Bristol’s Period Poverty Summit

Today’s guest blog comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families.

Marvin and I welcomed over 80 people from around the UK to Bristol for a summit to discuss Period Poverty and Bristol’s response.

Period Poverty remains a subject that  many people are not aware of, despite a number of high profile campaigns. A report in 2018 by Plan International indicated that around 137,000 girls across the UK are missing school every year because they have their period. Many of these young people live in families that simply cannot afford to buy period products. There is also a growing body of evidence that links Period Poverty with bullying, social isolation and mental health issues.

Bristol City Council made a unanimous decision in November 2018 to be the first English city to attempt to eradicate Period Poverty, and our first action will be to ensure all Bristol schools are supplied with products accessible to all children from school year 5 to year 13.

Earlier this month at a gathering of Bristol’s key city leaders a vote was held to decide the three key city priorities for 2019, and the city voted to support our work to eradicate Period Poverty in Bristol.

With this collective power and resource in mind, today’s summit was able to focus on how we can best ensure that no Bristolian should have to worry if they can afford to have their period.

Today we shared ideas about accessing period products, improving education around the availability and environmental sustainability of products. Most importantly, we explored how we can build closer ties between all those working on this very important issue. Today’s speakers and discussions gave incredible ideas and focus that will lead to action. We truly believe that Bristol can deliver. We will eradicate Period Poverty.

We already have businesses and organisations in the city doing their bit to tackle period poverty and part of today’s summit was to share their experiences and practical advice. I am proud that we are taking on this challenge collectively, as part of our One City Approach, achieving our aim  that Bristol is a city in which nobody is left behind.

The Future of Libraries – Get engaged

Today’s guest blog is from Deputy Mayor Councillor Asher Craig (Communities, Equalities & Public Health).

Have you got ideas or suggestions for your library and its building? Can you help make these ideas happen?

Last July the Mayor and Cabinet decided to keep all 27 libraries open and pledged to hold a series of community events to bring together local people and organisations to identify opportunities for community led activities and partnerships that will create a library service for the future.

We want to let people know how they can get involved and how the library team is going to be working alongside residents and organisations to come up with solutions for extending the service and the use of the buildings, while also looking at the wider needs of the local community.

These meetings will offer an opportunity for collaboration and will consider the support needed – both financial and practical – to take ideas forward that will become pilot projects.

We want people to come to these events with suggestions and ideas – small ideas that could be developed quickly, and bigger ideas that make a significant difference to how a library service is provided in the future. This is not about saving money, it is about the community finding sustainable solutions and working with us to deliver them.

It is a busy time for libraries. While the community events are taking place, the council is developing a library strategy to help modernise the service and take it forward. The strategy will propose the following areas of priority: reading and learning, digital inclusion and access, extended access and Knowledge Hubs. The strategy will align with the proposed community engagement events which will look in detail at local ideas and solutions for each library.

Libraries continue to provide key services for local communities, but what residents want from them is changing, and the service needs to change with this. We want to hear from community organisations, current and potential library users, businesses and councillors. The idea is that we work together to find the best possible solutions. We are looking for people to come forward with workable ideas for their local library – we are open to discussing new ideas and are keen not to stand in people’s way. This will be different in each area as it needs to be targeted to what that local community wants and needs. We understand that there is no one-size fits all approach.

For those that cannot attend an event there will be an online ideas form where people can share suggestions.

To find out more about the community events or take part in the survey please visit: www.bristol.gov.uk/libraryideas

MEETING DATES:

Rose Green Centre, 65 Gordon Road, BS5 7DR

  • Tuesday 29 January 10am-12noon
  • Tuesday 29 January 7-9pm

Libraries being discussed: Hillfields, Fishponds, St. George, Junction 3

Withywood Community Centre, Queen’s Road, BS13 8QA

  • Monday 4 February  10am-12noon
  • Thursday 7 February  7-9pm

Libraries being discussed: Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe, Whitchurch

City Hall, College Green, BS1 5TR

  • Tuesday 12 February 10am-12noon
  • Tuesday 12 February 6-8pm

Libraries being discussed: Central, Clifton, Redland, Bishopston, St Pauls

The Park Centre, Daventry Road, Knowle, BS4 1DQ

  • Tuesday 26 February 10am-12noon
  • Saturday 2 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Wick Road, Knowle, Stockwood, Filwood, Marksbury Road, Bedminster

Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road, Southmead, BS10 5PY

  • Wednesday 6 March 10am-12noon 
  • Saturday 9 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Southmead, Westbury, Henleaze, Horfield, Lockleaze

Shirehampton Public Hall, Station Road, BS11 9TX

  • Monday 11 March 7-9pm
  • Wednesday 13 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Henbury, Shirehampton, Avonmouth, Sea Mills

The Lunch Club

Last November Bristol was accepted as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Network of Age Friendly Communities. This is thanks to the work of the Bristol Ageing Better partnership, the council and so many older Bristolians who have been involved as well as the lead of my cabinet colleague Helen Holland.  This global network represents cities and communities across the world who are all committed to making their areas better and more inclusive for older people, which also has a positive impact on the community as a whole.

Bristol’s membership is a statement of our commitment to enable older people to feel safe, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society. Figures show there are between 6,300 and 11,400 older people who are socially isolated in Bristol. By working together with the Bristol Ageing Better partnership and our city partners, I want to tackle this and ensure our city becomes a better place for everyone to grow old in.

This ambition will require us to become a more closely connected society where people work together and support one another. I saw a great example of this in action when I visited Avonmouth Community Centre yesterday to attend their weekly lunch club.  I had the opportunity to meet a range of volunteers and staff and to see how this weekly meet up enabled local citizens to not only enjoy a hot meal but also served as an opportunity for the community to get together.

Many people experience the isolation of loneliness at some point in their lives so I welcome the news that several organisations based within the city region have received funding from the government’s Building Connections Fund – the first ever fund dedicated to reducing loneliness – targeting people from all age groups and backgrounds.  It is only by supporting a wide range of partners, organisations and citizens that we can collectively solve some of the challenges of growing an inclusive city, challenges such as social isolation. This ambition is further reflected in our One City Approach and our drive to work better together and deliver real improvements which people can see and feel.  

For the first time, our upcoming joined-up action plan across the public, private, voluntary and academic sectors will look to use the collective power of the city’s key organisations to make a bigger impact for those who feel less connected within our society. I look forward to working with our partners as Bristol moves forward to becoming increasingly a city for all.

Our City – on film

It was great to host talented young filmmakers from across Bristol in City Hall today.

They were entrants to the One City film competition, launched in 2017. This competition was borne out of our work with the city’s media and creative industry to attract Channel 4 to Bristol.

We always set out saying we would go for Channel 4, but that even if we didn’t get the Creative Hub, good things would still have come from the sector coming together in this way.

One of these things was how we created a space and platform for young filmmaking talent to showcase itself and get involved with telling the city’s story.

The finalists of the Our City competition are offered mentoring from leading Bristol film and TV production companies such as Aardman, Doghouse Productions, Drummer TV, Films @59 and Icon Films. The £1,000 prize was this year split between two winning entries: ‘BeBristol’ by Patch de Salis and ‘BRISTOL | Create Here’ by Michael Doran. These films will also be showcased at this Friday’s City Gathering.

This is all part of our commitment to identifying and working with the city to identify the opportunities for young, creative talent.

The creative sector is a huge part of Bristol’s economy and it has been fantastic to work with the sector over the past 18 months.  As Mike Norton said in his editorial for the Bristol Post following the announcement that Bristol has won a C4 Creative Hub, ‘this victory was but a small indication of what can be achieved when Bristol unites behind a project’.

Congratulations to the winners and all the finalists on their achievements. I hope this competition and expert mentoring acts as a catalyst for future creative careers.

Best in Class: Small Business Friendly Council

2018 was a big year for delivery: on housing, became living wage accredited and maintained our children’s centre service and libraries which was capped off with us being named alongside Leeds and Glasgow as one of the three new homes for Channel 4.

Today got off to a good start. I had the honour of being visited by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) who presented us with the “Best in Class: Best Overall Small Business Friendly Council” in the “Local Authority Small Business Friendly” Awards 2018.

This was the first year of what is intended to be an annual series of awards for Local Authorities by the Federation of Small Business.

Our pitch presented our business facing service teams in their entirety, from Economic Development, Employment, Skills and Learning to Business Rates, Commissioning and Procurement. We recognise that small businesses aren’t merely simply businesses but can be at the heart of communities and families, central to local economies and pathways to employment and prosperity for people otherwise locked out of economic opportunity.

In our pitch we had highlighted our commitment to social value in our contracts. This fit well with our ongoing work with the FSB and Small Medium Size Enterprises who are key partners in delivering inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

For those you with an interest it’s worth noting our refreshed Social Value Policy is going to Cabinet on the 22 January. The main revisions of the policy seek to increase the Social Value weighting in tenders to 20% as a standalone value, alongside the traditional price/quality split, and a spend target of 40% with micro, small, medium sized businesses and organisations, and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.

The FSB itself said “Bristol City Council has invested significant resource to support SMEs to grow through a variety of projects including helping SMEs to access apprenticeship funding, providing financial support for a number of business groups, actively engaging with almost 2000 high street companies through its Business Improvement District programme and, at a challenging time for skills, providing regular Jobs Fairs and delivering sector-focused training in partnership with employers.

[Bristol] has also gone out of its way to help with business rates relief – offering £1m up front to the businesses they knew who were entitled to it rather than making each business submit an application. It has also recognised an issue the FSB takes very seriously by setting a policy of paying all their contractors for all good and services within 30 days of invoice as well as offering support to SMEs by showing them how the Social Value Act can aid them in their procurement ambitions. And it has also recently unveiled an Equality Charter to establish a positive culture of diversity in the workplace.”

Being recognised for our practical commitment to small businesses in the city is a great way to start the year. And its work that will remain committed to as our business continue to face the economic uncertainties of Brexit and challenges to high streets.

Bristol Young Heroes Awards

byha

Nominations Close for Bristol Young Heroes Awards on Saturday 22nd December.

Every year Bristol holds a gala dinner and awards ceremony called the Bristol Young Heroes Awards (BYHA) which pays tribute to the young people of the city aged 11-19 who are overcoming challenges to achieve something amazing in the face of adversity.

BYHA was founded in 2013 to highlight the incredible things Young People are doing in the city and to counter the surge of negative press they were getting, especially after the riots in 2012.

The event has grown year on year and has now recognised over 120 young people.  The aim is to not only have a one-off event to give a pat on the back and thank these amazing young people, but to partner with local businesses and programmes in Bristol to mentor and support the nominees after the awards to achieve their full potential and fulfill their dreams… whatever they may be.

The Bristol City Youth Council play a large role in choosing the nominees and the Youth Mayors will be presenting an award at the 2019 awards which will be held on Friday 5th April at We the Curious.

To nominate a Young Person or find out more about the event please go to www.communityofpurpose.com or contact Holly Maurice at holly.maurice@communityofpurpose.com

These Walls Must Fall – Full Council Motion

Hundreds of people marched through Bristol on Saturday to demand an end to immigration detention.

Almost 30,000 immigrants and asylum seekers are held in detention centres every year. Conditions inside are prison-like, with inmates kept behind bars in units (including former high-security prisons) ringed by barbed wire and patrolled by guards.

Detainees have committed no crimes – but unlike prisoners, they often have no idea about when they can expect to be released. That’s because the UK is the only country in Europe not to have a time limit on how long immigrants and asylum seekers can be detained.

Tonight at Full Council councillors called on the Government to end this cruel system. A motion, passed by 48 votes in favour with 11 votes against, called for the Government to change the law to introduce more humane alternative and re-stated Bristol’s commitment as a City of Sanctuary and signatory to the Dignity not Destitution Pledge.

Councillors spoke powerfully about the brutality of the current system.

In some cases, Home Office officials arrive at asylum seekers’ homes in the middle of the night, force them into cars and transport them to other parts of the country. They can be placed many miles from loved ones – separated from friends and family just at the time they need them most.

The toll this takes on detainees was spelled out by an All Party Inquiry into Immigration Detention which found that the lack of a time limit had “a considerable mental health cost…detainees are left counting the days they have been in detention, not knowing if tomorrow their detention will continue, if they will be deported or if they will be released.”

The report also found a lack of adequate healthcare in centres, poor access to legal representation and particularly poor conditions for women, who report a lack of privacy and feeling intimidated by male staff.

There is not just a strong moral case for overhauling immigration detention – there is a financial one too. As the These Walls Must Fall campaign, who organised Saturday’s march, point out, the £125m spent every year on keeping open the UK’s eleven detention centres is both a terrible waste of money, and a waste of lives.

The motion passed tonight calls on the Government to enact in full the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry. We called on Ministers to change the law so that:

  • There would be a time limit of 28 days on the length of time anyone can be held
  • There would be a presumption in favour of community-based resolutions and against detention
  • Decisions to detain should be for the shortest possible time
  • The Government would introduce a much wider range of alternatives to detention

On the streets and in the council chamber this week, Bristol has spoken out in favour of a fairer, more humane system of immigration detention. We hope other cities and councils will follow our lead and help put pressure on the Government to recognise that the current system must be overhauled.

World Human Rights Day

Today marks UN World Human Rights Day. This year’s Human Rights Day is especially significant because it marks 70 years since the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Motivated by the experiences of the preceding world wars, the Universal Declaration was the first time that countries agreed on a comprehensive statement of inalienable human rights. Seventy years later, the rights set out in the declaration remain as relevant as the day it was published.

At a time in which national government is no longer equipped with the tools to address the challenges posed by the modern world, it is more important than ever for cities to play a leading role in advancing the human rights. For years, cities have come together to tackle specific challenges such as climate change and migration. But the world is facing a new type of threat. Resurgent nationalist and extremist politics, fed by new digital communication tools, are polarizing divided and angry societies. In fact, the recent proliferation of threats to democracy and human rights show that continual human progress on these themes cannot be taken for granted. This progress is not always linear. From Brazil, the US and the UK to Hungary, Poland and Sweden, populist nationalist politics threaten human rights progress and the democratic structures upon which this progress depends.

Cities working together across international boundaries have the potential – even the duty – to assume a leadership role to safeguard our democracy. National political structures are demonstrating that they are vulnerable to populist takeover and ill-equipped to take on the challenges of social and economic inequality and the political exclusion that the populists are exploiting. I am convinced that we need to start an action focussed debate about a new architecture for global governance in which our cities and city networks are sitting alongside national leaders as equal partners in shaping domestic and global agendas. We need to strengthen human rights and democracy from the bottom-up.

I recently hosted the third annual gathering of the Global Parliament of Mayors in Bristol with precisely this aim in mind. We brought together nearly 100 mayors and leaders of city networks to explore how we can better work together to empower city leaders to drive change from the local to the global levels. Uppermost on the minds of many city leaders was finding ways to counter the nationalist impulses of their national governments – key to protecting the hard-fought rights of citizens. It was a powerful gathering, but I am acutely aware of how far we have to go.

In Bristol, we are playing a leading role in helping to protect the rights set out within the Universal Declaration. For example, Article 14 states that ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. Bristol is proud to be a City of Sanctuary, recognising the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees to the city and seeking to include them as fully as possible in all aspects of social and economic life. This month we will be welcoming a group of asylum seekers to City Hall as part of a programme offering them work taster sessions in order to prepare them for employment. Bristol City Funds is exploring ways to invest in refugee entrepreneurs so that they can start and grow businesses which bring prosperity to their new communities. And the Council is proud to work alongside the many civil society organisations supporting and empowering refugees and asylum seekers in the city. We are making huge strides in helping to deliver Article 24 – ‘everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment’ through an array of mechanisms, including our inclusive and sustainable inclusive growth strategy and our WORKS programme. Article 25 sets out that ‘all children shall enjoy the same social protection’, with our own Children’s Charter setting out our commitments to our city’s children. The charter is a set of ten pledges formed by various partners across the city, which puts the human rights of children first priority in decision-making processes.

70 years on from the adoption of the Universal Declaration, we need to summon up the same energy and bravery as those who wrote it in order to safeguard our shared human rights. These rights cannot be taken for granted, and progress towards their delivery needs to happen from the bottom-up, rather than the top-down.

Industrial Strategy

A couple of hundred business leaders, academics and government representatives from across the country came together yesterday at “We The Curious”. They were in Bristol at the behest of Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to mark one year since the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and engage in its continued development.

This is a vital piece of work. In Bristol we have set out to write a City Plan in the name of setting out our city’s future before it is handed to us by people and events that are not under our control. I understand the Industrial Strategy the same way – an attempt to be intentional about how we grow and strengthen our economy. It identifies four grand challenges:

  • Artificial Intelligence and data
  • Ageing society
  • Clean growth
  • Future of mobility

The argument is that successfully tackling these will put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. The Industrial Strategy also provides a mechanism for Government to support innovation, and our city’s success in this area is being noticed, with the Secretary of State Greg Clark publishing a new Aerospace Sector Deal yesterday providing £15m of investment for GKN’s new Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

We were broken into small groups to discuss the strategy’s development to date and the key challenges for our respective parts of the country. I took the opportunity to stress the importance of the strategy explicitly recognising the interdependence of social and economic outcomes.

In the short time I raised a number of points:

– I want the Industrial Strategy to make an explicit commitment to inclusive growth. I don’t mean we do the “serious” job of growing the economy and then run a project to get poor people involved. I mean unlock the challenge of developing an economic culture and machinery systemically includes and reduces inequality.

– Social immobility is an economic liability. It leaves unquantifiable amounts of talent undeveloped in a world in which skills is an essential component of any successful city. When we fail to access a diversity of thought, we lose access to the different world views, questions and creative tensions that can be a gateway to innovation and new business opportunities. Moreover, leaving people behind through growing inequality in the face of great wealth creation can result in the kind of social fragmentation, political disillusionment and polarisation that results in instability and further lost talent.

– We should have as high a regard for social policy expertise as an exportable technology as we do for things such a AI and big data capability. Cities across the world are grappling with the challenges of rapid urbanisation and searching for the policy mix that will enable growth without increasing population sickness, gentrification, environmental destruction, food instability, loneliness and many other challenges. While we want to take advantage of robots and AI, we must be careful we don’t end up using technology as the “easy” response to social failures resulting from bad economic growth. The challenges of an ageing society may, for example, be met in part through robots, and the event included an impressive demonstration of an experimental robot providing care support for adults with limited mobility. But longer, healthier more productive lives are also delivered through stronger human relations.

Our job in Bristol is to work with the Industrial Strategy because it present many opportunities in line with Bristol’s strengths, and we are currently working with our partners in the West of England to write a Local Industrial Strategy, to be published next year. As part of that we will ensure we test all assumptions and are explicit about the kind of economic development we need to flourish.