Figures published today suggest that the number of people sleeping rough in Bristol has fallen by around 80% in just over a year.
Our staff and city partners have, in unprecedentedly difficult circumstances, helped around 1,400 people in Bristol who were either rough sleeping or homeless into emergency and further accommodation. Our wrap-around services and support plans are under regular review, so that everyone has options to leave the streets.
The Council has confirmed that 21 people were recorded as sleeping rough in January 2021. This follows 50 people being recorded as sleeping rough during the city’s annual count in November, compared to 98 a year before. While this progress is much-needed, and a real testament to the hard work of everyone involved, there is still more to do. Homelessness is a complex issue but the simple truth remains that 21 people sleeping rough is 21 too many.
With more than 1,000 people currently living in emergency accommodation in Bristol, it is crucial that we continue to build on the solid foundations of some 9,000 new homes since 2016. Our thousands-strong pipeline of new council homes in place to continue to build a better Bristol.
My speech today at Budget Full Council, which begins from around 6:30 into the livestream.
I am delighted to bring yet another no cuts budget to council,
It underpins our aspirations for Bristol as we plan our recovery from Covid and the delivery over the medium to long term that will enable Bristol build back as a city of hope where nobody is left behind.
This is again a balanced budget.
Our general Fund net revenue budget outlines spending of £424 million on our key services. We also bring an ambitious capital programme to 2025 with a gross value of £900m – with a strategic partner now in place, we’re in an even stronger place to realise our capital ambitions for Bristol.
The principles that underpin what we do will remain: Inclusion and Sustainability
And we have put the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of what we do.
I congratulate the finance team and Craig Cheney for their work. Covid, Brexit and Austerity have come together to incredible challenges in which circumstances have been created in which:
demands for services risen, funding for councils has not kept pace with increasing demand, and council revenue has been undermined.
On top of this, it’s not only our front facing services that have been hit but the back room capacity – our lawyers, project managers, accountants – has been hit hard as they have worked to manage all of this.
I think on what we inherited, the £30m hole in the budget that Steve Bundred described as a the result of a:
“sequence of events [that] represents a collective failure of leadership within the Council for which several people, including elected politicians, bear responsibility.”
And today we bring a £420m budget 99.5% of which is being accepted without change. There is no question that fiscal responsibility has been delivered.
I wanted to take the opportunity to make a few additional remarks.
During the debate about whether Bristol should take on the mayoral model, John Savage described this council as an old Victorian fairground machine. A complex mix of busy cogs, chains and bells that – for a while at least – is fascinating to look at.
It took a lot of building, and requires lots on maintenance. But it didn’t actually do anything.
In moving this budget, we are laying out the future of the city, and the role of this organisation in the city. We must remember what we are here for. We are here to deliver, to get things done.
I see a flurry of additional meetings being called – two extraordinary full council meetings, 4 call ins, extra HR committee which is more about using the internal processes to clog things up and make some noise that will win a headline than it is about securing delivery for Bristol.
It was the three time Conservative Prime minster Edward Stanley – the 14th Earl of Derby, who said “The duty of an Opposition is very simple – to oppose everything and propose nothing”.
That may have worked well for the aristocracy in the 19th century. But it won’t work for Bristol today. The City needs and deserves more from those elected to this chamber.
That’s why we have focussed on delivery. This budget gets the basic right
In this budget we prioritise…
· Council house rent freeze
· The only city to have a Fully funded Council tax reduction scheme, supports over 25,000 households
· £26m investment in SEN (Special Educational Needs) over four years,
· £132m for housing delivery over five years
· £75m for transport and highways.
This budget builds on our record of delivery, including:
Building 9,000 new homes including new affordable homes;
Whith schemes ongoing across the city including Hengrove Park, Bonnington Walk, Zed Pods and Launchpad. Finishing touches to Ashton rise.
HMO regulation and Landlord licensing
Nearly 12,000 work experiences through Bristol WORKS, including for young people from deprived areas and/or with SEN;
Secured £12m for Bottle Yard Studios expansion;
Made Bristol an accredited Living wage city – leading as a living wage employer ourselves.
Ban the Box, Stepping Up and now Kickstart programmes to drive diversity and inclusion
Education and Families
£26m Investment this month in special educational needs, amid a national crisis
Kept our children’s centres open and adopted a Children’s Charter
Creating more school places, with 87% getting their first choice primary place;
The Healthy Holidays campaign feeding Bristol’s kids during school holidays and free breakfast clubs with Feeding Bristol
Won World Health Organisation Age Friendly City status;
Secured the UK’s largest bio-gas bus order;
Delivering a net-zero council by 2025, reducing emissions by 9% in 2019
community wind turbines in Avonmouth
A Big Tidy to deep clean 700 streets last year and the best recycling rate in the country’s core cities;
When you take a minute to look at it, it is surprising how much has been achieved in 5 years.
Now let’s remember the Real Challenge:
Keeping people safe from covid and limiting its opportunity to mutate
Economic recovery from the covid depression
The underlying drivers of inequality will be strengthened – those most marginal to the economy will be hit first and hardest and least well placed to benefit from the economic pick up.
We have our ongoing housing crisis, we have a looming wave of mental health need and an urgent need to launch our educational recovery plan.
Only this morning Helen and I met with city partners to plan how we will overcome the March 31st funding cliff edge for people with No Recourse to Public Funds.
And we have to meet these challenges in the context of climate and ecological emergencies. That means minimising even eliminating the price the planet pays for us tackling these challenges for a city population predicted to grow by nearly £100,000 over the next 25 years. That takes a city redesign and rebuild that runs into the billions of pounds.
That’s where we need to remember that we will be at our most useful in seeing, defining, understanding, and directing our energies toward these challenges that Bristol and the world faces, rather toward small swipes that may or not win temporary – if superficial – headlines.
This budget is about getting the basics right. Putting us on a sure footing, supporting the city’s vulnerable and investing in our collective ambition for the future.
Estimates are that at this time 12 local authorities on the edge of financial collapse. Despite the circumstances we came into, we are not one of them.
Today’s guest blog is from Joe Fortune, General Secretary of the Co-operative Party.
We in the co-operative movement have an amazing story to tell about our adoption and leadership within UK Fairtrade over many decades. Over the years, I have spent time looking back through old copies of Co-operative Party and movement pamphlets and articles, which all lay out in black and white (and it was black and white, no colour printing!) the efforts and commitment of those activists we sit on the shoulders of. However, the Co-operative Party and movement’s commitment to Fairtrade is not, and must never be, something we only look back on. It must be something we live, day in and day out.
Fairtrade Fortnight is an opportunity to renew that zeal, and to spread the message of hope and optimism which characterises Fairtrade. Fairtrade is our values and principles in practice. Within it lies the essence of our approach to politics and society. I’m proud that the last year has seen the Co-operative Party bring practical campaigning weight to the continued fight for Fairtrade.
This year, our representatives in Westminster have pushed for Fairtrade to be properly considered through new trade deals. Our Parliamentary Group Chair and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Preet Gill, has led the charge for proper financial support for this country’s international development efforts, and for a focus to be on co-operative development. Preet also led our efforts to persuade a major chocolate retailer to reverse its decision to walk away from the use of Fairtrade. This effort saw tens of thousands of people join the campaign and re-affirmed, in my mind, our movement’s unwavering support for the efforts of the Fairtrade Foundation.
We all hold consumer power in the products we choose and support each day. I would encourage everyone to exercise this power to choose those products and lines which hold the Fairtrade mark. Still today, we uphold the historic co-operative movement commitment to Fairtrade. We are proud of the efforts of our retail co-operatives and others who continue to lead the way and champion the proliferation of Fairtrade in this country and around the world.
Bristolians agree that parks have increasingly been a lifeline for our wellbeing during lockdown. This has been keenly felt at the iconic Ashton Court Estate. This winter, the estate has experienced record numbers of visitors for the time of year, when the usually low visitor numbers would allow the ecology of the site to rest and recuperate. By calling an Ecological Emergency, we recognised that the wellbeing of nature is vital to the health of the city and must be protected. That is why over the coming spring, visitors to Ashton Court Estate can expect their trip to be affected by essential conservation measures.
The estate is populated by breeding skylarks, a small brown bird which marks its territory with a spectacular flight display. They make their nests amongst the grass on the plateau at the top of the estate, near the Clifton Lodge car park. Nationally, skylark numbers have dropped by over 60% in the last 40 years. Due to pressure from increasing visitor numbers and dogs roaming off the lead, the skylark population at the estate has declined in recent years. Without urgent action, this species could be lost. To conserve this species locally they need to remain undisturbed at this time of year whilst they are beginning to nest.
The plateau area is also home to an important population of green-winged orchids, as well as hundreds of common spotted orchids. The green-winged orchids begin to flower from late April, whilst the common spotted orchids flower from the start of June. However, over the course of the winter and early spring the orchids are in danger of being damaged by the trampling and compaction of the soil from walkers. The orchids have been put at higher risk over lockdown by increased visitor numbers on the estate.
Visitors to Ashton Court Estate will no doubt be fans of the red deer park, and keenly aware of its closure for the health of the deer since November. In order for the deer park to reopen, we cannot continue to put the wildlife at risk for the sake of our own enjoyment. During the birthing season, which runs from May to July, it is especially vital to keep to the footpaths and keep dogs on leads. It’s important not to touch, feed, or photograph the deer at close range; doing this teaches them to approach humans, which is dangerous for all visitors.
To protect these species for future generations, the Parks & Green Spaces Department has roped off sections of the plateau as temporary conservation sites. Visitors are being asked to stick to the paths and keep their dogs on a short lead around the plateau. The red deer park will remain closed for now and reopening will be reviewed after lockdown when footfall lessens.
The situation at Ashton Court is just one example of the fine balance we have to get in protecting our city’s biodiversity as we face an ecological emergency, while also keeping our parks open for all to enjoy, as they were intended. We can all show our appreciation for this beloved green space by playing our part in protecting its unique ecology for years to come.
Today’s guest blog is from Lynn Barlow, co-chair of the One City Culture Board and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Creative and Cultural Industries Engagement at UWE Bristol.
I love television, I love films, I am in awe of anyone who can stand in front of an audience and sing, dance, act, make me laugh or make me cry.
But I can also honestly say, I have never talked about TV as much in my life – and as a TV producer, I have always spent more than an average amount of my time talking about it… much more.
Now, ‘have you seen’, ‘did you watch’, ‘you have to watch this, it’s great’, seem to be the basis for so many of my lockdown conversations with friends.
We are all clutching at the few shared experiences of creativity and culture we can still enjoy – like a comfort blanket, they are something to make us feel better and remind us that we need culture, we need creativity – we need entertainment. Its power is incredible.
We’ve seen performances and productions postponed, live and in-person experiences cancelled and museums, theatres, festivals and events all disappear since the spring of 2020. This hasn’t just put a strain on the creative economy in the city – but on the potential to express who we are as a city – our spirit.
The three national lockdowns have severely limited the re-opening and recovery of the sector – the impact of the pandemic will be felt for several years to come as small and independent businesses look to rebuild.
Creative industries have the power to drive us out of this extraordinary moment in time. They can and do revitalise our places, ignite economic growth and unlock innovation as well as bringing joy to our communities.
The Creative Industries sector contributes almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour, or at least it did at the beginning of 2020.
That’s why Bristol’s One City Culture Board has committed to making sure our artists, musicians, producers, writers, directors and performers emerge from the pandemic with a flourishing future. And that the places, the venues, large and small survive and can recover.
But they cannot, nor should not, be looking to rebuild alone. One of the first areas of focus for the One City Culture Board has been contributing to the development of Bristol’s Recovery and Renewal Strategy.
The emphasis on both ‘recovery’ and ‘renewal’ is key. Bristol is rebuilding its cultural sector, but it is also moving to a time of renewal.
Our collective strength, our collective talents and our collective ambition is needed to help us through this. That is why the Board’s membership strives to reflect the breadth and diversity of the sector it represents.
Every single one of us has creative potential – no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have, creative people are everywhere – but not everyone has the opportunity to discover it.
Culture and Creativity has never been as important to our personal wellbeing, to the wellbeing of all our communities and the wellbeing of our city.
I admire how organisations have been able to pivot to offer new experiences in a new virtual world and long may that option continue to be available. But I also cannot wait to be able to soak up my cultural experiences, face-to-face or sitting in an audience or walking around a museum, no longer restricted to what I can only see on a small screen.
This detailed preparation has also allowed us to secure the UK’s largest bio-gas bus order to clean up the bus fleet before the CAZ starts, and to work closely with University Hospitals Bristol to support keyworkers, patients, and visitors to the BRI.
The CAZ is not designed to be around forever – it is only needed to bring Bristol’s air into compliance with set standards. A CAZ is a means, not an end. Once clean air has been achieved, and when the evidence shows that it is no longer needed, the scheme can of course be reviewed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Bristol need a CAZ?
Many other cities are also required to do this, after national government was taken to court by environmental groups. Under the ruling, we have a legal – as well as a moral – duty to further clean up the air we all breathe, bringing levels of pollution into ‘compliance’ with set standards.
Will my vehicle be affected?
Only older and more polluting vehicles will be charged to drive in the CAZ. We estimate that 29% of cars are not compliant with the standards. The recommended proposal would mean that cars, vans, minibuses, taxis, and private vehicles which are Euro 6 (diesel, roughly 2015 onwards) and Euro 4 (petrol, roughly 2006 onwards) will not face any charges; likewise, buses, coaches, and heavy goods vehicles which are Euro 6 will be exempt under that option.
Using https://www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge, you can check if your vehicle would be charged. If the website shows that you would pay a daily charge if you were driving in Birmingham, then you will have to for Bristol’s CAZ.
Workers with an individual income of less than £24,000 a year, travelling in or out of the zone for work;
People visiting specified hospitals on a longer-term basis and/or attending appointments at the BRI;
Blue Badge holders;
Home to school transport services.
Full exemptions are likely to include:
Disabled passenger vehicles (tax classes 78 and 85);
Emergency service vehicles;
What else are you doing to improve air quality?
Developing a wider Clean Air Plan to reduce particulate pollution, especially from solid fuel burning;
Progressing work towards a low-carbon, mass transit underground system;
Working with communities to introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods;
Expanding initiatives like School Streets to reduce vehicle pollution near schools;
Encouraging businesses to use freight consolidation to reduce vehicle journeys;
Accelerating the purchase of electric vehicles through Go Ultra Low West;
Installing public electric vehicle charging points;
Calling on national Government for the powers and resources needed to tackle solid fuel burning, industrial pollution, and bring non-mobile construction equipment up to standard
Why is Bristol proposing to charge private vehicles when Bath’s CAZ only affects commercial vehicles?
Bristol is a much larger city than Bath. The layout and infrastructure in Bristol and Bath are not the same which means they are affected by air pollution differently. The recommended CAZ option for Bristol has been designed specifically for the city to improve air quality in the shortest time by reducing harmful emissions from vehicles.
We have a record of empowering communities, with over 120 asset transfers and lease agreements in place to help Bristolians take control and shape their neighbourhoods. Many buildings and spaces in the city are cases in point for this approach, and more still have the potential to be greater than the sum of their parts.
One such property is a disused building in Barton Hill, formerly used by the Tenants Association Club. Once the national restrictions allow people to come together again, spaces like these can be part of how we build back better. Works have been carried out to secure the building and clear the inside. Like local residents, we are ambitious for its future and have considered it’s potential for at least an element of community housing. A further survey of the site is planned to better understand the state of the building and what its next chapter could be.
Barton Hill Wellspring Settlement has, in recent years, set up a micro-campus with the University of Bristol ahead of their new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus further up the Feeder. Work has started this week to invest in the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, running nearby. In the meantime, local councillors Marg Hickman and Hibaq Jama have secured nearly £125,000 for improvements to Urban Park in Barton Hill, with even more again for nearby Newtown and Netham Parks.
With the building listed as an asset of community value, the formal process has started to sell the leasehold. This will create opportunity for community-led initiatives to be developed, helping to write the next chapter for the site on Avonvale Road. Bristol has proven that when we work together, we deliver, and so there can be real hope that this will be part of a brighter future for the whole city.
Building homes for Bristol is, as you know, a subject close to my heart and one that remains a top priority for Bristol City Council, so I’m delighted to be able to share some good news. Last week, Goram Homes, the City Council’s housing company, took home two awards at the Bristol Property Awards for its first development in Lockleaze.
In 2020, Goram Homes announced plans to build 268 new homes at Romney House, a brownfield site in north Bristol, with 55 percent of those allocated as affordable housing; well above the official target of 30 percent. The affordable housing will include social rented and shared ownership homes which, alongside properties for market sale, will provide a wide range of housing options for people wanting to live in Lockleaze.
In recognition of the project’s joint venture and sustainability credentials, the development scooped awards in two categories: Deal and Green Initiative. The Deal award celebrated their unique partnership approach. Goram Homes has partnered with Vistry Partnerships to deliver the project and, unlike private developments, a share of the profits will be reinvested back into our city.
In praise of its environmental credentials, the Green Initiative award recognised the site’s sustainable design. Central to the development is a wildlife corridor, which will run from Stoke Park – a Grade II Listed parkland – through to Concorde Way, and a community park will feature at the heart of the neighbourhood. We know how important access to nature is for our mental and physical health and all of this will improve the biodiversity of the area as well as creating a great environment to live in.
These awards are evidence of Goram Homes’ partnerships with respected developers, and our shared commitment to building homes that create communities and respect the environment. The development at Romney House responds to the needs of both new and existing communities with its green open spaces and private spaces for every home – part of Bristol’s Urban Living planning policy. As a result of the pandemic, designs have also been adapted to reflect to the way we are living now and include spaces for home offices.
Bristol is increasingly being recognised as being at the forefront of new ideas and approaches to house building. It’s why TV architect, George Clarke, visited the site last March, to find out more about what we are doing and explore the site as a potential development to feature in a Channel 4 documentary. I toured the site with him and explained our plans to accelerate the building of more affordable homes across the city and we are hopeful that George will be able to tell this story as part of his next TV series.
Building sustainable and affordable housing is key to us building a fairer, greener city and the pandemic has only heightened this urgency. We must make sure that people who have been adversely affected by the pandemic are not further left behind. Goram Homes currently has two developments underway – at Romney House and at Baltic Wharf on Bristol’s Floating Harbour. Their work is supporting us in building our pipeline of new council houses and I look forward to them announcing more new, exciting projects later this year.
Today’s guest blog is from Steve Preddy, Regional Secretary of Unite the Union.
I believe all of us, reflecting on the profound difficulties faced throughout the past year, yearn for the potential of brighter opportunities and renewed hope as 2021 unfolds. The COVID-19 vaccines provides the best reason for genuine hope that there will be a return to a new “normality” perhaps later this year.
Something that both sustains and inspires me during these extraordinary times, is the dedication shown by our amazing team here in Unite South West. Primarily our incredible volunteer army of Lay Representatives both Industrial Work Place and Health & Safety representatives. Every day they make a positive difference to thousands of members in the union. It is to that unwavering dedication and hard work that makes it so important to celebrate trade unions and our collective achievements during Hearts’ Union Week.
Tackling the worst kind of employer behaviours is at the heart of Unite’s Fighting Back strategy. Fire and Rehire is one example of an abhorrent practice. Unite won in British Airways Cargo handling, we are fighting Go North Buses. Unite undertook the incredible Rolls Royce Barnoldswick campaign to save the site and jobs. Campaigns won by organising in workplaces and their communities.
Unite the Union Representatives, Officers and staff consistently provide every support to our members, with the most comprehensive range of services and support available through the trade union movement. Very importantly this past year, I pay tribute to the work of Health and Safety Reps in making sure employers provide proper PPE for key workers and carry out proper risk assessments in workplaces. Where employers fail in terms of maintaining a safe working environment section 44 of the Employment Rights Act has been deployed. This was used extensively and successfully by Unite on a number of occasions this past year and by our colleagues in the NEU, which in turn brought about a further government U turn on school closures.
I hope all people now realise that key workers, whether caring for our loved ones in the NHS and Care Homes or serving among the masses in shops, or those operating our buses, have been undervalued and underpaid for years. All these people deserve to be paid a respectful living wage and Unite will not cease campaigning for this, until it happens. In our NHS we support the campaign around a 15% increase in pay, in part recognition of their sacrifice and because of their ongoing contribution to the health and wellbeing of our entire nation.
Unite the union was instrumental in the negotiations with Ministers that directly led to the introduction of the Job Retention Scheme- a scheme not perfect, but which directly saved so many jobs. Unite calls on the Government to extend job retention beyond March, including targeted help for particularly vulnerable sectors of the economy like Civil Air Transport, hospitality, manufacturing and many others. They need to make an announcement of intent to do so now. This will provide reassurance to our members who are currently on furlough, that they will not be facing redundancy in the spring & summer and stop employers shedding thousands of workers’ jobs.
The battle to save jobs is vital, not just for the viability of the UK economy but for the health and wellbeing of workers and families. We know the cost of unemployment in terms of lost income, worry over bills and expenses, the disruptive damage to family and community cohesion and the impact that it will have on the social fabric of people’s lives right across the South West region. This will be disproportionately felt by the poor, vulnerable, by women and children and by those in the BAME communities.
Unite has devised a membership package that will maintain membership in Unite at no cost to the individual. The Union Funded Scheme is already retaining tens of thousands of members in our Unite family, those impacted by loss of employment through the Covid crisis and Brexit double header.
Unite also provides access to support, advice and training for members who have lost their jobs. Trade unions came into existence to support working class families. Unite maintains the tradition not to leave members facing difficulties alone. Though our Back2Work membership and services support, we help them on the difficult path back into work.
If you want to find out more about the important work of Unite the union go to – www.unitetheunion.org If you are not already a member of a trade union- I hope you will join us.
To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, today’s guest blog is from Michael, Business Support Apprentice in the Mayor’s Office.
I decided to look at doing an apprenticeship after finishing my first year of A Levels as I felt that they weren’t for me and I wanted to try something different. In 2019, after searching hiring sites and the Government website, I found the role of Business Support Apprentice advertised in the Mayor’s Office. I applied, got invited for an interview, and the rest, as they say is, history! Some of the advantages of doing an apprenticeship include:
Being able to leave school at 16, as doing an apprenticeship counts as full-time education
Earning while learning
Getting onto the career ladder at a young age
Gaining practical experience in a work environment
My role is quite diverse but is concentrated around supporting the team administratively (as well as making thevery occasional cup of tea for the Mayor!) Some of my common tasks include: processing the finances for the office, such as paying invoices and recording the spend against our budget for the financial year; scanning and recording letters to the Mayor; and collating the Mayor’s appointments into an accessible published diary each month. I have also recently become more involved in drafting responses to citizens’ letters to the Mayor.
Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed getting involved in events that the Mayor’s Office organised. Particular highlights have included helping to organise the Race and the City conference, volunteering to sign-in and assist attendees at the Child Friendly Cities Conference and organising the Bristol Young Heroes Awards nominees reception. I received a letter of thanks from the charity who hosted the event for my work on this.
I really enjoy working with the team in the Mayor’s Office and I find it interesting how each of our roles fits together. I feel supported by everyone, so the experience so far has been a real confidence booster for me.
Apprenticeships are not just about experience at work. I have finished my Level 2 qualification in Business Administration and I feel like I have been able to transfer my skills learnt from that course, such as problem solving and an improvement in my ICT skills, into my day-to-day work. I have recently completed my initial assessment for the Level 3 Business Admin course, which I am looking forward to starting soon to further develop my skills over the next 12 months.
Apprenticeships are a great way to kick-start a career and can open the doors to many different fields of work. Overall, I believe they are a great alternative to the brick and mortar narrative of university that is encouraged at many schools!