Got back to Bristol early today, to join Consumer Focus at Cafe Maitreya for the local launch of their 'Streetwise' report, which was based on case studies carried out in Easton, as well as wider polling. They chose Easton for the study because it represents a microcosm of a typical city, with so much diversity in such a small area. The report looks at issues like energy prices, mobile phones, all those consumer issues which affect people on low incomes. Spent an interesting couple of hours with Ed Mayo and Lord Whitty from Consumer Focus, talking about fuel poverty, social tariffs being offered by energy suppliers, 'green' electricity companies and various related issues. So much could be done to raise people's living standards if we could just sort out some of the bureaucracy and muddle involved in accessing basic services. Was told a few horror stories, for example the woman who moved into a flat where the previous tenant hadn't paid his gas bill. The energy company accepted she hadn't run up the debt but said that 'someone had to pay it'. And then cut her off, with a £500+ reconnection fee when she couldn't/ wouldn't do so! As I said to Ed Mayo, they might just as reasonably have gone out and mugged someone in the street for the money, on the same grounds: "well, someone has to pay it"!
Left Cafe Maitreya (the UK's no. 1 vegetarian restaurant, as voted by Guardian readers) with just enough time to pop into the Sweetmart (which is not a sweetshop) for essential supplies. Ended up being given a tour of the shop's extension and upstairs by the owner. Really excited about his plans, but can't remember which bits are public knowledge and which are under wraps at the moment, so will wait for the big launch in a few months.
Tomorrow I'm visiting Headway, the brain injury association, at Frenchay hospital. (This has been on the cards for months, and rescheduled a couple of times, but seems very timely now). I'm also meeting with the new Chief Executive of Bristol Airport, and on Saturday I'm taking part in a panel session with young people about terrorism and violent extremism in the rather unlikely setting of Bristol zoo. Also doing quite a bit of campaigning - out in St George, and possibly Frome Vale - and attending my GC. Then on Sunday it's Mother's Day - and watching Slumdog Millionaire on DVD with the lads and a curry!