Building Bristol – our vision for growing construction skills and employment

Councillor Asher Craig and Tom Renhard, smile in a group of Building Bristol employees.
Today’s blog is from Councillors Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities and Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes – seen on the far left and centre of the picture

Bristol’s construction industry is booming, cranes are on the horizon. We are responding to the growing needs of our city, enabling new developments, offering much needed accommodation, health facilities, hospitality sites, education facilities, and workspaces. Our planning department reviews and approves over 100 major applications a year.

Without a doubt, we need the homes, schools, hotels, entertainment, and health facilities. But it is not just the finished product that matters. What our city also needs is skills development, training, and employment opportunities and we recognise that local developments and their associated construction projects can offer these opportunities. That is why we are now requiring that all major planning applications include an Employment and Skills Plan (ESP) for the construction phase and, where appropriate, the end use phase. While this might seem like an unnecessary extra step, there is huge value in these requirements. And contractors and developers are not on their own to meet the obligations. We have launched Building Bristol, a support service for the industry to guide developers and contractors every step of the way, helping put together and evaluate the ESPs.

Why the change, some might ask. We recognise that there are many opportunities presented by construction developments in our city during the build and the end user phase. These opportunities can greatly improve local employment, training and skills offers and, therefore, it is important that all of those involved in shaping our city play their part in maximising such employment opportunities for local people. Through Building Bristol, we can also connect applicants and developers with a wide range of services to help meet the agreed targets. All this means that there are huge benefits for our city’s workforce.

A Building Bristol employee smiles with a window behind him. His hat has the Building Bristol logo.

And vitally, we want to make sure the changed requirements are of benefit to the construction trade too. We have recently appointed John Boughton, Regional Managing Director for Wales and the South West of Bouygues UK, as the Chair of Building Bristol Board. John’s expertise, as the lead of the board’s key partners which include business, education, training, employment support, voluntary sector, trade unions and construction support, will help us make sure that we are further helping the construction industry.

So what does it mean in practice? Our Building Bristol Coordinator is on hand to support contractors, developers and end employers with developing their Employment and Skills Plans and delivering their agreed targets. By working with all major developments, there are also opportunities for shared events and campaigns to boost local recruitment.

In our city, construction is a career choice for plenty of young people already. We run our own On Site construction apprenticeship scheme which supports innovative apprenticeship and work-based learning programmes. We are proud to say over the last 25 years the programme has been running, it has delivered 2,500 apprenticeships. In Bristol, there is also our new £9 million state-of-the-art City of Bristol College Advanced Construction Skills Centre for students aspiring to a career in construction, which we helped secure the funding for. But we would like to go further. Building Bristol aspires to change the perception of careers in construction, to open up more opportunities for young people, women and those with barriers to employment, and to help close the skills shortage within the construction industry. We hope the scheme will complement the work we are already doing and further aid us in making construction a more attractive and attainable career for people in Bristol.

Two Building Bristol employees wearing High visibility jackets look out the window. The Building Bristol logo sits on their backs.

Our commitment to support the construction industry is continuous.  Previously, we had signed a Unite Construction Charter committing to working with Unite in order to achieve the highest standards in respect of direct employment status, health & safety, standards of work, apprenticeship training and the implementation of appropriate nationally agreed terms and conditions of employment.

The launch of Building Bristol isn’t the first time we have strived for local people to experience the wider benefit from new construction developments. For example, Goram Homes in partnership with Bristol City Council, will be launching a Skills Academy for its One Lockleaze development in the early part of next year, an innovative training programme designed to create opportunities for local people to gain work experience and vocational qualifications.

This is just the start of the process, and we’ll be sharing stories of partners and their experience with Building Bristol.  For now, more information about the service is available here: Building Bristol

Making Bristol’s transport network safer for all

Transport in Bristol is a challenge regardless of your mode of travel. Bristol is a historic city with many protected buildings with old, constrained roads, covering a small area for our rapidly growing population. Shorter-term issues, like the shortage of bus drivers at First Bus, are causing huge frustration for us now, but our transport network has even deeper flaws.

Bristol has had no mass transit system for decades and underinvestment in infrastructure for even longer. Compounding those problems was a post-war rebuilding of our city imagined at a time when the motorcar was king.

We continue to face these challenges while modernising our infrastructure, pedestrianising swathes of our city, and growing our economy inclusively and sustainably.

When dealing with transport planning, the single biggest flaw is to approach the challenge through a single prism and a single focus. Our challenge is to enable people’s movement while bringing people with us on a journey to sustainable, efficient, low carbon travel.

Many campaigns struggle: alienating and isolating people, building barriers to growing support for change.

More immediately, our cycling plans are published in our Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). Our driver for the LCWIP proposals have been the clear disparity of cycling journeys to work between wealthier and more deprived areas of the city. This plan contains routes to enable the growth of cycling amongst more disadvantaged communities.

In addition to the above all developments and infrastructure plans, we want to maximise the inclusion of safe cycling with segregation where possible. We’re also investing in a new £14 million Family Cycling Centre in Lawrence Weston, where cycle training will take place as part of a wider family cycling offer.

Active Travel England have set out standards that we aspire to where they are deliverable. We want to deliver infrastructure which enables growth of cycling amongst more disadvantaged communities.

As part of our work with the West of England Combined Authority we’ve been able to begin the project for a programme of cycle hangars in the city. We will use the funding which will be made available at the January committee to prioritise cycle hangars for council blocks. The project scored blocks against strategic criteria such as their links to strategic cycling network, levels of deprivation, and car ownership. This identified 168 cycle hangar spaces for sixteen sites, and we’ll begin installation next year.

Bristol has a clear transport hierarchy which prioritises pedestrians and then cyclists. Our work to bring e-scooters to Bristol and the huge take up they have seen has also driven alternative travel to cars, taking around 3 million car journeys off our roads and saving hundreds of thousands of kilos of CO2 emissions.

It is important to address issues with Bristol’s transport infrastructure in a way that benefits all residents and the different methods of travel.

Moving traffic offences make our roads unsafe for all road users and pedestrians. People with limited mobility and additional access requirements are especially vulnerable to people who ignore the rules of the road. These offences include driving through a ‘No Entry’ sign, going the wrong way in a one-way street, turning left or right where this is not permitted, and driving where and when motor vehicles are not allowed. In December’s Cabinet meeting we will consider a report that applies to the Secretary of State for Transport for new powers over moving traffic violations to Bristol. More details on the six enforcement sites are available here.

This is an example of a multi-issue, focused approach to improving Bristol’s transport network, that makes travel safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and all road users.

We are introducing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to Bristol. While three-quarters of cars won’t be affected, high polluting cars will be charged for driving through a city centre zone. The CAZ will clean up the air that we all breathe, and our £42 million support fund is helping people and businesses to upgrade their vehicles. This is a holistic approach to improving how we can travel across our city. At the same time as reducing congestion and making travel easier, it will improve the health of cyclists, walkers, and residents traveling through Bristol.

Read my article with Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, in the New Statesman, highlighting the importance of cleaning up the air we breathe.  

Our mass transit plans have progressed and are ready to be completed by the next administration and the combined authority. This is the single most transformation approach to transport in our city for a century and will remove more car journeys than any other initiative, paving the way for far greater implementation of segregated cycling and active travel like other modern cities. 

Carers Rights Day support for unpaid carers on the cost-of-living crisis

Today’s guest blog is from Tim Poole, CEO of Carers Support Centre

We are celebrating Carers Rights Day today and here at Carers Support Centre we are holding a free support event to discuss the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and its effects on carers in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. We are also providing practical support and information at the event to help carers access support.

The current cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone in the UK. With inflation having topped 10% for the first time since 1982 many people are finding it more difficult to make ends meets. 

It is the case that while all are being affected to some degree, some are affected more than others and often carers are amongst the hardest hit. 

The result of the crisis for carers is that it has created unprecedented pressure, not only affecting their finances but their health and wellbeing, adding to an already poor outlook for carers.

In trying to tackle the crisis, carers can be doubly constrained. Because of their caring responsibilities many are limited in the amount of income they can bring into the household. Additionally, carers have areas of expenditure that they just can’t afford to cut back on. 

An image from Carers Support Centre's Carer's Right's Day event, the crowd are watching a presentation.
Carers Support Centre’s Carer’s Rights Day Event

Recent research by Carers Trust shows that 48% of all unpaid family carers have had to give up work because of their caring role. The research also showed that 62% of unpaid family carers were spending 50 hours or more per week caring for a family member.  More time spent on caring responsibilities is less time to go out and earn an income.

So, less earned income which places an increased reliance on benefits. In itself the eligibility rules for claiming the main benefit for carers, Carers Allowance, severely restricts a carer’s earning ability. And if you are eligible, at just £69.70 per week Carers Allowance is lower than other comparable benefits like Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit and far less than in other European countries. It is woefully inadequate to meet the carer’s needs and the needs of those they care for.

Against that background of reduced income what money is coming into a carer’s household is buying less as inflation takes hold. Energy bills are the most obvious example of rising prices, but most people are noticing the effects on other everyday costs like the price of food.  

While many examine their household budget to see where cutbacks can be made, for many carers this just can’t be done without endangering the health and welfare of the person, or people, they care for. There are items that carers can’t cut back on, like special food items, laundry bills and the cost of equipment to help the person they care for.

With reduced income and increased expenditure, the cost-of-living crisis has added to an already gloomy picture for unpaid carers.

Carers have been under enormous pressure over the last two years due to the pandemic. Many were only just beginning to feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, for many of them that light is the oncoming pressures of the cost-of-living crisis. An increasing number of carers are contacting us, worried about the future for both the person they care for and themselves.

Carers Rights Day logo, with a red megaphone and white text on red background.

On Carers Rights Day, Carers Support Centre is once again calling on the Government to stop ignoring unpaid carers. Instead, they should be made a priority group for the extra financial support they so desperately need and deserve.  

At Carers Support Centre we are a charity which provides support, information and advice to unpaid carers living in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire areas – people of any age supporting family or friends who could not manage without their help.

You can find out more about our services for carers at www.carerssupportcentre.org.uk

Bristol’s progress on SEND

Today’s blog is by Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol with responsibilities including Education and Children’s Services.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Bristol last month to assess whether special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services have improved since their last visit in 2019. We are pleased that their report recognises that our Local Area has made sufficient progress in addressing four of the five key areas of weakness highlighted in the initial Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019, improving outcomes for children and young people (CYP) with SEND.

This reflects the dedication of staff to implement service improvements at pace over the last three years, despite the additional challenges of the pandemic. The full report has been published on Bristol’s Local Offer website, before Ofsted and the CQC publish it themselves on Friday.

While inspectors found that we had not made sufficient progress in addressing the difficult relationships with parents and carers identified in 2019, it is welcome that they found that “the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience”. We will continue to work hard to deliver further progress, as we build on ongoing work to improve relationships through a community of groups approach.

The report also notes that inclusion is central to Bristol’s Belonging Strategy, which was co-produced with children and young people from across our city: putting their voices, needs and ambitions for the future at the heart of Bristol’s recovery from the pandemic. Launched in October last year, the strategy supports the One City aim that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life, gaining the support and skills they need as they grow up to thrive and prosper in adulthood.

Ofsted/CQC’s observations and comments on our progress

  • Improvements in accountability are leading to better support for children and young people (CYP) with SEND and school leaders value the transformation of systems and processes that has taken place since the previous inspection.
  • The identification and assessment of CYP with SEND in Bristol is improving, with the Ordinarily Available Provision document detailing interventions to meet needs, within typical school assessment and support processes. There has been a cultural shift in the way that professionals and schools, work together which is improving the way that they work together to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
  • Effective joint working between professionals has resulted in real improvements to the timeliness and quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans. There is a stronger focus on improving outcomes and ensuring the child or young person and their family’s voice has been captured. This work is resulting in children and young people being placed at the centre of the EHC assessment process.
  • The support in Bristol for children and young people with SEND is getting better. Even so, leaders know there is more to do to ensure that all children and young people attend school regularly. The proportion of children and young people with an EHC plan who have been excluded from school has fallen. A range of strategies have been introduced to ensure that pupils who are at risk of exclusion get the help they need from schools and professionals.
  • Parents and carers have a more mixed view of the quality of support available to children and young people with SEND than at the time of the last inspection. Some parents and carers continue to lack trust in the system and feel that leaders are not acting in the best interests of their children. However, the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience. Plans are progressing to re-establish a formal body to represent parents and carers.

Improving SEND services remains a priority for Bristol City Council, with dedicated council staff and SEND leaders working alongside our partners in health, education, parents/carers and CYP with a deeply held, shared commitment to improving outcomes for CYP and their families. Our work is underpinned by our strategic approach outlined in the Bristol Children’s Charter and the Bristol Equality Charter, as well as the Mayor’s pledge to provide 450 new specialist school places, which is on track to be delivered in 2023.

The Council and local area partners including health will now work with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England to determine next steps and look to build on this progress. Our focus will be on how we can better communicate and work with all our parents and carers, ensuring that the parent, carer and young person’s voice – in all its diversity – is at the heart of our co-production work in SEND.

Please follow the Bristol Local Offer Facebook page for more updates on our Ofsted/CQC progress.

Introducing a new journey sharing platform for Bristol commuters

Councillor Donald Alexander smiling on College Green, in front of City Hall. He has trees behind him.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Donald Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport.

With Bristol’s Clean Air Zone starting next week, now is a good time for us all to continue considering how we can change the way we travel, to reduce our impact on the environment and make the city’s air cleaner.

To give commuters a helping hand, we’ve launched Join My Journey. This is a free to use online platform, which matches people up from the same workplace to share walking, cycling and car journeys.

It’s a great way to save money, reduce rush hour congestion and pollution, and connect with co-workers.

We’ve commissioned it, working alongside Travelwest and South Gloucestershire Council. We are now encouraging business leaders across Bristol and South Gloucestershire to sign up their companies and organisations so their staff can easily share journeys to work.

To get started all you need to do is register with the website and create a company hub. Once it’s been verified, you can then invite your colleagues to start using Join My Journey.

Anyone who doesn’t have many people to commute with at their workplace, the site can link up smaller businesses through an area hub. This means you can share journeys to work with people who live nearby or on the same route, who are travelling to the same area.  

Not only will it have a positive impact on the environment, but you could save money if you and some of your colleagues take it in turns to drive one another to work by sharing fuel costs and cutting down on the wear and tear of your vehicle.

We also wanted to give people the option to buddy up when walking or cycling to work, which is especially handy as we head into winter as it gets dark so early. It’s a good way to connect with people, keep fit, and enjoy the journey.

Users of Join My Journey smile in front of a car and a bicycle, Southmead Hospital is in the background.
Join My Journey at Southmead Hospital.

To make the most out of the platform, we need as many users as possible to register and create journeys. Our advice is, if you don’t find a match for your journey straightaway, keep checking as the more businesses and individuals that register, the more likely you are to find a match.

We’ve been trialling Join My Journey with the University of the West of England and North Bristol NHS Trust. More than 100 people have signed up so far and the feedback has been positive, especially because all the matching up is done behind the scenes, so all they need to do is encourage their staff to sign up.

To use Join My Journey, simply register, create or join a hub, search for a journey, then join a journey or host one.

Safety features include only being visible to colleagues in the same workplace or agreed businesses nearby. 

Get started at joinmyjourney.org.uk today.

To discuss how your business could benefit from setting up a company hub, email travelwestbusiness@bristol.gov.uk.

The Join My Journey poster. A purple and white background has cartoons of bikes, cars and people. Gold and White text reads: joinmyjourney Share your journeys with others to save Money and the Environment - Register at joinmyjourney.org.uk.

Qatar: Life, death, and football

Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly is quoted as saying, “Some people believe football is a matter of life or death.” In Qatar, for thousands of migrant workers – it’s exactly that.

Migrant workers there are banned from joining trade unions. They have often had passports confiscated by employers, been left in massive debt by recruitment costs, and been left without basic protections.

6,500 south Asian migrant workers have died in Qatar in the decade since the hosting rights were awarded, reports the Guardian. Hundreds of thousands have faced human rights abuses, according to Amnesty International, who have called for a FIFA compensation fund of at least £350 million.

And, whether you’re Rovers or City, Bristol is united in the knowledge that Qatar got to host the World Cup thanks to a stitch-up. Sixteen of the people who voted on or were involved on a senior level in where to host this World Cup have been indicted, arrested, or banned from football/sport. Another eight have been accused or investigated. But, however many billions it cost Qatar to get the tournament, or build new stadia and infrastructure for it, the real price has been paid by migrant workers.

The English and Welsh FAs are both partnered with other European football associations to highlight human rights issues. At a tournament in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised, Harry Kane will be among captains planning to wear ‘One Love’ armbands. England’s Three Lions Pride group are said to be boycotting the tournament, and YouGov found that 71% of Britons think it’s unacceptable for Qatar to host a major sporting event such as this.

At a time when our own national situation leaves us crying out for an escape, let alone the country’s favourite sport in the world’s biggest competition, the atmosphere feels at best fairly muted.

Of course, we’ll be supporting England – but, even if the men follow the women’s lead from the summer, football coming home again this winter would pale against the fact that so many workers won’t be.

Bristol’s new City Poet: Welcome to the new normal

Since 2016, our City Poets, appointed in partnership with Bristol Ideas, have helped to capture the spirit and soul of our city. They provide key insights into contemporary events and feelings, celebrating and challenging in equal measure. Our Poets’ words are a lens through which we can view ourselves and Bristol.

I was delighted to announce in July that Kat Lyons would be our new City Poet for 2022-24. Kat is a writer, performer, and workshop facilitator in spoken word poetry and performance storytelling. They use poetry to interrogate ideas, generate positive social change, and strengthen people’s connections to the world and each other. Their poetry has been featured in Under the Radar, Ink Sweat & Tears, and Bath Magg, and their debut poetry collection, Love Beneath the Nails, was published this year by Verve Poetry Press.

Last month, Kat shared their first official commission at Bristol’s Commission, performing ‘Welcome to the New Normal’ at my annual State of the City address. This inaugural poem heralds the return to ‘normal’ after the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a powerful and evocative poem showing Bristol’s communities still finding their feet and pushing the limits of what the city has to offer. Among the revival and celebration though, the poem highlights those who haven’t ‘bounced back’ – those suffering the physical and mental after-effects of the pandemic or who are struggling to stay afloat amid the national cost of living crisis.  This telling of the fullness of our city’s story gives me every confidence that Kat will build on the strong foundations built by their predecessors: Caleb Parkin, Vanessa Kisuule, and Miles Chambers

Read and watch Kat’s poem below.

Bristol's new City Poet, Kat Lyons, stands at a wooden lectern.

Welcome to the new normal

Bristol is dressed for business. Poses for tourists

with pastel paintwork, a flattering angle

the fixed grin of bunting.

We remember its bare face, sat with it

till shuttered streets gasped open.

Now we shoulder through rush-hours, hoard the gold

of our free-time, plant bare legs in every scrap of green

water the dirt with spilled laughter.

Here in the new normal we have been released and now

we’re going out-out

with bodies dissolving in heat-haze and soundclash,

with full-spectrum kinship of Queer teens and drag queens,

with Aunties and elders keeping Carnival simmering

and bringing it back a yard.

We press our hips to the bassline, fold

three years of fun into a six-month suitcase.

Summer bulges at the seams but

we will sit on the lid, we will break

the hinges to make it fit.

Here in the new normal we still clap on Tuesdays

or Thursdays or Saturdays or any day

a show ends now. Music plays

lights come up-

let’s have a round of applause!

We’ve ‘bounced back’. Listen to the sound

as we ricochet. Please ignore

the dents in the walls, the gaps in the crowds.

We are back in the office and our handshakes

are firm again. We are back in school, minnows learning

to shoal again.

And we are at home

and it was never just flu

and we never quite got over it.

We wear our isolation like a sodden overcoat

too heavy to unbutton on our own.

Here in the new normal we walk back from the shops past tents

mushrooming under bushes, on scrubland, in parks.

We try not to stare, wonder

whose aspirations lie covered by leafmould

at the slipperiness of the path

at how easy it is to fall.

And either we’re getting stronger

or the shopping bags are lighter every week.

Here in the new normal

we are up to our necks

and we have tightened our belts

and we have pulled ourselves together

and we have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.

We hold up our bowls and ask for more

than cliches. The electricity meter is hungry but so are the kids

and there are no calories in a media-friendly soundbite.

We put another jumper on, stuff fear

deep in our pockets. We have learned

we pivot faster than governments can spin. We turn

to our neighbours, turn ideas into actions

libraries into warm havens.

We gather in backrooms and pack bread and beans and nappies.

We gather in community gardens and grow

kale and courgettes

callaloo and choki

grip a donated spade and dig

a little clearing in dementia’s brambled ground.

We gather in Easton. Sit cross-legged in the street

the taste of prayer sweeter than fruit on our tongues.

Tablecloths bloom on the tarmac

as the sun sets again

as we give thanks again

as we pile strangers’ plates high again

as the dusk wraps a blanket around us all.

We tell our children bedtime stories

in more than 90 languages, sing

in a choir of almost half a million voices.

In this electric city, the static charge of life

touching life touching life

touching

life illuminates our steps. We walk on through the new normal

in the knowledge that we rise and fall

on each other’s breath.

All aboard Bristol’s Underground

Building on the success of securing £424 million for clean energy through City Leap, creating another 1,000 new jobs, I’m at COP27 this week banging the drum for Bristol again. It’s only by engaging internationally that we can continue to unlock the transformational investment that Bristol needs. That’s how we can build the modern infrastructure that Bristolians deserve.

As we continue to make the case for a low-carbon mass transit system, and move towards a West of England Combined Authority consultation, I’m sharing the first two initial studies in full.

The first report is by CH2M and Steer Davies Gleave. The second, by Jacobs and Steer, is an early phase options report.

Mayor Marvin Rees (right) stands at a lectern. Bright lights can be seen in the darkened hall.

I previously shared the executive summaries in an earlier blog, and said in my State of the City Address last month:

“We have continued the work to build a mass transit system that will transform the way we move around the city region. The economic and geological assessment work has been done. We are about to commit a further £15 million with our neighbours to take this work to the next stage.

“Overground and underground networks are fast, efficient, low carbon transport systems. They are essential for a modern, crowded city. Bristolians have waited long enough.

“There cannot be any U-turns, no shying away from the challenge of delivery for those who come next, be they Bristol councillors or the combined authority.

“We know what needs to happen. It’s now there for you to complete it.”

These two expert studies are clear as day. A mass transit, with underground elements, is deliverable for Bristol.

That’s not to say that there won’t be challenges. There are for every major project that’s ever been delivered.

We cannot turn back the clocks to the decades of non-delivery. Bristol’s first new train station is due to open this year at Portway, with more on the way. And we’ve secured £95 million to upgrade Temple Meads and unlock Temple Quarter.

The negative voices we hear at full council must be contradicted. It was even suggested in the chamber this week that cities like Paris don’t need mass transit because everyone can just cycle everywhere. Bonne chance! Parisians have the space for more choice of infrastructure above ground, precisely because they have sixteen metro lines with over 300 stations, as well as the five RER lines and eight lines of Trainsilien trains.

I invite everyone to read these studies. There can then be no excuse for continuing to talk down our city and its ambitions. With the work already done and the next phase in progress, there can be no excuse for failure.

We want your thoughts on the Council’s budget

Councillor Craig Cheney stands, smiling, with the trees of College Green behind him.
Today’s blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy
Mayor for Finance, Governance, and Performance

Like many organisations, Bristol City Council has a cost of operating crisis, which will affect our ability to carry out all the activities we want to and may affect our ability to provide the services we want.

Over the next five years we must find a mix of additional income and cost savings between £37.5 million and £87.6 million, which equates to 9% to 20% of the council’s core budget. As part of our consultation on the annual budget which launches tomorrow (Friday 11 November), we’ll set our proposals for reducing costs and generating further income that amount to £46 million over the coming five years. With still some way to go to balance the worst-case five-year budget gap, further difficult decisions may be required in February 2023 and beyond to bridge the estimated £41 million gap remaining.

We’re not alone. The Local Government Association have estimated £3.4 billion in additional costs for councils in 2023/24, rising to £4.5 billion in 2024/25. Nine in ten councils nationally expect budget shortfalls next year and we’re no different.

How did we get here? This is a crisis that’s been over a decade in the making, with many years of austerity slashing council funding, with government support failing to keep pace with increasing costs and demand. In February this year, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities approved its plans for funding local government for the following three years. It was a plan that meant councils would get an upfront amount of money to fund themselves for the period of the plan, based on the financial circumstances of the time. This was a plan that local government leaders agreed would result in real terms cuts for services and would result in financial difficulties for councils in years two and three.

Since the council passed its current budget and five-year outlook in March 2022, there have been significant changes on a national and global stage that are having a direct impact on the authority’s financial forecasts. Inflation in the UK has risen sharply in recent months, climbing above 10% in September this year, pushing up the price of goods, services and energy for everyone in the country. Global events, such as the invasion of Ukraine, are also having an effect on international markets which impact directly on the cost of living. These current issues add pressure onto a local government system that is already struggling under the pressure.

This consultation will set out the full scale of the challenge we face. It makes for uncomfortable reading in places but must be read by also recognising that our proposals are to ensure the budget is balanced and the finances exist to fund the vital work we’re doing. If we are to continue to meet our statutory obligations including providing housing, delivering care for the elderly and disabled, creating school places, and helping people through the cost-of-living crisis, we are going to have to be prepared to let go of some of the things we’ve fought hard to protect over the past six years.

Residents and businesses have the opportunity to share their view on this journey now and will also be asked for input during future consultations on some proposals that have yet to be fully worked up. I urge everyone to take part in this conversation to help inform our approach and the decision that needs to be taken in February next year.

Once live it will be available here: https://www.ask.bristol.gov.uk/budget-2023-24

Building a better Bristol

Bristol is a rapidly growing city. One of the fastest growing areas in England and Wales, our population has grown by 10% in the last decade. We need to work together to make sure that Bristol grows well, with local communities benefiting from the change happening on their doorstep. Regeneration will bring city-wide benefits so that everyone can thrive.

To ensure these changes are as positive as possible, we have a vision to create vibrant communities with sustainable, inclusive economic growth. Quality affordable homes and job opportunities will be in locations where we can have reliable, frequent public transport connections and be within walking and cycling routes.

As I shared at last month’s State of the City Address, we are elected to shape the city and the outcomes we want for it. The changes coming for Bristol cannot be left to the chances of a developer aligning with an out-of-date Local Plan and a quasi-judicial process. So, we work to push the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, affordability targets, mixed tenures, modern methods of construction, and active frontages. We want to make sure the changes happen as coherently as possible. It’s essential we work in partnership with landowners, developers, and local communities, to create development frameworks which will set out the principles that will guide and inform how change will take place in an area.  

A map of Bristol with highlighted areas showing regeneration projects across the city. Western Harbour is highlighted pink, Bedminster Green is highlighted green, Southmead is blue, City Centre is purple, Whitehouse Street is deep blue, Frome Gateway is orange and Temple Quarter is red.

Bristol’s transformation is already in progress. Our regeneration programme stretches from Bedminster to Temple Meads, St Judes’s to Broadmead, and includes Western Harbour, Hengrove, and Southmead. This can seem overwhelming, especially after decades of under-delivery by the Council, but we have to recognise the changes are a key part of delivering much needed housing, transport infrastructure, and low carbon energy systems. We have to work with existing communities to manage Bristol’s inevitable growth and plan for it.

We need to deliver thousands of new homes by 2036 to match continuing population growth. We also need to invest in transport networks and infrastructure so people can work and learn. We all need to have access to green spaces, and community spaces. What’s more, we need to do this in a way that will help us be a carbon neutral and climate resilient city by 2030 while also improving wildlife and ecology. We have ambitious plans to support these goals.

We’re developing the District Heat Network, connecting energy users across Bristol to a ready supply of affordable, low-carbon heating. The District Heat Network includes the installation of new energy centres at Whitehouse Street, Frome Gateway, and the City Centre. Our Heat Hierarchy will be adopted by every developer when new housing projects are confirmed, energy efficient homes will make residents use of heat more efficient, lowering the cost.

The rivers Frome, Avon, and Malago run through some of the regeneration areas, but in many parts the Frome and Malago are hidden or unloved. Working alongside developers and landowners we have the opportunity to recover and restore these precious habitats. In Bedminster Green, the River Malago will be ‘daylighted’, uncovered from underground tunnels and its natural features restored. Restoring the river brings great benefits; improved flood resilience and biodiversity throughout the river’s course and new green public spaces for people to enjoy. 

We’re focusing on keeping the roots and history of Bedminster and making sure the heritage of industrial space works in harmony with the need for housing, jobs, and our response to the climate emergency to create a modern, thriving neighbourhood. 

We are creating new communities and revitalising Hengrove, with 1,435 new homes being built at Hengrove Park, 50% of these will be affordable. This means more homes for households who cannot afford to pay market rents or buy homes at market value.

To revitalise the local economy and help businesses on East Street, we are making sure that 5,000 residents in new housing in Bedminster Green and Whitehouse Street have easy access to shops with new walking, cycling and public transport routes. A few minutes more travelling will bring residents to the city centre and beyond.

We’re to create a network of low-carbon transport routes, which will make car-free travel in Bedminster and the surrounding areas easier and excellent public transport links connecting people to Temple Quarter. In June, we secured £95 million to kickstart its first phase of delivery around Temple Meads station. 

Our ambition for the Frome Gateway area, located in St Jude’s to the east of the city centre, is for an exemplar neighbourhood. We want it to be recognised for its unique identity, ability to support healthy sustainable communities, and high-quality and sustainable design. Regeneration there, as across Bristol, must include our commitment to retaining a range of employment to help ensure a diverse and growing economy. 

We know the community is strong and but also faces some of the highest levels of socio-economic deprivation in the city. Regeneration will need to provide meaningful opportunities to improve quality of life for the local community and access to opportunity. St Jude’s is also more vulnerable than other parts of the city to flood risk and heat wave caused by climate change and responding to this is a key priority. Our Bristol Avon Flood Strategy, in cooperation with the Environment Agency and developers, will deliver flood defences that work for Bristol: better protecting homes and businesses near our city’s rivers.

Change at Frome Gateway is not driven solely by Bristol City Council. We have to work with the network of landowners, existing businesses, community groups and cultural facilities. We’ve also partnered with South Gloucestershire Council, Wessex Water, and the Environment Agency secure funding to deliver the River Frome restoration project. 

In a similar way, the Council’s city centre team is working with businesses and other stakeholder groups to revitalise the city centre through the City Centre Development and Delivery Plan’. They told us what was important to them now and in the future looking at the centre’s character, economy, housing, movement, streets, parks, green spaces, and climate change, and our design proposals will focus on this guided by the ‘Citizens Brief’.

By planning and co-ordinating development we’ll able to think strategically about how a city impacted by the pandemic can recover and thrive with a modern, vibrant, commercial centre everyone can access.

Bristol will always be changing and growing in different ways, and we have to adapt and seize the opportunities this will bring us. By having a clear vision of the future we want, with sustainable and inclusive growth at its heart, we can build it together.

Want to know more?

Details about all the regeneration projects can be found on their websites.  

All our regeneration work is in service of the Bristol Local Plan, which Cllr Nicola Beech, who has responsibility for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods, talked about recently

We will soon be asking what people think of draft Whitehouse Street framework when the consultation opens on 17th November.

If you would like to help us shape these projects, or receive regular updates on project developments and engagement opportunities, please take a look at the websites and sign up to our mailing lists: 

Bedminster Green

Whitehouse Street

Frome Gateway

City Centre

Temple Quarter

Western Harbour

Southmead