The pledge was made by the Mayor of Bristol as he outlined steps to work across all sectors in the city, the wider region and with leading global experts on a recovery that would build a strong future for businesses.
Speaking to Bristol City Council’s Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday 28 April), the Mayor acknowledged many businesses are facing the toughest challenge since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Work has already begun through the One City Economy Board to bring together expertise and plan the economic recovery. It draws on knowledge from the business sector, universities, think tanks and international guests to make sure Bristol’s economy is best placed to survive and thrive.
Central to Bristol’s recovery are flagship green regeneration and infrastructure projects, such as rapid mass transit, sustainable housing across the city, decarbonising waste and energy and the Bristol Arena. It also includes revitalising key parts of the city, including Western Harbour and Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Bristol will work with city partners and the cross-border powerhouse, the Western Gateway.
Mayor Rees said: “Bristol will need to rebuild its economy in a more inclusive and sustainable way. Our wider region is a hotbed for an environmentally-led economic recovery. We can lead the UK as part of the Western Gateway, focusing on three key areas and their sustainable benefits – creative, digital and cyber and financial services. Our goal must be to put our region at the forefront of a sustainable recovery of sectors that can work alongside our existing strong financial, manufacturing and engineering services.
“The One City Economy Board is key to shaping this strategy and helping to support a wide range of businesses and sectors in Bristol. They’re at the forefront of our economic recovery at a city level, linking into the regional and national picture. We need to work together as a city and region, with collective responsibility, to resolve the enormous challenge facing everyone. We are perfectly placed to lead an economic recovery. While it is crucial we return people to their jobs and ensure that manufacturing and productivity is back up, we also need to create a market for people to sell into.
“We can achieve a lot more in collaboration and come through this crisis in a stronger, more sustainable way if we take the right action now. But this also needs the Government to guarantee financial support for our projects which will restart the economy.
“The city-wide economy is not our only focus as we enter the recovery period. We need to address our health, our homes, our communities, the way in which local government works and the huge cultural and social impact of the pandemic.”
Bristol’s model of economic recovery will be framed by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The approach to achieving these locally is mapped out in the Bristol One City Plan, which brings together public, private and third sector partners working to make Bristol fair, healthy and sustainable. Mayor Rees is working with mayors around the world to urge governments not to abandon the SDGs in a ‘mad dash’ towards any form of economic growth.
He added “With the Bristol One City Climate Strategy already agreed, we have set out a pathway for environment change, including sustainable and affordable homes, a mass transit system, biogas buses and city centre housing to encourage more cycling and walking. Working with UK core cities and those from around the world, we can change our current economic models – placing the focus on building inclusive, environmentally-friendly places, where no one is left behind. There is no going back.”
Whilst the planning for the future of Bristol’s economy is underway, the city is already working hard to support local businesses. Bristol City Council’s response to distributing the Government’s business grant funding has been recognised nationally, both for the volumes of grants processed and value shared. Nearly £70m has been given to businesses from the Government’s Small Business Grants scheme, which equates to processing more than 5,000 applications in a few weeks. However, it’s estimated more than 1,000 eligible businesses are yet to apply for a grant.
Information about the support available for businesses is on the council’s business web pages. The Government has also published a new tool: https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder.