- Community support has never been more important than during the challenging months of the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Green councillors have worked hard to support their local communities throughout – helping to set up mutual aid, street and facebook support groups, helping residents receive the support they need and supporting businesses access grants.
- Early on in the first lockdown (May 1st) Green councillors called for Bristol to be given the powers and resources to run track and trace testing locally instead of the government’s costly and ineffective outsourced solutions. Since the Council has got more involved, track and trace has started to improve in Bristol.
- Green councillors repeatedly lobbied the Council to implement street changes to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists, to allow people to practice social distancing and exercise safely during the coronavirus outbreak. After months of campaigning the Council implemented some of these street changes . Green councillors have backed local campaigns to do more and take these changes further including supporting the Liveable Neighbourhoods networks.
- Following a successful campaign by Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke, the Council has dropped large fees for businesses trying to do the right thing by trading outdoors during the pandemic. Instead of daily fees adding up to approx. £7000 per year, the council will instead request a yearly charge of just £100 for businesses that seek to take advantage of new social distancing street measures to trade in suspended parking bays.
- Green Councillor Cleo Lake has led a campaign to tackle digital exclusion during lockdown, distributing refurbished and recycled laptops to help vulnerable residents stay connected with each other, work and study, during the pandemic.
- Green councillors want a Green New Deal to build back better after the pandemic. This should reboot the economy, provide much-needed (and high quality) green jobs and help us tackle the climate crisis. We cannot return to business as usual.
- In November 2018 Bristol led the way by becoming the first place in the UK to declare a Climate Emergency, after Councillor Carla Denyer’s Green motion was successfully passed by the Council. 74% of Councils across the country have since followed suit. The Green motion also commits Bristol to become carbon neutral by 2030. Since then Greens also successfully lobbied the regional West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to also declare a climate emergency.
- Since then Greens have been putting forward ambitious proposals to reduce emissions as soon as possible. This has included producing a report initiating the cross-party work to deliver on Bristol’s climate goals. It has also involved holding the Mayor to account to deliver on Bristol’s pledge, including asking him to answer tough questions on why promised investment on clean energy has not yet been delivered.
School and Climate strikers
- Green councillors have supported Climate strikers and the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate. Cllr Carla Denyer called on the Mayor to support climate strikers and allow employees to take part through a 30 minute workday stoppage as other institutions have done and the Union and College Union (UCU) called for, but the Mayor refused to do so.
Green New Deal
- Green councillors want to see a ‘Green New Deal’ to help our city recover from COVID, reboot the economy, provide jobs and tackle the climate crisis. The Labour group brought a ‘Green New Deal’ motion to the Council which celebrated the administration’s work, but did not commit to any action or new policies. Green Councillors proposed an amendment to add practical policy commitments to this including halting major road-building, stronger local plan policies to make new development ‘climate-emergency proof’, and divesting from fossil fuels. However sadly the Labour group voted these policy commitments down.
- Greens have fought hard to oppose the expansion of Bristol Airport, which is incompatible with reaching our carbon neutrality targets and addressing the climate and ecological emergencies. A new airport would emit an additional 1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents every year – that’s 50% of Bristol’s current carbon emissions.
- Green Councillor Steve Clarke helped lead a regional campaign against the airport’s expansion plans, working over several months with activists and campaign groups, councillors and local residents. Finally at a North Somerset Council meeting on 10th February 2020 councillors rejected the airport’s plans by eighteen votes to seven. The airport has since announced it will appeal the decision – so the fight against the expansion continues.
- Green Councillors have spent many months campaigning for the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees to publicly oppose the expansion of Bristol airport. The hard work paid off, when the Mayor U-turned on his support, agreeing that the expansion would be incompatible with reaching our climate goals. Work continues to persuade the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to follow suit and drop it’s support.
- Following work by Bristol’s Fossil Free campaign and questions to the then Mayor George Ferguson from Green Councillor Charlie Bolton, Bristol City Council committed to ending Council investment in fossil fuels back in 2015. Since then, Green councillors have been tirelessly working to make this a reality and calling for the Council to use it’s influence to push for further divestment from it’s partners.
- Greens want the Council to use its influence, so that council employees’ pensions no longer fund fossil fuel companies. To do this, the multibillion-pound Brunel Pension Partnership must pull investments out of fossil fuel sectors and invest instead in green technologies. Green Councillor Martin Fodor moved a motion proposing divestment action and investment into green technologies that was supported by UNISON, Bristol council’s largest union, but Labour and Conservative councillors voted to block divestment action.
- Councillor Carla Denyer led a successful multi-year campaign as an activist, councillor and representative on University of Bristol Court which saw the University commit to divest its huge endowment fund away from fossil fuel companies.
Climate Emergency budget
- In the 2020 budget, Greens proposed millions of pounds for action to tackle the climate emergency. The Green amendment contained a £10m programme for insulation and renewable energy for council housing and over £12m for walking and cycling schemes and public transport. It proposed a congestion charge to take cars off the streets, tackle air pollution and raise £6m or more each year for public transport improvements. The Labour group voted the bulk of the amendment down.
- However the revenue section of the amendment did pass. This will provide £30K in funding for plans for a charge on companies that provide private workplace parking (a workplace parking levy), a policy which could generate millions of pounds per year for transport improvements and reduce city centre car traffic. The meeting also approved the Greens’ proposal to invest £100K on training council staff and apprentices to install green technologies such as heat pumps, a vital skill to prepare for the future economy.
Environment and Ecological emergency
- As well as leading Bristol to declare a Climate Emergency, Greens support action on the related Ecological Emergency. Councillor Carla Denyer published a piece calling for recognition of this emergency before the Council declared an Ecological Emergency in January 2020.
- After local residents raised concerns, Clifton Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke put up warning signs and roped off an area of Ashton court to help prevent dog-walkers from disturbing the nesting area of local skylarks.
- Around the city, Green councillors have supported environmentalists and residents seeking to protect local trees from being felled by developers. Councillors Jude English and Cleo Lake supported campaigners fighting to protect a row of maple trees on Lower Ashley Road in St Paul’s. Green Councillor Clive Stevens, former chair of Bristol Tree Forum, fought against the Labour administration’s proposals to cut tree maintenance budgets by 78% and cease new tree planting, and persuaded the Mayor to reverse a decision to cease new tree planting.
- Green Councillor Martin Fodor lobbied the Council to implement a ban on single use plastics, creating a petition that got over 35000 signatures and sparked a council debate. Following this the Council changed its events policies to crack down on plastic waste and also introduced a charge for using disposable single-use coffee at council cafes, after a Lib Dem motion passed that was supported and co-sponsored by Greens.
- Despite Marvin Rees’ 2016 manifesto committing to stop using harmful pesticides, Bristol Council has not yet phased out use of the toxic pesticide glyphosate. Green Councillors have pushed for more information on the council’s pesticide policies and backed calls for glyphosate usage to be reduced across the city, believing it should only be used in extreme cases where no alternative would work.
Improving Council services – the budget
At annual council budgets Greens have successfully proposed budget amendments that have passed. These will improve services and save the Council hundreds of thousands of pounds each year, including:
Unfortunately the Labour administration has a majority at the council and has often voted with Conservatives or Lib Dems to block Green budget proposals. These are some of the ideas that could have passed:
- £12.5 million in funding to improve Bristol’s parks and make residential streets safer and healthier. This would have been spent over four years across the city – half on upgrading Bristol’s parks and green spaces and half on schemes to promote more liveable neighbourhoods to tackle pressures from Bristol’s growing population and congestion. These could include changes to make residential streets safer and healthier by improving walking and cycling, and curb ‘rat running’ from through traffic.
- Over £50 million in funding to improve, maintain and build more council homes. This proposal would have increased council housing rents by 1% plus inflation – an increase of just 87 pence per week from where rents were in 2015. This would have boosted the Council’s housing budget by £8.5m over the next 5 years, or £51m over the Council’s 30-year housing plan. Officers estimated that for 50-65% of tenants the rent increase would be covered by existing benefits such as Housing Benefit, so wouldn’t cost the tenant anything. As well as repairs the funding increase would have supported better insulation and energy efficiency, reducing the cost of living for existing tenants and tackling climate change.
- Increased allowances for foster carers – funded by scrapping City Hall perks. This amendment would have raised £130K to increase foster carer’s allowances. It would have been paid for by scrapping the free parking provided at City Hall for councillors and senior council officers and by a cut of £100K from the Mayor’s office, which had increased in cost by over £140K.
- £6+ million increased funding for Bristol’s buses, at no extra cost to Bristol taxpayers. This would have raised £6.5m to improve buses in Bristol, funded through a congestion charge on out-of-town drivers coming into the city. The funding could have made buses more affordable, improved reliability, speed and numbers of routes.
- Over £8 million for cycling and walking improvements. Bristol Council relies on small government grants for cycle path funding, instead of committing funds every year for infrastructure. This has resulted in short and disconnected cycle paths around the city. This amendment would have set aside £8.75 million over five years, to guarantee delivery of key walking and cycling projects outlined in the Council’s plan.
Fighting for clean air
- Finally in 2021, after missing more government deadlines, the administration unveiled a business plan for a charging Clean Air Zone. Unfortunately due to repeated delays and changes to the plan, Bristol is poorly prepared for the introduction of this Clean Air Zone. Businesses and residents still face uncertainty about what support will be available to them, and residential streets on the zone’s border risk becoming unofficial park and rides because the Council has refused to implement local residents’ parking schemes. The Council has failed to improve alternative forms of transport to make up for the impact of this zone – Greens want to prioritise cheaper, fast buses and safe and convenient cycling routes so it’s easy for people to get into town without driving.
- Background: In November 2016, Full Council voted to approve a Green motion calling for a clean air zone to sort out Bristol’s dirty and illegal air. Air pollution contributes to over 200 deaths in Bristol every year. Following this success, Green Cabinet Member Fi Hance started work on a clean air zone for Bristol, before the Mayor disbanded his cross-party Cabinet. Over 4 years later, and the Mayor still has not delivered on his manifesto promise for a Clean Air Zone. The Mayor has repeatedly missed government deadlines, delayed plans for a Clean Air Zone and spent millions of pounds on consultants.
- At every stage, Greens have held the administration to account for its inaction and delays. In 2020 the Mayor went back to the drawing board and Green Councillors pointed out the flaws in those plans, which were complicated, unpopular and unworkable. Due to this they were rejected by the government and the Council was forced to go back to the original proposals the Mayor had rejected.
- Greens worked with local campaigners to successfully challenge and block the development of polluting generators in residential areas. This includes the Avonbank standby biodiesel generator, and plans for first a biodiesel, and then gas plant in St Phillips that would have been metres away from a local nursery.
- Greens collaborated with Labour on a motion to tackle air pollution from wood-burners. Evidence suggests even ‘clean’ wood burning stoves and heaters produce dangerous levels of particulates both inside and outside houses, impacting on urban air quality. A motion moved by Labour councillors proposed lobbying the government for action – Green councillor Martin Fodor added a list of practical actions the council could take in the meantime. Party group leaders and the Mayor were then due to meet to discuss the proposals and agree on the next steps but nobody from the Labour group or the Mayor’s office attended the meeting.
- Greens opposed the Mayor’s decision to cancel the proposed arena at Temple Island. Councillors scrutinised the secretive process behind the Mayor’s decision and ensured there was public debate and discussion of the plans by calling a special Council meeting on the issue. In that meeting the Mayor and Labour group voted that ‘Temple Island is the best site for an arena’ – the next day the Mayor went forward with scrapping the arena.
- Following this, Green Councillors challenged the Mayor’s deal with the financial services company, Legal & General L&G, which amounts to an expensive giveaway to the private sector of valuable public land on Temple Island. Councillor Paula O’Rourke fought for proper examination of the proposals and ensured that the cabinet decision was delayed so that there could be more scrutiny sessions on the details.
Transparency, democracy & scrutiny
- Green councillor Clive Stevens has improved scrutiny at the council. He chaired the council’s Budget Task and Finish Group for two years, and the task group is now considered an example of ‘best practice’ nationally. Councillor Stevens has raised standards across the Council by challenging council departments on good practice, leading to better evidenced and more consistent reports at meetings.
- Green councillors have challenged excessive secrecy at the Council, getting reports released, insisting on key decisions taking place transparently, and investigating when they aren’t. Scrutiny by Green councillors exposed the scandal around the Mayor’s secret ‘pay off’ of former Chief exec Anna Klonowski. Councillor Clive Stevens produced a report on this informed by weeks of research in order to ensure the Council did not repeat the same mistakes. Greens have ensured reports were made available and facilitated public debate on important city decisions such as Bristol arena.
- Councillor Stevens also found that Bristol Council was hiding £5 million in cuts to the special needs budget from councillors in its budget, falsely portraying it as a budget increase. The Council’s cuts to SEND were later ruled illegal by a judge and the Mayor was forced to U-turn.
- Green Councillors spent years asking for more information and better scrutiny of Bristol Energy, ahead of the council owned company being sold off in 2020. The failing company spent £36 million of tax-payers money. Green councillors opposed the lack of transparency and secrecy throughout the years leading up to this. Greens also led calls for an external auditor to start an inquiry into what went wrong.
- Green Councillor Clive Stevens raised concerns back in 2018 about cost increases on the project to refurbish Bristol Beacon (formerly Colston Hall), then set to cost £49 million. Clive’s concerns were ignored by the Labour administration but by 2021 the project cost was revealed to have more than doubled to over £100 million. The Beacon is not scheduled to open until 2023.
- At scrutiny and other council forums Green Councillors have repeatedly raised concerns over the undemocratic and unaccountable nature of the Mayor’s One City project. Greens support working with city partners but believe important city decisions should be taken transparently by elected representatives, not bodies appointed by the Mayor which do not hold public meetings.
- In order to let people lead on the Climate Emergency and improve engagement with local democracy, Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke proposed a motion for Bristol Council to set up citizens’ assemblies, with a trial assembly on climate change. The motion passed successfully and Paula then worked with the administration to make it happen. During the early months of 2021 the Council ran three citizens assemblies to set Bristol’s priorities in recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The participants were carefully selected to reflect the different demographics of the population and the assemblies looked at three topics: climate change and housing, transport, and health and social care.
- The Assembly’s final recommendations set bold and challenging targets for the Council on the environment, transport and public health which the council has said will be incorporated into its departments’ targets. They include calls to urgently reduce air pollution levels, to create liveable neighbourhoods, create financing options to support homeowners and landlords to make their properties energy efficient, and for the Council to create a set of tiered ‘Bristol standards’ on energy efficiency for buildings. Greens will keep up the pressure to ensure they are acted on and not ignored.
Opposing Labour’s austerity programme in Bristol
- Greens campaigned with renters union ACORN against the Mayor’s plan to cut Council Tax Support, which would have been a huge tax hike on the poorest and most vulnerable in the city. Greens found the Mayor’s consultation was potentially illegal. The Mayor U-turned.
- Greens campaigned against Labour’s plans to cut libraries and parks budgets. After this Labour kept libraries open and scaled back the planned cuts to parks, which would have decimated the service.
- Greens have called on Bristol to unite the UK’s core cities to take the fight to central government on austerity, and if need be refusing to pass cuts budgets together as a united front. The administration refused to commit to this.
- Greens amended Council budgets to prevent the worst cuts to essential Council services. For example, in 2018 Councillor Carla Denyer secured funding to partially reverse Labour’s damaging cuts to the vital Local Crisis Prevention Fund, which provides emergency payments for some of the most vulnerable people in the city.
- Green Group leader Eleanor Combley has repeatedly lobbied the government to end local government cuts, writing a letter to the Prime Minister. In 2018 she visited the Treasury with Green MP Caroline Lucas to hand in a letter calling for an end to austerity.
Fighting for social justice and decolonisation
- Councillor Cleo Lake has been working with community groups calling on Bristol to lead the way by facing up to its involvement in African enslavement. Between 1689-1807 Bristol ships, funded by Bristol merchants, carried 500,000 enslaved people from Africa into forced labour overseas. Many people died on the ships, and those who survived were branded, separated from family and deprived of their humanity and culture. In the 1730s about 40% of Bristol’s wealth came from this inhumane trafficking of people – and the impacts on our city can still be seen today in the rife inequalities of wealth, power and opportunity.
- Following collaboration between Green Councillor Cleo Lake, local campaigners and Bristol’s deputy mayor, Bristol Council passed a motion in March 2021 to lobby the government to set up a commission on reparations – the first major city in the UK to pass such a motion. The motion calls on the Mayor and Council to support a ‘reparations plan for Bristol’ developed by African heritage communities, and to lobby the government to set up a national All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on the issue.
- Councillor Cleo Lake led calls for justice for race relations advisor Judah Adunbi, tasered by police outside his own home. She has continued to campaign against police misuse of tasers. She challenged the city’s celebration of its colonial past through the Countering Colston campaign and as Lord Mayor she removed a portrait of slave trader Edward Colston from her office in 2018.
- Councillor Fi Hance supported the parents of disabled students, following up on their concerns about large inaccurate bills for home to school transport. As a result the mistake was rectified and the Council wrote to each family to apologise.
- Green councillors campaigned for an end to immigration detention, calling on Bristol’s Mayor to endorse the ‘These Walls Must Fall’ Campaign, lobby the UK government, and work with local MPs to push for changes in immigration law and alternatives to detention.
- Green councillors proposed and passed a motion which saw the Mayor commit to supporting the Votes at 16 Campaign and the council commit to explore ways of lowering the voting age in local elections.
- Green councillors support the Youth Strike for Climate and have supported Youth Strikers in attending council meetings and questioning the administration. Green MP Caroline Lucas also supported the strikers in her visit to Bristol in May 2019.
- Existing music venues shouldn’t be forced to shut down by noise complaints if new housing developments are built nearby. Green Councillors lobbied the Council to adopt the ‘agent of change’ planning policy which would protect music venues by putting the onus for soundproofing on new residential developments built near an existing music venue. Similarly, if a music venue opens in a residential area, it too would be responsible for complying with residential requirements. Following pressure from Greens and campaigners from music venues, the council’s policies were updated to include this principle.
- Festivals and outdoor events are an important part of what makes Bristol a great city to live in – Green councillors like Martin Fodor have challenged the Labour administration’s cuts to festival funding and steep increases in events fees and charges, which has sadly made it much harder for festivals (particularly smaller independent ones) to operate in the city. Councillor Fodor has also challenged the way Council funding during the pandemic has favoured protecting large venues and organisations at the expense of smaller and independent performers, creatives and suppliers.
- Green councillors have created a plan for better buses which would raise at least £6 million each year to improve bus services in the city and could make them faster, cheaper and more frequent. This would be funded by a congestion charge for out of town drivers, therefore also tackling congestion, the number 1 cause of bus delays. Other positive knock on effects of this would be improving air quality and cycling. This has been moved as a budget amendment twice but was voted down by Labour and Tory councillors.
- The Council approved a budget amendment by Greens that would restart council plans for a charge on companies that provide private workplace parking (a workplace parking levy), a policy which could generate millions of pounds per year for transport improvements and reduce city centre car traffic.
- Councillors have represented their residents’ calls to retain 20mph speed limits (which were being reviewed by the Mayor). Greens backed a campaign to keep the limits and following strong public support in the 20mph consultation the administration backed down from threats to end the scheme.
- Green councillors have pressed for local road safety measures, but these have been much delayed. For example in November 2019 Green Councillors for Redland Fi Hance and Martin Fodor secured funding approval for a new road crossing on Cranbrook road, an unsafe area used for school journeys where a child had previously been hit by a car.
- Green councillors believe buses should be municipally owned and operated in the interests of local residents, not shareholders. Greens supported demands by campaigners such as ACORN that buses in the region should be taken over by a worker-led buyout or a franchising arrangement.
- Green councillors have been persistently lobbying the Mayor to act on the increasingly dangerous parking situation in some parts of the city, which could prevent emergency vehicles getting to people’s homes in time. After repeated pressure from councillors the Mayor has allowed consultations on parking in small areas of the city but has not responded to the views of residents once expressed.
- Green Councillors support enforcing a ban on pavement parking which makes getting around difficult and dangerous for people with small children or those with disabilities. This was in the current Mayor’s manifesto but he has done nothing to address it in his term. Green work also included making a submission to the House of Commons Inquiry into pavement parking, calling for local controls to be allowed.
Urban environment & planning
- Green councillors Charlie Bolton and Steve Clarke repeatedly lobbied the administration in 2018 over the deadline on repairs to the damaged ‘chocolate path’ on Spike Island. Council reports in that year subsequently warned that further damage and cost would be caused if the Council failed to act soon. Unfortunately the administration did not prioritise repairs and in 2020 the path collapsed entirely, compromising the safety of Cumberland road itself and forcing its closure, placing increased stress on Bristol’s congested roads.
- Bristol really needs more affordable and social housing but tall tower blocks aren’t always the best way to do this and can come with a unique set of problems, including a higher carbon footprint. Greens have challenged the Mayor’s preference for tall buildings based on ‘ambition’ and presented the administration with evidence that lower height buildings can actually house more people and have a better impact on the local area.
- Commercial billboards are distracting, ugly and may be harmful to people’s mental health. Greens have successfully challenged applications for new billboards around Bristol. Following pressure from Green Councillor Carla Denyer and anti-advertising campaigners, Bristol Council updated its advertising policy in March 2021 to include a ban on ads for junk food, alcohol, gambling, and adverts in parks.
Green Councillors have called for a planning ban on new advertising billboards in Bristol, as cities like Grenoble and Sao Paulo have done, but the Labour administration refused to back this.
- Unrestricted growth in university expansion and student numbers has been disruptive to neighbourhoods in some parts of Bristol and exacerbated the City’s housing crisis, further pushing up prices. Greens have worked with other parties on the Council to create new housing policies which restrict the number of new Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in areas of the city and set higher standards for room sizes, sound insulation and bin and bike storage.
- Greens support pedestrianising more parts of the city centre to improve air quality and create places that are a pleasure to be in. Related to this, Greens successfully campaigned for the Council to drop large fees for businesses trying to do the right thing by trading outdoors during the pandemic. Instead of daily fees adding up to approx. £7000 per year, the council will instead request a yearly charge of just £100 for businesses that trade in suspended parking bays.
- Public space should be for everyone – Councillor Martin Fodor has challenged the Council over the policies around ‘quasi-public’ spaces such as Cabot Circus, where private management can enforce rules against peaceful protest, photography, busking and homeless people.
- Green councillors support the Liveable Neighbourhoods campaigns to unlock the potential of Bristol’s local streets and public spaces and make them more vibrant, healthier and pleasant places.
- An accessible route around the Downs for those walking and cycling is being planned following work from Green councillors and local cycling groups. Clifton’s Green councillors Paula O’Rourke and Jerome Thomas helped put the proposal for the new ‘Downs Loop’ together. It will provide a safe path off the road for families, children learning to cycle and people with impaired mobility to enjoy the Downs.
- Green Councillors challenged and helped to defeat a planning application for a massive city centre car park at Cabot circus. It would have greatly increased traffic and air pollution in central Bristol.
- Green Councilor Carla Denyer took telecoms giant Openreach to task, securing a commitment for them to change and enforce their practices. Councillor Denyer raised concerns about the internet being shut off for maintenance without warning and new telegraph poles blocking pavements, making it hard for wheelchairs and buggies to pass. Openreach have now agreed to change their policies to prevent disruption in the future.
- Councillors influenced the drafting of a new local plan, including pushing for climate policies such as energy saving developments to be higher priority, and for guidance on Houses of Multiple Occupancy. Work continues to ensure that all policies in the council reflect the fact that the Council has declared a climate emergency.
Existing music venues shouldn’t be forced to shut down by noise complaints if new housing developments are built nearby. Green Councillors lobbied the Council to adopt the ‘agent of change’ planning policy which would protect music venues by putting the onus for soundproofing on new residential developments built near an existing music venue. Similarly, if a music venue opens in a residential area, it too would be responsible for complying with residential requirements. Following pressure from Greens and campaigners from music venues, the council’s policies were updated to include this principle.