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People, Power and Politics in 2015

Citizens UK, national community organising charity, and the organisation that created the Living Wage campaign, is today (Monday 4 th May) hosting the largest assembly to date in its 25 year history ahead of the general election on Thursday. Over 2,200 voters, including 1,000 from marginal constituencies, will gather in Methodist Central Hall to put a series of questions from the Citizens UK People’s Manifesto to the three parties that make up the Government (Conservative and Liberal Democrat) and the official opposition (Labour).

Dr Kaneez Shaid, MBE, trustee, Citizens UK said:

“The work of Citizens UK to empower people to engage with, and be active in politics, is exciting and inspirational. Our members come together, from diverse backgrounds, to work together on social justice issues for which they have a shared passion, and to make change for the common good.

“Already over 3,350 of our members have participated in regional assemblies in addition to the hundreds of meetings we’ve had with prospective parliamentary candidates across the country. The themes and questions we ask might not be on the topics the parties want to talk about, but the issues are important to us and we will continue to raise them with politicians at every level until we see positive change.”

Today faith leaders, community representatives and voters from key marginal constituencies who have been meeting with prospective parliamentary candidates are being bussed to London from across the country to participate in the Citizens UK General Election Assembly.

With the polls still neck and neck, Nick Clegg, Sajid Javid and Ed Miliband will address the hall and hear moving live testimony from people directly affected by issues such as poor social care, low pay, debt and the horror of indefinite detention, all covered in the 2015 Citizens UK People’s Manifesto.

Five key issues from the 2015 Citizen’s UK People’s Manifesto will be discussed at the event. These are themed around: Governance of the UK; Tackling Pay Day Lending; Improved Social Care; Dignity for Families Seeking Sanctuary; and Increased Implementation of the Living Wage.

This manifesto was created by Citizens UK members from across the country in a unique two year process involving 350 faith institutions, workplaces, community associations and educational establishments.

The Assembly in 2010 saw Citizens UK ask for an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes and a cap on the cost of credit, both of which have now passed into law.

Neil Jameson, executive director, Citizens UK, said:

“Our mission is simple to develop the capacity of the people of the United Kingdom to participate in public life and to strengthen our institutions in the process.

"Millions of people up and down the UK are affected by the issues raised in our People’s Manifesto.

"Our assembly puts the power in people’s hands. Those facing hardship will have a rare and special opportunity to address politicians face to face.

Today the three main political parties will listen to our testimonies and requests and outline their response.

"In the last week before polling Citizens UK encourages everyone to vote.

"We thank all who are standing for public office for doing so and we wish them all the best on Thursday."

The Assembly is the culmination of a two-year process, which has also involved a drive to register 50,000 people to vote and a programme of community leader training to encourage people to become politically active; engaging and negotiating with politicians and candidates on issues that matter to them.

Bishop Peter Selby said:

Today we are raising important issues that don't always get the attention they deserve. We will ask each of the parties to commit to putting an end to the shameful practice of locking up people, guilty of no crime, without time limit.

“Indefinite detention is a stain on the character of Britain. Innocent men and women, often survivors of war, sexual violence and persecution, are held in prison-like conditions, sometimes for years on end. The human cost of this practice is immeasurable, whilst at the same time the taxpayer foots an enormous and unnecessary bill. It’s time for a time limit on detention.”

Charlotte Wood, co-chair of the Citizens UK Council that managed the creation of the People’s Manifesto said:

“Listening formed the back bone of the manifesto. It wasn’t crafted by an elite group in Whitehall but in kitchens in Cardiff, church halls in Nottingham and at the school gates in Hackney.

“Across the country, from all ages, faiths and backgrounds the issue of social care was repeated. We heard stories of sons and daughters struggling to care for elderly parents whilst holding down a job and family life. Shocking reports of poor care and badly trained care workers, with so little time that people are forced to choose between help with washing or eating.

“We also heard from care workers, dedicated to the job but paid such low wages they struggle to make ends meet. Social care is in crisis. With experts, workers and recipients we’ve developed a charter to improve it. But it needs support from the very top. That’s why we are asking the politicians to commit to tackle the problems in social care and tell us how they will improve standards for everyone.”

The politicians will also be asked about how their parties will encourage further take up of the Living Wage, which since the last Citizens UK Assembly in 2010, has developed into a mark of responsible business, with over 1,400 accredited Living Wage employers and nearly 25% of the FTSE100 going Living Wage.

Mike Kelly, head of Living Wage, KPMG, accredited Living Wage employer and Principal Partner of the Living Wage Foundation said:

"KPMG is proud to be a supporter of the Living Wage campaign. For us it's not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense too.

"The Living Wage movement is growing in strength, but there's still over 5 million workers earning less than the Living Wage and in 2015, that's just not good enough.

"All the Political parties have been vocal in their support of the Living Wage. Today we want to hear about their specific policies that will encourage those who can, to pay the Living Wage and ensure a recovery for all."

Posted on 4 May, 2015