This morning, alongside our Director of Public Health and Civil Protection Manager, I met with city leaders as we continue working together to plan for the potential impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is a developing situation but we have well-established plans in place to make sure the people of Bristol are safe and looked after.
There are some key messages we wanted to share with those living and working in our city, which you can find in the video below.
Today’s guest blog comes from Will Taylor, a researcher and producer for the Uncomfortable Truths podcast.
January 2020 saw the launch of the Uncomfortable Truths project at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Uncomfortable Truths is a podcast series delivered by 14 UWE students and alumni, managed by Stacey Olika and supported by the museum’s participation and curation teams. I had the pleasure of being one of the 14 producers charged with exploring an artefact and designing a piece to capture our audiences’ imagination.
The artefact me and my co-producer, Sam Zubair, (who at the time was an Engineering Masters student) worked on was the Benin Bronze Head. My background is in the creative sector so it was great to work with someone who would be approaching the project from a different perspective.
The ‘Benin Bronze’ is a ceremonial head from Benin City. It arrived in Europe as a result of the British ‘Punitive Expedition’, in 1897, when the British destroyed a palace and looted a large amount of Beninese art and took it to Britain.
It became clear that Sam and I had polarising views about the legacy of the artefact and the project. Sam initially believing that the item should be repatriated whilst I contended that there was value in having the item exhibited here. Great start!
And it really was! Not only was a great friendship borne out of the project but a new appreciation for the Museum, our respective heritages and the truth. We realised we had been asked to explore an issue that was very dear to us whilst being given the opportunity to ‘make’ history by rewriting a section of British colonial history. The story was an uncomfortable one personally as it brought into question our agency over our culture as diaspora. This had a profound effect on our sense of citizenship as the project began to take shape. Fortunately as a result, Sam and I found ourselves devoted to the potential impact we could make in sharing this story in an engaging way. We wanted to encourage several awkward conversations on the drive home from the museum. These ‘new’ accounts of days gone past would hopefully fuel some reflection around our responsibility to totally committing to Bristol’s (and Britain’s) cultural complexity.
Upon reflection this was a real gamble by the museum and a worthy one too. Giving the community an opportunity to contribute to the presentation of a diaspora’s history is very rare. It implicitly encouraged a great deal of self-discovery for the organisation as well as the participants. We were lucky enough to commission two incredible poets and an amazing voice actor for our piece. All of whom bought into the importance of collectively contributing to a new type of historical archive and the importance of legitimising our histories so as to avoid us making the same mistakes in the future. People want to hear these stories and as a result of this project, I can’t help but feel a responsibility to continue highlighting the things that have gone unsaid. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can build on this project in the future.
Today’s guest blog comes from Dr Mena Fombo, Bristol International Ambassador and founder of the Black Girl Convention.
As an activist and an intersectional feminist, my gender equality campaigning is all day everyday, on both a local and an international scale. To be explicit, what I mean by that is that I actively work towards ensuring that we live in a world where ALL of us women* and girls have our basic human rights upheld as the minimum standard – and from there we can elevate. For me, International Women’s day is everyday.
That said – I’d like to take the opportunity on this internationally recognised day to reflect, and show love to the women in my life who have inspired me, elevated me, encouraged me, supported me and most importantly loved me.
These women are our mothers, our sisters, our friends and partners. They are our role models, our colleagues, our teachers and leaders.
A recent post went round on social media a few weeks ago, asking people to tag the names of 10 Inspiring women, I didn’t have a chance to do it as work and volunteering for my city often takes priority, but I’m making time now. So, in honour of these women, I say their names out loud, I list them below and I salute them for their contributions either to my life and to society.
Dr Zainab Khan
KiKi team: Linda Devo and Sharifa Whitney James
Black Girl Convention 2019 Team: Emilie Harryman, Joyann Boyce Bobbi Ogilvie, Ngaio Anyia, Muneera Pilgrim, Josie Gyasi Janelle John Henry
Okay, I cheated a bit with the group names, but hey!
As International Women’s day comes around for 2020, I ask you to continue sharing the names of the women around you who challenge and enable you to be better. Or better still, if you’re able to, why not pick up the phone them give them ring?
Children across the city are celebrating World Book Day by sharing their favourite books, or dressing up as their favourite characters from books they’ve read. This morning, I joined the celebrations at Filton Avenue Primary School. At their assembly they told me about the books they’ve enjoyed reading, and I shared with them books that have particularly inspired me and that I’m currently enjoying.
The autobiographies of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X have been hugely influential, both in terms of my own politics and the ongoing relevance of the civil rights movement for the contemporary fight for racial equality. I am currently reading Michelle Obama’s Belonging, and I have been revisiting the Chronicles of Narnia by reading them with my own children.
Reading is not just good for our imagination. Access to books from an early age has a significant impact on education and social outcomes – as well as the mental health – of children and young people.
This is a challenge which is urgent. While we are making progress, only 64% of children in Bristol achieved the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Maths combined by the time they left primary school.
We all have a role to play in helping people in our city develop their literacy skills and instilling a love of reading in Bristol. Our libraries, of course, provide books and resources for residents to learn from and to enjoy. I’m proud that in this year’s budget we have kept all Bristol’s libraries open and fit for the future. Our Library Innovation Fund will also help modernise our library service. This funding will help thirty new community projects to flourish in libraries across the city, ranging from reading groups for children, to English Language (ESOL) courses for parents.
At our City Gathering earlier this year, we invited Ablaze Bristol to address the city and establish the aim of making Bristol a Reading City. You can participate in their campaign to improve children’s literacy in Bristol by volunteering to become a Reading Buddy or by donating so they can continue to train volunteers to help children with their reading and to introduce them to new stories to capture their imagination.
This video, which was shown at the City Gathering, helps to show the lifelong effects of filling in the gaps of children’s reading skills.
Today’s blog comes from Patrick Vernon OBE, Windrush campaigner and activist
At a recent public meeting at the Malcolm X Centre in St Pauls which was hosted by Mayor Marvin Rees and Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig I was invited to reflect on the Windrush Scandal as we approach the second anniversary in April 2020. With the recent deportation flight, low pay out of the compensation scheme and now watering down of the forthcoming Lessons Learnt Review this still reminds us that we are still a long way off from justice and writing the wrongs of the Windrush Scandal.
We must remember: over 180,000 people signed my petition in March 2018 with the demand for an amnesty for anyone who was a minor that came to Britain between 1948 and 1973; the media stories of the victims sharing experiences of the hostile environment; and the lobbying of Caribbean diplomats and race equality and migrant charities. These all contributed to a perfect storm to force the government not only to apologise but to be publicly humiliated at an international level by causing one of the biggest human right abuses of British citizens since WW2.
The government was first in denial that it was an issue, then blamed the Windrush Generation for not sorting out their paperwork. They refused to see Caribbean government leaders and then they were forced to admit that the Immigration Act 2014 and the policy of the hostile environment had caused the scandal. Amber Rudd had no choice but to resign as she lied to Parliament, the public and especially the Windrush Generation. The government responded by introducing the Windrush Taskforce to fast track applications for citizenship; suspended deportation flights; established a Lessons Learnt review and have now launched a compensation scheme.
After nearly two years what would be our assessment of progress? Well, just over 8,000 people have had citizenship, but over 1,000 cases have been refused, mainly with minor convictions or have been told by the Home Office they are not of ‘good character’. There are many thousands of people that have still not come forward to resolve their status as there is still a lack of trust with the Home Office and public bodies who implement the hostile environment policy. We must also remember that five people have died in the UK of long term conditions linked to the stress and trauma of the hostile environment, including Jashwha Moses who came to Bristol from Jamaica aged twelve in the 1960s. He was 64 years old when died in October 2019.
One of the big issues over the last 18 months has been the use of deportation flights as a form of repatriation back to the Africa or the Caribbean. Although flights were suspended for ten months, in February 2019 the Home Office controversially resumed them, even though many people deported had spent of their adult life in the UK with strong family ties. The campaign group Movement for Justice and BME Lawyers for Justice played an important role in forcing the Home Office to reduce the numbers that eventually got deported. I was in Jamaica in March 2019 and I had the opportunity to speak to five people were deported in February. They all shared the following concerns:
They all have no money and are dependent on family and friends
All had served their sentences and were moving forward with their lives
Most of them had caring responsibilities as fathers and or supporting elderly parents with health problems such as dementia
Some of their children are not aware that they are deported and may not see them again
The impact of deportation is putting tremendous pressure on their partners and family members in the UK
All are experiencing anxiety and depression regarding leaving the UK and with high levels of anger about being deported by the British government.
All are fearful of their lives as they believe that with the negative media reporting of deportees for many years as criminals, they will eventually become a victim of crime. Also, the recent case of a deportee that was murdered has influenced many to be mindful of their personal safety.
All of them stay indoors most of the time. One person described it as being like back in prison
Several of them have physical health problems and one person was given six months of medication for their kidney problems. He is not sure what will happen when supplies run out.
They all feel they have no real future in Jamaica.
To make matters worse, not only were people deported to Jamaica without any plans for support or rehabilitation, the charity supporting deportees in Kingston, the National Organisation for Deported Migrants, had all their funding cut by the Home Office. This was brought to my attention by Oswald Dawkins from the charity when I was in Kingston. I shared my concerns with the UK High Commissioner in Jamaica, Asif Ahmed and Pernell Charles Jr the Jamaican Foreign Minister. Back in the UK I shared this news with several media outlets and BuzzFeed took on the story about the Home Office in May and successfully help to reverse the funding cuts to the charity.
However, in February 2020 the government resumed flights and 17 people were deported back to Jamaica despite many of the men having spent most of their life in Britain and having been forced from their families. Recently on Colourful Radio I interviewed some of the detainees who avoided the flight along with campaigners and lawyers about what needs to happen next. One of the concerns is role of the Jamaican government and the lack of support to help people settled in Jamaica once they have been deported.
At the public meeting at the Malcolm X Centre a young man called Romaine Murchison explained his legal battle for staying in Britain despite having all his family in Bristol, but now being forced to report to Home Office once a week with threat that he still faces deportation.
It is important that we campaign for Romaine and other young people who are third generation Windrush that the government is trying to deport.
With regards to the Windrush Compensation Scheme which was launched in April 2019 only £63k has been paid out to 36 people out of 1,000 applications so far. I have raised many concerns regarding the administration of the scheme, and I have launched a petition on 38 Degrees which I hope MPs will use to shape the amendments of the Windrush Compensation Bill which is going through Parliament now.
At the public meeting, Mayor Marvin Rees made several pledges about what he could do to work with local government to community lobby central government around implementation and the impact of the hostile environment, Windrush Compensation Scheme and deportation flights. He wanted to share his concerns with the Jamaican government in policy around supporting deportation flights. Cllr Asher Craig as Cabinet member for Health was also going to raise with the local NHS how they are addressing the health and mental wellbeing needs of those caught up in the scandal.
We also explored what practical things that the council, voluntary sector and lawyers should do to help people to get free independent legal advice on their status as citizens and the compensation scheme. What is clear from my experience as a campaigner and activist that people are still suffering from the scandal and that the Home Office have failed to engage effectively with grassroots organisations and the advice sector who are trusted spaces for Windrush Generation and families to complete compensation forms and clarification of citizenship status.
That is why in April 2018 I launched the Windrush Justice Fund with the Joint Council for Welfare for Immigrants (JCWI) and support from Mayor of London and 38 Degrees to provide small grants to grassroots community groups and third sector organisations to support victims of the Windrush Scandal to access their rights under the Windrush Taskforce and compensation scheme. We raised over £40k using GoFundMe crowdfunding platform and we have now given out two rounds of funding to grass roots organisations and the advice sector. More details here.
Finally, the Windrush Generation and their descendants have made a significant contribution to Bristol from the NHS, education, business, local government, the arts and in public life. They now need acts of kindness and support from local people and for people to lobby their local MPs and elected representatives to hold the government to account.
If you are affected by these issues there is plenty of help available in Bristol:
St Paul’s Advice Centre offers advice, information and casework on immigration matters, and can advise those seeking to obtain British citizenship. Further information here: https://www.stpaulsadvice.org.uk/
Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors is instructed in a number of Windrush judicial review cases in the High Court as well acting in compensation claims directly to the Home Office. They are also involved in challenging delays in deciding applications for confirmation of status. Further information here: https://dpglaw.co.uk/
This morning we had almost 100 developers and builders in City Hall to discuss our vision for the Bristol of the future and the homes we need to build. We could celebrate the sites that we’ve released, but we know we still have more to do.
Bonnington Walk, which we considered at cabinet this afternoon, is held up as a great example of the work we are doing to accelerate delivery. This site has been allocated for housing for over 23 years and we have now finally brought it forward for 180 new modular homes and a community. It will be the largest amount of council houses built on one site for over 40 years.
This is one of the 43 sites we have made available for new housing since 2016.
From a standing start we have tripled affordable housing delivery. Our house building programme will see 9,175 new homes completed, including 1,619 affordable, over four years to 2021.
Housing has been the cornerstone of my administration and we’ve had fantastic success. Building homes is the single biggest policy intervention we can make in a person’s life and now we are delivery focused, we will accelerate our home building.
A little before Christmas I was proud to help welcome residents to our new houses at Broomhill in Brislington. As me and Paul Smith put the shiny new keys into the hands of these people, it was a significant moment. Every single indicator in those families lives will have improved – their mental health and life expectancy, their employability, even the academic performance of their children.
This is why building homes and communities is at the heart of what we’re delivering for Bristol and I will continue to drive us and partners such as Homes England to build the homes we need.
Another example is the first development of our council owned housing company, Goram Homes. They are progressing on the Baltic Wharf site on Spike Island for around 165 new homes, around 66 of which will be affordable.
In the south of the city at Hengrove Park– the planning inspector recently approved our plans for the long stalled site. This will include 1,450 homes, which a minimum of 30% will be affordable, as well as improved parks and green spaces.
Four schemes have taken advantage of the Affordable Housing Practice Note since it was agreed by Cabinet in March 2018 delivering 20% affordable housing in the Centre, more are coming through the planning system.
Despite all this, we know we cannot fix the broken housing market in this country.
We recently saw the annual rough sleeper count rise, the numbers of van dwellers and their impact on local communities increase and people attempting to get on the housing ladder frustrated.
As Bristol grows and attracts more people we will continue to see these social problems. For this reason, failure to deliver homes people need is not an option. We have to give everyone the home they need to flourish. We are committed to working with those that want to build the Bristol of the future and we will deliver.
I want to provide an opportunity for all our communities to be represented through art in the corridors and public spaces of the civic heart of the city, which is why today I am inviting artists to enter their artworks for the first Bristol’s Art in City Hall programme.
We’re looking for one wall-based artwork from each of Bristol’s 34 wards in order to showcase local talent and use the walls of City Hall as a platform for stories from across the city. This programme, which my office is leading in partnership with the Council’s Culture team, will be the first collective arts exhibition in City Hall. Submission is free and open to Bristol-based artists, community groups, schools or arts organisations.
This project is about ensuring that City Hall as a public building truly represents the communities it works for. By giving the people of Bristol the opportunity to showcase their creativity in City Hall I hope that they will feel greater ownership of this key civic space.
Submissions via email for the first round of selection will be accepted between Monday 2 March and Friday 27 March 2020. For more details about entry requirements and the submission form, download the documents below.
That was the conclusion of Sir Michael Marmot on this week’s publication of his review of the government’s attempts to tackle inequalities in health over the last 10 years. In particular, his review is scathing of the government’s lack of action on the recommendations of his landmark report, Fair Society Healthy Lives. The longevity and intensity of austerity imposed by the government over the last decade has meant they have utterly failed to address the link between deprivation and health inequalities.
Some of the key findings of the review should make for deeply uncomfortable reading for national policymakers:
For the first time since 1900, increases in life expectancy have stalled.
Life expectancy is strongly linked to your social and economic circumstances – the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy.
In the 10% most deprived areas in England, life expectancy for women has fallen.
The difference in healthy life expectancy is even sharper – people in more deprived areas live shorter lives, and spend more of that time in ill-health than those living in more affluent areas.
This is a huge social injustice. It makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s Brexit-driven boasts about Britain being the sixth largest economy in the world. How can a country that fails to lift its population out of poverty, take on the world?
The report sets out clearly how poverty and deprivation affect people’s health:
“Living in poor quality housing, being exposed to poor quality environmental conditions, poor quality work and unemployment, not being able to afford nutritious food and sufficient heating for example all impact on health. Poverty is also stressful. Coping with day-today shortages, facing inconveniences and adversity and perceptions of loss of status all affect physical and mental health in negative ways.”
To put it bluntly, when we plot differences in life expectancy and health outcomes against deprivation, one trend becomes clear:
This is not just an issue of social justice: an unequal, fragmented and unwell population means an unequal, fragmented and unwell workforce. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for democracy.
The original Marmot review challenged public services, community groups, and local and national leaders to reduce health inequalities by focusing work on six areas:
Give every child the best start in life
Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives
Create fair employment and good work for all
Ensure a healthy standard of living for all
Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
Strengthen the role and impact of ill-health prevention
Where leadership from national government has been found wanting on these six themes, Bristol has stepped up. As Marmot says, “some local authorities are leasing the way in demonstrating how to make local and regional approaches to reducing health inequalities both practical and effective and there is much for national government to learn.”
Marmot’s praise for local authorities like Bristol is all the more remarkable given we have delivered this under a government that has imposed austerity policies that have generated the conditions that have driven demand. In the face of crippling budget cuts, political instability which constantly undermine our ability to plan for the long-term, Bristol has put the principles for a healthier population at the heart of what we do.
These are all steps we have taken to unlock inclusive economic growth, empower people and communities to shake off entrenched poverty, and improve health outcomes so people can enjoy longer, healthier and more independent lives.
Yet they are all steps that need to be taken on a bigger journey. National government needs to face up to the reality that we in local government have been grappling with for the past decade – that austerity, and the poverty it engenders, is bad for all our health.
Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families.
Like so many other Bristolians, I was really excited to hear the news last weekend that Greta Thunberg has chosen to come to speak in Bristol.
Our city has led the way in declaring both a Climate and Ecological Emergency and putting the environment at the heart of our plans for the future and we are proud to listen to our young people through the Youth Council and the work of the Bristol Children’s Charter.
Greta’s commitment, resilience and passion for making climate change pivotal to global political discussion can only be admired. Her ability to inspire young people has had an impact in my own family; my children’s awareness of the delicate future of our planet can be attributed to her worldwide campaigning.
As my children are primary aged I have been considering all week whether it would be appropriate to take them out of school to hear Greta speak tomorrow. It feels like a once in a lifetime event and opportunity to hear from a young woman who has used her voice so powerfully to change the world. However, the statement released by Avon & Somerset Police and Bristol City Council has led me to reconsider. The main concern for tomorrow has to be the safety of children, and, as a parent I respect the concerns that the police have in terms of safety, especially of primary aged children.
The nature of the Youth School Strikes is ‘organic’ and as such it is really difficult for a city to plan for crowd sizes, transport implications and moving people around. We simply do not know how many people are planning to come to Bristol or the exact plans of the organisers. Bristol is a city with a long history of protest, and we are rightly proud of this and everyone who wants to take part tomorrow should be able to do so proudly and safely.
For those families who decide not to come to College Green tomorrow, I know that many schools are planning to do extra activities during the school day – I’ve pulled together some of these for inspiration!
Encourage all students to walk or cycle to school
Host a class litter picking competition in your local area
Ban the plastic with a plastic free day (including no plastic school chairs!)
Make some placards out of recycled materials to wave outside the school gates
Come up with a student climate plan for the year ahead with pledges everyone can sign up to which will reduce their carbon footprint.
In January, the Mayor and I hosted 10 schools and their eco-groups. We discussed how we can make our schools greener, how we can work together as a city and built eco-bricks. We also had a fascinating discussion in the council chamber on school strikes. Everyone agreed that they had had a positive impact on the climate change agenda and the children all concluded that along with protest there must be real action.
Bristol’s fight to save the planet will continue long after Greta leaves Bristol tomorrow, but her words and inspiration will stay with us as we work together across all ages.
Today’s blog comes from Cllr Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance, Governance and Performance, and is taken from his speech to present this year’s budget to Full Council on 25th February.
Yesterday, I was proud to take my fourth budget to Full Council. Yet again, we are able to present a balanced but ambitious financial plan for Bristol, setting out our priorities for the coming year and driving us towards a more inclusive and sustainable city.
It establishes a solid and resilient financial base to meet the future challenges that will result from the uncertain financial, social, economic and environmental climate facing us.
Although we continue to face significant financial uncertainty as we await reforms to the system of business rates retention, the fair funding review and the Spending Review, we have a solid financial platform supported by strong city relationships.
In the face of these challenges, and in contrast to so many other councils, we are presenting effectively a no cuts budget again.
After three and a half years we continue to prioritise and protect all life and limb services, keeping all of our children centres and libraries open and maintaining the council tax reduction scheme for the most vulnerable citizens in the city.
A significant proportion of this investment is focused on large infrastructure that will support long term regeneration across the city, such as our programme of new housing building and the development the Temple Quarter site.
This is balanced against investment which will support improvements in our increasingly stretched core Council offer, including our Social Care and Education services.
Our capital investment programme begins to address our ambition of making Bristol a more equal, aspirational and resilient city. Below are just some of the areas we will be investing in:
£35million will go towards providing quality school places for a growing population;
More than £42million is to be invested in additional special educational needs provision;
More than £15.5 million has been made available to support adults with disabilities to live more independently and remain in their own homes wherever possible;
Over £1 million has been allocated to investment in sports schemes, improving the health and wellbeing of our citizens;
Almost £4.5million will be invested in parks and green spaces across the city, improving access no matter where you live;
More than £40million has been allocated to developing the area around Temple Meads;
More than half a million will be available for investment in our city’s libraries;
More than £6.5million has been set aside to build a third household waste recycling and reuse centre at Hartcliffe Way, transforming our city’s relationship with waste;
More than £35million will be available for the redevelopment of Colston Hall, improving our city’s cultural offer;
More than £72million is allocated for our housing delivery programme, with an additional £56million set aside to implement a new housing delivery vehicle and a further £60million for projects related to the Council’s Housing Infrastructure fund;
Almost £8.5million will go towards improving the sustainability of our transport system, recognising the climate emergency that faces us;
More than £23million will be invested in expanding Bristol’s Heat Networks, ensuring more people can heat their homes affordably with minimal carbon cost.
I would like to thank the finance team, the council’s corporate leadership board, the Mayor, cabinet and all staff and councillors for their work on this budget. I’d also like to extend a special thank you to the scrutiny task and finish group. For me this group is the exemplar for how task and finish groups can be hugely effective in pre-decision scrutiny. We welcome more of this type of contribution.
It’s an ambitious budget that prioritises frontline services, recognising our responsibility in building a better future for everyone in the city, regardless of their background. I’m proud that it so clearly reflects our vision of creating a true city of hope where everyone can share in its success.