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This week in Bristol: Council absolves itself over ‘spying’ on SEND parents

Due to council meetings being postponed during the period of mourning for the Queen’s death, a vote on launching an independent inquiry has been delayed.

This Week in Bristol

In the news this week, national and international headlines were dominated by the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96, with events cancelled across the country.

In Bristol, a crucial council meeting has been cancelled due to the period of mourning. Next week, councillors were set to vote on whether mayor Marvin Rees’ office needs to hold an independent inquiry into whether council staff have been monitoring the social media accounts of parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

An internal council report, launched after the monitoring was revealed via leaked council emails in July, has cleared the council of wrongdoing.

The report said that all the information collated was publicly available, that the parents had no reasonable expectation of privacy and there was no evidence that systematic monitoring took place. Councillors and parents slammed the report as the “bureaucracy marking its own homework”.

Councillors were due to scrutinise the issue on Monday and vote at full council on Tuesday on a motion calling for an independent inquiry. It is now unclear when these meetings will take place.

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In response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Bristol City Council has set out official guidance for Bristolians who wish to pay their respects. City Hall and Bristol Cathedral, both on College Green, have been set up as the city’s place of tribute with a book of condolence in each building. Anyone who would like to leave flowers is asked to lay them at the west end of the Cathedral (the end nearest the Central Library).

New NHS data shows that, as of June this year, almost 5,000 residents in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have waited more than a year for hospital treatment. This amounts to 5.9% of all patients currently on the area’s waiting list. However, the data also showed that the number of patients facing an even longer wait is now falling.

✏️ The mayor has revealed that he sent a letter to both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak before the end of the Conservative leadership election, urging the next PM to take radical action alongside city leaders to address climate change. The letter, which asked for “a major announcement that was world-leading in terms of its commitment to decarbonising the nation’s cities” preceded Truss’ announcement of an energy bill cap funded by government borrowing.

Local urban explorer and YouTuber Matthew Williams has released a video on his channel, The Secret Vault, of his discovery of a Victorian street underneath Lawrence Hill – which leads to an abandoned cannabis grow room. The underground street is filled with rubble, but also partially-intact shop front windows and artefacts such as old prams. Williams claims he’s been “looking for it for 20-odd years” since he first came to Bristol and heard rumours of its existence.

A man arrested in connection with sexual assaults in Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Reserve has been released on bail, and told not to enter the reserve while enquiries continue. The 36-year-old suspect was questioned in connection with three assaults across August and September.

An incident described as a “stand-off” took place in South Bristol this week, that saw dog handlers and armed police come to Sherrin Way in Withywood to apprehend a suspect. A negotiator was also drafted in to deal with the situation, which ended in an arrest.

The Arnolfini will host MOON FEST this weekend, Bristol’s first festival to celebrate East & South East Asian culture. Hong-Kong born Monica Wat launched the event to coincide with traditional annual celebrations, and says she hopes the festival will help form a celebratory response to the marginalisation of Asian voices in the UK, particularly after a wave of anti-Asian racism that took place during the pandemic.

☀️ Bristol’s Centre for Sustainable Energy is developing an online tool to help households understand how solar panels could work for their homes. Their solar calculator app will be launched in 2023.

Bristol community groups have received a major grant of £2.48 million from the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund. The scaling up of this project will help diverse communities explore local responses to the climate crisis that simultaneously improve the quality of life for local people.

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