Bristol and Brexit

I am dismayed and angered that Government has moved to shut down Parliament in order to push through its Brexit plans – potentially taking us into a No Deal future. Bristolians are represented in Parliament by four MPs who have now had their voices, and by extension our voices, silenced.

This sits in a wider failure. Over the last three plus years, Governments have failed to engage with political leaders outside of Westminster as to what was needed from any negotiations. People are always shocked when I share that during his two years as Brexit Secretary, David Davis did not once come to discuss Brexit with the Core Cities, which represent some 19 million people in their greater areas and around a quarter of the national economy.

What has fermented is a Brexit crafted in the dark backrooms of Whitehall and corridors of Westminster, with no reference to the rest of the UK – regardless of how places and people voted in 2016. But it is local councils like ours who are putting in place the emergency plans. It will be left to the local authorities to pick up the pieces if the UK leaves the EU with No Deal, as Keir Starmer (Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary) and I saw first-hand when we visited companies and citizens in Bristol last week and heard their concerns.

It has been frustrating hear of the huge sums of money spent on failed ferry contracts and “tally ho” publicity campaigns  – money that we could have invested in mental health, house building, and low carbon transport solutions. At the same time local government has continued to have austerity imposed upon us, resulting in a the loss of government funding of 60p in every pound since 2010.

The entire bandwidth of Government has been consumed by Brexit, with all that bluster seemingly doing nothing to stop the slide towards No Deal – which Parliament has already ruled out. At the same time the Climate Emergency, housing crisis, and migration crisis have meant  local government has needed an engaged Government that is visionary and leading rather than reactionary and pandering with slogans rather than solutions.

It’s is a false promise that 31 October will draw this to a close. If we leave with a No Deal we will face the costly and all-consuming task of rebuilding an architecture to cover trade, migration, defense and alliances, and, of course, how to protect peace in Northern Ireland.

What we really need is for the Brexit debate to leave Westminster and come to the cities, putting local government at the forefront of planning. In the coming days, I will be further working together with other party leaders from Bristol.

Bristol’s bid to become a Gold Sustainable Food City by 2020

Today’s guest blog is from the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Asher Craig, who is responsible for communities, equalities and public health

As one of only four cities in the UK to achieve a Silver award, Bristol is now making a bold bid for Gold standard, aiming to become a Sustainable Food City (SFC) by the end of 2020. ‘Going for Gold’ involves a city-wide effort to make lasting improvements to the way we grow, buy and eat food in Bristol.

Our Going for Gold (G4G) bid will establish Bristol as both a national and an international leader in sustainable food. We want the whole city to rally together and take action – with citizens, organisations and policy makers all working together to reach Gold.

There is a collective energy calling for food that’s good for people, our planet and our city to be made available to everyone in Bristol, and because it matters to our health, our economy, our resilience, our environment and to our children’s future. In a city where 24% of children are living in income deprived households, we must tackle this challenge.

The food system is responsible for some 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to eating less meat, reducing food waste is ranked as the third most effective action to address global warming.

We also know that around two billion people across the world lack access to nutritious and healthy food. Food systems all over the world have fostered ultra-processed food (fast food), and people choose these because they are cheap. But they are not nutritious or healthy.

Cities have become an important agent for change, and for the first time 54% of the world’s population lives in cities, with this expected to rise to 70% by 2050.

Concerns over post-Brexit food costs and security of supply suggest that re-localising our system will help us to secure the livelihoods of food producers, as well as increasing the UK’s future resilience. We need to find local solutions to global challenges.

To help us accelerate our G4G ambitions, I will be exploring opportunities to collaborate with the newly opened World Sustainable Urban Food Centre of Valencia (CEMAS), for which I had the honour of representing Bristol, at their opening ceremony held in the Spanish city, last month.

Valencia is the new international hub for best practice in food sustainability systems and is dedicated to managing and sharing the knowledge, to help guide other cities – like Bristol – towards successful, sustainable food systems.

Cities all over the world are now attempting to develop food strategies and take action – Bristol is already recognised for its positive work, and now G4G will help further the city’s reputation, with its citizens reaping the benefits.

To gain Gold SFC status, we need to take collective action in six key food action areas:

  • Buy better;
  • Eat better;
  • Reduce food waste;
  • Grow more nature-friendly food in the city;
  • Support the food community;
  • Promote food equality.

Working together, we can create measurable and sustainable change to the city’s food system by targeting these six key areas.

As part of the bid for Gold, we also need to demonstrate that we are a national exemplar in two food action areas. We have chosen Reducing Food Waste and Catering Procurement (how we source and purchase food and catering contracts).

We are aiming to become a Zero Food Waste City by reducing and recycling our food waste and improving our catering and procurement processes through increased uptake of recognised procurement accreditations, as well as buying more from local food producers.

We want big and lasting changes to our food system in Bristol, ones that will make a positive difference to our communities, our environment and our workplaces. Visit our interactive Going for Gold website where you can log your food actions and help Bristol Go for Gold!

Telling the truth on the Hostile Environment

The Government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, designed to co-opt public services and others into immigration enforcement, has been controversial from the moment it was announced in 2012. I have been one of many people to publicly oppose the policy. I have done so on a local, national and international level, pointing out the ways it demonises people without immigration status whilst also punishing those with the right to live in the UK such as the Windrush Generation.

So you can imagine my surprise when I read in the Bristol Cable that Bristol City Council was apparently refusing to join with other Local Authorities in taking a stand against the Hostile Environment as manifested in the Rough Sleeping Support Service. The article claims that unlike 11 other Councils, Bristol is “participating in the programme”, which is “using homelessness charities to pass rough sleepers’ personal information directly to the Home Office without their consent”.

Sadly for the Bristol Cable, but happily for Bristol’s rough sleepers, this claim is wildly, and wilfully, inaccurate. Before publication of the article, Bristol City Council were asked for a statement on their relationship to the programme. That statement, in full, read:

“Bristol City Council has not made referrals to the Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS) and would only work with them in order for people to be housed more quickly by reducing delays in obtaining settled status.

“The council’s view is that referrals should only take place after an individual has firstly received legal advice from a registered OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner) and has given their informed consent.

“Non UK citizens who are sleeping rough can spend months or years waiting to hear back from the Home Office in order to resolve their status and we are continuing to work with a range of local and national partners, including central government and our commissioned partner St Mungo’s, to find ways of supporting people to move off the streets regardless of their migration status.’’

How does this compare to the 11 Councils who are lauded for taking a stand against the scheme? Helpfully the Cable article provides a link to a Guardian story on this, which explains that “It is understood that 11 councils, including Brent, Croydon, Enfield, Islington, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Liverpool, Newham, Oxford and Rugby, will not share the personal data unless explicit consent has been given.”

So the thing that marks out these 11 Councils in their opposition to the programme is a commitment that they will not share any personal data unless explicit consent has been given. As the BCC full statement says, that is exactly the position in Bristol. In fact, BCC’s position is even stronger, with the additional provision that a referral should only happen after an individual has received proper legal advice.

But rather than report the truth, that Bristol City Council are in fact leading the way on opposing the Hostile Environment, the Bristol Cable journalist Adam Cantwell-Corn decided to selectively quote from the Council statement, leaving out the critical sentence about requiring informed consent. He then supplemented this with some hostile quotes from an opposition politician, and ‘hey presto’ – news.

The hostile environment is one of the most damaging public policies of our time. It is therefore critical that people are properly informed about it, and are able to direct their rightful indignation about its impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable at those who are truly responsible. By misquoting the Council in order to falsely damn it, Adam Cantwell-Corn has done everyone a disservice. He has misinformed the people of Bristol about a critical issue in our society. He has eroded trust in the Council and its efforts to support rough sleepers off the streets. And by directing anger away from the Home Office and the Government, he has left those impacted by the Hostile Environment further away from the solution they need and deserve.

p.s At time of writing, Adam Cantwell-Corn is claiming that because the Council statement said that referrals “should only take place” with informed consent, this marks them out against the 11 other Councils. Such pedantry hardly merits a response. He has also criticised the Council for not making a public statement, despite the fact that I have blogged here within the last month about the need for a ‘complete rethinking’ of the Hostile Environment.

One-Year Review of the Children’s Charter

Today’s blog marks the one year anniversary of the Children’s Charter and comes from Tanisha Gupta, an intern at the Mayor’s Office from Yale University, who has been supporting the development of the Charter for the last nine weeks.

Today marks a special anniversary for our city because we are celebrating one year since the launch of the Bristol Children’s Charter. Since that bright, blissful Bristol Playday on College Green last year when the charter was first announced, the city of Bristol has united to prioritise the rights and needs of all of its children and young people.

The Bristol Children’s Charter is an unabashedly aspirational commitment to our city’s future. We want each child to have the resources and opportunities necessary to make a positive impact in this world. That means we need to ensure each child’s basic rights are met. We are committed to ending child poverty and hunger, and are ambitiously working to ensure children live healthy lives with high-quality nutrition, access to wellbeing facilities and services, and safety from all forms of violence and abuse. We aim to provide children with access to clean and safe homes and neighbourhoods in a city with sustainable, affordable and connected infrastructure, that allows them to benefit from Bristol being a leading cultural, social and sporting city. We pledge all children will have access to a quality education that develops their potential so they have skills for life and for decent, productive work.

But we want to do more than just provide children and young people with basic necessities. In fact, we must do more if we truly want to set them up for success. That is why we pledge to guarantee children have the skills to thrive in an ever-changing digital world and have the opportunity to learn about and participate in the global community. It is why we ensure children have the opportunity to influence leaders and contribute to the city they live in, and in return ensure the city supports not only children but parents, carers and families as well. And that is why we make these pledges to all children and young people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities, or any other characteristic, so as to protect and provide for the most vulnerable people to reduce the inequalities that exist.

In the past year, we have made significant progress towards achieving our goals. We have had a five-fold increase in the number of organisations signing on to the Children’s Charter; currently, 100 organisations from education, sport, housing, the voluntary sector, social care, childcare, health, environment, nutrition, public safety, law, and business sectors have committed to the pledges of the charter. More organisations are expected to sign on in the coming months.

We have also passed policies in Bristol City Council relating to children and young people’s education, homelessness, safety, health and wellbeing and special education needs and disability (SEND) provisions to guarantee we are making progress towards delivering our goals. Many other policies relavent to the charter are being considered as I write. 

We have hosted two successful Children’s Charter events, established our presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and launched this blog as our main channel for information on the charter and our work. Thanks to all of this work done by the city to prioritise children and young people, the Local Government Association (LGA) Labour Group named the Bristol Children’s Charter as the first innovation in its list of “100 More Innovations by Labour in Power”.

So what’s next? We have just gotten started; while we made respectable progress this past year, there is plenty that we still need to do.

We must continue to strive to make our city’s future better than its present, and to do so we must continue to listen to and provide for our young people. At the heart of this work lies the distinct recognition that local government alone cannot accomplish the hefty feats put forth in the Children’s Charter; the city as a whole must come together to work towards a brighter future.

For this reason, on our one-year anniversary we are launching an “Offers and Asks” section to facilitate communication between signatories and encourage broader cooperation on charter pledges. Each signatory of the Bristol Children’s Charter joins a larger consortium of organisations in the city that are working together to prioritise the rights and best interests of all children and young people. Our new “Offers and Asks” page will enable you all to reach out to each other for advice and help, share best practices, and collaborate on campaigns and events in the future.

On a more personal note, the one-year anniversary of the Children’s Charter brings to close an important chapter in my life, as my internship in the Mayor’s Office is finishing tomorrow. For the past few months, I have lived and breathed the Bristol Children’s Charter, devoting my time to working for children and young people in the city. I am in awe of the palpable passion of the charter’s signatories and salute this city’s ability to unite people together for a greater cause. Though I am not a native Bristolian myself, I at times feel more connected to this magnificent city than I do to my own.

So this one-year anniversary celebration is a collective one; I thank each and every one of you for the role you have played in getting the charter to where it is today, and the role you will play in supporting the charter in the future. This is just the beginning, and I look forward to the development of the Bristol Children’s Charter going forward.

We Take Care of Our Own – How a City Rallied Around a Trafficked Teenager

There’s nothing like a crisis to test the character of an individual, group or place. And it’s hard to imagine a bigger crisis than being told that you’re going to have to leave pretty much everything and everyone you love, just as you’re trying to prepare for the biggest exams of your life.

That was the situation facing Stiven Bregu when he received a letter from the Home Office shortly before his 18th birthday telling him that he was facing deportation from the UK. Stiven’s story was already full of upheaval. Born in Albania, his mother handed him over, aged 13, to people traffickers to escape an abusive situation at home. At the end of an arduous journey through Europe, he was dumped by the side of the road in the middle of the night in a town on the outskirts of Bristol. Speaking just enough English to find his way to a Police station, Stiven was eventually taken into foster care in the city.

What happened next is nothing short of remarkable. Mastering English in just six months, Stiven quickly settled into school and two years later performed so well in his GCSE results that the Bristol Post wrote a story about him. He was accepted onto the City Leadership Programme, set up to support high potential young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. And as he approached the end of his school career he won a prestigious apprenticeship offer with the Wealth Management firm Rowan Dartington.

Stiven’s future looked bright. Having been welcomed and supported in so many ways, he was looking forward to the opportunity to give back to the city he now called home. We can only imagine how he must have felt, just a week before his first A Level exam, when he was told that his application to remain in the UK had been turned down. The argument from the Home Office was that on becoming an adult, it was no longer ‘in the public interest’ for Stiven to be allowed to remain in the country.

In desperation, he turned to those who had supported him so far in his journey. His school, St Mary Redcliffe, started a public petition calling on the Government to allow him to stay. It went viral, attracting almost 100,000 signatures in just a month. When it came time for his appeal hearing, Stiven and his lawyer were joined by an extraordinary team of supporters. Travelling to Newport to speak in his defence were his Head of Year at school, his care worker, the Deputy Mayor of Bristol Asher Craig and the Executive Chairman of Rowan Dartington, Graham Coxell. Stiven’s lawyer said she thought the judge had probably never seen anything like it. Evidently this remarkable show of support paid off, for just 10 days later Stiven received news that his appeal had been successful and that he was to be given leave to remain in the country. “We won the appeal, so I’m definitely staying here. It’s absolutely amazing”, Stiven said. “I just want to say a big thank you to everyone”.

Stiven’s story is one of determination and success against the odds. But it’s not just a story about him. It’s also a powerful example of how a city can take in a vulnerable young person and nurture them. From his foster carers to his care workers, from his school leaders to the wealth management company – time and time again people in Bristol have gone above and beyond in standing up for Stiven and giving him the platform to succeed. When the news broke of the successful appeal, the Bristol Post’s headline said it all: “Victory for Bristol as Stiven wins his fight to stay”. At a time when hate crime has spiked in the UK and it feels like the nation is wrestling with its identity, the groundswell of support for a young boy from Eastern Europe has been a reminder of who we can be at our best.

Stiven’s ordeal has also provided a stark reminder of the madness of our asylum system. The timing of the Home Office decision to deport Stiven, coming just as he was preparing for his A Levels, is emblematic of the complete lack of humanity in the way immigration decisions are made. The decision itself, claiming that it was in the ‘public interest’ to send Stiven out of the country after years of investment in his education and care, is questionable on every possible level. The only saving grace is that the appeal judge was able to finally see sense and recognise Stiven for the asset that he is. Sadly, however, Stiven’s situation is one that is experienced by so many other young people who arrive in the UK as unaccompanied asylum seeking children, not all of whom end up with the powerful supporters that Stiven had.

So there are lessons to learn for everyone from the remarkable story of Stiven Bregu. The brokenness and inhumanity of an asylum system that’s not fit for purpose. The incredible resilience of a young man with a very bright future. And the character and welcome of a city that takes care of its own, wherever they might have been born.

Destination Bristol

Today’s guest blog is by John Hirst CEO of Visit Bristol where he explores tourism’s role in our great city.

Tourism is an essential part of Bristol, but I feel that sometime our city does not know just how important it is. The industry employs almost 30,000 people and contributes £1.3bn to our city and the surrounding region. Destination Bristol is a public/private sector partnership that works with a variety of organisations to build on this success.

We set out to attract more visitors to Bristol; encourage them to say for as long as possible and ensure they visit all of the region’s great attractions. Bristol has great potential to grow visitor numbers, and trends over recent years have been positive. Hopefully, this will continue as the city develops its international links and continues to promote itself as a friendly, creative and vibrant place.

Our website,, provides an ever-increasing collection of reasons why people visit our city. Central to this list are Bristol’s street art; the diversity of fabulous places to eat and a whole series of festivals that the city hosts throughout the summer.

These festivals are something for which Bristol is famous for. From St Paul’s Carnival and Pride to the Harbour Festival and Balloon Fiesta, the multitude of events happening across the city continues to attract visitors of all ages.

As we look to build on this success, we should welcome new visitor attractions such as Wild Place in late July and the new surf lake which is planned to open just before Christmas. This will be complemented by the Government’s recent announcement of the new Tourism Sector Deal which will raise the overall profile of tourism in the UK, and will hopefully have some direct benefits for Bristol over the coming years.

I look forward to encouraging more people who live in Bristol to develop a career in what is a fast-growing and rewarding sector. If you would like to know more about anything to do with a career in our industry or plans for the future of tourism, please do email me –

Thank you, and do enjoy Bristol!

Keeping Bristol fed throughout the holidays

Our guest blog today comes from Maurice Di Rosso, project manager of Feeding Bristol and signatory of the Children’s Charter.

The start of the summer holiday is a joyous time for children and young people wanting a few weeks of care-free relaxation. However, for many children in Bristol, not attending school has an undesired consequence: they will no longer receive free school meals.

Nearly 11,000 children in Bristol are registered for free school meals, accounting for approximately 20% of all children. Through conversations with teachers and community organisations, we know that the actual number of children who struggle to access tasty and nutritious meals is higher and that this problem becomes more acute during the school holidays.

Feeding Bristol

Feeding Bristol is dedicated to driving systemic change to increase food security across all social and cultural communities in Bristol – ultimately striving for ‘Zero Hunger’. We’re aiming to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of immediate provision for those in need, as well as influence long-term local economic and national policy changes to deliver food security for all Bristolians. Over the last 18 months, children’s food needs have been a core focus of the work we have delivered.

Since registering as a charity in March 2018, Feeding Bristol has built its network of partners across the city to bring together everyone with similar aspirations. Our network includes people and organisations ranging from local restaurants, charities, retailers, manufacturers, social enterprises, academics, chefs, and government organisations. Through a diverse range of thinking, we will be able to work together in our efforts to effectively address the systemic factors that cause food insecurity.

FOOD Clubs

June 2019 saw the launch of two FOOD (‘Food on Our Doorstep’) Clubs in our Bristol Children Centres. In partnership with Family Action, BCC Early Years and FareShare South West, this membership-based model provides an affordable top-up of groceries every week. With refrigerators included, we can provide a very high-quality range of food to our members. While the parcels of food received by the members vary from week to week, the intention is to provide a top-up to their weekly groceries, not a complete replacement. Hence, for a £3.50 fee per week, members receive approximately £20 of fresh and high-quality food.

We will be launching more FOOD Clubs over the coming months across Bristol and would like to extend our thanks to all the partners for making this initiative happen. Keep an eye on the Feeding Bristol website for future details:

Healthy Holidays

Having not received any funding from Central Government for the upcoming summer holidays, Feeding Bristol appealed to the city to help support these children and young people. Local businesses, Bristol City Council, and partner organisations have done an outstanding job coming together to help us deliver our ‘Healthy Holidays’ project. In partnership with FareShare South West and collaborating with approximately 150 providers of holiday clubs and other community-based activities for children, we aim to provide 50,000 nutritious and tasty meals to kids across the 6 week summer holiday.

Long-term goals

Feeding Bristol is continually focused on its mission to systemically drive food security in Bristol. We have four key strategic priorities:

  1. Improving targeted provision to support immediate needs with an initial focus on childhood hunger and other vulnerable groups.
  2. Increasing the local community’s enthusiasm, knowledge and capability to grow and cook food.
  3. Significantly increasing regional food production and the supply of good quality local food to the city within a sustainable economic framework.
  4. Lobbying and working with local and national government, influencing policy change to drive greater food security.

Based on these, we will be establishing ‘Working Groups’ to drive initiatives and work with existing community groups. There is a lot of fantastic work already occurring in Bristol – we hope to provide a platform that allows people and groups to come together to share and learn from one another, enabling continual growth across Bristol and furthering progress towards a zero-hunger city.

If you are interested in finding out more or being involved in the Bristol network, please contact us at

My week with the Mayor’s Office: Chelsea & Libby

Today’s guest blog comes from Chelsea and Libby who have spent a week gaining work experience in the Mayor’s Office and Labour Group Office at City Hall.


My name is Chelsea, and this summer I spent a week participating in work experience with the Mayor’s office and Bristol Labour Group. I secured this placement after participating in the Bristol City Leadership Programme in July 2018 – where I met many leaders from across Bristol, including the Mayor, Anna Starkey, Jeremy Sweetland and more!

During my time in the Mayor’s Office, I helped with a variety of office tasks and shadowed the Mayor. The tasks included drafting emails in response to invites; helping with paperwork; sorting the questions for Bristol Question Time and summarising important news articles for the team. When shadowing the Mayor, I accompanied him while he recorded a video with Immediate Media to promote City Leap and as he spoke at the RIBA forum.

While with the Labour office, I was given an overview of the council from a political perspective, tours of the political offices of each party, and completed tasks for the Labour Office, such as checking the news for relevant bodies of the Bristol City Council.

I also had the chance to attend a planning meeting in the Chambers where they discussed the specific plans for construction and changes to the Bristol area. This allowed me to gain insight into how debates work, how the public gain the ability to have a say in the way Councillors and the Mayor change Bristol.

Finally, I met with several councillors. On Tuesday, I learnt what corporate parenting is while shadowing Cllr Helen Godwin during a meeting on the issue. During the event, I met with many other people, including care workers, care leavers, people from the NHS and Councillors that are responsible for children in the care system. This also gave me insight into what Councillors do and the hard work and dedication they put into their areas of concern. Meanwhile, while in the Labour Office I had a meeting with the councillor for the Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston ward – Jo Sergeant.

I decided to do this work placement to gain insight into the functioning of Bristol City Council and high profile events. Overall, my time at the Mayor’s Office was exciting, and I learnt a lot. Thank you to the Mayor and his team for having me.


My name is Libby, and I had the amazing opportunity of getting a week’s work experience in the Mayor’s office. Over the week, I was able to expand my knowledge and find out about the different functions within the council and the plan for Bristol’s development. As a year 10 student, I haven’t had the opportunity to study law and politics, so this was my first proper insight into the system. From it, I was able to work on my communication and develop new skills.

Throughout the week, the office had me attend different meetings and take part in tasks to give me the best experience possible. Here are some of my favourite moments. On the first day, I was introduced to the office and set up with my own laptop, which made me feel like a proper part of the team.

On Tuesday, I met with two of the cabinet members about their role in the council. One was Kye Dudd, who is the Cabinet member for Transport and Energy, and the other was Paul Smith, who is the Cabinet member for Housing. As well as this, I was able to attend the Full Council meeting. This was a really cool experience to see how people act in a professional environment. I often found myself doing further research on certain things to gain a higher understanding.

On Thursday, I attended the video launch of the #WeAreBristol Campaign at the Watershed, where Marvin Rees gave a speech on divisions in Bristol and how we are all linked in some way. Having gone to a diverse school, it is important for me to have a united community.

Overall, it was an exciting week in which I learned lots of new skills to help me further in life. I now know how the Mayor’s Office functions and what a working environment is like. I loved working with the team and getting to see behind the scenes. Thank you!

Extinction Rebellion

It’s the week after the week before in which many parts of central Bristol were brought to a standstill by Extinction Rebellion. Views on the cause, action and tactics varied.

I want to share some reflections. But I do this making clear that it is possible to question and challenge a group about its approach without being misinterpreted as undermining the goal, in this case, addressing the climate crisis.

I believe in protest as a lever in the democratic process. I am a student of black American politics. I participated in the Jubilee 2000 and the World Bank/IMF and anti-globalisation protests. They shifted public opinion and political awareness and supported real changes to the structures of international finance that drove poverty and the associated consequences for instability, migration and deforestation in the global south.

Extinction Rebellion has played an important role by putting climate change high up on the political agenda. I will be one of many city leaders who welcome this. We have been stressing the need for central government certainty and investment in transport and infrastructure so are be able to deliver the carbon neutral future we have committed to. Government for its part continues to disappear into itself, consumed by Brexit, power contests and delayed, unpredictable and zero-sum funding rounds. Anything that helps get Westminster looking outward is welcome.

But there are challenges.

Blocking the M32 was a tactical error.

Ahead of the planned protests, we agreed with Extinction Rebellion a Memorandum of Understanding to manage the protesters gathered in the Castle Park area. We closed roads around Bristol Bridge to ensure the safety of protesters and the wider public. The planned action was very high profile, and the message was being heard. But once protesters broke our agreement by blocking the M32, Extinction Rebellion began alienating members of the public with every inconvenience. I have been clear that this action stepped over the line, and I think it was a tactical error for the movement that ultimately proved to be counterproductive.

An emergency requires solutions.

I have asked XR for the specific actions they would like the city to take. The challenge is that beyond “tell the truth” and “act now” I have heard little yet in terms of specifics. There are obvious problems with this. If you have no agreed list of specific asks/demands, how do you know that what people are currently doing isn’t enough and isn’t being done fast enough? Secondly, if people say “OK, what do you want?” you have nothing to say.

This happened in the BBC3 documentary, Extinction Rebellion: Last Chance to Save the World. In an interview, the founder of the movement was asked “Does Extinction Rebellion have proposals for how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025?” To which response was “No, because that’s not our job”.

I have noticed that when spokespeople are asked, they revert to highlighting the scale and immediacy of the crisis. I agree it is immediate, which is why I believe everyone must be developing solutions. If you are on a sinking ship, those who think through solutions, no matter how basic, are more helpful than those who continue to shout the ship is sinking.

As a council, we have successfully achieved our corporate target to reduce carbon emissions two years early with a 71% reduction of carbon emissions in 2017/18 (against a 2005 baseline) and last week we announced our action plan in response to the climate emergency declaration.

And the city is following our lead and stepping up to take responsibility. The City Office has established a city Environment and Sustainability Board to agree to a series of environmental goals up to 2050 through the One City Plan. I’m hopeful we can work with partners across the city to come up with clear steps and milestones to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and beyond.

Signing contracts, running procurement processes, addressing planning, participating in drawn-out negotiations are not as exciting or glamorous as protest, but it’s where many of the things that need to get done actually get done in local government. Again, protest has a critical place in our democracy, but it must be deployed wisely, understanding the people and institutions it is targeting, and with a clear set of actions it wants.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are vital to XR’s campaign if it is going to truly fulfil its stated aim of being a wide-reaching and representative democratic movement.

Democracy isn’t merely a question of voting rights for those in the club. It’s also about openness, connectivity and accountability to outsiders. Without doubt, class hierarchy and global racism are integral to a system whereby the global north has secured their growth without regard to the planet in general and Africa, Asia and South America in particular. These systems robbed so many people of the opportunity to shape the world and their place in it – now they threaten their futures too.

For XR to be successful, and bring people with them on their cause, becoming more diverse and inclusive is the challenge they have to take on.

We face a climate emergency, and we need action now. It’s about focused action and results. A friend of mine said a problem well defined is a problem half solved. We need a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the emergency itself, of the people and institutions in play, of what is required for success, and we need everyone developing solutions.

I have asked to meet with the leaders of Bristol XR again to suggest real solutions and actions for our city to tackle the climate crisis, so that they can be part of the conversation to affect real change.


WeAreBristol Launch 3 - CB Bristol Design 2019

Today we launched a new campaign with the #WeAreBristol film. The film shows 60 Bristol strangers who were randomly selected to come together and take part in a social experiment.

IMG_6579The people in the film represent everyone in Bristol – young, old, rich, poor, people who have always lived here, and people who have moved here from other parts of the world. It is easy to say that on the surface these people are different. But what the film shows is that actually they have far more in common than you would think.

Films and campaigns like this are vital, particularly at a time when many people would say the UK has never been more divided. It is vital because it makes us stop and think. It challenges us to reflect on our own behaviour – do we judge people before we have even heard them speak? Do we make assumptions about a situation because of pre-conceived prejudice?

It is true that political fractures have led to a rise in race-related hate crime. These fractures and the anonymity provided by social media, have seen a surge in both subtle and blatantly obvious discriminatory remarks.  It’s led many people to think it is ok to openly share and display feelings of intolerance.

The #WeAreBristol campaign which starts today says in Bristol we can be different. We can take steps to shut down intolerance, be proud of Bristol’s diversity and stand side by side with our neighbours – no matter where they come from or what they believe in.

Our views, our lifestyles and even the way we look might be different, but deep down we are the same. We are human. We are Bristol.

Please watch and share the film: