Cities and Solutions

Today City Hall has hosted the first full day of the 2018 Global Parliament of Mayors summit. It has been fantastic to welcome mayors and city leaders from across the globe to see Bristol, and to make connections and showcase Bristol businesses.

We’ve got 80 mayors from around the world representing their citizens from countries such as Jordan, Australia, Germany, Liberia, Uganda, USA and Romania. It was surreal to hear them announce themselves in the Council Chamber before the debates and votes.

As the 20th century was the age of nation states, so the 21st century is the age of cities. More and more people live in them across the globe and national governments find themselves ill-equipped to respond to modern challenges in the way cities can.

Bristol is leading the way in this by hosting and driving forward the conversation on key themes and issues facing cities. Migration and urban security, as well as population health are where cities are at the forefront of the challenge and solutions, so it was amazing to share experiences and agree on action we can all begin to take.

But Bristol has also had our own benefits from hosting. There has been a great response to the tours and events we’ve already held, showcasing the talent, creativity and innovation we have to offer. Building connections between delegates and businesses based in Bristol as well as opening opportunities is good for our economy. Holding international events here is important for our reputation as a destination and place investors and people should come to as well.

At a time of instability and uncertainty in international relations, it is vital that cities make their own connections and relationships. The Global Parliament of Mayors offer cities the space and opportunity to do that between each other, but even more importantly, with Bristol at the heart and benefiting too.

Guest Blog: Ian Townsend – Climate change & the city – Bristol’s global leadership role


On 19 October, Ian Townsend, Chief Executive of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, shared reflections on the annual summit of the Global Parliament of Mayors taking place in Bristol this week. (The original post can be found on the Bristol Green Capital Partnership website)

This week (15-19 October) saw the first ever Green Great Britain Week . This gave Bristol an opportunity to celebrate our vibrant environmental sustainability and low carbon community, with a series of great events run by Partnership member organisations.

And as the Week closes, more than 80 mayors, city thinkers and city networks from around the world converge on Bristol for the annual summit of the Global Parliament of Mayors (21-23 October). One of several global networks of cities that have emerged in recent years, visiting mayors will discuss a range of challenges common to cities – and how they can act together to address them.

The Global Parliament of Mayors was envisioned by late Dr Ben Barber If Mayors Ruled the World, which saw a world run by mayors co-operating shared issues across borders. In his 2017 follow-up Cool Cities he argued strongly in favour of the power of cities to address climate change.

This month’s influential report on climate change from the international scientific community therefore provides an urgent backdrop to this mayors’ meeting of minds. It warns that limiting global warming to 1.5C and avoiding the far more damaging 2C requires “rapid and far-reaching” transitions, in general but also in cities in particular.

Cities across the UK and globally, are increasingly on the front line of the effects of climate change and at the forefront of action, because more and more people are living in cities and producing an increasing share of greenhouse emissions.

Climate change action can be a win-win-win for cities. Not only does it help ensure human and environmental progress can be sustained. But done well it can open up both new economic opportunities and help to address social problems at the same time.

GPM hosts Bristol has played a leading role on climate change and cities. During its year as European Green Capital, at the 2015 Paris climate talks we committed to become carbon neutral by 2050 as a contribution to global efforts.

We’re making progress and the Partnership’s now 850+ member organisations are playing their part. By 2016, the city’s carbon emissions were down 35% from 2005 levels. And Bristol is looking to quicken the pace towards the goal of running entirely on clean energy through the innovative City Leap, which Bristol Green Capital Partnership is pleased to be a partner of.

The 1.5C report recommended a new target of net zero globally by 2050. Following this, the UK Government this week formally sought advice from the Committee on Climate Change – which advises on greenhouse gas emissions – on a more ambitious national target. Perhaps Bristol’s experience so far working towards this target at city level might offer some useful insights into how Britain might achieve a similarly ambitious target.

We have been supporting the development of Bristol’s new One City Plan and aligning the plan with the Sustainable Development Goals which have inequality – leaving no-one behind – at their heart. Combating climate change will be key to ensuring the kind of sustainable development that the Goals envision – the enhancement of the environment while achieving social and economic goals.

The 1.5C report also calls for the “consideration of ethics and equity” to “help address the uneven distribution” of the effects of global warming at any level, “particularly for poor and disadvantaged populations, in all societies” (chapter 1 box 4). So, as we work to address climate change at city, country and global levels we must remember that it is often those with the least resources who are most vulnerable to climate change – and often the least responsible for it. As Ben Barber put it, an “environmental plan that is not also a social justice plan is not only politically unsupportable but morally untenable”. (Ben Barber, Cool Cities, p150)

With this in mind, Bristol Green Capital Partnership has made environmental equality one of our three strategic priorities for 2019-22. We look forward to developing work in this and our other priority areas with our members and others in the coming years.

The Global Parliament of Mayors offers a space to share learnings on addressing challenges like climate change among cities and to look at innovative ways for cities to accelerate progress and equality across all three dimensions of sustainability – and act together to do so. We look forward to hearing what emerges from the annual meeting and future plans.

Further information

The Global Parliament of Mayors is an international city leadership network that champions the role of mayors in solving key global challenges at local level. Other city networks from around the world – including C40, the network of the world’s largest cities (including London) committed to addressing climate change – will also participate in the summit to ensure multiple voices are heard and messages emerging from other networks’ programmes are amplified.

See Bristol City Council press release and follow @gpmayors #BristolGlobalCity

Mayor of Bristol’s blog, Are city leaders the new policy pioneers

See more on the Bristol & Sustainable Development Goals work the Partnership supports here.

Some ‘global sustainable Bristol’ events this year have included:

  • hosting a global sustainable development data festival in March;
  • a strong Bristol delegation in Brussels for the EU Green Week conference in May;
  • Publishing a report sharing learnings on Bristol’s approach to localising the UN Sustainable Development Goals to the city for the annual review of global progress in New York in July;
  • Bristol joined the Milan food pact, 176 global cities committed to food system change through local policy and action, in September.

The next round of UN climate talks are in Katowice (a GPM city) in Poland in December

On the Buses

At last night’s State of the City annual address, I was excited to announce that we are in the process of working towards a Heads of an Agreement with FirstBus which will bring a huge change to the bus services in Bristol.

The City’s transport problems have been well known for years, damaging our economic potential, while reducing air quality, keeping communities segregated from each other and isolated from our city’s success.

There was an approach that assumed cars and congestion will simply disappear if we made life difficult for car drivers. This approach does not work, and does not represent the interests of our economy or city.

The only thing which will have an impact on congestion and on people movement is presenting people with a real choice. This is why, in order to tackle congestion, we must generate mass transit options that are better, cheaper and easier than car travel.

The agreement will create a partnership that will look to deliver a doubling of number of bus journeys based on long term and sustained public and private investment in the bus system.

Working with our partners at the West of England, the aim of the agreement will be to double bus usage to 20% of all journeys. This ambitious target will be achieved through a combination of investment and action by both us and FirstBus including:

  • Enhanced service frequencies on the core network, doubling the frequency on main routes.
  • Greater Service stability through increased enforcement of bus lanes and highway improvements
  • Use of new technology to inform where services are most delayed
  • Extension of quality and frequency of services into less well served areas.

I am also pleased that FirstBus have agreed to work with us towards a standard flat fare, covering the whole city.

We know that because of Bristol’s social geography, the less affluent parts further out are paying more for their bus journeys to the city center than the wealthier areas do. This means those people who have to rely on public transport might not be able to do so as often as they want, while we disincentivise potential users and commuters who could make the change to help congestion. Our approach will change this, making bus fares fairer for the whole city.

This demonstrates our commitment to an inclusive economy though connecting the entire city to opportunity and jobs, while also making sure Bristol is connected and accessible.

By growing the use of public transport, we will have a flightpath to the development of a mass transit system.   We are well on our way with the feasibility studies and the latest report will report in December.  What we do know though, is the more we look at the options, the more we know this can be done.

We are working towards a segregated mass transit system for Bristol that will use infrastructure and tunnels to deliver a truly transformative transport option for the city.

State of the City 2018

Below is my State of the City address, which was given at the Wills Memorial building on 17th October 2018 

Good evening …

My annual address is a very important moment in the year for me because it’s my opportunity to talk and connect directly with the city.

This evening I want to cover the progress we have made over the last two years, show you how we have delivered on our pledges and set out the aspirations we have been growing for Bristol. I also want to take a little time to share some personal reflections on the quality of the political activism, debate and commentary that Bristol is subject to.



I’ll start with Bristol City Council.

In September we opened our doors to a Local Government Association Peer Challenge. We wanted an objective and expert assessment of the council undertaken at the midpoint of my administration. The team they sent was drawn from across the country.   It was made up of Labour and Conservative councillors and senior local authority officers.   They spent more than 460 hours talking with over 200 people including staff, local and national partners and opposition councillors.

In the executive summary of their report which will be published in the coming weeks, they say:

Bristol City Council is laying the foundations to underpin its improvement journey. The ambitious and collaborative leadership the Mayor has shown for the city is warmly welcomed by the council’s partners. BCC has recently appointed a new senior officer leadership team which collectively has the potential to set a positive direction for the council’s workforce. Two years ago the council was facing a funding crisis and commissioned an external review to assess its root causes and make recommendations to address them. Two years on the council’s financial management and grip is stronger.

The sense of ambition for Bristol as a city is clearly evident and many stakeholders we spoke with talked variously about their hope and optimism for the future. 

To appreciate the significance of these findings, I must remind you of where we were two years ago.

When I arrived at City Hall in May 2016, I knew there would be challenges. The council had earned a reputation of non-delivery.   We were taking charge under a government committed to austerity and Brexit was on the march.   I was, however, hopeful and committed to delivering the fresh approach the city needed. After all, why stand for election unless you know you can bring improvement.

But no-one could have anticipated the organisational dysfunction we were inheriting.

The scale of the challenge was set out in the review we commissioned into council governance and finance, after we’d found a £30million hole in the budget.   We commissioned an expert and objective assessment of exactly what was going on.

The report titled “an independent report on our financial deficit in 2016/17” was written by Steve Bundred, former CEO of the National Audit Office.

It was published in February 2017 and subsequently became known simply as “Bundred”.

Let me briefly read you some of his comments:

  • “An entire annual budget – 2016/17 – approved on the basis of a “false” assumption that previously-agreed cuts had been fully carried out and savings delivered…and an assumption that a balanced outturn would probably be achieved can at best be described as artful.”
  • A “tacit understanding” among the senior leadership team that contentious decisions should not be asked of politicians before the elections in May 2016.
  • Even those senior officers who have raised concerns with me appear to have very little awareness of what a first class local authority looks like


Mr Bundred concluded by saying “I am in no doubt that the sequence of events described in this report represents a collective failure of leadership within the Council for which several people, including elected politicians, bear responsibility”.

Having a local authority that is competent is one of those unfairly unbalanced things in life. It’s rarely noticed and it doesn’t fill people with joy when it’s delivered. But it is certainly noticed and people pay a heavy price when it’s not because leaders have no foundation from which to deliver. The 2018 report into the failed Northamptonshire council said “never underestimate the importance of doing the boring well.”

And I am delighted that we have my deputy Mayor Craig Cheney who leads on our finances and is the master of doing the boring very well.

Back to this month and the 2018 LGA panel also have reported that they found

  • A real sense of ambition for the City and the Council – a new direction
  • The Mayor sets the tone of vision and collaboration, working with external partners
  • A new and impressive senior officer leadership team ready to deliver change
  • A set of new values and behaviours – a change from the past


Of course there remain serious challenges and areas for improvement, but they find

“The council is now in a stronger position to take the critical decisions the city of Bristol needs to fulfill its exceptional potential.”



As crucial as all that is, modern city and mayoral leadership must be about more than the local authority because what you all receive from Bristol is not the result of the decisions of any single organisation.

What you and all citizens experience as Bristol, is the product of the combination of decisions made across local government, the NHS, police, universities, businesses, voluntary community sector, faith communities… If we are going to lead a place, we need to work as though that is true.

The challenge is one of how we come together to turn what could be a chaotic mass of activity into an organised collaboration.

It’s in this context that Chief Constable Andy Marsh’s words really cut through:

“world class public leadership is not about what you control but what you influence.”

The LGA peer challenge team also looked closely at our relationships with the city.   Among their conclusions, they reported:

  • You have a good understanding of Bristol as a place and the extraordinary opportunities it offers
  • Developing the One City approach has shown real ambition – driven through ‘convene and ask’ by Mayor and council, with partners: clearly work in progress but still much to do


It’s been our aim to work with the city not against it, around it, despite it or irrespective of it.   We are maturing into an enabling organisation, making space and supporting people to get things done rather than caught in the bottleneck of council processes. It’s an empowerment approach that recognises that we are interdependant and requires the council to be more than a mere provider of services and become a development partner.

Barack Obama said “the strongest democracy flourishes from frequent and lively debate but endures when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose”.

We are setting aside smaller differences to focus on collective delivery.

We are working with city partners towards a one City Plan driving toward a jointly shaped One City Vision for 2050, that will bring focus to what we do.

The plan will enable us to pursue the Bristol we want to be rather than being on the back foot trying to make the best of whatever opportunity or challenge happens our way.

A perfect example of the collaboration is the work between the Mayor’s office, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital and Quartet. In the spring we will launch a city fund that could generate millions of pounds of ethical investment and provide a platform for benefactors to step forward to support their own city.     This shows a real scale of ambition to transform the city and the board is already progressing hunger programmes, community cohesion and economic inclusion.

It’s this scale of collaboration that presents the city the opportunity to move beyond the shallow analysis and short termism driven by the party politics played out in the council chamber. This is the stuff of substance in contrast to the political gestures and symbolism we see regularly.

The work we are doing will survive me and will open a door for future leaders to work with the city. 2020 will be a good time to get elected. The winner will inherit a city plan, a structure and a culture of collective city leadership tuned to delivery… and I might add a solvent local authority.

These achievements offer to fundamentally change the city by changing the way it is led.

They are real achievements but I know I will primarily get measured against my own pledges to the city, as set out for the election of 2016.    So let’s turn to those.



Harold Wilson said “a week is a long time in politics”, and it’s true.   But it’s also true that four years is too short to deliver the scale of programme we have been putting together

Political leadership is like trying to drive a car at 100mph while servicing the engine, laying the tarmac and reading the map.   This is especially so, in light of the challenges we inherited.      It doesn’t make the headlines but it’s critical to put the building blocks in place for future success.

I made 7 pledges to the city.

So in the absence of our own mid-term elections, take what follows as my own mid-term report.

Pledge 1.   We will build 2,000 new homes – 800 affordable – a year by 2020.

This is our number one priority and we are doing pretty well.    Even Mark Weston, the leader of the opposition in Bristol, acknowledged this.   In Bristol, where we live in a world of political point scoring, you know you’re getting something right when the official opposition says you are.

My favourite Post headline this year was ‘Marvin set to smash his housing target’ and as that article referenced, 2000 homes per year and 800 affordable by 2020 was always ambitious but we are on track to deliver in full.

With no existing affordability programme in place, we had a standing start.   But in this year, we expect to complete 1886 homes, with 271 affordable.

In 2019-20, we expect to complete 2308 market rate homes, with 499 affordable

and by the target year of 2020, we expect to build 1533 market rate homes and 916 affordable.

Working with my cabinet colleague, Paul Smith, last week around 100 developers and investors gathered at the Mshed for the launch of our new “Bristol is” prospectus which sets out our development ambitions.

They came because they recognise we are a city that is at long last getting homes built and they are bought into our commitment on building affordable homes in mixed communities in an inclusive economy.

There are plenty who want to come on that journey with us.

Of course there are those who just want to make a fast buck and not invest in the city and its people.    They will find themselves at the back of the queue.

As part of our ambitions in this area, we have launched our own housing company. This is another tool that will enable us to build houses where the market doesn’t provide the right solutions and re-invest profits in affordable and social housing.

And because of the scale of the housing challenge and because we need the courage to reimagine and to rethink, we are launching a five year housing festival, this week on waterfront square.

Please visit. You’ll experience some of the latest innovations and technology offering step change in the way we do housing.

The festival is being led by Jez Sweetland in partnership with ourselves, Homes England and the Shaftesbury Partnership.   It’s focussing the world’s attention on Bristol.


Pledge 2 – We will deliver work experience and apprenticeships for every young person.

The opportunity for young people to have a meaningful experience of work is a key factor in setting a life trajectory.     It is shocking that 56% of our young people were not getting access to work experience in 2016.

The proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child”. I want to build on that to say it will take a whole city to meet this challenge.

That’s why in 2017 we launched the “Bristol works” initiative.   We are matching employers offering work experience with young people searching for opportunity.     Last year, 51 employers came forward and 2477 young people benefitted.

Bristol’s Learning City Partnership enables collaborative working between employers, universities, colleges and schools on issues such as development of skills and careers guidance and tailored experiences of work, led by my cabinet lead, Cllr Anna Keen.

Bristol is now one of 5 national Apprenticeship Diversity Hubs, working to create an increasingly diverse workforce – and next week there is a  ‘You’re Hired’ event planned in the Galleries.   So much more positive than the “you’re fired” culture propagated by television. This year, 6000 job seekers have attended a job fair or advice day.

And we have 3 programmes to better improve our diversity talent pipelines.

‘Future Bright’, providing in-work career development for people living in council housing.

‘Stepping up’ a BME talent development programme,  expanding to women and disabled people.

And the ‘City Leadership Programme’, investing in people from disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds

And we are proud to have become the first council in the country to Ban the Box on our application process – opening up employment for ex-offenders.

All this work is about more than social justice.   It’s in the city’s interests to not leave talent on the shelf.


Pledge 3 – We will stop expansion of RPZs and review existing schemes.

Residential parking schemes were the flavour of the campaign in 2016 and so each candidate took a turn in having a pledge.   We delivered the review, putting councillors at the forefront and we remain open to changes should ward councillors demonstrate overwhelming support in the community.

But, even as I made the pledge, I saw it is a by-product of the poor quality political discourse and absence of political vision at that time.  I have carried out the pledge in full but it in no way reflects our transport priorities.

No administration for years, has taken transport seriously. There have been efforts to improve cycling and walking but it remains difficult to travel from A to B.   Communities in areas such as Hartcliffe, Avonmouth and Hillfields remain disconnected.    Congestion adversely impacts on the city‘s economy and air quality.

We will not repeat the errors of recent years in pretending that cars will disappear if we make life difficult for car drivers, nor will we ignore the economic impact when we do transport planning.

But we will have an impact on congestion and on people movement by presenting real choice.   We must generate mass transit options that are better, cheaper and easier than car travel.

Thanks to the efforts of my cabinet lead , Mhairi Threlfall, we have our Bristol Transport Strategy out to consultation, outlining  our vision to 2036

We have seen the order of the biggest single biogas bus order in the UK, and we are leading the way on smart ticketing and contactless payments.  7 out of 10 passengers NOW board the bus using these payment methods

The key outcomes of the Congestion Task Group are being implemented, including the creation of a Transport Board that will bring together key city transport partners, to work more closely with the city council for future planning.

But most importantly, we have a flightpath for a phased growth of public transport.   The first strand of that growth will be looking at a new deal for bus use.

I can announce tonight that we are in the process of working towards a Heads of an Agreement that sets out a joint relationship based on long term and sustained public and private investment in the bus system.

Working with our partners in the West of England, the aim of the agreement will be to double bus usage to 20% of all journeys, through:

  • Enhanced service frequencies on the core network, doubling the frequency on main routes.
  • Greater Service stability through increased enforcement of bus lanes and highway improvements
  • Use of new technology to inform where services are most delayed
  • Extension of quality and frequency services into less well served areas.

And, a single flat fare zone, covering the whole city. Because of Bristol’s geography, the less affluent parts of the city currently pay more than the wealthier areas to travel to and from the city centre. FirstBus and ourselves have agreed that we will work towards a standard fare across the city, bringing equality to bus travel.

I announced ambitions for a new mass transit system for Bristol on this night last year. The first feasibility study was positive and we will get the results of the second more advanced study in December.

At this point, I should be clear what we are talking about before anyone publishes their own version of the London underground map.  We’re not talking about the London tube with 200 meter long trains.   A key element of what makes it possible and quicker is we may not even need rails or track – some automated systems around the world just run by following a simple white line painted on the floor.

But we are clearly planning for a segregated, mass transit system using tunnels and infrastructure appropriate for Bristol’s future needs.


Pledge 4 – We will protect children’s centres.

And we have. It’s been a triumph of city leadership and labour values in the face of conservative austerity.  We invested £1.8m in remodelling children’s services which included supporting Children’s Centres to extend their influence and support an increase in joint working with our families.

And we launched the Children’s charter for which I thank Helen Godwin, my innovative cabinet Lead for Children’s Services.   The charter is the city’s first set of aspirations for children, clearly laid out with a delivery plan for each.

Over 20 organisations, as well as families and children, across the city signed up their support at the Bristol Play Day in August and last week Jeremy Corbyn signed it too.

The charter sets out a commitment to every child irrespective of their background.     It recognizes the fact that what children receive from our city is one of the surest measures of our values.

And although we didn’t pledge it, our Better Lives programme is transforming the most under pressure area of adult social care, led by my cabinet lead, Helen Holland.   The programme keeps people in their homes longer and makes the service more efficient.


Pledge 5 We will increase the number of school places and introduce a fair admission process.

We have secured a site in Temple Quarter for what will be Bristol’s biggest secondary school and we are working with partners for a new school in Lockleaze while expanding existing schools for more places.

Three years ago, Bristol was ranked the worst for school attendance in the whole of the UK.   We set out improvements and only last week we held a summit at City Hall with over 100 education partners, sharing best practice and developing a strategy that includes robust guidance on mental health, support and a focus on vulnerable children.

Pledge 6 – We will put Bristol on course to be run entirely on clean energy by 2050, and introduce a safe, clean streets campaign.

A very exciting outcome of working towards this pledge has been the launch of the City leap –  a £1 billion package of projects that will transform the way Bristol generates, stores and utilises energy.   We went to market for expression of interest and had 180 submissions from investors across the UK and around the world from the Japanese national bank to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle.

We have been installing District heating systems, placing new insulation measures in 20 000 council properties and have launched fuel poverty projects across the city.

On clean streets, we’ve mobilized over 3000 volunteers and introduced fines with over 10,000 being issued to date.


Pledge 7 – We will lead a European Capital of Culture bid to make culture – and sport – accessible to all

Post the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, it was clear that investing large amounts of money and time in bidding for the EU capital of Culture would be a fruitless venture. But councillor Estella Tinknell saw another opportunity.   As well as her ongoing work with the cultural sector to develop the city’s culture strategy, she identified the opportunity to bid to become a UNESCO city of film.   And we were successful.

I brought together the media and creative sectors and we worked together to pitch for Channel 4’s re-location and we remain shortlisted in the final 6

And we have taken a similar approach to bid for NetFlix, who are looking for UK bases and we are looking at what we can do to position Bristol as a hub for production studios, a real opportunity in the creative marketplace.

We have committed to funding phase 2 of Colston Hall redevelopment, saving this key cultural hub in the city as well as supporting successful developments of St Georges and the Old Vic.

On sport, I like to quote my cabinet lead, Kye Dudd, who said “this is without doubt, the most pro sport administration the city has ever seen”.   He’s right and we continue to work with our professional clubs and the sporting sector to bring world class sporting events, grow participation and develop elite athletes.


Of course my mid-term report is positive but I wrote it.   Joking aside though, you can test it by looking at the city, talking to partners and reading the reports.



Beyond the pledges is a whole raft of major plans we are delivering on.

We are re-working our Bristol Local Plan, led by my cabinet lead, Nicola beech.   It’s a blueprint for future land use, finding the space for the additional 33,500 new homes and employment land the city needs.   Jobs and affordable housing are at it’s heart as is the importance of maintaining community and diverse economies.

Consultation is planned for early next year and we have had some helpful early responses on twitter.

Local campaigner, Matthew Montagu-Pollock said

“I know from my own experience that there’s no way that towers provide an equivalent quality of life to a house or a mid-rise flat with a communal garden,”

“Our mayor came from a poor background and looked up and saw the high rises of London and Manchester and thought: That is the answer – aspirational cities build high.   But it is an uneducated answer”.

Well Thanks for your input, Matthew… I will take that on board.


Western Harbour

On this very stage last year, I announced the development of the Western harbour that will expand the city centre to the West, creating a new residential district.   It will deliver over 2500 new homes in a mixed use site.

Planning work is now under way for the replacement of the ageing and outdated roads and bridges with a new transport layout that will include the moving of the bridge or possibly even, replacing it with a tunnel.


City Centre Revitalisation

Towns and City Centres are changing rapidly as shopping habits, leisure pursuits, work patterns and travel choices continue to evolve. These challenges present a threat but also an opportunity to re-model and re-shape the city centre to make sure it serves the city’s aspirations.

We have pulled together a working group of city partners and investors, determined to secure the city centre.   I have asked them to work with the leaders of all major developments including the airport, temple meads and university.

We must ensure we are ahead of the curve if we are keeping Bristol as a retail and leisure hub both for the day time and night time economies.     For future city centres to stay alive, we need to bring people to them and our planning will be centred around mixed developments including affordable homes, retail, entertainment and jobs.

Temple meads

We continue to work towards the re-development of Temple Meads. We have appointed a multi-disciplinary team, led by Mott MacDonald.  This will allow us and partners to masterplan this city gateway, unlock development in the surrounding area and support neighbouring projects including the university campus and the Temple Island development.

This work also supports our £250 million Housing Infrastructure Bid.



And of course we need cohesive communities.

Returning to the recent LGA review, they noted:

We see a council developing a new conversation with its communities

And I am delighted that Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig is leading that conversation.

We are committed to our communities, and supporting them to flourish.

We are working with Paul Hassan and others on how we use the councils land and property assets to address inequality and disadvantage, changing the way we procure and commission services to strengthen our network of community anchors.

We are harnessing the efforts of key partners from across the city.   Partners including Locality, Voscur and Quartet, as well as funding agencies such as BBRC and Power to Change, alongside the city’s  business community are investing in the capacity of these key community organisations.   Together, we are developing community led housing, community enterprise infrastructure and space to tackle public health and educational and skills needs.

I want to mention a few people:

Alex Kittow and his team in Southmead who are working on the Glencoyne Square project,

Mark Pepper at Ambition Lawrence Weston for locally designed housing and renewable energy,

Joanna Holmes and the Barton Hill Settlement team providing better services in partnership with the Wellspring Centre,

Carolyn Hassan in Knowle West driving innovative approaches to housing, manufacture and digital inclusion,

Filwood Community centre and their low carbon hub,

Steve Sayers with new social enterprises at Windmill Hill city farm.

We are privileged to have so many great people in the city.  Our challenge is to get out of their way and support them to get done what they want to get done.



And I must mention the arena.   Having completed a value for money review, I made the decision not to proceed with the arena on Temple Island.     Let me take this opportunity to set out how the decision was made:

The decision we had to make was for the best use of Temple Island.  The evidence showed us that the alternative mixed use development put half a billion pounds more into the economy and generated 3 times as many jobs as the arena.

A temple island arena would have paid 400 thousand pounds a year in business rates. The mixed use development will pay approximately three million pounds a year in business rates and council tax.

The flawed transport plan would have brought 3500 cars each sell out night, into Temple Meads with nowhere to park.

The arena was too small to qualify as world class.

And the proximity of the Temple Island arena to the train station was a security liability.

The Temple Island arena could only be delivered with £150 million of public debt that we would have to re-pay.

The arena was a perfect example of a flawed political discourse in the city.   It was a discourse that portrayed as a binary choice between like for like options that never existed, because each option came with dramatically different levels of risk and financial consequences.      Someone once said that the problems start when people see decisions as two choices when most people see the answer as somewhere in the middle.

If there are people who want to exploit this and put the public money and risk to one side, they are doing so for political gain, not for the good of our city.  If there are people who see it as a totemic issue to campaign or even stand for election on, and some are clearly launching their campaigns early, then they are selling the city short.   We have complex challenges and social media commentators want to promote unrealistic, simplistic options.   We don’t have that luxury and must make evidence based decisions driven by inclusive economic growth and fairness.



Our international work and profile has been supporting the growth of trade and investment in the city and building our reputation as an internationally significant city. Last year I announced I would bring the Global Parliament of Mayors to Bristol and this week, we will host over 80 mayors and the world’s leading city networks, coming together to drive the development of national and international policy on migration, urban health and security.

And we will of course, be showcasing Bristol and UK key industries.

All of this is essential as we navigate the government’s mis-management of Brexit. And as part of our work in that area, I can announce tonight we will be funding the costs of any of our own employees who wish to seek EU settled status.   And I would encourage other employers to join with us.

Drawing on Bristol’s diversity and internationalism, I have invited some key Bristol figures to be international ambassadors for the city. These are people who already travel the world in their line of work.      As official Bristol Ambassadors, we will add to their ability to present our city to different international audiences.

So, tonight I have invited

Well known local artist, DJ Bungy, also known as Ivor Anderson

Knowle West Media Centre’s innovative Carolyne Hassan

And Bristol’s Boxing legend, Chris Sanigar

To be our first city international ambassadors.


As I have laid out tonight, this city is changing and together we are making real progress.

We have grown TRUST, with the government. Several different government departments tell us Bristol has been a basket case for decades and they now feel that we are focussed on delivery and can do business with us.   We have built trust with city partners, with community groups and with investors who want to work with us.  We have built trust with the universities and schools, business and unions.    And by delivering on our promises and on transformation of the city then we are building trust with our citizens.

We are taking decisions with RESPONSIBILITY. It’s because of our financial responsibility and our fiscal management that we are able to deliver.      And by balancing the budget, and smart use of reserves, we have been able to avoid implementing the big cuts, have kept children’s centres open, will keep libraries open and have kept and are starting to improve key services.

Many of my political opponents treat public money like monopoly money. I do not.   Council tax payers often struggle to pay that bill.  When you have a choice of paying your council tax, putting food on the table or money on the electric key, then you deserve to have that money treated with respect and this administration, is alone among the political players in Bristol in taking that approach.

By cutting £1million from council senior management costs, refusing to use public money on vanity projects and by prioritising adults, families and children, our responsible approach to city management means we can deliver on our promises and our pledges.

And finally, in a city where the public narrative for decades, has been ‘nothing gets done’, recognised by the  LGA review team who noted:

If the council builds upon the foundations it is establishing then such perceptions will be replaced by belief, hope and trust in the council and its leadership – and it will lead to real change for Bristol.

We are now delivering.

Delivering with a council leadership dedicated to delivery and responsive to the elected priorities

Delivering with the council and city partners, working together for a common aim for the first time ever.

Delivering with people like you, who are here tonight because you care about our city.

Delivering, because instead of playing political games and focussing on personal attacks, we are focussing on the things that matter for Bristol.

No one person can change a city on their own. The council alone, cannot deliver change, inclusive growth, close the inequality gap, deliver services, volunteer, and make a difference.   We will only make that difference by pulling together.

And I have had enough of people talking down our city.   With a positive attitude and collaboration to common goals, we will deliver.

We are building a city where nobody gets left behind.

Together, we are building a city of hope.

Thank you.

Smashing our targets

I will talk more about housing in my State of the City address on Wednesday evening, but I wanted to highlight the work we are delivering on one of my key pledges: We will build 2,000 homes – 800 affordable – a year by 2020.

It was certainly an ambitious target and it is possibly the most high profile of my seven pledges.

But as the Bristol Post reported in September with the headline ‘Marvin set to smash his housing target’ we are on target to not only achieve, but exceed that target. I have worked closely with my cabinet lead, Paul Smith and the housing team to ensure we meet our target in our priority ambition to tackle the housing crisis.

By 2020 we are expecting to have delivered 2,469 homes, of which 916 will be affordable. The gross number is almost 25 per cent higher than the original 2,000 target.

On top of that, we are building homes for people and families and making huge strides in delivering affordable housing. Affordable housing is a particularly acute problem for Bristol. In 2016 Bristol, based on a ratio of earnings and average house prices, came out as the least affordable place to buy a home in all the Core Cities.

Earnings could be higher but in Bristol the problem has been the housing supply. Low housing completion numbers means higher house prices; at £276,000 the Bristol average price is almost £40,000 higher than the national average. Nationally, since 2007 average house prices have increased by 24%, but in Bristol, over the same period they have increased by 43% – almost 20% more. By building more homes we are on the way to changing this trend.

When I came in there was no existing affordability programme in place, but now we can look at a pipeline of delivery:

  • During 2016/17 199 affordable homes were built
  • By the end of the 2017/18 year we expect to have built 271affordable homes
  • And by the end of 2020 we expect 916 affordable homes to have been delivered.

This is particularly impressive given that these homes have been delivered from a standing start. These numbers are testament to the significance we have placed on delivering housing and the willingness of key partners to work with us.

It is not just about numbers, this morning I talked at the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living Annual General Meeting about how important it is that we design better housing that can adapt to an ageing population and needs disabled of disabled people, for example, in the current review of the BCC Local Plan my administration is proposing increasing the percentage of new homes that are wheelchair accessible from 2% to 10%.

An example of our approach is the Housing Festival which is launching next week, to find innovative solutions to affordable housing and drive these numbers even higher.

The launch will feature exhibits including full-size modular homes from Zed Pods, Totally Modular and Tempo Housing, and a shipping container conversion from ISO Spaces and Help the Homeless. The Festival is about turning the city into a living exhibition of the latest approaches to housing and finding the best ways of tackling our housing crisis. We want innovators to come to forward with creative solutions to help our approach, but also show government Bristol’s determination to lead and deliver on one of our key priorities.

These numbers, and this ramping up of delivery, is not just about homes, but about communities too. Good housing can solve wider social challenges including social isolation and mental health issues. Good housing is key for Bristol’s success to be shared by all.

Cooperative Party Conference 2018 Speech

Last weekend, the Cooperative Party held their annual conference in Bristol for the first time since 1929.

You can read the speech I gave at the conference on Sunday below:

It’s great to welcome you all here on this Sunday morning, and I am pleased to welcome this year’s Cooperative Party Conference to Bristol – please don’t leave it another eighty-nine years to come back this time! As I am sure speakers in the debate to follow will agree, the current economic model isn’t working. We saw that in the global financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression. Since the financial crisis, ordinary people have suffered the worst wage stagnation in almost two centuries. We also saw it in the vote to leave the EU a little over two years ago: the wrong answer to the right questions. This vote included almost ninety thousand Bristolians. Inequality, disenfranchisement, and poverty go to the core of how the economy – how the country – works, or doesn’t, and for who.

And we saw it in last year’s general election result, when the Prime Minister lost her majority. When people voted against the status quo, including in Bristol North West.
There, Darren Jones – a Co-op member and now Labour MP for the constituency where he grew up – took the seat back from the Tories: a clean sweep for Labour in Bristol for the first time since 2001. One seat closer to the transformational Government which our communities are crying out for. Because people want change.

When eight billionaires own the same amount of wealth as the world’s poorest four billion people, something has to give. Politics for people can tackle these global challenges: inequality, migration, climate change. Responsive city leadership has to be at the core of the shift we need in politics. Bristol is a global city, and it is also crucial that cities are not reliant on central government as the sole vehicle of delivery for our citizens.  Working together, sharing ideas, co-investing time and money in collaboration – these are key to meeting our shared ambitions for the city and increasingly the country.

One 21-23 October, Bristol will showcase this ethos by hosting almost a hundred mayors of cities from across the globe at a summit aimed at strengthening dialogue between cities in a bid to contribute to tackling the challenges that modern urban living present us with. Future devolution of power and diversification of our economic model will mean that co-operatives can have a big part to play.

It was great to see the commitment to double the sector in last year’s Labour manifesto and, in the New Economics Foundation paper, Co-operatives Unleashed, including work from academics from our local universities. Bristol is known for doing things differently – for experimenting. For innovating. No truer is that than in the diversity of co-operatives which call our city home. From credit unions, to cafés, recycling projects, to allotment associations. Newspapers and solar installers; craft centres and broadband providers. Pioneers in energy generation and storage, and supporters’ clubs, and land trusts. All of them are real community innovators, co-operators who represent and strengthen the diverse fabric of Bristol and its economy. My administration tries to draw on that diversity.

And, despite inheriting a challenging financial situation, at a time of continuing central government austerity, my administration remains determined to deliver our goal of ensuring that Bristol is a city in which nobody is left behind. The most important mechanism for this is by putting partnership working at the heart of all we do. The fundamental nature of what the local authority is and does is changing, and a key challenge lies in shifting perceptions from seeing it as simply a provider of services to a development organisation. This means making the most of the skills and resources that are available across the city, and taking on collective responsibility. Our One City Approach is central to this. It is a new way to harness the collective power and influence of a whole city in tackling societal challenges such as mental health, affordable housing, and sustainable growth. It represents a ground-breaking new model for city sovereignty.

The One City Approach:
-Puts innovation and collaboration at the heart of city activity;
-Provides a single city vision for 2050 that city stakeholders can get behind;
-Brings city leaders together to solve long-term, complex challenges which require a common focus;
-Fast-tracks the city on its journey to become fairer, healthier, and more sustainable;
-And spans the public, private, academic and voluntary sectors.

Preston has also rightly won praise and headlines for its model. Its principles also sit at the core of what we’ve been trying to do here in Bristol. Place-based development. Local economic growth. Community wealth building. Our social value policy has already seen almost 150 apprenticeships created through council contractors and our target of spending 25% of the total procurement budget with Small and Medium-sized enterprises been exceeded. We are now within touching distance of the 40% mark. New contracts have seen more than a third of the council’s spend remain within Bristol, with a further eighth in the south west region. We all hope that procurement rules strengthened earlier this year make even more progress.

Our award-winning council-owned companies continue to deliver services for local people, the biggest council contracts are being broken up to allow smaller and social providers to bid more competitively, including co-operatives, and – even before Carillion’s collapse – this Labour council was in-sourcing, not out-sourcing, public services. All of this is testament to our majority Labour Group on the council, which includes six local Labour and Co-operative councillors: Tom Brook, Mark Brain, Brenda Massey, Mike Langley, Mark Bradshaw, and Fabian Breckels. Many more are members and have been at this weekend’s conference and, I know, are looking to join the party.

In particular, I want to highlight the work of Cllr Tom Brook. Tom represented Bristol at your Local Government conference earlier this year. He highlighted Bristol’s work at the forefront of supply chain transparency, more ethical working practices, and efforts to tackle the scourge of modern slavery – Tom deserves a lot of credit for his hard work as the Bristol Co-operative councillors’ convenor. I was proud to sign the charter, and am even prouder of Bristol for being at the forefront of this work across local government, together with the Co-operative Party and organisations like TISC report, who are based here in Bristol.

Equality, fairness, and diversity are at the heart of our movement. Our Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Strategy reflects our commitment to those values. We are prioritising our aim of being a city in which nobody is left behind. Our approach to economic growth stems from underlying principle that the economy is about people and their shared lives, not simply about business. Growth is necessary to improve people’s lives, life chances, and choices.

Inclusion is an active driver of growth, not as a moral add-on to our economic thinking. Our vision is that everyone is given the chance to participate in the creation of growth as well as benefitting from it. Our strategy also covers boosting the ‘inclusion infrastructure’ necessary to overcome barriers to work. This includes affordable and accessible childcare, transport and ultrafast broadband. The council has to lead from the front, and these values are being practiced as well as preached at City Hall. Our administration are the only core city with a pay ratio lower than 10:1 for council staff – half of the 20:1 public sector target set out by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn – and have made unprecedented efforts to reduce City Hall senior management by £1.6 million.

And, thanks to the efforts of Labour and Labour-Coop councillors over a number of years, including in opposition, have implemented the Living Wage for the whole local authority. Efforts to ensure all contractors do too continue. We are also considering a Bristol-specific Living Wage, for employers to demonstrate their commitment to their greatest assets and to further tackle in-work poverty. Of all the organisations audited in Bristol, our Labour-run Council ranked the best in the city for equal pay. With more women councillors than all of the other parties combined, and a cabinet where six out of nine councillors are women, we are proud to reflect the diversity of the city and committed to completely closing the gender pay gap once and for all.

Just this week, the council has also been shown to have amongst the highest levels of BME representation in the local public sector.  That’s welcome but when the proportion of ethnic minority employees decreases as the pay bands increase, there’s still much more to do and so we have introduced leadership and training programmes for all under-represented groups to help ensure that, at every level, the council looks like the city it serves. And after all, diverse workforces increase creativity, innovation, productivity, and prosperity.

I also want to highlight our work around housing and say that housing co-ops and shared ownership schemes should definitely be part of the solution to the city’s housing crisis. They have a big role to play alongside our housing association grant programme, which is currently delivering over 200 affordable rented homes with over 300 potentially in the pipeline. On day one of my administration, we stopped my predecessor’s council house fire-sale and are progressing Bristol’s biggest council-house building project in a generation.

But, not everyone is on board. Last week, one opposition councillor – the Leader of the Lib Dems – described building affordable homes as a ‘vanity project’. But we know there’s nothing vain about lifting people out of rent poverty. And there’s nothing vain about helping them off of housing lists and onto the property ladder. More than a few eyebrows were raised when I promised to ensure that, by 2020, 2,000 new homes – including 800 affordable – were being built each year in Bristol.

Next year almost 2,900 new homes will be built in the city. Almost 50 per cent more than promised. And projections show that the year after – 2020 – we will hit our target of building 800 new affordable homes per year. But, as far as we’ve come in two short years, there’s even more which we can do and will do. Two of my local Councillors – Tom Brook and Labour Group Leader Margaret Hickman – have been working hard on how we deliver transformational change.

Cllr Sharon Taylor from Stevenage, who chairs the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network, has also been in Bristol lately, sharing best practice from around the country.

I can now confirm that Bristol will be joining this network as soon as possible to continue to build a better city for Bristolians.

Thank you.

Getting stuff done

Last week we published the ‘Forward Plan’ document for my November cabinet meeting. For those not familiar with the intricate processes of the Council, this is where the council gives the necessary 28 days’ notice that reports are coming to Cabinet meetings for discussion and approval by my cabinet colleagues.

My Cabinet and I have endorsed 95 papers and their recommendations in Cabinet meetings so far. Of the 95 reports, 79 are described as ‘key’ (which either spend over half a million pounds or affect two or more wards), and 16 ‘non-key’.

We’ve added three more to the Forward Plan, which makes 98 papers this year and including the UNITE Construction Charter with Union representatives at the July meeting this year means we have developed 99 that which bring recommendations for us to consider, enact policies and make decisions that get stuff done.

Papers cover a wider variety of issues, reflecting the range of responsibilities the council has. Some have considerable public interest, like ‘Parks and Green Spaces – future funding model 2018-2020’ (taken at May’s Cabinet meeting) while others might be seen as more business as usual and had fewer public comments, like our ‘HR & Payroll System – procurement and implementation’ decision (taken in April).

The papers reflect our priorities as an administration, with housing developments being frequent, including our recent decision to create a ‘Housing Company’ (September), as well as transport and infrastructure plans such as the ‘Chocolate Path River Wall Stabilisation’ report (also September) or planning policy changes outlined in the ‘Affordable Housing Practice Note’ (March).

Papers looking at our approach to adult social care and our duty as corporate parent, a huge responsibility for the council, come frequently too. ‘Application of a new Bristol Rate for new older people’s residential and nursing care placements’ (June), ‘Better Lives at Home: Care and Support in new Extra Care Housing schemes’ (October) ‘Corporate Parenting Strategy’ (January) and ‘Care Leaver Social Impact Bond – DfE Innovations fund award and next steps’ (April) are all examples of this.

Other policies we’ve adopted such as the ‘Sport and Active Recreation Facility Strategy’ (July) and ‘Better Lives Programme’ (April) are about how we create a long-term policy framework to deliver a more inclusive city.

I sometimes talk about how Local Authorities can be viewed as a floating iceberg, with a portion of its structure showing, while considerably more of its bulk stays below the surface.

At the iceberg’s peak, at the most visible part of a council, are high-profile infrastructure projects and schemes. Multimillion pound capital projects focused on large scale regeneration or investment capture the headlines and media attention, but are a just small part of a council’s day-to-day work.

At the waterline of the iceberg, sometimes showing, sometimes not, are the important services which the majority of people might notice occasionally – such as your rubbish collection, road maintenance and parks and green spaces.

Just as important as this, but often hidden from view, is the majority of the iceberg of local government services underpinning our work. Planning and enforcement, traffic management, schools and education services, cemeteries and street lighting are a small example of the hundreds of statutory responsibilities a council has a duty to provide in an effective, lawful and efficient way.

These 99 decisions show how the rate of delivery has accelerated, now that the council has become fit for purpose – driving our housing numbers and transport plans for the city, but also ensuing our education and care services are maintained in the face of budget pressures. Underpinning all this is a council which is financially stable and now, after considerable work by the strategic team, able to get stuff done.


Theresa May’s Opportunity to support cities

On Monday I went to Birmingham to speak at two fringe events at the Conservative Party Conference. It was at the International Convention Centre in the centre of Birmingham, hosting 11,000 people over three days. The ICC is an impressive space and a clear benefit to the city.

I was representing the Core Cities network, making the case against austerity, arguing for the financial resources and devolved powers cities require to meet the needs of their populations and deliver an economic boost for the country. I made the case that national governments are not delivering, but cities and international networks of cities could be part of the solution. But to do this we need to get beyond the “bid and beg” relationship we have with national government to one where we are respected as equal partners.

I raised several issues, with austerity as the priority. For years there has been nowhere else to cut without people being hurt. I warned that no-one has done the work of assessing the potential long term cost of austerity. So many of the interventions public services make (for example public health or educational support) are preventative. Losing these early interventions increases the likelihood of more severe, and expensive, crisis being realised in the future. And I pointed out that while many people rightly campaign for the visible services such as parks and libraries, no-one campaigns for the backroom staff. Local Authority planners and lawyers are often under resourced, and yet these are the very skills we need to unlock cities, to build homes and drive inclusive economic growth.

The fringes wanted to know what practices Local Governments are undertaking to deliver for their populations. I talked about how in Bristol we are working through the City Office to get better alignment toward shared city goals. If we can get every major organisation working with the city to achieve an agreed goal – rather than each pursuing their own story – there would be so much we could achieve. Well organised cities deliver more than the sum of their parts.

Having said that, it’s critical Local Government get the funding we need to be able to put in the time and resources needed to perform that city convening and leadership role.

So many people I spoke to while I was there described Brexit and its handling as a crisis. My point, as ever, was that Brexit was and remains the wrong answer to the right problem. The problem was/is people being left behind by the economy, poor access to public services and a perception that politics is failing. However my concern is that the leaders of Brexit and their proposition will not meet these challenges. I have heard so little in the negotiations about transport, homes, mental health, school places – the very things that matter at the point governance meets the concerns of real people.

Without clear and objective information and evidence from government or other sources is it difficult to plan in detail for this. In recent weeks we have seen more advisories from government and the advice to plan for ‘No Deal’. Tomorrow the Bristol Brexit Response Group, representing many city institutions, is meeting to continue sharing information and getting us Brexit ready.

Today in her speech, I wanted the PM to give further clarity around Brexit for us, and also start to offer hope to people in Britain to show that people can empower our cities and genuinely ‘take back control’ with sovereignty and resources coming to cities and towns which can best deliver for their citizens.

Interview: Sustainable Development Goals

This week is UN Global Goals week, an annual week of action where the United Nations and partners from around the world come together to drive action, raise awareness and hold leaders to account in order to accelerate progress to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals.

Dr Sean Fox, Senior Lecturer in Global Development at the University of Bristol, recently interviewed me about why I support the Sustainable Development Goals. You can read the transcript below. 

SF: You’ve been a vocal supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals, when some mayors don’t talk about them. Why do you think they’re important?

MR: I think it’s important to talk about them because we often fall victim to the stereotype of thinking the SDGs are for the global south, when actually the SDG themes clearly cross over. For example, take Water. It’s a northern hemisphere issue as well. The challenges may not be as extreme as in sub-Saharan Africa or Asian countries, but it is increasingly an issue for us with Climate change and migration.

But then the other thing is really making sure this is not just about national governments. In fact if you leave it to national governments we’ll fail, because they don’t cooperate they contest. They have hard borders. They don’t talk about interdependence like we do at the city level. We share a population in Bristol with so much of the rest of the world and we need to work as though that is true, because our population here cares about the population there. The SDGs are real and raw in the Northern and Southern hemisphere as well as within families.

SF: How can the SDGs be beneficial for Bristol?

MR: We are trying to build a global network of cities through the Global Parliament of Mayors and that involves coming up with a common language. The SDGs can be that language. There’s a proposition that national governments are failing in everything from climate change to migration, inequality and health, and it’s a failure of national policy. But it’s also a failure of a global governance structure that is overly dependent on nations. We urgently need global governance to move into its next iteration, with international networks of cities working and sitting alongside national leaders as equal partners in shaping international and national policy. We’re trying to change the architecture.

However, if we want these international networks of cities to work, we have to be able to talk to each other. One of the things that bonds mayors at a mayoral gathering is their challenges: Rapid urbanisation, health and wellbeing, adequate housing, air quality, quality education, water supplies. All mayors face the same challenges. Mayors connect at these gatherings because we’re trying to do something. I think the SDGs offer language, images and targets around which a global network of cities could rally. We need to attach ourselves to them, and interpret the SDGs as they are relevant to our local area so we can deliver them locally and globally, even if our national governments are failing.

SF: National government also share common objectives. What is the difference between being a city leader rather than a national leader?

MR: One is the proximity of leadership to life. National leadership is much more abstracted from life. I met the mayor of Minneapolis and she told me they had the largest Somali community outside of Somalia. Then I was in a taxi with a Somali taxi driver, and I was talking about this and said ‘I was in Minneapolis, there’s a big Somali community there’. He said ‘I go to Minneapolis regularly, my family are there!’ So a Bristolian lives here, but he also lives in Minneapolis because his family are there.

Now we don’t govern like that, but he lives like that. We’re a city with a global population, so there’s a vested interest in cities looking out for each other’s interests because they share populations, families, and remittances flows. There must be someone in Somaliland that wants Bristol to do well and there must be someone in Bristol that wants Somaliland to do well because that’s thier cousin, that’s their gran. I want Jamaica to do well, I want Kingston to do well.

Additionally, cities are better placed to recognise their interdependence. Nations may recognise their interdependences but they’re always drawn to borders, competing GDPs and trade deficits. It seems to be a much more a zero sum game.

SF: Why should UK mayors bother with Global Goals and networks? Why not just focus on Bristol?

MR: Often politicians offer to purchase your vote with promises. I don’t like that. It needs to be what are we going to do. We should be a city that wants to change the world, all cities should! We should want to deliver on the SDGs not just for Bristol but for the world, even if you don’t have family elsewhere, because we’ve got to save the planet. I think it’s pretty clear.  We need to be delivering against the SDGs as part of our global responsibility in an interdependent world.

Are city leaders the new policy pioneers?

This week I am at Labour Party Conference.

Among the events I have been asked to attend or speak at has been the Centre For Cities fringe, “From State to Cities: are city leaders the new policy pioneers?”  I shared the platform with Mayor Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester), Judith Blake (Leader of Leeds) and Huw Thomas (Leader of Cardiff).

It’s a proposition I sympathise with. And it is a movement that Bristol, by virtue of the fact that we are hosting this year’s Global Parliament of Mayors, finds itself at the forefront of.

My argument is not that city leaders in and of themselves have an automatic connection to innovative thinking. We know that not to be the case. My argument is that the delivery focussed kind of politics that is possible at the city level is able to open the door to (and even demands) innovation in a way that national politics cannot. More than this, it is it is that cross border collaborations of cities can generate ways of thinking that individual cities and national governments cannot.

And whether we are talking about climate change, migration, inequality or political legitimacy, we urgently need some new ideas because politics is not delivering.

It was at the 2017 New York Gathering of Mayors that a number of us came to articulate the challenge, opportunity and need we are currently working on, that the failures we are experiencing today are not merely failures of policy, but a global order overly dependent on the nation state. We need global governance to move on to its next iteration and that will involve the leaders of cities and networks of cities sitting as equal partners in shaping national and international policy.

This means moving beyond the shallow understanding of devolution that confines itself to cities having greater influence over what happens within their boundaries, to a much deeper understanding that cities also need greater influence over the national and international context in which they operate.

This is not our experience at the moment. Cities have been explicitly and implicitly sidelined. The UK remains one of the most centralised countries in the world. Throughout the Brexit negotiations the government has not once consulted with the Core Cities to find out what we need from Brexit – making it a Westminster Brexit. Local Government continues to have a bidding/beggar relationship with central government undermining our ability plan for the long term. In July I was at the UN as the first Mayor to speak into the negotiations over the Global Compact for Migration. It is remarkable that Mayors had not been previously been consulted, in the light of the fact that most migrants leave cities, travel to cities and return to cities.

And so, when the 80-100 mayors and city networks arrive in Bristol next month, we will find ourselves at the centre of a global challenge of how we grow our 19th century structure of global governance into one fit for the 21st Century.