If you want to find hope on the politics of migration, look to the cities

There are few subjects, if any, more fraught for politicians right now than migration. Whether its Brexit and the hostile environment here in the UK, DACA and the Wall in the US or refugee policies in Germany, our national leaders seem incapable of finding solutions which can command popular support and avoid pitting one group against another and stoking tension and resentment. So why do I have hope as I prepare an address on the politics of migration for 250 American city leaders at the US Conference of Mayors annual gathering? Because I believe that where national leaders have failed, Mayors can change the game.

What’s unique about city leaders is our proximity to the issues we have to address. In Bristol we have 92 languages spoken on our streets, and over 180 countries of origin represented in our population. And as the first directly elected European city Mayor of African descent with a family heritage that finds origins in England, Wales, Ireland and Jamaica, an American wife, Jamaican aunts, uncles and cousins, a Swiss brother-in-law and an Indian heritage sister-in-law, the dynamism of diversity is part of who I am too. As a report from McKinsey has proven, I see every day how it drives our economic success as the fastest growing area in the UK outside of London. And I see how it enriches and energises our communities, as evidenced by last week’s Grand Iftar who saw 3,000 people from every background eating food cooked by Muslims in a Baptist Church kitchen.

But while I see the positive benefits of migration, I am also acutely aware of the challenges it brings. Earlier this year I sat in a room with the sisters of Bijan Ibrahimi, an Iranian refugee who was murdered on my city’s streets in 2013. The advantages available through diversity only come with leadership, inclination and the skills needed to work with difference.

Being this close to the issue of migration forces you to treat it with the nuance and maturity that it deserves. But being a city leader also gives you the opportunity to harness a unique set of resources in taking on this challenge. In Bristol we are developing a One City Plan that is owned by all the major local stakeholders such as businesses, universities, charities and which will focus collaboration and resources on the key challenges we face in the coming decades. At the heart of that plan will be a narrative of inclusion, which seeks to harness the skills, energy and culture of newcomers to the city whilst at the same time recognising that many people who have been here for a long time feel marginalised and left behind. Developing policies that allow everyone to contribute to and share in the prosperity of the city will not be easy, but it’s a challenge that unites our communities in a common purpose and with a shared vision.

Every city leader I talk to around the world shares this desire to bring every possible resource and every innovative solution to bear to create meaningful inclusion. The challenge then becomes how to amplify these efforts beyond individual cities so that they can begin to reshape our national and international discussions on migration. A few weeks ago I became the first Mayor to speak in the UN negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration, and I lost count of the number of people who told me that the city perspective was a breath of fresh air compared to the stale and negative politics coming from national governments. Opportunities like the Global Compact need to be seized in giving cities a seat at the top table of international governance, and international institutions like the UN need to be proactive in making space for city voices to come to the fore.

In October of this year Bristol will host the Global Parliament of Mayors, an institution created by and for city leaders to amplify their voices at the national and international levels. Migration will be a key theme, and next week I will be asking my American colleagues to play their full part. If we only look to our national governments for solutions we will continue to be disappointed and frustrated, because the tools of the 20th century will never be enough to tackle the challenges of the 21st. But if we turn our gaze to the cities, we can find hope that a politics of inclusion can start to break through.

Speech to the US Conference of Mayors 86th AGM

This speech was given to over 300 Mayor’s present at the US Conference of Mayors 86th Annual General Meeting in Boston MA on the 11th of June 2018.

Fellow Mayors, distinguished guests. The movement of people has been a fact of human civilisation ever since there has been human civilisation, but the challenges and opportunities we face today are more complex and dynamic than they’ve ever been. EU member states received 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015 – sparking a political and humanitarian crisis, the ramifications of which are still unfolding. It certainly contributed to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU. But according to some estimates as many as 200 million people could be climate-change refugees by the middle of the century. If the EU struggles to control its borders when 1.2 million people move, what would happen if 200 million do?

The current configuration of nation state politics is directly and indirectly creating and compounding migration push factors such as inequality, climate change, tensions and political insecurity. It’s then failing to deal with the consequences in a way that recognises the equal worth of migrants or provides political stability. Of course individual political actors and parties play a role in this. Policy matters. But there is a deeper problem at work here in the inability of the nation state with its historic commitment to boundaries, control and defined identities to support the kind of political leadership capable of meeting the migration challenge in front of us.  Nation states may simply lack the tools to meet the challenge.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, both of our countries had powerful stories about who we were and what we were – that generated an extraordinary collective energy. But in the last few decades we’ve seen those simple narratives become increasingly brittle and fractured.

Despite having British blood that goes back centuries, there are no national conversations about identity and belonging that fail to leave me a little concerned. It seems increasingly clear to me that the national level alone is incapable of renewing a compelling vision of shared identity that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

And of course when it’s a mess at the national level, the international level is just mess squared. Our interdependent world needs leaders with emotional intelligence, mutual understanding, multi-dimensional world views and empathy. Instead we get crassness and obstructionism better suited to the binary, zero sum world when the interests of discreet nation states could be pursued irrespective of the interests of others.

People have always moved around and they have always come together, forming and growing cities, for education, culture and employment, growing national economies. Cities are growing at a rapid rate again and that’s why people are looking to city leaders like us in a new way. It’s in cities we are better placed to bring difference together for the common good.

As for my own story I am product of migration. As the first directly elected European city Mayor of African descent with a family heritage that finds origins in England, Wales, Ireland and Jamaica, an American wife, Jamaican aunts, uncles and cousins, a Swiss brother-in-law and an Indian heritage sister-in-law, the dynamism of diversity is part of who I am too. The catagories we are required to fit into are too simplistic.

In Bristol my colleague Cllr Hibaq Jama is a former Somali refugee and was elected to sit alongside me as a city leader. My Deputy Mayor Asher Craig is – we are led to believe – Europe’s first Rastafarian Deputy Mayor. My other Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney comes from a white working class background. One of 13 children he experienced the extreme poverty on occasion eating his food from a bin. Today as my head of finance me overseas out £1bn budget. My Chief of Staff grew up on one of the poorest estates in Bristol. His family still live there. Together we lead, close to our city in the city’s interest: refugee, migrant, child of migrant and indigenous. We can do this at the city level.

It’s at the city level we can talk about identity as something that is multi-dimensional rather than the single dimensional approach nations take.  In Bristol, like other cities, we are developing a one city plan, bringing together city partners, business, volunteers, communities, universities and city institutions; to deliberately plan the future and set targets the whole city is pointed at – for an inclusive growing economy where nobody is left behind.

As city leaders, let’s bring our strength and our optimism to bear in reshaping the way politics works at the national and international level. We need global governance to move into its next iteration and that means the representatives of international networks of cities sitting alongside national actors in shaping the national and international context in which we live.

At this moment we find ourselves trying to lead a 21st century world with 20th century structures. People have always known this. That’s why nations banded together. They looked up and across to collaborate. They now need to look in to and across from their cities.

The political innovation migration needs will come from international collections of cities. We create new best practices. We have shown that. We now need the space to create the new internal politics. This won’t be a Big Bang but a collection’s of smaller impacts and agreed not merely between national governments but between empowered cities across national borders. Three weeks ago I was invited to speak at the negotiations on the Global Compact for Migration at the UN.  Surprisingly, until that point there had been no formal city input.

And yet, as I pointed out in my speech:

  • most migrants leave cities, go to cities and return to cities
  • roughly twenty per cent of migrants worldwide live in just 20 cities
  • over 70% of the draft Compact’s objectives can only be fully realised with the active participation of city authorities
  • and I would add cities can lead even where national governments are failing to deliver, or even opposing, the compact

Its authors know they need to make it real and that cities are critical to that. The challenge they face is how to harness the collective and legitimate voice of cities in support of the Compact’s aims, and that’s why they are so keen to come to the Global Parliament of Mayor’s Summit, held in my city of Bristol this October and they will continue their dialogue with us there.

I am involved in the Global Parliament of Mayors, we want that organisation to help bring together the different networks and put Mayors at the front of decision making.   Ensuring networks work for city leaders and not the other way round. Cities and city networks must get better organised, more coherent across the geographies and the many issues around which they gather. The prize of doing so is greater influence. The price of not doing so is diminishing returns from the many city meetings city leaders are asked to attend. If we don’t get our networks organised, we’ll be charged with having a confused voice on the issues that matter and key decision makers will move on without us.

If we don’t get organised, that which made us a success will be our downfall. We need to move into the next stage of city organisation to enable world governance to move into its next iteration: where networks of cities sit alongside national politicians as they shape national and international policy.

We need to work with interdependencies – name the big 6 networks we need working together. We need to get them to coordinate their diaries to ensure that we as mayors aren’t pulled in 15 different directions and our impact diluted.

The Global Compact for Migration is an exciting opportunity for cities to influence that will be before us at the Global Parliament of Mayors Summit in October, and there are others on other topics such as public health and security. But there’s an equally important challenge that we will also be taking on, about how we organise ourselves and those networks and how we collaborate well with all city partners.

In my city I’ve worked to develop an approach we call “Big offer, big ask”. We say to people, rather than coming and asking for things or demanding them, come and make your offer. Tell me what big thing do you want to get done for the city and then tell me what do you need from me and the city to enable you to do it.

In that spirit I make you all, an offer:

Bristol and many cities across the world will back you in the stands you’ve taken on issues such as migration and climate change.

I ask that you lead. We look to US cities as a source of political hope at this time.

This means understanding the role of US cities not only as nation shapers but global shapers.

Mayor’s and cities in the US lead the way as a source of leadership and accountability and we are campaigning to make the UK develop regional devolution on your model, passing on real powers to the people who live in the community, who look citizens in the eyes every day, and away from distant pillars of abstract decision making.

You are welcomed to Bristol in October and let’s amplify our voice together. Let’s work together to target the international bodies whom we want to have a formal cities presence.

This moment has found us: national governments not delivering, people disillusioned with politics, services failing, global economic, people and environmental trends beyond our control: leaving people vulnerable to being seduced by charlatans proffering the wrong answers to the right problems. We have no choice but to step up. So we have to get organised.

Power won’t come neatly wrapped in government parcels. It’s a social force and it’s got by organising. Conservative or liberal, republican or democratic – we can’t look around and think we’re making a good job of this planet.

We are interdependent. You fought to move from dependence to independence. Stephen Covey says the highest state is interdependence. I now ask you to fight for that. Thank you.

Channel 4 Shortlist

We are delighted to have been shortlisted by Channel 4 to become its new national HQ or one of two new Creative Hubs.

Bristol has a culture of innovation which disrupts and has always been a city that makes things happen. We are a city which reflects the diversity of the UK and the globe, with a commitment to inclusion, stretching from our grassroots organisations to the top of political leadership.

Channel 4 is built on innovative and distinctive broadcasting which stimulates debate and champions alternative points of view. It is committed to diversity and nurturing new talent to change people’s lives. These are values we share and want in Bristol and it is because of this that I believe that Channel 4 would be good for Bristol and Bristol would be good for Channel 4.

Now, with our fantastic partners across the city’s creative and media sectors, we look forward to welcoming Channel 4 in the coming weeks to show them our talent, creativity and the possibilities of our city. We will discuss how we could work together and develop their vision for the future alongside ours.



Good Faith Partnership Opportunity

Bristol is a thriving, diverse and growing city. But it can also be a fractured city, with inequalities across race, age, class and location.

As the city develops and moves forward, creativity and determination are required to make sure that nobody gets left behind. That’s why in April of this year David Barclay started a secondment from the Good Faith Partnership to the City Office as an Advisor on Inclusion.

The Good Faith Partnership is a social consultancy which works to help leaders in the worlds of faith, politics, business and charity work better together on common issues. The secondment is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and is designed to help the Mayor and the City Council to work more strategically with others in the city to make Bristol more inclusive and integrated, with a particular focus on newcomers to the city.

The Good Faith Partnership is now looking to hire a Deputy Advisor to assist David in this work. The role will involve a range of activities, from relationship building and networking to research, project development and contributing to larger initiatives such as the Global Parliament of Mayors Summit and the One City Plan. The successful applicant will work for 3 days a week starting as soon as possible.

Further information and contact details are included in this document: Deputy Advisor on Inclusion JD

GDPR – New Data Regulation

New rules relating to how we all collect and process personal data – the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – come into effect from the 25th May 2018. GDPR aims to streamline and unify data protection laws across the EU and will replace the previous 1995 data protection directive which current UK law is based on.

GDPR is the biggest change to data protection rules in 20 years with wide ranging consequences for an organisation as large and complex as Bristol City Council. Under GDPR the council must:

  • Comply  with the enhanced rights for individual’s given to them under GDPR including the right to have data sent in machine readable format to another organisation in certain circumstances
  • Comply  with subject access requests within the reduced time frame of 30 days
  • Always use an alternative basis for processing other than consent where possible, consent can no longer be gained by the use of ‘opt outs’, an individual must now ‘opt in’ to give consent
  • Provide extra information to individuals when collecting their data in a privacy notice
  • Demonstrate compliance with data protection laws by  keeping records of our processing activities
  • Appoint a statutory  Data Protection Officers if the organisation is a public authority, or processes sensitive data or personal data on a large scale
  • Report data breaches within 72 hours to the Information Commissioner’s Office where there is a risk to the rights or freedoms of individuals

Craig Cheney, my Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance and Performance has set up a project to ensure our compliance and make the required changes in each service area. By the 25th of May deadline we will have to make sure the key building blocks will be in place, which includes new ways to report data breaches a review of key documentation and training for staff. I am grateful to everyone working to make sure the council is compliant, and ensures that we can protect citizen’s data.

For my part I am asking all those who are currently subscribed to this blog if they wish to continue receiving email notifications and consent to us continuing to hold contact details. If you choose to continue receiving email notifications from the Bristol Mayor blog your contact details will only be used for the purpose of keeping you informed in the way you have requested. If you do not re-subscribe before Wednesday 23 May 2018 you will no longer receive email notifications from the Bristol Mayor blog.

A new Privacy Notice has been added to my page, explaining what we do with personal information, how long we will keep it and your right to withdraw consent at any time. If you would like to stay subscribed click on the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right hand side of the screen, input your email and follow the instructions in the confirmation email you receive afterwards.


Foster Care Fortnight

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

Bristol, and the rest of the country, is today marking the start of Foster Care Fortnight; our annual opportunity to celebrate the power of fostering to transform lives and to showcase our brilliant foster carers. One of the best parts of my role in cabinet is meeting young people and their foster carers. Bristol’s carers come from all walks of life but they have one thing in common – the desire to give our children the best possible start in life. They also tend to share an excellent sense of humour and are unbelievably supportive of each other.

The majority of Bristol’s children in care live with foster families. The impact of living in a safe, warm and caring family environment cannot be underestimated. In Bristol we have hundreds of foster carers who are looking after and supporting children and young people, giving them the best possible opportunity to flourish.  Our foster carers transform  lives and play an extraordinary role in making sure our children in care have the same opportunities for success and happiness in life as our own children do.

Bristol needs more foster carers, so that we can ensure we can place children with carers in their local community, and so that we have a wide variety of carers to match children with. We know that Bristol is a city that cares and a city that looks towards the future, so please use this Foster Care Fortnight to find out more about fostering. Our foster care recruitment team will be going on the road holding events across the city – click here to find out more. This Foster Care Fortnight could be life changing and transformative for you too!


Euro Vision

It’s Eurovision weekend and 180 million people will tune in to watch the show, including millions from the UK and, I’m sure, many Bristol citizens. Whilst the contest is not always viewed as the most serious of cultural events here, it is another demonstration of the value of international links through popular culture. Bristol has so many European links, and many in the city will be rooting for different winners. 

This year’s event is being hosted in Lisbon. Not far from there, Bristol has a twin city of Oporto, where we celebrate specific links on language, theatre, music, food and business. Along with Oporto, we have other twin city relationships with competitor countries; particularly Bordeaux in France, Tbilisi in Georgia and Hannover in Germany. Our links with Bordeaux and Hannover go back to the 1940’s and this year, we celebrated our 70 year twinning anniversaries. We also have close links with cities in Poland, who will feature in the contest, and with 165 countries of origin amongst Bristol citizens, it’s likely every competitor country will have supporters somewhere across the city.

As well as twin cities in Europe, we have partnerships with cities further afield including Puerto Morazan in Nicaragua and Beira in Mozambique. We have close links with cities in India and Somalia, Somaliland and many countries where there are trading relationships with businesses in the city and family ties. 

This Wednesday was Europe Day, and we celebrated  the day with students from Bristol and Bordeaux with an event in City Hall debating Global Citizenship. Young people in the room viewed international links between their countries, schools and universities as essential to sharing positive and vibrant culture between communities and to open up opportunities for education, jobs, sport and travel.    

Eurovision is another symbol of shared experiences across borders and we will continue to work with city businesses to grow opportunity, trade and investment for Bristol across the globe and encourage everyone to act as global citizens, sharing experiences, culture and opportunity while maintaining our status as a city of sanctuary and a city of hope.

If you’re watching, look out for Ireland – my tip for this year’s winner.


Snow Growth

Figures released today by the Office of National Statistics shows that the UK economy suffered its weakest period of GDP growth in five years. GDP growth was just 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018.

The Government blamed the snow in late February and early March for these unsettling figures – but as Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “It’s the avalanche of cuts that has done the long-term damage.”

It will be interesting to keep watch on the growth figures and question the government’s austerity policies. For a long time Labour has been calling for the re-investment in our cities and national infrastructure to stimulate inclusive growth, and blaming the snow is not an excuse.

In fact today I was able to visit the council’s hardworking Housing Management Team who worked extremely hard to keep things running during the bout of snow we had in March.

The team deliver the day to day repairs to approximately 27,000 tenants, structural repairs to approximately 1,500 leasehold and refurbishment to empty homes. They also carry out planned programmes of work gas servicing, fire safety etc. Our workforce is multi trade, working on electrical, gas, plumbing, general trades & carpentry.

I heard that Gas Section, Response Repairs changed their focus from business as usual to boiler breakdown repairs caused by the severe weather. They had to deal with over 600 breakdowns – the vast majority being dealt with within 12 hours in deteriorating weather and road conditions.

Scheduling staff worked around the clock to identify and contact the vulnerable tenants and prioritise their repair and 10 Engineers volunteered to work on Sunday to reduce the backlog. With the dedication and commitment shown by the scheduling staff in Sandy Park and the can do attitude of the Gas Engineers and Plumbers we dealt with all the breakdowns caused by the severe weather in 5 days.

On the Friday the response repairs operatives who couldn’t drive to work cleared snow from the paths and gritting them afterwards. The operatives were greeted by our older tenants with hot drinks, encouragement and thanks.  This back up snow plan meant operatives were able to directly contribute to the safety of our citizens and demonstrate our continued commitment to its citizens.

In total, 39 sites were cleared and gritted on Thursday and 21 sites were cleared and gritted on Friday. The operatives come from a variety of trade backgrounds and very quickly turned their hand to the task in hand.

I am grateful for the commitment and hard work during the recent severe weather. I want to thank everyone who contributed in some way to making sure that people were kept safe and helped vital services to carry on despite the disruption.


Taxi Conference

Today we held our second annual taxi conference in City Hall. The conference is an opportunity to talk with the trade about the city’s transport challenges, the taxi trade and how we work together to build an inclusive, sustainable Bristol.

It was great to see so many representatives from the private hire and hackney carriage sections. As part of the day’s agenda, Chair of Public Safety and Protection Committee Fi Hance gave an update, and Cabinet member for Transport and Connectivity Mhairi Threlfall talked about the vital role the trade plays in our transport strategy and the long term plans for the city.

20180416_105102I thanked drivers for the support they’ve given us in our work to improve the city’s air quality. Many in the hackney carriage trade have responded positively. We acknowledge there is a cost involved of changing hackney carriages in accordance with the Euro 6 policy. As an administration, we are keen to hold this challenge alongside our recognition that taxi drivers are small businesses and will need support to transition to cleaner vehicles. Therefore I was pleased Mhairi announced the news on the Defra funding secured under the Hackney Carriage ULEV Incentive Scheme: A package of incentives offered to Hackney Carriage proprietors for purchasing electric vehicles.

Drivers also wanted to talk about taxi rank space and the work being done to rationalise all the local stands, the Temple Meads approach and licensing. The city centre framework is out for consultation and I asked those present to make sure they made their views known.

20180416_105705We also must tackle out of town licensing and cross border hiring. Due to the current legal framework we find ourselves unable to address directly. Over the last six months TfL has been working with licensing authorities and stakeholder groups across England to understand the individual challenges facing each authority and how a solution may be developed to respond to these challenges and have made a series of recommendations. Bristol’s Taxi drivers supported these proposals for change. I wrote to Nusrat Ghani MP, the Under Secretary of State for Transport in March to express support as the report highlighted many of the issues raised by the taxi trade in Bristol.

My key message for the trade is that we are listening – there are plenty of opportunities to feed into consultations but I encourage everyone in the room to take this opportunity to listen and share.


Coming Together to Support Care Leavers

Today’s guest blog comes from Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Families, Helen Godwin.

helen gtIt was great to bring three reports to cabinet last week, each of them focussing on our role as corporate parents and how we better support children in care and care leavers.

During Bristol City Council’s last OFSTED report in 2014, serious concerns were raised about the outcomes for care leavers in the city. Since then, the council has been working hard to improve our Care Leaver Offer to ensure that young people have a good chance to live independently, access employment or training and to contribute to the city.

However, the story is not as positive as we would like. Despite some amazing success stories in Bristol – we have a number of care leavers in higher education and incredible care leaver apprentices making a difference in the council and for the city – there are some hard to digest statistics around leaving care. Care leavers are over represented in the criminal justice system and in mental health services, too many homeless young people grew up in care and substance abuse is prevalent.

For me the most shocking fact is the 1 in 6 care leavers will not live to the age of 30.

In 2018. In the UK.

It is heart-breaking and unacceptable.

Last week I brought two reports to Cabinet which will make a tangible difference to care leavers in Bristol. Having worked closely with Cllr Craig Cheney, we have announced that from 1 April 2018 all care leavers up to the age of 25 in Bristol will be exempt from Council Tax. This follows on from the Children’s Society ‘Wolf at the Door’ report which demonstrates that council tax debt can be a particularly frightening experience for care leavers. What can start out for many care leavers as falling slightly behind can very quickly escalate to a court summons and enforcement action being taken. We want to protect and support our care leavers as an authority, and help them towards independence and hope that this measure will allow us to do that.

We were also thrilled to announce that Bristol City Council, along with 1625 Independent People, are leading on the development of a Social Impact Bond that will enable us to work with care leavers to ensure that they are able to access education, employment and training. The award, from the Department for Education, is for c£1.7million and will focus on young people who need the most support. To be part of such an innovative project is great news for the city, and to be able to align this work with our key mayoral pledges around work experience and apprenticeships for all young people is especially exciting.

To make the impact we want to see on outcomes for care leavers will take a lot more work and focus, and will require input and partnership from across the city. We want to explain and promote the idea of corporate parenting beyond the council.

If you would like to find out how you can get involved in supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable young people please feel free to contact me directly – cllr.helen.godwin@bristol.gov.uk