Making Bristol a world class city

by Amanda Ramsay

What makes a world-class city? That’s the question on Marvin Rees’ mind right now. Labour’s candidate to be Bristol’s first directly elected mayor, set out his vision to a group of business people and local experts from across Bristol last Thursday, at an event on the Bristol economy chaired by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.

Rees wants to see Bristol become “a world-class city”, he told the roundtable last week, the culmination of an illuminating set of events as part of the City Conversation – the Bristol-wide policy consultation being held by Rees.

With the national economy officially flat-lining, after the Bank of England revised down its growth forecast to 0% and the latest trade figures last week show the worst trade deficit since records began in 1997, how to kick-start the local economy was a key topic for discussion.

Umunna pledged that an incoming Labour government would set up a British Investment Bank (BIB) to widen the availability of credit to small firms.

It would be an extension of the recently-launched Green Investment Bank and fill the gap left by the main UK banks. Local branches, with managers in tune with the needs of local businesses, would strengthen local economies.

Nicholas Tott, former Partner of Herbert Smith LLP and a member of Labour’s policy review team, says: “We can draw on the experience of the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation set up after the Second World War, and the creation of the Green Investment Bank.

“In developing Labour’s active industrial strategy, in particular in considering the potential role of a British Investment Bank, this strong evidence and rich seam of experience should not be ignored.”

To compete on the world stage, Bristol like all cities across the UK faces challenges from constant technological advance across the globe and the competition of the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Rees recognises these challenges and speaks of “doing Bristol” differently, with a steely determination and dogged emphasis on getting the machinery of city government right.

He speaks with conviction and a striking integrity:

“We must be very intentional, not accidental,” Rees told the roundtable. “Now is the time to set the standard, in the way we do local governance.”

Decision-making problems have been the scourge of the past in Bristol City Council life, Rees says: “dragging and not making progress. Planning is continually mentioned to me by Bristolians as a barrier to growth.”

Rees is wise to be reaching out to businesses to remedy this, inviting all interested parties to come to the table and: “speak to us about how the city should work and where they want the city to be.

“We have many of the components of what can make us have an impact on the world stage, like our universities, our cultural sector, world-leading animation – the challenge is to bring them together.”

While visiting Bristol businesses, Umunna also confirmed an incoming Labour government would keep the private sector-led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) set up by the coalition after it scrapped the Regional Development Agencies but would seek to re-introduce an easily-accessible Business Link-style network of local business advisors.

The City Conversation in Bristol has initiated the process of engaging with people in the run-up to announcing the mayoral manifesto before the 15 November poll.

Bristol born and bred, Rees has been talking to hundreds of local people, joined by senior Labour figures at shadow cabinet level such as Stephen Twigg and Hilary Benn.

People living and working in Bristol should submit ideas on the Bristol economy, or any other area of concern, to the City Conversation by 13 August, by writing to Marvin Rees directly:

– By post to Freepost Marvin Rees City Conversation
– By email to
– On Facebook at
– On Twitter @MarvinReesCC

Amanda Ramsay is vice-chair of Pragmatic Radicalism, a former councillor and development officer of Bristol South Labour party

Tags: , , ,

One Response to “Making Bristol a world class city”

  1. Nick says:

    “In developing Labour’s active industrial strategy, in particular in considering the potential role of a British Investment Bank, this strong evidence and rich seam of experience should not be ignored.”


    Yep, more debt, lots more debt, is going to solve a debt problem.

    Smell the coffee. Wake up. The party is over. There is shit and vomit all over the walls.

    How are you going to clear up the debt mess?

    Ah yes, sweep it under the carpet and hope no one notices.

Leave a Reply