27th April 2009
Dear Mr House
Subject: Funding of Fairtrade development activities in Bristol
I have received information that Bristol City Council has ceased to provide financial support of around £18,000 per year to the Bristol Fairtrade Network. This will mean that the part-time Co-ordinator will no longer be able to continue in post. I realise that budgets are tight, but this is a very short-sighted move on your part, and will particularly impact on small businesses, schools and the stature of the City.
The Network has had a hugely successful year, culminating in the Fairtrade Fashion Show at Bristol Cathedral. This had a national profile, to the extent that Sir Steve Redgrave had a major role in presenting the Show, and the entire Cathedral was booked out. Bristol has been gradually building up an enviable national profile as a beacon Fairtrade city, and is increasingly being emulated across the UK. This cannot be done without a minimal level of paid staffing.
Moreover the Bristol Fairtrade Network is a massive supporter of smaller businesses in Bristol – promoting their products to consumers via events and the annual Fairtrade Directory. At this time, these businesses need as much support from you as they can get. The Network is an effective promoter for them. This is absolutely not the right time for you to let down local businesses in this way.
This year the Network produced the UK’s first business-to-business, wholesale Fairtrade directory. Again, this shows that Bristol has become a trailblazing city in this respect. Bristol also has 10 Fairtrade, or working towards Fairtrade, schools. Schools will not be able to achieve this fantastic status without support from the Network. I am surprised that you wish to disable such successful initiatives, which support so many local businesses and schools. I would also remind you that the Network receives much sponsorship from other organisations, particularly in partnership with the Co-operative network, and so is a good-practice organisation in terms of fundraising.
Last year the UK government doubled its funding to the Fairtrade Foundation to £1.2million. In the light of this changing national focus, I urge you to reflect on Bristol’s success in this field, and that withdrawing your support will effectively halt the momentum that has been built. Please be forward thinking and realise that funding for the Network is an investment in local businesses, schools and in the stature of this city.