Digital exclusion is real. Whilst we often hear sound bites and read references to inclusion, COVID 19 induced lockdown and ‘home schooling’ has painfully re-exposed inequalities in the starkest way. It has become clear that school children, elders, students and those on a low income are being left behind as important parts of life shift further online.
Green Party Councillor and artist Cleo Lake, who runs dance classes for elders in Bristol, became immediately concerned about all the elders whose clubs and classes were cancelled. Knowing these clubs to be an important life line she considered how she might help fill the void.
Councillor and artist Cleo Lake said:
“I decided to restart the weekly class online, but I was aware that many do not have a smart phone let alone a laptop or computer. These elders would not be able to access the online session until they get support to be online. It was also really hard hearing of elders and friends of mine who had passed away. This made me further reflect on the issue of isolation and how many would not be able to pay their respects via a Zoom funeral. It became something I felt deeply saddened and moved by.”
"children will be failed in this period if they can’t access support and resources"
“At the same time I understood and reflected upon my own privilege. I have a smart phone, laptop and iPad which makes it easy for me to do work from home and for my 10 year old son to study either with the work emailed from school directly or utilising the multitude of education platforms available such as BBC bitesize. I know this isn't the case for everyone and children will be failed in this period if they can’t access support and resources. I also considered the people who would normally rely on public resources like library computers - how are they now getting online?”
Cleo Lake’s concerns led to her pulling support together from Avon Fire & Rescue (Cleo is an Avon Fire Authority Member, Chairing the People & Culture Committee), Bristol Waste and Bristol Computer Reuse. She is launching #GiveNTech - a tech amnesty where unused IT hardware is donated, wiped of data, cleaned, fixed and given to those who need it. The pilot starts next week in-house at Avon Fire & Rescue, appealing to their 800 plus staff network to donate kit. Should more be needed then the campaign will appeal to the public to donate.
Vaughan Jenkins, Area Manager for Avon Fire and Rescue Service said:
“Avon Fire and Rescue Service are proud to support the #GiveNTech #TechAmnesty and we are asking all our staff to donate any unused ICT equipment as we value the importance of reaching out to assist those members of our communities who may be digitally excluded at this time. In the modern age so much information is shared digitally and if anything we can do as a Service can potentially assist a student in their extended studies away from School, College or University or enable an older person to become digitally included then we are only too happy to part of this excellent initiative”.
Bristol Waste were also quick to support. Joanna Dainton, the Reuse coordinator at Bristol Waste said:
“We are proud to play our part in getting unwanted electronic devices to people across the city who desperately need them at this difficult time. Our award-winning Reuse team are delighted to support the #TechAmnesty by PAT testing devices which have been cleansed of data and function tested by Bristol Computer Reuse, as well as helping with the move the items between locations. Our work to find new homes for pre-loved items, saving them from going to waste, and in this case providing essential communication devices to those in need, has never been so vital.”
Founded in 2008, Bristol Computer Reuse created a citywide project with the aim of making affordable desktop computers and laptops available to individuals and families on low incomes or facing other challenges. Co-founder Andrew Town said:
“We want Bristol to be a truly inclusive and connected digital city where everyone who would like a computer at home can have one, regardless of age, income or background. Computers and the internet are a part of everyday life. Access to a home computer helps people stay in touch, connect to public services, improve employment opportunities and encourage further education. If you are not connected we want to help you get your first computer.”
"If Council support for this scheme can be confirmed quickly then it could be scaled up to reach a lot more people in need."
Councillor Lake has reached out to Bristol Council to ask for its support with the scheme. She added:
“Although It has been hard to grasp exactly who is doing what in terms of digital inclusion, I do know that other organisations and charities for example Creative Youth Network have been independently funded to distribute tablets to young people, but cannot meet demand. I have been talking to officers at Bristol City Council to identify what other action is in place and to confirm Council support for the #GiveNTech scheme. If Council support for this scheme can be confirmed quickly then it could be scaled up to reach a lot more people in need.
“It is fantastic that the #GiveNTech project partners have come together to step in and try to support the city to meet demands of getting people tech to get online. One school alone that I am aware of currently need 40 laptops and fear widening inequality gaps should lockdown persist. I have been thinking about the challenge of digital exclusion before now but this period has caused me to take action.
“I am happy that this project also encourages sharing of resources and has a good reuse ethos. Some schools will be able to support students with data and WiFi packages and many are trying to do an audit regarding this, so after we get the kit the next stage will be finding solutions to assist people who cannot afford to get broadband to get online.”
Greens welcome first steps towards addressing Bristol’s dirty air
Green councillors have welcomed the announcement that next week Bristol bridge, Baldwin Street and Union Street will be closed to through traffic and new bike lanes installed along Park Row, Upper Maudlin Street and Marlborough Street. The changes mark much needed first steps towards improving dangerous levels of air pollution in Bristol. They will also help people move safely about our city during the pandemic by making more room for walking and cycling.
Greens respond to Council licensing changes
Bristol’s Green Councillors have expressed solidarity with communities concerned about the loss of Cumulative Impact Areas, and promised to continue to support the residents they represent.
Greens support trans rights protest 18th July
Cleo Lake welcomes new statue on Colston plinth
Bristol’s former Lord Mayor and artist Cleo Lake welcomed the filling of a ‘political vacuum’ in Bristol by a black woman and black lives matter activist.
Mayor has questions to answer on investment in clean energy
Bristol’s Green Councillors say that the Mayor has tough questions to answer about the City Leap project, which was supposed to be delivering funding for clean energy across the City.
Green Budget Amendment creates more space for foster families
The first family is already benefiting from new rooms in a pilot scheme set up by Bristol City Council thanks to Green councillor Martin Fodor’s budget amendment, which pays for extra rooms in cramped council housing. Bristol has a shortage of larger council houses – the waiting list is twice as long as for smaller properties, and families needing larger homes have to wait for around 2 years.
Cleo Lake to ask Mayor to lobby government over reparations
At a Bristol Council meeting on Tuesday 7 July, Green Councillor Cleo Lake, activist and former Lord Mayor, will ask the Mayor to lobby the government to set up a commission to acknowledge, apologise and instigate reparations for the UK’s role in the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Africans.
Clean air is a right not a luxury
“Our right to clean air is as basic and important as our right to clean drinking water. It’s now nearly 4 years since the Council passed a Green motion calling for a Clean Air Zone and yet despite the Council spending millions of pounds on consultants, Bristol is no closer to clean, breathable air. After four years of failure from Marvin Rees to act on clean air, I fully support protesters taking peaceful socially-distanced action to voice their frustration at the city's continuing illegal and unsafe air quality and call on the Mayor to speak with the protesters to explain just how he intends to clean up Bristol's air, with the urgency that is needed."
Good progress on homelessness but MPs must do more nationally
Green councillor and Bristol West MP candidate Carla Denyer has praised staff at Bristol City Council for their work tackling homelessness during lockdown , but highlighted that some more radical changes are still needed to fix the UK’s broken housing system. Councillor Denyer has called on the Government to do all it can to support renters, but has also made a particular plea to local Labour MP and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire to reconsider her party’s proposals , which seem to favour landlords over their tenants.
Green Councillor Carla Denyer named one of the top women in engineering
Green Councillor Carla Denyer has been named as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering for 2020 by the Women’s Engineering Society.
Bristol needs clean air now
As Extinction Rebellion gears up for a week of action and protests around Bristol’s illegal air quality levels, Green Councillors say clean air is now more important than ever. With growing evidence that dirty air exacerbates the impact of coronavirus and growing calls for a nationwide review on the Government’s air quality strategy, Greens say the time for talking is over – immediate action is now needed to clean up Bristol’s dangerous air.
Prevent a second wave of Coronavirus – give Bristol tools to track and trace
As lockdown restrictions are eased in Bristol, early evidence suggests the government’s ‘track and trace’ program is not reaching enough people to be effective.
Let this mark a new era for Bristol
Green Party Councillors in Bristol and the Green mayoral candidate join the voices calling for a new era to begin, now that Colston's statue, and the oppression it represents, no longer looks out over Bristol.
Safe streets needed now
As more people return to work and children return to school it is more important than ever that we have streets that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists and enable social distancing, Bristol’s Green Councillors have said.
Greens of Colour call for independent COVID inquiry to factor in institutional racism
Green Party demands independent BAME Covid-19 inquiry: The Green Party has backed calls for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people. Greens of Colour chairperson Azzees Minott said: “The government’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME people has let communities of colour down.
Tackle rising unemployment with a Green New Deal
Green councillors have been calling for a ‘Green New Deal’ to reboot the economy, provide jobs and tackle the climate crisis. On 2nd June Bristol City Council's Cabinet meeting included the news that the Council is forecasting a funding gap of around £86 million as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is made up of a combination of loss of income and additional expenditure to pay for the response to the emergency. Unemployment is also forecast to rise steeply in coming months.
Bristol's carbon neutral 2030 target essential
Green Councillor Carla Denyer proposed Bristol Council’s original Climate Emergency motion – the first of its kind in Europe – in November 2018. She said: “Hidden away on page 107 is a warning that there is now a high risk of failure to deliver the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. This is very concerning. We cannot afford to lurch from one emergency to another. Some form of Green New Deal is essential to help the city and country to ‘build back better’. A green recovery is the only way to deal with the huge economic challenges while tackling the climate crisis, creating security and leaving behind the inequality that has damaged our society for so long.”
Secrecy and concealment as Bristol Energy loses millions of pounds
Bristol Energy has lost tens of millions of pounds of Council tax payers money, so Greens ask why this week's Cabinet meeting will hold the discussion's on what has gone wrong in secret.
Cleo Lake launches #GiveNTech campaign to tackle digital exclusion
Green Councillor Cleo Lake has launched a campaign to redistribute unused IT equipment to tackle digital exclusion during pandemic
‘Protecting renters’ shouldn’t mean that renters pay more
Green Councillor Carla Denyer has responded with alarm to Labour’s ‘five-point plan to protect renters’, which would require struggling tenants to take an economic hit, rather than landlords.
Trace every case of coronavirus to save lives
Bristol’s Green Party councillors have called for a new local emergency workforce to “contact trace” new cases of coronavirus to be ready for when the country emerges from lockdown. They call for a local system of testing, contact tracing and quarantine which would enable us to take control of the deadly coronavirus, save lives and avoid further lockdown. The call follows a Green report (1) on the issue published earlier in the month and increasing calls from public health officials for Government to rethink its centralized approach which puts too much focus on a tracing app without the wider system of support needed. (2)
“People need clean, safe air now more than ever” - Greens call on Mayor to rethink delays
Bristol’s Green Councillors have questioned the Mayor‘s calls to delay the start date of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone next year, pointing to mounting evidence that air pollution is linked to greater fatalities from Coronavirus
Green Councillors: more funding needed for coronavirus support
Bristol Green councillors have joined Green councillors from across the country demanding urgent funding for local authorities to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Coronavirus: Bristol Greens call for calmer streets and more space for social distancing
Bristol’s Green Councillor group have today (Wednesday April 15) called on Bristol Council to look into road space reallocation and traffic calming measures to combat coronavirus.
Information and support in Bristol
Coronovirus (COVID 19) – what we all need to know We must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home). If you have to go out stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people. Wash your hands as soon as you get home. Do not meet others, even friends or family as you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
We will continue to work hard for you
We have all been affected in different ways by the coronavirus pandemic, but it is the most vulnerable across our city who continue to be impacted the most.
A defunct plan for a bygone era” - regional authority approves road-building plans
Last Friday (20 March) the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) approved a transport plan that will fund new road building projects across the region but commits no funding for public transport or walking and cycling schemes.
Greens: 'lift the ban' on asylum seekers working
Green Councillors call for end to illogical ban on asylum seekers supporting themselves
Council heading in wrong direction on climate emergency
Over a year after Bristol Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, Green Councillors say the Labour administration are making a series of bad decisions that will only make the emergency worse.
Mayor's inaction on air pollution - plans delayed again
Letter on the Mayor's inaction on air pollution from Green Group leader Eleanor Combley