Featured

BIG JUMP IN WEST OF ENGLAND UNEMPLOYED

18,495 more West of England people are out of work since lockdown began according to new figures released today.

There are now 31,595 people in the city aged between 16 and 64 claiming unemployment related benefits.

The news came as national labour market stats showed the number of people reporting they had been made redundant rose to a record high of 370,000 in the three months to October.

Mr Norris, who has pledged to be a “jobs first” Metro Mayor, said “Not only are these worrying figures but we must remember that behind every number is a struggling family. Many families will be facing Christmas with worry and uncertainty.

I also believe that it is not a coincidence that redundancies escalated to record levels whilst the clock was ticking down to the end of the furlough first planned by the Chancellor before his last minute U-turn. I hope he has learnt from this and call on him to clarity right now ahead of the next furlough cliff edge in January.

The UK is now is the worst recession of any major economy and West of England people are counting the cost.”

All aboard! First Bus to run £57 million Cribbs Patchway bus service

Metro Mayor Dan Norris officially welcomed First Bus aboard plans for the brand-new Cribbs Causeway to Bristol Parkway bus service.

First Bus will run the new Cribbs Patchway ‘m4’ service opening in Spring 2023. Mayor Norris officially made the announcement alongside South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Steve Reade, and First’s Managing Director Doug Claringbold at Bristol Parkway Station.

The new service, providing a fast and direct bus route between Parkway Station and The Mall and linking with the existing ‘metrobus’ network, has been made possible thanks to a bumper £57 million cash injection from the West of England Combined Authority, led by the Metro Mayor.

The new bus route will benefit communities in Stoke Gifford, Patchway and the forthcoming mixed-use Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood development on the former Filton Airfield.

As part of the move, a number of bus stops along the route are being upgraded to ‘metrobus standard’ including having brand-new bus shelters, ‘iPoints’, cycle hoops, fully accessible kerbs and CCTV to keep locals safe while travelling, helping the Combined Authority and partners, including South Gloucestershire Council, in the mission to create a greener, safer West of England.

Welcoming the announcement, Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “I’m so pleased that we’ve got First on board to operate this important new service which will make a real difference to communities in Stoke Gifford to Patchway and beyond. The m4 will get even more people out of cars and onto our snazzy new greener, cleaner and reliable buses, so important if we’re going reach our net-zero ambitions and ensure more local people breathe cleaner air and lead healthier lives.”

The Combined Authority will be working closely with First over the coming months to finalise details of the m4 service, with more information to be announced later in the year.

Doug Claringbold, Managing Director of First Bus, said: “We are delighted to be operating this new metrobus route and very much welcome the ongoing investment in bus infrastructure which is critical to the region’s transition to a sustainable, low carbon future. Since the m3 and m2 were launched in 2018, followed by the m1 in January 2019, they have carried over 11 million passengers, despite the pandemic. These services enable faster, more direct journeys which offer customers a very viable alternative to taking the car“.

Bath indies boosted thanks to new Visit Somerset partnership, says Metro Mayor

Over £50 million which could support Bath’s independent shops is going into the pockets of big tech, says Visit Somerset CEO John Turner, but a brand-new partnership could begin to reverse this trend.

Mr Turner explained to Metro Mayor Dan Norris just how he plans to support Bath’s thriving indies after uniting with Bath Independent Hotel Association and Bath Self Catering Association.

The Mayor, who is running an Explore Local campaign, learnt how the move will see the £100,000 expansion of Visit Somerset’s Stay in Bath Loyalty scheme. This will give visitors the opportunity for great offers for the city’s indie attractions, including one of its ‘jewels in the crown’, the Jane Austen Centre, helping keep them in the city and enjoying Bath’s indie scene for longer.

They also discussed how John and the Visit Somerset team are working with the University of Bath to roll out and artificial intelligence and machine learning to both organisations’ platforms, helping ensure locals and visitors book their stays directly rather than through tech giants.

According to Mr Turner, the changes will help Bath in the fight against online travel agents offering similar services without harmful commissions that see over £50 million going out of the city. He said: “We are really pleased to have finally moved the relationship with Bath Independent Hotel Association and Bath Self Catering Association to the next level. As we move forward, it is imperative we look to the future that has already arrived. Striving to work with a new consumer that engages with our platforms as we advance into the realms of AI and ‘one click’ booking. This will give our independent shops and fantastic local attractions the boost they deserve”.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said the move would help Bathonians – and domestic visitors – sample the “best of independent Bath” and enjoy the city’s world-famous attractions. He said: “This is a really exciting partnership which will give local people and visitors alike the opportunity to buy local, see the best of independent Bath and cherish the diversity on offer in this great city. And from seeing how our former settlers liked to unwind at the Roman Baths to celebrating Bath’s most famous resident at the Jane Austen Centre, this city is jam-packed with amazing things to explore. This move will ensure everyone can see it all by turning that day trip into a short break”.

METRO MAYOR BLASTS GOVERNMENT’S CHANNEL 4 PRIVATISATION LAW

Channel 4 jobs destined for Bristol could be diverted back to London unless controversial Conservative Government privatisation plans are overturned, warned Labour’s Dan Norris.

The Mayor was speaking ahead of a visit to the broadcaster’s Bristol-based creative hub where he discussed the Government’s proposals to sell off Channel 4 recently announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The much-loved broadcaster bases over 400 jobs outside of the capital, including 20 in Bristol.  They want to double this by 2025. In discussions with Head of Channel 4 Bristol Sacha Mirzoeff, Mr Norris heard how expansion plans of their skills and training programme could also be at risk.

Experts warn privatisation could have serious knock-on effects on the wider creative economy. As part of the Government plans to scrap Channel 4’s unique business model where the broadcaster commissions its content from external production companies, small West of England producers such as Bristol companies Drummer in Bishopton and Honey Bee Media in Henleaze to name but a few could be left out in the cold. The Government only says Channel 4’s new owner must continue to commission an unspecified “minimum volume of programming” from indie producers. Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “Despite public outcry, the Government are pressing on with their ideological pursuit of the sale of Channel 4. I am deeply concerned about how this will impact the Creative Hub in Bristol and the commitments made to the amazing creative people and jobs we have in our region’s world-leading creative sector. Everyone knows that in selling Channel 4 off, these commitments would be watered down as any new owner would put profit before public service. It’s also bad economics as Channel 4’s own plan for the future would make more money for the Government by 2026 than the one-off sale proceeds and it will damage the regional economy not to mention GB PLC”.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Head of Channel 4 Bristol, Sacha Mirzoeff, said: “It is great to meet Dan and talk him through the work we’re undertaking in the region from Channel 4’s Bristol hub, not just the increased activity in terms of commissions and dealings with the South West’s and Wales’s independent production sector but also the development opportunities such as our TV Drama New Writers scheme, the Factual Fast Track Scheme, the Emerging Indie Fund and the many training events and courses. The work of our team in Bristol is already making a difference in the local economy but we’ve still got lots more to do with wider representation on and off screen and it’s really important we keep up the momentum”.

METRO MAYOR WELCOMES WINDFALL TAX ‘SCREECHING U-TURN’

Commenting on the Chancellor’s announcement of a support package to combat the cost-of-living crisis funded through a windfall tax on energy companies today (Thursday 26 May), Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “I’m glad that after months of wavering, the Chancellor is finally acting to help people with spiralling bills. It’s been four and a half months since Labour first called for a windfall tax on those oil and gas companies making such huge profits. It’s an obvious solution and so it’s right the Government has seen sense and the inevitable screeching U-turn has finally arrived. And scrapping the ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ energy plan is the right thing to do too, another key Labour demand. But while they’ve been dithering and delaying, oil and gas companies have made a whopping £4.7 billion in profit. And we’ve all been paying sky-high bills. So now it’s time for the Government to listen to local people who still desperately need help. Like the 16,000 households right across the West of England who use domestic heating oil and who continue to be ignored even with the latest news of this government pay out. We have waited long enough for the Government to intervene on a cost-of-living crisis designed, fashioned and made in Downing street. I’m glad they’ve finally taken action, even if they had to be dragged kicking and screaming”.

SUE GRAY REPORT – METRO MAYOR COMMENTS

Commenting on the publication of the Sue Gray report today (Wednesday 25 May), Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “Sue Gray’s report is unequivocal: there was a ‘serious failure’ to observe the high standards expected of those working in government and senior leaders ‘must bear responsibility’. But in truth, this damning and damaging report confirms what we already knew. The Prime Minister and everyone at Downing Street thought that while the people of the West of England were making huge sacrifices to protect the NHS and save lives, it was ok for them to have lockdown-breaking party after lockdown-breaking party. Frankly, local people made up their minds a long time ago. They know the Prime Minister is not fit for the job and will feel like they’ve been taken for mugs. His behaviour is an outrage, and his Government have treated local people disgracefully. He should do the honourable thing and resign without delay and so give the great British public the fresh leadership they deserve”.