Author Archives: marvinjrees

South Bristol Youth Zone consultation

We’re delivering on our manifesto commitment with proposals to build a world-class Youth Zone in South Bristol.

Citizens are now being asked for their views on plans for the £8.4m Youth Zone, as well as the chance to shape how such a project would look.

Delivered by the national charity OnSide, Youth Zones are a network of affordable, high quality spaces with world class facilities, specially designed for children and young people (CYP) aged 8-19, or up to 25 for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Below is a letter which we are sending to local residents who live near the proposed site, to encourage them to take part in the consultation before it closes on 2 January 2022.

Giving thanks to Bristol’s covid marshals

Today’s blog is by Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities, and One City, and Labour Councillor for Hillfields

Today, we are celebrating the outstanding community work carried out by Bristol’s COVID marshals, with a new video marking the first anniversary of their introduction to the city.

The team of 16 were initially brought on board on 11 November 2020, as part of Bristol’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last twelve months, the marshals have achieved so much. They have built trusted relationships with our communities and businesses in Bristol: speaking to people about their concerns, clarifying government guidance, and distributing thousands of documents like safety posters, workplace guides and letters.

They have walked up to 17 miles per day carrying out their important community work, treading Bristol’s streets even when they were completely empty. They have handed out over 86,000 face coverings and thousands of lateral flow tests to the public, equipping people with the tools they need to keep themselves and the people around them safe.

Working closely with the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG), the marshals have also been involved in helping over 100 vaccination clinics run smoothly across different areas of the city. Their involvement has meant that more and more of us have had the opportunity to receive life-saving vaccinations safely.

Two years into this pandemic, it is more important than ever for us to look after and protect each other. That community spirit, duty of care, and generous attitude is what has brought Bristol together during challenging times, and the marshals have truly embodied that. During lockdowns, the ‘Tier’ system and since COVID measures have become de-regulated, the team have checked in on people who are self-isolating or shielding, and helped to deliver that crucial on the ground support to vulnerable areas.

To pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of the marshals, we are sharing a video with contributions from both within the council and partners, including Avon and Somerset Police, and the Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Vaccination Programme.

Please join me in watching and sharing this video, to thank our marshals:

We are so incredibly proud of the work that has been done, and continues to be done to keep us all safe. It is important that we continue to play our part by following the precautionary measures to protect ourselves and others around us.

We are kind. We are safe. We are Bristol.

Glas-gow, going, gone

The prospect of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius is still alive, just, but the world remains ablaze. Antonio Guterres, the UN’s Secretary General, described this goal as being on “life support”. While there have been a series of important agreements, including on deforestation, Climate Action Tracker reports the planet is still heading for 2.4c of warming above pre-industrial levels.

Bristol on the world stage

Bristol has made a big contribution to COP26. I was there for ‘Finance Day’ and ‘Cities Day’. We also had Cabinet Member Councillor Nicola Beech and our Bristol MPs Darren Jones and Kerry McCarthy there. Meanwhile, our Black and Green Ambassadors, Roy Kareem and Olivia Sweeney, made headlines with their presentations on making the environmental movement more inclusive.

We were there in our own right as a city taking real action, three years on from the words of declaring an climate emergency. We were also there as part of a collective of cities — global networks of city mayors and leaders including C40 cities, ICLEI (International Local Governments for Sustainability), Eurocities, and the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission (UKCCIC).

On these various stages I have continued to carry a clear set of messages over the last fortnight.

First, that cities and their mayors should be put front and centre of any COP26 commitments. The battle against climate change will be won or lost in cities. Cities already account for three-quarters of global carbon emissions, and by 2050, 68% of people will live in urban areas. Bad urbanisation is a threat. But good urbanisation can plan for more efficient living that reduces carbon emissions, supports the recovery of wildlife, and builds more just and more inclusive societies.

Second, national governments, international organisations, and private finance must work together to enable mayors to access the scale of investment they to decarbonisation as their existing cities and the future of urbanisation. 

Ensuring a just transition

Third, we need a just transition. I pointed out the triple hit of climate change: that people have been exploited hand in glove with the exploitation of the planet; that those people will then be hit first and hardest by the consequences of climate change; that those people are most at risk of being further disadvantaged by the economic restructuring we must go through if we are meet the 1.5c target. Failure to deliver a just transition will not only be a moral failure but could generate a political backlash as people lose hope and predatory, extremist political actors move to take advantage of the confusion.  

The need for fairness, with social justice hand-in-hand with environmental justice, has proved essential in developing our Clean Air Zone plans. We have taken the time to get things right – including on hospital staff and visitor exemptions, and support for people and businesses to transition. The same is needed for our work tackling the twin challenges of the climate and ecological emergencies. We must be thorough because while time is in short supply, it is also true that we don’t have time to get this wrong.

Cities offer hope

I opened this blog with a sobering reality check, but I also want to share grounds for some hope.

First, COP26 did, for the first time, start talking about cities. Cities and local governments are mentioned in the final agreements. This is a source of hope because with the right kind of finance, cities can deliver irrespective of the ability or inability of national governments to agree targets that meet the scale of the challenge. And from London to Los Angeles, from Bristol to Freetown, that is what we have committed to do.

Second, COP26 has been talking about city finance. As part of UKCCIC we have identified £205 billion of decarbonisation opportunities and needs across the UK’s 12 biggest cities (representing 60% of the population and over half of the economy). Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney worked up £130 trillion of private sector finance commitment under the Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero. We need to ensure that this and government announcements focus on timescales and places, and the regulatory change that will enable us to access funding and deliver projects.

Getting stuff done

This is all very welcome but I have concerns.

First, that large sums of money will be announced but they will not address the problem of cities’ limited ability to actually access the money. Second, that having seen the need for finance, governments, international organisations, and foundations will begin announcing pots of money in an uncoordinated way that will add to the financial complexity cities already face difficulty navigating.

We have some next steps. On my first at day at COP I shared the stage with Treasury Minister Helen Whately MP. I suggested the UKCCIC have a day with the Treasury where we map out the investment need and journey and agree a decarbonisation plan. That meeting is being arranged and could enable Bristol to plan and embark on its own £10 billion decarbonisation journey, while other Core Cities and London embark on theirs.

Next year, the Commonwealth Heads of Government will be having their biannual meeting. I suggested we undertake the same exercise with a collection of Commonwealth cities with the intention of announcing their journey at the gathering in Rwanda. 50% of the urbanisation up to 2050 will happen in the Commonwealth, so this presents a huge opportunity.

We have been raising issues of finance, social equity, and the need for an inclusive approach to climate action to raise the ambition of other cities and national government through our own ambitious policy and green business and industry strengths in Bristol. Speaking the same language, through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, can cut through the complexity of cities. The SDGs show the interdependency of to-do lists for places like Bristol, and the interconnected benefits of invested in cities across public health, economy, housing, and environment.

Actions, not just words

This year’s COP was particularly significant because it comes on the third anniversary of our declaration of a climate emergency.

We haven’t been sitting around, waiting for the international community. We delivered lots since the motion – including much work behind the scenes like City Leap procurement and building the case for investment. Energy and transport remain the two major carbon contributors in Bristol, and we are proud to have insulated some 70% of council homes to EPC level C standard. This is around double the figure for the city as a whole, and last week we announced a new scheme to ensure that private landlords improve energy efficiency in their properties.

We have been creating the conditions to enable other organisations to join us in delivering for Bristol.

COP26 has enabled us to build more momentum both in terms of what we are saying to government and business, and in increasing climate action by local engagement of citizens and businesses. We want every community in Bristol to make and take ownership of their own community climate action plan, and Hartcliffe and Lawrence Weston have gotten off to a great start. No two plans will be the same – and they shouldn’t be – and the Bristol Disability Equality Forum’s community climate action project shows just how we can leave nobody behind in making a just transition.

Since 2016, we have invested over £30 million into low-carbon energy projects, like heat networks, solar panels, electric vehicle charging, and energy efficiency. This programme is delivering England’s largest wind turbine in the north of the city, and, through City Funds, and Bristol’s first hydro-powered dam at the Feeder by St Annes.

Doing, not delaying

I want to finish with this. On Thursday Sadiq Khan told the UN Secretary General and other delegates that C40 had mobilised an international alliance of investors to deliver $1bn (£750m) for zero-emission buses in Latin America.

“In cities, we are the doers, in contrast to national governments who are the delayers, kicking the can down the road to 2040 or 2050,” he said. “National governments can talk a good game, but then refuse to put in place the plans, action or funding we desperately need. Unfortunately, we have seen more examples of this at COP26.”

Cities want to work in partnership with national government: only together can we have any chance of averting the climate emergency.

Climate action in Hartcliffe

Today’s guest blog comes from Kirsty Hammond, Climate Action Practitioner at Heart of BS13

Since July 2020 I’ve been working with young people from my community in BS13 to explore the real-world actions that we must all take if we are to stand any chance of mitigating the global climate emergency. 

My role as Heart of BS13’s Climate Action Practitioner has catapulted me onto my own journey, and it’s been so powerful to share what I’ve been learning about low carbon futures and green economy jobs with young people who have their own dreams and ambitions for how they will play their part in a changing world.

One thing that has become really clear to me is how communities already experiencing financial and social hardships will face even more of an uphill struggle as the climate and ecological emergency unfolds.  Energy, food, and transport costs will get higher. As new green economy opportunities emerge, investment in education, skills and training will (unless there is a concerted effort made to include deprived communities) remain in already affluent and engaged areas of the city, leaving us even further behind.

Disrupting inequality

I’ve grown up all my life in Hartcliffe and have my own first-hand experience of how the inequality here is systemic and transgenerational.  Children grow up in a vicious cycle of poverty that in turn incubates Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that go on to affect educational outcomes.  Fewer than 2% of young people from this area go into higher education with most working a lifetime in low skill, low pay jobs.  Limited work opportunities place an immense burden on physical and emotional health, which then feeds into the same cycle for future generations.  If the only jobs that children and young people see are the low pay, low skill jobs of their family members, then aspiration, self-belief, hope, and opportunity are simply words.  Put simply, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

Our mission at Heart of BS13 is to disrupt this systemic, transgenerational inequality, by bringing together our knowledge of and passion for this community with the innovations that must happen because of the climate emergency.  We want to ensure that BS13 benefits from climate action opportunities rather than afterthoughts. 

Over the coming years we will be creating partnerships and initiatives that ensure exposure to new technologies, fresh thinking, and practical training.  60% of the green economy jobs that will be needed do not yet exist.  This is our chance to join the dots between inequality, life-chances, and the climate and ecological emergency. 

We want to make sure that from their very earliest years, BS13 children face the climate and ecological emergency equipped with the same advantages as their middle-class peers and create a new narrative for this community through education and jobs and improving the life chances of those who follow.

Find out how to get involved and volunteer with Heart of BS13 here.

The Big Housing Conversation

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Housing Delivery and Homes

We are facing the need to urgently address the twin issues of the housing crisis and the climate emergency in our city. We must do both and we must ensure that we are not leaving people behind in our approach.

Bristol City Council owns and manages over 28,500 homes. The rents and service charges collected are used to provide services to the tenants and leaseholders living in these homes. They are also used to repair, maintain, and improve the homes, communal areas, blocks and estates. They can also be used to build new homes to meet housing needs.

Retrofitting Bristol’s housing stock

Over the last five years, we have invested over £42 million in retrofitting our council housing stock. This has included:

  • 6,500 homes with improved heating systems
  • 800 houses and 1,000 flats in blocks with improved external wall insulation
  • 1,000 new roofs with improved insulation
  • 2,500 double glazed replacements
  • 2,000 loft insulation top ups
  • 99% homes have double glazing and 98% of cavity walls are filled,

Our independent tenant energy advice service also saved tenants a total of £192,000 in the last financial year.

Retrofit forms an important part of the strategy. Latest estimates suggest the cost could be as high as £540 million to do what we need to our whole council housing stock. As the Mayor has recently reported, the cost to decarbonise Bristol’s economy could be as high as £9 billion. This may still be a conservative estimate.

We are signed up to support the Great Homes Upgrade, as we know that significant support will be needed from national government to deliver at scale and at the pace needed.

Help shape Bristol’s plan for housing

People in Bristol are being asked for their views to help shape the 30-year plan for providing and maintaining council homes in Bristol. Views are being sought through a survey and through the opportunity for people to select their priorities for investing in council homes by creating a suggested budget.

How do we balance our local contribution to continuing our retrofit programme alongside other priorities? We have a limited pot of money to balance a range of resident / prospective resident priorities, including maintenance, replacing kitchens and potentially bathrooms, the need to get homes built for some 16,000 families on the housing register, alongside approximately 1,000 households currently in temporary accommodation.

The choices may be seen as easy in the eyes of some, and we must ensure we are taking the time to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes when thinking about balancing the needs we are to address.

We’re asking you to let us know what your priorities would be for spending and raising the money that we need. How do we get the right balance between investing in the standard of our existing homes, investing to reduce carbon emissions, and investing to build new homes? We need your view to help shape the plan for investing in council homes across our city.

To find out more and to give your views please visit The survey will be open until Friday 3 December.

You can request a paper copy, alternative format or translated version of the survey by contacting the housing team by email at or by phone on 0117 352 1444.

Cabinet will decide whether to approve the recommended 30-year business plan in early 2022.

Decarbonising Bristol’s transport

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport

One fifth of the UK’s damaging greenhouse gas emissions come from road transport and that’s a problem that I’m determined we must address here in Bristol.

There’s much we can do as individuals to reduce our own transport carbon footprint and I recommend a look at the Council’s dedicated Climate Hub website to get some ideas.

However, if we regard this as a challenge for individuals only then we ignore the fact that many of our citizens have limited choices, perhaps due to disability, age, gender or job requirements. We need to take bold action now to open up choices for all and incentivise the movement away from carbon intensive modes of travel and into more sustainable modes.

In practice, what does this mean?

Active travel: We need better infrastructure for walking and cycling. Our Liveable Neighbourhoods strategy will offer an approach to transforming residential areas into places where active travel is an appealing option.

Buses (the vehicles themselves): We need to work with our bus operators to decarbonise their vehicles. This is happening now, building on the successful Bus Deal which brought in biomethane buses on the Number 2 route. Options now being looked at include electric and hydrogen powered vehicles.

Buses (infrastructure): Building on the Bus Deal, we need to make further changes to our strategic roads which will give priority to buses over more damaging modes of transport. Further plans for the A37/A4018 are about to be released for public consultation. Improving the reliability, speed, and the cost of using the bus cannot be achieved simply by increasing the number of vehicles. That would simply lead to yet more congestion.

Buses (network): A network based around radial services might work for a town but in a city the size of Bristol we also need orbital routes with hubs where travellers can change between modes of transport. In addition to this, more integrated ticketing and accurate travel information is being planned to improve patronage of all forms of public transport. Read WECA’s Bus Service Improvement Plan, which was recently submitted to the Department for Transport, here.

Mass transit: Our vision for public transport must be bold. There are strategic corridors in the city where it simply won’t be possible to achieve the level of segregation for buses that would make them the attractive alternative to cars that they need to be. We must plan underground alternatives for some corridors.

To achieve all these things, we need increased Government funding. We also need Bristol residents to embrace the citywide challenge we face to reach Net Zero by 2030 and the recognition that we all need to live and travel differently.

Hopes for COP26

More than 300 people took part in the October City Gathering last week, showing our Bristol One City Approach in action. The main focus was our climate and ecological emergencies, in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow.

We opened by setting out the scale and urgency of the climate and ecological emergencies. This included presentations on the growing challenge of climate-driven migration and the need to ensure we have what unions have called a ‘Just Transition’, by which we mean the most vulnerable are not negatively impacted by the measures we take to decarbonise our systems.

We then heard from people, groups and organisations from across the Bristol who shared what they were doing to support the 2030 Net Zero target set out in the Bristol One City Climate Strategy. But we know Bristol’s efforts alone won’t be enough, that it’s going to take a change in the very nature of the national and international political economy to meet the challenge of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees or less.

In the final section of the event, we heard more about the work we have done to connect cities, including Bristol, with the investment needed to decarbonise the very energy, transport, housing and food systems on which city life depends. As Mark Carney recently said, we can’t get to net zero by flipping a green switch. We have to rewire our entire economies. 

Our key messages

I asked for contributions from attendees, to tell me what messages they wanted me take to Glasgow for COP26. And we have already been sharing a number of important messages in the lead up to COP. Among them:

  • That the battle against climate change will be won or lost in cities. We cannot successfully decarbonise the world economy without decarbonising our cities.
  • That to be successful, COP must produce the basis (or better still launch) decarbonisation plans that are set in actual places (cities), have measurable outcomes set against agreed and ambitious dates, and all this must be matched by the scale of investment needed to deliver it.

To decarbonise Bristol’s economy we anticipate it will require an investment of approximately £9.5bn. The UK Cities Climate Investment Commission has identified at least £205bn decarbonisation opportunities across the UK Core Cities and London Councils. Mark Carney has called for £100tn as the minimum amount of external finance needed for the sustainable energy drive over the next three decades if it to be  effective.

The numbers are big, but they also give us hope. As the Chair of the UKCCIC, Prof Greg Clark, said at the City Gathering “We know how to do this”.

On Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday 31 October (listen from 10:27), I explained that this will only by possible with long term predictable finance from central government. Give us ten years of predictable finance, and we’ll be able to produce a ten-year plan to decarbonise our transportation, energy and waste systems. This is reflected in Bristol’s One City Plan, as we try to plan, as an entire city, our shared objectives and goals up until 2050.

Why should Bristol be at COP26?

It’s important for Bristol to have a presence at COP26. We are trying to secure the investment needed for our city to decarbonise. We have consistently said that working for the interests of Bristol cannot be fulfilled by only working within our city borders. We must influence the national and international context in which we operate and which shapes our lives.

Climate change will impact Bristol in numerous ways. Among those we have been focussing on are flooding, air quality and heat. So we must plan for and develop solutions for a city which can still function, but also consider the effect those have on our wildlife and nature.

But we are not only impacted within our geographical area. We are an international city. Many Bristolians have relatives across the world, in countries which are on the frontline of climate change, desertification, loss of arable land and coastal flooding, such as Bangladesh, Jamaica and Sierra Leone.

Related to this is the growing pressure of climate-driven migration. It’s anticipated that there will be up to 200 million climate-driven migrants by the middle of the century – Bristol will host many of them. As members of the Mayor’s Migration Council and C40’s Task Force on Climate and Migration, we are influencing the responses to this challenge to support those people and ensure the best outcomes for Bristol.

Bristol cannot abstract itself from the global context: politically, morally or technically. COP is an event of global significance, and will involve thousands of delegates. Our voice will be there to speak up for Bristol and the city networks we are a part of. We are urging national politicians to act now, to work with city leaders here and in the developing world to ensure the declarations are attached to how they are going to be delivered.

Highlights from my schedule for COP26:

Wednesday 3 November – Representing the UK Cities Climate Investment Commission, composed of Bristol and other UK Core Cities, London Councils and coordinated by Connected Places Catapult.

These events will enable us to discuss with government and investors on potential £200 billion plus collective low carbon investment opportunities across the UK’s 12 cities, an approach for place-based financing and low carbon demonstrator districts.

The city investment Imperative for Net Zero (Uk Cities Climate Investment Commission event in partnership with ICLEI: (speaking on panel in the UNFCCC blue zone, ICLEI LGMA pavilion)

Investing to Achieve Net Zero (Glasgow City Chambers)

Thursday 4 NovemberBristol Green Zone event “The Business of Net Zero” in partnership with Business West, exploring the economic opportunities of the low carbon transition

Tuesday 9 NovemberClimate Migration: Cities at the Forefront- Bloomberg Green Summit Representing C40 cities network and the Mayor’s Migration Council as a member of the Global Taskforce on Climate Migration – raising agenda on more inclusive climate action.

Wednesday 10 November – Eurocities/Mayors Alliance for a European Green Deal; UK100 reception for city leaders (As a member of the Mayor’s Alliance, with other European Mayors and City Leaders raising the importance of the implementation of the European Green Deal and a socially just and green covid recovery)

Thursday 11 November – High-Level Champions and Marrakech Partnership at COP26, Main UNFCC Cities and Regions Programme (Anticipating challenges for an equitable and resilient future, Representing C40 cities network and the Mayor Migration Council as a member of the Global Taskforce on Climate Migration)

Tackling the climate and ecological emergencies

Today Bristol held its tenth, bi-annual City Gathering, an opportunity for over 300 individuals and organisations from around the city to come together with a shared desire to work with a One City Approach which champions collaboration and partnership between public, private, charitable, and voluntary sector organisations. In the run up to COP26, this City Gathering was centred on our climate and ecological emergencies, with a focus on three key-areas:

  • The challenge Bristol is facing;
  • What organisations and communities are already doing to address the crises; and
  • COP26 and the work we still need to do.

We had a great line up today with national and local speakers from diverse and wide-ranging backgrounds who all share our goal of becoming net zero by 2030 and with many representing and reflecting the different aspects that make up this great city of ours. We realise how urgent this situation is and now is not the time to downplay the crises to make it seem more manageable, instead, we have addressed the issues head on and held ourselves accountable to the challenges at hand. We had leading academics like Professor Dan Lunt, one of the recent IPCC report authors, and Professor Jim Longhurst, co-chair of the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change, setting out the challenge and how we need both individual action and systemic change. 

We were pleased to welcome all the speakers to the Gathering, including Anneka Sutcliffe of Extinction Rebellion, who offered reflections on the day, Helen Kidan and Mohammed Osman who drew on their experiences as climate migrants, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, who focused on how to lead the way locally with a Just Transition, and Professor Greg Clark, Chair of Connected Places Catapult, on the importance of financing cities.

All speakers were asked to come to the Gathering with a big Offer and Ask of the city to maximise the potential of having so many pioneers and innovators in one room and to focus on the practical actions Bristol can take to progress our One City Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategies. In this spirit, the city had its own ‘Climate Ask‘. We are calling on all businesses and organisations based in the city to: 

  1. Declare an ambition to become Net Zero by 2030;
  2. Commit to developing a plan to reduce carbon emissions within 6 months;
  3. Start delivering on your plan within 12 months;
  4. Inspire other businesses by sharing your journey; we want to share your stories.

Our Offer to the city is that we will connect you to the businesses and networks that can support you to write that plan and to have it in place by 2022. Acknowledging that your plan will not cover all your emissions, but it will enable the next step that will set us on the pathway to 2030.

With this Offer and Ask, and those of the organisations in attendance today, Bristol took an active step forward towards tackling this challenge. It is only by working together as One City, that we can achieve the ambitious goals that we have set ourselves and move forward collectively to a greener, more sustainable future.

Thank you to everyone who attended today, we hope it left you with hope and a sense of unity to protect our city for future generations.

Yesterday’s Budget solves few of tomorrow’s problems

Millions of people – including tens of thousands of Bristolians – look set to be worse off next year. Households will be left paying £3,000 more in tax in 2026/27 compared to when the Prime Minister took office, thanks to £40 billion of Government tax rises in this Budget, according to the Resolution Foundation.

After the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review yesterday, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has confirmed that inflation will likely continue to outstrip income growth and benefit rises. For millions of families, this picture darkens due to the added challenge of a £1,000 a year Universal Credit cut. The Independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warns that the cost of the living could rise at its fastest rate for three decades. This comes with supply chain problems caused by the pandemic being worsened by Brexit, with the OBR indicating that trade with the EU is set to fall by 15%.

While we welcome any plans to increase the national minimum wage in April 2022, but it comes too late to help the lowest paid with rising bills this winter. It also falls short of matching the real Living Wage which our Council and an increasing number of Bristol businesses pay their staff. For young people, who were most likely to be furloughed or lose jobs over the last year, there will be a feeling of injustice in that the minimum wage does not uptick as much for workers under the age of 23.

Meanwhile, businesses will welcome further rates relief but will share our disappointment that a mooted online sales tax to make our high streets and city centre more competitive, and to help protect jobs, has not materialised. Instead, taxes on banks’ profits have been cut by £4 billion and large companies like Amazon have been given a tax cut rumoured to be worth some £12 billion.

We also welcome some £540 million of transport funding devolved to the West of England Combined Authority. Our region will receive the most investment per capita of any region through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, but we are also the only area to get the bottom end of our bid – while some funding remains unallocated by the Department for Transport and the Treasury. And it is disappointing that, hot on the heels of the long awaited Portishead Line decision being delayed, rail funding has been delayed until after COP26.

Elsewhere, no new funding has been confirmed to tackle the national cladding scandal – leaving leaseholders in the lurch – and funding for homelessness and rough sleeping appears to have fallen by £110 million. We need continued, sustained investment from Westminster to build on reducing rough sleeping by 80% during the pandemic. More widely on housing, funding to help unlock brownfield sites, like the former Tenants’ Hall in Barton Hill, is much-needed, but it is disappointing that wider regeneration schemes, like Temple Quarter, have not been funded as yet.

And, on education, while we welcome the Budget’s new capital funding for SEND, more widely only around a fifth of the required funding identified by the Government’s former Education Recovery Commissioner has been allocated. After closing more than 1,000 Sure Start since 2010, the announcement of 75 new family hubs in England falls short of what’s needed for the rest of the country, underlining the importance of our administration keeping all of our children’s centres open.

For councils, the national fair funding review for local government from several years ago has still not been actioned. In uncertain times, we need Government to work in real partnership with councils and cities – Levelling Up has to be more than just a slogan. The fight-it-out approach remains for funding pots, rather than enabling long-term planning. So far, just £5.3 million of the £150 million Community Ownership Fund has be awarded, and in the four months since bidding closed for the £220 million Community Renewal Fund, councils are none the wiser on outcomes.

As I confirmed in my State of the City speech last week, after a decade of austerity and the costs of covid-19, our own council faces a potential £42 million shortfall. Other Core Cities are looking at funding gaps of up to £65 million. It is true for most councils that even a 5% annual council tax rise for each of the next three years would not meet the forecast need of adult social care services.

Western Gateway: decarbonizing and sorting out strategic transport

Mayor Marvin Rees with council and business leaders from across the Western Gateway

Across the Severn Estuary and beyond, our cities and rural communities have problems in common that need a combined solution. I was glad to host my fellow Western Gateway Partnership board members recently to discuss and agree our priorities for the future.

Council leaders from the West of England, Cardiff, Swansea and Gloucestershire gathered at City Hall on 13 October. alongside Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, business, and LEP representatives with our chair, Katherine Bennett, now CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and formerly of Filton Airbus.  

We agreed to place our joint focus on connecting our strategic transport plans and decarbonising our economy. This will include exploring all avenues to decarbonise energy production. In a week when we are seeing people and business facing soaring gas prices this couldn’t be more vital.

Historic problems with our combined transport network must be addressed to provide real travel options for people to get about easily. This means connecting our vision for a mass transit system in Bristol with the vision of our neighbours across the breadth and depth of the Western Gateway. It also means connecting us up via improved electrified intercity trains which speed up travel between Cardiff and Bristol, but also to London, Birmingham and Manchester. People across the Western Gateway geography should have access to affordable and easy transport links. By collating one big vision for the whole area we can start to make it a reality. 

The Severn Bridge links the Western Gateway

The Western Gateway Partnership is our pan-regional economic powerhouse which stretches from Swindon and Wiltshire to Swansea and Cardiff. The aim of the partnership is to use our combined strengths to promote our area at the highest levels and help deliver for the 4.4 million people who live here. 

By convening local partners, the partnership has a strong role to play in helping us achieve our shared goals, helping to boost our economies and reach pockets of deprivation within our communities.

Already the partnership has led a bid to ensure that a site near Bristol is in the final selection for the first prototype nuclear fusion plant in the UK. This would mean thousands of jobs for the region and put our area on the front line globally for developing this green fuel.

We know our area has strong potential for future investment. Last month, the partnership published the second phase of its independent economic review, carried out by Deloitte LLP. This highlighted that, by overcoming shared barriers to productivity, our combined area could be providing at least an extra £34 billion for the UK economy each year by 2030.

This report also showed significant strengths in advanced mechanics and cyber that we share across our region. Ranking high for innovation, we have world leading tech manufacturing and cyber clusters right on our doorstep. The report also highlighted the natural resources and expertise in our area as proof of the role we can play in transitioning the UK towards green energy.

There are many priorities for the partnership including boosting local innovation even further and promoting Western Gateway on a global stage to draw in the ongoing investment we need as a city and region. With our chair, Katherine Bennett, at the helm, our partnership now has a clear direction to deliver as a key economic powerhouse for the UK.