Help us to Keep The Lights On for another decade! Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with ACORN’s Wesley Bear on activism, the Barton House evacuation, and frosty relations with the council

Relations between Bristol City Council and community union ACORN have become increasingly fractious, with recent clashes over council tax and the evacuation of a Barton Hill tower block. Neil asks Wesley why, and whether there’s a way back.

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Neil Maggs

In the last few months, Wesley Bear has been very publicly at the forefront of actions by ACORN. That’s the community union known nationally for taking direct action to stand up for tenants’ rights, which originated in Bristol almost a decade ago.

On 17 November Wesley, ACORN’s communications officer, was involved in an altercation with security guards at the Holiday Inn in Bristol city centre. Residents of the Barton House tower block evacuated that week have been temporarily housed in the hotel – in conditions many have complained are far from suitable for families.

A recording heard at the start of this week’s episode captures Wesley trying to speak to Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, during the incident, which, he claims, ended with him being assaulted by those security staff. The exchange, in which Wesley calls Rees a “villain” of the situation, marks the latest downward spiral in relations between the mayor – and the council more widely – and ACORN activists.

Over recent weeks the union has been calling out the council over its handling of the high-rise evacuation. People were moved out suddenly and chaotically over fears the structure is unsafe – and ACORN is calling for an independent inquiry into what happened. It’s also been taking the council to task over proposals to reduce council tax relief for the poorest households – which have now been scrapped.

Things weren’t always so oppositional. So what has turned them so sour? What exactly does ACORN believe the council has done wrong in its handling of the tower block emergency? Does the union really speak for the wider Barton Hill community? And does Wesley – as a communications man – see any way back to friendlier ties between ACORN and the powers that be?

Join Neil Maggs for another engrossing chat as he puts these questions, and many others, to Wesley.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?


Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

Post a comment

Mark if this comment is from the author of the article

By posting a comment you agree to our Comment Policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related content

‘This is long overdue’: campaigning high-rise residents promised action to improve their homes

After years of living in crumbling, leaking housing, and putting pressure on the council to take action, people in neglected blocks of flats at St Jude's hope change is finally coming.

Listen: The Debrief – what does Bristol’s Green surge mean for the city, and what next for the council under a new committee system?

The Green Party became Bristol's largest party at local elections on 2 May, falling just short of an overall majority. As Bristol kisses goodbye to its mayoral system, what will happen next?

Green surge secures historic victory at Bristol council elections

The Green Party gained 10 seats, mostly from Labour, but fell just short of a majority. Now, they will go into Bristol's new committee system as the largest party, but restated their commitment to work with others in leading the council.

From activists to councillors: the local election candidates taking the plunge into party politics

With a new committee system about to give councillors more power, the Cable spoke to some of the new faces hoping to take their desire for change to City Hall. 

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Emma Edwards on making local politics less toxic, and whether the Greens are ready for power

Growing support for the Green Party could well see them running the council beyond May's local elections, but are they ready to make the tricky transition from the main local opposition to being in charge?

Listen: Bristol Unpacked with Tory leader Mark Weston on how the council has waged ‘war on motorists’ and wasted millions

The councillor of nearly 20 years discusses the Tories' miserable national polling, the millions of pounds of public money wasted by the council, and the cultural divides between Bristol's inner city and suburbs.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning