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REGIONS EUROPE


Bristol leads theUK citiesmovement


THEMAYORSPEAKS:MARVINREES


MAYOR MARVIN REES TELLS WENDY ATKINS HOW CENTRALISED SYSTEMS ARE COMING UP SHORT


CURRICULUMVITAE MARVIN REES


2016 City of Bristol Mayor


Previously BBC Radio Bristol, presenter


CITYPROFILE BRISTOL


Country England


Population 463,400


Main sectors: Civil engineering; manufacture of metals, electrical products and machinery; IT


pandemic while preparing for Brexit and deal- ing with a Westminster government they have criticised for its chaotic approach to the crisis. Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, is looking for


I


greater co-operation between cities and central government. “You’ve got to talk to your cities about your policy tomake sure that what you’re developing does not have negative unintended consequences, is locally relevant and is best suited to keeping our economies alive,” he says. Mr Rees thinks very centralised political sys-


temsare coming up short. “That’s not just in the UK,andnot justonCovid,butonclimate change and inequality as well,” he explains. “Cities are beginningto organise themselves.UKcitieswant to have open channels to trade, and relate and workwithEuropeancities.” Asmayor of a city that votedto remain in the


EU (61.7%), Mr Rees is keen to maintain links betweenBristol and other European locations. “We will do our bit tomaintain connectivity.


That’s not just cultural connectivity — that’s for the sake of all those businesses inBristol andour universities who need to have the channels to keep business opportunities on the continent as open as possible.”


Covid-19 During the first wave of the pandemic, Bristol’s Covid numbers were consistently below the national average, but the authority faced chal- lenges connected to increased demand for ser- vices combined with a loss of revenue. In addition to providing immediate sup-


port to families and businesses, the mayor says the city is reorienting its sustainable develop- ment goals. “We’ve been very proactive in get- ting our economic renewal strategy together. It’s been written with business, unions and the voluntary sector, and focuses on labour and markets, business, investments and our high streets and city centres to make sure we keep our economy alive.”


Sectors Innovation, culture and the creative sector play an important role in the city’s economy, with the Engine Shed and Set Squared incubators


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t has been a bruising year for the UK’s may- ors, many of whom have found themselves handling the local fallout of the Covid-19


attracting international attention. “In line with that innovation is our creative sector,” says Mr Rees. “Companies like Aardman Animations, Plimsoll Productions and our natural history broadcasting take the city brand around the world and contribute to attracting other compa- niesandpeople withexpertise looking for invest- ment opportunities. We’re continuing to sup- port that withour internationalwork, using our city-to-city diplomacy to open channels for our companies to connect.” Bristol is also focused on building its green


infrastructure,whichMrRees sees as key to driv- ing jobs and growth while pushing decarbonisa- tion. One of the city’s flagship green pro- grammes is City Leap. “It’s a billion-pound pack- age of investments in our energy system, from generation to distribution and storage,” he explains. “That’s an opportunity tomake a chap- ter change to theway the city relates to energy.” Mr Rees believes inequality has been a point


of weakness in Bristol. “The way we build back will not be a value-


free dash for growth,” he says. “This crisis has given us an opportunity to test every system that we depend on — education, transport, political — and understand where they are strong and weak. We’ve set out to try to build back more resilient, but also be a city that reduces the contribution it makes to the likeli- hood of future shocks.”■


www.fDiIntelligence.com December 2020/January 2021


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