Category Archives: Homes and Communities

Rough sleeping – let’s end it for good

Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes and Labour Councillor for Horfield.

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping published their interim report this month, ahead of final recommendations due later this Autumn.

Bristol was pleased to be invited to sit on the Advisory Board for this Commission. I look forward, as the new cabinet member for Housing, to working further with the Commission as it continues its work, alongside fellow member, our Director for Communities and Public Health, Christina Gray.

As a group, we are examining the lessons from the pandemic response which supported people sleeping rough. The aim is to help all agencies involved – including us, as local authorities – understand what worked and what is now needed to embed the good practice that was shown during the past year. It’s this work which saw us reduce rough sleeping by 80% in Bristol.

‘Everyone In’ enabled us to fast-track our city ambitions to end rough sleeping altogether. We took advantage of the opportunity to connect people with the support services they needed alongside accommodation. This period showed what can be achieved when we are able to invest in the right interventions.

It is now vital we are supported by Government to maintain this progress and secure long-term housing. In the last two years, supporting tenants in the private rented sector at risk of homelessness has kept a roof over their heads and saved the council taxpayer £12 million in potential costs such as rehousing. While supporting our most vulnerable citizens remains the top priority, that principle of investing now to save later is also true when it comes to helping people with a history of rough sleeping. Meaningful intervention now reduces the likelihood of more taxpayers’ money being spent on costs down the line on health services and criminal justice.

Bristol’s housing teams are building on the momentum we gathered during ‘Everyone In’, developing projects that will help increase move-on accommodation options. It was great to see the Commission’s interim report highlight the brilliant work done by St Mungos in the city, who worked closely with us and Homes England to buy units of self-contained accommodation for those sleeping rough. We know it’s vital that people are offered long-term stability, alongside the skills to live independently, and it was good to see this highlighted in the report.

However, the longstanding structural challenges remain the same: we need more homes. But if we can maintain our momentum, we can go a long way to achieving sustainable success. It is therefore vital the Government learn from the success of the Covid-19 response. They need to step up the level of investment in homelessness services and accommodation for us to avoid a future surge in rough sleeping.

City of Sanctuary – celebrating ten years!

Anna Wardell, Interim Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary
Today’s guest blog is from Anna Wardell, Interim Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary

2021 marks ten years since Bristol officially launched as a City of Sanctuary, where hundreds of people gathered under a sea of blue umbrellas on College Green to celebrate a movement of welcome for refugees and asylum seekers in our city. Tonight, City Hall will be lit up in blue to honour the anniversary and demonstrate Bristol’s continued commitment to building a city of welcome and safety for all.

City of Sanctuary in Bristol originated when a Bristol City Council official, the late Loraine Ayensu, heard about Sheffield becoming a City of Sanctuary and fed the idea back at a Refugee Week steering committee meeting. A group of people from Bristol’s diverse communities, including faith groups, community groups and, most importantly, those with lived experience of seeking sanctuary, came together. This culminated in a motion from the late Cllr Ron Stone at Full Council on 16th November 2010, winning the backing of councillors. Bristol was officially recognised as a City of Sanctuary in 2011.

The idea behind the movement is one of welcome and safety. It is a network of dedicated individuals and organisations who all recognise our shared humanity and the immense contribution that people seeking sanctuary make to our city. The movement for welcome is a powerful one in the city; from the incredible organisations that work with people seeking sanctuary to the local schools and colleges who strive to become Schools of Sanctuary, it really is something to be proud of. But there is still a lot of work to be done to make it a City of Sanctuary in nature, not just in name, especially against the backdrop of policies that make seeking asylum in this country so difficult. 

People often have to wait years for a decision on their asylum claim, subjected to not only an intolerable wait but also a culture of disbelief from the Home Office. They are effectively banned from working whilst waiting for a decision. Hostile policies and visa conditions force some people seeking sanctuary into poverty and destitution. This hostile environment will only get worse if the Nationality and Borders Bill passes through parliament. It would create a two-tiered asylum system that focuses on punitive proposals rather than sanctuary and welcome.

However, over the years working with our supporters across the city we have achieved a great deal towards our vision of sanctuary. We have established our Schools of Sanctuary initiative, working with local schools and colleges to encourage and foster welcome within the community; set up a Sanctuary Transport Fund, which provides bus tickets to people seeking asylum; and run campaigns to influence local and national policy, including our current campaign against the Nationality and Borders Bill. None of this would have been possible without the coming together of so many individuals and organisations in the city, along with the support of the Mayor of Bristol, Councillors, Bristol City Council, and our local MPs. 

The story of our journey would not be complete without a special mention of Forward Maisokwadzo, who was hired as Development Worker (thanks to a grant support from the Bristol Legacy Commission) to make the vision of City of Sanctuary a reality in Bristol. He has worked tirelessly for over a decade to embed this vision and continues to be a leading voice on what sanctuary means in Bristol, now working as Inclusion Advisor to the Mayor of Bristol.

Tonight, as City Hall is illuminated in blue, we say a huge thank you to all those in Bristol who support our vision and work. Working together we can build Bristol as a city of welcome, safety and hope for all.

Bedminster Lantern Parade

Today’s guest blog is from Ade Williams, chair of the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade and Superintendent Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy.

There is great power in togetherness, celebrating each other’s contribution to a joint endeavour. Yet as a society, we are faced with ever-present reminders that our communities are unfairly divided. Sadly the age at which we first experience this only continues to get younger, shattering something that is forever lost.

Over the last 18 months, many of us have discovered an awakened desire to see positive changes in our society. Sadly life with all its demands will start to rob us of the chance to pursue those changes. Do you remember saying, “When this is over, I will not go back to the old ways?”

Ade Williams, Chair of the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade

Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade has launched a fundraising appeal to raise the £15,000 needed to deliver the tenth anniversary extravaganza, South Bristol’s biggest Winter event. As Chair of the organising steering group, I know a lot about the dedication and work of delivering this event. All the volunteers, artists, teachers, and sponsors that support children across our community express themselves, showcase, and celebrate their work together.

One of the core values of the Parade is that it is proactively inclusive. Children from the nine schools involved represent the ever-increasing rich diversity of our South Bristol communities. Some even over-representing the racial diversity and socio-economic profiles across our shared City.

One of the event’s ambitions is to tackle why some children create lanterns in school but do not participate in the Parade. We feel this is very important. Working with friends and peers to create something exciting must be matched with the joy and thrill of showcasing it. Suppose many more young people can see how much the community loves and appreciates them; the potential fruits of such life experiences can be transformational.

The Parade’s link to better health and wellbeing is an added bonus. Art and creativity are positive health and wellbeing influencers. Collective effort and volunteering increase self-worth while walking the length of the Parade will reduce your blood pressure, burn calories and increase your heart rate — likewise for dancing. As for dancing to the rhythm of the music, you have an expressive licence.

The Bedminster Lantern Parade is a transformational event. Your much needed financial support and contributions enrich our community, sowing seeds to produce a healthier, inclusive, equitable society. Building that better future is the collective effort linking us all together.

Join us here: https://www.lanternparade.org/

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.

Jiu Jitsu for everyone!

Today’s guest blog is from Luke Chamberlain, who I met at Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu during a recent visit to Southmead.

Gracie Barra is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and self defence martial arts club for children and adults in the heart of the community. Gracie Barra Westbury is the embodiment of the “Jiu Jitsu for everyone” motto, with over 200 members ranging from 3 to 60 years old.

Men, women, boys and girls from all walks of life come together to enjoy this incredible martial art, developed to enable the smaller, weaker practitioner to overcome the bigger, stronger individual. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the perfect way to empower yourself, gain confidence and get in shape amongst a community of positive and supportive teammates. 

With over 30 classes per week spread across 7 days, including kids, adults, beginners, advanced, competition training and open mat sessions, there is something for everyone regardless of your age or experience.

The club is run by me and my brother, Clayton, both lifelong martial artists and students of world champion and head of the Gracie Barra organisation in Europe, Professor Victor Estima. Training since 2009 and having competed on the international stage, we have developed a strong reputation in the Jiu Jitsu community, which has lead to us receiving the honour of being promoted to their current ranks of black belt (Luke) and brown belt (Clayton) by their renowned Professor. 

After opening in May 2017 starting in David Lloyd Westbury on Trym, the club fast outgrew it’s training space and relocated until finding a home in its current venue, The Youth Centre on Greystoke Avenue, a fully renovated space large enough to sustain the club’s ever expanding member base and timetable. 

Amongst our many successes on the competition scene through the efforts of both kids and adult students: from local level, securing best academy at the Bristol Open to national level, winning gold at the British Championships, and all the way to an array of medals at the European Championships. What the club regards as it’s biggest achievement is its community of members and families that have supported the club during the challenging times of the last year. Without this commitment to each other and the common goal of sharing the benefits of Jiu Jitsu with as many people as possible, Gracie Barra Westbury would not have become such a success. 

One of the club’s main goals has always been to make roots in the local community spreading its message of Jiu Jitsu for everyone. This goal has recently been further realised with coaches taking women’s self defence sessions at both Redmaids’ High school and also girls groups within the youth centre itself, helping to empower young women to navigate the world with confidence. 

Moving forward and working closely with local charity, Southmead Development Trust, plans are in place to take the club into a purpose-built academy. There, we can continue to provide the best possible service for our members and further serve the community by offering sessions to more local groups that could improve their quality of life and enjoy the many benefits of training Jiu Jitsu and learning self defence.

Get in touch now for your own two-week free trial.

Three lions

Photo credit: Reuben Dangoor (Instagram)

The sad reality is that as Marcus Rashford lined his penalty up, I was thinking not only about the European title, but the potential racial backlash that might occur if he missed. My fears were somewhat eased when Italy’s second penalty taker, Belotti, missed. Rashford missed. I was concerned, but all was even.

Football has never been just a game and never been only confined to the ninety minutes on the pitch. The meaning of football cannot be understood without understanding the social and political world around it. And football is connected to the nation’s soul – all at the same time revealing, expressing and shaping it, lifting it up and pulling it down. 

The England team made their way through the Euros in this context. It’s a context that included unequal media treatment to black players, such as Raheem Sterling, and years of tumult on questions of identity, race and belonging, more recently brought to the surface through events such as Brexit, the Home Office’s hostile environment, Black Lives Matter, and the Windrush scandal. And we had the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister not merely failing to defend, but excusing the behaviour of England “fans” who booed the multi-racial England teammates as they together took the knee against racism.

As Sancho stepped up, my anxiety rose again. Two black players missing would be too much of an opportunity for the overt racists and keyboard warriors. My heart sank as Donnarumma made the save.

Of course I was feeling gutted at the prospect of not tasting the England victory that was in our grasp. But my fear of that loss began to be overtaken by my concern for the socio-political storm Rashford, Sancho and other people of African heritage would be subject to through the racist backlash that would follow an England loss. That shift in emphasis wasn’t my choice. It was a natural fear.

Then Pickford saved. Hope! Saka steps up. Sadly my gut reaction was to wish it wasn’t him, as the stakes were so high. Remember, it’s not just the European Championship at stake. It’s the consequences of the potential backlash if three black players miss penalties following two white players scoring. Donnarumma saves and I know what’s coming next.

This is a learning moment, should we choose to take it, should we choose to hear it. The insight is just how precarious “belonging” is for people of African and Asian heritage. It can always be questioned. Sometimes the questions are overt and sometimes subtle. But we all know they are there. It makes my own belonging feel “qualified”. 

That doesn’t translate into a loss of patriotism amongst our communities. We can see that in the dedication the boys have put in to getting England to the final. But it can produce a sadness. It sends a message that there is an element of belonging in England that must be earned, maintained and then validated by people whose belonging is an unquestionable birthright.

This last point is experienced through the positive interventions of people like Gareth Southgate, Gary Neville, and Alan Shearer. They are allies and their condemnation of the overt racism is absolutely welcome. But the sad reality is it is also needed because the cover they provide carries a power that cannot be matched by people such as Ian Wright or John Barnes, simply because the white players enjoy an unquestionable birthright.   

We must be careful that the effort to comfort the victims and condemn racism does not turn into a dismissal of the potency of the voices of the racists. A “sticks and stones” level argument isn’t good enough. We have to ask honestly, as a nation, to what extent the backlash we are witnessing is the expression of a hateful culture held by a few mindless individuals, or to what extent its origins are to be found in somewhere deeper in our national soul.

At its worst, retail politics and journalism play to a market it believes is out there. On Monday, England player Tyrone Mings tweeted:

Former Conservative cabinet minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said:

Let not rush to move beyond the tension and discomfort at the price of learning something more profound about ouselves.

Support Don’t Deport

Councillor Tom Renhard

Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes and Labour Councillor for Horfield.

This marks my first blog and I am pleased to be able to focus it on such an important issue.

My background is in housing and mental health campaigning, helping to build power for some of the most disenfranchised people in our communities. Ensuring the voices of those with lived experience are enabled, heard and embedded within all that we do is vital. For that to have even a chance of happening, there needs to be trust.

24 July marks the ten-year anniversary of Bristol’s status as a City of Sanctuary, a city that’s committed to being a ‘welcoming place for all’. We’re immensely proud of this, and Bristol’s recognition as an open, inclusive, supportive, city.

It’s a mindset that is often in stark contrast to the current Government’s, which was reiterated on Tuesday. Bristol City Council voted to pass a motion that commits the Council not to follow the Home Office guidance that uses rough sleeping as reason to cancel someone’s leave to remain in the UK.

This guidance requires the Council and its partners to refer rough sleepers to the Home Office and other relevant authorities, which could result in them losing their leave to remain, and consequently being deported from the UK.

It should go without saying that myself, the Mayor, and the rest of the Labour Group found this guidance hard to stomach. Bristol is renowned as being a welcoming, progressive, city and this guidance could not be in starker contrast to that.

As well as being callous, it does nothing to help tackle homelessness in Bristol. We need people at risk of homelessness to have the trust and confidence to approach the Council and its partners for help – why would any of our migrant community do that if it puts them at risk of being deported?

We’re proud to pass this motion in favour of the #SupportDontDeport campaign which has been championed by Homeless Link. If someone calls Bristol their home, they should be able to access the same support mechanisms as UK-born citizens and not face the threat of deportation – I don’t think this should be a controversial point.

Our administration has been working to tackle homelessness by addressing the causes of homeless and we’re succeeding. We’ve overseen an 80% decrease in the level of rough sleeping, and this is no doubt in part due to the fact we’re improving access to support services, building social housing, and supporting people on low incomes.

As well as addressing the causes of homelessness, over the last years we’ve worked to improve conditions for rough sleepers. We’ve worked with Bristol churches through the One City Plan to open Winter Night Shelters, opened St Anne’s Shelter with St Mungo’s and started the Warm Winter Coats initiative.

We appreciate though that there’s always more work to be done. That’s why we’ve recently launched Bristol Street Outreach, a seven-day-a-week rough sleeping service, particularly focused on engaging with people who have been rough sleeping for a long time.

Passing this motion compliments the work we’ve been doing to tackle homelessness in Bristol, so I’m glad it had the support of some other parties.

Going forward, we’ll continue to tackle the causes of homelessness by accelerating our housebuilding programme, improving our homelessness support services, and by continuing to support the worst-off. We will also continue to speak out where we need to. This will give those who rely on us to be, or amplify their voice, the trust and confidence that we are on their side.

Remembering two of Bristol’s best Black creatives

Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor for Communities, Equalities, and Public Health.

Councillor Asher Craig

Just a few days apart, the city has lost two of its ground-breaking artistic black creatives: Barrington Anderson, co-founder of the brilliant award-winning Ekome National Dance Company, and Reynold Duncan, founder and Director of Arts Opportunity Theatre (fondly known as AOT). I send my heartfelt condolences to their friends and family at this difficult time.

Barry Anderson

Barry Anderson

Barry was instrumental in the development of African arts in the UK, not just Bristol.  A dancer since the age of nine, he specialised in Ghanaian dance for over 20 years.  He arrived with his family from Jamaica at the age of six and settled in St Pauls.  In a society full of poverty and problems, dancing gave Barry a means of expression, a sense of his roots and a profession.  His legacy continues with members of his family, led by his sister Angela Anderson, continuing to bring Afrikan Dance to the masses.

Barry’s Thanksgiving and Celebration of Life was held this week. It was befitting that Barry’s ancestral journey should begin with a Drum Call which followed the casket from his home in St Pauls to St Mary Redcliffe Church.

Reynold Duncan

Reynold Duncan

Reynold was born in Guyana and was a musician.  In the early 1980s he established Arts Opportunity Theatre in Bristol (also known as AOT).  AOT helped hundreds of young unemployed people from all communities across Bristol under the then Manpower Services Commission’s  “Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP)”.  Many of whom went on to achieve great careers and success in the creative and performing arts.  These included drama, dance, music, stage management, lighting, photography, video-editing, costume design and making, creative and journalistic writing, graphic design, electrical and electronic engineering, office administration, booking, and computer skills.  His contribution is legendary and he laid the foundations for what has become one of Bristol’s greatest strengths as a creative and artistic city. 

I had the opportunity of working for AOT in the 1980s.  Reynold appointed me as the Chief Administrator at AOT.  I  joined the company when they were in the middle of rehearsing for their show, Black & White in Colour. This was was followed by the musical play Freedom City – which played at the Little Theatre in Bristol – and Romeo & Juliet in Dub, all of which toured throughout the UK including Edinburgh Fringe Festival where they received rave reviews. 

Plans for Reynold’s funeral are being finalised, but one thing that I know is both Barry and Reynold will receive the send off they deserve and their legacy in our city needs to be both celebrated and remembered by all.

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.

Conclusion

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.