Modern slavery is one of the great evils of our time, and it happens across the UK under our noses. It’s estimated that tens of thousands of people could be victims – from nail bars and car washes, to construction and hospitality.
Everyone has a part to play in eliminating this unacceptable practice – and local councils can certainly contribute to this national effort. As well as ensuring our staff, contractors and councillors are able to recognise the signs of modern slavery, and can identify and support victims should they encounter them, we are putting how we spend public money to use in preventing modern slavery too.
I’m proud that Labour has turned Lambeth into a pioneer in responsible procurement. As Tory cuts mean local councils across the country face increasing financial pressure, it is essential that we achieve the best possible outcomes for our residents. This means that as well as being affordable, we make sure we are considering social value – from local jobs to protecting the environment – when we spend public money. We are also a Living Wage Council, paying all Lambeth staff the London Living Wage and ensuring 99% of our contractors do as well.
The way we spend money should be part of our work to tackle modern slavery too. Collectively, local councils spend around £40bn a year – this serious spending gives us leverage which we can use to stamp out any modern slavery being practiced in supply chains.
Our manifesto for May’s elections commits us to being at the forefront of the fight against modern day slavery, and we are pleased that we have taken the first step by being one of the first signatories to the Co-operative Party’s Modern Day Slavery Charter.
The Charter, developed by the Co-operative Party, Labour’s sister Party, aims to ensure that none of the money we spend inadvertently ends up supporting exploitation or in the hands of traffickers. It goes further than existing law and guidance, meaning Lambeth is among the first councils in the country proactively vetting our own supply chain to ensure no instances of modern slavery are taking place.
I was proud to sign on behalf of Lambeth, alongside Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the leaders of Islington, Waltham Forest, Oxford and Stevenage. A Lambeth Labour Council after 3rd May will continue to champion this important issue, ensuring we go above and beyond our statutory duties to be at the forefront of the fight against modern slavery and encouraging other public bodies to sign up to do the same.
Councillor Anna Birley
Councillors from Oxford, Bristol, Lambeth, Islington, Waltham Forest, Stevenage and Bassetlaw join Jeremy Corbyn MP at the signing of the charter.