Lib Dems demand Bristol schools are given the resources to teach

Following a meeting with Cotham School, James Cox has called for school funding to be reinstated and has called for a fundamental change in the culture around schools and teachers. 

Cotham School has seen a projected £1.5 million cut in real terms from 2015-2019, equating to a £409 cut in yearly per-pupil funding. This cut to funding is broadly in line with what is being seen across the city of Bristol, which has received a £71.2 million cut in real terms funding since the Conservative government was formed in 2015. 

Liberal Democrats protected per-pupil funding in real terms during the coalition government, including introducing the pupil premium boosting protected funding for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The real terms cuts to schools, however, has put incredible pressure on local school budgets, with Cotham School worried that they will need to follow others schools and reach out to parents and others for fund basic provisions. 

The Liberal Democrats have proposed not only a return to 2015 real terms levels of per-pupil funding but also a radical change in the culture of teaching. Proposals include replacing Ofsted with a new HM Inspector of Schools which focuses as much on the culture of the school and on teacher and student wellbeing as well as academic attainment. They have also proposed banning league tables, publishing instead a broader range of data so parents get a better feel for the school, like survey feedback or comments from other school leaders on the quality of pastoral care or the breadth of subjects they offer. 

James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

"It was great to meet with staff at the school and see the brilliant work they are doing in spite of continued budgetary pressures from this Conservative government. Since Liberal Democrats left government, we have seen year on year cuts to per-pupil spending with the government expecting more from teachers whilst providing them with less.

"Our schools should be teaching and inspiring the next generation of Bristolians. They should not be worrying about having to set up Amazon wish-lists or another fundraising idea so they can afford the very basic learning supplies. They should not need to worry about a toxic culture which is decimating the teaching industry and harming student experiences.

"Liberal Democrats demand better for schools in Bristol. We are fighting for a schools system that is fully funded and gives teachers the freedom and power to do what’s best for students.

'Remain voters must unite' as Change UK launch Euro Campaign in Bristol

'Remain voters must unite' as Change UK launch Euro Campaign in Bristol

Change UK - The Independent Group is today launching its campaign for the European Parliamentary elections at We the Curious in Bristol. 

It follows the surprise announcement of South West MEP Julie Girling, who very recently joined the Independent Group, who said she would not be standing for Change UK and has urged Bristol voters to back parties with "a clear pro second referendum pledge."

Responding to the launch, Stephen Williams, the former Bristol West MP and Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Candidate for South West England, said:

"Change UK should follow the lead of Julie Girling and not stand candidates in the Euro elections to maximise the chances of existing hard Remain parties winning MEPs. If they stand, the beneficiaries will be the Tories and Labour, both of whom want Brexit, albeit in different versions. 

"Remain voters must unite in order to defeat Brexit parties at this election. The Liberal Democrats have more members, the strongest infrastructure and most elected representatives of any pro-Remain party. We are proudly the party of Remain and we urge voters in Bristol and across the South West to back us to defeat Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party."

39% of jobs in Bristol at risk to automation

A report released today by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that 39% of jobs in Bristol are at risk of having some or all of their tasks automated.

The report shows that almost 1 in 20 jobs are at high risk of being automated, around 8,959 jobs in the city. The figures show a huge disparity in risk depending on gender and age. The ONS analysis shows that 70.2% of the roles at high risk of automation are currently held by women. In addition, people aged 20 to 24 years are most likely to be at risk of having their job automated, when compared with other age groups.

Jobs most at risk from automation include elementary jobs (waiters and waitresses, shelf fillers and bar staff), processing jobs (sewing machinists, tyre and exhaust fitters, weighers, graders and sorters), retail staff, and even skilled trade occupations like florists face an almost two thirds of roles being automated.

James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

"It is deeply worrying that whilst the Conservative Party plunges the country into a Brexit crisis, millions of jobs across the country and thousands of jobs in Bristol are at risk of being replaced by automation.

"Young people are once again the biggest victims of the generational divide as the jobs they've worked hard to get today may disappear tomorrow. Women are also disproportionately placed to be negatively impacted. Technological progress cannot and should not be stopped, but the government has got to confront the issue now so that every generation, gender and part of the country can feel the benefit of that progress.

"Liberal Democrats are calling for all businesses employing over 250 people to start developing plans to support those staff who are most vulnerable to automation. I will be inviting companies in Bristol West to meet with me so we can ensure that this planning takes place. We are also demanding that the government grant £9,000 to every adult over their lifetime to fund lifelong learning and reeducation."

Mary Page Selected as Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate

Mary Page selected as Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate

The Liberal Democrats have selected Mary Page as their candidate for the Bristol Mayoral elections in 2020.

Mary Page is a Public Relations & Brand Communications specialist with extensive experience in driving effective multi-sector corporate partnership engagement strategies. Mary has lived in Bristol for twelve years, currently living in Stoke Bishop.

Mary has been a strong critic of the Mayor and the Mayoral system and has committed to holding a public vote on whether or not to abolish the Mayoral system. Also key to her platform is tackling air pollution in Bristol, to address the rising numbers of homeless people in our city and to introduce London-style bus franchising to Bristol.

Responding to her selection, Mary Page said:

"We have seen the current Mayor preside over the local non-delivery of things like the Bristol Arena, a clean air zone, and his own promise to cut the cost of senior management in the Council.

"I'm standing for Mayor because I believe we can do things differently. The Liberal Democrats offer hope, creativity and innovation to Bristol. Our campaign to rid us of the Mayor does that, our fight against dodgy payoffs in the council and to cut the spiralling cost of the Mayor’s staff reinforces that.

"The people of Bristol deserve a Mayor who hasn't forgotten how to be one of them. Someone who knows that £95,000 for the Mayor's chief of staff is nearly four years wages to the average person.

"The Mayor has had three years to tackle the problems in our city and he has failed to act. Air pollution still at illegal levels and causing hundreds of deaths every year, a public transport system the public has lost faith in with no plan to fix it, and the human tragedy of growing numbers of rough sleepers dying on the streets of Bristol. We need a Mayor whose number one priority is fixing those problems.

"Liberal Democrats demand better for Bristol. I believe this is a city of entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives who are being let down time and time again. My campaign will focus on healing the divisions in this city, offering real change and delivering opportunity for every Bristolian. If you get frustrated or angry with the Mayor, remember it doesn't have to be this way. We can change Bristol together."

Bristol Rovers showing the way on mental health issues

Following a meeting with Bristol Rovers Community Trust, James Cox has praised the organisation's community work on mental health issues and urged more people suffering from mental ill health to engage with their programmes.

Bristol Rovers Community Trust, who won the 2018 Bristol Life charity award, have been working with the NHS over the last eighteen months to encourage people suffering from mental ill health with their 'recovery through sports' programme.

The Trust put on a talk by former coaches and players which was attended by over 200 people. Every Thursday, the Trust hosts around 30 young people in an open football session with an emphasis in talking about and understanding how to deal with their mental health.

James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

"It was an honour to meet with Bristol Rovers Community Trust today to learn more about the incredible work they're doing in the community, particularly in engaging and promoting mental health issues.

"There is such scope with football and sports to engage people who otherwise wouldn't normally talk about their mental health. I'm thrilled the Trust are taking such a lead on mental health issues, reaching audiences that politicians, charities and health professionals are just simply unable to reach. 

"I would urge every young person whether they feel they suffer from mental ill health or not to engage with these programmes. Not only can it help to break the stigma around mental health, but it is a great way to deal with some of the issues around it. Football encourages social inclusion, physical health and improving mental health. I'm excited to see where it can go next and in being a part of it."

Hydrogen on the move in Bristol

Lib Dem councillors today welcomed a prototype hydrogen fuelled car on display in Bristol. Hydrogen was one small component of the Lib Dem fundamental changes to all services in Bristol while the Lib Dems were achieving the city’s status as European green capital.

While pressing for the introduction of clean energy transport generally in the city, the Lib Dem administration pioneered hydrogen as a fuel and built a hydrogen fuelled ferry boat to show its merit.

Cllr Anthony Negus, Bristol Lib Dem Group leader, said:

"The Lib Dems trialled renewably generated hydrogen by hydrolysis from our Avonmouth wind turbines during their low night-time demand periods. This almost free power would otherwise have gone to much less efficient battery storage. Though improving, batteries are not so efficient or convenient with much of their rare components and technology being controlled abroad.

"The economical hydrogen fuel can be easily transported, stored in fuel stations and pumped like petrol. We were in the process of making applications for grants to the EU for rolling out a hydrogen infrastructure, against discouragement from transport officers. This was not pursued under Mayor Ferguson despite Lib Dem entreaties.

"The technology of the demonstration vehicle is interesting but it is the cleanliness, cost and sustainability of hydrogen as a fuel which continues to attract the Lib Dems. It is particularly suitable for goods vehicles where adequate batteries are still too expensive and under-developed. Hydrogen technology has greatly developed but needs to be taken seriously as a component of overcoming our energy, carbon and clean air issues in Bristol. Lib Dems are proud of our efforts in highlighting this opportunity and continue our interest and vigilance in seeking new solutions.

More than one homeless death in Bristol a month

Figures released this morning show that of the 597 homeless deaths in 2017, Bristol is the third worst affected with 17 deaths in the year, averaging over one death a month.

Bristol, as a local authority, was beaten by only Manchester and Birmingham. It marks a steady increase in recorded homeless deaths in Bristol, up from 13 in 2014. The figures have shown a disproportionate amount of deaths in urban areas.

James Cox and the Liberal Democrats have been leading a campaign locally for end of life care to be given to terminally ill homeless people, including a right to housing and social care.

Responding to the figures, James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

“The fact that in a city like Bristol, 17 people died on our streets in a year is a disgrace and one we all need to take responsibility for.

“The homelessness crisis in Bristol has reached epidemic levels, and we are at the stage where more than once a month another homeless person dies on the streets we walk down. There is so much more we can do to help and there is no excuse for not doing it.

“Liberal Democrats demand better. The government has got to give councils like Bristol the ability to build thousands of new homes every year so people don’t end up living on the street. We’ve got to stop fining and arresting homeless people by scrapping the Vagrancy Act and we've got to make dignity in death a right for terminal homeless people, giving them somewhere to live in their final months. “

Bristol Lib Dems propose radical transport agenda

Bristol Lib Dems propose a £40m change to Mayor’s budget, prioritising public transport and cutting congestion and air pollution.

The Mayor’s budget faces several amendments but the boldest is the one from the Liberal Democrats, looking to invest nearly £40M extra into measures to improve sustainable transport, reduce congestion and cut air pollution in Bristol.

The proposal is slightly smaller than the Liberal Democrats’ record-breaking amendment last year. It pledges a huge investment in creating a major fund to support initiatives encouraging bus, cycling and sustainable transport use. It is being earmarked as a means to accelerate progress on several projects including park and rides, dedicated cycleways, rail, and a major Metro Bus expansion. It will not be available for road expansion or road building projects.

It also offers a new youth travel card service for passengers in Bristol up to 25 years old. This would extend the current 30% discount across all participating bus companies, currently available only to under-21s on First buses. The Liberal Democrats are aiming to encourage more young people to use the bus rather than personal cars.

The Liberal Democrats are also calling for the council to put their weight behind a London-style bus franchising system for Bristol. The campaign ‘Take Control of Bristol’s Buses’ has already over 3,000 signatures and is expected to be brought before the council soon. The fund would provide for Bristol’s streets and pavements to be kept clear and safer to improve this and encourage pedestrian use.

Last year the Liberal Democrats proposed over £50M of changes to the mayors budget seeing more investment in libraries and parks paid for from extra tax receipts from developers. The motion was backed by other parties but Labour used their majority to vote it down. Nevertheless, throughout this year they have put extra funding back into parks and libraries and adopted the extra tax receipts from developers as the Lib Dems proposed. Why won’t they accept sensible proposals?

Cllr Anthony Negus, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Bristol City Council, said:

“Improving transport, reducing the city's congestion and cleaning up air pollution is the top priority for Bristolians, but we have seen little real action from the Mayor on any of these.

“That is why our budget proposes a step change – encouraging young people to use buses rather than cars, campaigning for a franchise scheme in Bristol to ensure our buses are run for the public good and creating an investment fund to get big projects underway for bus, rail and cycling so we can provide decent alternatives to congested traffic everyday.”

Cllr Tim Kent, Bristol Lib Dems Finance Spokesperson, said:

“We have made positive and bold suggestions once again identifying funding not used by the Mayor which we can instead invest in our city and people.

“Last year he and Labour councillors voted down our amendment in the chamber ignoring sensible suggestions by other groups only to find themselves dragged into court by local residents and be found to have acted illegally.

“This year we once again offer a practical amendment, which would create a catalyst to attract transport investment. I hope this year Labour councillors will put politics aside and support this sensible opportunity for real improvements.”

Avon & Somerset Police using "discriminative" predictive policing

A report has uncovered that Avon & Somerset are using controversial predictive policing measures including predictive mapping and individual risk assessment programmes. 

The controversial mapping programmes evaluate police data about past crimes and identify "hot spots" of high risk on a map. Police officers are then directed to patrol these areas - which are often communities already experiencing a disproportionate amount of police interventions to the level of crime in that area. 

The use of mapping has been criticised as it perpetuates pre-existing patterns of discrimination. For example, people from BAME communities are disproportionately more likely to be arrested, leading the programme to wrongly assume that the areas in which people from BAME communities live or spend time in are areas where there is more crime. 

Individual risk assessment programmes predict people's behaviour, including whether they are likely to commit or be victims of certain crimes. The programme uses multiple pieces of personal data, including people's names, personal characteristics and postcodes. These methods even involve people being assigned likely characteristics based purely on what their name is.

Liberty, a civil liberties advocacy group which published the report, said Avon & Somerset are using an "alarmingly broad variety of individual risk assessment programmes". They use the algorithm to assess a person's likelihood of re-offending, of perpetrating serious domestic violence or sexual violent offence, of perpetrating a burglary offence and being the victims of these crimes. 

According to Avon and Somerset Police, they use these predictive policing programs to "support the organisation’s assessment of risk at an individual person level"  and that "this technique is required to help understand risk and demand within the massive volumes of data collected on a daily basis"

James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

"Relying on predictive policing based on dubious and discriminative data is both a waste of valuable police resources but undermines communities' trust in police. 

"Predictive policing doesn't offer new insights, it doubles down on a self-fulfilling prophecy that unfairly targets BAME people and communities. This is an attack on our basic civil liberties. A police action based on profiling and pre-criminality puts our rights at risk and cannot be acceptable in a democracy. 

"Liberal Democrats demand better for our police and from our police. If, as reported, these methods are being accelerated because of government cuts, then we need to address that and put in the investment for proper and effective community policing. In the meantime, I am calling on Avon & Somerset police to stop using these discriminative programmes. The information gathered and used must be fully disclosed also with a view to ending the programmes as soon as possible."

Airbus boss criticises 'no deal' Brexit

Today, the boss of Airbus criticised the government’s handling of Brexit as a “disgrace” which meant it still couldn’t plan properly, even with just two months to go. In addition, he warned that Airbus might have to take decisions with the potential to be “very harmful” for the UK.

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