In his first annual mayor’s address and discussion since being elected in May 2016, Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, has put forward a vision for delivering a ‘city for all’ with reduced inequality and increased social mobility as its hallmarks. He spoke about how restructuring the city’s economy to be more inclusive will be vital to reduce inequality.
Central to his vision is a commitment to building homes, improving transport and giving children a better start in life, the Mayor told the audience at the Bristol Festival of Ideas event on 6 October at the Wills Memorial Building, Bristol.
During his address, the Mayor reflected on achievements to date, including the recent launch of the City Office which brings together key agencies and prominent figures in city leadership to work more closely together on major issues, including homelessness.
Other achievements include launching a commission on the gender and race pay gap, reviving plans to build a recycling centre on Hartcliffe Way, launching a review into housing priority for domestic abuse survivors and freezing the cost of parking permits in RPZs until 2020.
New announcements included the launch of a new task group to tackle the city’s congestion, addressing the challenges faced by all road users.
The Mayor pledged to look at local planning policies which have prompted a reluctance to ‘build upwards’ in an already congested city, suggesting that planning could be a key tool for the city and that tall buildings in the right place will create a bolder skyline.
He also announced the launch of a strategic partnership with the not-for-profit community interest company, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital – working with them to retain and attract investment at scale into housing, employment and city priorities.
This news is set against the backdrop of huge financial pressures for the city council. Acknowledging that delivering a legal budget could be painful for the city and its partners, the Mayor announced an independent review designed to identify how the council reached this challenging position. The review will be carried out by Dr Steve Bundred of the Local Government Association (LGA).
The Mayor went on to define the challenges and opportunities ahead, including a commitment to reducing inequality in the city, maximising the opportunities presented by devolution and delivering on a pledge to build 2000 homes a year by 2020 including 800 affordable homes.
“Bristol is a great but complex city. We should neither fear nor hide from that complexity”, said Mayor Marvin Rees. “This evening I have defined my direction of travel, but I admit I don’t have all the answers, resources or levers to get us there. I issue a challenge to you all, to the whole city, to find the answers with me and to help create a true city for all.”
The Mayor’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion featuring Alexandra Jones from the Centre for Cities and Gavin Kelly from the Resolution Trust/Living Wage Commission.
The evening also featured a performance from new City Poet, Miles Chambers.
The event is part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas, a programme designed to encourage debate and stimulate thinking that runs throughout the year. It also aims to celebrate the work of great writers, commentators and thinkers in and outside the city. Since starting in 2004, the Festival has run over 2,000 events. http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/