At last month’s Labour party conference, Bristol’s Mayor, Marvin Rees, outlined his ‘Bristol plan’ to see more involvement from the voluntary sector in the way the city is run and in the way we tackle key issues such as homelessness and inequality. This will flow from the recent creation of his first ‘Bristol Office’, made up of 75 leaders from across the city.
At Core Insights, we’re all about helping you assess social impact, so we thought we’d take a quick look at what Rees’ conference speech and the actions that followed it could impact the charity/voluntary sector in Bristol.
Rees began his speech by pointing out the Bristolian juxtaposition of great prosperity, thriving arts and cultural sectors on one hand, but great poverty and destitution on the other. We heard that Bristol has “42 areas among the 10% most deprived in England”, and that “16% of our residents live in deprivation”. These facts will be well known to organisations in the voluntary sector, working to impact the city, but what does Rees plan to do about them?
Perhaps the key takeaway for us was this: “Our city government has for too long seen itself as a provider of services rather than what we are, an enabling organisation, a force to bring the city together”. Clearly Rees is looking for increased cooperation, and to see increased synergy in the way our city works. Rees said that he “will lead the city for every citizen and build a city where nobody is left behind… where social mobility rather than immobility is the norm and educational outcomes and employment opportunities are not determined by parental background.”
The Mayor has previously underlined the link that he sees between poor housing and high levels of homelessness and so in his speech he restated his aim to build 2000 homes a year by 2020, with at least 800 affordable”. Housing alone, however, cannot ease the deeply entrenched inequalities in our city by itself so what was his plan, and how will it impact the voluntary sector?
Rees’ big idea was his ‘Bristol plan’, an idea that he says is “for the whole city, that all partners invest in and help to deliver, collectively. To take a strategic approach to the city's priorities.” This began to manifest itself as Rees later unveiled his first ‘City Office’ comprised of leaders from business, education, health and of course the voluntary sector in Bristol. Homelessness is a key first issue for the office, with David Ingerslev of St Mungos, saying “ If you bring together people who have overlaps with their areas of responsibility and power then you’ve got an opportunity to make a real difference and people will want to do that everywhere”. With this issue first on the agenda, only time will tell how the office will work to impact other areas of inequality in Bristol.
This co-operative approach is vital to how we work at Core Insights as we look to help charities and CICs provide sustainable services that will have a great social impact on our city.
At a time when Bristol City Council are having to make more and more cuts, any increase in funding to the voluntary sector seems somewhat distant. What Rees’ speech and subsequent actions do suggest, however, is a desire to champion such organisations and to enable them to maximise their impact through co-operation with local authorities.