In this blog post, Mayor Marvin Rees responds to the questions submitted by the audience for his annual State of the City Address 2019.
Democracy in Bristol/
– An often cited critique of the Mayor model is that it concentrates too much power into the hands of one individual. How might the city devolve more power downwards to elected councillors or other areas to counter this critique?
– How can we ensure that the residents of Bristol are effectively engaged with as part of the many important developments that are happening across the city?
– How is the One City Plan going to be implemented on the ground?
At a time when national government has – at best – been absent and at its worst made people poorer through policies such as universal credit, devolution to local and regional mayors can offer a bulwark to protect cities’ interests and deliver local change that is responsive to local people’s needs.
For too long, the political system in Bristol has encouraged city leaders to focus on short-term electoral wins. The result has been a transport system that is failing the city, and a housing crisis that has left over 500 families in temporary accommodation and 12,000 on the waiting list for council housing. Tinkering around the edges is no longer an option, and that needs a new style of city leadership which focuses on delivery to meet these systemic challenges.
One of my priorities as Mayor has been to change the way we think about city governance. We have worked with the city to develop a city plan that sets out Bristol’s future to 2050, transcending the electoral cycle. We have set up the City Office to oversee the plan. This is a move from local government – and a focus on the workings of the council – to city governance – working together with all the city’s decision makers.
We have shared city leadership with six thematic boards, made up of partners from across the city. Each is taking responsibility for shaping and updating their piece of the One City Plan. By devolving power to all parts of our city, we help ensure that decisions are not taken in a vacuum, but are shaped and delivered by the whole city.
Future of Bristol/
– As a Bristol resident, as well as a Mayor, what is the single biggest issue that will be confronting Bristol over the next 5 years?
– What is the biggest priority for Bristol in 2020?
Bristol is a complex city, and any solutions we advance for the city must recognise that complexity. The challenges we face are interlinked. We have a growing population, a housing crisis, a transport system that needs transformative change, stark inequalities within and between different areas of the city, and we continue to feel the pressure of national government’s austerity policies. None of these challenges can be tackled in isolation. I spoke in my State of the City speech about facing up to the challenges of poverty in Bristol. I believe the single biggest policy intervention we can make is providing a stable and secure home.
– In which key areas of city life would you say the local authority is uniquely placed to lead on innovative change, within the current state of both austerity impacts and climate emergency?
Bristol as a local authority is showing leadership and innovation in our City Leap project – which can harness £1 billion of investment and transform the city’s relationship with energy. Nationally, many local authorities are experimenting with house building, and our own contribution has been made through the Housing Festival, our Housing Company – Goram Homes – and innovative projects using modern methods of construction. As a local authority we have responsibility to plan for homes in sustainable locations (such as Western Harbour) to reduce the carbon cost we have to pay for new homes. Finally, the One City Plan was shortlisted for the European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) Awards and won an award of €100,000 from the European Commission for our pioneering approach to city governance.
– What gives you hope for Bristol?
Hope is a key part of my speech. I have long been committed to the idea of hope in part because it is so much more mature than optimism. Hope doesn’t refuse to see suffering and failure. It engages with them so that they become an opportunity to develop perseverance which produces character, and character produces hope.
So I have hope that our city can be a force for good in the world, in our collective commitment to making Bristol a city where everyone is included in our success, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth. I have hope that the leadership we are taking to the critical issues of our time – climate change, the migration crisis, the rise of reactionary right-wing politics – extends beyond the boundaries of our city to influence the global agenda.
I said in my speech that Bristol is a collective endeavour. And to that end, the great people we have in Bristol who make things happen give me hope for our city.
– How is Bristol City Council embracing the digital revolution for the benefit of its citizens?
Technology has a huge role to play within Bristol City Council as we transform how we provide services to all of our citizens. We are leading the way by embracing assistive technology such as Memo-Minders and magiplugs; we are helping people live Better Lives at Home. In 2017, we opened our state-of-the-art smart operations centre which helps us co-ordinate a huge range of services from traffic-signal monitoring to providing emergency response to assistive technology units. From this centre, we monitor over 200 junctions, almost 40 traffic and information signs, and manage our network of 700 CCTV cameras.
The digital revolution has to benefit all our citizens. A key vision for our One City Plan is that ‘ by 2050 everyone will be well-connected with digital services’ where ‘ World Class urban communication infrastructure and services underpin all we do.’ We recognise that to do this, we need to invest in improvements to the city’s broadband network to ensure that digital exclusion is eradicated (particularly for those in social housing) and that businesses and public services are connected to city-wide digital platforms to deliver services. We also want to work with all employers in the city to ensure that staff are well-trained to adapt to changes in future work practices, including in AI and IT literacy.
– What are the key improvements in the pipeline for affordable sustainable improved public transport infrastructure?
– What are your immediate plans for improving public transport and making it more affordable?
– Why doesn’t the council collect experiences from the cycle community to understand what they need?
– Can you give the people an update on local infrastructure developments for Bristol cyclists?
Our priority is connecting people to people, people to jobs, and people to opportunity. The city has tinkered around with transport for decades and the result is a transport system that is failing the city. We remain the only Core City without a mass transit system.
Deregulation in the 1980s has left local authorities with very little power over bus operators. This combined with austerity policies constrains our ability to financially support bus routes and services. However, Bristol is bucking national trends as we have seen a rise in bus passenger numbers, albeit from a low base.
So we have taken a collaborative approach, and committed to a Bristol Bus Deal, in which we have pledged to make infrastructure improvements across the city so that buses have priority on key routes. In return, we have asked bus operators to double the frequency of their services along key routes at peak times.
By further increasing public transport demand in Bristol, this helps us build the business case for an underground/mass transit system that will take millions of car journeys off Bristol’s streets every year. The routes will connect people to employment areas in the centre and the airport, and will connect the northern and eastern fringes of the city. This will be transformative for Bristol’s transport network.
Earlier this year, Cabinet adopted the Bristol Transport Strategy which sets out our vision for transport in the city up to 2036. As part of this vision, we have pledged for ‘cycling to be safe, segregated from other modes wherever possible, simple, accessible and convenient, either as an option for the whole journey or as part of a journey combined with public transport.’ We are already working on infrastructure projects to achieve this aim. For example, we have completed work on the first part of the Filwood Quietway, introducing a segregated cycle lane on Whitehouse Street in Windmill Hill. Work has also started on improvements to Old Market roundabout, which will create new segregated pedestrian and cycle routes across the roundabout, along with wider and safer signalised crossings.
Supporting active travel such as walking and cycling is a key principle in our Local Plan review. This means building neighbourhoods to make key local centres more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transport. Local government alone, however, cannot achieve these aims. We are taking a One City approach to transport in the city, and we have convened the Bristol Transport Board with members from across the transport sector (including cycling and pedestrian groups) to oversee and deliver the improvements we needed to get Bristol moving.
– Despite significant financial challenges, what is your proudest achievement that you have delivered for the city since you took office in 2016?
– Have you achieved your objectives?
– What is your biggest challenge and what are you most proud about?
– What progress has been made on closing the divide between the north and south of the river, a priority for Marvin when he started his time as Mayor?
During my State of the City speech, I reflected on the promises I made when I was campaigning to be elected. We said we would build 2,000 new homes – 800 affordable – a year by 2020. We’re on course to hit that target and exceed it, building affordable units across the city, and houses in some of our most deprived neighbourhoods. We said we would deliver work experience and apprenticeships – and we have delivered over 3,500 meaningful experiences of work through The WORKS programme.
We promised to stop expansion of RPZs and review existing schemes – and we did, and we’re now engaging with residents in new areas and working with communities where there is overwhelming demand. We pledged to protect children’s centres – and despite a £3.1 billion national funding gap which has seen 1,000 children’s centres across the country close, we kept all ours open. We said we would increase school places, with a fair admissions system – we committed £25 million for a new school in Lockleaze, and are in the process of building secondary schools in Silverthorne Lane and in Knowle West.
We promised to put Bristol on course to be run entirely on clean energy by 2050 – we accelerated this promise, taking steps for Bristol to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. We committed to make culture and sport accessible to all – we secured UNESCO City of Film Status, invested in the refurbishment and modernisation of Colston Hall, Bristol Old Vic and St George’s Hall, and our Sport Gatherings have brought together the sector like never before to improve participation, enhance elite talent pathways, and bring world-class events to the city.
Delivering on these promises is improving equality in our city – though there is, of course, much more to do. For too long, disadvantage in parts of our city has been entrenched. Tackling these entrenched inequalities is at the heart of what we do. Under our leadership we are working to deliver an inclusive economy where Bristol’s success is shared more equally across the city. Our Feeding Bristol programme delivered over 53,000 meals across the city during the school holidays, reaching those experiencing the higher levels of deprivation. We are also reaching across the whole city to deliver the safe and secure homes people need – this month we got approval to develop housing on Hengrove Park which will deliver 1,400 new homes in a mixed community. The results are a reduction in those living in the most deprived areas of the UK within our city. Delivering on our promises is changing our city for the better.
Personally, balancing the demands of a young family and working as the city’s mayor has been a big challenge and one that I’m proud to have managed.
Bristol's Economy, International Investment and Global Role/
– Given economic growth has been fuelling climate change, how should we be measuring economic success in Bristol?
Economic success will be judged by how well we promote diversity, creativity and innovation, and how far we are equal partners in the society we have created. Environmental justice must go hand in hand with social justice. Bristol is a city of contradictions; where for too long wealth has lived alongside poverty. We still need economic growth to lift people in our city out of poverty. But this growth must be inclusive, and shared more equally between all of our citizens. I’m proud of Bristol’s successes, but our challenge is to grow our city in a way which is inclusive, sustainable, and environmentally responsible.
Our One City Plan sets out how the whole city will work together to deliver an inclusive economy that benefits everyone, and maintains our ambition to run our city on clean energy and be carbon neutral by 2030. That vision includes tackling persistent unemployment and economic exclusion, boosting productivity, and improving integration between neighbourhoods and employers.
– What is Bristol doing to encourage international investment and trade opportunities for businesses?
– How are you taking a whole city approach to being international and having a global outlook?
– What does a truly international City of Bristol look like in 10 years time?
We are a city that is open for business. We recently launched our City Leap Prospectus, which invites investment in our radical decarbonised local energy system. This is in addition to our Bristol Investment Brochure and our Cultural Investment Programme Prospectus. This summer I led a delegation of local businesses to Boston and Chicago, highlighting how Bristol is leading the way in high-tech enterprise. Our Brussels office has helped us retain our access to EU partners and funding streams, with partnerships with European universities being particularly vital at this important time for the future of our research and higher education sectors.
During my time as Mayor, I have also made sure that Bristol is prominent on the global political stage. From hosting the Global Parliament of Mayors’ Summit, to my recent appearance at the C40 conference in Copenhagen, we have shown that Bristol as a dynamic, inclusive and outward-facing city is an attractive partner for investment and partnership. We remain open to investment opportunities that support our ambition for sustainable, clean and inclusive growth.
We do this international work because we are already a global city. Our citizens come from over 120 countries of origin and speak at least 92 languages. We have business and family connections to cities all over the world. It is part of our story, and will be for the next decade and beyond.
– When will the city be able to see a profit from Bristol Energy as opposed to continuing to pay monies to support it?
Bristol Energy is a project that our administration inherited, and we have worked hard to install a new board, new business plan, new chair and new staff. This is a significant challenge we have grappled with to ensure we put our council on sure financial footing. It is also important to note that Bristol Energy is competing in a crowded energy market where the Big Six energy companies still have a strong competitive advantage over new providers. There is an estimated £12 million of social value to Bristol through work such as the Fuel Good Fund and employing local people as a living wage employer. With this said, I believe that the City Leap plan creates a host of new opportunities for Bristol Energy to lead our city’s efforts to combat climate change, and reinvest its profits back into the community. At a time of climate emergency, the way we heat our homes and provide energy to our city need to be innovative and sustainable – Bristol Energy provides us with an important tool.
City Planning and Public Spaces/
– Why are so many of Bristol’s public spaces so run down, littered and dominated by hard surfaces?
– This is a great city however there are some areas which are not as ‘ appealing’ as others. How do we address this?
I recognise that there are challenges with trying to improve the cleanliness of the city, but I am determined to make this happen. We know that this is sometimes about improving the quality of our waste service, and we have added investment in the Bristol Waste fleet and for community litter picks. As a result we have the best recycling rates of an English Core City, and we want to go ever further. Change won’t come from the council alone, however. We also need to drive a wider change in culture, and this means challenging the behaviour of people who litter or who allow their dogs to foul our pavements and parks and demonstrating that this behaviour is unacceptable.
In recognition of challenges such as these I started the Clean Streets Campaign when I was elected Mayor. People told me when I came into the role that making the city cleaner was not going to be easy, but I am determined to make this happen. Measurably cleaner means less litter, fly tipping, fly posting, graffiti, dog fouling, gum and weeds in the city, as well as much more reuse, repairing and recycling so that less waste is produced and disposed of in landfill. Since the intensive summer clean-up operation in the Bearpit, anti-social behaviour incidents and crimes reported to Avon and Somerset Police have fallen by 75 per cent.
Since starting our new environmental enforcement service just over 12 months ago, over 12,000 people have been fined for committing environmental crimes such as dropping litter or dog fouling, but as you can see this is not enough to change everyone’s behaviour. We also ask residents to report issues to the council when they see them so that we can make sure that they are addressed. If you spot cases of fly tipping, you can report them to the council here.
– Why are you intent on defacing Bristol skyline with high rise in the name of progress?
In a previous State of the City address I said ‘ tall buildings built in the right way, in the right places, and for the right reasons communicate ambition and energy.’ I stand by this. Our vision is of a city with a high-quality, healthy environment with sustainable, connected communities at its heart.
At a time of a housing crisis, and with my clear commitment to build homes and communities that people need across the whole city, we have to be making the best use of the land available. I want appropriate density and height that allows us to meet the housing needs of Bristol and its economy.
Cities are a vital tool in the fight against climate change, and building sustainable, climate-resilient housing is a key lever in reducing Bristol’s carbon footprint. The biggest decision we can make about reducing the carbon cost of development is where to place it. This means building as much in sustainable, active travel locations as feasible. Building low-rise housing outside of the city means car-dependent, carbon-intensive development, which puts further pressure on our transport network.
Education and Skills/
– How are we going to address the future of Educational Technology in Bristol? Do we need to look at London Grid for Learning and follow suit?
We know as the world around us is changing, our education system needs to keep pace with the new skills children will need in the future economy. Primarily our schools need to be properly funded, and I will continue to work with Bristol’s MPs and to lobby the government direct for a fair funding settlement. We work closely with other cities to share good ideas, and we are open to models that work.
– How are you encouraging the division of unpaid work to be better shared between men and women?
One of the principal challenges I have taken on in my time as Mayor has been to embed equality into everything that we do, rather than it being an afterthought when we make changes in the city. A growing economy is only a successful economy if it is inclusive – if every sector of society benefits from that economic growth and prosperity.
In efforts to improve equality between men and women in Bristol we launched the Bristol Equality Charter. Cllr Helen Godwin became the first dedicated city cabinet member in the UK with responsibility for women.
We recognise that equalising the division of unpaid work means making structural changes to our economy and our education sector. Increasing the availability of affordable childcare is crucial in allowing parents to find work, pursue education and take advantage of opportunities in the city – I’m proud that the City Office identified this as a key priority for the city to deliver collectively.
– What do you believe is the way to reduce hate crime and inequality-based crimes?
Tackling hate crime means working in partnership across the whole breadth of the city. Partners like SARI are doing good work to improve the reporting and prosecution of hate crimes in the city. We also launched the #WeAreBristol campaign, which shows our commitment to building a city of hope, where everyone that chooses to live here is treated fairly and has the same life chances. It highlights how, at a time when so many talk about the divisions in our country, Bristol can be different. We are a city where we challenge division, and stand alongside our neighbours.
– What is your key policy to address inequality?
Inequality is an entrenched phenomenon that affects people and communities in many different spheres of life. As a result, we can’t tackle inequality in isolation – fighting inequality is at the heart of everything we do from housing to protecting children’s centres, from improving connectivity from our transport infrastructure to maintaining access to green space and sporting facilities.
– Why have you failed to reverse the stark health and economic inequalities of our city?
We are a city with entrenched inequalities, built up over centuries. However, the most recent deprivation statistics released earlier this year show that in Bristol there are fewer people now living in areas ranked in the top 10% for deprivation. We will go further, and continue to pursue inclusive economic growth that shares the prosperity of our city more equally so we can be a city where nobody is left behind.
Environment and the Climate Emergency/
– How can and will Bristol support and welcome climate change refugees?
– How can our city join other cites in addressing the planetary challenges presented by climate change?
– How do you think Bristol will respond to the biodiversity emergency while meeting the climate emergency challenge?
Cities will be at the forefront to our global response to the climate emergency. Bristol will continue to be a City of Sanctuary for refugees. I am on the leadership board of the Global Parliament of Mayors’ Migration Council, and we are working together to respond to the challenges of migration which are already being brought about through climate change.
Last month, I attended the C40 conference in Copenhagen – a meeting of the world’s biggest cities who are coordinating action against climate change. We were invited because of the leadership we are showing on climate change, and by virtue of our leadership positions on the Mayors’ Migration Council and Global Parliamentary of Mayors. It is imperative for cities to have a voice in this debate. That’s why I led the Core Cities group in creating our own Climate Emergency Declaration.
One City Plan is doubling tree canopy and protecting green spaces, but other local landowners must do their part. Bees and other pollinating species are vital to our biodiversity and food production. Our Local Plan’s policies for nature conservation and habitats aim to maintain a healthy ecosystem and link the city’s wildlife networks with the wider area.
Bristol Airport Expansion/
– How can you justify a new runway at Bristol airport while also declaring a climate emergency?
– How do you reconcile Bristol airport expansion with declaring a climate emergency and planning for a ‘carbon neutral’ city?
– How does the mayor believe that expanding the airport supports efforts to tackle global warming?
– The carbon emissions from planes flying overhead threatens the health of Bristol. Can you protect us?
– The economics of airports are a risky investment (Deloittes). Why do you support BA expansion?
The decision over whether or not to expand Bristol Airport is one which will be taken by North Somerset Council. As the Mayor of Bristol, I have no influence over a neighbouring local authority’s planning decisions.
I have reached my own personal conclusion based on an expectation that nationally demands for flights will continue to increase, and we must plan for this demand and make sure that it is done at the least carbon cost. I believe that growth in flights will come whether or not Bristol Airport expands, unless we have a Labour government prepared to take action to reduce the demand in flights, such as increasing passenger taxes to the level of fuel tax, (airline fuel isn’t taxed at all).
We can manage the growing demand by increasing our regional airport’s capacity. In 2018, 7.8 million people from the South West and South Wales bypassed Bristol to fly from Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports, generating an additional 157,000 tonnes of carbon to their flights. The potential carbon savings that could be made if these passengers used Bristol Airport is equal to the domestic carbon emissions of nearly half the population of North Somerset, in which the airport is located. So I am for the expansion of our regional airport but against the expansion of Heathrow.
Also, the planned expansion of Bristol Airport will bring a further 6,000 jobs and generate an additional £1.6 billion in Gross Value Added across the wider city-region by the 2030s. Poverty continues to be a growing crisis and our population is increasing. We are coming off the back of nine years of austerity and face the uncertainty of a Brexit future. There have been decades of economic exclusion and inequality that we must reverse. We need to create an economy that generates sustainable jobs, especially ones that are accessible to the people of South Bristol.
This is not a romantic position; it is one based on pragmatism. In the context of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, it seems unlikely that demands for flights will decrease. As a city leader then, I must hold multiple priorities together. I am looking at the whole picture, long-term and short-term, with the ambition of making Bristol a sustainable city with an inclusive economy. I will continue to lobby national government and work with businesses, unions and third sector organisations to unlock investment that will see the whole region grow in the best way for the long-term success of the city.
I have plans for a mass-transit system, including an underground – with ultra-low carbon output – which I hope will take millions of car journeys off of Bristol’s roads, as well as the carbon and nitrogen dioxide they bring. A reliable route to the airport is key, not just for passengers. This link will include the communities of South Bristol, connecting them to employment and opportunities in the centre and at the airport. This link could happen within eight years.
– How – in particular – do you think Bristol can deliver to make JSP sound?
– New technology has made pre-fabricated homes high quality and cheaper than traditional. Does the mayor see these as a solution for social housing?
– What role do you believe tiny homes can have to alleviate the housing crisis?
– What will be done to increase the number of properties for multiple household sharers in the short term?
Key to solving our housing crisis is innovation – particularly in home design. We know that different models of homes can meet different needs, and experimenting with new frontiers in architecture and housing design can help us meet different housing demands in Bristol. At the second annual Bristol Housing Festival, we have celebrated the innovation we are bringing to bear on house building in Bristol. Developments such as the Launchpad housing scheme in Fishponds, and the Zedpods scheme to be delivered above a car-park in St George’s, show that Bristol is leading the way in innovative and modern housing delivery.
– We know there is a housing crisis and that the city is growing. What does good development look like to you? And what are you doing to ensure you are delivering that vision?
Good development balances the efficient and effective use of land, with the need to respect local context, contribute to successful place-making, and yield liveable buildings in mixed and balanced communities. We will not deliver the homes we need, or the inclusive economy we want to see, unless we take the opportunity to offer affordable housing in attractive and well-connected neighbourhoods.
– Why are you planning to ruin the historic site around the Suspension Bridge and harbour to build houses that could easily go into other brownfield sites in the city?
The opportunity Western Harbour presents for Bristol is so significant because the challenges our city faces are so significant. We face a housing crisis with over 12,000 families on the waiting list and the worst affordability ratio of rent to wages of the Core Cities. Add to this the fact that our population is set to continuously grow. We must minimise the environmental impact of our city’s growth through sustainable buildings and developments that reduce car dependency. We must significantly strengthen our flood defences as Bristol faces the increased likelihood of the 1 in 100 year flood. Like other cities, our city-centre retail is threatened by weakening high street sales.
All of these challenges mean we must proactively put residential, employment, retail and destination venues in the city to ensure Bristol isn’t ‘ hollowed out’. And in the face of growing inequality and social and political division, we must make spaces for people from all parts of Bristol.
The opportunity is to build over 2,000 homes including much needed affordable. These homes would be a seven-minute bike ride or 25-minute walk to jobs, shopping and entertainment in the city-centre. The opportunity is to build the flood defences into the development in a sympathetic rather than intrusive way. And it is to remove the 1960s flyovers that have dominated that part of Bristol since before I was born and to open up the waterfront as a welcoming destination for more people.
We have invited people to share their views at a very early stage in our thinking as we want to make sure we get this right, and give everybody from across the city the opportunity to work with us to shape the future of this key development.
– Why do you continue supporting developer demands and not support what Bristol people want – family homes?
We are delivering affordable homes to cater for many diverse needs across the city, both in the centre and in some of the most deprived areas to provide people with a home. We are delivering on our promise to build 2,000 homes (800 affordable) per year by 2020, including family homes. We are doing this in a context where construction and development face increasing economic pressures, and we need to work with developers to maximise the affordable units we can build.
– How is Bristol going to manage care in the community, when funding is being reduced and nursing homes are being closed?
You are right to point to the financial context local authorities find themselves in as we fight to deliver statutory care services to our citizens. If we did not take action, our spending on adult social care alone by 2022 was projected to be £144.9 million.
This is another example of the ways local authorities are being let down by national government, which is failing to offer a comprehensive solution for our social care funding crisis. Nonetheless, we are determined to deliver on our statutory responsibilities for adult social care and to empower people to live better lives. We are investing in assistive technology and understanding better how early interventions can help people live more independently at home for longer.
This change is not something we can deliver alone, however. That’s why we’ve identified the integration of Bristol’s health and care system as a target in our One City Plan.
– How will BCC stop car pollution now?
– When will a CAZ be implemented?
We have published our plans to implement a Clean Air Zone in March 2021 – an implementation date which has remained the same throughout the process. Our ambitious plans – which recommend a charging zone for the most polluting commercial vehicles, and a small area diesel ban on our most polluted streets – demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution. The plans will ensure we meet legal limits in the shortest possible time, without disproportionately affecting citizens on lower incomes. Our proposals also contain a range of mitigation measures which will support citizens, public services and businesses who are most affected, while protecting the most vulnerable from pollution. I am proud that we have taken time to make sure we get this right, all while not delaying the implementation date for the plans.
– How will Bristol be impacted by Brexit? And how are you going to manage it?
– How is Bristol going to respond to the consequences of Brexit? Mainly in the construction industry.
– Is Bristol ready for a no-deal Brexit?
I write as the UK passes another supposed ‘Brexit date’ with uncertainty over our future further compounded with the government’s decision to call a General Election. This is a Brexit crafted in the dark backrooms of Whitehall and corridors of Westminster, with no reference to the rest of the UK – regardless of how places and people voted in 2016. But it is local authorities like ours who are putting in place the emergency plans.
We are doing our part to help people in our city prepare for whatever our future relationship with the EU may be. We are supporting our valued EU citizens by providing information and support for the Settled Status scheme and we have published a report on the possible impacts of Brexit for the city. We are also planning for any possible post-Brexit futures by maintaining our international links and inviting investment in, for example, our City Leap project. However, we will continue to invite national government to take the Brexit debate out of Westminster and come to cities like Bristol, putting local government at the forefront of planning.
Health and Wellbeing/
– Mental health?
Mental health and wellbeing is a key focus for our One City approach. We have a vision that by 2050 we all will live in a city that supports mental health and physical health equally. To achieve this aim, we have launched Thrive Bristol – a 10-year programme which focuses on prevention and early intervention and draws on resources across the whole city. The main themes of the project include: thriving at work; Time to Change Bristol; mental health first aid training; children and young people’s mental health; student mental health; housing, homelessness and mental health; community approaches to mental health, and the arts and mental health.
We also know that a positive city environment can help improve mental health across the whole population. Working to keep our streets safe and clean, deliver safe and affordable housing, and protecting access to green space and sporting facilities are all priorities to help improve mental health outcomes for the city as a whole.
– The day after waste collection is the dirtiest of the week, with any type of litter filling the streets, mixed boxes with inadequate lids clearly don’t work. When will you improve the Bristol recycling and collection system?
We’ve invested in new vehicles at Bristol Waste to help prevent this, because they are fitted with CCTV which will also protect staff. The new efficient, sustainable, safer and reliable fleet will help us with that mission and is another step forward in improving air quality in the city. The vehicles will not only collect 70,000 tonnes of recycling and cover more than 800 miles of streets each year they also have the potential to reduce the city’s impact on the environment and increase our recycling rates.
From October 21st Bristol residents will receive a new bag for cardboard recycling and I hope this will further improve roadside collection efficiency and reduce the time spent sorting materials, congestion on the roads and carbon footprint.
– There are a lot of Bristolians protesting about 5G, what are your thoughts on this?
Bristol City Council takes advice in these matters from Public Health England’s (PHE’s) Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE). The CRCE takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications.
Public Health England advise that overall exposure from 5G is expected to remain low relative to these international safety guidelines and as such there should be no consequences for public health.
PHE is committed to monitoring the evidence applicable to this and other radio technologies, and to revising its advice, should that be necessary.
Culture and Night-time Economy/
– What is being done to protect closure of late-night venues?
– Where does the support for culture in the city sit in the list of priorities for the mayor?
I recognise the importance of nightlife to Bristol’s culture, and we’re working hard to maintain a healthy mix of venues across the city. The importance of the live music sector to people here and elsewhere in the UK is reflected in the amount of support being generated to secure the future of venues faced with challenges posed by urban development.
Like many other UK cities, Bristol is about to enter a phase of significant change. More and more development is taking place in the city, with more people choosing to live in the city-centre. Transport infrastructure is also evolving, with people moving around and inhabiting the city in different ways. Given this, it is essential to ensure that the vitality of the night-time economy and what it contributes to our city’s cultural offer is preserved and supported to expand and flourish.
In anticipation of potential issues arising from increasing city-centre development, we set up the Bristol@Night Board last year. The board brings together stakeholders from across the city, including owners and directors of late-night venues, Avon and Somerset Police, healthcare providers and members of Bristol City Council. They act as an advisory group to inform my decision making, and they meet quarterly to collectively establish solutions to key challenges.
We’ve established Agent of Change as a result of this group. You can read more about what this principle means for late-night venues in a blog I wrote last year, but essentially it places more responsibility on the developers that are changing an area, meaning they are compelled to put measures in place such as appropriate soundproofing.
I’m committed to supporting Bristol’s celebrated cultural sector, and we’re working with venues to allow them to thrive despite the change underway in our city. For example, we’ve been working closely with the owners of Motion nightclub – you might find it interesting to read a piece written by the director of Motion that was recently published on the Mayor’s blog.