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Small Business Saturday

Councillor Craig Cheney, smiling, with trees in the background.
Today guest blog is from Craig Cheney, cabinet member with responsibility for City Economy, Finance & Performance

Businesses across Bristol were hit hard because of the pandemic, and they continue to face tough economic conditions with the national cost of living crisis. It has been encouraging to see footfall figures beginning to recover across many areas of our city, and we continue to do what we can to support the self-employed, independents, and small businesses to help them continue to recover and bounce back.

Small Business Saturday takes place today, Saturday 3 December. Now in its tenth year, the national event provides a great opportunity to further support Bristol’s businesses, who are a vibrant and key part of our city, by shopping local and shopping small. Businesses can promote themselves by hosting events and offering discounts. Information and a free marketing pack are available on the Small Business Saturday website. Shoppers can click on the Small Business Finder to search for local businesses taking part.

We have seen great success through our culture and events programme. We are working hard to deliver a programme of events through to September 2023 to bring more people into our city centre and our high streets, including the return of the Bristol Light Festival from 3 to 12 February 2023. Recent events include the lantern parade Bump in the Night, Overstory in Broadmead, Luminarium on College Green, and Little Amal walking through Old City and King Street. All of these events have successfully brought people into the area and supported businesses. We have regular, ongoing events including a number of new markets like the Better Sundays at Broadmead Market and St Nick’s Night Market is due to return again in Spring next year.

The Vacant Commercial Property Grant offers up to £10,000 of funding to help small or expanding businesses to start trading from a city centre or local high street property. Open until 31 March 2023, the scheme intends to support local businesses to open new premises and trade with confidence. Funding can be used for structural works to a property or equipment to be used in the property (capital expenditure). The funding is open to businesses, charities, community interest companies, sole traders, and arts and culture groups for both long term and temporary/meanwhile use. Visit www.bristol.gov.uk/vcpg to find out more and to see some of the organisations who have received this funding so far.

Mayor Marvin Rees, smiling in front of a large mural reading Love Local.

Our Where’s It To? campaign continues to support independents across Bristol, inviting people to explore and get to know some of their local traders. Over a twelve month period we visited our city centre and all 46 high streets across Bristol. The site now has over 400 businesses listed and continues to grow with businesses being added and promoted through the council’s social channels, including at Shop Local Bristol on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  If you run an independent business in the city centre or one of Bristol’s 46 high streets and would like your business profile added onto the Where’s It To? website, drop the team an email to arrange a visit: business@bristol.gov.uk

We are also committed to making Bristol a Living Wage City. Our aim is to significantly increase the number of employers voluntarily paying the real Living Wage, making sure their employees are earning a wage they can live on.

Paying the real Living Wage can benefit your business by enhancing its reputation and by improving the commitment and motivation and recruitment and retention of your staff.  Visit the Living Wage Foundation website to find out more about the Living Wage accreditation, or contact: livingwage@bristol.gov.uk

Bristol is in it together

Today’s blog is by Jeff Mitchell, Founder
of Clean Slate Training and Employment

Many Bristol residents on low incomes are worrying about how they will get through the cost of living crisis. As a result, they are starting to think about finding new work, better paid work or even extra work.

The cost of living crisis, and the pandemic, brought truth to the phrase ‘in it together’. Clean Slate has been helping Bristolians on low incomes become more financially stable since 2006. We help people find ways to stretch a limited budget, find new work or better work and get online.

Quids in!, our money skills programme, includes an easy-read magazine, guides, emails and web tools. Our service users and readers are disproportionately affected by the national cost of living crisis, more so than affluent residents in the city.

In 2018, our reader survey found 48 per cent of working age people who are not in full-time employment were skipping meals on account of troubles with money. 51 per cent were turning off their heating despite being cold. 68 per cent felt frightened, anxious or depressed. This was before the pandemic, before the war in Ukraine and before the cost of living crisis. Working class people are suffering even more now than before.

In October, we launched our #ThinkBiggerThanBills campaign. We called on people struggling with bills to look at more than just cutting back. At least £15 billion of benefits are unclaimed, so we should all start by checking if there’s anything more we’re entitled to, you can do this by using our benefits calculator. People who are not online could be hundreds of pounds better off by ‘going digital’ because they’re able to shop around, find advice and access support. Finally, using our money health-check could also unlock massive savings as it uncovers the tips no-one else is telling us.

During the pandemic, Clean Slate helped over 2,000 people save roughly an average £1,000 by taking a simple money health-check. Now we’re able to offer it face-to-face from locations across the city as well as by phone. Anyone on a low income who is worried about bills can get in touch (Contact us here). Unemployed people will be put to the front of our queue.

People often just want to regain control of their finances. Throughout lockdown, people on our six-week support programme found they could start turning things around. The future seemed brighter, and they asked if we could help them find work.

There are now more available jobs than unemployed people. With the current cost of living crisis, for those who are able to work, it might now be the right time. Not everyone is ready for formal support or training, which is why Bristol’s One Front Door is so important. Every kind of jobhunting support is listed in one place. It takes a ‘horses for courses’ approach… even for horses who don’t like courses!

Clean Slate is one programme on offer and jobseekers can find out about our 7 Signs events. Here people explore their skills that could be on offer to employers, building their confidence. Attendees devise ways to present their skills in CVs that are unique and motivating. They practice personal statements, giving them a helping hand in interviews.

Our Elements scheme is for people who have experienced hardship. We are recruiting people whose life experience is more valuable to us than formal training. They are central Clean Slate’s cause.

We are recruiting people whose life experience is more valuable to us than formal training. Have you been on benefits? Are you struggling with money? Have you been unemployed for a while? We will provide training and a 12-week paid work placement as a Peer Worker. By the end, you’ll be able to be able to apply for a support worker role with us or another employer. We also have paid placements for people wanting to help older people and those who need support. Together, we can step up.

Clean Slate is at the frontline of the current cost of living crisis and Bristol needs you! We are part of a wider, joint effort across all kinds of support, advice, health, housing and financial services.

Bristol’s ‘One City’ approach to the cost of living crisis showcases that we really are all in it together.

For further cost of living support visit the Bristol City Council website or call the We Are Bristol helpline on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Save Soil

Save Soil Bristol branch smiling in front of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Today’s guest blog is from Sumita Hutchison, Krishnapriya C.R, and Chitra Merchant, all of whom are volunteers for Save Soil movement.

Soil is dying. Across the world, 52% of agricultural soil is already degraded. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says we may have only 60 years of agriculture left if soil degradation continues. A global food crisis would become inevitable as a consequence.

Save Soil is a global response to this crisis. This is, first and foremost, a people’s movement which aims to inspire at least 4 billion people (60% of the world’s population) to support long-term changes to national governments policies to revitalise soil.

Cycle for soul leaflet. The picture shows four cyclists names Marcello, Dorka Oscar, and Kit. Below is a brown and green background with a map of the UK. Text reads Day 1 Edinburgh - Glasgow - Follow #CycleForSoil

World Soil Day is on Monday, 5 December, and we are marking it in a big way in Bristol.

To inspire the people of Bristol, we are hosting an uplifting Save Soil Winter Fair to learn about soil with speakers, music and art on Saturday, 3 December at the Create Centre. It’s all free: the food, the parking, the workshops, to make it accessible and inclusive to all. Everyone is welcome.

It’s part of our national cycle for soil. Our cyclists are cycling 900 miles in major cities in the UK to highlight the vital nature of soil. We will greet them in Bristol at Saturday’s event.

Why soil when there are other pressing issues? 

95% of our food comes from soil and we are losing one acre of soil every second! With the world’s population growing so rapidly, we will soon be facing a food crisis unless we act now. 

Soil is the world’s third largest carbon sink and is at the heart of food systems, global biodiversity and climate change. Soil has other significance acting as drought and flood resistant sponges. 

So, the solutions for many of the issues we are facing today; climate emergency, ecological emergency, flooding and droughts and food security are found in soils. 

Who are we in Bristol? 

The Save Soil Bristol group stand together smiling, they are wearing green jumpers and have a poster reading Save Soil.

We are the people of Bristol who have been inspired to take action. We’re students, a retired teacher, engineers, an artist, a doctor, a lawyer, a postman and so on. We have pulled together to raise awareness and make stuff happen.

We are part of a global movement that has been described as the world’s largest People’s movement. The movement is supported by people and organisations from around the world. 

  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO)
  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  • World Food Programme (WFP)
  • United Nations Environment Programme, Faith for Earth Initiative
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • The International “4 per 1000” Initiative
  • The Vatican
  • Muslim World League

Find out more about our global organisation from this video:

Why are we doing this? 

We have been directly working on creating healthy soils for 30 years and our environmental projects have been recognised globally. Guyana have pledged 100 km² to the implementation of save soil policy. 11 Caricom countries and 56 Commonwealth countries are adopting these measures. 

Because of the urgency we need to change at a national governmental level, with an enabling policy environment that supports farmers to implement sustainable land management practices to achieve food security, climate resilience, and carbon sequestration. But governments and policy makers will only change if we ask them to. Which is why we are trying to raise awareness with as many people as possible. Hence the dance, the mural, and the fair. 

A mural for Save Soil, hands clasped together holding soil. patterns surround the centre of the mural. Text reads Join the movement, #SAVESOIL, 90% of Soil degraded by 2050, SaveSoil.ORG.

How can you join us?

Please Join us on the 3 December with your friends and family! Please also share the event: Save Soil Winter Fair Tickets, Sat 3 Dec 2022 at 13:00 | Eventbrite

Talk about the importance of soil with as many people as possible. Online please use the hashtag #SaveSoil #ConsciousPlanet 

Go to https://consciousplanet.org/ to find out more and get involved.

Delivering progress on our new Local Plan

Today’s blog is by Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods and Labour Councillor for St George Central ward.

The overarching planning document that maps out how and where Bristol will develop over the next 20 years is now out for consultation. The Bristol Local Plan is being reviewed and we want people in the city to give us their views.

The Bristol Local Plan is important because it will:

• guide development across the city over the next twenty years
• update all existing policies for deciding planning applications
• deliver new development that supports net zero and helps nature to recover

Reviewing an entire city’s Local Plan is a long, detailed process. We have been working on the new plan for nearly five years, its progress held back by the challenges of planning across the whole region. Now we are ready to share our plan, working with our neighbouring councils where we need to, with the aim to get a new Local Plan in place before the end of 2024.

The new Local Plan will deliver the inclusive, sustainable growth we need by enabling new homes and new workplaces to be built. The document takes on the complex challenge of doing this in the face of the climate and ecological emergencies.

The need for affordable homes and delivering them in sustainable ways in the right places is a core priority for the next 20 years. We need to deliver more homes and regenerate our neighbourhoods to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis and make homes more affordable.

The types of homes we build, and where we build them, will be the biggest determinants of the carbon price the planet pays for our population growth – so it is essential we prioritise brownfield sites and build densely wherever appropriate to reduce pressure on greenbelt sites.

The consultation takes the local plan’s commitments to our environment a step further. It contains ideas that will result in a plan with a stronger focus on net zero and ecology than ever before. Since the current Local Plan was agreed in 2014, we now include new policies on biodiversity and proposes changes of approach at sites such as the Western Slopes, Brislington Meadows, and Yew Tree Farm that aim to give priority to nature conservation and food growing.

This latest consultation sets out drafts of additional policies that are proposed to be included in the new Local Plan. The results of the last consultation, held in 2019, have also been used to inform this next stage.

So, what’s new?

Homes

• an ambitious housing target is proposed for Bristol based on the city’s capacity to deliver new homes in a sustainable way

• a draft policy on affordable housing to set out the ideas for how new affordable homes will be delivered as part of housing developments

Ecology

• new draft policies are included on biodiversity and nature recovery to encourage biodiversity gain within developments

Strong local centres and a thriving economy

• a revised network of local centres across the city

• draft policies to support the vitality and diversification of centres and promote a thriving hospitality economy which supports shopping, city and local centres, and the night time economy

Sustainability

• new draft policies to promote food sustainability and support food growing provision

• a new suite of draft policies to address how buildings use energy and can help to deliver a net zero future and tackle the climate crisis

Other updates

• a vision and aims were included in the 2019 consultation for the first-time and these have been updated to reflect latest thinking

• a new framework for design policy is set out that details how design guides and codes will be used

• a new draft policy for advertisement consent applications

This is an important stage in making a new Local Plan for our city, so it is the ideal time to check and comment on the document: to make sure this iteration reflects our shared priorities for the city. Your input and priorities will then influence the main document that guides our partners and developers to deliver the type of development Bristol needs most.

So please do take part, think about what development means to you, and have your say while the consultation is live.

The timescale to get to our new complete local plan is as follows:

• 28 November 2022 to 20 January 2023 – further consultation on the plan’s latest policies and proposals
• Summer 2023 – plan published for representations
• Early 2024 – examination by planning inspector
• Autumn 2024 – new Local Plan adopted

A milestone for clean air in Bristol

Today we have reached an important milestone. Bristol’s Clean Air Zone has officially launched.

We have always sought to reduce air pollution in Bristol to improve our city’s health but we’re also mindful of the financial strain people are under at the moment. We have worked to find a way to clean up our air, while also providing support to those who need it most.

Back in 2021, we secured a package of £42 million funding to help people to find ways to make their journeys in and around our city more sustainable. To date, the council has had over 6,000 applications for financial support such as grants and loans to change or upgrade their vehicles. Over 1,500 applications for temporary exemptions have been approved, mostly to our Blue Badge holders, and over 8,000 active travel offers such as bus tickets and Voi scooter credit have been given out.

I would encourage everyone to try out our bus, train, and park and ride services as an alternative way to travel around Bristol, and we still have free vouchers available to help you give these options a go. We can’t take on the task of delivering clean air alone. We need everyone in Bristol to play their part.

You can visit the council website for more information on how to register your interest, as well as more information about the zone boundary map to help you best plan your journeys.

No vehicles are banned from entering the central zone, but drivers of older and more polluting vehicles will incur a charge. You can check if your vehicle will be charged via www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones. Bristol remains very much open to all residents, visitors and businesses. We’re particularly excited to welcome visitors and tourists into the city during the busy Christmas period. If you have any concerns about which routes to take or need some advice, remember you can email our Travel Advisers on CAZSupport@bristol.gov.uk

Daily charges apply 24 hours a day (midnight to midnight), seven days a week, all year round. It’s really important that people remember they will not receive written notification or any kind of alert that they have entered Bristol Clean Air Zone or that a payment is due – this is down to individuals and businesses to manage.

Charges must be paid within six days of the journey via www.gov.uk/clean-air-zones or by calling the Clean Air Zone support line on 0300 029 8888 (Monday to Friday: 8am to 7pm, Saturday: 8am to 2pm). Smartphone users can also pay using free-to-use apps like Caura.

Business owners can sign up to the Business Accounts Feature via GOV.uk, to set up a Bristol-specific account to help manage payment for multiple vehicles entering and exiting the Zone.

Roadside signage will show when you’re entering or approaching the zone. Some signs count down how many miles to go until the zone starts to give you plenty of time to consider your route, and others have a green cloud symbol on, with the letter ‘D’ inside.

Go to the Clean Air for Bristol website to find out more about Bristol’s Clean Air Zone and the small actions you can take to help too.

Bristol at the COP27 climate summit

The momentum for the role of cities in tackling climate change is growing. The UN COP27 climate summit outcome recognises the role of multi-level stakeholders including cities and local government in taking climate action and the need for increased collaboration. There was the first ever COP Ministerial meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change where city voices were represented. We also saw the launch of the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe), the first Presidency-led cities’ initiative in the COP process, which aims to accelerate local climate action. The role of young people in climate action and as part of national and COP formal processes was also encouraged.  

However, there is still a missed opportunity for having representation of the voices of cities and local government formally at the table with national leaders as part of the COP process. It is essential that mayors and city leaders continue to collaborate and raise cities’ voices internationally (through networks such as ICLEI and C40) to help shape the global context that impacts our cities.

I attended the COP27, focused around Finance Day, representing Bristol and other UK cities as part of the Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci), in partnership with C40 and as a member of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) delegation coordinated by ICLEI. 70% of global emissions come from cities but we are also the places most able to deliver the transformation needed. So, my decision to go to COP was simple. Cities are where the battle against climate change will be won or lost.

Climate finance was a key focus for this COP, including the role of private finance. The implementation plan highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $4-6 trillion a year, with a comprehensive transformation of the international finance system. There was a ground-breaking announcement for a Loss and Damage Fund to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damages they have incurred through climate change; and there was a call to finance institutions to raise ambition, change models and instruments to increase access to finance.

Bristol and all cities need to secure private sector funding to deliver a just transition to net zero, as the scale and speed needed means going beyond the public purse.  

At COP, with 3Ci and with other influential partners including C40 and the UN High Level Champion, we ran a series of events convening cities, investors, and government on what is needed to ensure successful public-private collaboration and unlock the private finance needed for a just transition of cities to net zero. The Government missed the chance to get us, and other key players, together before COP27 – though we were able to connect at His Majesty The King’s reception at Buckingham Palace. Now, national leaders should join local and industry leaders to continue dialogue and collaboration post COP.

  And we will continue this dialogue and collaboration post COP.

Our messages are clear:  

  • There’s no time to lose: cities are on the front line of the climate crisis and the infrastructure development needed is significant. Innovative approaches to public / private collaboration therefore need speed and scale.
  • The earlier the better: we want to work with investors early on to develop projects together than can be taken to the market.
  • National governments need to invest now: to support city / investor engagement, the bottlenecks of risk and capacity that will unlock private finance, saving public resources in the long term and unlocking the net zero potential of cities.
  • Cities are an opportunity for place-based investment: private investors are increasingly looking to deliver social and environmental outcomes.
  • Scale is needed: if urban net zero projects are to attract private and institutional capital, building aggregated project pipelines is essential like we are doing in Bristol through City Leap and as part of 3Ci.

We’re leading

Bristol is a leading voice on addressing the climate crisis. We were the first city in the UK to declare a climate emergency and I moved the LGA declaration for over 400 other councils. We declared an ecological emergency and have been recognised by the UK Climate Change Committee for our approach.

Bristol is tackling the climate crisis in a variety of different ways. We’re taking time to engage with all communities and businesses in our city to identify barriers and solutions to meet our carbon neutral ambitions. We have opened a new £7 million reuse and recycling centre on Hartcliffe Way.

We’re working with Business West and business leaders in our city to develop and promote our Climate Ask. Alongside this, we have a working relationship with six community partners from every corner of the city to ensure our transition to net zero is just and inclusive, and are supporting one of them to build the country’s largest on-shore wind turbine.

We’re investing

Our One City Climate Strategy sets out our plans to become climate resilient by 2030. Our £4 million climate and ecological emergency programme is underway, through which we have produced our Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plans; developed our new Healthy and Sustainable Procurement policy; started leading a programme of public engagement, including 18 Climate Action Story videos and Climate Action Hub website. We have also launched the new Bristol Good Food 2030 website, provided support to businesses in partnership with Bristol Green Capital Partnership through the Climate Leaders and Climate Action programmes. We have launched the innovative Keep Bristol Cool mapping tool and City Pack which describes how our city’s climate is likely to change. We’ve taken responsibility to coordinate and support the whole city to plan to become net zero.

As a council, we’ve halved our direct emissions since 2015 and aim to reduce our own emissions to zero by 2025. We are pursuing this target through increased use of renewable energy such as replacing all our streetlighting with over 27,000 low energy LED bulbs, powering our buildings with renewable energy, and introducing sustainable procurement.

We’re enabling large-scale changes to the city’s infrastructure and transport networks, and have pedestrianised parts of the Old City, introduced bus priority and made walking and cycling improvements. Alongside this we have piloted School Streets, offered active travel packages for residents, and introduced over 100 biog-as buses.

As well as our own investment, we’ve secured an initial £424 million of investment in clean energy through City Leap. This will create 1,000 new jobs and cut around 140,000 tonnes of carbon emissions across our city over the first five years of the twenty-year partnership. We’ve committed to making our homes more efficient, spending £97 million to improve the energy efficiency of council-owned homes.

We’re innovating

As well as tried and tested means of reducing the emissions of the city and the council, we’re at the forefront of UK innovation with some of our projects.  As part of our heat decarbonisation promise, we’ve built the largest ground source heat-pump in the UK, which has won national awards. We’ve developed a unique mapping tool to identify areas of the city most vulnerable to heatwaves, to guide our planning in the present into the future.

We’re asking

The reality is, Bristol requires around £10 billion to decarbonise the city. The council is only responsible for around 0.5% of the city’s total (scope 1 and 2) emission, so the only way to achieve this necessary transition is to secure the investment we desperately need

Bristol is involved in the Cities Commission for Climate Investment (3Ci) (an initiative hosted in the UK’s innovation accelerator, Connected Places Catapult) which is enabling us to scale up our approach to cover the at least £10 billion needed to decarbonise the energy and transport in our city, that goes beyond Council owned assets. It aims to address the issue of scale through the development of a national project pipeline that will include our projects, a technical capacity building programme to support cities, a blended funding model and engagement with government and investors.

I want to thank 3Ci, as without their funding this important trip wouldn’t have been possible. UK Core Cities, including Bristol, are one of the founding partners, and we hosted an investment conference in Bristol in September.

Climate Ask

Businesses all over Bristol are already stepping up and doing their bit to help get our city to next zero.

But we really need more businesses and organisations to join the Bristol Climate Ask.

Sign up today and we can support you with finding the help and funding you need to create your plan to become net zero.

We are also asking you, as an individual, member of a community, employee, trader, or member of the media, to play your part. You might believe that your actions don’t make a difference, but they do. Changing one thing makes a difference, they only way we can create systemic change is together.

UK Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci) kindly covered the costs of my return travel, visa, and accommodation for attendance at COP27, as an Advisory Board Member and recognising Bristol’s national and global leadership role in tackling climate change.

Building Bristol – our vision for growing construction skills and employment

Councillor Asher Craig and Tom Renhard, smile in a group of Building Bristol employees.
Today’s blog is from Councillors Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities and Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes – seen on the far left and centre of the picture

Bristol’s construction industry is booming, cranes are on the horizon. We are responding to the growing needs of our city, enabling new developments, offering much needed accommodation, health facilities, hospitality sites, education facilities, and workspaces. Our planning department reviews and approves over 100 major applications a year.

Without a doubt, we need the homes, schools, hotels, entertainment, and health facilities. But it is not just the finished product that matters. What our city also needs is skills development, training, and employment opportunities and we recognise that local developments and their associated construction projects can offer these opportunities. That is why we are now requiring that all major planning applications include an Employment and Skills Plan (ESP) for the construction phase and, where appropriate, the end use phase. While this might seem like an unnecessary extra step, there is huge value in these requirements. And contractors and developers are not on their own to meet the obligations. We have launched Building Bristol, a support service for the industry to guide developers and contractors every step of the way, helping put together and evaluate the ESPs.

Why the change, some might ask. We recognise that there are many opportunities presented by construction developments in our city during the build and the end user phase. These opportunities can greatly improve local employment, training and skills offers and, therefore, it is important that all of those involved in shaping our city play their part in maximising such employment opportunities for local people. Through Building Bristol, we can also connect applicants and developers with a wide range of services to help meet the agreed targets. All this means that there are huge benefits for our city’s workforce.

A Building Bristol employee smiles with a window behind him. His hat has the Building Bristol logo.

And vitally, we want to make sure the changed requirements are of benefit to the construction trade too. We have recently appointed John Boughton, Regional Managing Director for Wales and the South West of Bouygues UK, as the Chair of Building Bristol Board. John’s expertise, as the lead of the board’s key partners which include business, education, training, employment support, voluntary sector, trade unions and construction support, will help us make sure that we are further helping the construction industry.

So what does it mean in practice? Our Building Bristol Coordinator is on hand to support contractors, developers and end employers with developing their Employment and Skills Plans and delivering their agreed targets. By working with all major developments, there are also opportunities for shared events and campaigns to boost local recruitment.

In our city, construction is a career choice for plenty of young people already. We run our own On Site construction apprenticeship scheme which supports innovative apprenticeship and work-based learning programmes. We are proud to say over the last 25 years the programme has been running, it has delivered 2,500 apprenticeships. In Bristol, there is also our new £9 million state-of-the-art City of Bristol College Advanced Construction Skills Centre for students aspiring to a career in construction, which we helped secure the funding for. But we would like to go further. Building Bristol aspires to change the perception of careers in construction, to open up more opportunities for young people, women and those with barriers to employment, and to help close the skills shortage within the construction industry. We hope the scheme will complement the work we are already doing and further aid us in making construction a more attractive and attainable career for people in Bristol.

Two Building Bristol employees wearing High visibility jackets look out the window. The Building Bristol logo sits on their backs.

Our commitment to support the construction industry is continuous.  Previously, we had signed a Unite Construction Charter committing to working with Unite in order to achieve the highest standards in respect of direct employment status, health & safety, standards of work, apprenticeship training and the implementation of appropriate nationally agreed terms and conditions of employment.

The launch of Building Bristol isn’t the first time we have strived for local people to experience the wider benefit from new construction developments. For example, Goram Homes in partnership with Bristol City Council, will be launching a Skills Academy for its One Lockleaze development in the early part of next year, an innovative training programme designed to create opportunities for local people to gain work experience and vocational qualifications.

This is just the start of the process, and we’ll be sharing stories of partners and their experience with Building Bristol.  For now, more information about the service is available here: Building Bristol

Making Bristol’s transport network safer for all

Transport in Bristol is a challenge regardless of your mode of travel. Bristol is a historic city with many protected buildings with old, constrained roads, covering a small area for our rapidly growing population. Shorter-term issues, like the shortage of bus drivers at First Bus, are causing huge frustration for us now, but our transport network has even deeper flaws.

Bristol has had no mass transit system for decades and underinvestment in infrastructure for even longer. Compounding those problems was a post-war rebuilding of our city imagined at a time when the motorcar was king.

We continue to face these challenges while modernising our infrastructure, pedestrianising swathes of our city, and growing our economy inclusively and sustainably.

When dealing with transport planning, the single biggest flaw is to approach the challenge through a single prism and a single focus. Our challenge is to enable people’s movement while bringing people with us on a journey to sustainable, efficient, low carbon travel.

Many campaigns struggle: alienating and isolating people, building barriers to growing support for change.

More immediately, our cycling plans are published in our Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). Our driver for the LCWIP proposals have been the clear disparity of cycling journeys to work between wealthier and more deprived areas of the city. This plan contains routes to enable the growth of cycling amongst more disadvantaged communities.

In addition to the above all developments and infrastructure plans, we want to maximise the inclusion of safe cycling with segregation where possible. We’re also investing in a new £14 million Family Cycling Centre in Lawrence Weston, where cycle training will take place as part of a wider family cycling offer.

Active Travel England have set out standards that we aspire to where they are deliverable. We want to deliver infrastructure which enables growth of cycling amongst more disadvantaged communities.

As part of our work with the West of England Combined Authority we’ve been able to begin the project for a programme of cycle hangars in the city. We will use the funding which will be made available at the January committee to prioritise cycle hangars for council blocks. The project scored blocks against strategic criteria such as their links to strategic cycling network, levels of deprivation, and car ownership. This identified 168 cycle hangar spaces for sixteen sites, and we’ll begin installation next year.

Bristol has a clear transport hierarchy which prioritises pedestrians and then cyclists. Our work to bring e-scooters to Bristol and the huge take up they have seen has also driven alternative travel to cars, taking around 3 million car journeys off our roads and saving hundreds of thousands of kilos of CO2 emissions.

It is important to address issues with Bristol’s transport infrastructure in a way that benefits all residents and the different methods of travel.

Moving traffic offences make our roads unsafe for all road users and pedestrians. People with limited mobility and additional access requirements are especially vulnerable to people who ignore the rules of the road. These offences include driving through a ‘No Entry’ sign, going the wrong way in a one-way street, turning left or right where this is not permitted, and driving where and when motor vehicles are not allowed. In December’s Cabinet meeting we will consider a report that applies to the Secretary of State for Transport for new powers over moving traffic violations to Bristol. More details on the six enforcement sites are available here.

This is an example of a multi-issue, focused approach to improving Bristol’s transport network, that makes travel safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and all road users.

We are introducing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to Bristol. While three-quarters of cars won’t be affected, high polluting cars will be charged for driving through a city centre zone. The CAZ will clean up the air that we all breathe, and our £42 million support fund is helping people and businesses to upgrade their vehicles. This is a holistic approach to improving how we can travel across our city. At the same time as reducing congestion and making travel easier, it will improve the health of cyclists, walkers, and residents traveling through Bristol.

Read my article with Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, in the New Statesman, highlighting the importance of cleaning up the air we breathe.  

Our mass transit plans have progressed and are ready to be completed by the next administration and the combined authority. This is the single most transformation approach to transport in our city for a century and will remove more car journeys than any other initiative, paving the way for far greater implementation of segregated cycling and active travel like other modern cities. 

Carers Rights Day support for unpaid carers on the cost-of-living crisis

Today’s guest blog is from Tim Poole, CEO of Carers Support Centre

We are celebrating Carers Rights Day today and here at Carers Support Centre we are holding a free support event to discuss the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and its effects on carers in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. We are also providing practical support and information at the event to help carers access support.

The current cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone in the UK. With inflation having topped 10% for the first time since 1982 many people are finding it more difficult to make ends meets. 

It is the case that while all are being affected to some degree, some are affected more than others and often carers are amongst the hardest hit. 

The result of the crisis for carers is that it has created unprecedented pressure, not only affecting their finances but their health and wellbeing, adding to an already poor outlook for carers.

In trying to tackle the crisis, carers can be doubly constrained. Because of their caring responsibilities many are limited in the amount of income they can bring into the household. Additionally, carers have areas of expenditure that they just can’t afford to cut back on. 

An image from Carers Support Centre's Carer's Right's Day event, the crowd are watching a presentation.
Carers Support Centre’s Carer’s Rights Day Event

Recent research by Carers Trust shows that 48% of all unpaid family carers have had to give up work because of their caring role. The research also showed that 62% of unpaid family carers were spending 50 hours or more per week caring for a family member.  More time spent on caring responsibilities is less time to go out and earn an income.

So, less earned income which places an increased reliance on benefits. In itself the eligibility rules for claiming the main benefit for carers, Carers Allowance, severely restricts a carer’s earning ability. And if you are eligible, at just £69.70 per week Carers Allowance is lower than other comparable benefits like Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit and far less than in other European countries. It is woefully inadequate to meet the carer’s needs and the needs of those they care for.

Against that background of reduced income what money is coming into a carer’s household is buying less as inflation takes hold. Energy bills are the most obvious example of rising prices, but most people are noticing the effects on other everyday costs like the price of food.  

While many examine their household budget to see where cutbacks can be made, for many carers this just can’t be done without endangering the health and welfare of the person, or people, they care for. There are items that carers can’t cut back on, like special food items, laundry bills and the cost of equipment to help the person they care for.

With reduced income and increased expenditure, the cost-of-living crisis has added to an already gloomy picture for unpaid carers.

Carers have been under enormous pressure over the last two years due to the pandemic. Many were only just beginning to feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, for many of them that light is the oncoming pressures of the cost-of-living crisis. An increasing number of carers are contacting us, worried about the future for both the person they care for and themselves.

Carers Rights Day logo, with a red megaphone and white text on red background.

On Carers Rights Day, Carers Support Centre is once again calling on the Government to stop ignoring unpaid carers. Instead, they should be made a priority group for the extra financial support they so desperately need and deserve.  

At Carers Support Centre we are a charity which provides support, information and advice to unpaid carers living in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire areas – people of any age supporting family or friends who could not manage without their help.

You can find out more about our services for carers at www.carerssupportcentre.org.uk

Bristol’s progress on SEND

Today’s blog is by Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol with responsibilities including Education and Children’s Services.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Bristol last month to assess whether special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services have improved since their last visit in 2019. We are pleased that their report recognises that our Local Area has made sufficient progress in addressing four of the five key areas of weakness highlighted in the initial Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019, improving outcomes for children and young people (CYP) with SEND.

This reflects the dedication of staff to implement service improvements at pace over the last three years, despite the additional challenges of the pandemic. The full report has been published on Bristol’s Local Offer website, before Ofsted and the CQC publish it themselves on Friday.

While inspectors found that we had not made sufficient progress in addressing the difficult relationships with parents and carers identified in 2019, it is welcome that they found that “the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience”. We will continue to work hard to deliver further progress, as we build on ongoing work to improve relationships through a community of groups approach.

The report also notes that inclusion is central to Bristol’s Belonging Strategy, which was co-produced with children and young people from across our city: putting their voices, needs and ambitions for the future at the heart of Bristol’s recovery from the pandemic. Launched in October last year, the strategy supports the One City aim that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life, gaining the support and skills they need as they grow up to thrive and prosper in adulthood.

Ofsted/CQC’s observations and comments on our progress

  • Improvements in accountability are leading to better support for children and young people (CYP) with SEND and school leaders value the transformation of systems and processes that has taken place since the previous inspection.
  • The identification and assessment of CYP with SEND in Bristol is improving, with the Ordinarily Available Provision document detailing interventions to meet needs, within typical school assessment and support processes. There has been a cultural shift in the way that professionals and schools, work together which is improving the way that they work together to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
  • Effective joint working between professionals has resulted in real improvements to the timeliness and quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans. There is a stronger focus on improving outcomes and ensuring the child or young person and their family’s voice has been captured. This work is resulting in children and young people being placed at the centre of the EHC assessment process.
  • The support in Bristol for children and young people with SEND is getting better. Even so, leaders know there is more to do to ensure that all children and young people attend school regularly. The proportion of children and young people with an EHC plan who have been excluded from school has fallen. A range of strategies have been introduced to ensure that pupils who are at risk of exclusion get the help they need from schools and professionals.
  • Parents and carers have a more mixed view of the quality of support available to children and young people with SEND than at the time of the last inspection. Some parents and carers continue to lack trust in the system and feel that leaders are not acting in the best interests of their children. However, the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience. Plans are progressing to re-establish a formal body to represent parents and carers.

Improving SEND services remains a priority for Bristol City Council, with dedicated council staff and SEND leaders working alongside our partners in health, education, parents/carers and CYP with a deeply held, shared commitment to improving outcomes for CYP and their families. Our work is underpinned by our strategic approach outlined in the Bristol Children’s Charter and the Bristol Equality Charter, as well as the Mayor’s pledge to provide 450 new specialist school places, which is on track to be delivered in 2023.

The Council and local area partners including health will now work with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England to determine next steps and look to build on this progress. Our focus will be on how we can better communicate and work with all our parents and carers, ensuring that the parent, carer and young person’s voice – in all its diversity – is at the heart of our co-production work in SEND.

Please follow the Bristol Local Offer Facebook page for more updates on our Ofsted/CQC progress.