and learning hub, community enterprise space and a health and well-being hub. It is hoped work will start on site next year, subject to planning approval.

Unfortunately, the re-location of Southmead Health Centre has not been possible due to unavailability of sufficient match funding from the NHS. Instead, the proposed health centre area within the new scheme will be replaced with a smaller health and well-being hub, allowing SDT to provide additional new homes, with the current health centre expected to remain on its current site rather than move across.

Implementation of the plan is being undertaken over several phases, and we have already delivered a range of improvements to the Arnside Road district centre and shopping area. Public realm and sustainable urban drainage improvements to Arnside have been completed and opened to the public in May 2022, making the high street a more attractive, safer and eco-friendly place to visit. We have also purchased the White Hall site, which will be used for new council owned homes, while still retaining play facilities on the adjourning park site.

As with any big project of this size, there have been some challenges along the way. We were very disappointed when ALDI made the decision to not expand their anchor store. We had already done a great deal of work, alongside Southmead Development Trust, to relocate services that took place in the youth centre to a newly refurbished space at the Ranch – Southmead Adventure Playground.

Southmead Library has also been moved – taking up a temporary space at Southmead House before a new purpose-built home is created for it as part of future development in the area. We are keen to make sure that the library and youth centre buildings do not stand empty, and they are currently being used to provide day care services and sports classes. In the longer term, we are considering if they could be suitable for additional homes.

In 2019 we received £3.6 million of Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) funding from Homes England to support the delivery of the masterplan, and we have already committed £7 million to help fund the non-residential space at Glencoyne Square. Cabinet will consider a further £620,000 investment to support the scheme, following ALDI’s decision not to expand its store, and to cover other rising costs.

Bristol is a rapidly growing city and is currently undergoing much transformation. Our regeneration programmes stretch from Bedminster to Temple Meads, St Judes’s to Broadmead, and also include Western Harbour, Hengrove, Filwood and Lockleaze. We need to keep working together to make sure that Bristol grows well, with local communities benefiting from the change happening on their doorstep. Regeneration will bring city-wide benefits so that everyone can thrive. 

A group of people are pictured smiling, including Bristol's Lord Mayor (Centre) and Councillor Kye Dudd (Second from the left).

We have a vision to create vibrant communities with sustainable, inclusive economic growth. Quality affordable homes and job opportunities will be in locations where we can have reliable, frequent public transport connections and be within walking and cycling routes.

The transformation of Southmead, including the provision of new homes, an improved town centre, and a healthy and inclusive local community will contribute to city-wide targets for housing and for developing economic and social opportunity and environmental sustainability.

Renters Reform Bill

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured smiling, with college green and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes
and Labour Councillor for Horfield Ward.

The government’s Renters (Reform) Bill has finally been unveiled and, while the overdue plans to ban no fault evictions are welcome, I cannot help but feel that the proposals do not go far enough to tackle the mounting housing crisis being faced in Bristol and across the country. More needs to be done to provide protection for renters and tackle a market that has spiralled out of control.

Bristol’s private rented sector is becoming increasingly unaffordable, leading to serious access and affordability issues which are impacting the wellbeing and quality of life of people in Bristol and playing a major role in creating homelessness. Those in private rented accommodation have lived for too long without adequate protections and with very limited options to guarantee decent living standards.

Some proposals set out in the bill will have positive impacts on renters in Bristol and will also ensure clarity for landlords should they come into effect. Our campaign for a fair rental sector has always acknowledged that most landlords provide decent homes and aim to support their tenants. Solutions to this crisis need to be formed by working together across the sector and we’ve committed to with all parties to take positive action.

While I am pleased to see a basic decent homes standard planned, along with a new ombudsman to oversee the private rented sector, applying home quality standards to the private sector for the first time, the bill does little to address the affordability of renting. It will not provide for the powers for areas like Bristol to intervene in the private rented sector to tackle this issue – which could mean property owners will still find ways to skirt the laws by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out who can’t afford them, even if rent increases are limited to once a year with a minimum two month notice period. Out of control rents mean housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable, pushing many further away from their place of work, family, and support networks.

Plans to make it illegal to refuse tenancies to people on benefits or with children are vitally important and will make sure no family is unjustly discriminated against when looking for a place to live. Banning discrimination against renters on benefits is something we have long campaigned for, making it council policy last year.

I also welcome the introduction of a property portal to act as a database for properties in the private rented sector. I will be looking at the detail of this to ensure what is brought in can be used to its full potential and equip tenants with the information they need about the property they are renting.

A right to request a pet is also a welcome step forward. As a dog owner myself, I know the important role pets can play in our lives. However, we need to ensure that a landlord not being able to unreasonably withhold consent is sufficiently clarified in law.

Here in Bristol, we have been campaigning for renters reform and increased security for tenants for some time, and must continue to put pressure on the government to deliver on their promises. Having a safe and secure roof over our heads is key to ensuring we all have the best possible opportunity to live a happy and healthy life but, unfortunately, many renters still live in fear of spiralling costs and unfair evictions. 

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured posing with his teams award for Best Coalition End Unfair Evictions at SMK's National Campaigner Awards 2020
Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured posing with his teams award for Best Coalition End Unfair Evictions at SMK’s National Campaigner Awards 2020

We have over 19,000 households on our waiting list for social housing, along with over 1,200 households in temporary accommodation. The cost of renting in this city is one key cause alongside the lack of security that renters have in the private rented sector.

In the Mayor’s 2021 manifesto, we pledged to make Bristol a “living rent city” and lobby central government for the powers to introduce rent controls that work for the city. Since this we’ve worked across the sector to better support private renters, including the roll out of landlord licensing schemes, stamping out illegal ‘no DSS’ discrimination and hosting the first the Renters’ Summit to share their experiences of renting in Bristol.

We also launched the Living Rent Commission, bringing the best, partnership focused organisations together to explore the issues facing renters. As part of its work looking to improve the affordability, quality and tenant experience of the private rented sector in Bristol, the One City Living Rent Commission has looked at how we can improve the sector, including what the impact of rent regulation across the city could be.

An upcoming report, written by the University of Bristol, will be officially launched in the coming weeks, sets out a range of recommendations based on evidence of the challenges we face and potential solutions we could introduce. We have made sure that a wide range of people have been heard during the process, including listening to the lived experience of tenants, residents and landlords.

There are no simple solutions to a crisis of this scale and we know that part of it is about building more homes that are truly affordable. However, the commission has given us an opportunity to bring organisations together to explore the issues facing renters and the sector, to help us develop an approach that works for Bristol and better protects renters.

The report’s recommendations reflect that the powers to regulate the market come from government. Therefore, we must work with Westminster to develop any future policy. The recommendations also highlight the need to continue the constructive dialogue with renters and other stakeholders in the private rented sector to achieve our goal of delivering meaningful and lasting positive change, enabling Bristol to become a Living Rent City.

We recognise that there is substantial support for rent control to help make renting in the city more affordable, however, there are also concerns about negative impacts. Further work will now take place to develop the proposals put forward in the report. This will happen in partnership with sector stakeholders and ensure that tenants’ views continue to be taken into account.

Protecting Bristol’s frontline services

Councillor Craig Cheney is pictured smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney,
Deputy Mayor for Finance, Governance, Performance,
and Culture and Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

It’s well established that local government across our country is facing a cost of operating crisis that is affecting all areas of local authority work. The systematic defunding of the local government sector by successive governments over thirteen years has left all councils facing increasing demand without the financing necessary to do all the things we used to do.

In February, we set another balanced budget for the seventh consecutive year of this administration, no easy feat considering the challenges. We have continued to protect all of Bristol’s libraries and children centres, prioritised support for low-income families by continuing to fully fund the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Local Crisis Prevention Fund, and set aside the funding needed to continue our ambitious home building programme.

We continue to tackle the big issues facing our city head on, and reduce pressure on the frontline services that fellow Bristolians rely upon wherever we can — including thanks to the £1 million that we have saved by reducing the number of council directors.

With every year, however, the impact of delivering on our priorities becomes increasingly challenging. This year’s council budget was set against the backdrop of the national cost of living crisis, made worse by the national mini Budget, which has driven up the costs of goods, services, and energy. Coupled with rising demand for the services that we deliver and lower government funding than we need, the council’s budget gap over the coming five years was estimated to be over £30 million. This led us to set out a number of areas where we would look to save money and increase income whilst continuing to protect frontline services as much as possible.

Whilst this has meant that we have needed to review how services are delivered across all areas. Our plans also include over £11 million of actions to change the way the council operates, further improve efficiency, and deliver even greater value for money in how the council is run. A large part of these savings, nearly a quarter, will be achieved by further reducing the number of buildings used by our staff, following on from a January cabinet decision to sell six sites.

After many months of work to explore the various options to reduce office space without negatively impacting frontline services, we are now in a position to take the next steps and begin delivering these much needed work.

This approach will see us move out of a number of sites across Bristol. City Hall will continue to be the council’s main office with other buildings retained in the north, south, and east of our city to provide space for officers to work closely with people in those communities. These local offices of course sit alongside the network of libraries and children’s centres that we are proud to have protected across Bristol, which help connect residents with services.

Final decisions on which buildings will be retained are yet to be made, but we have made a commitment to keep the Citizen Service Point on Temple Street despite other council officers moving from this office space later this year.

As this project develops we will be in touch with people affected by any planned closures to let them know what changes are being delivered and where they can continue to access the services they need.

Fairtrade farmer to visit Bristol

On World Fairtrade Day, today’s guest blog is from Bristol Link with Nicaragua, home to Puerto Morazan, one of our seven twin cities, and Bristol Fairtrade Network:

We are delighted to announce that our city will once again be hosting a visit of a Fairtrade farmer from Nicaragua. Bristol is proud to have been a Fairtrade City for 18 years and the visit has been an annual event for much of that time. Like so many activities this had to pause due to the pandemic, but this year, at the end of May, we look forward to meeting coffee farmer, Erika Lanzas Rodas.

The visit is taking place between 11 and 27 May and, like previous visits, will mainly focus on visits to schools in the area. As we strive to ensure young people in Bristol grow up ‘as global citizens’, it’s important that they have a chance to learn how their lives link with so many other places in the world. Meeting a Fairtrade producer in person and hearing about her experiences first hand will aim to help them understand the impacts their choices have on people the other side of the world. In previous years, we have always had extremely positive feedback from schools and young people on what a significant impact these visits have had on their thinking and understanding on the complex issues of ethics in world supply chains.

Erika Lanzas Rodas is pictured on her farm in Nicaragua, with greenery and buildings seen behind her.
Erika Lanzas Rodas on her farm in Nicaragua.

A bit about Erika

Erika Lanzas Rodas is 39 years old, a single mother of four children, a coffee producer, and a member of the UCA SOPPEXCCA Cooperative. She has a farm called La Libertad, with ​​two hectares of coffee. UCA SOPPEXCCA is a Fairtrade certified organisation and you can read more about it on the Fairtrade Foundation’s website.

Erika has been a member of the cooperative since 2012. She has enjoyed many benefits and achievements over the years, but the most significant have been the improvements to her home. Erika had a small house and only basic living conditions: the change from then to now and the progress she has made since she joined are clear, as is the improvement in her family’s income thanks to the fact that her coffee is certified and marketed through Fairtrade.

For Erika, being a member of the cooperative means having opportunities for herself and her family. One of her achievements are the improvements she has made to her home in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of her children. She began by changing the roof, as it was in poor condition. She also built a toilet, from cement blocks, inside the house, since they previously had a latrine outside, causing insecurity for her and her daughters.

Erika has her own wet coffee-processing space, which she obtained from the premium earned by ‘Las Hermanas’ coffee and the Fairtrade social premium, investing the money to guarantee the best quality for her coffee.

Belonging to the ‘Café Las Hermanas’ group for small women producers means having opportunities to grow emotionally, socially and economically, thanks to the coffee’s high value based on quality and origin. It is produced 100% by women coffee producers who are members of SOPPEXCCA.

Today Erika is a woman entrepreneur and a leader in her cooperative. She currently belongs to the Gender Committee of the ‘Arlen Siu’ base cooperative, where she has been training in environment, production, gender equality, human rights, and other areas. Her children have also benefited from scholarships and receiving school supplies, which have allowed them to finish secondary school and which they continue to receive today.

Together with other women members of the cooperative, Erika has begun to diversify her crop and work in family gardens, in order to guarantee food security for the families and to improve their income.

We are excited to say that there is an opportunity for you all to meet Erika on 26 May at Sparks, the new art, sustainability and education hub in the old Marks and Spencer building in Broadmead. SPARKS is an exciting new development in the city launching on today.  The event to meet Erika is free to attend but booking is required.

This visit is organised via a partnership between Bristol Link with Nicaragua (BLINC); SOPPEXCCA, the union of Fairtrade Co-operatives based in Nicaragua’s highlands; The Venturers’ Trust; the University of Bristol; the University of Bath; and Bristol Fair Trade Network (BFTN).

Bristol’s £2.4 million Pothole Action Fund

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Don Alexander,
Cabinet Member for Transport and Labour councillor
for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston ward.

The highways department at the council manages and maintains over 750 miles of roads across the network. It’s a pretty expansive network that requires constant monitoring and maintenance. A big part of that job is identifying, fixing and monitoring potholes across the city.

Despite the effort we put in to maintain the roads, we can’t be everywhere at once and I understand how frustrating potholes can be for motorists and other road users. I hear often about the concern people have about the number of potholes across Bristol and have been working closely with officers to ensure the plans and finances are in place to tackle issues as quickly as possible.

Back in March, I was pleased to confirm an investment of over £9 million had been secured to carry out essential highways maintenance and deliver transport schemes. As part of that funding, £1.4 million was put into the city’s Pothole Action Fund to pay for important road repairs and surfacing works.

Now, only a few weeks later, I’m delighted to be able to add a further £1 million to that fund, bringing this year’s Pothole Action Fund up to £2.4 million. This extra funding, secured from extra money made available by the Department for Transport, will be used to increase on the 2,500 pothole repairs carried out on average per year.

Our focus remains squarely on preventing defects from happening in the first place and we have a fully funded programme of maintenance interventions such as surface dressing, micro asphalt and other approaches lined us throughout the year.

By using a mix of inspections by highways officers, using digital condition surveys and reports from residents and visitors, we can prioritise this work to ensure the most necessary works are planned in first. This is why it’s important that if anyone sees an issue with the highway they should report it and help us better map out the areas we need to spend this additional funding on.

Anyone can report a damaged road or a pothole in Bristol. To report an issue on a motorway or the A4 Bristol Portway at Avonmouth contact the Highways Agency.

Bristol gets Living Wage City status for three more years

Bristol Living Wage City's logo is pictured. A blue outline of city landmarks is pictured, with text below reading Making Bristol a Living Wage City.

When Bristol achieved Living Wage City recognition in 2019, it showed how serious we are about addressing low pay and in-work poverty.  

Three years on and we have received Living Wage City status for a further three years, enabling us to continue our work to encourage employers in Bristol to pay a good wage. 

Our first three years of being a Living Wage City have seen us exceed our targets. The aim was to double the number of real Living Wage accredited employers headquartered in Bristol from 62 to 125, but we were able to achieve 140 accreditations. In 2019, there were just under 20,000 people in Bristol working with accredited real Living Wage employers, now we have around 43,000. As part of our city’s efforts to increase people’s pay, approximately 4,000 people have had a pay rise, uplifting them to the real Living Wage or higher. This is an increase nearly three times higher than expected. 

With no signs of the national cost of living crisis ending, earning a wage that is based on the actual cost of living has never been more important. While the real Living Wage will not solve the crisis, providing employees with a wage based on living costs can help provide security and stability for workers. 

Text reads: We are one of Thousands of Accredited Living Wage Employers.

Research by the Living Wage Foundation in late 2022 highlighted our concerns that low paid workers are more likely to be in financial hardship now than at any point over the past few years. These people are likely to be skipping meals regularly for financial reasons, are unable to heat their homes and may be seeking a pay-day loan to cover essentials. 

Clearly earning less than the real Living Wage is harder now than ever before which is why our work in Bristol to encourage our city’s employers to pay a fair wage is so vital.  

In January 2019, the City Office launched our shared One City plan, setting out how city partners would work together to create a fair, healthy and sustainable city. Bristol Living Wage City became a part of this vision in January 2020. 

Major organisations across our city came together to form a Bristol Living Wage City action group, which has been integral to our city’s success. Key founding partners who are still leading the initiative alongside Bristol City Council today include Business West, University of Bristol, the Great Western Credit Union, TUC South West, and ACH. 

Text Reads: What has The Living Wage done for businesses? 93% say it has benefited the business. 86% Say it has improved the reputation of the business. 75% say it has increased motivation and retention rates for employees. 64% Say it has helped differnative themselves from others in their industry.

New members have regularly joined the group, picking up the work of other founding members during three years of hard work and challenging times. The University of the West of England, Hargreaves Lansdown, and We the Curious are now established key members of the group. 

Our Bristol Living Wage action group is the perfect example of how we can successfully work together as One City. We have a strong partnership and clear strategy and action plan to continue this work through the next three years. Renewing Bristol’s commitment to becoming a Living Wage City is both a call to action and a clear way forward to achieving a fair and inclusive economy for all in Bristol.  

The action group are proud, and rightly so, of their achievements over the last three years, hitting all their targets and making good inroads into traditionally low paid industries, such as cleaning, childcare, retail and hospitality, with 29 per cent of accredited employers headquartered in Bristol from these employment sectors.  

Box-E are quoted talking about Living Wage city, text reads: " I think the accreditation shows an added commitment to increasing pay regularly and this particularly helpful to know right now with the cost of living skyrocketing. We would definitely encourage other businesses to get accredited."

The action group meets every two months to review the approach and monitor progress against targets. The group annually review our city’s journey and ambitions, working together to co-design a new action plan for the next three years.  

Looking forward up to December 2025, our action group has five key aims: 

  • Targeting large and iconic employers in Bristol 
  • Engaging low-pay sectors 
  • Supporting small and medium enterprise to commit to the real Living Wage 
  • Raising awareness of the real Living Wage movement across the city, with a focus on target sectors and peer to peer support 
  • Developing and sharing practical guidance on the real Living Wage to employers and employees 

Our action group will work hard to reach our new targets of an additional 120 accredited employers headquartered in our city. This would lead to an additional 1,200 employees’ salaries being uplifted to at least the real Living Wage. 

The national cost of living crisis threatens to significantly impact living standards, making the campaign for the real Living Wage even more important. Bristol has a strong vision for its future as a city that has a vibrant and successful economy, where everyone has the opportunity to both contribute to and benefit from economic growth. A city that is fair and inclusive. Bristol Living Wage City is fundamental platform for delivering this vision. 

If you are interested in becoming an accredited real Living Wage employer visit the Living Wage Foundation website to find out more or contact our Living Wage team at 

Hargreaves Lansdowne are quoted talking about Bristol as a Living Wage city. Text reads: "Getting accreditation with the Living Wage Foundation really cements our longstanding support of fair pay for our colleagues. It's a visible marker of who we are, our values and what we stand for."

Giving back to your local community

Councillor Ellie King, smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet member for Public Health and Communities and Labour councillor for Hillfields ward.

Bristol residents never cease to amaze me with their dedication to helping others and making a difference to other people’s lives. I would like to start with a thank you to all of the unsung heroes who volunteer their time to support so many people and activities across our city.

There are lots of ways to give back to your local community, and volunteering is one of the most rewarding. Often the questions I get asked are about where to begin, how to support others, or even if it’s worth doing.

As we look forward to this year’s Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), I want to share my volunteering experience and why I recommend everyone gets involved.

My five reasons to volunteer:

  1. Make a difference – helping someone who needs it and giving back to the people in your local community is an incredibly rewarding experience
  2. Build new relationships – making new connections with people can be incredibly rewarding. You’ll get the chance to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds who you might not usually get the chance to speak to
  3. Expand your skill set – developing new skills is great for your personal and work life. Volunteering can help you add achievements you might need to your CV and increase your career opportunities
  4. Boost your confidence – doing something new or continuing to develop a skill you already have can increase your self-confidence.
  5. Great for your own wellbeing – it’s not selfish to say that doing something good makes you feel good. Supporting those around you or helping with the success of an event will bring a smile to your face and help you feel great!

How can you volunteer?

From Monday 8 May, to mark His Majesty The King’s Coronation, thousands of organisations across the country are getting together to help people give back to their local communities with The Big Help Out. No matter what you are good at, there will be something that will suit you. The idea is for people to spare as little as an hour or as much as a day. Even doing something small can make a big difference.

To find local volunteering opportunities, you can visit the Can Do Bristol website. You will find a range of options from volunteering at festivals, helping to train young sea cadets, supporting people with dementia, and lots more. You can sign up for regular volunteering slots or one-off events, and people looking for volunteers can also contact you directly. If you’re looking for volunteers to support your event or organisation you can also advertise for free on the Can Do Bristol website.

Marking Volunteers’ Week 2023

Two people are photographed holding hands.

I firstly want to say a huge thank you to anyone who already volunteers in Bristol, whether you do this through Can Do Bristol, with local community organisations or by just helping out friends or family.

We are once again working closely with Voscur and Black South West Network to give a big city thank you and put a spotlight on some of the amazing work Bristol’s volunteers have been doing. More details on this will be available closer to Volunteers’ Week.

As we have done for previous years, we are running our Wall of Thanks on the Can Do Bristol website where you can submit messages of thanks and appreciation to volunteers or community organisations that have helped you. You can submit these here: The Wall of Thanks 2023 – Can Do Bristol

If you are an organisation and you’ve received support from volunteers over the past year, as well as posting messages on the Wall of Thanks, you can visit the Volunteers’ Week website and find out how else you can say thank you.