Liberal Democrats passed an emergency motion at their conference which aims to tackle the high rates of self-harm amongst children and young people.
Speaking at the conference, Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson, James Cox said:
"The University of Bristol has built itself a reputation as a world leader in research and higher education, but, tragically, over the last eighteen months, it has acquired a new reputation. It has been described as the "suicide capital of the UK" with an "epidemic" of suicides amongst its students.
"The link between self-harm and suicide is often discussed. For some, it is a way to take control of their pain, for others a cry for help that too often goes unheard. I am living with a mental health condition, but I am lucky that I recognised the signs earlier, sought help and am undergoing treatment. Others, too often tragically, are not so lucky.
"The numbers of young people, particularly young girls and those from the LGBT+ community, who self-harm shows that they are being let down by systems and institutions that are supposed to protect them.
"I am proud of the Lib Dems' commitment to ending injustice in mental health and the focus on self-harm that has been unanimously approved the conference. Our education and healthcare systems must work more closely together in protecting young people and students. Depressive episodes and mental distress are now becoming commonplace on campuses and in schools across the country. With far too many being let down the postcode lottery in our mental health services, schools and universities should be offering counselling and pastoral care to students and staff.
"No young person should be left to suffer in silence. Liberal Democrats demand better for young people and better mental health services."
Bristol City Council voted unanimously to back the Lib Dems' motion to restore funding to the special education needs and disability education budget. The motion follows a high court ruling which determined that the council's proposed cuts to the SEND budget were illegal in a groundbreaking case.
The motion will force the council to come back with a revised funding plan that restores funding to the High Needs Block and to develop an action plan to improve the outcomes for children with SEND throughout Bristol.
Cllr Tim Kent, Bristol Lib Dem Finance Spokesperson and mover of the motion, said:
"In our city, schools have increasingly seen the funding for children reduced. Top up funding has been slashed and that has had a significant negative impact on children and schools.
"I think the cabinet made a catastrophic mistake in January in agreeing to such large cuts to SEND. Let us not fool ourselves we all made that mistake. None of us noticed at the time. Thankfully a small group of parents were more diligent and their action has given us a second chance.
"We should not be here but we are. Parents and children should not have been denied their lawful rights. But they have. Funding should be provided to meet need but it hasn’t. That is the past, that is the present, let us today agree that it will not be the future for children with special education needs and disabilities here in our city.
"I am pleased that the council backed this motion unanimously and I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the Scrutiny Task and Finish group."
The motion also moves the council to endorse the British Dyslexia Association definition of Dyslexia and pledges to engage with Dyslexia Awareness week (1st-7th October) and go green.
The Mayor’s decision to drop the proposal for an Arena at Temple Meads has been blocked by senior councillors who have used their power to ‘call-in’ the decision.
The Mayor had decided to end Bristol’s ambition for an Arena in the city at Temple Meads and instead decided to enter into a commercial relationship with L&G to develop a hotel and housing on the site with a possibility of a conference centre. The decision came after 50 councillors (including the Mayor) had voted the day before that the best site for the Arena was at Temple Meads.
Councillors have the power to call-in a decision of the Mayor which is then sent to a Scrutiny committee for debate. The committee can decide to reject the call in, send it back to the Mayor to decide with advice or send to Full Council for debate and then back to the Mayor.
Cllr Mark Weston, Leader of the Conservative Group said:
“Whilst it is appreciated that this move is likely to cause the Mayor a certain amount of annoyance, it would be remiss of us not to exhaust every avenue available to try to save this project.
“We still believe that the best use for Arena Island is for the much promised Bristol Arena.
“The Mayor himself argued that Arena Island was the best site for an Arena, before he then decided to approve a different scheme on the site.
“In addition, it is now clear that there have been some very obvious flaws in the decision-making process itself, evidenced by the fact that this call-in, submitted in concert with the Lib Dems, has been accepted as valid and grounds for review.
“The Mayor will now have one last chance to revisit and reconsider his actions on this issue, the ramifications of which will impact upon Bristol residents for decades to come.”
Cllr Tim Kent, Liberal Democrat Finance Spokesperson said:
“We have taken this step to give the Mayor a chance to reconsider the decision he has made and be informed by other options which we feel have not been properly explored. We especially feel the Mayor should meet with Mr Goldsmith to fully explore his offer to deliver the project with a private partner.
“This is not just about an Arena, it is about a major leisure venue that would produce nearly £1/2 billion of income for the city centre area and its businesses over the next 25 years. Hundreds of jobs and businesses could depend on the delivery of a unique venue that the city has waited so long for. Failure could deliver a major blow to the heart of our shopping centre and the aspirations of our residents and city.”
The call-in by the councillors raises 18 separates grounds where they feel the decision has not complied with the principles as laid out in Article 14 of the councils constitution.
Today the government published the results of its long-awaited boundary reviews. The plans include a proposal to reduce the number of constituencies down to 600 from 650. The Liberal Democrats have criticised the proposals not only for their perceived bias towards the Conservatives but its lack of commitment to changing from the first-past-the-post voting system.
Constituencies in Bristol are seeing changes to their make-up, with Easton ward moving from Bristol West to Bristol East. The movement has been criticised by some as Lawrence Hill and Easton will be, despite their local and cultural links, moved into different constituencies. The South West will see its number of representatives drop from 55 to 53.
James Cox, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Bristol West and supporter of Make Votes Matter, said:
"The boundary review exposes the fault line right at the heart of our democracy. Whilst the Tories move a ward here and merge a constituency there, they are fundamentally disenfranchising most voters in our country by sticking with the outdated first-past-the-post system. This is a system that delivers weak governments who lack a democratic mandate and the broad support of the country.
"Bristol West has had some of the highest numbers of wasted votes in the country at elections. People don't feel that their vote matters. It's a shame that Thangam Debbonaire refuses to get behind the campaign to make votes matter.
"Labour has accused the Conservatives of 'gerrymandering' with the boundary reviews, but their outrage is hollow whilst they continue to refuse to back moving to a proportional system of voting. It is time that all parties joined together and demanded better of our politics."
The boundary review will be subject to a vote in the House of Commons. The boundary review had been previously blocked by the Liberal Democrats after the Conservatives reneged on House of Lords reform.
In a bid to combat the excessive amount of air pollution on Bristol's roads, the Liberal Democrats have submitted a motion to the council for 'no vehicle idling zones' to be erected throughout the city.
The zones, which have been adopted by other local authorities including Bury and Southampton, aim to cut emissions from cars which remain on whilst idle in traffic.
Bristol's levels of air pollution currently exceed the safe limit set by both the European Union and the World Health Organization. Bristol's poor air quality is believed to be responsible for around 300 extra deaths every year. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) produced new guidance last year that recommended “no vehicle idling” areas in places where health-vulnerable people collect, such as outside schools, hospitals and care homes, and in areas where exposure to road-traffic-related air pollution is high.
The Bristol Liberal Democrats are keen to extend the use of these zones in Bristol, particularly to cover schools and children's play areas in order to reduce the risks to young people. The Lib Dems have also proposed working with NHS partners to extend the scheme to outside medical buildings and hospital pick-up points.
Mark Wright, Councillor for Hotwells & Harborside, said:
"Most people are well aware that air quality in Bristol is very poor, and that serious harm is done to health as a result.
"While we can all argue about how necessary certain journeys might be, I’m sure we can all agree that there is no justification for engines left running while stationary for long periods of time; or for most instances of diesel generators running outside, now that good battery-powered alternatives exist.
"Last year National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and Public Health England called on local councils to implement “no vehicle idling” areas in places where health-vulnerable people collect, such as outside schools, hospitals and care homes, and in parks.
"My motion to Council aims to put an end to totally unnecessary air pollution coming from idling engines and generators in our most vulnerable areas.
Full council will meet to potentially discuss this and other motions on September 11th
At today's Cabinet meeting the Mayor passed a recommendation to use the Temple Island site for a mixed-use commercial development, rather than the arena. The Bristol Liberal Democrat group is disappointed that the Mayor has failed to listen to the majority of councillors and Bristol citizens. The Lib Dems believe that this decision jeopardises the arena project and fails to provide best value to the people of Bristol.
Responding to the Cabinet's recommendation Anthony Negus, Bristol Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said:
“The Liberal Democrats are very disappointed that despite the large measure of belief from the people of Bristol and councillors about locating the arena at the centre of the city, to support our growth and opportunities for supportive businesses, the Mayor has decided to make a balance sheet decision. This does not demonstrate the confidence that he should be giving out for Bristol and sustaining it's heart.”
Gary Hopkins, Bristol Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader, added:
“When all the parties except for the Mayor, who failed to turn up, were questioned and cross-examined by the four party scrutiny commission the evidence was clear and they voted ten to one to build the arena at Temple Meads. The decision by the Labour Mayor is a disaster for the cultural and financial well-being of Bristol”
Bristol Liberal Democrats have called for consensus and co-operation amongst councillors in the upcoming debate over the location of the Bristol Arena.
The Liberal Democrats, along with the Green Party, Conservatives and members of the Labour Group, have pushed for an extraordinary council debate aiming to deal with the confusion and controversy surrounding the latest developments in the Arena saga.
Cllr Anthony Negus, Leader of the Bristol Lib Dems Group, said:
"When we first proposed this way of having a meaningful open debate before a unilateral decision had been taken we stressed two intentions. Firstly, that this initiative should come from all parties and secondly that we needed to have published the latest papers and recommendation so that we were informed as we have never been before. The Lib Dems want to hear all shades of opinion about all aspects of this decision from councillors and the public which would otherwise have been denied.
“This decision will affect the development and belief in this city and the wellbeing of all its citizens for a generation or more and so this extraordinary meeting is justified as the mayor would not delay by one week the announcement of his Cabinet decision so that it could have been debated at the regular Full Council.”
Andrew Brown, Windmill Hill campaigner and Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Bristol South, added:
"If we concentrate solely on arguing about value for money, we are in danger of overlooking the social and cultural value that a city centre arena will provide, and the potential for Arena Island to be a vibrant, lively civic space and a public asset. Cancelling the current plans not only puts that at risk but condemns the site to further neglect pending any other plans being fully developed, being approved by the planning process, and being built.
"It is vitally important that Councillors from all sides get the chance to debate this."
The Liberal Democrat group have made clear their position to build the arena at the Temple Meads site, believing that the social and cultural benefits will have a huge impact on the city.
The extraordinary council debate will take place on September 3rd, with the Mayor also taking comments from the public forum.
The Bristol Music Trust was formed by BCC in 2011 to blend this popular asset of the city with the expertise necessary to sustain a high quality and diverse programme of events. Since then BMT has exceeded expectations and received accolades from the Arts Council, the press and national education bodies for its high quality work, music development and the value and prestige it has brought to the city. It's work has been supported to varying degrees by all party groups on Bristol City Council.Read more
After 12 years serving Henleaze – and later Westbury – on Bristol City Council, Clare Campion-Smith has today announced her resignation.
Clare has had a distinguished career on the council, serving in two administrations’ cabinets and serving a term as Lord Mayor. In her time as councillor, Clare has made an active difference to the lives of her constituents, her accomplishments including her time as Cabinet member for Children’s Services where, with great effect, she solved the acute shortage of primary school places in Bristol.
Bristol Liberal Democrats have expressed disappointment as their budget amendment was unanimously voted down by the Labour Council Group. The amendment, which would have diverted funds away from an Armageddon-scenario contingency funding, would have allowed for investment into libraries, parks and schools.
The amendment received cross-party support, with the Conservatives and Greens voting for the progressive policy proposal. But with no Labour councillors rebelling, the amendment was voted down by the majority of the Labour group.Read more