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 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.”
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."
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.
Help Bristol’s Homeless have given their backing to the campaign to provide housing and end of life care to homeless people who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey presented his Ten-minute rule bill in 2018 on the issue and is due to have its second reading on Friday. The bill will make provisions about end of life care and support for homeless people with terminal illnesses, including through the provision of housing for such people; and for connected purposes, support which is currently inaccessible.
ONS statistics released in December revealed that an estimated 597 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2017, with many dying as a result of long-term fatal illnesses. As a result, the average life expectancy for homeless people is between only 42 and 47.
Jasper Thompson, founder of Help Bristol’s Homeless, said:
“Everyone should be entitled to live out their last weeks and months in a safe and secure place with dignity.
"The homeless community should not have to have the additional worry of how they are going to manage their end of life diagnosis and instead it should be automatic that they are accommodated.”
James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, added:
“It’s great to have Jasper and his team’s support for this vital campaign to ensure that everyone in our community has a right to dignity in death.
“Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is one of the most frightening things a person can go through. Knowing that you will likely spend your final days on the streets alone and in pain must be a terror which is beyond most of our imaginations.
“This is a campaign on dignity that I believe Bristol and the rest of the country can get behind. We are asking the government to make this small change that can make such a huge difference. I’m proud to start it here and I look forward to where it can go.
Ed Davey MP, who introduced the bill, added:
“In the 21st century, it’s a scandal that people are dying on our streets with no home and often in great pain.
“Liberal Democrats demand better. We must change the law so anyone that is terminally ill gets the treatment, the shelter, and the dignity they deserve.”
Following tonight's overwhelming defeat of the government's Brexit bill, James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:
"Parliament has delivered its verdict on the Brexit deal and it is overwhelming. This deal is wrong for Bristol and wrong for Britain.
"The only way forward now is to give the people the final say on the deal through a people's vote with the option to remain in the European Union. Liberal Democrats have been calling for it from day one and we will continue to lead the fight in Parliament, Bristol and the country.
"Our MP and the Labour Party needs to find their backbone, drop their plans to deliver a Labour Brexit and join me and the Liberal Democrats in calling for a People's Vote.
The government has lost by a majority of 230 and a vote of no confidence in the government has been called for Wednesday.
Bristol Liberal Democrats have criticised the City Council's handling of Bristol Energy, after the community energy company posted over £11million in loses for 2018.
Whilst the idea was conceived in 2010 under the Liberal Democrat administration, due to implementation delays under the Ferguson administration it was launched to much fanfare in 2016 by Mayor Rees. The company is funded by taxpayers and has yet to place a profit.
Cllr Tim Kent, Lib Dem Councillor for Hengrove & Whitchurch Park, said:
"This could be the largest financial mess in the history of the council. Possibly dwarfs even the Bundred Report.
"It would appear very unlikely that the tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers loans to the company will ever be repaid.
"Liberal Democrats demand better. It's important to encourage community energy schemes and diversify the energy market, but when you're playing with taxpayers' money, you need to make sure you have a plan to make a profit. We are yet to see that plan."
The Liberal Democrats want to expand community energy schemes, encourage councils to develop community energy saving projects and local electricity generation and promote city-scale demonstration projects in electric vehicles and clean energy and continue to back new entrants to the energy market, aiming for at least 30% of the household market to be supplied by competitors to the ‘Big 6’ by 2022.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has died, aged 77, following a short spell with cancer.
Paddy Ashdown served as MP for Yeovil from 1983-2001, before becoming the UN High Commissioner to Bosnia & Herzegovina. Paddy more than doubled the number of Lib Dem MPs during his time as leader and will be remembered for his integrity, compassion and optimism.
Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat leader, has said:
"He inspired the Liberal Democrats from a polling position he famously described as ‘represented by an asterisk’, to become a formidable campaigning force, doubling the party’s representation to 46 MPs and laying the ground for the strength which later took the party into government."
"He will be sadly missed in all parts of politics and Parliament."
Stephen Williams, former MP for Bristol West and colleagues with Paddy, added:
"This news makes me very sad and tearful. So many memories. At a time when liberalism was on the floor he picked it up, marshalled its forces, gave orders and sent us into battle with so many victories as a result."
James Cox, Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, also added:
"Paddy was a hero. He saved Liberalism in Britain, he stood up for the underdog and won and was one of politics' greatest thinkers. His voice of reassurance, hope and justice is needed now more than ever. Thank you, Paddy, for everything. We will miss you."
Andrew Brown, Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol South, commented:
"The party and the country has lost a statesman, at a time when people of his calibre are in short supply."
On online book of condolence has been set up. Please feel free to add your comments to it: www.libdems.org.uk/book-of-condolence-paddy-ashdown
The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has today announced its intentions to introduce nationwide weekly food waste collections.
The move follows the example of several local authorities, such as Bristol, as a means to increase recycling rates and reduce landfill emissions.
This development has been welcomed by the Bristol Liberal Democrats, who have pointed out the environmental damage and economic cost that has been enforced on the country whilst it waited to follow Bristol's example.
Cllr Gary Hopkins, Deputy Leader of the Bristol Lib Dem Group and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Waste & Environment in 2006, said:
"The Liberal Democrats introduced weekly food waste collection to Bristol in 2006. Many, but not all, councils have since followed, but in those 13 years how many tons of methane, which is 23 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2, have been pumped into our air and how much energy has been wasted producing fertilisers that we have recovered from waste food?"
The Local Government Association warned the plans ‘need to be fully funded’. Latest figures show 248 out of 326 councils in England — 76 per cent — have only fortnightly rubbish collections.
Every year, it is estimated, the UK wastes 10 million tonnes of food with a value of over £17 billion. It is associated with around 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Environmental groups have given their measured support for the scheme but have raised concerns over the perceived reliance on 'voluntary' measures.
Defra has said they will seek to address all raised concerns during the consultation in 2019.
Govt immigration plan 'threatens the heart of Bristol'
The Home Secretary has announced his intentions to cut the number of EU nationals migrating to the UK by 80% as part of the government's post-Brexit immigration shake-up.
The move has been heavily criticised as an extension of the controversial 'hostile environment' toward migrants. The government is expected to publish its long-awaited immigration white paper by the end of the year, which is already set to include a new minimum salary of £30,000 a year.
The plans, as outlined by Bristol-raised Sajid Javid, would see high-skilled migration from the EU fall from 14,000 to 11,000 a year. Meanwhile, medium-skilled migrants are set to plummet from 18,500 to just 4,500 in the government's attempts to reach its own targets.
Responding to the announcement, James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West said:
"To want to actively deter high skilled people from contributing to our country is ridiculous and tells the world that far from opening ourselves up, Britain is closed for business.
"EU nationals, including those who earn less than the arbitrary minimum, work for our digital industries, our NHS, our schools and higher-education sector.
"An immigration system based on ideological prejudice rather than the needs of our communities threatens the heart of Bristol. We are a city which is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.
"Liberal Democrats demand better. Our immigration system should be fair and indicate the ambition that we have for Bristol and for the country. The government hasn't learned the lessons from Windrush and the livelihoods of my constituents are once again being put at risk by the very worst of our politics.