World Consumer Rights Day – It’s Right To Repair

Today’s guest blog comes from Councillor Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

In 2019-20, we collected over 750 tonnes of electrical waste in Bristol. This includes everything from fluorescent light tubes and kettles, all the way up to fridges, washing machines and TVs.  To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent in weight to more than 100 adult elephants.

A large driver of this waste is a relative lack of recourse that consumers have to get manufacturers to repair items outside of their warranty period. With a complex electrical item such as a washing machine, often the costs of securing replacement parts or getting someone who has the expertise to repair the item are higher than it would be to buy a new one. And if manufacturers refuse to produce spare parts for products that they sell, customers are faced with little choice but to dispose of electrical items.

Today is World Consumer Rights Day, which calls for more awareness of consumer protections and rights from businesses and governments. To that end, I welcome the government’s recent announcement that customers will have a right to repair on goods that they buy from this summer. In addition to helping people save money by keeping their appliances for longer, the proposal will have a significant impact on the amount of electrical waste we generate – both here in Bristol and across the country.

Extending the shelf life of electronic products needs to go hand in hand with restoring and reusing as many items that we can which would otherwise be thrown away. For many years we’ve championed a proactive approach to reducing the amount of electronic waste that ends up in landfill. In June last year we opened the first Reuse shop at Avonmouth Reuse and Recycling Centre, and we’re planning to open a second shop at the new Reuse and Recycling Centre on Hartcliffe Way in South Bristol.

The store stocks goods such as TVs and vacuums along with other household items such as books and children’s toys. While the store has been closed during lockdown, the team have continued to restore items and sell them on the Bristol Waste ebay page. A third of the money made from sales goes to charity.

This movement towards a circular economy, in which we reduce waste and move towards the continual reuse of resources, is also vital if we want to realise our environmental ambitions. Management of waste in Bristol contributes around 5% of all of our most direct carbon emissions. In our One City Climate Strategy, we have set ourselves the target of ensuring that at least 65% of all ‘waste’ is repaired, recycled or re-used. To put it another way, we have to stop thinking of things we throw away as “waste” but as a potential future “resource” if we process it correctly and carefully.

By supporting people in Bristol to buy goods that will last for longer and can be repaired affordably, we can therefore not only help save households money, we can take significant steps towards making Bristol carbon-neutral by 2030.

Potholes and roadworks

We are facing up to the difficult decisions on Bristol physical infrastructure which have been overlooked and ignored for too long. So much of our infrastructure is coming to the end of its lifecycle. Our roads, harbour walls, overpasses, heritage assets and utilities are being used more than ever, and that wear and tear adds up. It slows our transport network; it risks flooding of homes and businesses and can give people a feeling that the place around them doesn’t matter.

We have set out to fund and arrest these large scale challenges, such as the expansion of Temple Meads, work on the New Cut, plans for the reinstatement of Kingsweston Iron Bridge to be submitted to planning and repairing Redcliffe Bascule Bridge. The recent £2.6 million from the government’s Pothole Action Fund will further boost our ability to develop the transport network, and carry out preventative work and repairs across our 1,000km of carriageway and nearly 2,000km of footways.

But we should remember that every day we have a committed team working in all weather, across the city, to keep Bristol functioning. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our Highways team have continued to work to ease congestion to make our highways safe for all road users, while ensuring public safety. Many other companies and agencies also work to keep transport, utilities and services operating.

Last year 2,746 pothole repairs were completed in Bristol. A quarter were completed in 10 days or under. The vast majority being concluded within the government’s target 28-day period.

These figures represent defects that do not present and immediate danger with the higher category potholes being repaired on the same day as they are identified. An example would be how today we’ve had to move quick and shut St Philips Causeway (southbound carriageway only) to repair a dangerous pothole.

We are determined to minimise the impact that works have on our transport network. At 10 days, Bristol’s turnaround on repairs is much shorter than the government’s 28 day deadline that is followed in other areas of the country and we are leading the way in the region, with our Highway Maintenance team achieving above national average across several areas including speed, performance and quality of maintenance, as we continue our work to address the failures caused by historic lack of investment in the city’s infrastructure.

Our Active Roadworks policy and zero tolerance approach can be shown in how we enforce on overrunning works undertaken by utilities companies. Overrunning Utility works fees are applied for works that overrun without authorisation. Of course, some works will overrun for legitimate reasons such as engineering difficulties which are then authorised. But if there is no viable reason, charges are applied, and because we want to make sure that companies understand our determination to keep Bristol moving we always apply the maximum charge possible for overruns.

While other authorities negotiate on charges we have a robust, structured format and we apply strict deadlines. The fees vary in value depending on the road category and range from £250 up to £10,000 per day, and between April 2019 and January 2021, we issued 486 overrun charges totalling £1.4m. In the same period, we issued 3,100 defect notices, where poor reinstatement of the highway has to be rectified at their expense after we’ve inspected roadworks.

Of course, prevention is better than cure and we’ve worked with utilities companies and their contractors to set out expectations so that Bristol can keep moving. We have quarterly performance meetings with all main Utilities and their contractors. Performance is addressed as part of these meetings and sanctions placed if required.

The same can be said for our infrastructure challenges, and while we wish decisions have been taken years ago on harbour infrastructure, cultural spaces and road and cycle network, we’re getting on top of the decades of underinvestment in the fabric of our city. We’ve committed to the restoration of the iconic Bristol Beacon, and have announced plans to work with the Prince’s Foundation to repair the Ashton Court estate. At Cabinet we approved additional funding towards the completion of works to repair, restore, and assess structures and other assets around the River Avon and Floating Harbour Future-proofing Bristol’s watersides.

anyone who spots a pothole to report it online at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/damaged-road-footpath or by calling 0117 922 2100

“We will start with you and what’s right for you” – the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse

Today’s guest blog comes from Deputy Mayor Councillor Asher Craig (Public Health and Communities) and Councillor Helen Godwin (Cabinet Member for Women, Families, and Homes) who co-chaired the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse. You can read the commission’s published report here.

In March 2020, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was being felt across the world, the UK was plunged into lockdown, and for the first time in living memory people were ordered to ‘stay at home.’

While this was an essential message for the nation’s public health, it was also terrifying for the many people for whom home is not a safe place. Lockdown was therefore a dangerous development for many Bristolians.

Here in Bristol we have a proud record of working in partnership, and our approach to supporting survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence – before, during, and beyond the pandemic – is no different.

In Summer 2020, with  Marvin’s support , we launched the Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse. Through a series of virtual workshops, we engaged more than 80 people from 28 local and national organisations to help form principles and recommendations that will underpin how Bristol responds to domestic abuse and sexual violence. We extend our thanks to all our commissioners who contributed their energy, expertise, and compassion.

We are pleased to share the commission’s report with the city. The report includes 35 recommendations to help us become a safer, kinder place, where victims and survivors of abuse and violence feel supported, safe, and empowered to move forward and build new lives.

We need the whole city to take action on the report’s recommendations, building on the superb work of Bristol’s support services. We do this in order to make these seven principles a reality for our city, and for all survivors of domestic and sexual violence and abuse in Bristol. Our report is dedicated to you – we see you, we hear you, you are not alone.

  • We will start with you and what’s right for you.
  • There are a range of support services available and ways in which we can build safety with you. There will always be a person available to talk to you and help.
  • If you have children, we will work with you to support you, to help you care for your children and keep them safe.
  • It’s your home and we want you to be able to stay in your home, which means if you want the person who is hurting, scaring or controlling you to be told to leave and not return, we will take action so that you can be safe.
  • If staying in your home isn’t be right for you, or you need a safe home to go to, we will do everything we can to help you to make that happen. Your physical and psychological safety are important to us.
  • In every corner of our city, we will work to eliminate sexual violence and abuse, and we will support survivors to feel safe, to recover, and to thrive.
  • Domestic abuse and sexual violence are everybody’s business – we all have a role to play in making sure Bristol is a zero-tolerance city where domestic abuse and sexual violence are not tolerated, and victims and survivors are supported.

If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse, help is available. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 0808 2000 247. You can also find further information on local support services on our website.

One City – building a City of Hope

It’s nearly a year to the day when Bristol, along with the rest of the UK, first went into a national lockdown. Although it’s been extremely hard on everyone, the determination from partners around the city to get us back to some form of normality, when it’s safe to do so, is as strong as ever. Personally, I’m incredibly proud of Bristol’s response to the crisis and hearing from people at the City Gathering today underlines just how much has and is still being done to keep us moving forward.

Our focus continues to be recovery from COVID-19, keeping our population safe and working hard to rebuild. But lots of the work already started, before the pandemic hit, must continue in order to keep us on track to where we want to be by 2050. There is a long way to go, with a lot for us all to do but I can already see change happening. It’s worth us taking the time to stop and acknowledge the successes so far and be hopeful for what comes next. These City Gatherings help us do that, we all come together to plan, to discuss, and also to showcase the things that make Bristol great.

In the five years since I became Mayor, we have had ten City Gatherings. The conversations around One City started back in 2016, helping to launch a number of great initiatives such as ‘Period Friendly Bristol’ which tackles period poverty, ‘Going for Gold’ which aims to make Bristol a sustainable food city, and ‘Looking after Bristol’ which saw us partner up with Bristol Live to find the city’s next 70 foster carers.

This, the first City Gathering of 2021, saw us publish the third iteration of the One City Plan. Year on year it continues to get sharper, more detailed, and able to bring a clearer and more targeted vision across that only a collaborative approach to delivery can achieve.

Today’s agenda included an update from Christina Gray, who looked back over the last year from a public health perspective, giving us all some sobering stats from 2020. We also heard from some frontline workers which helped us understand the challenges and successes over the last 12 months from their point of view. This input from Mohammed Elsharif who is a vaccine volunteer, Hannah Black who is a teacher from Oasis Academy New Oak, and Dr Hyunkee Kim, a GP from Eastville, was really informative, giving us some great perspectives and is something we can include again at future gatherings.

We also welcomed Paul Hassan from Locality, talking about the new program ‘Many Neighbourhoods, One City’ which will share stories from every ward in Bristol. And we listened to some of the actions and recommendations from our first Citizens’ Assembly as well as hearing direct feedback from one of the 60 Bristolians who was involved in the four sessions.

All of this set us up to officially launch the latest version of our One City Plan and hear what we have achieved together over the last year, as well as putting forward the updated priorities and goals for each Board for 2021:

Goal 1 – from the Children and Young People’s Board, chosen by the Youth Council

Tackle digital exclusion through coordinated citywide action across generations, and respond to the enormous challenges and severe impact of the pandemic on children and young people

Goal 2 – from the Health and Wellbeing Board, voted for at the City Gathering

Support community assets (such as community centres / groups) to reduce social isolation and improve mental wellbeing, focusing particularly on communities with mental health inequalities

Goal 3 – from the Environment Board, voted for at the City Gathering

Citywide activity launched to engage citizens on pathways to achieving Bristol’s 2030 climate and ecological goals, in lead up to the Conference of the Parties (COP)

Bristol One City started life as a hope and aspiration of what Bristol could be in the future and even after a few short years, we have an idea of what could be. So thank you to all the speakers and the 300+ attendees that came along today, and hopefully I will see you all at the next one later in the year.

To view the latest One City Plan please go to https://www.bristolonecity.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BD13525-One-City-Plan-2021.pdf or to find out more about the One City Approach please contact the City Office at hello@bristolcityoffice.com

Bristol’s collaboration with the Prince’s charities

Bristol and its people, like all cities, faces challenges on many fronts. But by working with committed partners, we want to build a city which gives opportunity to everyone and protects the iconic buildings and heritage which make it what it is. The work with the Prince’s charities we are announcing today is an opportunity to embed experienced and successful organisations in initiatives working on these fronts in the city, and give them a better chance of success.

The Black Lives Matter protests and toppling of the Colston statue last June were in part a reflection of the growing structural inequalities that exist locally, nationally and internationally. Inequalities that are embedded within many of the systems that govern our lives and which mean not all people are treated fairly or have the same opportunities or life chances as others. These inequalities have been exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic this past year.

We were really pleased to discuss the possibility of a shared response to these socio-economic challenges in Bristol with two of the Prince of Wales’s core charities last year, following an introduction from Lord Simon Woolley and Shabir Randeree OBE.

We’re delighted to announce today that the Prince’s Foundation and The Prince’s Trust, with funding from The Prince’s Charitable Foundation, will work with Bristol City Council and a number of community groups, to identify practical projects in Bristol which would bring benefit to a wide range of local communities.

Ashton Court Mansion, at the heart of the much-loved Ashton Court estate, has been owned by the City of Bristol since the late 1950s. It’s a building of national importance, but following decades of underinvestment is in need of significant refurbishment. Public consultation has revealed a deep-rooted desire to maintain community involvement and public access to the Mansion. Which is why we’re really pleased to share that The Prince’s Foundation will be leading a community consultation on the future of Ashton Court Mansion from Spring 2021, which will bring together groups with an active interest in the building as well a wider network of community organisations. The Prince’s Foundation has over a decade of expertise in community-led heritage regeneration projects around the UK and will bring its skills and experience to bear on this exciting project.

Ashton Court Mansion

In addition to this, The Prince’s Trust will be launching a city centre programme of activities around Temple Meads which will focus on training, employment and entrepreneurship for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Prince’s Trust, which champions youth opportunity, began working in Bristol over 30 years ago and has helped tens of thousands of young people, through various programmes focused on education, employability and enterprise. Across the UK, The Prince’s Trust has helped over one million young people.

We are excited to be partnering with these charities in building Bristol as a city where no one is left behind, especially as we recover from the pandemic. Together we want to make Bristol a national example of more meaningful social and economic inclusion for everyone. Our shared vision will see us taking practical steps to tackle structural inequalities faced by disadvantaged communities, in particular some of our Black and Asian communities.

We also look forward to engaging with the city on how to restore Ashton Court Mansion, an important city asset, for future generations to enjoy.

Local groups will be at the heart of these projects, to ensure their success, and more details of our partnership and opportunities for community engagement will be shared in the coming months.

South Bristol Youth Zone: Working together for young people

Today’s guest blog is from Kathryn Morley, Chief Executive of OnSide Youth Zones, our partners for the world-class south Bristol Youth Zone – which will be the first of its kind in the south west.

News that the Council has approved proposals to move forwards with South Bristol Youth Zone is absolutely wonderful for the young people of the city.

OnSide Youth Zones are safe, aspirational places for young people to go in their leisure time, where they can meet friends and make new ones, while taking part in exciting and inclusive activities. Our charity, OnSide, has developed 14 Youth Zones across the country and we are so excited to do the same here in South Bristol and to partner with a fantastic organisation in Youth Moves to deliver it. Our Youth Zones support over 50,000 young people every year. As well as giving them an amazing place to go with over 20 activities every night of the week, our team of local youth workers establish invaluable relationships built on trust, giving them the vital support they need from brilliant Youth Workers.

Image: OnSide Youth Zones

South Bristol Youth Zone will house only the best facilities for young people. It’s what they deserve. There’ll be a wide-range of sports on offer in our four-court sports hall, 3G kick pitch, gym and boxing and martial arts suite, as well as music, arts and crafts, a giant climbing wall, dance, cooking and a café serving hot meals for just £1.

Bristol City Council’s decision to support these plans is an historic moment for OnSide, as we begin work on the South West’s first Youth Zone. The North, the South East and the Midlands all have them so it’s about time we built one here! The capital cost of the Youth Zone is £8.4million with half of that coming from Bristol City Council, which will also contribute £400,000 to the annual £1.3million running costs. OnSide has committed to securing the remaining development and running costs, which will be combined with the Council funding to cover the construction and opening costs of the building. We will also work to build a group of donors locally to ensure the Youth Zone’s running costs are secured for the first three years.

Image: OnSide Youth Zones

We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to partner with such a fantastic organisation as Youth Moves, which has a well-earned reputation for supporting young people in the area. Youth Moves will run South Bristol Youth Zone and become a member of the OnSide network. We know from experience that Youth Zones deliver the best service when they work in partnership with other local voluntary and statutory organisations and the partnership with Youth Moves will help to achieve this. A Youth Zone is able to provide a new physical space for other organisations to deliver their activities or services to young people. We find that other local organisations are able to reach more young people with their service by partnering with the Youth Zone.  

The last year has shown that support for young people is more vital than it has ever been and youth services are absolutely integral in providing this. Bristol City Council’s commitment to South Bristol Youth Zone shows that it is putting young people first.

Image: OnSide Youth Zones

All change

Today’s guest blog is from James Freeman, Managing Director, First West of England.

All change: the opportunity presented by covid-19 to make mobility around the city and the region more sustainable

As we negotiate our own roadmaps out of the pandemic, it is difficult to comprehend how much has changed over the course of just one year. But with change comes opportunity: and I believe we now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent our cities for the better and to establish sustainable and clean mobility once and for all into our urban infrastructure. 

Before lockdown, congestion and air pollution in the West of England were two of the key issues being addressed by our local authorities, with Climate Emergencies being declared by many, including Bristol.

As I write this, we are anticipating the rollout of the first Clean Air Zone (CAZ) outside London across in Bath on March 15th and, of course, the soon to follow CAZ in Bristol in October which comes hopefully just at the right time as we all start getting back to some normality .  We prepared well ahead for both of these events because as a business we have our own commitment to be zero emissions by 2035 and to stop investing in diesel vehicles by 2022. It’s now a year since we introduced virtually carbon-neutral bio-methane gas-powered buses, There are 99 of them now running clean and smooth on local routes in Bristol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%.  We will also have the whole of our bus fleet in Bristol and Bath retrofitted to meet the highest Euro 6 standard, which also significantly reduces exhaust emissions to improve air quality.

It’s not just Clean Air Zones that will drive change. Bus-only roads and the pedestrianisation of key areas, such as the old city in Bristol city centre, are other key moves to tackle congestion and pollution.  Through the landmark Bus Deal, which aims to double the frequency of services, we have also worked closely with both Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority to develop service 2 in Bristol. The 2 is (normally!) Bristol busiest bus route, running south-east to north west across the City Centre so critical to getting people out of the car for their commute.  As a bus company, we support cycling – people might think we wouldn’t!  But cyclists are often also public transport users and certainly less likely to own and use a car.  We are working to be part of the first and last mile solution by allowing foldable bikes on to our buses.

Covid-19 also prompted the astonishingly rapid development of some clever new ideas to make things easier for the bus user including the change to the First Bus app that enables users to see where their bus actually is on the map and indeed how much space it has, and Tap and Cap which facilitates quick and safe contactless boarding whether you are paying by card, phone or Apple watch.

Through active partnership working, we will continue to support the economic, community and environmental wellbeing of the city, combining funding from local government in bus infrastructure with our own commitment to cleaner vehicles and easing congestion. It’s essential we get people back on public transport rather than reverting to the old habits of private vehicles.  We have all faced unprecedented challenges, but rather than writing off 2020 as the year that wasn’t, let’s make the most of the opportunities which have been presented to us and view it as the year that together we created a positive and long lasting transport legacy.

I have led First West of England these past six-and-half years. As I prepare to enter retirement at the end of this month and hand over to my successor Doug Claringbold, I feel both humbled and privileged to have had a role in bringing about significant change in the way that our bus services interact with local people. It’s been a huge privilege to be part of it all and I will be watching future developments with great interest as I ride off into retirement!

Bristol Citizens’ Assembly

Today’s blog comes from Christine Betts, one of the members of Bristol’s first Citizens’ Assembly. She shares her reflections on taking part in the process in advance of the recommendations being published later this week.

Huge thanks to Christine and to all 60 assembly members for giving up their time to consider how Bristol can recover from COVID-19 and create a better future for all who live, work and study in the city. The recommendations will be shared publicly later this week and will then be presented to Cabinet and the One City Boards for consideration.

Back in the anxious days of November 2020 I was surprised to receive a letter saying that I had been randomly selected for consideration as a member of Bristol’s first Citizens’ Assembly and inviting me to indicate whether I would be interested in taking part.  I had heard of Citizens’ Assemblies in other contexts and, feeling somewhat disillusioned with parliamentary democracy, felt that they might offer an important alternative forum for difficult ideas and decisions to be examined in a less highly charged atmosphere away from party politics.  So I confirmed that I would like to be considered – and then forgot about it. 

By mid-December when I was told that I had in fact been selected as an Assembly member, pandemic anxiety levels were even higher and continuing lockdowns loomed on the horizon.  The prospect of discussing the challenges facing our city with a wide range of people that I would normally never meet was intriguing.   Such a shame that it was all going to be on Zoom – no meeting up in City Hall with opportunities to chat to other Assembly members between sessions over tea (and biscuits?). 

The actual process has been demanding.  Zoom sessions of two and a half hours, even with short breaks, are draining.  We were provided with huge amounts of detailed and fascinating information from a range of different speakers and then plunged into discussions in breakout rooms to exchange views with complete strangers. 

We started with agreeing “conversation guidelines” – over a long career I wished I’d had a pound for every training day that started with agreeing “the ground rules”!  In fact, contrary to my expectations, we never really had any heated debate.  All the Assembly members I came across were assertive but positive and respectful. 

Our groups were indeed representative of all the different sections of Bristol society and everyone came up with interesting ideas.  Sometimes we wondered how realistic those ideas might be but certainly within the groups that I worked with, we felt that we should be ambitious and radical given the massive and urgent challenges facing our city.

I was impressed with the organisation of all four weekends.  Everyone will be aware of the limitations of Zoom and I sometimes longed for the simplicity of a flip chart as I peered at the screen.  However, the facilitators did a great job keeping everything going to schedule, keeping us all informed and capturing our ideas in accessible form.  

I fell in love with Bristol as a student in the sixties.  Although I lived elsewhere after graduating, I leapt at the chance to return to the city in 1980 and have been a proud Bristolian ever since.  I’m retired now but for many years I worked as a lawyer for Avon County Council specialising in child protection, adult care and education so I have certainly been aware of the inequalities in our beautiful city.  I feel privileged to have been able to contribute to the Assembly’s mission of examining how Bristol can recover from Covid-19 and look forward to seeing how the Council and the One City partnership take our ideas forward.

Bristol and amazing symbols of peace

To mark Commonwealth Day, today’s guest blog is from Michael Aregbesola, 2020 Commonwealth Shared Scholar at the University of Bristol. The Commonwealth is made up of 54 countries, including the UK, from across the world.

As we celebrate Commonwealth Day with the theme “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating and Transforming”, I am poised to say that the pathway to connecting is open communication through peaceful relationship and acceptance of the diversity that defines our daily existence. When peaceful relationships are established, innovating becomes an easy adventure and social transformation an unavoidable outgrowth of peaceful relationships. I strongly believe that the way to innovation and transformation is mastering the art of peace in our diversity.

In 2020, I won the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to study Development and Security (MSc) at the University of Bristol. This was gladly accepted as I see it as another push in my career trajectory to be a Peace, Conflict and Development Specialist. In my development impact statement for the scholarship, my proposed study relates to strengthening global peace, security, and governance. So, I entered the University of Bristol with the mindset of acquiring knowledge and skills on how to promote peace across societies and achieve sustainable development.

However, as I began to explore the City of Bristol reputed as the 2015 European Green Capital, I began to practically understand how peace can be built and sustained overtime having experienced some symbols of peace in my exploration of the historical dynamics of the City. The Brandon Hill Park (giving people of different nationalities the serene environment to meet and share values), Bristol’s Food Connections (like 91ways, and International Peace Café giving people of different backgrounds to meet and share their stories), and the Hodgkin House housing postgraduate international students from more than 50 nationalities are all good examples of Bristol’s reputation as a City of Peace. Among these symbols of peace however, the Hodgkin House has demonstrated the power of building collaboration and mutual understanding through peaceful inter-racial and inter-ethnic relationships.

Michael and Janet at Brandon Hill. Photo credit: Ayoola Ademolu

The Hodgkin House, located in Clifton, is an accommodation for International Postgraduate students of all faiths and none. It has its history traced back to 1961 when discrimination was still rampant and as a result, 5, 6 and 7 Meridian Place were set apart for male students from abroad as a hostel. So, the hostel was created to challenge racism in the housing sector premised on the belief that people of diverse background can benefit from the interplay of their tradition in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual trust.   

While in Nigeria, I was able to secure a room at the Hodgkin House through a recommendation from Janet , the Chair of the ‘Friends of Hodgkin House’ and a trustee of the Bristol Commonwealth Society. My experience at the Hodgkin House was laced with enthusiasm, open-mindedness towards other cultures and traditions and an evergreen memory of personal friendships with Joseph from Italy, Wahid from Iran, Ogun from Turkey, Shivangi from India, and other warm communication with other residents with mind blowing expositions of realities of life across cultures. Interestingly, Jacquiline, the Manager of the Hodgkin House shared a story of two students who met at the residence and eventually got married. Jacquiline told me she travelled to India to attend the wedding ceremony. This soothing story and my personal experience while living in the accommodation made me realize that to build and sustain peace across societies, we must be willing to accept other cultures with open-mindedness, shunning biases, engaging positive communication for better relationship, and trusting and respecting people to grow the spirit of love so that peace can become the normal currency for societies without necessarily having to take harder options to make peace.

Michael and other Hodgkin House residents. Photo credit: Ogun

Letter to childcare providers

Plain text version:

Dear colleagues and childcare providers,

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has been working in early years settings during the pandemic. Thank you for the high level of care that you have given to Bristol’s children, providing a lifeline for key worker parents and offering a safe haven to some of our youngest residents during a truly tumultuous year.

Over the last year you have demonstrated your unwavering commitment to our city’s youngest children. You have provided a space for our children to continue to grow, learn and interact in circumstances that are constantly changing, providing security in uncertain times. Bristol is hugely grateful for your impressive dedication. 

We recognise the challenges that our early years settings have faced over the past year. The pandemic has had a huge impact on funding due to a fall in demand for childcare places since March 2020. In addition, Government’s proposals for the early year census are risking future funding levels at this critical time. It is not clear whether proposals to use current registration levels will be a good basis for future funding and we support calls for a guarantee from Government that they will provide the necessary top-up funds if numbers do increase in coming weeks and months. This will be vital to ensure that critical early years settings like yours remain financially viable, enabling you to continue your essential contribution to our city’s recovery.

As the rollout of the vaccination programme continues, we are hopeful that children will once again return in their numbers to early years settings and that staff and children alike can socialise, play, learn and grow free of the challenges of the current environment. But until that day arrives, we want you to know that we greatly appreciate and admire your efforts through this difficult time, and the service you provide has proven itself invaluable to our city.

Yours sincerely,

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol                                    

Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Families, and Homes, including Children’s Services