This past year city representatives including myself and Mayor Marvin Rees have been working hard to support the dialogue and learning from Bristol’s role in the trans-atlantic slave trade, including through the Bristol History Commission, the Legacy Steering Group, and publishing Project Truth to help inform how the city responds and moves forward.
Alongside this and to help inform both our own learning and that of two of our twin cities, Bordeaux and Hannover, with whom we mark our 75th twinning anniversary this year, I have been privileged to visit both and pay respect to the victims of slavery and remember our cities’ roles in the trans-atlantic slave trade.
In May, a small delegation from Bristol, including myself, Professor Olivette Otele, a historian of slavery and memory of enslavement; Sado Jirde, Director of Black South West Network; Dr Mena Fombo, a Bristol International Ambassador, entrepreneur, film director and global speaker on diversity and inclusion; and Dr Emmanuel Adukwu, Deputy Head of the Department of Applied Sciences at the University of the West of England, were invited to take part in Bordeaux Slavery Memory Week.
As a fellow port city, also actively involved in the slave trade, they have embedded learning about the city’s slave history in a way Bristol can actively learn from. All Bordeaux school children join a targeted education programme outlining history of enslavement, as well as a memorial garden, trail, and permanent museum exhibition.
Last week I was invited to Hannover to take part in a wide programme of events to mark our 75th twinning anniversary, including a signing of a shared Memorandum of Agreement for future collaboration and panel discussions including one as part of the recent opening of the jointly Hannover/Bristol curated ‘About Golden Carriages and colonial past – Hannover, England and Slavery’ at their Historical Museum.
It was an opportunity to share more about the work of the History Commission and Legacy Steering group as they also explore their own role in the colonial past and how we can jointly work together on this and other shared priorities to achieve a better and more informed future for all our citizens.
I was also honoured to be able to see the culmination of Bristol’s Youth RISE Dance group’s collaboration project with FZH Linden Hannover with a performance representing human rights at the ceremony marking our 75th twinning anniversary at Hannover City Hall which was powerful and moving.
We would like to give our thanks to both Hannover and Bordeaux City Councils, City Partners, our Twinning Associations, the French Foreign Ministry for facilitating these special visits, and all those who we met and engaged with as part of the programme. It was a chance to share experiences, find solutions to common problems and support each other in achieving our goals.
Events to commemorate the 75th twinning anniversary with Bordeaux, as well as Hannover, are taking place throughout the year. More information about the events can be found on the Visit West website.
‘Our Stories, Our Journey’ was our first exhibition as Coe Gallery, the UK’s first Aboriginal owned gallery. The artists’ works explored themes of connection to land, culture and identity and I feel the impact of the exhibition has been quietly profound. The conversations that I have engaged in or overheard in the gallery have allowed space for thought, planting a seed of contemplation.
Reflecting on the feedback, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, cultural pride and appreciation, for both artists and visitors. It was a joy to be able to curate the exhibition and hang the works of emerging Aboriginal artists, some of whose work has never been seen before in the UK and receptively, given some of our 500 visitors had never-before seen Aboriginal art.
A consistent theme within the artworks was the artist’s messages of love for land, nature and the need for connection which sang through the gallery at such a vibration it moved some visitors to tears.
“I am so touched by being part of (an) enriching and thought provoking art… Coe Gallery has brought to us an element of reflection that we are all connected… Interbeing and reflective about who we all are and where we all come from. All education has a power and so does this exhibition. We can see unseen, we can touch untouched, we hear what is not heard. Symbolic and really grounding.”
One of the aims of the exhibition was to encourage connection – to land or self. Bristol has been the perfect place in the UK to facilitate these conversations of cultural exchange and change. As a result of the 2020 BLM movement in Bristol, I have found it has encouraged people to start listening to each other and hearing other sides of history that have been lesser told. Because of this, I believe there is space in Bristol for the Indigenous experiences of Australia’s Traditional Owners to be heard.
Despite the colonial narrative that continues to override our Indigenous experiences, Bristol embraced our stories. Thank you to those that came for having an open mind and heart. What I have learnt from this exhibition is that we all individually long for connection and a sense of belonging. I believe that to belong, we have a responsibility to care for the place that we all equally belong to, our global home – our earth. Aboriginal culture has survived and thrived in harmony with the land for over 60,000 years. The knowledge and lessons in sustainability is essential in bringing back balance to our planet as we face the devastating impacts of a changing climate.
Thank you to the Mayor and the Vestibules for flying the Aboriginal flag outside City Hall, acknowledging Aboriginal Australians and amplifying our messages that we as people are still here and, have always been here. Thank you, too, to Bristol University and Bridging Histories for supporting our first exhibition. Going forward, Coe Gallery will continue putting on pop up exhibitions and working towards offering artist residencies, inviting Aboriginal artists to come to Bristol and participate in meaningful cultural exchange.
The cost of living crisis is affecting us all. As we lookto the colder months, I know many people are deeply concerned about the cost of heating their homes and rising energy bills.
Projections that energy bills could continue to rocket into early 2023 have sent shockwaves throughout our city, where around 30,000 households live in fuel poverty. We support calls for immediate national action to freeze bills to save families on average £1,000, by taxing record oil and gas profits.
In the medium and longer term, Bristol City Council is glad to have secured evenmore funding through the government’s Home Upgrade Grant, to help even more eligible households in Bristol, Bath, North East and North Somerset to install energy saving measures in their homes, through the Bright Green Homes project. Eligible residents who do not use gas central heating are now invited to apply for grant funding, to help reduce their household energy bills and help make their homes more energy efficient.
Eligible households may be entitled to receive up to £25,000 of funding for a huge range of energy saving and low carbon technologies, which will be incredibly important as we look ahead to the colder winter months. This includes external and cavity wall insulation, double glazing, energy efficient doors, as well as air source heat pump installation and solar panel systems.
Over 200 households have already benefitted from the first phase of the Bright Green Homes scheme, with more families set to have help to keep their energy costs low and reduce carbon emissions.
To be eligible for this£2.7 million round of funding, you must:
not use gas central heating. The scheme is only open to households who use oil, coal, LPG, or electric heating systems;
have a combined gross annual household income under £30,000 per year;
have a valid Energy Performance Certificate with a rating of D, E, F, or G;
live in Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset or North Somerset Council areas;
be the owner, landlord or private rented tenant of the property.
The scheme has funding for a limited number of homes across Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset. If your household meets the eligibility criteria, please complete the online questionnaire.
The Bright Green Homes scheme will not only help to reduce energy costs for individual households, helping more households become more energy efficient is also an essential part of Bristol’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Did you know young people spend 80% of their waking hours in a year outside of school? So youth work services are vital for them to access the support they need during these times and we need the support of all city partners to make sure our young people can access great youth workers.
Youth Work is a profession that makes a difference to a huge number of young people across the city and nationally. That said it is often a hidden service, taking place in parks or youth clubs, on street-corners and with small groups or individuals.
Youth workers provide support to young people through their transition from childhood to adulthood, they help young people to deal with the huge challenges of growing up and navigating teenage life, and to find their place in the world and be active citizens in their communities.
Young people need somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to and youth clubs and youth workers are a vital resource to provide this support.
Nationally though youth work has also been critically under-funded, and years of austerity and covid have seen youth work decimated nationally with more than 70% of the national budget removed over the last 15-20 years.
Despite these national cuts Bristol still has a strong and diverse youth work sector. In recent years we have come together to develop a vision for youth work in the city and to work in partnership to help raise the profile of the impact that great youth work makes and therefore leverage more funding into the sector.
New national government funding from the Youth Investment Fund aims to address some of this funding shortage by investing in 300 new youth clubs across the country. As a part of this Bristol is bidding, alongside OnSide and Youth Moves, to develop a new state-of-the-art Youth Zone in the south of the city.
At Youth Moves for the last 17 years we have been aiming to provide outstanding youth work in South Bristol, working with a huge range of partners, schools, community organisations, other youth and play delivery groups, the Police, social care teams and much, much more.
So investing in a Youth Zone, which is a large secondary school/ leisure centre sized youth facility, open 7 nights a week, 364 days a year, and which has over 20+ activities going on every night helps to increase our offer to young people. It provides the very best facilities and equipment, is delivered by fantastic staff and partners, and shows the young people that we care, that they matter, that they are seen and that we are investing in their futures.
On International Youth Day it is great to be able to look ahead with such optimism for the future.
Many plaudits have been written about Roy Hackett since his passing, so there is no need for me to repeat what we already know about this humble, resilient and at times very funny human being. When Roy spoke, people listened and we saw this in action as he played a pivotal role in the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott which paved the way for the first Race Relations Act of 1965.
I first met Roy Hackett, when I was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Bristol Council for Racial Equality, in the late 1980’s. I was representing St Paul’s Community Association, now better known as the Malcolm X Community Centre.
Roy was always elegantly dressed, – suit, tie, and that recognisable trilby hat. Roy was sat next to Owen Henry and also in the meeting was Prince Brown, Barbara Dettering, Olive Osbourne, Shivranjan Singh (the Chair of BCRE), Bhupi Bowri, Carmen Beckford and Fred Walcot. They were amongst many other leading black and Asian race equality activists and civil rights campaigners, who paved the way and passed on the mantle for people like me to step up and be counted. I was by far the youngest on the Board, but it was the best school I went to as my journey as a young black activist and agitator kicked in.
Today we marked the 60th Anniversary of Jamaica Independence at City Hall. For as long as I can remember, Roy always attended this annual event that has become a staple in the Civic Diary. He was a proud Jamaican and today his place in hoisting the flag alongside the Lord Mayor, was taken by his grandson and great-grandson. A fitting tribute was paid to Roy by the Lord Mayor of Bristol and in time this city will pay its own tribute to this Son of Jamaica, and proud citizen of Bristol. This year’s diamond jubilee celebration was observed under the theme ‘Reigniting a Nation for Greatness’, Roy was an example of this countries true greatness.
Roy was already a living legend so his legacy, is already documented but there is so much more to this great man than what we hear about him in the media or in books. Roy was a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend, and colleague who continued to fight against racism and inequality until his passing. Many of us will continue his work and many young people will be inspired by Roy’s story and will pick up the mantle as we continue to strive towards the elimination of racial discrimination in both this City and around the world.
Throughout my own journey in this city, I have had the privilege to have known and stood on the shoulders of many great giants – black activists, campaigners, and pioneers – Mr Roy Hackett MBE, is one those giants. Thank you for your service to this city Roy – your legacy will live on.
Local media and newspapers are an important feature of a place’s identity – displaying the best and worst of an area, celebrating and challenging its people and institutions. At SARI we know the deep impact media coverage, good and bad, has on our communities. The local media share important information on politics and popular culture, as well as the responsibility to frame and explain in a way which helps readers interact with their city.
We also see how today’s media have to battle for people’s attention and clicks online. This can create the pressure for attention-grabbing headlines that are not thought through in terms of consequences for communities. A short, snappy headline can have disproportionately high levels of impact on a lot of people. The wrong kind of headline can stoke divisions in our communities. It is for this reason that there is a need for genuine understanding, sensitivity and representative and informative journalism. Because of all that we have navigated in our national conversation on race and inequality, Bristol’s role is particularly important.
I was, therefore, saddened when a number of local people contacted me about the front-page headline published by the Bristol Post on Tuesday August 2nd stating that they found it inflammatory and divisive with racial overtones. People were worried that it could impact on community relations and even lead to some backlash hate crime.
It reads: ‘Harbour Festival ‘Too White.’ The article is in response to a Bristol City Council Cabinet paper which is reviewing our Harbour Festival following community consultation. When you read this report, it is clear that the key messages are about the need to make sure that the event is more inclusive and as safe as possible for the diverse communities it should be serving. It raises concerns that have been shared by consultees that the festival is too focused on drinking culture and that they are put off by this and find it an uncomfortable environment – this was especially the case for Black and Minority ethnic respondents and families wanting to bring their children or those who do not drink alcohol. The report suggests the festival needs to examine its main purpose and what it aims to celebrate and suggests that it should also better reflect Bristol’s harbour history from a multi-cultural perspective – including its links to the Slave Trade. Other ideas include introducing an alcohol-free zone and ensuring the activities and entertainment are attractive and reflect our communities more and better meet the needs of disabled and neuro-diverse people. The report reflects consultations the Council have carried out and really such suggestions can only be seen as laudable for an equalities’ charity like SARI.
While the article on page three explained this context quite reasonably, it is let down by a front-page headline that serves only to sensationalise the race element of the cabinet paper – which actually is not written simplistically either but is discussed in a wider context. The headline gives the false impression that the entire report and consultation is just about colour and race which is simply not the case. It also results in scapegoating black and minority ethnic people for ‘ruining’ a traditional festival.
All have reflected the Post headline (but then not proceeded with such positive articles). They have focused almost entirely on the race issue preyed on the fears that a traditional festival is at risk of being ruined because of the needs of Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
The Post headline has had a domino effect in the national media where some reports have the added and deeply unpleasant connotation that this ‘attack’ on Bristol’s Harbour Festival is all caused by our Mayor (who just happens to be Black) – with the Daily Mail reporting that “A councillor slammed the report, telling the Telegraph: ‘This latest attack on the hugely successful Bristol Harbour Festival sadly comes as no surprise and is a further indication of how the current Labour mayoral regime loathes everything which is ”Shipshape-and-Bristol-fashion”. We know only too well where such implications lead – our Mayor has been supported by SARI many times due to racist attacks which all too often have arisen after scapegoating media coverage.
Increased polarisation in our community is an unseen consequence of negative, myth-inducing and ill-informed headlines. I would entreat our local media not to compromise our City’s safety and cohesion just because they are so desperately wanting clicks and attention from the National Media. This is the cheapest form of journalism in our view.
We are writing this blog to share a message for The Bristol Post and any other local media that it is crucial they work with us as a city to help build and maintain community relations, to tackle racism and division rather than the opposite. Our local newspapers must take responsibility for their actions – e.g. be mindful of how the written word has the potential to contribute to peace and togetherness or to goad and incite hatred. Otherwise agencies like SARI are left picking up the very broken pieces – which actually are local human beings facing awful backlash hostility.
I will conclude with just a few of the comments that illustrate the concern and unhappiness from a few of our local Black and Asian community leaders for whom the potential negative impact of such a headline will be only too real:
“There seems to be a disease infecting parts of our local media. They seem to operate under a different code of ethics and without any sense of shared social responsibility.
I am talking of course about the headline grabbing story reported in The Bristol Post “Harbour Festival Too White” (2nd August 2022). It saddens me that as I try and remember in sorrow, the life of a campaigning civil rights activist Roy Hackett MBE who died this week, I am having to dig deep and maintain the civility and decorum that his generation had to muster against far more direct and hostile racists. Yet here we are almost 60 years on and The Post has joined the gutter press by reducing a complex set of issues from a detailed 24 page official consultation document that were reported in good faith and with total transparency to yet another attention grabbing headline. Is it racist? No of course it isn’t. Is it part of a rotten culture that distorts reason and evidence for yet another negative headline that will have racist sympathisers jump on it in Bristol? Absolutely! Alex Raikes from SARI has the facts and evidence for those who care to see the full effects that gaslighting has on anything to do with diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Let me say this clearly and without equivocation. It is hard, very hard, being a Black man or Black woman in public life. Marvin Rees and Asher Craig hold a very high profile with all the responsibilities that follow being in the public eye. They have accepted their oaths of office and should be held to account. But on standards and principles shared with others, it is palpably absurd to insinuate that every decision led by them at City Hall is because they are Black or anti-racist. The inference is offensive as well as factually inaccurate. It may be hard but sometimes it is worth capturing the complexity and nuance behind a story. This is lazy journalism.”
Fuad Mohammed, CEO of Ashley Community Housing:
“The report invites the harbour festival to be more representative of Bristol… but this sensationalist front page article is causing more division with no solutions presented in the real challenges in the report.”
Sandra Meadows MBE:
“Actually, really angry and disgusted with The Bristol Post for this sensationalist, divisive, misleading headline. Given the article, it’s clear that this was intentional. Intended to offend, upset and divide. This serves to confirm that little if anything has changed at the deepest levels of The Post, despite their so-called ‘Year of Change’ following justified criticism for their ‘Faces of Evil’ front page. We should and do expect our main local paper to reflect the progressive city and to contribute through high quality journalism to cohesion across all our communities.
The fact that they published this on the week Roy Hackett MBE passed away speaks to the work still to be done with Bristol institutions such as The Post. Mr Hackett’s legacy is great and enduring. His unstinting dedication to racial justice and community cohesion should be rightly applauded. I shudder to think what The Bristol Posts legacy to Bristol will be! If they are to continue holding the monopoly on Bristol news we should all be worried…and ashamed.”
Marti Burgess, Chair of Black South West Network
“I was shocked to see this headline. It just seems that the editors chose to use divisive language by having the phrase “too white” in the headline. With a different headline the people of Bristol would have read, with an open mind, an article about a report on how to make the harbour festival better and more inclusive for all communities. Instead we got a headline which just feeds the narrative that ‘woke’ people and black and minoritised communities have a problem with traditional British culture when in fact no-one does but in a city as diverse as Bristol something like the harbour festival needs to change so that all communities see it is as something for them. I was saddened and disappointed by the headline and thought it did a disservice to our city and its people.”
This summer we are partnering with Bristol City Council and the Heart of BS13 to offer Forest School holiday club sessions for local children. The current cost of living crisis has made it even more important to support our local community by offering free sessions to local families over the summer holiday. We are also aiming to address food poverty by providing everybody with a warm, healthy meal cooked on a campfire. Sessions take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday throughout August at our wonderful roundhouse site in BS13.
Forest School provides young people with the opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem, stretch comfort zones, and enjoy and appreciate the outdoors. Originating in Denmark, the Forest School ethos is all about giving people the opportunity to be free in the woodland environment.
Young people also get the chance to practise physical outdoor skills in a safe environment such as tree climbing, whittling, building dens and fires. There is an abundance of opportunities for social interaction through various group activities which help to develop teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills. Our sessions also include elements of personal reflection for our young people to review their learning and set new goals.
The past two years have been challenging for so many young people in our community. Children have felt isolated from each other, and we are experiencing a mental health crisis amongst our young people. The data from the NSPCC shows an 85 per cent increase in children’s mental health referrals. We would like to change that. Research shows that spending time outdoors leads to lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety and so we want to give young people the chance to play outdoors, in a safe and fun environment. We love spending time outside and discovering the world around us, which is reflected in all our sessions.
A survey we completed at our Forest School showed that children felt happier after interacting with others and felt more confident after overcoming challenges. Some of the challenges include using tools, lighting fires, climbing trees, and learning about plants and animals. At Forest School, we believe in empowering children to make their own decisions. This helps to give them a better understanding of boundaries, risk, and consequences, and have confidence in their own abilities.
Tackling climate change through sustainable, ecological education is something we are very passionate about. Working with nature is at the core of everything we do, and we want to share our love for all things green with our local community.
It’s an exciting time for the Temple Quarter regeneration project. In June, the project received nearly £95 million to kickstart the first phase of delivery in the areas around Temple Meads station. As I wrote at the time, the proposed transformation of the area represents a new phase for Brunel’s historic station and its surrounds and is the culmination of years of hard work from the council and our partners Homes England, Network Rail and the West of England Combined Authority.
Since then, we’ve continued to engage with the community, businesses and stakeholders. We’ve also hosted visits from Bristol’s MPs, as well as civil servants from the Department for Levelling Up and the Treasury, reflecting the importance of the project in delivering new homes and jobs for the city region in the eyes of government.
From 20 May to 4 July, we ran a consultation on a development brief for Mead Street that set out guiding principles for change in the area. Mead Street is one of the six distinct areas that make up the Temple Quarter and St Philip’s Marsh regeneration area, located just south of the Bath Bridges roundabout between St Luke’s Road and the Bath Road. This week, I’m pleased to say that my Cabinet colleagues endorsed the document, and it will now help to guide the process of considering planning applications in the area.
We produced the Mead Street development brief ahead of a wider development framework for the whole of Temple Quarter because most of the land at Mead Street is owned by private landowners who have brought forward proposals for new development. By creating an overarching document that sets out principles for change, our aim is to ensure that change in Mead St happens coherently, creating a vibrant new community with good, joined-up infrastructure and public spaces, rather than as a series of disconnected development sites.
Overall, the principles in the brief were welcomed by respondents to the consultation, with over 50% of people either strongly agreeing or agreeing to the four principles set out. Drilling down into the data, some of the highest levels of support were for the creation of new community space (84%), safe and inclusive streets (86%), integrating green space (89%) and creating a new public open space at the heart of the neighbourhood (87%). It’s great to see positive reaction to these proposals, which reflect our commitment to safeguarding space for sustainable travel and public spaces as we plan for the homes we need to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis.
We also know how important employment space is at Mead Street, and the area is currently home to a mix of successful businesses. The survey results show us that Bristolians agree – 70% of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that existing tenants should be retained and re-provided for where possible and compatible with the regeneration of the area. 80% strongly agreed/agreed with the aim to mix homes and jobs to create a genuinely mixed neighbourhood. Finding this balance is important, and we’re committed to working with partners to ensure employment space of the kind already in the area is protected, as our work with the C40 Cities initiative nearby at Whitehouse Street demonstrates.
We did receive comments about the potential height and density of any new buildings in the area. The height of any new buildings will be determined through the planning process by whichever independent, cross-party development committee the decision falls to. However, geographically, Bristol isn’t getting any bigger, but its population is growing at speed. We have to deliver new homes, but we also need to protect greenspaces around the city and meet our commitments to the climate and ecological emergencies. That means building new homes in the right places more densely than we have done before.
Mead Street is an ideal location for new homes, potentially as many as 1500. It is previously developed land, close to the city region’s major train station and within walking or cycling distance of the city centre and local amenities. To create that number of homes, alongside the improvements to infrastructure and public spaces the consultation respondents want, means that, yes, new buildings at Mead Street are likely to be taller and denser than what is currently there.
I have reflected previously on the competing demands we face as a city if we are to deliver the new homes we need. As I said then, cities are complicated and demand constructive debate. We will continue to engage with local people as plans for Mead Street, and the wider Temple Quarter area, progress as we work to deliver the new homes, jobs and public spaces that our city deserves.
You can read more about the Temple Quarter project and find the Mead Street development brief at BristolTempleQuarter.com.
Love Parks Week is a chance to again celebrate Bristol’s fantastically diverse range of parks and green spaces. All of which are so important to our health and wellbeing, and which in recent times have drawn in even more visitors than ever before.
Parks are a glorious mix of the public and the private: public when we walk the dog, catch up with friends, and encourage our children to play and explore; and private when used for picnics, exercise, relaxation, or even quiet contemplation. Our parks provide us with all this and so much more, and during COVID-19 restrictions local parks were a crucially important lifeline for many too.
We’re very lucky to be home to an array of beautiful green spaces. We have formal parks, nature reserves and recreation grounds across Bristol, including large estate parklands such as Ashton Court and Stoke Park. Stoke Park is also undergoing some important work to make it accessible to all. Improvements to an existing historic path aim to be completed this summer.
We have wooded areas such as those at Badock’s Wood and Manor Woods Valley, district parks such as Eastville Park and Redcatch Park and vital local community green spaces such as Riverside Park or Withywood Park. Big or small, local to you, or further afield, these parks provide a welcome respite of big open-air space and greenery in an urban landscape.
Let’s not forget how important playparks are to families also! From inner city playparks such as St Paul’s Park to larger play areas like Blaise Estate, these areas provide somewhere for children and young people to explore, make connections and engage in physical activity. Many a friendship has started in a playpark – adults and children alike.
There are therapeutic benefits to being outdoors in our parks with much research showing how being in or amongst green spaces can increase our physical health, mental wellbeing and quality of life. Trials of ‘green prescriptions’ are underway around the UK with GPs encouraging patients to take exercise in nature, with Roots to Wellbeing therapy in nature sessions available for free in Bristol. Due to open this August at Blaise Nursery is a new Community and Therapeutic Glasshouse, where community groups will be able to book for horticulturally based therapeutic events.
Love Parks Week is the perfect opportunity to say a huge thank you to the many volunteers, park groups and workers who care for, maintain and protect our parks, making sure that citizens, visitors, and wildlife can all enjoy these spaces for generations to come.
Projects to enhance our green spaces such as the £400,000 St George lake improvement project make sure that parks are looked-after and preserved for people, but also that we create a safe and diverse habitat where wildlife can flourish and biodiversity is promoted. The work we’ve done at St George lake should within months start to benefit birds, bees, amphibians, and pond micro-beasts too. In the longer-term hopefully, dragonflies, damselflies, newts, and bats, will come to enjoy the new mini-wetland habitat also. Parks and green spaces form a very important part of our commitment to protecting and reversing the decline of wildlife in the UK.
We have almost 18,000 households (and growing) on our waiting list for social housing, along with over 1,100 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.
Over the past decade the cost of renting in the city grew by 52%, whilst wages only increased by 24% over the same period and current levels of inflation are far outstripping any growth in income. The spiralling costs mean housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable, pushing many further away from their place of work, family, and support networks, impacting across sectors and low and middle income households
This is why we have launched a Living Rent Commission.
We are bringing the best, partnership focused organisations together to explore the issues facing renters.
The principle aims of the commission are to:
Improve affordability of the private rented sector
Understand the impact of regulation on rent prices including on housing quality and maintenance
Identifying the most effective rent controls
Consider what other powers are required
Consider how to empower tenants’ rights
The powers needed to ensure the rental market is accessible and works for all do not exist. The commission will make recommendations on possible rent stabilisation powers. The powers come from government and so we will work with Westminster on policy development to reform the private rented sector, enabling Bristol to become a Living Rent City.
While we will focus on delivering change for the tens of thousands of renters in Bristol, we are also making links with other urban areas and could see this work pave the way for rent reform that benefits millions across the country. This is our time to make the case for a Living Rent, and it has never been more important given the current cost of living crisis with no immediate end in sight.
We have a track record of supporting action to improve conditions for renters. Whether that be lobbying for the end to no fault evictions, that are a huge driver of homelessness in our city, or campaigning to bring in the eviction ban during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been pushing for renter reform for some time.
With cross party support, I wrote to the Secretary of State setting out the city’s support for the Renters Reform Coalition proposals for change. We will lobby to ensure these issues remain on the agenda. I will continue to fight for better protection for renters and ensure they are not driven out of Bristol.
So how can people contribute to the work of the Living Rent Commission?
We will be ensuring a wide range of people have the opportunity to be heard, including the lived experience of what it is like on the ground. I am grateful to the organisations who are prepared to work together on the Advisory Board and other organisations who will have plenty of opportunity to shape the work.
Get involved, so Bristol can have a clear voice on this – we need a Living Rent that is manageable for people and works for Bristol.
Want to know more? Get in touch by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership of Living Rent Commission Advisory Board as at 26/07/22: