On Site Bristol Apprenticeship Awards

One of the key pledges I set when I was elected was: deliver work experience and apprenticeships for every young person. This evening, at the ‘On Site’ annual awards me and my Cabinet Member for Education & Skills, Anna Keen, will be celebrating the achievements of apprentices and employers who are helping us fulfil that pledge.

Every year On Site supports over 300 apprentices, helping them into career opportunities in the construction industry. They work with over 200 employers, ranging from small local enterprises to major national housebuilders. On Site runs a schools outreach programme which promotes construction careers in over 40 local schools and colleges.

Bristol is growing, and new buildings are going up all the time. Over the coming decades we need to build thousands of new homes to support the region’s growth. The work On Site is doing is therefore crucial to opening up the employment and apprenticeship opportunities for local people. Apprenticeships and construction job opportunities are hugely valuable ways to develop sustainable careers. The On Site recruitment process enables candidates to access opportunities based on their potential, not just traditional qualifications, and their success rates are fantastic with 92% achieving their qualifications and moving into sustainable careers.

It is vital then that we celebrate the work of organisations like On Site and how successful they have been in helping local people to access jobs, training and opportunities jobs in construction. One thing that On Site does particularly well is open up opportunities for traditionally under-represented groups in the construction industry. Darren Perkins, Bristol City Council Apprenticeship Manager said: “At On Site Bristol we are working hard with local schools, businesses and our partners to tackle the male dominated image of construction in order to encourage more women to consider a career within the local industry. Construction is a major pillar of the UK’s economy, employing around 2.1 million people. But women make up just 11% of this industry. We are continuing to work on ideas to champion diversity and inclusion within the industry.”

These awards give us the chance to take a moment to reflect on the achievements of our talented young apprentices and I’d like to congratulate all our winners and nominees. The On Site Bristol team play an important role in creating these opportunities, inspiring apprentices and nurturing their talent. This is brilliant for our local industries as many of our past winners have gone on to start their own companies and take on apprentices of their own. As a Learning City we are always looking to create more opportunities for people to learn and I’d also like to thank the many employers offering quality apprenticeships to help make Bristol a more equal place to live and work.

For people who are interested On Site will be running an Open Evening on Wednesday 28th November at the Create Centre, Smeaton Road, Bristol, BS1 6XN, between 17:00 and 19:30. If you are interested in a career in the construction industry and are leaving education after year 11, 12 or 13 you should go along.

You can ring 0117 3521960 or visit www.onsitebristol.co.uk for more details.

Bristol Equality Charter

Today joined around 200 people at the Bristol M Shed for a standing room only event to launch the Bristol Equality Charter.

The Bristol Equality Charter is unique to our city. Although we have many documents about equality, this one attempts to bring everything together in one place.

Key to the potential of the Charter is the fact that it’s something that has been written by over 20 Bristol based organisations from across the public, voluntary community and private sectors. And more are signing up. Bristol City Council area founding member, but it’s owned by the city.

The development of the charter has led to the formation of a new Bristol Equality Network.

A group of individuals representing the equalities agenda within their organisations. The network will meet regularly to support new organisations that sign up to the charter, and share information and good practice.

I shared a number of reflections on a couple of the challenges facing us in this work. First is to rescue Equalities from being an after thought once all the “serious” work has been done. While many would agree to the importance of equality and inclusion, it actually lands as a check on existing strategy and policy after the fact, rather than a driver and shaper of policy and strategy at its point of origin.

Second, its essential we don’t allow the different equalities “strands” to be played against each other like Top Trumps. It has sometimes been the case that when someone talks about race, someone raises class or vice versa. Or when someone raises gender someone raises disability or vice versa. It has sometimes been the case that equalities has become a race to the bottom for who has the worst story. We need to get to a position of collective respect where we simply realise that they are all true and that many people live at the intersection of multiple equalities stories.

I also shared the considerable opportunities. The 2010 book “The Spirit Level” argued that more equal societies almost always do better on a whole range of indicators a from economy development to health and education. As a result they argue we have reached the end of what growth alone can do for us as a policy tool. The key lever is now delivering equality.

Finally Channel 4 chose Bristol in major part because of our genuine commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. It’s in this sense that its become an asset, profit that values and a commitment to a better society and good growth can win the inward investment we need to take Bristol forward.

Living Wage Employer Accreditation

This week we, Bristol City Council, were accredited as a Living Wage Employer.

This is a huge achievement for us. I am immensely proud. It is yet another 2016 manifesto pledge delivered.

The council now joins more than 220 South West employers officially committed to paying the living wage. The announcement comes at the same time that the Living Wage rate is increased by 25p to £9 an hour in line with rising living costs.

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The Living Wage is an independently set hourly rate of pay for everyone over 18, calculated according to the basic costs of living, and is higher than the current minimum wage for those aged over 25 set by the Government.

It is right that work is properly compensated and wages enable people to live a full live with dignity. The fact that the National Minimum Wage has not kept up with the rise in the cost of living means hundreds of thousands of people in the South West do not earn enough to cover the basics of living.  A fifth of jobs in the region still pay less than the ‘real’ living wage.

We hope to lead by example in promoting employee economic and social wellbeing for our workers; we hope that other large employers in the region follow suit and do the right thing. A living wage is good for workers and the economy (because people spend more) and the public purse (because the public sector isn’t subsidising poverty wage packets).

Now we have opened the conversation about making Bristol a real living wage city. This could include a Bristol-specific living wage (probably somewhere between the national real living wage and the London weighting).

A Rising Tide

This week is the ‘Festival of Economics’, hosted by the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership. The festival hosts speakers and events to provoke thought and debate about economics and what that means for people and their everyday lives.

Some tried to peddle a belief economic growth would ‘trickle down’ in a way that would benefit everyone, often using the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Supporters of this theory argued that growth, measured by Gross Domestic Product, GDP, the overall value added by economic activity, regardless of how it was generated, would reach all parts of the economy and everyone would be better off.

That theory is widely criticised and here in Bristol, experience has shown us it’s more complicated than that. Using the same measure, GDP (or at a city level, Gross Value Added, GVA), Bristol has seen exceptional economic growth over several decades. But that growth hasn’t been benefitting everyone. Many neighbourhoods have fallen further behind others. Concentrations of persistent disadvantage have remained in pretty much the same places and inequality is on the rise.

Basic measures of economic activity, such as employment, earnings and skills, are mirrored by the effects on people’s lives such as health, housing and crime, in demonstrating the fundamental inequalities in our city.

 

It is clear that growing an economy in such a lopsided way was hugely inefficient. Not only were the costs of these inequalities and disadvantage (the welfare costs, the health costs, etc.) acting as a brake on prosperity, but we were missing out on the potential of those people who were being effectively excluded from contributing to the economy, the life and the wellbeing of the city. It is now widely accepted that inequality and exclusion weaken economic growth, waste resources and limit sustainability.

We are committed to introducing policies and activities to support more inclusive economic growth. Growth that enables all to participate as well as benefit.   Growth that is more fairly shared across the city and is more sustainable so that it is for the long-term. This means that we can directly address inequalities, help each individual to maximise their potential and to make more responsible use of resources.

Our Inclusive & Sustainable Economic Growth Strategy, co-produced with many people and organisations throughout the city, has a vision “to enable all the people of Bristol to create a sustainable, inclusive and growing economy from which all will benefit”. We see inclusion as a driver of economic growth, through a diverse workforce and economic structure that promotes creativity, innovation and the productivity that delivers prosperity.

People are the key element in the ‘triple bottom line’ of profit, people and planet that must be the purpose of the local economy. We have set out our thinking in a strategy and we are now asking for views on the actions to achieve the objectives. Consultation on the Inclusive & Sustainable Economic Growth Action Plan will begin this month, with the intention that our planning will be inclusive and so better equipped to deliver for everyone.

EPIC and STARS Awards

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

DrRQhjbXcAIV-WMYesterday evening Mayor Rees and I attended the second annual EPIC and STARS Awards. It’s likely that you have never heard of this awards ceremony, but it is one of the most important nights of the year for us and an event we are proud to have launched in 2017.

The EPIC and STARS awards celebrate the achievements of some of Bristol’s children in care and care leavers. Bristol City Council is the ‘corporate parent’ to over 600 children who are in care, and has responsibilities towards almost 450 young people who have left our care.

We take Corporate Parenting extremely seriously at Bristol City Council, and I am delighted that this was recognised by OFSTED during their recent inspection of Children’s Services, whose report noted that “the local authority ensures that the views of children and young people influence how services are delivered. The Bristol corporate parenting strategy and the Bristol Pledge to all children in care and care leavers, developed in collaboration with children in care, are visible and accessible for children and young people, with clear targets and actions that are tracked within the corporate parenting panel”.

The circumstances that lead to children coming into care are complex. There is no standard case and no two children or young people coming into care are alike. Each has their own story to tell and sadly sometimes these involve experiences of violence, abuse or neglect. Those coming into care are amongst the most vulnerable in society meaning we need to offer a better, safer childhood and the opportunity to succeed and thrive and to be celebrated. Just as we would all want for our own children.

My social media feed is full to bursting with proud parent posts, and rightly so. The EPIC and STARS Awards are the opportunity for Bristol to say a collective well done to children in our care. The awards celebrate young people who are achieving great things at school and in their education. The highlight their successes in sport, art and drama as well as recognising those who are already making an invaluable contribution to their community and city; and of course super -siblings who offer the best support of all.

As always it was an emotional evening, with foster carers and social workers looking on with great pride as we heard the stories of personal development and determination.

This event cannot happen without the support of our sponsors – organisations from across the business, education and voluntary sectors across Bristol. Their commitment to celebrating young people in care and care leavers motivates the young people to continue to work hard, focus and follow their dreams. Bristol should be a city where everyone can succeed, and where there is true equality of opportunity. We want our EPIC and STARS nominees to know that that their city is on their side and we all recognise the role we can play in supporting them.

The vast majority of children are placed with foster carers in family homes. However, many of our foster carers are nearing retirement age, and the city needs to recruit more carers. In my view it is the most important job in the city, and we are working hard to ensure that our foster carers feel like the VIPs that they are. If you would like to find out more about fostering contact the team.

Launch of Goram Homes

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Today’s guest blog is from Cabinet Member for Housing Councillor Paul Smith.

The last few weeks have marked massive changes in the local housing scene. We have seen packed meetings in the council as more of our projects move forward. This blog should give a flavour.

Removing the borrowing cap

Local government finance should be simple but decades of legislation has made it immensely complex. The two largest financial funds within the council are the General Fund, where most of the money goes including council tax, business rates, fees and earned money, its also the fund which pays for almost all of the services. Council housing sits outside the general fund in something called the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). Since the 1980s these two funds are not allowed to subsidise each other. In summary council tax can’t be used to top up rent money (or to lower the rents) and tenants rents can’t be used to top up the council tax or to reduce it.

The housing revenue account collects around £120m in rent but has been limited in its ability to borrow money to build new homes. This limit is called the cap. As part of the budget the government removed this cap, which means that the HRA will be allowed to borrow to build new homes provided it can afford to pay the interest charges. As this interest can be covered by the rent from new homes this means we will be able to increase our building of council homes. Expecting some relaxation we had worked up ten projects with almost 400 council homes to be started by 2022. Completely removing the cap means we can do these ten projects and also to start looking for other schemes to allow us to build new homes.

Housing Company

The first of our two new housing companies was register in October and was launched this week. Goram Homes will be wholly owned by the general fund. This means that the council tax funded part of the council can also borrow money to build homes. Whereas the council housing department will build on land within the HRA, Goram Homes can build on land owned by the rest of the council. It is set up to work in partnership with private companies or housing associations who will put in people with development expertise and their own money. The profits from selling the housing will be split between the partners including the council and social rented housing could be owned by the council in its second housing company, set up specifically to manage property.

Having both the housing company and the housing department building homes will maximise our ability to develop sites and ensure that good quality affordable housing is built across the city.

Housing Festival

The housing festival is a five year project to allow experiments with new building technology and new ways of organising housing within the city. This will include supporting and growing existing projects  in Bristol and to invite experts from outside the city to trial new approaches. This is not about pods but about challenging the expensive, time consuming and monopolistic traditional way of building homes, which relies largely on a small number of housebuilders controlling a market dependent upon building homes the way they always have been built because that’s what they know. The council has committed to make some land and buildings available for homes, in some places where traditional approaches do not work. This approach will also increase the focus on our community led housing projects

We also want to use this experiment to test new ways of people living together. For example intergenerational housing (older and younger people living in mixed housing schemes rather than just older people care housing) already exists on the continent particularly in Spain. In these schemes the people provide each other with companionship and support in return for lower rents. From Holland we are trialling a project bringing young homeless and students living together and providing each other with mentoring.

Bristol is increasingly being recognised as being at the forefront of housing both by generating new ideas and approaches and showing that a rapid increase in affordable house building is possible when the political will and leadership is present.

Better Lives – Part 2

Helen Holland
Today’s guest blog is written by Cllr Helen Holland, my cabinet lead for Adult Social Care.

It’s good to have the opportunity to tell you about the work we are forging ahead with through our “Better Lives” transformation programme, improving the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.

Like most other Local Authorities, budgets are very challenging, and while the additional money the Chancellor announced on Monday 29th October for Adult Social Care is welcome, at £650m across the English councils, it is a drop in the ocean of the £3bn that it has been estimated is needed.

Although the transformation we are leading is in the context of reducing budgets, we are also doing it because it is the right thing to do. Our ambition is that our residents get the right help at the right time, to promote independence,  and to prevent, reduce or delay the need for long-term support.

I have presented reports to Cabinet over the last few months which really show how we are working with partner organisations to change the balance of what we buy to achieve better outcomes for residents who need help to live their lives. The first of those reports introduced a new “Bristol Rate” for residential and nursing homes, recognising that we had previously made far too much use of these homes, and paid too much for the places. This lower rate puts us into line far more with other authorities, and is already beginning to pay off as we place fewer people into those homes.

However, we can only do that if we have the right amount of Home Care in our communities. To increase the availability of Home Care, another report increased the hourly rate paid to Home Care providers, with the expectation that they pass some of that increase on to their workers, so that none are paid less than the Living Wage. The impact of this decision has been to improve the stability of those organisations, reducing the turn-over in their workforces. I know from talking to Home Care workers that the pay rises they received have been very welcome – and show that their work is really valued. A further increase is scheduled for next year.

The third report I want to highlight here is about our ambitious programme to build far more extra care housing. We know that there are many older and vulnerable people living in unsuitable accommodation, across all tenures. We need to work harder to build more so that there are options for moving into attractive and purpose-built housing in every community. Extra care housing means that people can have their care needs met while retaining their independence, and evidence shows that older people who live in such schemes have few hospital admissions and feel less lonely and isolated. You may have seen the recent television programmes “Old People’s Homes for Four Year Olds”, the first series was filmed here in Bristol. Looking at opportunities to deliver extra care housing with scope for intergenerational activity is definitely on my radar.

This gives just three elements of Better Lives, and much more is happening, so do get in touch with me if you want to hear more. It is a very challenging – but exciting – time to be responsible for Adult Social Care.

Reflecting on Black History Month

We have come to the end of Black History Month. Throughout October, Bristol has hosted a plethora of activities and talks. From the launch of the University of Bristol Student Union’s BME Power List to the stories of Paul Stephenson OBE, Roy Hackett and Guy Bailey who led the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycotts, to the countless young creatives, entrepreneurs, activists, and students who will be shaping the city’s future, the stories being told are Bristol’s story.

This latter point is important because Black History Month must be about more than a collection of events, and not just something that is perceived to be for black people. The events, and the participation of Black people, are of course critical. But the month must be about opening the door to systemic change in the structure of economic, political and social race relations. And this will in part depend on ensuring people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds get access to a fuller national and world history that explains both current patterns of inequality and our interdependencies. That is where the fullest value of Black History Month is to be found.

This does beg the question of whether Black History Month should exist at all. The term ‘Black History’ combined with its confinement to a particular month will inevitably play a part of marginalising a history that is in reality a global history. And the dangers can be compounded through an overemphasis of the point of contact between Europe and Africa, contained in the story of the transatlantic slave trade that feeds into colonial ideas of white supremacy and Black inferiority. We have to keep wrestling with this.

I can’t post today’s blog without referring to the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh over the weekend. At the time of writing, eleven people had been confirmed dead. It should come to us as a reminder that our democratic values should not be taken for granted. There is an easy assumption that the political equilibrium is one of openness and human rights, with the forces intolerance and nationalism attempting to knock us off balance. We need to contend with the possibility that the opposite is true, and that democratic values are the reward of ongoing vigilance and effort.  It’s a jump to blame President Trump for the shooting. But it’s not a jump to recognise that there has been a rightward and violent shift of the line that marks the centre point of acceptable political expression, and the President is in part cause and in part product of that shift.

I will continue to do all I can in Bristol to ensure we live in a diverse, dynamic and interdependent society. And I will continue to do all I can to ensure Bristol plays its role in ensuring every person in every country has equality of opportunity.

UK City Leaders meeting

Today, as part of the Global Parliament of Mayors Summit, leaders and mayors from 18 of the major UK cities and regions met in Bristol. This is the first time the UK’s combined authorities and Core Cities have all joined together.

This historic meeting included Andy Burnham from Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram from Merseyside and Andy Street from West Midlands. Also present was James Murray, Deputy Mayor of London.

Core Cities and M8 Leaders meet

We agreed to meet again and work together to press government for the devolution we need to be able to deliver for our citizens.

We are one of the most centralised countries in the world with around 70% of all public spending being allocated by central government. There have been improvements but our productivity is still too low and keeping our cities growing is an issue of national economic significance. Our cities and regions have a positive story to tell but we need more power in order to proactively defend our interests.

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If we are going to be more resilient economically as a country we, the cities and the regions, need more power to affect change and improve lives for the people of this country so we can whether any changes which might be on the horizon.

The UK is at a pivotal point and as the government moves towards its spending review we are looking to create real change in the way the country is run. As city leaders and regional mayors we are at the forefront of delivering change to our residents and know what works.

 

Cities and Solutions

Today City Hall has hosted the first full day of the 2018 Global Parliament of Mayors summit. It has been fantastic to welcome mayors and city leaders from across the globe to see Bristol, and to make connections and showcase Bristol businesses.

We’ve got 80 mayors from around the world representing their citizens from countries such as Jordan, Australia, Germany, Liberia, Uganda, USA and Romania. It was surreal to hear them announce themselves in the Council Chamber before the debates and votes.

As the 20th century was the age of nation states, so the 21st century is the age of cities. More and more people live in them across the globe and national governments find themselves ill-equipped to respond to modern challenges in the way cities can.

Bristol is leading the way in this by hosting and driving forward the conversation on key themes and issues facing cities. Migration and urban security, as well as population health are where cities are at the forefront of the challenge and solutions, so it was amazing to share experiences and agree on action we can all begin to take.

But Bristol has also had our own benefits from hosting. There has been a great response to the tours and events we’ve already held, showcasing the talent, creativity and innovation we have to offer. Building connections between delegates and businesses based in Bristol as well as opening opportunities is good for our economy. Holding international events here is important for our reputation as a destination and place investors and people should come to as well.

At a time of instability and uncertainty in international relations, it is vital that cities make their own connections and relationships. The Global Parliament of Mayors offer cities the space and opportunity to do that between each other, but even more importantly, with Bristol at the heart and benefiting too.