A new strategy sets out priorities for Bristol to build a “renewed economy” in the wake of the pandemic.
Coming as the city faces the biggest financial depression in post-war Britain, the 95-page document put together by One City partners outlines the challenges that have arisen as a result of Covid-19 and opportunities for a more inclusive recovery.
The ongoing impact of the pandemic on businesses has seen Bristol’s unemployment rate more than double to 4.5 per cent from March to August this year, and more than 70,000 people have been furloughed.
With many sectors still in turmoil, the emphasis is on supporting existing businesses to adapt and creating new jobs in growth areas, such as sustainability, to build future resilience. Bristol City Council plans to allocate £10m over the next two years to support the immediate challenges faced.
The strategy states: “Covid-19 has further exposed social and economic challenges and their unequal distribution across Bristol. It has also created new pressures, even reaching into spaces that were thriving, and questioned our resilience.
“The economic crisis we have experienced in 2020 is not over yet, and we must acknowledge the damage that has been caused and prepare for the loss that is still to come. But we hope that this also contains an opportunity for Bristol to build back better together.”
Led by the One City Office, set up by mayor Marvin Rees, some 300 partners contributed to the strategy.
It is designed as a working document to highlight priorities rather than a fully-costed plan and follows a ‘statement of intent’ published in June.
The strategy is built around three pillars; people and labour markets, business and investment and Bristol’s places, and will help shape a more detailed plan of action.
Rees said: “As Bristol faces the deepest economic depression since the 1930s, it is imperative that we work together now to do all we can to keep those working to stay in work, help businesses to stay open, and provide new opportunities for those who are unemployed.
“The scale of the challenge presented by Covid-19 is significant and testing every system in our city. Livelihoods are being devastated. We must support business, promote innovation and work to attract new and established businesses into the city.
“The city’s recovery from Covid-19 must acknowledge that tackling poverty must go hand in hand with improving health and education, reducing inequality, stimulating growth and tackling climate change.”
The mayor added that stimulating the economy with infrastructure and regeneration projects to provide homes and jobs in the city is a must. The strategy sets out details of some of the major plans currently in the pipeline, including the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone near Temple Meads and the mixed-use development of Hengrove Park in south Bristol.
Commenting on the strategy, Sado Jirde, the director of Black South West Network spoke of the importance of putting inclusion at the heart of economic recovery.
“Recovery must include the voices of those too often left out of the design of initiatives developed to help them,” said Jirde.
“To truly build community resilience, reduce income inequality and ultimately achieve any Sustainable Development Goals, community voice must be at the centre of any meaningful recovery strategy to enable these lived experiences to move beyond just being a powerful story, but actually affect real change.”
James Durie, the chief executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce at Business West, said the document aims to build a renewed economy rather than steering the city back to where it was at the start of the year.
“It aims to build a sustainable, carbon neutral and ecologically positive economy,” said Durie. “It aims to build a fair, inclusive economy that supports growth in all our communities. It is closely aligned with the goals of our partners across the West of England, and it is measurable against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. And it is informed by an extensive programme of sector and community engagement.”
He said the next step is to develop an action plan, setting out how to meet priorities, costs and timescale, adding: “We are convinced that together, the city’s economy will not only be recovered but renewed.”
Main photo by Josh Rundle