Category Archives: Homes and Communities

Exciting developments for Bristol’s historic harbour

In February I gave an update on some of the projects in and around our harbour, about how we’re making it a more accessible space for everyone and financially self-sustaining. I’m pleased to be able to share more news on some exciting projects, after reflecting on the end of the harbour swimming pilot at the start this week while also touching on the recovery from the fire at Underfall Yard.

On 23 May, the High Court refused permission to apply for a Judicial Review of our decision to bring the Harbour fees and charges into line with other comparable harbours. We’re pleased that the judge found in our favour. This now means we are able to cover the costs of maintaining this important city asset, which had been taking half a million pounds a year from council services. The revised fees and charges for boats using the harbour have now been updated for the first time in two decades.

It also means we can introduce 70 new live aboard licences for those who want to stay on boats in our city’s harbour all year round. These will be issued annually to people who pay and agree to the license terms and conditions, on a first come first served basis. Some people had already expressed an interest through our survey of harbour users, so we’ll contact them. Others can reach the harbour office at This will help give boat dwellers much more security and let them access services, while keeping control to manage the harbour for everyone with the Harbour Authority.

More good news is that the Capricorn Quay project was granted planning permission at the start of May, meaning we can move ahead with plans to install another 32 new berths for boats and other new facilities. A contractor will be sought for this work as well as planting the new reed bed which will be another fantastic boost for ecology in the harbour.

The Western Harbour project will be tabled at the combined authority committee meeting in June to secure funding for the detailed masterplanning. This is a huge opportunity to move forward with the vision to protect heritage and ecology in this important area, while modernising transport and flood infrastructure. It will look to bring forward hundreds of homes in the spaces released by removing the flyovers in a city centre, sustainable location.

Finally, I can share that the Harbour Revision Order cabinet paper was paused so that the team could have more time to engage with people and let them know about the project. We’ll be writing to leaseholders and neighbours in the coming weeks. There is a statutory consultation period built into the process. Cabinet approval would just be the start of the 18 month long project to work with the Marine Management Organisation to update the last Order, which was completed in 1998.

The Underfall Yard Sluices have been providing Bristol with a means of regulating the water levels within our harbour since 1840. They are integral to how the harbour manages itself. In April’s cabinet meeting, we were able to approve £1.75 million worth of funding to refurbish the sluices, so that they can continue to protect our city for many years to come.

We’re getting the harbour’s governance arrangements ship shape and Bristol fashion so that it is financially sustainable, accessible and contributes to our wider aims of climate resilience and biodiversity.

Delivering for Bristol: Southmead regeneration

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured smiling, with college green and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes
and Labour Councillor for Horfield ward.

Finding new and innovative ways to build housing is a key part of our plans to meet ambitious targets for much needed affordable homes across the city. One way to do this is to work with local communities to enable them to build the homes that best reflect the needs of the neighbourhood.

A key example of this approach can be found in Southmead, where we are supporting an ambitious regeneration and housing delivery programme.

The community-led Southmead Masterplan was published in 2018 by the Southmead Development Trust (SDT). It is a community-led development project where the stakeholders and wider community meet on regular basis to review development progress and contribute to decision making.

The plan aims to deliver around 230 new homes in central Southmead, with a mix of new affordable and market housing options, including a development of community-led housing at Glencoyne Square. These new homes will add to the 474 affordable homes we built in 2021/22 and the 1,300 new affordable homes currently being built across the city. Goram Homes, our council-owned housing company, has a pipeline of more than 3,100 new homes – half of them affordable – alongside the around 11,000 homes our administration has helped get built in Bristol since 2016.

Planning permission for 120 new homes was granted in 2021, but the scheme has since been re-designed to improve viability. The new scheme, which is currently going back through planning, is expected to provide up to 187 homes – of which around 66% will be affordable – alongside a new shared library, advice and learning hub, community enterprise space and a health and well-being hub. It is hoped work will start on site next year, subject to planning approval.

Unfortunately, the re-location of Southmead Health Centre has not been possible due to unavailability of sufficient match funding from the NHS. Instead, the proposed health centre area within the new scheme will be replaced with a smaller health and well-being hub, allowing SDT to provide additional new homes, with the current health centre expected to remain on its current site rather than move across.

Implementation of the plan is being undertaken over several phases, and we have already delivered a range of improvements to the Arnside Road district centre and shopping area. Public realm and sustainable urban drainage improvements to Arnside have been completed and opened to the public in May 2022, making the high street a more attractive, safer and eco-friendly place to visit. We have also purchased the White Hall site, which will be used for new council owned homes, while still retaining play facilities on the adjourning park site.

As with any big project of this size, there have been some challenges along the way. We were very disappointed when ALDI made the decision to not expand their anchor store. We had already done a great deal of work, alongside Southmead Development Trust, to relocate services that took place in the youth centre to a newly refurbished space at the Ranch – Southmead Adventure Playground.

Southmead Library has also been moved – taking up a temporary space at Southmead House before a new purpose-built home is created for it as part of future development in the area. We are keen to make sure that the library and youth centre buildings do not stand empty, and they are currently being used to provide day care services and sports classes. In the longer term, we are considering if they could be suitable for additional homes.

In 2019 we received £3.6 million of Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) funding from Homes England to support the delivery of the masterplan, and we have already committed £7 million to help fund the non-residential space at Glencoyne Square. Cabinet will consider a further £620,000 investment to support the scheme, following ALDI’s decision not to expand its store, and to cover other rising costs.

Bristol is a rapidly growing city and is currently undergoing much transformation. Our regeneration programmes stretch from Bedminster to Temple Meads, St Judes’s to Broadmead, and also include Western Harbour, Hengrove, Filwood and Lockleaze. We need to keep working together to make sure that Bristol grows well, with local communities benefiting from the change happening on their doorstep. Regeneration will bring city-wide benefits so that everyone can thrive. 

A group of people are pictured smiling, including Bristol's Lord Mayor (Centre) and Councillor Kye Dudd (Second from the left).

We have a vision to create vibrant communities with sustainable, inclusive economic growth. Quality affordable homes and job opportunities will be in locations where we can have reliable, frequent public transport connections and be within walking and cycling routes.

The transformation of Southmead, including the provision of new homes, an improved town centre, and a healthy and inclusive local community will contribute to city-wide targets for housing and for developing economic and social opportunity and environmental sustainability.

Sharing first thoughts on fostering this Foster Care Fortnight

Pippa and Alex are pictured, smiling, with a bush in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Pippa and Alex, a couple who have recently started their fostering journey with Bristol City Council.

A spare bedroom, a poem by Alex:

A spare bedroom.

Semi-retirement, some spare time and energy.

In the marvellous film, The Quiet Girl (from the book ‘Foster’ by Claire Keegan) we saw how a few weeks, a couple of months, of ordinary, simple human kindness suggested the possibility of really making a difference to another person’s life.

 “So, let’s give it ago, in our house”.

And our first experience of fostering?

We learned a lot, did and gave what we could and got so much more back.


We decided to give it a go for several reasons; we had two spare rooms, a little time to give as a couple and greatly admired two people who had given respite to young people in care.

We were apprehensive, unsure if we could do it, wondering if we were too old.

It was interesting from the start, we found the training fascinating, to think about our own parenting and childhoods, and we enjoyed working together.

Our social worker introduced us slowly and we started by giving respite care to two young children. It went well. We felt surer of what we had to offer and were full of admiration for their curiosity, energy and fun. The joy they had for life.

We then were asked to provide foster care to a 14-year-old boy. We were more apprehensive but decided to give it a go.

From the minute we met, we all got on. It has been a total joy to share our home with this teenager. Before we met, I had thought we would provide stability, consistency and safety and be challenged by emotional behaviour – that was a misconception.

A picture of three children, sitting alongside each other in a field.

We have learnt so much from this lively, inquisitive and bright young person. He was always ready to try new things, share his views on the world, and discuss ideas with us.

We found our cats gave him huge solace, also the time spent together on walks and sharing domestic tasks gave space to share stories and memories from the past – an important story for us to listen to.

We provided two months emergency foster care while a long-term placement was found. Those eight weeks flew by, and we feel privileged to have got to know and care for this wonderful, curious, capable, friendly, sociable, kind, helpful and compassionate boy who is hopeful for his future.

We always felt supported by a great team of social workers, teachers and an amazing young male mentor who all provided a supportive belief in a positive future.

Saying goodbye was hard, and we will provide respite when needed.

Being a foster carer is more than rewarding – it is deeply fulfilling, full of new learning and surprises, challenging your own preconceptions about children in care.

It has been a really important step in our own life and we discovered strengths we hadn’t recognised or necessarily valued.

We wholeheartedly encourage anyone who can give their time, has a home with a little space, and is interested in trying something new to give it a go.


If you’re one of our foster carers and you’re thinking about recommending someone to become a foster carer, you will now get £500 when they foster with Bristol City Council – double the previous rate! Find out more about our Refer a Friend scheme on the Fostering Bristol website.

We have also recently increased our allowances for foster carers, and you can now get up to £466 a week. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, you can get in touch with Fostering Bristol for an informal chat on 0117 353 4200 or you can visit

Alternatively, if you are interested in fostering but not ready to take the step yet, there are other ways you can get involved.

Reconstruct provide an independent visiting service for children in care. This service finds volunteers who can commit two to three hours a month and then matches them with children and young people, aged 8-18, to take them out to do activities, such as going to the cinema, bowling, enjoying a meal, playing football, etc.

They are always seeking volunteers and are particularly keen to hear from men and people aged 25-50. Express an interest by contacting Reconstruct on

Renters Reform Bill

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured smiling, with college green and trees in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes
and Labour Councillor for Horfield Ward.

The government’s Renters (Reform) Bill has finally been unveiled and, while the overdue plans to ban no fault evictions are welcome, I cannot help but feel that the proposals do not go far enough to tackle the mounting housing crisis being faced in Bristol and across the country. More needs to be done to provide protection for renters and tackle a market that has spiralled out of control.

Bristol’s private rented sector is becoming increasingly unaffordable, leading to serious access and affordability issues which are impacting the wellbeing and quality of life of people in Bristol and playing a major role in creating homelessness. Those in private rented accommodation have lived for too long without adequate protections and with very limited options to guarantee decent living standards.

Some proposals set out in the bill will have positive impacts on renters in Bristol and will also ensure clarity for landlords should they come into effect. Our campaign for a fair rental sector has always acknowledged that most landlords provide decent homes and aim to support their tenants. Solutions to this crisis need to be formed by working together across the sector and we’ve committed to with all parties to take positive action.

While I am pleased to see a basic decent homes standard planned, along with a new ombudsman to oversee the private rented sector, applying home quality standards to the private sector for the first time, the bill does little to address the affordability of renting. It will not provide for the powers for areas like Bristol to intervene in the private rented sector to tackle this issue – which could mean property owners will still find ways to skirt the laws by using large rent hikes to force unwanted tenants out who can’t afford them, even if rent increases are limited to once a year with a minimum two month notice period. Out of control rents mean housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable, pushing many further away from their place of work, family, and support networks.

Plans to make it illegal to refuse tenancies to people on benefits or with children are vitally important and will make sure no family is unjustly discriminated against when looking for a place to live. Banning discrimination against renters on benefits is something we have long campaigned for, making it council policy last year.

I also welcome the introduction of a property portal to act as a database for properties in the private rented sector. I will be looking at the detail of this to ensure what is brought in can be used to its full potential and equip tenants with the information they need about the property they are renting.

A right to request a pet is also a welcome step forward. As a dog owner myself, I know the important role pets can play in our lives. However, we need to ensure that a landlord not being able to unreasonably withhold consent is sufficiently clarified in law.

Here in Bristol, we have been campaigning for renters reform and increased security for tenants for some time, and must continue to put pressure on the government to deliver on their promises. Having a safe and secure roof over our heads is key to ensuring we all have the best possible opportunity to live a happy and healthy life but, unfortunately, many renters still live in fear of spiralling costs and unfair evictions. 

Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured posing with his teams award for Best Coalition End Unfair Evictions at SMK's National Campaigner Awards 2020
Councillor Tom Renhard is pictured posing with his teams award for Best Coalition End Unfair Evictions at SMK’s National Campaigner Awards 2020

We have over 19,000 households on our waiting list for social housing, along with over 1,200 households in temporary accommodation. The cost of renting in this city is one key cause alongside the lack of security that renters have in the private rented sector.

In the Mayor’s 2021 manifesto, we pledged to make Bristol a “living rent city” and lobby central government for the powers to introduce rent controls that work for the city. Since this we’ve worked across the sector to better support private renters, including the roll out of landlord licensing schemes, stamping out illegal ‘no DSS’ discrimination and hosting the first the Renters’ Summit to share their experiences of renting in Bristol.

We also launched the Living Rent Commission, bringing the best, partnership focused organisations together to explore the issues facing renters. As part of its work looking to improve the affordability, quality and tenant experience of the private rented sector in Bristol, the One City Living Rent Commission has looked at how we can improve the sector, including what the impact of rent regulation across the city could be.

An upcoming report, written by the University of Bristol, will be officially launched in the coming weeks, sets out a range of recommendations based on evidence of the challenges we face and potential solutions we could introduce. We have made sure that a wide range of people have been heard during the process, including listening to the lived experience of tenants, residents and landlords.

There are no simple solutions to a crisis of this scale and we know that part of it is about building more homes that are truly affordable. However, the commission has given us an opportunity to bring organisations together to explore the issues facing renters and the sector, to help us develop an approach that works for Bristol and better protects renters.

The report’s recommendations reflect that the powers to regulate the market come from government. Therefore, we must work with Westminster to develop any future policy. The recommendations also highlight the need to continue the constructive dialogue with renters and other stakeholders in the private rented sector to achieve our goal of delivering meaningful and lasting positive change, enabling Bristol to become a Living Rent City.

We recognise that there is substantial support for rent control to help make renting in the city more affordable, however, there are also concerns about negative impacts. Further work will now take place to develop the proposals put forward in the report. This will happen in partnership with sector stakeholders and ensure that tenants’ views continue to be taken into account.

Dementia Action Week 2023

Ben Dellow is pictured smiling at an awards ceremony.
Today’s guest blog is from Ben Dellow, Local Systems Influencing Officer
at the Alzheimer’s Society.

We are excited to see City Hall lit up in forget-me-not blue tonight, to mark the start of Dementia Action Week 2023. With more than 4,000 people aged 65 and over currently living with dementia in Bristol, it’s vitally important that we raise awareness of the condition and ensure dementia is a priority locally and nationally.

Dementia Action Week is Alzheimer’s Society’s biggest and longest running awareness-raising campaign, calling on people across the UK to act on dementia. Nearly 1,500 of the 4,000 people living with dementia in Bristol are without a formal diagnosis, meaning they’re facing the challenges the condition poses alone. This is why this year’s Dementia Action Week is focused on increasing dementia diagnosis rates. 

In February 2022, the dementia diagnosis rate in Bristol was 69%, above the national average of 62% and the national ambition of 66.7%. This is in no small part thanks to the brilliant work of the Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service. The service has made great strides in tackling the barriers preventing people from accessing a timely diagnosis.

Founded in 2015 as a partnership between the NHS and Alzheimer’s Society, the Dementia Wellbeing Service has reduced waiting times to the point that 95% of service users have a first appointment booked within 10 days. Meanwhile, through its Community Development Coordinators, the service has promoted dementia awareness and enabled seldom heard from groups to access support. This means the service is widely known as the go-to for dementia support across the city.

Despite this progress, many people in Bristol are still living with undiagnosed dementia and unable to access vital care and support that is needed to live well. We want to encourage those who might be living without a diagnosis to understand and recognise potential dementia symptoms and feel empowered to take their next step.

Getting a diagnosis can be daunting, but we believe it’s always better to know. And so do 91% of people living with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society research found that people living with dementia felt getting a diagnosis benefitted them in more ways than one. It allowed them to plan for their future, receive practical advice, feel a sense of relief through understanding their condition, and get medication to help manage the symptoms of dementia. More importantly, it helped them avoid crisis points.

Alzheimer's society's logo is pictured with a blue flow. Text reads Alzheimer's Society Together we are help & hope for everyone living with dementia.

Empowering individuals and their families to seek a timely diagnosis and avoid reaching these crisis points is therefore vital. However, in addition to illustrating numerous benefits of a timely diagnosis, our research uncovered several barriers preventing people from seeking a diagnosis. Along with misconceptions around memory loss being a normal part of ageing, we found being in denial and specialist referral times to be the biggest barriers to getting people to seek a diagnosis.

The key message we want to share this Dementia Action Week is that dementia isn’t called getting old – it’s called getting ill. If you’re worried about symptoms that could be signs of dementia, you can access our symptoms checklist here. This tool can help begin conversations with health professionals and is endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

We want everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever you are, whatever you are going through, you can turn to Alzheimer’s Society for support, help and advice. Visit Alzheimer’s Society’s website ( or call 0333 150 3456 for more information.

60 years since the Bristol Bus Boycott

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Bristol Bus Boycott, on 30 April 1963, after Guy Reid-Bailey was turned away from a job interview at the Bristol Omnibus Company once they realised that he was Black. The Boycott saw the “colour bar” lifted after many months of action. It is an incredibly important part of the history of our city and, given its contribution to the Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968, our country too.

The bus in M Shed, Bristol, is pictured alongside a large card that includes a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and a quote from his famous speech, I Have a Dream.
Mayor Marvin Rees (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.

The men and women who led the Bristol Bus Boycott brought protest to our streets and legislation to the statute book. People like Asher and I have been able to walk through the doors that they opened for people of colour. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants, and I thank all of the organisers of Friday’s event for giving us the opportunity to thank and celebrate them once again on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Boycott.

Councillor Asher Craig (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.
Roger Griffith MBE (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.
Barbara Dettering (centre) is pictured, speaking in front of a seated audience, in front of the bus in M Shed, Bristol.

People like Barbara Dettering are both personal and political role models across Bristol. That was true for me when I was a kid playing at Bristol West Indies, the cricket club that Guy Reid-Bailey OBE co-founded, and both before and after the 2012 mayoral elections, when Paul Stephenson was a real support for me. It was also clear at a recent primary school visit in Whitchurch, where pupils rightly spoke to me with reverence about our city’s civil rights leaders and the lasting change that the Bristol Bus Boycott achieved.

Mayor Marvin Rees is pictured, smiling and shaking hands, with Guy Reid-Bailey OBE (right) in front of the bus in M Shed, Bristol.

Bristol City Council last year issued an apology to Guy for his treatment by the Bristol Omnibus Company, alongside conferring Freedom of the City upon him and Barbara. This, the highest civic honour which can be bestowed, recognising outstanding contributions to life in Bristol. It was also posthumously given to Roy Hackett MBE, to whom Asher paid tribute last year; Owen Henry; Audley Evans; and Prince Brown. Dr Paul Stephenson OBE was conferred with the honour in 2007. Rosa Parks, who started an earlier bus boycott over 4,000 miles away, is deservedly widely known. But we need to do more, locally and nationally, together to ensure that the names of Bristol’s own civil rights leaders are not forgotten.

Bristol Bus Boycott campaigners (centre, seated) including Barbara Dettering and Guy Reid-Bailey OBE are pictured receiving a standing ovation.
Gamba Cole (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.

Friday saw an event at M Shed, in front of an old Bristol bus, where I was asked to speak alongside Barbara Dettering, Joyce Morris Wisdom, Councillor Asher Craig, Roger Griffith MBE, Gamba Cole, Doug Claringbold, Vernon Samuels, Jacqui Wilson, and Miles Chambers. We will look to organise another event, to mark the 60th anniversary of the success of the Boycott, later this year.

Joyce Morris Wisdom (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.
Doug Claringbold (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.
Vernon Samuels (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.
Jacqui Wilson (left) is pictured speaking, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.
Miles Chambers (left) is pictured reading a poem, alongside the bus in M Shed, Bristol, to a seated audience.

Please credit all images to the Mayor of Bristol’s office, linking to this page where possible.

Thank you to everyone who’s helped support residents during the cost of living crisis

People who have supported Bristol during the national cost of living crisis are pictured in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Bristol’s response to the national cost of living crisis has been incredible. Across our city, people have come together to provide residents support during difficult times. This afternoon, we hosted an event at City Hall to thank everyone for their tireless efforts over the winter.

One of the outstanding things about Bristol is that we are a city of doers, people who ‘can do’ and who want to make a difference. We saw this so vividly during the pandemic. We are so fortunate to have a wealth of citizens, community and voluntary organisations, and faith groups who offer a warm welcome every day. It is these community connections which strengthen communities, produce wellbeing, and build our resilience as a city so that when we need to respond to a crisis or emergency we can.

In March 2022 we were discussing the alarming rise in fuel prices and cost of living and the implications for the coming winter. We talked about the idea of warm spaces, and social justice has been a key principle. It was very important to everyone we didn’t create places where people would feel stigmatised, so we called them Welcoming Spaces. Our idea was that anyone and everyone would be welcome, no questions asked and the more people the better.

Early on I was approached by a private donor who was willing to fund Welcoming Spaces in the neighbourhoods where the impact would be greatest. Thank you to them.

We were able to work with Quartet and the Integrated Care Board to establish a One City fund to support a whole range of welcoming space activity, community hubs to extend the reach of advice organisations and emotional wellbeing support. Thank you to everyone who, with with Bristol City Council, contributed funding.

We could not have imagined, that we would have a network of over 100 Welcoming Spaces and that 86% of Bristol residents would be within 10 mins walk distance.  This has been a true One City collaboration where we each play to our strengths and share what resources we have.

Thank you to every one of you who has given your time and energy to make something happen in your community. What you do is priceless, it is what builds community and makes things possible.

Thank you all of you from the many community and voluntary organisations who work so incredibly hard keep so much of our community infrastructure going, building trusting, lasting connections with the communities you are part of. It is ongoing, difficult work requiring tenacity, ingenuity, and deep commitment. We know it doesn’t just happen and it doesn’t come free.

Thank you to city partners and Bristol City Council colleagues who have committed time, knowledge, and expertise to build this response. These things don’t happen because we will it; they happen because people see what needs doing and take action.

As a country we are in a very challenging place. Life is hard for many people and looks set to get harder for many people. The public sector is facing significant financial challenges as are community and voluntary sector colleagues. Resource comes in many forms, our job as city leaders is to harness those resources and make them available to communities.

We have achieved a lot and learned a lot in the past year. Today was about saying thank you, taking time to reflect on what we’ve learned as we move from crisis response to a lasting approach to build resilient communities.

Essential funding extended for Bristol’s advice sector

Bristol’s advice services are playing a pivotal role in our city’s response to the national cost of living crisis. Providing people with advice on welfare benefits, housing, employment, money, and immigration is just the start and they’ve, understandably, seen a significant increase in the number of residents they’ve been helping, and will continue to help.

The sector has an enormous impact in our city. In 2021/22, the Bristol Advice Partnership (BAP) gave help to over 8,000 residents. They secured additional benefits payments for citizens amounting to nearly £9 million, helped people manage debt worth over £12.5 million, negotiated manageable payment arrangements for over £900,000 of council tax that would otherwise have gone unpaid, and gave out over 3,000 foodbank vouchers.

Since April 2019 we have provided an annual grant to the BAP, which is made up of seven advice providers in our city, enabling them to provide vital support to those who need it. Our Cabinet has just extended the grant for two more years, until 31 March 2026, worth £1.12 million.

The extension comes at a time of increased demand and will give stability to the sector, allowing agencies to focus their resources on addressing the immediate national cost of living crisis rather than being concerned about future funding or new grant processes.

We’ve assessed the impact the national cost of living crisis is having on Bristol and found that one in four households across Bristol will have been spending around 20% of their budgets, after housing, on energy bills in 2022/23. These households are also home to one third of all children in Bristol. The sector continues to report an increase in demand on services for welfare and benefit support, while the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL) has reported an increase in people claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to meet their living costs.

During Debt Awareness Week a few weeks ago, we heard from Citizens Advice Bristol about the increasing number of people they have been helping with crisis support – currently more than two people every minute.

Our city’s advice agencies have worked tirelessly over the past few months, as have so many other local organisations providing support, but clearly, while we are now in spring, people still need the support of advice agencies. This crisis is not going anywhere. Once again, we have to look to national government for the lack of funding that has been provided to support our most vulnerable communities.

Since last summer, we have been taking a One City approach in our response to the national cost of living crisis, successfully bringing together key organisations and partners and recruiting volunteers to help reduce cost of living pressures in our communities. As key partners in the response, and as part of the advice grant, we’d like to see the advice agencies taking the same approach with the production of a development plan for a ‘one front door’ approach to advice provision in our city.

Giving the advice sector the resources they need to support people will help us see benefits in the long term for Bristol and its residents as well. It means they can continue helping some of our city’s poorest and most excluded individuals and families to maintain their finances and maximise their income, in turn reducing financial, food and fuel poverty.

For a full list of local organisations in Bristol available to provide support on a range of topics, from benefits and financial advice to mental health and emotional wellbeing support, visit the council’s cost of living support webpage or call 0800 694 0184 for free between 8.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Photos: Bristol’s Grand Iftar on College Green

Last night I had the honour of attending the Grand Iftar on College Green, with 1,000 people from across Bristol’s Muslim communities and the wider city.

The brilliant event was organised by Muslims 4 Bristol in partnership with Bridges for Communities, with support from Black 2 Nature, Bristol Cathedral, Bristol City Council, Bristol Waste, Feeding Bristol, Redwood Events, the West of England Combined Authority, and other partners.

The Grand Iftar on College Green is pictured, showing people sat on the floor eating, with City Hall lit up in green in the background.
Afzal Shah, one of the organisers of the Grand Iftar on College Green, is pictured speaking on stage.
The Grand Iftar on College Green is pictured, showing people sat on the floor and in chairs eating.
Three people are pictured on stage, speaking, during the Grand Iftar on College Green.
Two Islamic lanterns are pictured in the foreground. People sat on the floor eating are seen, blurred, in the background at the Grand Iftar on College Green.
A group of people, including Councillor Asher Craig (right), are pictured  at the Grand Iftar on College Green, with City Hall seen in the background.
The Grand Iftar on College Green is pictured from the top floor of City Hall. People can be seen sat on the floor around colourful mats, with some of Bristol's skyline including crowd.

Prioritising those most in need of housing in Bristol

Councillor Tom Renhard, smiling with trees on College Green in the background.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard,
Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery & Homes
and Labour Councillor for the Horfield Ward.

There are currently over 19,000 households on the council’s housing register. Sadly, the number of residents that require support with council housing massively outweighs the number of properties available – even as we continue to build record numbers of new homes to tackle the housing crisis. With such high demand, many residents who have a low priority housing need are unlikely to find a new home.

Our view is simple: everyone in Bristol should have access to a secure, safe, and warm home. Unaffordable rent prices in the private sector, soaring property values, stagnant wages, and an insufficient number of affordable homes are many reasons why we believe that what this city needs is more council housing, and also a better way of allocating that stock.

We’re ploughing ahead with the first bit – building the first new council homes seen in Bristol in a generation. Since 2016 we have delivered nearly 240 new council homes to add to the housing register. As we move further into our plans for delivering new homes, we expect to see a further 1,715 new council homes over the next five years.

As we press ahead with increasing the number of properties available, we have also been looking at how me manage the housing register to resolve some issues with how council housing is allocated. This review is now complete, and I am pleased to have been able to approve its recommendations at our most recent Cabinet meeting.

The main aim of the review was to ensure that the allocations system focused on housing those households in greatest need, improve the online HomeChoice Bristol system, and be clearer about the expectations households should have on receiving a council house.

Many months of research and speaking to people from across the housing sector, including running resident working groups and speaking to people currently on the waiting list, helped shape this new policy. This included speaking and listening to many groups who represent people who have experienced domestic violence and harassment, older people, young people, people leaving care facilities, people living with disabilities and others.

With that wealth of feedback and opinion, we’ve been able to make some changes to three areas of the policy – how we allocate housing, how we prioritise the circumstances of households, and balancing the problems we have with supply and demand.

The main change to the policy is that we will move to being more proactive in helping households find a home and ensure that at least half of all offers are made direct. This will ensure that those in most need are prioritised. We also propose to extend the use of local letting policies which will ensure that, where possible, people are supported into accommodation within a locality that they have a connection to ensure as little disruption as possible – be it to school, work, or other local commitments.

We’re also recognising the challenging circumstances children in care often find when leaving care and ensuring they are treated as a priority when allocating council homes. Likewise, we are also looking to up the support available to those who currently live in homes too big for their needs to move into more suitable accommodation.

This is just the first phase of our plans to improve the system for those on the housing register. Over the next 12 to 18 months we will begin introducing a new set of IT systems that will offer new possibilities for how people access the register and manage their housing applications. More on that to come soon.