Thursday, 25 September 2008

Back to work

Went to the opening of Cabot Circus today. It's pretty stunning - far more impressive than I expected - and the thousands of people who flocked in as the centre opened seemed to feel the same. (Apart from the four young girls who saw me being interviewed for TV and asked me if it was true that Johnny Depp was coming along to open it; I guess they went away disappointed).

It's much better designed than most shopping centres, spacious, with a glass dome roof which creates the impression of being outdoors rather than the usual cooped-up, claustrophobic feel you usually get (or is that just me?) 4000 new jobs, including part-time, flexible working for people who need it - and many of those jobs being filled by people from the poorest parts of the city. I also like the way it shifts the focus of the city away from Clifton, towards the east, which should help regenerate areas like Old Market and St Judes too.

When I was in Manchester I went for a drink in Clouds, a bar on the 29th Floor of the Hilton Hotel. Looking out at the cityscape you realise just how much regeneration has gone on in Manchester, and what a vibrant, exciting city it is. (And what complete rubbish that Policy Exchange report was). We've got a long way to go in Bristol, and I'm not suggesting that shops alone are the answer (although there's a cinema too and some fairly decent looking restaurants), but it's a start. And no, I didn't go shopping. Unless you count a decaf soya latte from Costa.

Chatted to a few people while I was there, including Malachy McReynolds from Elizabeth Shaw and George Ferguson from Square Peg, who basically said - and I guess I run the risk of misquoting them here, so remember - I wasn't taking notes and this is my recollection 12 hours later, but here goes: (a) there has been, and still is, an unprecedented level of community consultation re the development, (b) the cycle houses will make the cycle path safer, more interesting, and will be set some way back from the path, (c) the greenspace being cleared is full of Japanese knotweed and other such stuff at the moment, and (d) don't believe what you read on blogs. I've been trying for a while to arrange a site visit, and George Ferguson said he'll try to sort it for next week. It probably won't go to planning committee till December or January, so people still have lots of time to make their voices heard.

Also had a nice chat with Mike Norton, the Bristol Evening Post editor, on how he bumped into Peter Hook at an airport, was surprised at how short he was, but couldn't quite pluck up the courage to say hello, and how Bernard has lost his looks (sad, but true, but then he did look about 14 until he turned 50). Mike said he'd always thought that if Bart Simpson was a real person he'd look just like Bernard, which means I spent my late teens nursing an obsession with Bart Simpson. (OK, a fair bit of my twenties too. He did have the most perfect haircut ever). Also talked about what we both thought of Control, and I told him about the JD documentary I saw earlier this year and the Bernard Sumner biography I got for my birthday. And that was it.

Rest of the day spent in the office signing post, catching up on emails, making phone calls... Then canvassing in St George. Either people are too terrified of me to tell me the truth, or the Labour vote is holding up incredibly well. I should be at the launch party for Cabot Circus now, but after 5 days at Conference I've run out of steam...


Anonymous said...

"4000 new jobs, including part-time, flexible working for people who need it - and many of those jobs being filled by people from the poorest parts of the city."

Cheers Kerry. Good to see you've got the same high aspirations for your working class constituents as the rest of your stinking government has.

"Regenerated" out of our homes and serving decaf soya lattes to the middle-classes for £6 an hour.


Kerry said...

That's complete nonsense. If you're a single parent in somewhere like Lawrence Hill or St George, with no qualifications and kids of school age, working in retail from, say, 10 till 3, is a good first step back into work.

And that's working for at least the minimum wage - introduced by a Labour Government; topped up by tax credits - introduced by a Labour government; child benefit which has seen record increases in recent years - from a Labour government; with the kids in free nursery places, or with childcare funded by the childcare tax credit - introduced by this Government; or at schools which have seen record investment - from this Labour Government; those kids getting Education Maintenance Allowances so they can afford to stay on at college - thanks to a Labour government; and loads of investment in apprenticeships and in-work training (eg Train to Gain) so that people who don't leave school with good qualifications can still acquire new skills and improve their employability - introduced by this Labour Government.

What's your solution? Do you have one?

Anonymous said...

Solution? Real jobs, real wages. These are dead end jobs, not a step to anywhere. Would you do it?

Northern Lights said...

"Real jobs, real wages" isn't a solution - it's a soundbite. You ever considered working for the Conservatives?

Chris Hutt said...

If Cabot Circus creates 4,000 new jobs, aren't 4,000 old jobs going to disappear elsewhere? Or are we all going to drink twice as many lattes, buy twice as many designer handbags and twice as much of everything else, in the teeth of a recession?

You're obviously a very intelligent person Kerry. Please give us the credit for having some intelligence too and don't expect us to swallow all this "creates 4,000 jobs" tosh.

greeengage said...

Hi Kerry,

Are there really Cabot Circus employers who offer contracts from 10-3 weekdays, term-time only? I wouldn't have thought these were key hours for the retail industry. If so, I'd genuinely love to hear about them.

Doesn't "flexible working" in this context usually mean that the employee works around the employer's needs, rather than the other way round?

SteveL said...

"Make the path more interesting"? That is what BRT promised too, right?

"Set back from the path"? the houses will be so close to the tarmac that they will need steps rather than a gentle slope across the council parkland they are effectively enclosing.

If the houses were far enough back for them to have a slope for access, then you could legitimately call them cycle houses, and they'd be less invasive on the path. As it is, they have been pushed as close to the path as they can by the pressure to add an extra block of houses inside the site, and another over the green corridor between the path/greenway and the greenbank cemetery. Other than that: nice houses.

The Bristol Blogger said...

I know politicians don't like drilling down into their figures because they tend to fall apart, but how did you get this figure of 4,000?

Is that how many work in the new shopping centre?

Because many stores have moved or will move from the old shopping centre so jobs will be lost there. Think Primark, Next, Topshop, Burtons and many more.

Indeed on Wednesday the HSBC branch on Corn Street closed to the public and a branch opened in the new Broadmead on Thursday. Are you saying that these are new jobs at HSBC?

This is also an example of what you call "shifting the focus towards the east". What's actually going to happen is that west Broadmead, The Galleries and the Old City are going to suffer considerably negative effects because of the shopping centre.

I wonder how many small, local and independent Bristol businesses will go to the wall because they can't afford to get into Cabot Circus where the people are.

And how many businesses have already disappeared from Broadmead in the last 3 - 4 years while the building work has taken place?

Briefly, on the subject of Ferguson, is it conceivable that everything written on local blogs is not true?

Kerry said...

Labour has introduced legislation which gives parents the legal right to request flexible working - e.g. starting and leaving early, job shares - and employers have to accommodate this unless they have a pretty good reason that they can't. Yes, lots of retail jobs offer part-time hours in the middle of the day, as that's when the shops are busiest. Or, in some cases, students come in and do the later shift. When I've visited places like SPAN (Single Parent Action Network) I've met women who have been through really tough times - maybe they've had children at a very young age, left school with no qualifications, been in abusive relationships. They've moved from a situation where they've had no self-confidence and often no self-respect, to holding a part-time job and having clear aspirations/ ambitions for their future when the children are a little older. Today's shop assistant is tomorrow's manager. I think it's quite patronising to denigrate such jobs. And actually - I did such jobs (waitressing, bar work, catering) from the age of 13 until my mid-20s. I know someone - single parent at the age of 16, now with three kids and still a single parent - who started out doing bar work when all the children had started school and is now assistant manager of a country pub/ restaurant with aspirations to run her own place. She is also doing business studies on a part-time basis and has taken various work-related courses. That's what in-work learning is all about, giving people the opportunity to better themselves while at the same time supporting their families, and the Government has placed huge emphasis on it. The Royal Mail centre in Filton, for example, has a workplace learning centre, where postmen/ women can use the computers and study for qualifications before/ after their shifts. The Speedwell fire station has a community learning centre, open to local residents.

I appreciate there will be some knock-on impact on Broadmead with Cabot Circus opening, though I think it would be an ideal opportunity for more independent shops to move into the vacated premises. Manchester has coped - you can go the Selfrides and the huge M&S in the city centre, or to the Trafford Centre, or you can wander area like Oldham Street and find vintage shops, record shops and little cafes. Look at London - yes, you can do the high-street chains in Oxford Street, but there's also Camden or Covent Garden or the ultra-expensive boutiques in Bond Street.

Cabot Circus will bring people into Bristol city centre from as far afield as Swindon, Newport, Cheltenham - people who don't shop here at the moment. And while they're here shopping some of them will also be eating in restaurants, using taxis, checking out some of the cultural things Bristol has to offer.

Finally, on the subject of the cycle path - I think Mr Ferguson was simply saying there's a lot of misinformation out there, not that all of it was untrue.

Glenn Vowles said...

I'm with the Bristol Blogger and several other commenters here Kerry. Can you explain to me how Cabot Circus contributes positively to Bristol's 'green capital' ambition? How does it cut the city footprint and add to sustainability? Doesn't more consumerism just add fuel to the fire of economic downturn, social division and environmental decline caused by mass consumption?

Would it not have been more valuable to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities in Bristol to get together a proper strategy to maintain and develop shops,services and jobs in each locality? Cabot Circus is a million miles from local production for local needs yet this is the pattern of development we need for a greener and more convivial city!

Chris Hutt said...

So are you back tracking from the 4,000 new jobs claim Kerry? It sounds like it, but will you actually say so?

Glenn Vowles said...

On your chat with George Ferguson ...

I've written to you about this development and await your reply with some interest. There are some serious procedural issues it seems to me. Why has an Area Green Space plan covering the location not been drawn up first? Does BCCs Parks and Green Spaces Strategy not apply here? Why has it been decided that an Environmental Impact Assessment been deemed unnessary even though the EU Directive says its supposed to be interpreted and used broadly and the council's own policy talks up the Railway Path greenery as significant green space??

The Bristol Blogger said...


it doesn't "talk up" the Railway Path greenery as significant green space.

It unequivocally states that it is.

Kerry said...

Unless you're assuming that there will be empty boarded up shops in Broadmead and Clifton in a year's time, yes, it means 4000 new jobs.

On the sustainability point of view, there's a real debate to be had about increasingly disposable fashion, e.g. where people buy a T-shirt for £3 which falls apart after a few washes. But I don't think that's an argument against shopping per se. I could make the environmental case for, say, buying a £200 dress in Harvey Nichols as opposed to buying 10 x £20 dresses in Primark, on the basis that the former will probably last longer, look better and is less likely to have been produced by people who are paid peanuts, but it's easy for me, on an MP's salary to say that. I could also make the case for more use of fairtrade cotton, more support for ethical fashion, and more recycling of old clothes. I think that's a more productive approach than just saying people shouldn't shop.

The Bristol Blogger said...

Unless you're assuming that there will be empty boarded up shops in Broadmead and Clifton in a year's time, yes, it means 4000 new jobs.

I'm not assuming I'm making an observation.

At Clifton Triangle there's loads of empty retail space - Elephant's gone, Fresh and Wild is going, Le Monde is going, Laura Ashley's moved to New Broadmead. La Tasca's in New Broadmead now and there's more than that - go take a look.

There's also retail space available on Park Street.

In Broadmead, most of Nelson Street is now empty and Union Street will follow when Next and French Connection go.

Plus, in the case of HSBC on Corn Street, they're keeping the premises for offices, so that's a net loss of employment in that area.

There is no way 4,000 jobs at the circus adds up to 4,000 new jobs in the city.

Kerry said...

"Plus, in the case of HSBC on Corn Street, they're keeping the premises for offices, so that's a net loss of employment in that area."

So people don't work in offices?

Glenn Vowles said...

' just saying people shouldn't shop.'

Who is saying this Kerry? In fact I indicated what I think is a better pattern of development if you look again at my post. You simply dont comment on the merits or not of the alternative proposed. Would we be happier, healthier, fairer, greener taking this route??

Dont you see a difference between consuming, which we have to do to live, and consumerism which says the more we consume the better off we are?? You simply dont address most the the questions I asked at all or my general thrust! Very poor.

You know that Cabot Circus significantly raises Bristol's environmental footprint. It would be absurd to argue otherwise. You avoid discussing the role of debt-funded mass consumerism in the current economic slump and the associated social division and environmental degradation caused because its very hard to defend!

You say nothing at all in response to my very specific comments on your conversation with George Ferguson. The Bristol Blogger is right that the greenery along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path is described in the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy as significant (by 'talk up' I meant that they positively promoted it BB) so why no Area Green Space Plan and why no Environmental Impact Assessment??

Kerry said...

Glenn, you obviously haven't read my previous posts properly and to be frank I'm fed up with the manner in which you 'demand' answers. I've told you I'm going on a site visit. Surely you can wait until next week for me to tell you what my verdict is? Or would you rather I expressed an opinion on the basis of casual conversations, disputed plans and information being circulated on blogs?

You say "Would it not have been more valuable to individuals, neighbourhoods and communities in Bristol to get together a proper strategy to maintain and develop shops,services and jobs in each locality?" We already have groups like BEST doing that in some areas. No reason why the same can't apply to the old Broadmead too. In fact I look forward to seeing a wider range of independent shops there, as the chains move to CC.

Glenn Vowles said...

Looks like you would you prefer constituents not to doggedly take part in debate Kerry (??) since you state,

'to be frank I'm fed up with the manner in which you 'demand' answers'

What 'manner' is this? I'm very persistent with questioning at times and acknowledge that you will sometimes find this annoying. My intention is not of course to annoy but to get answers.

I make no apology at all for being demanding. Just attempting a social contribution that's all.

I'm very concerned at and passionate about the direction of our society and at how mainstream politicians and current political and decision making systems often simply avoid the real and hard questions. I've seen 25 yrs of obfuscation and officiousness on being green and I'm sick to the back teeth of it. This has made me even more determined to keep plugging away.

Glenn Vowles said...

What you describe Kerry is not the 'proper strategy' for localising development that I am talking about. It inadequate and undermined by developments like Cabot Circus.

Northern Lights said...

I wonder how much Carbon we would save if the Greens didn't use their computers to blog so much about climate change? ;)

greeengage said...

Nobody's denying that a job in retail might in some cases be a first step back into the employment market. But if single parents return to work, let's give them the credit, rather than claiming it's the result of government policy or the altruism of employers.

The right to request flexible working only applies to parents with children under the age of six. (Granted this is going to be extended, but only in the face of Tory pressure.)

Most parents of school age children do not have this right at present, and face massive challenges covering school drop off and pick up, school holidays etc.

In any case, this legislation is a drop in the ocean. Childcare in this country is expensive, scarce, and often not particularly good.

Kerry said...

Minimum wage, tax credits, free nursery places, child care tax credits - nothing to do with the Government?

And as for 'in the face of Tory pressure' - I assume that's a joke?

greeengage said...

Ummm no, not a joke. David Cameron announced that it was Conservatives policy to extend flexible working hours to all parents in June 2007. This became government policy in May 2008.

My point is not that the government has done nothing for working parents (or indeed employees in general) but that what they have done is a drop in the ocean.

Free nursery places, which you have mentioned twice, are a case in point. 2.5 hours of childcare, five times a week, 38 weeks of the year, is not a practical solution to most people's childcare problems.

Kerry said...

And where did Cameron get it from?

And it was being discussed at Labour Policy Forums for years before that.

As for nursery places - it's a minimum of 12.5 hours which doesn't have to be spread over 5 days, and can of course be topped up by paid for care, and is increasing to 15 hours in 2010. OK, it's not perfect, but it makes the difference between people being able to go out to work and not. For example, the child goes to nursery in the morning, then perhaps a grandparent or a paid childminder picks them up and has them till the other kids finish school, when the parent returns from work. I've visited lots of Early Years Centres, Sure Starts and nurseries - I talk to parents. They really appreciate this. Many in the Tory party, on the other hand, still believe a mother's place is in the home.

Anonymous said...

So people don't work in offices?

I've not seen any evidence to suggest that HSBC's Corn Street retail operation's staff will be directly replaced by office staff.

Given that they announced job cuts yesterday I think it's unlikely don't you?

Result: no new jobs at Carboot Circus from HSBC.

Chris Hutt said...

Kerry, can I ask you again how the 4,000 new jobs figure can be justified?

I estimate that to sustain 4,000 jobs with average wages near the minimum wage will require an annual spend by consumers of at least £50 million.

Such expenditure cannot be expected to be new expenditure under current economic circumstances, but would be transferred expenditure, mainly at the expense of shopping centres elsewhere.

It is likely that something like 4,000 jobs would be lost in those areas where the expenditure was transferred from, predominantly in and around Bristol.

So how can one talk about creating new jobs when there is unlikely to be any significant net gain in employment overall?

Kerry said...

They are recruiting 4000 more people. I assume that figure does not include staff transferred from (for example) shops that were in Broadmead but have moved over to Cabot Circus. It's new recruitment.

That is not, I accept, the same as 4000 net jobs - the success of Cabot Circus might have a knock-on effect on retail centres elsewhere. But I think the effect will be diffused enough not to have negative consequences - e.g. some local shoppers interviewed at the launch said they'd been going to London or to the Trafford Centre in Manchester to shop until now, because shops in Bristol weren't up to much. I can't see Selfridges going out of business as a result. Other shoppers will be coming here from as far afield as Swindon, Gloucester, Newport, Cardiff... (When I met with Ikea in Bristol they told me that people can travel more than 100 miles to visit the store. They might well decide to visit Harvey Nichols at the same time). Yes, it will take some money out of their local economies, but my prediction is that in most places - maybe Bath and Cribbs Causeway are an exception - it won't be enough to make a real impact.

Chris Hutt said...

Thank you for that detailed response Kerry. At least we both understand that claims about "4,000 new jobs" are likely to be simplistic. I wouldn't be surprised if that figure does include jobs transferred from what we must now call old Broadmead.

Your response also prompts me to flag up the environmental impact issue. Cabot Circus seem very proud that their catchment area will include Swindon, Gloucester, Newport and Cardiff. Indeed I think they've even suggested that people will come from as far afield as Truro!

But the generation of so much travel (overwhelmingly by car) has obvious environmental impacts, particularly for your constituents living around the M32. Expect week-end traffic (and noise and pollution) to intensify.

On the other hand, as you note, some Bristol and west country people will travel less far to go shopping and that might mitigate overall traffic generation. I have to admit that I'd rather have a prosperous shopping centre in the heart of Bristol than out on the fringes.