Author Archives: marvinjrees

My message of support to Bristol’s LGBTQIA+ community

Over the past two weeks in Bristol, we have seen two incidents against the LGBTQIA+ community. These disappointing and disturbing acts are completely unacceptable.

It can sometimes be hard to feel positive in the face of such incidents. Events like these should serve as a reminder to us allies that we must continue to actively support the LGBTQIA+ community. We cannot lose sight of the strong community of support that exists across the city, with allies in all communities, which this weekend will clearly demonstrate. It is important to celebrate the milestones reached while facing up to the progress there still is to make.

Pride began as a protest and the LGBTQIA+ community still face discrimination and prejudice, hatred and violence.

The Pride flag is pictured flying outside Bristol's City Hall, on College Green.

In this current climate it feels even more than before important that we show solidarity and continue to keep building a city where everyone is safe and welcome. Putting the LGBTQIA+ community front and centre of Bristol this weekend is incredibly important, and I support Stonewall’s 2023 Pride message:

Let’s get the UK back on track for LGBTQ+ rights.”

Why is Pride important to Bristol?

From the 2021 Census we know that Bristol is considerably more diverse in sexual orientation and gender identity than the South West of England and nationally:

  • 15th highest LGBTQIA+ population ages 16 years and over
  • second highest number of bisexual people (by local authority)
  • second highest ‘queer’ population (by local authority)
  • third highest amount of pansexual people (by local authority)
  • fourth highest amount of asexual population (by local authority)
  • Second largest non-binary population (out of 331 local authorities)
  • 3,220 citizens across the city said their gender identity was different from their sex registered at birth (about 1 in 120)

We want to make sure our commitment to making Bristol a safe city for LGBTQIA+ people is visible. From lighting up City Hall, to raising the Pride inclusion flag, to the wonderful rainbow crossing on Wine Street. But, as important as these visible symbols are, we also want to deliver real action. As a local authority, we’re continuing to put equality and inclusion at the heart of everything we do. We want our LGBTQIA+ staff lead group to continue to have a meaningful voice along with Bristol City Council’s staff Equality and Inclusion Champions.

Mayor Marvin Rees, is pictured in the centre of the image, smiling. Stood to the left of Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, they are helping a group carrying a huge Pride flag through Bristol.

Happy Pride!

If you are attending Pride day this Saturday then you will be able to speak to colleagues from our Museums and Fostering services, along with members of the council’s LGBTQIA+ Staff Lead Group, and our Housing Development organisation, Goram Homes.

If you’re not subscribed to the council’s weekly newsletter then you can read the Pride special edition online, to find out more about how Bristol City Council are supporting Pride and LGBTQIA+ residents across the city.

I’m proud to represent a city that does not simply tolerate each other but embraces one another with respect and dignity.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this: here in Bristol you’re always free to be whoever you want to be. You deserve respect, empathy, and dignity. I will continue to stand the LGBTQIA+ community and be part of the progress we need to make.

Enjoy pride day this weekend. Be safe and look out for each other. 

Our line-up of free events across Bristol continues throughout the summer

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 and Labour Councillor for Hillfields ward.

In the 15 months since it launched, 45 projects with 116 free event days have been delivered or are currently underway through our City Centre and High Streets Culture and Events Programme. Our updated evaluation of 17 completed projects shows that we have attracted over 120,000 extra visitors to the city, generated £1.91 million of additional spend in Bristol’s businesses, and supported 240 paid jobs in culture and events, all from an investment of £384,000.

Events continue throughout the summer. All events are free and fully accessible so everyone can visit, explore and enjoy what Bristol has to offer.

Presented by Bristol UNESCO City of Film and partners, Bristol’s Summer Film Takeover celebrates Bristol’s culture and identity through different screen experiences. The programme 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.

Mayor Marvin Rees, is pictured in the centre of the image talking to two other  people. The Vintage Mobile Cinema Bus is pictured behind. On either side there are people walking next to shops.

The line-up of events has something for everyone, including a guided evening walking tour to explore the architecture of Bristol’s Old City with short films projected onto nearby buildings, bicycle powered cinema showing back-to-back cult classics, and Summer of Soul – a celebration of the music, artists and culture that sprang from 60s Harlem – will be screened in the Galleries’ basement car park. Free workshops are also available, including Aardman workshops at Sparks Bristol and workshops in splicing, dicing, and projecting your own 16mm film.

The popular Bristol Comedy History Walk continues throughout July and August. Improvisers and comedians from Bristol Improv Theatre will take you on a guided tour through Old City and Broadmead sharing lesser-known Bristolian stories and revealing some of Bristol’s most humorous and surprising secrets.

The Young Bristol Bus will be on Brislington Hill/Bristol Hill from 6pm to 8pm on 3, 17, and 31 July and 14 August offering 8 to 19 year olds a free, safe space with trained youth workers to take part in printing, stencils, video, painting, and mural making with professional artists.

An actor from the Invisible Circus is pictured, wearing a full butterfly outfit with orange and purple colouring, In the background there are trees and people sat on benches.

Forming part of Bristol Harbour Festival, the Circus Playground is on College Green from 15 to 17 July. Cirque Bijou will once again perform and delight the crowd with tricks and trapeze, children’s entertainment and pop-up performances.

On 15 July Celebrating Filton Avenue will bring the high street to life with a family friendly day including a samba band, local performers, craft activities and facepainting.

Following the creative sessions over the last couple of months, the Stockwood Sounds Audio Trail will launch at a free community event in Stockwood Square on Saturday 22 July, transforming your experience of walking around Stockwood into a celebration of local people’s creativity.

Welcome to Stapleton Road celebrates the businesses, communities and cultures of Stapleton Road. This month’s A World of Peace, the final event in the series, takes place at the Easton Christian Family Centre on Thursday 27 July from 11am to 4pm.

Ockham’s razor, one of the UK’s leading circus companies, takes over Broadmead on 29 July with two showings of their new outdoor performance PUBLIC. Ten young performers will incorporate acrobatics, parkour and dance as they move through the architecture of the streets and make the city’s architecture their playground, in a show that reimagines public space as a space for creativity.

Musicians from the Bristol Institute of Music Management (BIMM) will perform at St Nick’s Market Summer of Busking events on 29 July and 26 August, from 12pm to 3pm. Visitors to the market will be able to enjoy the acoustic music as they browse through the stalls and dine al fresco. Busking on 26 August will form part of the up-coming Old City Sounds, a family-friendly music event that will take over Bristol’s Old City.

A group are pictured looking at a tour guide, at Bristol Improv's Bristol Comedy History Walk. In the background a building with street art can be seen.

Knowle West Fest 23 is a community, family friendly festival in the heart of Knowle West on Saturday 5 August. This year’s event is bigger and better than ever with a colourful street parade starting at 11am, followed by music, workshops, activities, food and market stalls. On 26 July you can help spruce up the area and paint the ‘Filwood’ letters ready for the celebrations.

St George Community Centre will run Toddlefest on 20 August from 1pm to 4pm. The festival style event will include family fun and activities from We The Curious, face painting, music and dance.

Bristol Photo Festival are working with Historic England to provide creative photographic workshops, documents, exhibitions and interventions in our priority high streets in August and early September. Picturing Bristol aims to help animate the high streets and encourage Bristol’s citizens to explore and celebrate the places they live, making connections to each other and adding to a sense of belonging and identity.

[12:38, 28/06/2023] George: trees and people sat on benches.
[12:40, 28/06/2023] George: Two people in the centre of the image are seen, smiling and performing to a group inside a building. To their left a person, sat down, is pictured laughing. In the foreground two people are seen sat on a chair hugging.

Our markets remain popular and continue throughout the summer:

His Majesty King Charles III’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

Wayne is pictured, smiling, whilst wearing a suit.
Today’s guest blog is from Wayne, Parking Enforcement and Civil Operations Manager at Bristol City Council.

I was very fortunate to be nominated to attend the King’s 1st garden party at Buckingham Palace on 3 May, 2023. It was a complete surprise to be nominated by the Mayor and to be truthful, knowing how hard lots of Bristol City Council employees had worked in a challenging year, to be nominated was a lump in the throat moment.

When I first told my wife, Mandy, who also works at the council, she was more excited than I was, if that was possible.

A couple of weeks later, the invitation arrived, a moment I shall also never forget. Opening the letter carefully as to not damage the envelope or its contents in any way.

Shopping, which is also a passion, was fun. A new suit, tie and shoes was in order. Don’t get me started on what Mandy needed. Dress, handbag, the dreaded shoes and, of course, the hat. Checking that what was chosen was within the dress code.

The day itself was amazing. The sun shone, and we all gathered at the front gates of Buckingham Palace. Roads were closed due to the-then forthcoming Coronation.

Wayne and Mandy, his wife, are pictured outside Buckingham Palace. The Victoria Memorial is seen in the background.

When the main gates opened at the front of the Palace, the walk to the garden at the rear was long, but memorable for all the right reasons. Everyone in their best outfits, immaculately dressed military personnel lining the route and then the splendour as you reach “the garden”.

Mingling with other fortunate guests was a pleasure, we were sat with a recipient of an OBE, who had been invited as the award had been given during the pandemic and had not attended a ceremony with the Royal family.

At 4pm, the National Anthem was played as Their Majesties the King and Queen arrived. We managed to be in the nearby crowd when the King and Queen met people from all walks of life.

A walk around the garden and we saw the other Royals who were supporting their Majesties, The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. We were so very fortunate to be presented to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Edinburgh.  

Food and drinks from the Buckingham Palace Garden Party are pictured. Sandwiches, drinks and dessert can be seen.

The sandwiches and soft drinks were delightful and a another walk around the garden, soaking in the ambience was breath-taking.

We were again fortunate to be in position at the front of the crowd when Their Majesties The King and Queen and Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess passed by at the end of the party.

A time to leave unfortunately arrived and we were respectfully ushered from the garden. However, photos and memories will last longer than the two hours we were there, but in truth the whole day/experience is something we will never forget.

His Majesty King Charles III is pictured in a gap between two other people. On his right a man is seen wearing a top hat.

Clean Air Day: another £11m secured to support Bristol

Bristol’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) has now been running for six months. It was introduced on 28 November last year to help protect residents from the harmful effects of air pollution. We have a moral and legal duty to deliver cleaner air, and its introduction has been a big step forward on our journey to creating a healthier city for everyone who lives and works here.

We sought to introduce the CAZ in a way that protects the most deprived households in our city, as well as our trades and businesses, by offering financial support schemes. Around four out of five vehicles being driven in the zone already meet the requirements, and are not charged anything.

We have already allocated almost £15 million to help people upgrade to a vehicle that won’t be charged to drive into the zone. Over 600 vehicles have already been replaced, and we expect around 3,000 to be upgraded thanks to this grant funding.

We have now received an additional £11 million from government to help provide more financial support to people who want to upgrade their non-compliant vehicle. This doesn’t have to be a brand new or electric vehicle – it can be second hand as long as it meets the zone’s emissions standards.

This new pot of money will allow us to support individuals who earn under £30,000 a year – raised from £27,000 to help more people during the national cost of living crisis and will allow businesses with larger fleets to apply for financial support for more than five vehicles.

People who meet the new criteria will be able to apply for the funding in the same way as they have been doing so far via the expression of interest form on the council’s website.

National government set legal limits for pollution, and we have introduced a Clean Air Zone to ensure Bristol meets those limits within the shortest possible time. You must pay to drive within the zone if your vehicle does not meet the zone’s emission standards, unless you are exempt. Following the ending of the extended temporary local exemptions on 31 March, a few exemptions remain.

We also have free active travel offers available to anyone that lives or works in Bristol. This includes bike and e-bike trials, cycle training, VOI e-Scooter credit, bus and train taster tickets, and car club credit. These offers are a great opportunity for people in Bristol to try out new ways of travelling that are better for their health, wellbeing, and the environment too. Changing just a few of your journeys each week can make a big difference. Apply on our website now to receive your free travel offers.

A Bristol Clean Air Zone sign, is pictured at the top of Park Street.

If you need advice or guidance about the Clean Air Zone, you can contact our team of advisors who are always happy to help. Take a look at the information on our webpages or give us a call on 0117 903 6385.

Loneliness Awareness Week – why we need to talk about loneliness

Building connections and breaking stigma

Amy Perrin is pictured, smiling, with her arms leaning on a chair in front of her.
Today’s guest blog is from Amy Perrin, Founder and CEO of Marmalade Trust.

Created and hosted by Marmalade Trust, Loneliness Awareness Week raises awareness of loneliness across the UK (and beyond) and gets people talking about it. Marmalade Trust is a leading loneliness charity based in St Pauls, Bristol. We launched Loneliness Awareness Week in 2017 and it grows in momentum each year across the UK and, this year, we are excited to see other countries get involved too.

Loneliness Awareness Week is a week dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness and reducing the stigma that surrounds it. It’s all about creating supportive communities by having conversations with family, friends or colleagues about loneliness.

Why we need to raise awareness of loneliness

Loneliness is a natural human emotion. We are hardwired to need social connections; by talking about it, we can support ourselves and others. Starting today, Monday 12 June, there will be many ways for everyone to do something. Whether you are a small or large business, organisation, community group, or individual, there is something for everyone.

Loneliness can have profound effects on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being – it can even shorten our life span. Whilst we’re seeing an increase in discussion on the subject, stigma remains and there are some key misconceptions that still need to be challenged. Ask anyone to picture a lonely person and most will imagine an older person living on their own.  As such, we often rebuke and dismiss feelings of loneliness because ‘that doesn’t apply to me’.

By identifying and acknowledging all the times that we have personally felt and experienced loneliness, we can start to change our viewpoint, accept it and understand how to take action to manage the feeling (and our social connections) in the future.

Our 2023 campaign

Connection matters. It’s what makes us human. Whether it’s your regular barista, the friendly dog on your walk, or the shopkeeper down the road, everyday moments of connection matter. They allow us to make connections, feel happier and less lonely. It matters in business because we are not just colleagues, we are people. It matters on the commute because we are still a community. It matters as a new parent because you are still an individual. It matters on freshers week, in the cafe, down the market, on the streets, in the parks, on the highest of mountains, or sat on the underground. It matters everywhere. We matter. Connection matters.

For Loneliness Awareness Week 2023, we’re encouraging everyone to harness these moments of connection. Together, we can all feel less lonely.

How you can get involved

Getting involved in Loneliness Awareness Week is simple.

  • Download and spread the word
  • Download our supporter pack and assets from our website and share them within your networks.
  • Stick a poster in your window, use virtual meeting backdrops, and inspire others through your newsletters.
  • Build and create
  • Talk about loneliness with others, join a walk, or host a social event.
  • Add your activities and plans to our Connections Map at and explore what’s happening in your area.
  • Follow and share
  • Share meaningful moments with colleagues, neighbours, friends, and family.
  • Follow us on social media @MarmaladeTrust and use #LonelinessAwarenessWeek #ConnectionMatters to share your stories of connection online.
Marmalade Trusts' logo, with a big orange above black text reading Marmalade Trust.

Get in touch 

For more information, please visit You can reach us by email: or if you’re an organisation or business interested in partnering with us, send your message to:

In photos: ship shape and Bristol fashion

Yesterday, Bristol welcomed the company of the HMS Prince of Wales (R09) for a parade in our city centre. Around 300 Royal Navy personnel marched through Bristol, led by the Royal Marines Band, cheered by crowds.

A crowd is pictured, behind metal barriers, on College Green. Many are holding phones and cameras. Trees and part of Bristol Cathedral can be seen in the background.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured on College Green. One group of three (left) includes someone holding a flag. The second (right) are marching in a larger group. Trees and part of City Hall can be seen in the background.
The Royal Marines Band are pictured, holding their instruments, with Royal Navy personnel pictured in the background with City Hall behind.
The Royal Marines Band is pictured alongside College Green. They are holding various instruments, including drums, and buildings and trees can be seen behind them.

The Queen-Elizabeth class, fifth generation aircraft carrier has been affiliated with Bristol since 2016, an honour shared with our fellow port city of Liverpool. Since then, I have been lucky to visit the ship in Rosyth, Scotland, as part of the half-century relationship between ship and city which sees the ship’s crest displayed in the foyer of City Hall.

The crest of HMS Prince of Wales is pictured on the wall of the foyer at City Hall in Bristol.
A member of the Royal Navy is pictured, looking out at College Green. Large Union Flags can be seen, with a crowd beginning to form.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, standing in rows, with College Green behind them.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, standing in rows, looking out over College Green, which can be seen in the background.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, assembled on the ramps outside City Hall (left), alongside the ornamental lake and large Union Flags (right).

In March, we awarded the HMS Prince of Wales and its company with Freedom of the City. This, the highest civic award we can bestow, gives military units the right to parade “with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed”.

The Council Chamber in City Hall, Bristol, is pictured during the Freedom of the City ceremony for HMS Prince of Wales (R09). Councillor Helen Holland, Bristol City Council’s Armed Forces Champion, is speaking, stood up, from the Labour benches on the left of the image. Other councillors can be seen seated.
A member of the Royal Marines Band is pictured, with their music sheet visible. Other members of the band can be seen, with large Union Flags and a crowd on College Green in the background.
A member of the Royal Marines Band is pictured, standing. Royal Navy personnel can be seen, with large Union Flags and a crowd on College Green, in the background.
Royal Navy personnel from the HMS Prince of Wales are pictured, assembled on College Green in Bristol. One (centre) is carrying a sword. The others are holding guns, with bayonets fixed. More Royal Navy personnel can be in the background, behind large Union Flags, on the ramps in front of City Hall.
The Royal Marines Band are pictured, marching, with a crowd, large Union Flags and City Hall behind them.

This weekend they assembled on the ramps of City Hall and on College Green, which was decked out with large Union Flags as during His Majesty King Charles III’s Proclamation last September. We then saw a rare civic occasion in that parade. It was another perfect chance to celebrate our the Armed Forces who serve our country. Many of the ship’s company are from the wider south west region so, in many ways, this was a homecoming before the aircraft carrier returns to full service later this year.

Royal Navy personnel are pictured. One (left) is holding a box, with more seen in groups in the background in front of City Hall.
Three people are pictured on a dais, with a crowd on College Green behind them. Councillor Paul Goggin is seen in the Lord Mayor's robes (centre), with Captain Richard Hewitt from the HMS Prince of Wales to his right.
Councillor Paul Goggin, Lord Mayor of Bristol, is pictured, alongside Captain Richard Hewitt from HMS Prince of Wales, speaking with Royal Navy personnel assembled on College Green. Trees, large Union Flags, and more Royal Navy personnel can be seen in the background.
Councillor Paul Goggin, Lord Mayor of Bristol, is pictured, speaking with members of the Royal Marines Band assembled on College Green. Royal Navy personnel can be seen in the background, in front of City Hall, as well as the City Sword Bearer (right).
Royal Navy personnel (centre) are pictured, marching down Deanery Road, into the distance, with people taking photos on either side.

I was proud to welcome Captain Richard Hewitt OBE as part of our city’s civic party, which was led by Councillor Paul Goggin, the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of the City and County of Bristol, and Robert Bourns DL, the Vice Lord Lieutenant. Alongside us on the daises on College Green and, on the parade route, opposite the Hippodrome to take the salute were: Councillor Helen Holland, our Armed Forces Champion and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and the Integrated Care System; the City Sword Bearer; Royal Marines Brigadier Jock Fraser MBE ADC, Naval Regional Commander for Wales and Western England, based at HMS Flying Fox, the Royal Naval Reserve Unit on Winterstoke Road in south Bristol; and Colonel Jane Thompson TD DL PhD APFS, Deputy Lieutenant for the County and City of Bristol and the first woman to command the Bristol City and County Army Cadet Force.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, smiling, infront of City Hall, with large Union Flags either side.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, marching on their Freedom of the City parade, in groups through Bristol City Centre. Crowds can be seen on either side, along with food outlets.
The Royal Marines Band are pictured, marching through Bristol City Centre (left). A civic party are taking the salute (right), including the Lord Mayor, standing on a dais, and Captain of HMS Prince of Wales.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, marching through Bristol City Centre (left). A civic party are taking the salute (centre), including the Lord Mayor, standing on a dais, and Captain of HMS Prince of Wales.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, marching through Bristol City Centre (left). The first person in the group is saluting, with a crowd seen behind them.

We then joined the ship’s company at a blessing in Bristol Cathedral, followed by a reception for them and their families at City Hall.

The entrance to Bristol Cathedral is pictured, with four people stood in the doorway, flanked either side by veterans in uniform holding flags.
Veterans are pictured, with one (centre) taking photos during the HMS Prince of Wales' Freedom of the City parade.
The Lord Mayor (right) is pictured, speaking to a member of the clergy at Bristol Cathedral (left).
Councillor Helen Holland and Councillor Kye Dudd (centre) are pictured, seated, in Bristol Cathedral.
Royal Navy personnel are pictured, seated, in Bristol Cathedral, from above, with the building's columns.
Two Royal Navy personnel (centre) are pictured, speaking, smiling. More personnel are visilbe in the background.

All images: Mayor of Bristol’s office

Supporting Bristol’s children and families

Councillor Asher Craig is pictured, smiling, with trees behind her.
This blog is from Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Children Services, Education, and Equalities and Labour Councillor for St George West ward.

In Bristol we are ambitious for our children, families, and young people. Children’s services and education in Bristol are a complex set of services that provide a diverse offer of support across all communities. These services are united by our ambition to support all children, families and young people to thrive.

Achieving our ambitions means overcoming challenges at every level. From overcoming failing national policy in these areas, to securing the funding needed to balance increasingly challenging budgets and ensuring the right skills, knowledge and experience are in place locally to deliver – though the list of challenges is lengthy.

We believe the effort is worth it and we are fully committed to putting in the work needed to build sustainable, child focused, diverse, responsible and enterprising services.

This week at cabinet, with the Mayor and colleagues, I approved a plan that outlines the major programme of work we are delivering that is seeing us transform Children’s and Education services from top to bottom. This programme, made up of tens of smaller projects, across all services, is ensuring the needs of children, families and young people are identified and can be met whilst balancing the ever challenging financial strain on the local government system.

To achieve this we are listening to what parents, carers and young people tell us they need for themselves and for their families to thrive, and we use this valuable insight to inform the plans and strategies that will help deliver the best possible outcomes.

While focus groups, engagement sessions, and co-production are by no means an exact science, they are baked into every new plan and strategy we develop. Alongside input from our partners in health, education, and social care, this helps to ensure that that we are always considering the voices of parents, carers, and young people.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured having an arm wrestle with a pupil at Compass Point Primary school.
Mayor Marvin Rees arm wresting with a pupil at a recent visit to Compass Point Primary.

Two key areas of focus for us, alongside the wider programme of work, were highlighted when the new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) Accelerated Progress Plan (APP), and the updated Children’s Services Improvement Plan 2023-25, were approved at Cabinet this week.

Parents and carers tell us that improving trust and relationships across the local area goes hand-in-hand with developing SEND services. Therefore, our APP has been informed by three focus groups with parents and carers, alongside colleagues from education, health, and care.

This plan sets out our vision for improvement in SEND provision and the values that will drive the required change, strategic oversight of improvements and the actions we will take to address the weaknesses identified by inspectors. With the recent announcement that Bristol now has a formal Parent Carer Forum, as well as our Community of Groups representing over 20 different community and parent organisations, we are already on track alongside the Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Integrated Care Board (ICB) and our local area partners to jointly deliver this plan.

Although the Government’s much anticipated new SEND and alternative provision (AP) plan published in March did not go far enough in either funding or ambition, and with the current national SEND system needing a reset to make it work better for all children and families, with its compass set firmly towards inclusivity, right now, we will continue to drive change and make the improvements that parents and carers tell us will make a real difference.

Equally important in the development and provision of appropriate services is the voice of the young person. That’s why our overarching Bristol’s Belonging Strategy for Children and Young People 2021-24 was informed by and co-produced with the young people of Bristol. In the recent Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services (January), inspectors noted that ‘children in care have a strong voice, both as individuals and collectively’, and that ‘issues raised by children about the things that are important to them are addressed’. Three out of five key areas of the inspection found that we required improvement to be good, and in response to this we have developed a new Children’s Services Improvement Plan 2023-25. The plan reflects the strategic intent of the Belonging Strategy vision which also underpins the Council’s Corporate Strategy.

The main purpose of the Improvement Plan is to deliver Ofsted’s recommendations and the required improvements from the inspection findings, of which a key area is the voice of children and young people. To do this we will review our current co-production, engagement, and participation arrangements. This will help us to improve our strategic understanding of the experiences of children. By listening to children and young people we can adapt our service design to better meet their needs. The themes of the plan reflect a child’s journey through our services and highlight the leadership and system-wide arrangements necessary to deliver good services and outcomes for children.

Overarching and informing all of this work is the new Our Families Programme (Children and Education), a £21.4 million whole-system transformation project that was also approved by June Cabinet, with an immediate spend of up to £4.78 million to support its delivery.

The premise of the programme is that it will design effective and sustainable services with, and for, children, young people, and families through a whole system change process. By addressing the challenges across major council portfolios, including Children’s services and Education, we can achieve better outcomes and have a positive impact on our children, young people and families.

Greater stability and resilience will not be achieved by focusing on one area alone.

As I stated at the start of this blog, we are ambitious for our children, families, and young people in Bristol. This is an exciting time and opportunity to be working together, with children, families and young people, and partners, to shape the future, make further progress, and create equitable opportunities.

The One City Plan: Bristol to 2050

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, standing, speaking to a seated audience, at the One City Plan launch event.
Mayor Marvin Rees, speaking at the One City Plan launch event.

When we launched the first One City Plan in 2019, we did not know how it would be received but it is clear that there is an energy in our city to continue to work together to secure a better, more inclusive, and more sustainable future for Bristol.

We have been able to capture this energy over and again through ongoing collaboration from partners across our city. Yesterday, this culminated in the launch of its fourth iteration, which you can read below ahead of it being published on Bristol One City’s website. The One City Plan is not the council’s plan or my plan, but it is a combined effort from all key organisations that signals Bristol’s intent up to 2050. It is written by and for our city.

City partners and One City board members gathered to celebrate the launch of the new One City Plan and the hard work of colleagues in pulling this together at pace. It is always great to see Bristol coming together with a renewed energy to map out and deliver ambitions for our city. 

Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, speaking at the One City Plan launch event.
Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, speaking at the One City Plan launch event.

The plan has evolved to reflect the change facing our city. In 2020, our goals focused on the 2030 carbon neutrality targets and the climate emergency. In 2021, our focus was on covid and how we recover from the social, health, and economic impacts. This year’s refresh of our shared goals has been developed in the context of the national cost-of-living crisis.

In this version, we have included more details of how we track delivery of the goals and also how we measure them against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using the SDG indicators. Within the plan we have set out which boards are contributing to which SDGs. We also provide clearer information on how One City operates and the definitions that are used.

The event also gave an opportunity to reflect on some of the successes of the One City approach so far. We heard from Christina Gray, Director of Public Health, who reflected on the mobilisation of support through the national cost-of-living crisis, with 105 Welcoming Spaces opened for Bristol’s residents over the winter. We also heard from Stephen Peacock, Bristol City Council’s Chief Executive, on the future of One City; Rebecca Mear, CEO of Voscur, shared perspectives from the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector; Victoria Matthews, Business West, offered the business sector perspective; and Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes, reflected on the work of the Living Rent Commission, ahead of its report being published, as another working example of city-wide collaboration through our One City Approach.

A big thank you to all of our city partners and board members for contributing to the plan and working collaboratively to deliver this refresh. I would also like to thank Andrea, the outgoing Head of the City Office, for leading the process to refresh the plan, as well as Allan and Sarah who have also been pivotal in supporting work to deliver on shared goals as One City.

Under One Roof

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.

Under One Roof is a new monthly support session that will provide people who are rough sleeping or at risk of homelessness, expert advice on a range of subjects in one location, as we continue to work to end rough sleeping in Bristol.

The service will be launching at its first session, today. Sessions will take place on the first Wednesday of each month at The Salvation Army Citadel in Montpelier. There is no need to book as people can just turn up on the day.

These sessions bring together specialist organisations providing advice and support in relation to:

  • Education, training and employment
  • Welfare Benefits
  • Housing
  • Health issues including support with drugs and alcohol

Ella and Julian, officers from the council’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service (WRAMAS) will be on hand to provide advice and assistance to people who are struggling to access their correct benefit entitlement.

Ella and Julian’s posts are funded by the Rough Sleeping Initiative, and these sessions build on the work WRAMAS has been doing to help people who are rough sleeping to resolve problems with their benefits.

People who are rough sleeping, often face additional barriers to claiming benefits. Our link workers help them to claim health and disability benefits, resolve difficulties getting their identity verified, resolve problems that might be blocking benefits and assist people who have difficulties providing evidence to support their claims.

These sorts of issues can prevent people from accessing accommodation in the first place and will stops those that are in accommodation from paying rent.

By having multiple services in one place, Under One Roof provides a holistic service, where those who need support can be introduced to the full range of services they require.

The project has been developed by the Department for Work and Pensions. The sessions will be hosted by the Salvation Army who are one of the main delivery partners alongside Bristol City Council, St Mungo’s, Shelter, Bristol Drugs Project and Second Step.

A young person is pictured, wearing a blue and black jumper, holding a carboard cut out of a house, with street art in the background.

Reforming Bristol’s Residents’ Parking Zones

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

Residents’ Parking Zones (RPZs) came into effect in 2013 under the former mayor as a headline transport intervention. They were introduced amid substantial controversy, to cover central Bristol and surrounding areas. The zones are an attempt at managing our city’s limited parking space while striking a balance with connectivity.

Controversies have included that they provide benefits to those able to afford the permit(s), and to people living in central areas to the detriment of residents living in outer wards. One point frequently made against the schemes is that nobody owns the road outside their house and that RPZs effectively extend the boundaries of homes in central areas.

RPZs were primarily intended to reduce commuter parking and therefore car journeys. There is no evidence that they have contributed to reduced car use, although it is difficult to precisely measure its impact. What is clear, is evidence that they have contributed to increasing short term car journeys inside the zones. Given this evidence, I do struggle to understand why self-styled environmental campaigners and some councillors consistently advocate for the convenience of private car ownership when they insist that they want an RPZ for their areas. Worse still, they regularly ignore the housing crisis and try to block planning applications for new homes in the name of parking pressures.  

What is certain is we all need to improve our attitude to our often-crowded spaces, for pedestrians, cyclists, e-scooter users, and motorists. Our streets also need space for street trees, sustainable drainage systems, electric vehicle charge points, cycle hangars, and other features. Single issue campaigners often struggle to see the bigger picture.

Since coming into effect, the zones, the charging structures, and their operation have remained largely unchanged without any review of their operation or effectiveness. Meanwhile, over the past decade, we’ve seen major changes in how Bristol operates alongside advances in national ideas about how we could better maximise the use of limited space available in growing urban areas.

After almost a decade of the zones being in place, it’s important we take the opportunity to revaluate the role they play. Most RPZs are in areas of higher density, older housing with limited parking space. The schemes have had some success in reducing anti-social parking, and we’ve been open-minded about where councillors work with communities to build and demonstrate overwhelming support for the introduction and/or expansion of zones.

That same year, along with our neighbours and the West of England Combined Authority, we adopted the Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP) which, among other policy areas, set out the following commitment: “Through the development of local parking strategies, we will continue to manage parking to control future traffic demand, including policies for on-street parking, off-street parking and residential parking schemes where appropriate. The design and location of new developments and at workplaces, as well as the numbers of spaces, will help to manage demand and reduce the dependency on the private car. All day parking will be controlled in a way to discourage users who could transfer to lower carbon travel choices.”

This passage from the JLTP recognises the need to move away from a one-size fits all approach to parking, traffic, and transport issues to encourage the adoption of schemes that fit the local context and need. In this spirit, the Mayor set out in his 2020 State of the City Address that: “Rather than expand the simplistic and outdated Residents’ Parking Zones, we are working with communities towards liveable streets, improving the public realm, enhancing public transport and active travel.”

This commitment to review the structures already in pace and take action to better listen to the needs of communities was clear in the manifesto which saw us re-elected. That process has seen the community design the city’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods trial in East Bristol across Barton Hill, Redfield, and parts of St George. A second scheme is in the early stages of being developed in BS3.

These new schemes are light-years ahead of the RPZs and aim to counter the growing tendency within these zones for short, local trips by car when active travel should be considered.

The next stage of the process will be brought to our next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 6 June, where I will present a paper that aims to bring the RPZs up to date with the change the city’s going through and align with evolving national policy.

The proposals I will set out in this meeting include:

  • Removing reductions provided to low emissions vehicles, currently free below 100g CO2 and half price between 101 and 110g CO2, to align with an existing government policy change to remove many of the reductions offered to lower emissions vehicles through Vehicle Excise Duty, since parking is about space, not emissions.
  • Doubling cost of secondary permits, from £112 to £224, and raising the cost of third permits from £224 to £560.
  • Increasing Central Parking Zone (CPZ) permit fees from £50 to £250, to reflect the premium on space in our city centre.

These proposals will be followed later this year by additional potential measures to comprehensively further review the effectiveness of the RPZs.