Merseyside is at the forefront of the fight against modern slavery – that’s the message from the region’s Deputy Police Commissioner and five local authorities as they join forces to pledge their commitment to tackling the issue.
To mark National Anti-Slavery Day on Thursday, 18 October, Knowsley Council was one of those that signed up to the Charter against Modern Slavery, which is aimed at ensuring that exploitation has no place in council supply chains.
The Global Slavery Index estimated earlier this year that in 2016 there were up to 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. This contrasts with a figure of 13,000 estimated by the Home Office in 2013.
Collectively, local authorities in England spend more than £40bn per year procuring goods and services on behalf of the communities they serve, and the aim of the Charter against Modern Slavery is to commit councils to proactively vetting their supply chain to ensure no instances of modern slavery are taking place. It also encourages councils to ensure they challenge any abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they do not rely upon a potential contractor practising modern slavery and refer on for investigation any contractors who cause concern.
Deputy PCC Cllr Emily Spurrell, who is Chair of Merseyside’s Modern Slavery network, said: “Slavery was abolished more than 180 years ago in this country. Yet we know it’s still happening today right across the UK and sadly in our own communities, here in Merseyside.
“Slavery’s hidden nature means it can be difficult to ascertain the extent of the problem, but we know the number of identified victims is continuing to rise. We also know it is an issue we all need to face. Local authorities have the ability to implement changes at a community level that can make a real difference. By taking this pledge, the councils in our region are showing just how seriously they take this issue and that they are the forefront of the fight against modern slavery.”
Cllr Jayne Aston, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “Signing this Charter sends a really strong message to other organisations across the City Region that we all have a part to play in preventing exploitation of this kind. With cases of modern day slavery sadly on the increase, we all have a duty to take a proactive approach, making sure we know exactly who we’re doing business with at every stage in the supply chain.”
Cllr Shelley Powell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Neighbourhoods added: “We all have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society from these criminals who are willing to exploit them. We must all be vigilant for signs of this happening in our communities and this Charter is an important part of that.”
Anti-Slavery Day was created by the Anti-Slavery Day Act 2010, a Private Members Bill which introduced a national day to raise awareness of the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.