Local elections were recently held in my borough which made me curious about whether my council was doing anything about the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking. Like many other young people and students, I tend not to think much about what my council does. Although we do not pay taxes as students, I have come to realise that we can ask our councils to do better with taxpayers' money.
I was pleased to hear back quickly from Harrow Council when I contacted them about the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking in the borough. I was also happy to see that they had given me plenty of information on the matter and that they were already working with charities such as Hestia as well as taking leadership with the ECPAT project. The more I learned, the more I realised that councils have a huge role to play in making local people aware of trafficking and Modern Slavery. They can also play an important role in making businesses aware that they should also think about their supply chains and hiring practices.
The Modern Slavery Act in 2015 obliges businesses with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to make a statement during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any part of the business, and in any of its supply chains – at any level. Most councils have enormous budgets because they are spending on local services like schools, road repairs, bin collections, libraries and lots of other things we may not notice. Harrow’s budget for the last financial year was £165 million, that's a lot more £36 million! Therefore, I think I ought to know that my council is not complicit in Modern Slavery. I want to know that when services are provided they are not being subcontracted in ways that mean workers are being exploited. I want building projects in my borough to use materials that are ethical, and not made using slave labour or child labour in other countries. I also want council employees to be aware of modern slavery so that if they come across it they can protect people in our boroughs. I am sure you want all these things too.