Focusing on what matters (and avoiding what doesn't) in 2020

As things return to normal after Christmas, I’ve thought a lot about what 2020 will be like for myself and those close to me.

It’s my 45th year, which makes me officially middle aged and will soon see me enter a different age drop down category in online surveys. It’s a big one for me personally and professionally. I feel grateful to start it in good health, with a happy family and a brilliant role as director at Social’s South West office.

The last decade has brought huge changes – political, social, technological – which confounded many predictions and upended the status quo. We started it as a family in Manchester before moving to the South West in 2010 and making a new life here. Through all of that, the most important and constant factor for me was the people: family, friends and colleagues, some of whom I worked with in 2010. They helped make 2019 a year to remember.

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Why we’re supporting efforts to tackle ‘holiday hunger’ (and why you should too)

Our youth workers have been aware of the issues surrounding holiday hunger for a long time, but we have noticed that the problem has worsened in recent years. When many of our children struggle to get enough food during term, it’s clear to us that the problem will be worse during the holidays.

“That is why this campaign is so important to us, and the city of Bristol. We hope as many businesses as possible help us to tackle this crisis and stop thousands of children and young people going without meals this summer.”

Matt Donnelly, Young Bristol.

A couple of months ago, we started working with a Bristol charity who were set on tackling a crisis affecting huge numbers of families across the city.

Feeding Bristol was set up a couple of years ago to respond to the urgent need to help thousands (yes, thousands) of the city’s schoolchildren avoid long periods without a meal.

Many people are aware of the growth in food banks in recent years and have heard of tough choices some parents face over whether to feed their children or heat the house. But I was unaware of the extent of the challenge facing the city until I met the charity in May to discuss its campaign.

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Devolution: people care if they’re aware

The West of England’s devolution deal was rubber stamped last night after months of discussion by local leaders.

The agreement unlocks around £1bn in investment in housing, transport and skills. Most people would regard these as important issues that should be locally controlled.

Despite this and the welcome statements that will follow, last night’s response to the news seemed muted.

Councillors in Bristol expressed concerns that the 2,000 responses the recent consultation generated should have been much higher.

The Bristol Post reported these concerns alongside the question: does anyone care?

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Talking about our devolution: what people told us about the deal

With all that’s happened since June, it’s easy to forget that there’s a big decision ahead about how the West of England runs its affairs.

The devolution deal for ‘greater Bristol’ won’t set most people’s pulses racing. But ask those who live and work here what’s important to them and many will say housing, transport, education, jobs or a combination of the above. As it happens, the West of England’s deal is geared towards addressing all of these issues.

On the table is £1bn to invest over 30 years in housing, transport and skills. Post #EUref, when ‘taking back control’ swayed views about our country’s future, handing responsibility for these issues to local areas seems an obvious step.

It’s probably worth five minutes’ of everyone’s time in the scheme of things.

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Can Marvin crack Bristol’s housing crisis?

When they finally arrived, Bristol’s election results signalled a big change for the city that made the national news.

Despite predictions that the mayoral contest was too close to call, voters gave an emphatic victory to Labour’s Marvin Rees. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saw fit to travel to Bristol to congratulate his new mayor.

As I live outside Bristol, I didn’t vote in the mayoral elections. But I followed the contest with interest and was not surprised by Labour’s win after a drawn-out and sometimes tetchy contest.

On many measures, Rees inherits a city in better shape than in 2012 when independent George Ferguson became Bristol’s first elected mayor. It weathered the recession well and has the most productive economy outside London. Its Enterprise Zone in Bristol Temple Quarter is creating more jobs than any similar local scheme. And the arena project is becoming a reality, more than 20 years after it was first mooted.

These achievements should be recognised as a testament to Ferguson’s leadership, although many of his trenchant critics won’t see it that way.

But there are big challenges that Rees must address amongst the many pledges he made during the campaign.

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Bristol Arena: now the hard work really starts

Councillors’ approval of Bristol’s flagship arena project is a welcome twist in a story that goes back two decades.

Bringing a big city arena to Bristol has been a long-standing cultural ambition. A huge collective effort has been put into getting the vision for a gleaming 12,000-capacity venue and a redeveloped cultural and residential quarter beside Temple Meads to this stage.

The former Diesel Depot site which will host the facility has lain largely fallow for years since it earned its name for engine goods storage.  And there are many good reasons for the seemingly slow progress.

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