Category Archives: Economy

Temple Cycles

Today’s blog is by Matthew Mears, Founder and CEO of Temple Cycles, one of the Bristol businesses who I have recently visited.

We are a Bristol based bicycle designer and maker and we make some of the world’s most beautiful and high quality bicycles at our production facility in Bedminster. We have an emphasis on making versatile bikes for touring, commuting and also gravel riding, with a strong emphasis on sustainability and making sure our bikes will become vintage. We’ve also now introduced some incredible electric bikes into the line-up.

Sustainability

Temple Cycles was started in 2015, born out of my lifelong passion for cycling and a dream of producing bicycles here in Bristol. Since the start, making high quality machines has been the objective and we want all of the bikes we make to become vintage someday. Too much of the bicycle market is geared around upgrading and replacing your bike every few years. We don’t agree with this and make products which will last a lifetime.

Sustainability of our products and production processes are very important to us. That’s why we only make bikes from 100% recycled steel. This means that our bikes have a very long product lifecycle. If they are properly looked after they will last over 30 years, and when they do reach the end of their time, they can easily be recycled. On top of this, we make sure all of our bikes are very easy to service, maintain and find spare parts for.

The pandemic

There has been a significant change in the way we do business since COVID-19 and Brexit. Supply chain disruption and shipping delays have added extra pressure on the business. We used to operate in a leaner way, holding less stock of parts and materials in the warehouse. Now we hold a higher proportion of this to make sure we have enough to keep production running if we get hit with unexpected or extra supply delays. The demand for our bikes has risen significantly though, as people look for green modes of transport. We only see this becoming more and more important, especially as our cities grow and cars are certainly not the best mobility solution. As governments invest more in cycling infrastructure, we’re excited to see how much of a cycling nation we can become.

Cycling in Bristol

Cycling in Bristol is fantastic. We’re really proud to be part of this cycling city, and we see more and more people on bikes each year. There is so much to do if you like to cycle, with great access to the surrounding countryside and Sustrans national cycle routes. There’s something for everyone here, including great mountain biking in Ashton Court, access to beautiful and quiet country roads, an improving network of cycle lanes, and hundreds of parks and green spaces within the city to cycle to.

We’re really excited to continue growing our business in Bristol and for what the coming years will bring, as our city transforms to become a vibrant ecosystem for sustainable mobility and active travel.

Spring Statement

The Chancellor’s Spring Statement yesterday had the urgent task of reassuring families and businesses that the government has a plan for the country’s economy. Our economy faces huge pressures, not just because of the extraordinary events of the pandemic and international conflict, but as the result of over a decade of political choices by national Conservative and Coalition governments that have held Britain and Bristol back. Ideological choices to put off investment and cut public spending at all costs, have stripped resilience to shocks out of our economy, and left public services and local authorities with less resources and capacity to operate the social safety net we all rely on.

The Spring Statement recognised the economic problems the government has stored up for itself:

– the soaring cost of living;

– the ongoing need to support recovery from the pandemic;

– a tax system that prioritises taking money out of wage packets rather than taxing wealth and property portfolios;

– the high price we’ve paid for failing to invest in green infrastructure that gives us more control over where our energy comes from and relies less on polluting fossil fuels.

But the solutions on offer were pitched at the Tory backbenches, not at households in Bristol worried about how to make ends meet in the months ahead.

We need government spending to match the rhetoric on infrastructure investment. The statement yesterday coincided with the publication of the government’s second Levelling Up Prospectus, but I note that once again funding for Levelling Up comes in the form of a pot that local authorities have to compete against each other to access. Nonetheless, we continue to advocate to government to deliver the funding we need to deliver the shovel-ready redevelopment of Temple Quarter – the biggest transport and regeneration project outside London in a generation.

For household budgets, the remedies on offer were mixed. While rises to the thresholds for paying National Insurance Contributions reduced the burden somewhat on low paid workers, it doesn’t offset the percentage rise in contributions the Chancellor insists are needed to pay for the consequences of the Tories’ underfunding of the NHS while they’ve been in government.

And while a drop in fuel duty may take a few pounds off the price of filling up the car in the short term, it doesn’t protect households from price rises over the long term. And there was nothing on offer to tackle the other areas that are driving the rises in household’s costs: the rising price of food and energy prices. On the latter, the government’s refusal to take on board Labour’s suggestion of a windfall tax on oil and gas producers to fund a VAT cut on domestic fuel bills and an increase of the Warm Homes Discount is a huge missed opportunity.  

The continued squeezing of wages over the last 10 years has also left households with little room to manoeuvre. The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculate that someone earning the UK average salary of £27,500 will be more than £350 worse off than last year. And the failure to uplift benefits in line with soaring inflation means that those on the state pension or who rely on Universal Credit will actually experience a 5% cut in real terms.

It is local authorities and already-stretched health and advice services that are – yet again – going to have to try and step in and pick up the pieces. Of course I welcome the increase in funding available to distribute through schemes like our Local Crisis and Prevention Fund. But with the Resolution Foundation this morning warning that 1.3 million people (including 500,000 children) will fall into absolute poverty this year, I fear that once again this support won’t come near to matching the need we may see in the city. The funding of £4 million we received in October (that had to last six months), nowhere near covered the £3.5 million a month that we estimate Bristol citizens on Universal Credit lost through the removal of the £20 a week uplift.

We will continue to do what we can to help people who are struggling to make ends meet. You can access support for things like fuel bills, groceries, and school uniform through our Local Crisis Prevention Fund, and we have retained our Council Tax Reduction Scheme which helps around 40,000 families with up to a 100% reduction in council tax bills.

But this is a Spring Statement that both bears out and fails to heed a warning I have been giving to government for some time. Shocks like COVID-19 and energy insecurity hit the poorest hardest – and without proper care, they are most exposed to the economic restructuring that inevitably follows in their wake. For more than a decade government have failed to absorb that lesson – and they now risk deepening the economic divides that we have been working so hard to reduce in Bristol.

Bristol Women’s Safety Charter

Last night I was honoured to join women from across Bristol – including Carly Heath, our Night-Time Economy Advisor, and members of my cabinet – to launch the Bristol Nights Women’s Safety Charter.

The Charter aims to be a centrepiece for how we all approach issues surrounding women’s safety at night, as we work to change attitudes and the culture around sexual harassment and enforce a zero tolerance approach to such behaviour. This covers women working in and enjoying Bristol’s night-time economy, which supports nearly a third of all jobs in our city.

We were also joined by Amy Lamé, the Mayor of London’s first Night Czar. Her work has helped inspire the Charter and other initiatives in Bristol and around the world to create safer spaces for women, including through this One City Approach.

The Charter is accompanied by a practical toolkit to help venues and businesses assess women’s safety. It aims to support businesses with a responsibility for staff, and follows on from training launched this month aiming to train 1,000 night-time economy workers on sexual harassment. The Charter also builds on the award-winning Bristol Rules campaign and our Stop Spiking efforts, which rolled out testing kits to venues across the city.

Councillor Helen Holland, my cabinet lead, wrote about women’s safety in her International Women’s Day blog. I was delighted to share a foreword with Helen for the Women’s Safety Charter and Toolkit, which you can read below.

Inclusive growth: a city for all

From building new affordable homes to protecting jobs; paying and promoting the real Living Wage to improving public transport options; supporting schools to tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergencies, we want to keep delivering inclusive and sustainable growth. Building a better Bristol where everyone from every community can participate in the city’s economy and share in its success, regardless of their background, is our mission as an administration.

So many projects across Bristol help do just that, striving to leave nobody behind as we continue to work together as we recover from the pandemic. Today I’m highlighting just three, which work alongside Council and One City programmes like our Digital Inclusion scheme, which provides at least 3,000 laptops and training to help reduce digital poverty in Bristol. Through Bristol WORKS, which works with local employers, we have provided some 16,500 experiences of work to Bristolians since launching – including virtually during the pandemic – and this week had Polar Preet visit City Academy and St Bernadette’s to help inspire young people too. If you are a Bristol-based employer and want to get involved in Bristol WORKS, email: WORKS@bristol.gov.uk

Stepping Up

Our multi-award-winning leadership programme, Stepping Up, is currently recruiting for its fifth cohort. Stepping Up was inspired by leadership development initiatives at Harvard and other leading Business Schools, and Baroness MacGregor-Smith’s Race in the workplace report. It works to diversify the face of leadership across our city through training for Disabled people; Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Communities; and women.

By the end of 2022, we will have a talent pool of 300 diverse leaders making an impact in Bristol and beyond. More than 60% of previous participants have reported career progress since their time on the programme, including promotion to senior leadership roles.

This year’s programme will include a ‘Career Passport’, global virtual mentoring, a stretch assignment based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and a world-class virtual learning platform.

Read more about the programme in this case study by the Local Government Association.

Lloyds Banking Group

Working with Black South West Network, and after discussions with Black-led businesses and entrepreneurs, Lloyds Banking Group launched two pilots in October. Their mentoring programme, connects senior Business Relationship Managers with businesses for six months, alongside a monthly banking surgery at the Coach House in St Pauls to provide early stage advice and support.

Interventions like these can prove essential to build trust and engagement between banks and community, and to develop business and financial expertise in entrepreneurs’ networks – adding to initiatives like their Digital Academy to get more people online and their Career Taster sessions, which see 15-18 year-olds explore a day in the life of bank, marketing, communications managers and more. Lloyds’ Digital Academy is free to use, and is not just for Lloyds’ customers, alongside Money Management Support.

As well as these initiatives in Bristol, Lloyds Banking Group’s Black Business Advisory Committee has held listening session around the country to better understand the challenges faced by Black business owners and entrepreneurs, and produced the Black. British. In Business & Proud Report.

Strive Internships

In 2020, amid the pandemic and rising unemployment among young people, particularly young Black students, we identified a need to create more opportunities for people at risk of being left behind. Working with Hargreaves Lansdown and the University of the West of England, we launched the West of England Black Interns Pilot. The scheme created 45 paid internships, across 18 organisations in the region, including Bristol City Council and my mayoral office.

Every organisation taking part – including the Police, NHS, Burges Salmon, and Ghyston – said they would like to be involved again, and 100% of interns would recommend this internship to other students. You can read more in the 2021 Impact Report (below) or hear directly from Abraham, Musa, Adila, Biniyam, and Liam, five of the Black Interns at the Council.

Building on the success of the first year, we have expanded the programme to become the Strive Internship scheme. This year we’re aiming for organisations across the region to recruit 75 Black Interns to start work this summer, and Hargreaves Lansdown are currently assessing applications.

The stuff we’re getting done

For too long, Bristol’s political leaders took a patch-and-mend to building Bristol, failing to prepare for our city’s growth in population, to update our city’s energy systems, or to deliver a transport network fit for a modern city. By contrast, I’m proud that our administration is getting stuff done and building the next iteration of Bristol.

Future-proofing the city

Nowhere is this more urgent than in tackling our housing crisis. Average house prices are now nine times higher than average earnings – the highest of all the core cities. Combined with the impact of the pandemic and over a decade of government cuts to public services and welfare, this has left us with over 15,000 people on our housing waiting list, and around 1,000 families in temporary accommodation. On top of all of this, our city’s population is set to grow by almost 100,000 people by 2050.

That’s why we’ve put forward investment of £12 million in our budget to support the delivery of new affordable homes, with a plan to deliver 1,000 affordable homes a year by 2024 which will be considered by Cabinet this week. The cornerstone of this plan is the delivery of one of the biggest council house building programmes in a generation at Hengrove Park, with half of the 1,400 homes delivered by our housing company Goram Homes dedicated for social rent and shared ownership.

We’re planning for the future too, by investing £1.8 billion over 30 years to deliver new council homes and upgrading our existing stock.

Rethinking the architecture of the city

We are responding to this housing crisis in the context of a climate and ecological emergency. Put simply, how and where we build these new homes will determine the price the planet pays for Bristol’s growth.

We’ve worked with experts, like the Avon Wildlife Trust, to understand the ecological impact of development in different parts of the city. That’s why we’ve taken the decision to scale down our own plans for development on the Western Slopes, building affordable homes only on the previously-developed former school site near Belstone Walk.

Not delivering homes here, however, means we must prioritise development at higher density on brownfield land near the centre of the city. We’ll continue to do just that through major regeneration schemes that will bring thousands of new homes (and jobs!) to our city: Castle Park View, Bedminster Green, Western Harbour, Frome Gateway, and – of course – Temple Island.

Even in the city centre, however, we’re building in space for nature to thrive. The work we’re doing to create green roofs and walls in the Bearpit will inform how we can incorporate these into future regeneration projects – building ecology into the very architecture of the city. And we are working with the Environment Agency to deliver on our flood strategy and protect our city from the impacts of climate change.

Connecting the city

All of this demands big changes to how we move around the city. Our mission throughout has been to connect people to people, people to jobs, and people to opportunity. But we will fail if we just tinker around the edges of Bristol’s transport network like previous administrations. That’s why we’re taking big decisions now to lay the foundations of a Bristol that is fit for the future.

We are repairing vital infrastructure that for too long has been allowed to fray, with a £15 million investment in repairing 6 crucial bridges. We’re delivering unprecedented investment in Bristol’s public transport system – providing more people across the city with more frequent and reliable alternatives to travelling by car. This includes the improvements to the number 2 route as part of the Bus Deal, and the delivery of the first new train station in Bristol in 95 years at the Portway Park and Ride (soon to be followed by a new station at Ashley Down).

All this builds the case for a radical rethink of our transport system. Bristol is the only core city without a mass transit network, and I am pleased that leaders across parties and from across the region recognise the need to redress this. I’m pleased to secure commitment from WECA on the need for tunnels and £5 million of investmentto set out our plans.

We’re applying that ambition to a local level too. We’ve opened our initial engagement so that residents can help us shape our first Liveable Neighbourhood pilot in East Bristol. Combined with £4.7 million of investment to help Bristol’s high streetsrecover from the pandemic, we’re committed to building sustainable and thriving communities for residents and businesses.

Going big

The interconnected challenges we are facing as a city and a planet demand urgent action. We are taking decisions that deliver jobs, homes, and sustainability to make sure Bristol can tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities to come over the next decades.

Now is the time for clear leadership – for getting stuff done quickly, and with an eye on the future challenges we face.

That’s what we’re delivering.

On the level

At our fortnightly press conference today we had a lot of news to share:

  • A bridge repair programme will start this spring
  • Millions of pounds are being committed to our mass transit work
  • The Portway Park-and-Ride train station construction has begun
  • We’re securing 50% affordable homes within the 1,400 homes we’ll deliver at Hengrove Park
  • We’re prioritising ecological sites on Western Slopes while developing the
    brownfield portion of the site
  • Residents are getting an opportunity to shape our plans for a pilot Liveable
    Neighbourhood in East Bristol

Unfortunately, this momentum is yet to be matched by national government.

I awaited the Levelling up White Paper keenly. Over the weekend the government heralded ‘Kings Cross-style’ regeneration projects, and we have one the largest brownfield sites in the country.

Temple Quarter sits right at the heart of our city, and is, in the lingo, shovel-ready for redevelopment. Temple Quarter consists of Temple Meads, our iconic train station, that is a gateway for rail transport for the whole region, and is surrounded by land that will bring thousands of essential homes and jobs to our community. We have been promised the funding for this project repeatedly. This would have been the perfect opportunity to announce it and kickstart the biggest transport and regeneration project outside London in a generation.

I was hoping the White Paper would put forward concrete plans from the government to work with us to regenerate areas of our city, invest in green infrastructure and jobs of the future it will bring, modernise our transport system, and redress the social, health and economic inequalities that have been entrenched in Bristol over generations.

There are some things to welcome, such as the government’s acknowledgement of the economic strength of the Western Gateway. The White Paper recognises he collective power of Bristol and Cardiff and the surrounding regions, in particular the clusters in digital, aerospace and our universities, but overall there is little in it that we did not already know.

We warmly welcome the £540 million of funding to improve our local transport network, which was first announced last year. We also already knew that the government planned to move more civil service jobs from London to Bristol, but again celebrate new jobs for our city.  

But what we still don’t know is when the government will bring forward the investment we have been calling for, for projects like Temple Quarter. Without these concrete commitments, and the funding and powers that we need to deliver them, levelling up will remain a work in progress for our city.

Also, there is no plan to reverse the decade of damage caused by government cuts to local communities. Government funding to councils has fallen by over 50% in real terms since 2010.

As a leader of a city, I know that just as much as physical areas, some people and communities are excluded from the economic opportunities needed to level up. If women, disabled people, or those living in poverty are not proactively included in the government’s approach then they will continue to be left behind. Bristol has 41 areas in the most deprived 10% in England, including 3 in the most deprived 1%. Levelling up is meaningless if all people do not directly feel the difference in their lives.

We continue to show our commitment to getting stuff done in all corners and with all communities in Bristol. I look forward to the government one day equalling our ambition.

Protecting frontline services: a budget for Bristol

On Tuesday 18 January, Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney presented our budget to cabinet before it is taken to Full Council for approval. This is the speech he used to introduce it.

This budget protects Bristol’s libraries, children’s centres and social care programmes, such as Better Lives at Home. However, it is also very much a housing budget.

Our capital programme spends £10.8 million for housing delivery along with our housing company, Goram Homes, and this coming financial year there’s also £846,000 in revenue funding. The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget, also has substantial funding for houses and invests in the council’s existing stock.

Due to growing costs to services, the impact of the pandemic on revenues and government shortfall in funding for local government, we have a budget deficit of £19.5m for 2022 to 2023.

However, rather than cutting services we have focused this budget on improving how the council is run by reducing costs and creating greater efficiency are the focus for bridging the budget gap.

This report proposes a net general fund revenue budget in 2022 to 2023 of just over £431 million and to finance the budget outlined above savings and efficiencies of £17.9 million are identified for 2022 to 2023 and £34 million over the medium term, some of which will require further consultation and the council’s element of the council tax is proposed to increase next year by 2.99 per cent which includes the adult social care precept of 1 per cent.

While we understand the impact this has on households across the city we need to weigh up the balance of increases in council tax against continuation of vital services provided to our residents. Continuing to maintain our Council Tax Reduction Scheme makes sure that we continue to provide support to those who simply can’t afford to pay.

Sound financial decision-making to date has allowed us to keep libraries and children’s centres open, while they have closed in many other places facing the same pressures and we will continue our work to create a better, inclusive and more sustainable city for all. We are adamant that we will reduce costs from within, focusing council capacity on our priorities, and any other decisions will be rigorously assessed so we can be assured they do not disproportionally impact vulnerable citizens.

We continue to invest in Bristol through our capital programme, with over £1.9 billion planned over the next 10 years, particularly to help address the affordability and desperate need for housing and to drive forward inclusive economic recovery, and improve our transport networks, bridges, parks and harbour.

Our capital plans also include a £19 million Decarbonisation Fund to invest in our council buildings and vehicle fleet, as well as £97 million to make our council homes more energy efficient and to reduce carbon emissions. All part of our journey towards being carbon neutral.

Despite these challenges, we will continue to focus on building a city where nobody is left behind, has a modern mass transit network, affordable homes for all, the high-quality services our citizens expect, and at the same time, drives a diverse economy that provides jobs for all and tackles the climate and ecological emergencies.

Read more about our budget proposals for 22/23 here.

Living Wage Week

It seems that having a job is no longer enough to guarantee security, and it’s a source of national shame that we have so many workers in our country unable to afford the basics and unable to save for the things that matter to them.

Cutting £20-a-week from Universal Credit is the single biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since the Second World War, and working families make up the majority of those who will be affected.

The Real Living Wage is the only wage rate independently calculated based on rising living costs – including fuel, energy, rent and food. A full-time worker earning the new Real Living Wage would earn £1,930 a year more than a worker earning the current government minimum. That’s the equivalent of seven months of food bills or more than five months’ rent based on average household spending in the UK, having a huge impact on households being let down by current government policy.

This morning we hosted our annual Living Wage Week event, bringing together employers across the region to celebrate progress but also recognise the work that still needs to be done when it comes to fair pay. This year marks 20 years of the Living Wage movement, and as we see living costs rise across the board, it seems there has never been a more important time to focus on fair pay.

We were joined by fantastic speakers from Babbasa, Hargreaves Lansdown, Trinity Community Arts, Quirky Campers, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Living Wage Foundation. They shared their reasons for becoming accredited Living Wage employers and the current context when it comes to low pay in the UK.

We were also able to share a new video we’ve produced about our city’s commitment to making Bristol a Living Wage City, which you can watch below.

In January of last year, we announced that Bristol had been recognised by the Living Wage Foundation for the efforts of our Action Group in creating a Living Wage City. We are among the first few places to be recognised as part of the Living Wage Places scheme, and the largest city so far.

Since this programme of work started, 65 employers have become Living Wage accredited in the city, which translates to almost 2,500 workers seeing their wages rise in Bristol alone.

Despite progress, almost 12% of jobs in Bristol are paid below the Living Wage. Although I’m pleased to see that this is significantly below the national average, this means there are still 33,000 people in Bristol earning a wage that isn’t linked to the true cost of living.

Fair pay is a cornerstone of a healthy society, impacting on everything from housing to physical and mental wellbeing. Notably, low pay is not evenly distributed across our communities. Women, young people, disabled people and racialised communities are all more likely to experience low pay, and the pandemic has only entrenched these inequalities.

That’s why our ambition is for Bristol to be a city that provides secure, rewarding work and a fair wage for all ages and abilities. This goal is part of our One City Plan – a shared vision of where we want to be by 2050, not written by us, but alongside our city partners.

But paying a Real Living Wage isn’t just a good thing to do for workers, it’s good for business too. 93% of businesses report benefits from accrediting, whether that be improved reputation, better retention of staff or better motivation amongst the workforce.

I’d ask all employers to look at where you can make changes within your own organisations, but also at where you can help us in influencing others in your networks to get involved and consider becoming accredited.

Thank you to our Action Group for their efforts in supporting this work. You can find out more about the journey we’re on and how you can get involved by contacting the team at livingwage@bristol.gov.uk.

Yesterday’s Budget solves few of tomorrow’s problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Spiking

Today’s blog comes from Carly Heath, Bristol’s Night Time Economy Advisor.

My job at Bristol City Council is to champion our wonderfully rich night time economy and the exciting and diverse after dark culture our city is famous for.

Our night time economy prides itself on curating magical experiences for audiences. Staff are well trained in safety and audience safeguarding, and as a Purple Flag city, we pride ourselves on creating safe and inclusive night time environments.

I find it heart-breaking to read recent stories about people falling victim to those who harm audiences through drink spiking. This is a national problem, but we something we know is happening in Bristol too.

Drink spiking is an abhorrent crime, carrying a maximum of ten years in prison. It can cause lasting physical and psychological harm to victims, and in some cases even death.

However, it is sadly not a new phenomenon, and we know it is significantly underreported by victims, with depressingly few prosecutions brought to trial.

The recent news stories highlighting young people’s experiences of being spiked serve to demonstrate the widespread frustration at our collective inability to get a handle on this issue.

But change is happening. I’ve been working on tackling drink spiking in our venues since being appointed earlier this year. It was clear to me that what we needed was a city-wide, coordinated approach bringing together the Police, NHS, Bristol City Centre BID, the universities, and night time venues, alongside educating night time audiences on what to do if they experience a drink spiking incident.

Working off the back of the successful Bristol Rules campaign (which was recently nominated for a best night time economy initiative award), that’s exactly what we are doing.

Together, we’ve developed a guide for venues setting out how to respond to a suspected drink spiking, so staff feel confident and take appropriate steps to support their customers. The guide also outlines how venues can support the police in their investigations, and to go alongside the campaign, hundreds of testing kits are being rolled out to bars, pubs and clubs to use when a potential spiking has been reported to them.

Additionally, police will be equipped with urine testing kits to test the person, as well as the drink. This is especially important as the window for gathering evidence is short, with some drugs leaving the person’s system in as little as 12 hours, making early testing critical.

To make sure those enjoying a night out are aware that Bristol is taking drink spiking seriously and will support them if they need it, there are posters going up in venues. This is crucial, as we need to encourage people to report these crimes if we are to stop the people committing them.

Launching ahead of one of the busiest weekends for pubs and clubs, more than 100 venues have already joined the campaign across the city. Posters will be shared inside late night venues and a social media campaign has been designed to raise awareness and direct people to the campaign website for resources and support.

Everyone deserves to have a safe and fun night out. This is just the start of our journey towards effectively tackling drink spiking in our venues. It has gone on too long and Bristol’s night time community are taking action to eradicate this heinous crime. But I feel lucky to live in a city like Bristol where so many people care so deeply about the community. Together we can put an end to spiking in Bristol.