We Are Bristol

As Westminster readies itself to be lit up in red, white and blue, and Brexit Party MEPs frantically wave their Union Jacks, I am looking to Bristol and our citizens.

What does leaving the EU mean for our city? And most importantly, what does it mean for our people?

From tomorrow we won’t notice an immediate difference; travel will at first remain the same, trade will continue without additional checks, and freedom of movement will still be allowed. But tomorrow is the first day of a long journey that we have numerous hurdles to overcome.

This is not a time for gloating. There are no winners or losers. It now doesn’t matter how you voted. What is important is that as a city, and as a country, we pull together. Brexit hasn’t caused divisions, they were there already and have been years in the making. But Brexit has given opportunity for divisions to deepen and given voice to those who use the guise of democracy to propagate hate speech.

Please know this: If you are an EU citizen that has chosen Bristol as your home, then we are honoured. You are welcome, you are valued, and you are as much of a Bristolian as those who were born here.

If you are not a UK citizen and you haven’t already, then please make sure your future rights are protected by applying for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). We offer support with this at the Customer Services Point on Temple Street.

Look to your neighbours, friends and family. If you know someone who is an EU citizen and may be feeling vulnerable or might need help applying for the EUSS then please step up and help them.

We can all play our part. Bristol can lead the way by showing the UK how kindness can bring the country back together.

CAZ Update

Poor air quality in the UK has an effect equivalent to 40,000 deaths a year, and is the largest environmental risk to public health in our country. Research by Centre for Cities estimated that air pollution causes over six million sick days a year, it is a contributing factor to heart disease and impairs lung development in children. In Bristol round 300 deaths each year  can be attributed to exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Earlier in the week I spoke at the launch of Centre for Cities 2020 Cities Outlook, their annual health check on the state of the UK’s largest cities and towns. The 2020 edition had a special focus on air quality in cities. The invite specifically highlighted that “Bristol is leading the way when it comes to cities taking the tough decisions needed to tackle air pollution.”

I understand that many people across the city are keen to get an update on how we are progressing with the clean air plans. Let me reassure them that we are making good progress on refining the plans and hope to be able to flesh out more of the details in the next couple of months.

We know that the menu of options made available to us by government don’t give us much flexibility, but our plans for a charging zone for non-compliant commercial vehicles and a small area ban for privately owned diesel cars 7am-3pm meant that we could meet the Government directive of achieving compliance quickest but also having the least impact on low-income households.

This is a very complex project and we are working with Government because it’s vital that we get it right. This will take time, but ultimately the priority for us is to meet the legal direction of delivering air quality compliance over the shortest period of time.

Following the submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC) in November last year, the team has been working hard on further developing the plans to go into the Full Business Case (FBC). They have been in regular discussion with the Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), but we are still waiting for their formal direction on the next stage of our plans. We will hopefully get this in the next few weeks.

An important part of the refinement has been discussions with key stakeholders across the city about how best to minimise the impact of the plans. These discussions have led to us making some adjustments to the diesel ban area. This includes:

  • Adjusting to allow for diesel cars to travel from A370 to A4

The planned boundary of the Diesel Ban area cut off a route for people who wanted to skirt round the zone from the south to the north, and vice versa. We have therefore altered the boundary giving access via Plimsoll Bridge and Portway.

  • Adjusting to allow access to Cabot Circus for diesel cars

A challenge was put to us that the planned boundary of the Diesel Ban area would restrict access to Cabot Circus and result in shoppers potentially going to Cribbs, negatively affecting Bristol’s economy. We have worked with Cabot Circus and have amended the boundary so the car park can be accessed by those who want to drive and shop.

  • Removal of the plans for a weight restriction on Marlborough Street and Upper Maudlin Street

Following extensive modelling it was agreed to remove the weight restrictions because this didn’t contribute to achieving compliance any sooner than if a weight restriction was applied.

We made clear when we first revealed the plans in the Outline Business Case that the boundaries of the two areas will be subject to change as things progress, and as this is an ongoing process, it will be some time before we can provide the final street by street information.

CAZ boundaries updated

Many people are asking about exemptions and of course, we are acutely aware of the need to help vulnerable groups across the city. A key reason for this taking time is to ensure that these plans didn’t unfairly impact on lower earners. Discussions about this form a large chunk of the ongoing work, but unfortunately it’s not a simple process, as it all needs to be worked through. Sadly it’s not as easy as just granting exemptions, as every change to the plans need to be analysed in detail to check it doesn’t impact on the overall compliance.

We are now very close to agreeing a package of exemptions and mitigation measures that we feel will help lessen the impact. This is likely to include, amongst others:

  • exemptions for disabled passenger vehicles and blue badge holders
  • exemptions for low income households
  • exemptions for patients needing to access the hospital

We are exploring replacing the proposed scrappage scheme with a grant and loan system. Other councils are doing  a lot of work in this area and we are going to consider a number of potential options.

We continue to work with the government to secure the powers for a diesel ban, but this is part of our conversation about getting the best result for Bristol.

We have a moral, environmental and legal duty to clean Bristol’s air. We have been clear from the start that we want to do this in a way that looks after Bristol’s poorest and most vulnerable people while doing so in the fastest possible time, as directed by Government. In a city with many competing issues and priorities we recognise that actions can have unintended consequences. Within our work to develop the mitigations we go a step further.

Thinking outside the box

Sacha Mirzoeff speaking at inclusivity in media
sector workshop at the Channel 4 Hub

Today’s blog comes from Sacha Mirzoeff, Head of Hub and Factual Commissioner at Channel 4

It feels like there’s been a lot of waiting for things to progress since the announcement that Channel 4 would be moving to Bristol last March.  But we officially opened two weeks ago and the launch party took place at the Old Vic.  Since then I’ve already become crazy busy and it feels like there’s a new buzz in the city which we want to keep going and develop.  New companies have moved here and more are coming.  Our media industry is flying high, despite hard times in the economy.

Our aim is simple – to bring the very best business to companies in the South West, West and Wales to help win commissions in all sorts of programmes – from documentaries, specialist factual and popular factual to drama and daytime.  By 2023 50% of main channel UK commissions – a target which we are well on course for. But we want to do it in the right way with the right people.

From its inception Channel 4 has had a long history of being disruptive and daring to say the things that other broadcasters wouldn’t. In an age where most media feels vanilla – the same middle of the road, I want to see Channel 4 being bold in ways that relate to our lives in this city and beyond. We in the West are underrepresented on and off screen and my job is to make that change.

So we don’t only want to bring new work to the West and Wales.  We also want to help find new young local people to do it – some who might never have imagined a career in television, but are passionate, driven and have something to say about their own world that feels relevant. They are the people that could reinvigorate the television workforce here – a different set of people than currently exists in our trade.  We can offer support, advice and guidance as they progress.  Channel 4 want to take risks, and this includes stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of the people we traditionally collaborate with.

To do this successfully we need partners across the city as we don’t make any programmes ourselves – we can only help facilitate change.  It may not all happen overnight, as we need to work closely with people across the city to see how we can do it best.   But one thing is for sure – Channel 4 is here to stay and aims to build legacy in innovation for generations to come.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

Today in City Hall, we are hosting an important remembrance event, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Holocaust Memorial Day is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution. Between 1941 and 1945, over six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered by the Nazis. This systematic attempt at annihilating the Jewish people accompanied a brutal programme of persecution of anyone who threatened the Nazi’s ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’. Roma and Sinit people, black people, Slavic people (especially those from Poland or Russia), LGBT people, disabled people, trade unionists and political opponents were all targeted by the regime and their collaborators.

Holocaust Memorial Day also serves as a day of remembrance for those killed and persecuted in subsequent genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

I am particularly struck by this year’s theme of ‘Stand Together’ – a message which is fitting at this current turbulent moment in national and global politics.

We know that the poison of antisemitism is on the rise across the world, and our own city is not immune. As an administration, we are working closely with and listening to Bristol’s Jewish communities to root out antisemitism wherever we find it in our city and our society. As survivors of the Shoah tell their story in City Hall today, I hope people across Bristol will be reminded that stamping out antisemitism in our midst is an urgent task for us all.

Holocaust Memorial Day also prompts us to reflect on our humanitarian duty to stand together with all those fleeing persecution today. I am proud that Bristol is a City of Sanctuary, with a proud tradition of extending solidarity and a welcome to those who have come here over the decades.  We offer our ongoing support to those who come to Bristol in search of a haven, and celebrate the contribution refugees make to life in our city.

Bristol is a global city, home to over 45 religious faiths and 92 languages and residents who come from over 180 countries of birth. Wherever persecution and racism raises its head in the world, it is felt here in Bristol – by our families, by our neighbours, by our friends. This spirit of solidarity struck me vividly when religious leaders from across Bristol joined together in City Hall in condemnation of the terrorist attacks on mosques in New Zealand in March last year.

Standing together in the face of racism, intolerance and persecution means living out the values we want to see reflected in our communities, in our city, and in our society. It means remaining united as a city in our continued belief in freedom, democracy and the right of communities to live together in peace. We wear these beliefs proudly and refute extremism in all its forms.  I extend my welcome to all those attending the commemorations in City Hall today, and to all those who are reflecting and remembering loved ones across Bristol.

International Day of Education

Today’s guest blog comes from Matt Gillett, Unite Regional Education Officer.

As we celebrate UN International Day for Education it’s worth noting that learning is something that does not end with school or university but continues, both formally and informally, for all of our lives. And for trade unions, access to ongoing learning and education is an issue that is central to so much of what we do. Ensuring that our members in the workplace and the community have the chance to refresh and add to their skills and knowledge to support them in every aspect of their lives.

Learn with Unite is my union’s lifelong learning section. We are part of the Unionlearn project, a government funded initiative, started in the late 1990s to support workplace learning. By working constructively with employers right across industry we have ensured workers have had the opportunity to complete functional skills courses in English and Maths, and vocational qualifications right through to adult apprenticeships. This has been done with the active participation of the more than 40,000 Union Learning Reps who have been trained since Unionlearn was set up. This means we have a quarter of a million learners able to access courses each year through the project. Unite alone currently has over 450 learning agreements with employers that cover around 800,000 workers. Our aim is to build sustainable learning through these agreements and the involvement of our Reps and partner colleges and training providers. Our work with the Bristol Mayor’s office and the Learning City initiative will also help us do this.

Working with those partners we also provide key support to those affected by redundancy with courses in employability skills such as interview techniques, CV writing and job searches. Through our online courses, we provide a further range of recognised and transferable qualifications. Recognising that computer skills are becoming increasingly important in all of our lives we provide computer training from basic through to Level 1 and 2 qualifications. Digital exclusion is a huge equality issue that should concern us all.

Through our focus on equality and diversity we work to increase inclusion and overcome barriers to learning. Our offer of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) allows us to support migrant workers. In Bristol we have a learning centre in our Unite Regional Headquarters in Tony Benn House which offers support to the community through a jobs club, computer classes and ESOL conversation as well as one off sessions such as diabetes awareness. Working with key organisations in the city we are pursuing ideas to make learning available to refugees and asylum seekers.

Lifelong learning, and the access to it, is vital to every aspect of our lives.

Making Inroads

Today, 15th January 2020 is the sixth National Pothole day, where campaigners raise the need for funding and resources to make sure Britain’s roads are up to scratch.

It’s appropriate for us in Bristol today as we had to warn residents that a section of Bishport Avenue in Hartcliffe was closed to resurface a section damaged by the recent poor weather.

Potholes and poor road surfaces are a frustration for motorists and cause serious damage to cars. They can also be especially dangerous for cyclists and motorbikes. We also know that the repair works themselves can be frustrating – causing delays on our network and inconvenience while our teams and contractors repair road surfaces.

It’s a huge challenge for councils across the country and Bristol is no different. In fact, here we repair over 5,000 potholes every year. Our highway network is the largest and most visible publicly owned asset in the city – it covers over 1,100km of carriageway, as well as our popular cycle routes and pedestrian footways. It is used daily by the travelling public for commuting, business, social and leisure activities.

Although it might be taken for granted until it goes wrong, our network is fundamental to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of local communities and to the prosperity of the city as a whole. This is why we will robustly monitor the conditions and always look to ensure the safety of our staff, contractors and the general public through the active promotion of a positive health and safety culture.

The ongoing upkeep of our highways never stops and we are continuing with preventative work such as surface dressing and repairing defects before they cause potholes. It is key that we get ahead and take action early. Anyone who spots a pothole can report it online here or by calling 0117 922 2100.

This month also means the start of a new way to manage road works and reduce the amount of time our network is disrupted. A new system of streetworks permits will reduce traffic congestion and enhance air quality by introducing conditions on the times during which work can take place, helping to improve people flow and reduce congestion. It will also allow us to take action against companies who take too long to complete their works. This is part of our active roadworks approach to make sure roadworks are as efficient as possible.

Last year I saw some Bristol based innovation with plastic waste tarmac roads at the new housing development Ashton Rise. Willmott Dixon were incorporating tarmac roads into Ashton Rise’s development by replacing carbon intensive bitumen found in Tarmac with non-recyclable waste plastic.

Waste plastic was collected from Ashton Rise’s construction site through the waste management company ETM and processed it into a plastic polymer to replace the need for bitumen in the asphalt mix of tarmac roads, creating a ‘circular economy’ for plastic waste. By repurposing non-recyclable plastic that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration, Ashton Rise has prevented 1.3 tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere or the equivalent of 146, 262 plastic bags being produced.

Although we’ll continue to prioritise early intervention and innovation for our network, we are hopeful that the Government’s promised National Infrastructure Strategy will include a pothole filling programme to help support stretched council budgets to maintain this important infrastructure.

“I was homeless, I was you”

“A few weeks ago, me and my daughters moved into a council house. Now we can finally put down roots. I feel like I have my life back.”

Lola, aged 40, Barton Hill.

This week you may have noticed letters addressed to those who are experiencing or facing homelessness posted across our city. These letters carry voices that are heard too rarely – the voices of those who have experienced homelessness, reaching out to those who need similar help and support.

Lola, John and Danni’s experiences of homelessness are all different, but their message to those who are facing homelessness is the same: you can turn your life around.

Ending homelessness in Bristol is one of our major priorities – last year we agreed our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy which will support our efforts to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027.

We are also delivering on our promise to provide the homes Bristol needs to tackle our housing crisis. Before Christmas I visited a brand new council housing development in Brislington, and met residents and families whose lives are being transformed by having a safe and secure roof over their head. We are building affordable homes that can help people like Lola reclaim control over their lives in every corner of our city.

Reading Lola, John and Danni’s letters, however, shows that those who are homeless face a range of different challenges and therefore need different programmes of support. One thing is common throughout the success stories shared by Lola, John and Danni – it is crucial to get help early.

That’s why the work we do with city partners to provide a range of support services is so important in helping people who are experiencing homelessness to find and maintain a safe and secure home. From our welfare rights and money advice services, to our Youth Homelessness Hub, we helped more than 3,600 people from becoming homeless in 2018. In the same year, Bristol City Council and homelessness support services in the city helped more than 900 people who were homeless, through support services like the St Anne’s Winter Night Shelter. We are also support residents in private accommodation, by cracking down on rogue landlords and introducing licencing schemes to drive up standards and security in the private housing sector.

So if you are worried that you or a family member might be at risk of homelessness, seek help now. Information is available on the Bristol City Council website on the ways we and other agencies in the city can help.

As homelessness continues to increase across the country, I am acutely aware of the difference that a safe and secure home can make to a family like Lola’s. That’s why I will continue to put delivering new housing at the top of the city’s agenda. Families across the city like Lola’s, facing homelessness or living in temporary accommodation, rely on us to deliver our pledge for safe, secure and affordable homes across the whole of Bristol. I’m proud that in this campaign we are hearing their message of hope loud and clear.

Recognition for Making Bristol a Living Wage City

This week, I feel proud to be able share the news that the Living Wage Foundation has formally recognised Bristol for its commitment to becoming a Living Wage City.

Not only are we amongst the first cities to achieve this, we are the biggest city to be recognised so far – an example of what we can achieve when we pull together as a city.

The TUC took to the stage at our City Gathering exactly a year ago to challenge the city to improve wages. Therefore, it seemed fitting that we used the City Gathering on Friday to share this major success with hundreds of employers across Bristol and launch this new status.

I was struck by how fair pay became a theme for the morning. It was highlighted as a crucial factor in reducing crime and Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, also shone a light on the importance of rising wages for the economy as a whole.

Financial security, or the lack of, affects every aspect of life. It impacts on a person’s housing situation, their mental and physical health, their educational attainment and their likelihood to be involved in crime.

Increasing the pay of those living and working in our city is key to unlocking improvements in each of these areas. As a tool for social justice, it’s vital. But it’s also good for business.

As Pete Gibbs, owner of the Volunteer Tavern, said to a room full of Bristol employers on Friday: ‘My staff are your customers, and your staff are my customers’. Higher wages means more money to put back into the economy.

In fact, the Living Wage Foundation has found that 93% of Living Wage businesses have benefited since accrediting, through improved recruitment and retention of staff, as well as fewer sick days taken.

As a city, we now have a 3-year plan, with ambitious targets: we want to double the number of Living Wage Employers in the next three years, lifting thousands more people out of in-work poverty. We plan to start by targeting those sectors where workers frequently find themselves trapped in low pay, such as hospitality, retail and tourism.

Working with a key Action Group of organisations representing different sectors, we will continue to influence change and strive for a future where everyone earns a fair wage for a hard day’s work; where earning a real Living Wage is the benchmark, not the aspiration.

This is just the start of our journey – and we need more organisations to work with us.

We’re organising a Living Wage Meet and Greet on Monday 17th February at 3.30pm at City Hall. It’s an opportunity to meet other employers and the Living Wage Foundation to learn more about how you can get involved. Please get in touch with the team to register your interest for this or future events by emailing business@bristol.gov.uk.

Making Bristol a Living Wage City is a perfect example of something we, as a council, could not achieve on our own. It demonstrates the collective power we have to make Bristol a fairer city for everyone and a true city of hope.

Thank you to all those who have helped us on our journey so far, by becoming Living Wage accredited employers, coming to events we’ve organised or being part of our Action Group.

In particular, thank you to our fellow Action Group members for being part of Making Bristol a Living Wage City, namely: University of Bristol, Triodos, DAC Beachcroft, Wessex Archaeology, the Soil Association, Bristol Credit Union, Business West and the TUC.

2020 City Gathering

This morning the City Office held its bi-annual City Gathering. These meetings bring together leaders from all aspects of society, public, private and third sector and today’s was the largest to date with over 250 attendees. City Gatherings are key to how we work collectively as a city to get things done.

Following the success of last year’s One City Plan launch, this morning’s gathering saw the launch of the second iteration of the plan. This year’s iteration includes updates on the plan to include increased ambition towards carbon neutrality as well as updates from the City’s thematic boards. This year’s plan is also now available in a filterable format through the City Office dashboard which is a first attempt to improve the accessibility of the One City Plan.

The gathering also saw a review of what the City Office has achieved over the previous year. Last year’s City Office priority objectives (Period Friendly Bristol, Affordable Childcare and Tackling Street Conflict) were reviewed and are covered in the City Office annual report which is now live on the City Office website.

Our January City Gathering also establishes the City Office’s three priorities for the year. Our Youth Council and Babbasa youth ambassadors voted to select the City’s Connectivity priority to explore funding measures for mass transit systems in Bristol. Gathering attendees then voted for the two remaining priorities, and they chose the Environment Board’s Going for Gold Food Sustainability programme and the Homes and Communities priority of reducing the number of families in temporary accommodation.

We were also incredibly honoured to have Dame Caroline Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, and former Ambassador David Donoghue. Dame Caroline spoke about the need for more positive engagement between business and Bristol’s schools. David facilitated the negotiation process of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gave a strong endorsement for the work of the University of Bristol and the City Office to embed the SDGs in Bristol and the One City Plan.  

The positive, collaborative and incredibly productive nature of today’s gathering is a testament to what we can achieve as a city when combining our efforts. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the One City Plan. If you would like to share your solutions and get involved, please get in touch with the One City Office.

You can hear more about today’s gathering in the video below.

Temple Island – The Future

Today’s guest blog comes from Pete Gladwell, Head of Public Sector Partnerships at Legal and General.

Today is a big day for Legal & General’s work in Bristol.  I’m very excited to have reached this key point in drawing up proposals for the redevelopment of the landmark Temple Island site.  A lot has happened since we started speaking to the Council nearly five years ago about working more closely for the good of the city, and Temple Quarter in particular.  The University Innovation Campus and commitment by all parties including the Council, Network Rail, and Homes England to work together to reconfigured and refurbished Temple Meads Station has given huge impetus to the development of the rest of Temple Quarter. We have appointed a full design team, including world-renowned architects, and have agreed a draft working protocol with the Council.

If you’d like to find out more about our vision for this historic site, here’s a preview of the development principles we’ll be adopting if the Council’s Cabinet agree to dispose of the site to us. We’re looking forward to presenting these to the Council’s Scrutiny Committee this evening and engaging proactively and positively with the local community over the coming months to shape the scheme.

Legal & General is a long term investor, who will have a long term stake in seeing Temple Quarter become a thriving place that both we and the city can be proud to call our own.  We’re determined this place will be an exemplar of sustainable development, putting the climate and ecological emergency we are facing at its heart, whilst providing the affordable housing that the city desperately needs.  It will be an iconic and vibrant place to live, work and do business; incorporating conferencing, a hotel, and quality public space. Legal & General has 116,000 customers in Bristol – many of whom have entrusted their savings and pensions to us.  This is about enabling them to have a positive impact, by investing back into their city.

We are looking forward to receiving the views of the Scrutiny Committee later on today.  Equally importantly, if this is to be a really inclusive place, we’ll need the help of people and community groups locally to welcome the new residents to the area.  They will be from a whole range of demographics and backgrounds, thanks to the mix of affordability points that Temple Island will offer.  We’re looking forward to speaking to people locally to understand how we can shape something that serves their priorities and to help us bring forward a truly exciting scheme for the city.

09.01.2020-Proposal for Temple Island_LG-FINAL