“Politicians have a responsibility and duty to engage with business community” Bristol Initiative Members quiz new Bristol Council Leader Cllr Tony Dyer

Sam Harrison
Marketing Executive | Business West
24th June 2024

Last night, the Bristol Initiative held our June Quarterly Members’ Meeting at the Bristol Beacon, focusing on key issues and future plans for our city. Cllr Tony Dyer, Bristol City Council’s newly elected Leader, was the keynote speaker. Members also heard from Bristol Initiative leaders Victoria Matthews and Jenny Ablett, and Louise Mitchell CBE, CEO of the Bristol Beacon.

Our host at the Beacon, Louise Mitchell CBE was first up to speak, welcoming the audience back for their second meeting at the Beacon, but the first since the completion of the historic renovation earlier this year. She then showed the following video, in celebration of the full reopening of the venue:

Updates from the Bristol Initiative

First up to the stage to speak from the Initiative team was Victoria Matthews, Bristol Initiative Director for Business West. She talked about the recent elections in Bristol, and about the new committee system in the council. She also gave our members an update on the ongoing policy work at Business West, and the specific projects that we are involved in – such as Bristol One City Plan, OurCity2030, the new Bristol Chamber of Commerce Advisory Committee and our latest initiative, the Futures West Foundation for Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth.

After Victoria the assembled members heard from Jenny Ablett, Membership Manager for Business West. She gave some key dates for members’ diaries for upcoming events like the Planning, Transport & Climate Change Group meetings and the upcoming Wrong Trousers Day Networking Breakfast, which Business West is running in partnership with Initiative members The Grand Appeal. Jenny also talked about the series of roundtable discussions that we have been facilitating with members this year and put out the call for members to get in touch if they had an idea for a roundtable they wanted to discuss.

The Keynote Address

Cllr Tony Dyer delivered the keynote speech, explaining the new council structure, including that there will be eight committees made up of all councillors. Dyer said that this would ensure inclusive decision-making. He emphasised the importance of working with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and making Bristol's needs known in Westminster.

The Bristol Council Leader also shared his two primary goals to tackle deprivation in Bristol: building more housing, particularly social housing, and improving education. Dyer sees these efforts as crucial for creating a more equitable city.

Dyer encouraged the business community to actively engage with the council, stressing the importance of collaboration to address challenges like funding shortages and creating a sustainable financial environment.

"There are two types of Bristolians: those lucky enough to be born here and those clever enough to move here," Dyer remarked, he highlighted the significant responsibility councillors have and the need for their active engagement to effectively represent the city, in his opinion.

Highlights from the Q&A

After his address we moved into a Q&A session hosted by Victoria, where Cllr Dyer addressed various questions from the assembled members. Here are some of the questions asked along with the responses. Note that the questions and answers have in some cases been edited for brevity.

Professor Sir Steve West CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England: In your opening you talked about the pressures, especially on adult social care and education. How can the business community help with those, what do you need? 

Dyer’s response went over the complexity of social care costs, which include private provision and temporary accommodation, and questioned whether businesses can help address these issues. Dyer emphasised the importance of teaching the right skills to secure good jobs and improve lifestyles, citing his successful experience in IT as an example. Additionally, he highlighted the necessity of community support, noting that while areas like Southville can tap into local experienced professionals such as architects, this is more challenging in places like Hartcliffe.

Connor Jones, Vice President of Bristol Junior Chamber asked: How important are organisations like the Junior Chamber?

Dyer responded that they were tremendously important as we move forward. Bristol has a very engaged youth, but they are not necessarily engaged about business. We need to help the workforce of the future with their skills.

Richard Bonner, Director at AtkinsRéalis, asked: How do we place Bristol on the international stage?

Discussing Bristol's international presence, Dyer shared his plans to continue collaborations initiated under previous leaderships, including early intervention programs to combat issues like knife crime.

In Closing

Cllr Dyer concluded with a call for future cooperation: "The key to future success is future cooperation. We have a significant opportunity ahead. I am looking forward to working with you, alongside you, with optimism."

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