Business and city leaders join the Initiative's eighth online meeting since lockdown

Tom Selway
Director | Cadence PR
13th July 2020

In the week that saw pubs reopen, queues outside men’s hairdressers, hearts in Queens Square go viral, the chancellor announce his second budget and Leicester remind us all of the fragility of the situation, the Bristol & West of England Initiative held its eighth online socially distanced meeting.

It was another very useful and informative meeting with updates on the South West’s Covid situation, what the University of Bristol has been doing and a call for help from the arts sector.


Richard Bonner, President of BCCI opened the meeting reminding us all of the purpose of BCCI which is to help create the right environment for business to thrive and flourish through good leadership. Importantly it’s about all works of life, helping ensure we tackle inequality, and support people to get a fair deal.

Lot’s has been happening since the last meeting – we’ve seen the easing of restrictions around lockdown, a number of statements by the chancellor, and we’ve seen a big announcement for the cultural sector. It’s also important to remember, as we have seen in Leicester, that we continue to operate in a fragile environment, where local flair ups can cause significant repercussions in terms of taking us backwards in our ambitions to drive economic activity forward. 

We’ve seen some very positive changes – the job retention initiative, support and training for younger members of the community, and business support to allow us to bring people back to work. We welcome the stimulus packages including moving the housing sector forward, local growth funding to stimulate infrastructure investment, and the greener deal for housing.  We have also seen the hospitably industry starting to remobilise which is a really positive step in terms of bringing forward social engagement and helping those organisations that have really struggled over the last months. 

City region update

The BCCI continues to actively support, champion and lobby on the city and our Member’s behalf. It’s also about making sure we are making best use of the many opportunities that are coming available. These include the various stimulus packages announced by Rishi Sunak this week, the government’s call for shovel ready projects, looking at how to get the export market flourishing (which is a big part of what we do) and launching our new finance hub.

We’re proud to be partners in the Bristol Together campaign which is behind the hearts in Queen Square. This was all about encouraging business and employers to open up and start trading, where they can, but to do so safely. We are pleased to see the campaign has gone viral helping raise the cities profile further. 

There is sadly growing noise around redundancies and potential jobs at risk and we are working with WECA and the relevant authorities to make sure there is a rapid response team in place to support both businesses and employers during this challenging period.

All eyes are on the recovery and this week, and as part of the One City partnership in which James Durie co-chairs the Economy Board, we announce the statement of intent around future growth and what it may look like.

We are getting behind a new campaign that builds on WECA’s cycling and walking investment plan, all around putting further emphasis into our cycling infrastructure.  We hope to get more people involved and supporting this as mobility is one of BCCI’s priorities for the city moving forward.

Our events schedule continues to diversify and respond to the current situation. Over the coming we weeks we will have: 

  • An Initiative Roundtable hosted by our member BT, talking about digital infrastructure 
  • A series of sessions with our MPs
  • Another Initiative Roundtable with Foot Anstey, discussing the transport and mobility agenda for our city
  • Virtual event around this year’s Balloon Fiesta 

If you have ideas or blogs that can help drive our Green Growth and Digital agenda, please get in touch. 

Covid 19

Christina Gray, Director of Public Health at Bristol City Council, warned that Covid-19 is still very much here although cases in Bristol are largely static and around a third of those in Leicester. Reopening business and getting the economy going is absolutely crucial but it has to be done safely. We all have a responsibility to be on the watch for symptoms in ourselves or others as the faster we pick it, the faster we can stamp it out and least impact it will have on business. 

University of Bristol

Vice Chancellor Professor Guy Orpen praised his colleagues and students for the significant part they’ve played in supporting the Covid effort, from being part of SAGE at a national level, to locally helping enable AI to be used in the cities Intensive Care Units.  The Universities are starting the challenging process of reopening and a huge loss of income, expected to be between £100-150million over the next two year. Orpen says this can be managed and that they are determined to play their part in the region’s recovery.

Arts and Cultural Sector

Naomi Miller, Deputy Director at Bristol Cultural Development Partnership talked about the hugely important role the arts sector plays in the city and how it needs our support if it is to survive.  The sector needs £330 million a month and a major problem has been that much of its workforce is freelance, and not eligible for furlough. The Chancellor’s announcements and the slow reopening of venues is welcome, but much more is needed. We need to encourage people to watch, enjoy and donate. 

The next Initiative Member Meeting will be held on Thursday 6th August at 11.30am. 

Tom Selway is a Director at Bristol based planning communications agency, Cadence PR

Do you want to join the conversation?

Sign up here
  • The West of England Initiative

    Provides an effective link between private and public sectors to ensure the interests of commerce are considered in key decision making.

  • Trading Through Coronavirus

    We provide guidance & support on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for businesses, employers and employees in the region.