“No-one can live in a planning permission.”

Yesterday Teresa May gave a speech about planning and housing building in Britain.

This comes on the back of Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid’s intervention over the weekend, where he warned councils not building their fair share of housing would no longer be tolerated.

The Prime Minister talked about developers needing to “do their duty” and build more houses to prevent land-banking of sites where permission has been granted, but not yet come forward. I share the government’s determination to turn around the housing market and we support the government’s initiatives to accelerate housing delivery and progress estate regeneration.

I welcome the government’s focus on this as it is a key policy area for Bristol, and the country as a whole. Bristol is a prosperous city, but, like many cities, we have inherited a housing crisis.

The effects of this crisis are impacting those young people unable able to get their first step on the housing ladder or even afford places to rent. It causes instability in those families struggling to make ends meet as they trade off food, against heat against rent. It undermines our communities as people are shifted around the cities as tenancies are ended in order to move in tenants able to pay higher rents. We know that the biggest cause of people becoming homeless is evictions from the private rented sector. And we have the challenge of gentrification giving rise to social tensions. There is huge pressure on our council housing. In Bristol we have 11,489 applications on the Home Choice council housing register waiting list.

I have worked with the Core Cities to take the initiative in meeting this challenge. Together we have clearly set out to government the housing we could deliver given the right policy and resource support. We pointed out that over the last year councils nationally granted nearly twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed. As Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association has said “no-one can live in a planning permission.” We have made the case that housing is more than a wall and roof. It is the key policy tool for health, education and employment and getting it right reduces the demand on all the public services that are required to come in to play when society fails.

We are committed to delivering new homes. One of my key objectives as Mayor is to deliver 2000 new homes per year, of which 800 should be affordable, by 2020. I am confident that through the work Paul Smith and Nicola Beech are doing with our officers and in partnership with Homes England, we are going to reach this target.

However, there remain a number of challenges, some particular to Bristol and others shared across the Core Cities, to accelerating the delivery of new homes. To achieve this we are asking government for action on the following:

Stalled Sites: We want to partner government in its review on stalled permissions. Across our cities we have unbuilt permissions amounting to around three years-worth of housing units at current delivery rates.

Social Housing: Powers and resources to build. Councils have the ability to borrow money for commercial projects but not the equivalent powers to borrow for residential building projects.

Welfare Reform: The links between welfare reforms, homelessness and rough sleeping are evident in our cities. We have examples, particularly on the impacts of changes to Housing Benefits and Universal Credit roll-out, where, with some local adjustments and interventions across a wider range of public services, outcomes could be improved and long-term costs reduced.

Private Rental Sector: Ensuring proper regulation and supporting tenant’s rights, as well as incentivising specialist housing within this sector as part of a comprehensive Housing Deal for a place, linked to local demographic needs.

 

Cleaning up Bristol’s air

Kye DuddToday’s guest blog comes from my Cabinet lead for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services, Kye Dudd.

As the cabinet member with responsibility for Energy and Waste, and as a city centre councillor, I know just how important improving air quality is for Bristolians. In our 2016 manifesto, I was proud to stand with Marvin on a Labour manifesto which committed our administration to cleaning up Bristol’s air.

Nearly 100,000 people – a quarter of the city – live within the current Air Quality Management Area. Many more work or go to school in this central part of Bristol. The main routes in and out of our city feed our economy and prosperity, but also bring far too much pollution with them. Almost three-quarters of Bristolians agree that this is a major public health issue, evidenced by the sad statistic that around 300 deaths in our city every year are linked to poor air quality.

Therefore I am pleased to be presenting a report at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday 6 March which will move us closer towards achieving this key mayoral priority.

After feasibility studies funded by central government, we will be considering a variety of plans and interventions: some charging, some not; some covering larger areas, some smaller ones. More than seventy possible options have been narrowed down to five which bring us in compliance with the law in the shortest possible time. All of the options on the table would have a big impact on our air quality, particularly when it comes to reducing the amount of nitrogen dioxide which we breathe in. Each deserves further detailed consideration to understand their effects. We will then decide on the way forward after consulting with local people.

Marvin’s administration has already made progress towards delivering cleaner air, even before next week’s significant step forward. The council is leading from the front, smashing our own carbon emissions reduction target. We are on track to be a clean-energy-powered, carbon neutral city by 2050 – a stronger commitment than those signed up to by national governments as part of the international Paris Climate Agreement. On the back of securing 110 clean bio-gas buses last year, spearheaded by my cabinet colleague Mhairi Threlfall, last month Bristol City Council won an additional £2.2 million to retrofit more than 80 of the city’s oldest, most polluting buses.

This administration is committed to Bristol’s environment. Last week Labour councillors – though sadly opposed by all of the opposition parties, including the Greens –  voted to maintain the council’s multi-million pound investments in renewable energy and heat networks to tackle climate change and reduce fuel poverty.

Next week’s cabinet paper, which includes details about the equalities impact assessment, can be found here.

Working Together to Tackle FGM

Bristol stands together against the crime of Female Genital Mutilation. Every community, every religion, every school are united, with all local leaders firmly behind them. As a city we should be proud of the leadership shown by our anti-FGM charities over many years, including through collaboration with Bristol’s Somali communities and activists.

We should take this opportunity to restate our commitment and redouble our efforts to eradicate this criminal practice.

Education and awareness are crucial to protecting women and girls here in Bristol and across the country. Our city institutions – including Avon & Somerset Police and the NHS – need to continue to improve on their joined-up approach, listening to communities.

Local councillors are playing an important role in their communities around this work, and so much more, as part of my administration. Helen Godwin, my cabinet lead for children, and Ruth Pickersgill, one of Easton’s local councillors, are attending this week’s anti-FGM event as part of ongoing efforts to continue a multi-agency approach: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bridging-the-gap-international-zero-tolerance-for-fgm-conference-tickets-42495174210

More information about FGM is available on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/#getting-help-and-support

If you are concerned about someone who may be at risk of FGM, contact the NSPCC’s free helpline on 0800 028 3550.

Our budget for 2018/19

At this week’s annual budget meeting, Full Council agreed our budget for 2018/19 and our Corporate Strategy for the next five years.

There is a recognition in the city of the challenge that Bristol City Council faces: government cuts and a reducing financial footprint in the face of increasing demand, and a sluggish national economy where the full benefits of the limited growth we do have are not shared by most people in the city.

It is important to understand the context we are in today. We’ve had to take on the consequences of the Tory and Lib-Dem coalition cuts to local authorities that began 2010 and were carried forward by the Tory government from 2015 and have been continued by the weak and wobbly Tory government since 2017.

Bristol City Council has had to make savings of around £233m as a result of less funding from central government since 2010. It has been left to the council and ultimately the people of Bristol to fund services. In its response to this year’s local government finance settlement, the Local Government Association said that by 2020 local government will have lost 75 pence out of every £1 of core central government funding that it had to spend in 2015.

These government cuts contrast with Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return to municipal socialism, understanding the critical role local government plays in leading and shaping cities, and empowering and funding us to get the job done. For us in Bristol that job is growing a city of aspiration where no one is left behind.

Contrast this with Tory led Northamptonshire County Council which has posted its section 114 notice, an admission of the fact it couldn’t cope. We on the other hand have tabled a balanced budget, minimising impact on frontline services and a balanced budget for the next 4 years in this Medium-Term financial plan.

This is no small thing. Where would you point the public and private investors now, Bristol or Northamptonshire? Our financial competence puts us in a stronger position to be able to deliver our housing and transport plans for Bristol.

Alongside the fiscal responsibility and political leadership on the budget we are making sure that we protect the most vulnerable in society and streamline the council. We are making services more efficient. We’ve already saved over £800k in senior management costs and will save more as we are continuing the restructure.

This budget maintained all 22 of our Children’s Centres and kept the full council tax reduction scheme for the poorest in our city. Children’s Centres are critical to our public health commitment to get every child off to the best possible start in life – a policy priority critical to both social justice and the future financial viability of public services. And we’ll be building on the model with programmes around financial literacy, mental health and parenting skills.

But this budget isn’t just about managing services. It about managing Bristol City Council’s impact on the city and driving the aspiration we have for Bristol. In the next few months we will announce thousands of homes across Temple Quarter, Hengrove, Lockleaze and Southmead. In the Western Harbour we’ll announce homes and a new modernised road and bridge structure. We will announce the plans for the Bristol arena and start work. We have submitted our housing infrastructure bid and are confident in winning this bid following the success in securing millions of pounds from the Marginal Viability Fund for Lockleaze and Southmead, and the Land Release Fund for Filwood. We are on our way to reaching our manifesto commitment to build 2,000 homes a year, 800 of which are affordable, by 2020.

I must say I didn’t understand the Green party voting against the budget, when I had agreed to accept three of their four suggested amendments.  Instead they voted with the Conservatives and Lib-Dems in a regressive alliance, against their own amendments.

I think they are in the right place on many issues and that we would be able to agree on joint approaches. But they miss opportunities for progressive coalitions because of their tendency to weaponise these issues in an attempt to prove moral superiority instead of using them as a rallying point to deliver for Bristol.

This means it is left to us to carry a budget which benefits the city and protects front line services. It is solely down to our Labour administration to bring the financial competence that the city deserves, defend the services and interventions people rely upon and continue to shape the Bristol as a more inclusive city.

Make a difference for the people of Bristol

This is a crucial time for our city and for the council. Bristol has a proud history of innovation and enterprise and this same spirit needs to drive the way we work if we’re truly going to build a better Bristol that includes everyone in the city’s success.

We are therefore redefining our role to better serve the needs of the city and, as part of that, we are recruiting for a number of senior management positions.

This is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people in Bristol. The ideal candidates will of course have the appropriate technical expertise for their roles – but that’s only part of what we’re looking for.

Our city is a place with limitless potential. We want candidates who can help unleash this. They will understand that working for Bristol City Council isn’t just about providing a service – it’s about reinventing our role to enable and empower communities and individuals.

Our city is connected. We’re a UNESCO Learning City, the UK’s smartest city and have received various accolades, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without our many different partners uniting behind them. We want candidates who are accomplished at connecting and inspiring others.

Our city has been described as the best place to live in the UK. We want candidates who understand the people of Bristol, who can empathise with the desires and needs of our diverse population.

But our city also faces major challenges. While there is much we can celebrate, the reality for many is that inequality persists and prevents them from flourishing. We want candidates who are passionate about tackling this head-on, with a burning desire to build a better Bristol for everyone.

If you are, or you know, someone who fits the bill – who has the skills and the compassion to drive a city of hope and aspiration – then we want to hear from you. All the information you need can be found on our recruitment site and I’m looking forward to meeting people who share our vision.

Barnier, Brexit and Bristol

CC Bxls Meeting 2Yesterday, I travelled to Brussels with Core Cities leaders to meet with Michel Barnier, EU chief negotiator for Brexit.

After a pre-meeting with leaders in the morning, there was a presentation over lunch by the head of the European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think tank. We then headed to the Commission Office to meet Barnier, who started with a presentation on the state of play and then listened to our views as city leaders.

Our Core Cities group then met Guy Verhofstadt MEP, the European Parliament’s Brexit lead. We had a valuable discussion and he suggested we hold a gathering of cities and a series of hearings with EU committees in the Parliament in the near future to consider the role and interests of cities in Brexit. We finished up with the reception in the Bristol Brussels Office with about 30 guests, MEPs, a variety of partners and University of Bristol alumni.CC Bxls Barnier

International networks of cities are engines of growth, sources of political stability and are indispensable to any hope of tackling the national and global challenges we face today. From climate change to inequality to migration and political legitimacy, cities are a solution in the midst of the current chaos.

Barnier said he is determined to find frameworks for future relations and that the challenges we face are better tackled together. And although he made it clear yesterday that his negotiations need to take place within a Westminster context, we hope that greater access to and traction with government will be a key outcome of the visit. We intend to open the door to possibilities available for cities that are not as accessible to national leaders and we look forward to holding a gathering of cities later this year.

Taking City Voices to Brussels

Today I met with Core City leaders ahead of our meeting with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels next Monday. We will be there ensuring the interests of people and businesses outside London are being heard.

On Thursday I visited Bristol engineering company Seetru. In the workshop, on the wall, they have photos of all the people who work there. They say the government are not listening to them, and that they have already lost orders. The consequences of a failure to listen could be very immediate for the Bristol families in those photos.

There is a deep irony in the way the UK government is approaching the Brexit negotiations. For many people the leave vote was partly about sending a message to the UK establishment, but the UK establishment has fallen into the trap of pursuing the negotiations to the exclusion of other voices. What is being pursued is a Brexit for Westminster rather than a Brexit for the UK. It’s one of the reasons we are in such danger of getting a poor outcome that will undermine Bristol’s and the UK’s economy.

We intend to open the door to possibilities available for cities that are not as accessible to national leaders. These could include bespoke city to city deals, individual citizen membership of the EU, protection of international research networks, the establishment of a joint cities commission made up of UK and European cities, or mitigations to ensure our police service is not undermined by the fragmentation of security arrangements.

My Core Cities colleagues and I will attend the European Commission Headquarters with the president of the European cities network, EUROCITIES, meaning roughly 200 urban centres will be represented at the meeting.

It is no small thing that we will be joined by Eurocities. This is an example of the solidarity of a wider movement across the world. A movement where cities are looking for opportunities to shape national and international policy in the face of national governments who are finding themselves limited in their ability to lead and deliver in the world the way it is.

Leeds CC Leaders 16.02.18

GKN Hostile Takeover

Last week I met with UNITE union representatives to discuss the potential hostile takeover of the UK engineering company GKN.

The GKN site in Filton, where I met the reps, employs 1,600 people and is an integral part of the aerospace supply chain in Bristol and the wider city region. We discussed the impact the hostile takeover would have for potential job losses and how they can organise against it.

31.01.18 3

Later in the week, UNITE reps came to the West of England Joint Committee meeting (for the leaders of North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and Bristol Councils). It was unanimously agreed that a joint letter would be sent to Secretary of State Greg Clark requesting action in this matter of public interest.

The clear message is that a hostile takeover is unwanted by the workers, management and wider community. The campaign to stop it has cross-party and cross-border support and the government should step in to protect these jobs.

Our letter is below:

GKN Letter 1GKN Letter 2

 

Guest Blog: Deeds, Not Words

helen gtToday’s guest blog comes from my Cabinet lead for Women, Children and Young People, Helen Godwin.

This evening will see Park Street become a spectacle of purple and green as hundreds of Bristol’s women and girls, and we hope a significant number of men and boys, take to the street for the Suffragette Centenary Lantern Parade.

It is going to be a very special event, celebrating all of Bristol’s women and their achievements as well as acknowledging the contribution of Bristol’s suffragettes to the wider movement. Bristol was home to a number of influential women who played important roles in the fight for women’s suffrage. Women like Annie Kenny, Mary Sophia Allen and Theresa Garnett.

Of course, the successes of 1918 still left a significant number of younger and mainly working class women without the vote, and equality of suffrage was still ten years away.

It is a testament to the legacy of those great Bristolian suffragettes that we were named as one of just seven ‘Centenary Cities’, allowing us to work with others in the city to commemorate Bristol’s role in this great achievement on the path to gender equality with a brilliant programme of events throughout the year. The Lantern Parade will be the first in series of events under the banner of ‘Deeds, Not Words’ that will include exhibitions, awards, comedy and a celebration of women’s literature. I encourage you to look at the programme for the rest of the year to see what is planned.

Of course, equality at the ballot box has not ensured wider equality for women. It is hard to believe that 100 years on women are still fighting for equal pay and opportunity in work, equal representation in political institutions and to be free from sexual discrimination and of course, gender based violence.

For the reasons above I am honoured that the Mayor has asked me to add responsibility for women to my previous portfolio of children and young people. For all our young people to thrive we must see greater equality across the sexes, better focus on maternal mental health and wellbeing and an end to domestic violence and abuse. It is my intention and hope that 100 years on from the suffragette movement, our great city can work together to achieve these aims and true equality.

£9.6 million for housing in Bristol

A £9.686 million investment that will facilitate the delivery of more than 1,000 proposed new homes in Bristol was announced last week following our successful government funding bids, submitted with our partners in the West of England combined authority.

It was great to hear on Thursday that the council had been successful in two bids for funding to unlock housing delivery in the Southmead and Lockleaze areas, from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund.

This funding will enable us to develop and bring forward regeneration plans that are desperately needed in these areas.

There has long been a lack of housing diversity in the Lockleaze and Southmead areas in terms of the kinds of housing available and tenure.

Funding of £6.686 million has been awarded to the Unlocking Lockleaze Development project and it is proposed that this will support investment in sustainable transport infrastructure improvements locally, which will in turn support the delivery of more than 800 new homes in line with local community and council ambitions.

A further £3 million will go to the proposed Arnside and Glencoyne Square Regeneration, which is supported by the Southmead Development Trust. This funding will support the delivery of up to 300 new homes as part of this project by helping to provide improvements to the shopping area, green spaces and drainage systems.

Plans to bring forward both proposed schemes are to be considered for approval over the coming months.

We have a huge local demand for homes so I am delighted that the government has recognised that need, with this funding allocation. This news demonstrates how we are working with the city and the government on our ambitious target to deliver 2,000 new homes, including 800 affordable homes, per year by 2020.