Leeds Citizens Launch Social Justice Agenda

IMG_9928
150 people from across Leeds civil society came together on Wednesday 11th February to announce the first organisations to join Leeds Citizens and launch our first Social Justice Agenda.
During a powerful Roll Call, 21 organisations announced their commitment to work together for the common good and confirmed payment of membership dues. We thank those organisations for their courage and leadership, and hope their actions will inspire many more in the coming months.
The event, hosted by Makkah Masjid, came at the end of our 6-month Listening Campaign – a focused effort to build relationships and identify the major issues affecting our communities. Through one-to-one conversations, group meetings and community events, trained teams of leaders highlighted a number of common concerns across communities:, including Poverty, Transport, Community Facilities, Health & Social Care, Litter and Dog Fouling.
Following testimonies on each issue, the newly announced members of Leeds Citizens voted to prioritise 3 of these for public action in Spring 2015:
Poverty & Debt, Heath & Social Care and Transport
These issues form our Social Justice Agenda and we ask all communities to help plan and turnout for joint action on at least one of these issues.Finally, the Delegates Assembly agreed to publicly launch Leeds Citizens at a Founding Assembly on Tuesday 7th July.
Leeds Citizens actions will begin in spring. To help plan the actions, please contact Tom Chigbo and attend one of the Action Team meetings below:
Poverty & Debt
– Monday 9th March, 6-8pm
– Davison Room, Oxford Place Centre, Oxford Place, Leeds, LS1 3AX
Map & Directions
Health & Social Care
- Tuesday 10th March, 6-8pm
- Conference Room, Oxford Place Centre, Oxford Place, Leeds, LS1 3AX
Map & Directions
Transport
- Wednesday 11th March, 4:30-6:30pm
- Abbey Grange Church of England Academy, Butcher Hill, Leeds, LS16 5EA

Posted in All, Assemblies, Citizens UK, Leeds, Living Wage Campaign

Citizens UK Launches Proposal to Save Half a Million People From Debt

17-1000x288 loans

A proposal to use £200m of fines on banks and payday lenders to support community finance organisations such as credit unions has today been launched by the national community organising charity Citizens UK. The idea, which is supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings, would see the creation of a Community Finance Foundation to help ethical alternatives to high-cost credit expand their reach and improve their sustainability. It is estimated that over the next five years such a venture would help 500,000 people avoid high-cost credit, saving them over £200m per year in interest and fees and reducing the cost of problem debt on wider society by £1.4bn.

The proposal is part of Citizens UK’s Civil Society Manifesto, which will be put to major party leaders at a unique ‘Accountability Assembly’ on May 4th in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. The idea has come from Citizens’ Just Money campaign, which in 2009 was the first to call for a cap on the cost of credit. Campaigners from mosques, churches, synagogues and schools joined the Bishop of Stepney to celebrate the introduction of that cap on 2nd January this year by turning up outside the Wonga Headquarters in London wearing baseball caps.

The Community Finance Foundation is supported by a range of charities and think tanks, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s high-profile Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings. Sir Hector Sants, the Chair of the Task Group, said:

“A vibrant community finance sector is in my view an essential element of a fairer and more inclusive financial system. This will not be achieved without significant investment and the Archbishop’s Task Group believes the Community Finance Foundation can be major part of meeting that need.”

Damon Gibbons, Director of the Centre for Responsible Credit, said:

“We desperately need an expansion of affordable credit in this country but Credit Unions and other community finance providers are hampered by a lack of dedicated funding to support their development. If we want to see them using mobile technology, undertaking widespread advertising campaigns, and pooling their resources to provide a serious alternative to the payday and other rip-off lenders then we need to establish a Community Finance Foundation along the lines of this proposal as a matter of urgency.”

Professor Tim Hall from the University of East London which is a member organisation of Citizens UK, has seen the need for community finance first hand. After a number of his students reported problems with debt affecting their studies, he undertook research that found almost one in 10 students at the University had taken out a payday loan. Speaking about the Community Finance Fund proposal, he said:

“The fact that 10% of my students have taken out payday loans is a scandal. We need a stronger community finance sector in this country, and the fines collected on banks and payday lenders gives us the perfect opportunity to make that happen.”

Citizens UK has pledged to find 50,000 new members for community finance organisations from its own member organisations over the course of the next Parliament. Community Organiser on the Just Money Campaign Emmanuel Gotora said:

“This is about protecting our families and our communities from the devastating effects of exploitative lending and debt. Our members are willing to step up and play their part, but we need Government to do its bit too. Every other country with a strong community finance sector has some form of infrastructure to make that possible, and the record levels of fines we’ve seen in the baking sector give us the perfect source for that support. Problem debt will continue to be a huge problem in the next Parliament, so why not use the proceeds of a broken financial system to start to build one that can really help people cope with the pressures of tough times?”

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Money Advice Service estimates that there are currently 8.8 million people in the UK who are over-indebted, and the UK’s largest debt charity StepChange estimates that there are 2.9 million people in problem debt, with a social and economic cost to the country of £8.3bn. See http://www.stepchange.org/Portals/0/documents/media/reports/8_billion_challenge.pdf for more information.

To see the Community Finance Foundation Proposal paper go to http://www.citizensuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Community-Finance-Foundation-A-Proposal.pdf

For the full Citizens UK Civil Society Manifesto see http://www.citizensuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Citizens-UK-Manifesto-2015.pdf

The Community Finance Foundation is supported by the Archbishop’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings, The Centre for Responsible Credit, The Community Development Foundation, The Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, The Financial Inclusion Centre, The Community Investment Coalition and the Community Development Finance Association.

CASE STUDIES

Colleen Beasley is a single mother who lives in Hoxton, East London. She took out a payday loan to pay for shoes for her daughter, and ended up trapped in debt for well over a year. She has since become a leading figure in the Just Money campaign, and led a successful petition to Hackney Council to ban payday loan adverts from publicly owned spaces. She is now a member of her local credit union. On the Community Finance Foundation she said, “If this initiative had existed when I needed access to credit then I might never have got into the spiral of payday debt that trapped me. People need a better alternative to help them stay afloat in difficult times, and this proposal will help make that possible.”

Gavin Dudley is the sole earner for his family in Islington. In the past he has used payday lenders, and had to pawn family jewellery in order to meet the repayments. Since then he has joined his local credit union and was able to borrow safely from them when someone cloned his bank card and emptied his account just 10 days before Christmas.

For media enquiries or to arrange an interview with Colleen or Gavin please contact Emmanuel Gotora on 07956998909 or David Barclay on 07791633117.


Posted in All, Just Money, Press Release

Citizens UK disappointed by slow pace of Premier League

Premier league

Premier leagueYesterday morning, a delegation of Citizens UK members who have been working on the Living Wage campaign in the football sector met with Director of Policy Bill Bush and Director of Communications Tim Vine.

The campaign has been gathering momentum over the last two months since the accreditation of Chelsea FC as an accredited Living Wage Employer last December. Joel Sharples, part of today’s Citizens UK delegation, organised an e-petition which gathered 65,000 signatures calling on the Premier League to adopt the Living Wage.

Despite this momentum, the team left disappointed today because the Premier League continue refuse to take a position of leadership on the issue. Bill Bush explained that the Premier League considers itself a good employer and even thinks, to the best of his knowledge, that they pay the Living Wage to all staff. However, he was unwilling to commit to becoming accredited.

The Premier League, which acts as the secretariat for the 20 Clubs, said it was unable to encourage the clubs to adopt the Living Wage.

John Crowley, a worker at Chelsea FC and Arsenal tried to explain today the importance of the Living Wage for low paid staff at the major clubs and why the Premier League had a moral obligation to encourage Clubs to go above the basic minimum. He said:

“The Living Wage is about lifting families out of working poverty. I am saving up to afford a law degree so I can achieve my dreams of being a lawyer and the minimum wage simply isn’t good enough especially when we know the Clubs can afford it.”

Martin Wroe, vicar and writer from Islington, who chaired the meeting with the Premier League estimated that there are approximately 40,000 workers within the Premier League currently working below the Living Wage. He said:

“With the recent announcement of a TV deal of £5.1 billion it seems unjust that the Premier League can’t encourage the Clubs to adopt the Living Wage or at least themselves become an accredited Living Wage Employer. This campaign is not about bashing clubs about their high paid stars, it’s about lifting the floor to ensure those at the bottom are not forced into poverty because the clubs continue to pay wages too low to allow for a decent standard of living.”

Rhys Moore, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, who joined the Citizens UK delegation today said:

“There is both a moral and business case for the Living Wage and we hope that now the Premier League knows more about the detail of the campaign they will step up and get accredited. We see the momentum of this campaign continuing to build and we hope Richard Scudamore will see the opportunity in being on the offensive in the fight against low-pay by adopting a leading role with the a Living Wage now.”

With thousands of supporters connected across the country, the Living Wage is an issue that is not going away. Citizens UK members are going to step up campaigning with key clubs such as Arsenal FC who are refusing to engage. Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation will also be continuing to support and encourage more open clubs such as West Ham and Manchester City who are exploring the Living Wage and beginning to work out how this would roll out into the security, cleaning and catering subcontracts where the majority of low paid workers are employed.

Sophie Stephens, Lead Organiser on the Citizens UK Living Wage football campaign said:

“We hope by the end of the season we will have more than just one Living Wage champion in the Premier League and we envisage a future where the Living Wage is the norm in football. But this takes courage, demonstrated by Chelsea, and we are calling now on all the clubs to show their true colours by stepping up to the plate and working to lift low-paid staff out of working poverty.”


Posted in All, Citizens UK, Living Wage Campaign