Category Archives: Economy

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.

Western Gateway: decarbonizing and sorting out strategic transport

Mayor Marvin Rees with council and business leaders from across the Western Gateway

Across the Severn Estuary and beyond, our cities and rural communities have problems in common that need a combined solution. I was glad to host my fellow Western Gateway Partnership board members recently to discuss and agree our priorities for the future.

Council leaders from the West of England, Cardiff, Swansea and Gloucestershire gathered at City Hall on 13 October. alongside Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, business, and LEP representatives with our chair, Katherine Bennett, now CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and formerly of Filton Airbus.  

We agreed to place our joint focus on connecting our strategic transport plans and decarbonising our economy. This will include exploring all avenues to decarbonise energy production. In a week when we are seeing people and business facing soaring gas prices this couldn’t be more vital.

Historic problems with our combined transport network must be addressed to provide real travel options for people to get about easily. This means connecting our vision for a mass transit system in Bristol with the vision of our neighbours across the breadth and depth of the Western Gateway. It also means connecting us up via improved electrified intercity trains which speed up travel between Cardiff and Bristol, but also to London, Birmingham and Manchester. People across the Western Gateway geography should have access to affordable and easy transport links. By collating one big vision for the whole area we can start to make it a reality. 

The Severn Bridge links the Western Gateway

The Western Gateway Partnership is our pan-regional economic powerhouse which stretches from Swindon and Wiltshire to Swansea and Cardiff. The aim of the partnership is to use our combined strengths to promote our area at the highest levels and help deliver for the 4.4 million people who live here. 

By convening local partners, the partnership has a strong role to play in helping us achieve our shared goals, helping to boost our economies and reach pockets of deprivation within our communities.

Already the partnership has led a bid to ensure that a site near Bristol is in the final selection for the first prototype nuclear fusion plant in the UK. This would mean thousands of jobs for the region and put our area on the front line globally for developing this green fuel.

We know our area has strong potential for future investment. Last month, the partnership published the second phase of its independent economic review, carried out by Deloitte LLP. This highlighted that, by overcoming shared barriers to productivity, our combined area could be providing at least an extra £34 billion for the UK economy each year by 2030.

This report also showed significant strengths in advanced mechanics and cyber that we share across our region. Ranking high for innovation, we have world leading tech manufacturing and cyber clusters right on our doorstep. The report also highlighted the natural resources and expertise in our area as proof of the role we can play in transitioning the UK towards green energy.

There are many priorities for the partnership including boosting local innovation even further and promoting Western Gateway on a global stage to draw in the ongoing investment we need as a city and region. With our chair, Katherine Bennett, at the helm, our partnership now has a clear direction to deliver as a key economic powerhouse for the UK.

Equal Pay Day and the Gender Pay Gap

Today’s guest blog is from Jackie Longworth, from Bristol Women’s Commission’s
Economy Task Force and Chair of Fair Play South West.

Today – 18 September 2021 – is International Equal Pay Day. It’s a day on which we take stock of where we are in terms of the gender pay gap here in Bristol, and shine a light on what more is needed to achieve gender equality.

Bristol Women’s Commission was set up eight years ago to deliver on the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. Without equal pay, we will never achieve this. Last year, the UN predicted it would take 250 years to achieve equal pay between women and men globally. Bristol One City has an ambitious goal of 2040 – which, of course, we are all hoping to deliver even sooner.

We know that the pandemic has hit women harder than men. Last year, our Economy Task Group produced Delivering an Inclusive Economy Post-Covid-19, a report which outlined many of the ways in which women have been disproportionately affected; from taking on more unpaid care duties to being more likely to be furloughed or made redundant.

Equal pay for equal work

Equal pay means that a woman is paid the same per hour as a man for doing either the same work or work assessed as of equal value. It is a legal requirement in the UK and a woman can take an employer to tribunal to have it enforced. However, failures to comply with equal pay laws are not common enough to explain the ‘Gender Pay Gap’; most of the gap is due to the different jobs which tend to be done by women and men and whether they are full-time or part-time.

Gender pay gap refers the average hourly pay of a group of women employees compared with that of a group of men employees. There are many different gender pay gaps that can be calculated: relative to geography or other identifying factors, salary range/pay grade and different work patterns. Most measure the average based on the median: the mid-point at which half earn less, and half earn more. 

In Bristol in 2019 (later data is confused by the pandemic), the gap in median pay between full-time women and full-time men was 6.3%. However, nearly half (41%) of employed women work part-time compared with only 16% of men and there is a big hourly pay penalty for working part-time (27% for women, 37% for men). In terms of weekly pay, women have the double disadvantage of both lower pay per hour and fewer hours of work, which is why women tend to rely more on social security such as Universal Credit than men do. 

Impact of caring duties

The main reason more women than men work part-time is that they are unable to access high quality, local, affordable childcare, particularly for enough hours to enable them to work full-time. In Bristol, resolving this problem is a priority and we are working with partners to find innovative ways of supporting the childcare sector at the same time as joining with nationwide campaigners to seek improvements in Government policy. As well as childcare, more women than men care for disabled, sick or elderly relatives, a situation which will persist until there is better provision of publicly-funded social care.

The jobs available for part-time working tend to be in low paid sectors such as caring, cleaning, retail and hospitality. Many of these jobs are essential, skilled and undervalued and these very low pay rates need to be increased. Bristol is encouraging employers to pay all workers at least the Real Living Wage which would be a start. 

Gender Pay Gap reporting

Employers are required by law to report their internal pay gaps and encouraged to have action plans to reduce them. This could reduce the extent to which they illegally pay part-time workers less per hour than full-time workers in equivalent jobs. Despite the requirement to report these being suspended during the pandemic, Bristol City Council has voluntarily published figures for 2020 and is encouraging other employers to do the same.

Reduction in the part-time hourly pay penalty requires employers also to ensure that higher paid jobs are available for part-time working. The data show that many young full-time women move to lower paid part-time jobs in their thirties – often coinciding with becoming mothers. This is reflected in the gender pay gap between all women and men, which increases at age 30 and never recovers.

Bristol Women in Business Charter

Bristol Women’s Commission set up the Bristol Women in Business Charter to try and help address the gender pay gap here in Bristol. We have seen real progress since then, with signatories pledging to take steps to close the gender pay gap – including by supporting women into more senior leadership positions but more work is needed to close the gap completely. Has your employer signed up to the Charter yet?

Mining in Bristol – A Rich Seam of Solidarity

While Durham may be almost 280 miles away from Bristol – the 150th anniversary of the Miners’ Gala yesterday has given me cause to think about the legacy of our city and region’s mining history, and the ongoing importance of the trade union movement in Bristol today. The Durham Miners’ Gala has a special place in the heart of the trade union movement, alongside the South West’s own Tolpuddle Martyr’s Festival.

Coalmining in and around Bristol has a long history. Bristol sits on the Bristol and Somerset coalfield which stretches for over 240 square miles, and was likely mined for coal by the Romans (more information about the history of the coalfield is available from the University of Exeter’s The Mines of the Bristol and Somerset Coalfield project). More recently, however, in the 19th century there were pits in Easton and Bedminster, as well as in Kingswood. The Dean Lane Colliery employed over 400 men and children. By the early 20th century, most pits in Bristol had closed, though coal mining continued at two pits just outside Radstock in Somerset until 1973.

Mining was dangerous work. It is estimated that one worker a month died in mining accidents at Dean Lane Colliery. An explosion in 1886 claimed the lives of 10 people, the youngest just 14 years old. Even outside the pit, health concerns for miners and their families remained – work was not well paid (particularly for children who worked in the mines) and densely packed terraced housing which sprang up particularly in Bedminster were often vectors for disease.

It is the trade union activism which sprang up in response to these dangerous conditions and low pay that is commemorated by events such as the Miners’ Gala and the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. That energy extends beyond remembering the strikes by mine workers in Easton in 1911 for fair pay, and the solidarity shown to those participating in the miners’ strike in 1984-5 after mining had ended in Bristol.

Dean Street Colliery

The closure of the pits destroyed communities and still today, unemployment remains high in ex-mining areas. The changing attitudes to coal and fossil fuels and a better understanding of the impact of carbon on the environment mean the coal industry may have been unworkable today. But the adverse impact on the communities for generations highlights the urgent need for a just transition to green jobs. Investment and transition needs to ensure jobs aren’t just removed. We link the need for a strong economy and high employment to the demands of our response to climate change.  

Today, we work closely with trade unions in the city to continue to secure good pay and healthy working conditions across all parts of our city’s economy and public services. Working together, we have secured important advances for working conditions in Bristol. Chief among these is our recognition by the Living Wage Foundation that Bristol is a Living Wage City. But we also recognise we work in a new context where, for instance, the delivery of public services is more fragmented than previous generations, and institutions like the NHS or the city council have less direct oversight over how contractor’s deliver services and treat their workers.

That’s why we continue to take a collaborative approach, ensuring we use the Council’s purchasing and procurement powers to achieve social value, and engaging with initiatives like Unite’s Construction Charter and Unison’s Ethical Care Charter. We want to continue to make Bristol a city of good work by mapping our goals in the One City Plan and our Economic Recovery and Renewal Plan to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Working collaboratively with our trade unions in this way allows us to understand the complexities and realities which shape people’s experiences of work in Bristol.

Speaking up for Bristol in Parliament

Last November, I was invited to give evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee for their inquiry on ‘Post-pandemic economic growth: Levelling up’. MPs explored how local and regional government structures could be better equipped to deliver growth, with specific reference to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. Last week saw the publication of their report.

Giving evidence alongside other mayors, the Northern Powerhouse and Western Gateway, I made the point that too often the Government introduces new funding for cities and local authorities to compete over. This process undermines our ability to fund and secure private investment. The parliamentary report picks up this point, with MPs also recognising the challenge around capacity of local areas to bid for government funds.

They put a bunch of money out there and say to us, “Fight for that.” It is a limited pot of money. We are in a zero-sum game with other authorities when we are trying to collaborate across the country. We cannot have that as an approach. That undermines our ability to fund.”

Post-pandemic economic growth: Levelling up (page 20)

In response to the recent speech by the Prime Minister, I said that if levelling up is to translate into coherent and specific initiatives, as the MPs argue it must, it is vital that it targets those living in deprivation. The report agrees, noting that any levelling up agenda must seek to tackle inequality within regions, not least in cities that are seen to be well performing.

I also echo the select committee’s disappointment on how little detail has been put forward to explain what the Government sees ‘levelling up’ to mean and how it will be delivered, or indeed measured. The lack of a coherent framework risks undermining our ability to plan and, ultimately, deliver. As our One City Plan and focus on delivering the Sustainable Development Goals demonstrates, it’s vital to have measurable outcomes if any ambitions around tackling inequalities are to be fully realised.

A friend of mine is a senior Army officer. He says, “Make a plan, any plan. Just make a bloody plan.”

We do not have one. We have no real coherent national framework with which to work. I do not [know] what we are pointing at, as a country, at the moment, and that undermines our ability to plan.

Post-pandemic economic growth: Levelling up (page 17)

Levelling up

The Prime Minister has today set out his ambitions for ‘levelling up’, with the stated aims of improving services and boosting community pride across the UK, seeking to create a more balanced economy. We agree with the ambition to give everyone the chance of a good job on decent pay, and are determined to make Bristol a true Living Wage City – where poverty pay is a thing of the past. Increasing access to opportunity no matter where you live is at the heart of our approach in Bristol and something we should all be working towards as a country.

Levelling up will only be successful if it targets those living in deprivation –  it is vital that ‘levelling up’ policy impacts the communities and groups that need it most.

We encourage Government to focus on the challenges of poverty, social mobility, inequalities, and on the groups most affected by these challenges, that the pandemic has further entrenched. If Government takes too much of a blunt, North versus South approach, those poorer communities, often hidden and invisible across our country and in our major cities, will continue to miss out and get left even further behind.

Bristol is an example of this complexity. We have a fantastic story to tell – a £15 billion economy with sectors of high growth and opportunity. And yet we are one of the most unequal cities in England with six areas in the top 1% most deprived in the UK and 20% of our children at risk of hunger every day. Writing off deprivation in Bristol just because we live further south than, say, Birmingham, would only see more Bristolians fall further south of the poverty line.

The last thing we need is for regions or areas to be set against each other, dictated by competitive funding pots from Whitehall, which inevitably will result in the very people who stand to benefit the most missing out. In recent years, that Bingo-style approach has set hungry children in Bristol against hungry children in Plymouth, and pitted homeless people in Bristol against homeless people in Manchester: for the Prime Minister’s pledge for ‘levelling up’ to be ‘win-win’, we need fundamental change.

What is required is a national approach that recognises that our focus is addressing the big challenges of the day – including the climate and ecological emergencies – in a way which takes all communities forward and provides ample opportunities for everyone.

The Prime Minister  emphasised the role of local leadership as part of ‘levelling up’ places. What local leaders need the most is predictable funding that best enables ourselves and city partners, like our local NHS, charities, and businesses, to come together around long-term plans. The UK is one of the most heavily centralised countries in Europe – that has been known for far longer than I have been Mayor, and even before Boris Johnson was one. For ‘levelling up’ to be truly effective, I would urge Government to release more funding to local places, then step back and help create the space for us to take the opportunities we know we can deliver.

Annual Address 2021

This is the transcript for my Annual Address speech I delivered at Full Council on Tuesday 6 July 2021.

As this is my first opportunity since being elected, I will start with some thanks:

  1. to the mayoral and councillor candidates who took on the challenge of running for office.
  2. to those of you who turned out to vote irrespective of who you voted for. Participation is essential to our democracy.
  3. and of course to those who campaigned and voted for me.

While my wife has been on TV admitting that she sometimes wishes I wasn’t the Mayor (a view a number of my Twitter trolls and probably one or two elected members hold all the time), it is nonetheless a profound honour to be re-elected on our record.

We laid out an ambitious agenda to the city in 2016. Bristol didn’t have a reputation for delivery and wanted a leadership that would get things done.

They voted for a bigger picture, for a vision of an inclusive, sustainable and fairer city committed to tackling the poverty and inequalities that undermined us. They voted for affordable homes, for jobs and for hope.

I don’t often quote Cllr Hopkins but he did once share with me – with all of us actually because it was in Full Council – that it’s easy to get elected, but the real test is to be re-elected. Having faced that test, we are confident the city wants us to continue to deliver ambition and compassion.

The election taught us all a lot:

  1. The city is changing – and certain areas are seeing dramatic changes in population and culture.
  2. We face the threat of growing divides – the old ones such as race, class, health, education, earnings. And new ones such as home ownership versus non-ownership, and those who have some trust in public institutions verses those who have none.
  3. We take our planetary responsibilities seriously.

The election also taught us that the conflicts and controversies, the shambles and scandals, worked up in this organisation and the way they are managed and driven through social media are often worlds away from the immediate challenges and complicated problems real people are facing in Bristol.

And we learned the people of Bristol are not interested in the weeds of the council. They want solutions to the problems they face every day, not abstract negativity, opposition for opposition’s sake. They want us to be a source of hope.

The people of Bristol don’t see the world in binary. Talking to so many people during the election:

  1. they appreciated the commitments on housing delivery but also understood the challenges that Brexit and Covid had presented in maintaining the levels of delivery.
  2. they appreciated the need to protect land for nature and tackle climate change but also the need to build homes for people a grow the economy for jobs.
  3. on Colston’s statue, many appreciated the need to tackle racism alongside a sense that the statue was important and symbolic. But they also appreciated the statue itself was not the solution to racism. Some held a fear that they were losing their history and some recognise the danger of ordinary people being manipulated by those who, for lack of any real political vision, revert to manipulating them in the culture wars.

There is are enough challenges and divisions in the world without us conjuring up new ones for whatever motivation.

People want us to be focussed on creating hope and delivery and a better city. They want us to be people who are able to wrestle with the complex challenges and contradictions that cities – in all their diversity – embody.

I will spend the next three years leading in three areas:

  1. Inclusion
  2. Sustainability
  3. Delivery

1. Inclusion means inclusive growth

It means jobs and homes in a diverse economy that offers pathways to employment for people at all skills and education levels.

Our challenge is to share a way of doing economic development that by its very nature redresses the historic and institutional drivers of inequality and social immobility. This rather than growing the economy and then tacking a couple of equalities initiatives on the back end.

2. Sustainability means delivering against the climate action plan and the ecological action plan

It means working as a council. But it also means working as a city doing all we can to decarbonise the energy, transport and food systems on which our cities depends. It means not dealing with any single issue in isolation but recognising the interdependence of poverty, class, racism and climate change.

On that front, I will share the insight of someone who recently gave a speech to a Multi-Faith meeting on the environment that was organised by Afzal Shah. He shared with a gathering of black, white and Asian Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Jews how too often environmentalism had been a voice of divisive and accusational politics when what it should have been a cause for unity in the face of a global challenge.

We need to hear that challenge.

Sustainability means not shying away from the housing crisis and the difficult conversations about density and sustainable city centre locations.

It means bringing investment into green jobs and a transition to a low carbon economy.

3. Delivery means continuing to get stuff done

Delivery means lives change. Homes are built. Children are fed. Women and girls no longer in period poverty. Ground source and water source heat pumps and installed. Schools are built. City areas are pedestrianised. Jobs are generated. Homeless people are housed.

You can measure action by the number of cranes on the horizon. They are a clear example of the modernisation of the city, of continuing growth and opportunity.

Delivery means continuing to work as a city, not just a council. Working with partners and continuing to meet city challenges with all partners, cleaner air, a living wage city, mass transit, a living rent city, a city where diversity of thought leads modern 21st century city and continuing to put cities at the forefront of political, economic and social challenges – putting cities in front of challenges where governments fail.

We have the challenge of leading a city that is growing in size of population, need, diversity and inequality within the same geographical area of land. We do this while facing up to the environmental, economic, political, social and moral need to face up to tackle the climate and ecological crisis. And sometimes the things we must do to meet one area of these challenges can threaten to undermine our efforts to meet another.


So I finish with the same offer I have always made: if you have an genuine offer, a contribution to make to our efforts to meet those challenges, if you want to turn up with solutions, the door is open. Come make that offer, and then tell me what you need from the city to enable you to deliver it.

The time I have as mayor is loaned to me by the city. It’s my job to invest it not in fruitless distractions and false politics, but in the people and initiatives that will make a difference for the city, our country and world.

Working in partnership

Today’s guest blog is from Ellie Freeman, chair of Action Greater Bedminster.

Ellie Freeman, Action for Greater Bedminster

I’ve lived in BS3 with my family for 12 years, and I’m currently chair of Action Greater Bedminster (AGB). In recent years, AGB has got more involved in planning and consultations. Several new developments are happening across Bedminster and Southville, and slightly further afield at sites like Temple Quarter, and the community was feeling increasingly anxious about the impact these would have on the local area.  

When the council’s Community Development team approached me about working with the council in the early stages of a project to regenerate the area around Whitehouse Street, I was keen to build on our experiences and jumped at the chance to get involved so early in the process.  

The project area is just up the road from Bedminster Green, which is an area that continues to have a lot of interest from the community, with a general sense that their concerns have not been taken on board by the various developers involved. Our hope at Whitehouse Street was to bring the community in on the ground floor.  

Working closely with the council’s project team, particularly the Community Development team, we agreed the scope of the work and the local partners we’d work with – Windmill Hill City Farm, Fun 4 Families and The Sanctuary.  I know Lynn from Community Development well from previous work and was glad to have her on board.  

Working with the council in this way – where AGB has been commissioned and paid by the council – has been a new experience, but it has helped us to have an open relationship where we have regular meetings and work to a set of shared principles.  

Since we started in February, I’ve got to know the Whitehouse Street area well. The engagement process has been thorough. We’ve hand delivered letters, taken surveys door to door to the few houses in the area, and met local residents to hear their views about the early proposals. COVID-19 has made life more difficult, but we’ve managed a project website with an online survey and interactive map to hear from people, as well as hosting online meetings with individuals and stakeholder groups.  

It hasn’t always been easy to keep that distance from the council – I’ve spent more time with council officers over the last year than anyone else – but working directly with them has given me a seat at the table to challenge and question ideas as they are developed.  Being paid for my time has also helped, not least by officially recognising AGB’s role in amplifying the voice of the community.  

AGB is committed to helping Bedminster thrive and grow, and Whitehouse Street can be a key part of this. Being a part of the project from the outset has been a huge learning curve. It hasn’t always been perfect, but the community having the chance to feed into the process directly has been refreshing. I’m pleased the council has taken this approach and I hope they continue to do so in future.  

Rebuilding a better Bristol

No photo description available.
Area 51, Gloucester Road

Today is another big day for Bristol, as we continue to bring in more investment and create more jobs to solidify our city’s recovery from the pandemic. Thanks to two announcements in time for the longest day of the year, Bristol’s future is looking even brighter as we work to build a more sustainable and inclusive city.

Just last week, out and about on Gloucester Road visiting local traders, at the Area 51 comic book shop I heard once again how big events like comic book conventions, trade shows and major conferences have for too long skipped our city. Bristol has lost out to Cardiff and London because of the council’s historic failure to get stuff done.

We already know that Bristol’s 17,000+ seater YTL arena, set to be the greenest ever built in Europe, will start to set this right and bring the world’s biggest music stars to our city. For other events, like comic cons and even national party conferences, this weekend’s news is a real game changer for Bristol.

Photo of the Temple Island site by Legal & General

Legal & General have confirmed an incredible £350 million investment in our city’s future for Temple Island, where we put our city’s long-term economic interests ahead of short-term politics. This boost will see Bristol get a real conference centre alongside a new hotel, office space, and hundreds more affordable homes. Temple Quarter is already one of the UK’s largest regeneration schemes, with the renovation of Brunel’s station underway and, working with local communities, wider work beginning to create 10,000 new homes and 22,000 new jobs for Bristolians.

Image by Bristol Sport

Bristol Sport have also today submitted their planning application for a new 4,000-seater indoor stadium for the Bristol Flyers basketball team, adjacent to the existing stadium, which is home to the Bristol Bears and Bristol City. Revised plans, worth in the region of £200 million, include more community facilities, greater pedestrianisation, hundreds of new homes, while retaining green space and aiming for a biodiversity net gain.

This morning BBC Radio Bristol interviewed Mark Kelly, Managing Director at Ashton Gate, about their expansion plans, which follow on from the recent £45 million improvements to their current stadium. Mark was right to say that the city needs housing and that, without more conference facilities, which the Ashton Gate which also include, the city loses out. These plans and the Temple Island project are complementary developments, supported by the business community. This investment meets a need that’s been identified and talked about for some time, and will further strengthen Bristol’s role as the cultural, sporting, and economic centre of our region.

This next step forward in exciting plans for the redevelopment of a sports quarter at Ashton Gate will be another welcome boost for BS3. Like our £11.8 million expansion of Bottle Yard Studios, our award-winning £9 million Advanced Construction Skills Centre, and our world-class £8.4 million Youth Zone, this investment is crucial for South Bristol and the project has my full support.

Adult Learner Week

Today’s guest blog is from Matt Gillett, Regional Education Officer at UNITE South West.

Matt Gillett

Unions have always played a key role in the learning agenda. From the education of our Union Representatives through to negotiating with employers to provide access to training for millions of employees through workplace learning agreements. Union education programmes have ensured that our Reps gain the knowledge and skills to effectively represent their members and operate effectively with employers to ensure positive industrial relations outcomes. Through these courses, for example, Health and Safety Reps acquire the expertise essential to their roles in helping in the prevention of accidents and incidents, instigating good practices and keeping workers safe in their jobs with fewer accidents and less sick absence. 

Trade unions have also been at the forefront of promoting lifelong learning. Engaging with companies and education providers we have established learning agreements giving workers the opportunity to access courses such as English, maths, digital skills, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and vocational qualifications, including adult apprenticeships. Many of these workers have been out of formal education for a long periods, and indeed may not have had the most positive experiences when they were at school. Through the provision of on-site learning centres and by working with companies to make sure courses take place at times that minimise their operational disruption we have been able to open up opportunities to countless individuals. Numerous employers across the city, including Bristol City Council itself, have been examples of the success of unions and businesses working together to the mutual benefit of the workforce and the employers themselves. Union Learning Reps who promote training and encourage their colleagues to take part are pivotal to the reach and success of these projects.

We remain heavily involved in the area of redundancy support, ensuring that those at risk of losing their jobs receive training in CV writing, interview techniques and job searching skills, as well as accessing those key qualifications listed above, to give them the best chance of securing new positions.  

Photo credit: Chris Montgomery – “Zoom call with coffee”

During the pandemic of course, classroom delivery of both Reps education and lifelong learning had to cease. However, thanks to the hard work and adaptability of tutors and providers, we were able to quickly move to online and ‘virtual classroom’ learning through Zoom and similar platforms. Many individuals have accessed online learning during the last 15 months and my own union Unite has long had an extensive online offer which has even more come into it’s own during this period. Meanwhile, activists have been able to continue to work with tutors and each other to share knowledge, experience and solidarity through our Reps education programmes. I want to pay tribute to the flexibility of those who have taken part in all these aspects of learning and training over the last year or so. 

Adult Learner Week reminds us that as the economy reshapes the need to have access to learning, upskilling and retraining has never been greater. Trade unions will continue to play a vital part in making this possible.