Tipping Point

This morning we held our usual ‘Hot Coffee – Hot Topic’ session in city hall. The sessions are an opportunity for staff to meet with me, members of the Cabinet and senior management to share ideas on how we tackle some of the challenges facing Bristol.

Today we had a great guest speaker in Sue Mountstevens – our Police and Crime Commissioner – who presented on the opportunities and challenges of policing in Bristol. We discussed mental health and early intervention as key to achieving better outcomes for people, as well as her Policing Plan which develops a further focus on the needs of victims.

We also talked about the ‘Tipping point’ report released this week which summarises the threats, risks and consequences facing the organisation at a time of diminishing financial resource as well as increasingly complex criminality and operational demand.

It sets out that since 2010 the force has 655 fewer police officers and has made savings of £65m. It has a further £17m to save by 2021/22.

The report states that these are perilous times for policing in Avon and Somerset.

While HMIC has judged Avon and Somerset constabulary to be ‘outstanding’ at understanding demand and delivering efficiencies, achieving additional substantive gains through these channels have become progressively harder.

The police want the risk to be understood by all stakeholders at all levels, local and national, and choices should be made in full knowledge of the consequences.

It is my determination to support Sue and the officers of the service in protecting the people of Bristol. Austerity is a challenge the whole public sector is facing and this report captures the need for fairer funding for these essential services.

Letter from America

I’ve just returned from a packed five-day trip to the United States.

In that time I spoke at the US-Islamic World Forum, the New York Global Mayors Summit, met with the UK’s Consul General, including the Department for International Trade, the British American Business Council and spoke to the 2017 cohort of Yale World Fellows.

On a practical level, this trip was about securing Bristol’s economic interests. My aspiration for our city and everyone in it has run through the heart of my campaign and time in office. Strong relations with the Consul General, DIT and BABC will mean strong allies in promoting Bristol as a place to visit, trade, invest and locate. This will help us secure the pipeline of quality jobs that are essential to inclusive economic development and life opportunity. We shared our housing plans, that we have commissioned a pre-feasibility study for an underground/metro and our commitment to building an arena. We were offered support in identifying investors and contractors for viable projects as they come on line.

Along with the Deputy Mayor of London and the Mayor of New York’s team, I was also involved in planning what could turn out to be a major development in the architecture of global politics. The mayors gathering was scheduled to run at the same time as world leaders gathered with Donald Trump at the UN. We focussed on the failure or inability of nation states to cope with the world the way it is. On issues ranging from refugees to climate change to inequality, inclusive economic development, political legitimacy to population health, national governments have failed to deliver. It was an argument endorsed by representatives from the UN, Open Society Foundation, Amnesty International, Brookings Institute and the World Bank who were also in attendance. We believe that the voice of cities has too long been missed and must be elevated so that mayors do not just have the power to shape what happens within their cities, but also shape the national and international context within which they live.

It is worth noting that Bristol was actively sought out to attend and speak at these events. I was asked to present in every session. For a long time people have said Bristol was a major city punching below its weight. We have some way to go and many internal challenges to overcome, but the fact that world leaders are seeking us out and government courting us as a city of investment would suggest we are going in the right direction.

Marvin Rees - US Islam World.jpg

In The City

“Cities are where hope meets the streets”.

So said Mayor Kasim Reed, city leader of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He added that “large governments are not functioning well at solving problems that affect people’s lives today”.

I sat alongside Mayor Reed yesterday at the United Nations building in New York assessing the way forward for cities and our developing need to offer solutions to our citizens in our world today.

In my contribution to the debate I explained that the current and growing challenges of the failures of democratic legitimacy, the challenge of climate change, the marginalisation of communities and the growth of inequality cannot be solved by the current model of government built on the nation state. Steve Crawshaw, Director of the Office of the Secretary General of Amnesty International put it this way: “we are living with the failure of national government and governance”.

I argued that we must have a re-balancing of sovereignty, with cities having more powers and flexibility and for access to the benefit of our own economic growth. We need the power to shape both what happens within our boundaries and the national and international context within which we live.

The Mayor of New York invited Mayors and City Representatives from around the world to look at modern challenges and identify progressive solutions to the impact of migration and refugees on their cities.

The Global Mayors summit aims to bring cities together to work towards global solutions to global challenges that will have city outcomes. As well as the Mayor of New York, it is supported by the International Peace Institute and the Open Society Foundation.

One of the themes of the first morning was integration of migrants, the vast majority of whom flee to cites, from cities and then return to cities. Mayor Reed described Atlanta as “a city that was too busy to hate”. I hope we can describe Bristol in the same way.

united nations building in nyc


IPPR Event

Last week I was in London to speak at an event where I was able to share my perspective with other panellists from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on ‘Race and Class: Tackling the Inequalities that Hold People Back’. I had a great time discussing these complex issues and sharing perspectives with the other panellists. In my keynote speech, I shared some stories about my own experiences of growing up as a working class, mixed race person in Bristol in the 1970s and 80s, and what this means for me now. 

Definitions of race and class have the issue of power at their heart and Britain is still a society with deeply entrenched race and class divisions. The British sociologist Richard Hoggart powerfully wrote that “class distinctions do not die, they merely learn new ways of expressing themselves. Each decade we shiftily declare that we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty”. The same can be said for race. Progress towards becoming a society in which race and class no longer restrict people’s opportunities is far slower than it should be. Although we can point towards BAME individuals who have succeeded in their fields, this does little to change the structures of society which excludes people. 

This applies in Bristol as much as it does anywhere else. Although Bristol is a diverse city with much to be proud of, it is clear that huge inequalities still exist based on the circumstances of birth. The Runnymede Multiple Inequality index says the city is the seventh worst place in the country to be born black. It is the worst city in the country to be born poor. It is also a city in which BAME citizens are twice as likely as white citizens to live in poverty.

Some national reviews, such as Ruby McGregor Smith’s Review on race in the workplace, and the recent Lammy Review into the treatment of BAME people in the criminal justice system, do a great job of talking about some of the causes of these issues, and provide some of the solutions as to how we can approach them. However, tackling these problems effectively at the local level requires a rebalancing of sovereignty from national government to local government, to address the particular types of racial and class based discrimination in a way that is right for that place. 

I want everyone in Bristol to have the best possible chances in life, regardless of their race and class, and this continues to be my motivation in trying to secure a better future for the city. 

City to City

Firstly, let me reiterate my thank you to everyone who came to the rally for Bristol last Saturday. In ‘changeable’ weather conditions, it was inspiring to march with so many people who care about our city. The Rally had so many excellent speakers who talked about pride in their city, including Hibaq Jama, Joanne Kaye, Rob Wotherspoon, Marti Burgess, Cleo Lake, John Rees, Owen Jones, Forward Maisokwadzo, Anjali Gohil, Amirah Cole, Jendayi Serwha, Kevin Courtney, Lauren Gavaghan and Karen Passmore. We also had the visible passion of City Poet, Miles Chambers and the excellent hosting of BCFM’s Pat Hart

While I am loathe to pick anybody out, I will mention The Rev Dave Jeal, a Bristolian who grew up in Lawrence Weston and Southmead and today lives and works in Lockleaze (You can learn more about Dave in this Radio Four interview). He talked starkly about the poverty, inequality and division in our city and the need for all of us to work together to take the challenge on. His own Kennedyesque summary summed up our challenge, “ask not what your city can do for you, ask what you can do for your city”.

It was important to hear Bristol people talk about their vision and hope for the city and the challenges we face. The government’s austerity programme goes to the heart of these challenges while we as a Local Authority (along with the public sector as a whole) face doing more with less.  

The Core Cities Green Paper for Cities was launched yesterday in Parliament and acknowledged by the Secretary of State. I had a conversation with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, yesterday and then the Core City leaders also met with Rebecca Long-Bailey. It is clear the official opposition will support the call for additional funds and powers for cities. I am also pleased to say we were the only city to have all of its MPs turn up in support: Kerry McCarthy MP, Darren Jones MP, Thangam Debbonaire MP and Karin Smyth MP. Bristol finds itself at the forefront of the efforts to raise the city voice.

We will keep the momentum as we move into the party conference season and then turn our attention to the Autumn financial statement. 

A huge positive to come out of the Green Paper is a meeting between core city leaders and the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier. This is real progress because despite the negotiations about nation to nation relationships from Brexit, it is city to city relationships that will matter most in economic terms. As our national government’s standing on the international stage becomes more uncertain, it is cities that offer the international relations that will drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth.   

Also, next week I will briefly be in New York for the New York Global Mayor’s summit. I will be progressing Bristol’s international ambitions to drive trade and investment into our city. City to City relationships across the world, as well as in Europe, are essential to the success of Bristol’s future economy and I will continue to make these a priority.

Rally for Bristol

Tomorrow, people from right across our city will join me on College Green in a Rally for Bristol. We’ll meet midday on College Green.

The Rally for Bristol is an opportunity to give expression to our vision, commitment and hope for Bristol. We need to set out the opportunities and challenges to us achieving that vision and hope.

The greatest opportunity exists in the people of Bristol who contribute daily to the welfare of the city. The major challenge comes in the form of the ideology of austerity that drives disinvestment in the lives of these very people.

Austerity has run its course and been found wanting. It has not delivered economic recovery. Rather it has produced pain, hopelessness and fostered political disillusionment. Conservative voters have expressed to me their frustration with the approach.

Nationally imposed austerity also speaks to the fact that the great fissures of modern politics are not only between political parties, but between Westminster and City political leadership.

Government needs to understand that across the country City Governments are reaching breaking point. Not only is austerity reducing our capacity to support society’s most vulnerable, but it’s also undermining our ability to invest in the human capital on which our country depends.

What’s more, austerity is not only threatening the provision of front line delivery. It undermines our back room capacity found in our lawyers, accountants and planners. These aren’t the kind of roles people campaign for, but they are essential to our ability to function as a city government and deliver in challenges such as bringing land forward for housing development.

We need change.

I’d also like you to prepare for the fact that we will be asking for people to commit to more than a rally tomorrow. Challenging government policy takes time. But there are things we can do right now to bring hope to people in Bristol.

– become a reading buddy to improve literacy for our children?

– consider fostering or adopting?

– provide work experience and mentoring to a young person?

– join a pool of volunteers to participate in a city voter registration drive?

– join a pool of city volunteers ready to support upcoming causes?

I would also ask that we pick up all litter before leaving the rally. We can all pick something up. I would be proud if we were to leave the march route and College Green looking better than when we arrived. Not only will that save the city money but it will demonstrate the authenticity of our professed commitment to the city.

See you Saturday.

Going Underground?

Today I have been talking about the prefeasibility study we are undertaking into whether a metro/underground system could work for Bristol.

We are the only core city without a mass transit system and the feasibility study will identify whether a system that could include underground is one that we can continue to explore.

BBC’s Robin Markwell and Peter Simson interviewed me on this yesterday and you can listen to the Radio Bristol interview here. You can see more on Points West tonight.

We had great success last week with the announcement that we are to get over 100 biogas buses for Bristol and the infrastructure to fuel the buses going in at Lawrence Hill bus station. This, as James Freeman (Managing Director of First Bus) has said, makes it a game changer. The Congestion Task Group being led by my Cabinet lead for Transport and Connectivity, Mhairi Threlfall, is making great progress coping out short and long term measures to tackle Bristol’s transport challenge including the review of 20mph, our no idle roadworks policy and the city movement strategy.

But at the heart of this we need a mass transit system. The prefeasibility report is being produced by CH2MHill working with Steare Davies Gleave.

This is very much an initial study that will allow us to compare underground options with other options such as trams or guided buses, but either way the region needs to develop a rapid transit system of some form – underground being one option.

Our aim is to have the report finalised by early November.

And don’t forget, today is the last day of our neighbourhoods consultation. We want to hear from you.


Have your say before 5 September

If you care about your local community and want to have a say in the future of how services are run in Bristol now is your chance. There is now less than a week left for you to contribute to Bristol City Council’s ‘Your Neighbourhood’ and ‘Supporting People’ consultations and put forward ideas for the future running of some local services. I want you to get involved.

We have to make some tough choices, but before any decisions are finalised, we need to properly understand what the people of Bristol feel about the proposals and how we can minimise potential effects on communities.

The set of six consultations put forward options that relate to proposals for several council services. The closing date for people to give their views and complete the surveys is Tuesday 5 September.

The consultations propose options for services to be delivered differently and more efficiently, thereby helping the council address the huge financial challenge it faces and reduce dependency on council-funded services.

The Supporting People consultation is a separate set of proposals to rethink the way the council provides services such as supported accommodation for people with mental health issues or a learning difficulty, sheltered housing, advice services and ‘floating support’ that supports people in their own homes.

Feedback from local people on these proposals is critical and we urge you to have your say before the deadline. It’s important that we make these decisions together and ensure that we make the best use of our resources, despite the ongoing effects of austerity from central government.

Consultation forms are available online at http://www.bristol.gov.uk/yourneighbourhood and http://www.bristol.gov.uk/supportingpoeple and in other formats, including large print, audio, British Sign Language and Braille. To request alternative formats please call the consultation team on 0117 922 2848 or email consultation@bristol.gov.uk.

Paper copies are available from local libraries and the council’s Citizen Service Point at 100 Temple Street. People who can take part online are encouraged to do so because it is quicker and easier for them and helps save the council money in print and transcription costs.

Please take time out of your busy schedules to share your views and help make Bristol an even better place to live.

Your Neighbourhood Booklet

Sharp Shotz

We are the Bristol Youth Mayors- Eve Szczelkun and Jack Payne- representatives of the Bristol City Youth Council. The Youth Council is made up of 28 elected Young Members voted into office by young people and 5 co-optees who represent certain groups. The Youth Council serve for 2 years; the elections were held in February and once elected to the Youth Council, we held an internal election to vote in the two Youth Mayors who have the position for a year.

Earlier in July we attended an awards ceremony for the Sharp Shotz film campaign at the Watershed. We watched the films, then sat on panel discussions about the films and saw the prizes being handed out.

Sharp Shotz is a project run by the community action group Ideal. It works with young people within schools and youth organisations in disadvantaged areas. The competition was based around creating a campaign and making a short film to accompany it. This year the two finalist entries were from two different year 8 groups from Fairfield School. Their aim was to seek awareness and seek new approaches to their chosen issues.

We sat on the panels to explain how we could help the students with their campaigns and spread awareness of them. The first film was made by two girls who created the ‘Think Before You Post’ campaign. Their campaign is highlighting to young people the dangers of sharing explicit photos online and the bullying and implications that can result. Their campaign aims for more recognition of this subject and they want an increase in dedicated lessons on this sensitive issue in schools across Bristol. Their film included clips from a police officer talking about the implications of setting as well as facts and an animation (made with help from UWE film and animation students). Both of us were very impressed by the approach to this sensitive subject and the high quality of the film.

The other campaign is about raising awareness of the high levels of bullying faced by people with autism. Their aim is to educate other young people and the wider community to see the person beyond the label, with the name of their campaign being ‘Think Beyond Autism’. The film includes an interview with a student who has autism as well as showing situations where a person with autism maybe treated badly or misunderstood as well as showing that there is a person beyond the autism. Again, the film was very impressive and was made with a lot of skill and we both agree that it achieves its aim of showing what it’s like to have autism.

The two groups were both awarded prizes for their hard work yet, the work for these groups doesn’t stop there as they want to spread awareness to make their campaigns a success.

Below are the links to the films, they are only 3 minutes long so take a watch and share to spread the message.

Think Before You Post:

Think Beyond Autism:






Outward Bound

We are Eve Szczelkun and Jack Payne- Bristol Youth Mayors- representatives of the Bristol City Youth Council. The Youth Council is made up of 28 elected Young Members voted into office by young people and 5 co-optees who represent certain groups. The Youth Council serve for 2 years- the elections were held in February and once elected to the Youth Council, we held an internal election to vote in the two Youth Mayors who have the position for a year.

The Youth Council was given the opportunity to send 12 of its members on an Outward Bound course free of charge in the hope that we would come back as promoters of the course; that we would persuade teachers to send their students on a week at Outward Bound. We hope that one day every student in Bristol is given the opportunity to attend an Outward Bound course, with the majority of students being able to take part free of charge. The Mayor attended Outward Bound as a student and has always been vocal in his support for the experience, he was imperative in allowing us to go.

We have just come back from the trip that the two of us were fortunate enough to go on and we can both say that our lives were changed positively. It was a gruelling and tiring week that made us step out of our comfort zone, but in doing so had so many great impacts.

We completed an expedition where we walked for almost 10 hours, carrying all our equipment, then wild camped next to a beautiful lake. We jumped off piers, went rock scrambling, abseiled, did high ropes courses and activities that made us work together as a team.

The experience was perfect for improving our teamwork skills since many challenges, such as a blindfolded walk involved communication.

Since the ages of the group varied from 12-16 with a range of abilities, supporting each other was a crucial part of the trip and it was amazing to see people who were themselves scared overcome fears and help others. Shy, quieter members of the Youth Council came out of their shells and it helped make us get to know each other better. We all bonded and friendships blossomed.

Everyone on the trip managed to overcome a fear and said that their confidence has improved and they are more willing to try new things and take risks. The challenges were harder than anything we’d done before and at the end of the week we left aching but sad it was over. We will never forget our incredible Outward Bound experience. We hope that every child in Bristol should have this opportunity.Pics