Category Archives: Economy

Building a Living Wage City

Today’s blog is by Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for City Economy,
Finance, and Performance, and Labour Councillor for Hillfields.

With more than 40,000 workers in our city now guaranteed at least the real Living Wage, Bristol City Council won the Public Sector Champion Award at the Living Wage Champion Awards. We were recognised for our trailblazing leadership in advancing the real Living Wage within the public sector.

The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated according to what people need to make ends meet. It provides a voluntary benchmark for employers that choose to take a stand, by ensuring their staff earn a wage that meets the costs and pressures they face in their everyday lives. The Living Wage Foundation usually sets the real Living Wage rate each November, but this will be brought forward this year to September in response to the cost of living crisis.

This award follows us being recognised, back in 2020, by the Living Wage Foundation for our efforts in building a Living Wage City. We were among the first few places to be recognised as part of the Living Wage Places scheme, as we build a better Bristol where nobody is left behind.

Since then, 125 more workplaces in Bristol have become Living Wage accredited, seeing over 40,000 workers in the city in Living Wage accredited jobs. Over 290 workplaces are now committed to the paying the real Living Wage, with 150 headquartered in Bristol.

This is testament to the hard work of the Bristol Living Wage City action group, a leadership team comprising of council officers and accredited real Living Wage employers, who have been working tirelessly to champion and promote the movement across the city to invite more people to join us on the drive to ensure people receive a fair pay.

Receiving this award highlights the huge amount of work that has been carried out in championing the real Living Wage, but we do still have a long way to go. Almost 12 per cent of jobs in Bristol are paying below the real Living Wage. This is significantly below the national average and it means there are still 33,000 people in Bristol earning a wage that isn’t reflective of the true cost of living.

A graphic from the Living Wage Foundation (logo top left), shows as black and grey city skyline. In the bottom left corner, white text reads: not just good for people, good for business. On blue, orange, yellow, and green bar chart bars rising from the city, text reads: 64% of businesses say the Living Wage has helped differentiate themselves from others in their industry; 75% of businesses say the Living Wage have increased motivation and retention rates for employees; 86% of businesses say the Living Wage has improved the reputation of their business; 93% of businesses say the Living Wage has benefited their business.

There are significant benefits to businesses by becoming an accredited real Living Wage employer. This ranges from making them more competitive and providing a stronger business reputation to helping attract and retain staff and cutting HR costs related to staff turnover and sickness.

Our Bristol Living Wage action group meets regularly to ensure the initiative is on track while sharing ideas and plans for the next steps. Council staff attended the Festival of Sustainable Business in June to promote the initiative to the 500 attendees registered and the team will also be present at Bristol Pride on the Downs on Saturday, 9 July, so please come and visit us if you’re heading along.

To find out more, contact the Bristol Living Wage team at livingwage@bristol.gov.uk or visit the Living Wage Foundation website. You can also hear from a selection of accredited Bristol employers on our YouTube channel about why they pay their staff the real Living Wage.

Four people stand, with the middle two holding an award.
Lisa Smith (We The Curious, second left) and Catie Mahoney (Bristol City Council, second right) with Matt Sparkes (Linklaters, right) and Mr MoneyJar/Timi Merriman-Johnson (left).

£95 million for Temple Meads & Temple Quarter

Bristol Temple Meads station main entrance is pictured in black and white, against a light blue background. White texts sits to its left, reading: “£95m for Temple Meads & Temple Quarter”, with the Mayor of Bristol’s logo below.

Waiting for your train to arrive is something all too familiar to many of us. Waiting for the money to reinvigorate Bristol Temple Meads and Temple Quarter, and kickstart the development of the surrounding area, is something all of Bristol has been eagerly waiting on for more than a decade.

I remember the first Temple Quarter Strategic Board meeting way back in September 2017, where I, along with colleagues from Network Rail, Bristol University, the Homes and Communities Agency (now Homes England) and the West of England Combined Authority met to outline our vision for Bristol, its relationship with Temple Meads and the potential to create a world class gateway to the city and region.

Plans outline the key projects for the transformation of the Temple Meads gateway. Marked, clockwise: The Friary – new bus interchange area and enhanced streetscape; Midland Shed and Northern Entrances – improved passenger facilities including shops; Friary North – mixed use development incorporating public space and cycling facilities; Temple Meads – investment in railway station including increased capacity and enhanced platform access, making Temple Meads the hub of MetroWest and regional mass transit; Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus – University of Bristol campus due for completion in 2023/24; Temple Island – residential, business and commercial development plus hotel and conference centre; Eastern Entrance – proposed new railway station entrance; Southern Gateway – new station entrance with cycle hub and level access to platforms (subject to funding); Station Square – significant public space framing the historic clock tower and main railway station entrance; Mead Street – residential development including new public open space and cycle link; Temple Gate – residential, business and commercial development; Goods yard – new public space with retail and hospitality

It’s thanks to the success of this partnership and the hard work of all those involved from the beginning, who have represented Bristol at the highest level and presented a clear vision for the city and Temple Quarter, that we are now at this exciting moment where I am delighted to say that the long-anticipated £94.7 million investment from government in Bristol has arrived, as announced today by Neil O’Brien MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, on his visit to Bristol.

This will represent a new phase for Brunel’s historic station. Opened in 1840, and expanded in the 1870s and 1930s, Bristol Temple Meads is set to double its capacity to 22 million passengers per year. It will support three new or significantly improved station entrances planned to the north, south, and east of Temple Meads and crucially, a new public transport interchange on the Friary on the northern side of the station, becoming a new transport hub with easy connections for pedestrians, cycling and the bus network.

Plans show Temple Meads' new northern entrance, left, with passengers in the centre, and trees to the right.
Plans for Temple Meads’ new northern entrance

Although we are improving suburban rail in Bristol, with the first new station in almost a century, we know that these other public transport connections are essential to link everyone with the jobs and homes at this transport interchange. This will improve connectivity for people across the city region and reduce carbon emissions, particularly as we bring forward the mass transit system Bristol needs to manage this growth in the most sustainable way.

Importantly, it will further unlock the area around Bristol Temple Meads as a new residential quarter, with up to 22,000 new jobs and 10,000 new homes in 130 hectares (equivalent to about 182 football pitches) in a sustainable location. The first phase alone looks to build 2,500 homes and provide at least two thousand jobs. This combines with the investment the University of Bristol are making in the area, with its Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus programme, and the council’s plans with Legal & General to invest in the mixed-use site at Temple Island, with a conference centre, new affordable homes, and retail space. 

Plans are already underway in Temple Quarter, with a development brief for Mead St, part of Temple Quarter which could provide 1500 new homes and 500 jobs, out to public consultation. You can read the proposals for Mead St and complete the survey online by 4 July.

The Government’s own Levelling Up agenda emphasises that “Mayors have already shown how strong local leadership can enhance economic and other opportunities in urban areas”. By unlocking homes and public service infrastructure, Temple Quarter exemplifies this vision, transforming a vast area of Bristol into a thriving, new urban quarter which will contribute an estimate £1.6 billion annual boost to the local economy.

This long-awaited green light can help support our recovery from the pandemic and lay the foundations for Bristol for the next century; a city which has a world class transport network, quality, affordable homes and accessible jobs at the heart of the city. We will continue to work with partners, businesses and communities already in the area to manage this huge change in a way that will benefit as many people as possible. It is great to finally get this development in train.

Plans show the elements of Bristol's transformation plan for the Temple Meads gateway. The column of images to the right are captioned as follows (top to bottom). Northern Entrance illustration before development of the Friary and Goods Yard (1); Midland Shed pedestrian concourse (3); Southern Gateway (6); Goods Yard public space (12). Captions beneath the main image read as follows. Station and station access: 1. Northern Entrances | Enhanced entrances including new public route through Midland Shed; 2. Eastern Entrance | New entrance; 3. Midland Shed  New retail and ticket office facilities; 4. Proposed access | New access to platforms; 5. Temple Meads Roof | Renovation of historic structure has commenced, funded by Network Rail settlement and Station remodelling | increase rail and platform capacity. Transport interchanges: 6. Southern Gateway | New multi-storey car park, pick-up drop off area, disabled parking, taxi access and step free route to station entrance; 7. Eastern Gateway | New pick-up drop off area and cycle access; 8. The Friary | New bus interchange area and traffic free cycle route; 9. Cycle Hub | New enclosed cycle parking; 10. Station Approach | Reconfigured vehicle access, taxi rank cabs, and blue badge parking. Improved public spaces: 11. Station Square | New public square framing the station’s historic clock tower; 12. Goods Yard and Friary North | New pedestrian spaces enhancing routes into the station; 13. Enterprise Campus public space | Created as part of University of Bristol development; 14. Brunel Mile | Extension of route that connects to Bristol centre. A key indicates sites marked in pink are proposed development sites, and that a number of these projects are subject to funding approval.
Wider plans for the area around Temple Meads

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.