Assembly Sets Justice Agenda For MK’s 50th Birthday – 26.4.16

Citizens:mk has won pledges from MK’s business and political leaders to achieve 50-themed social justice goals in MK’s 50th birthday year next year: 50 accredited Living Wage employers, 50 parish councils advised on renewable energy, 50 MK organisations in Weaving Trust events and plans to welcome 50 refugee families.

The pledges were made at our sixth annual Accountability Assembly at Cornerstone Church on 26th April, which drew a turnout of 260 people from 17 member institutions. The overall theme was ‘building community’ and the assembly heard personal testimonies of problems facing communities whose voices are not normally heard.

Care worker Jayne Meadows talked about how her life had changed since receiving the real Living Wage.

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Syrian refugee Nour Sakr (pictured above) talked about her experience of being welcomed in Milton Keynes. Headteacher Helen Hann talked about the benefits to Wyvern First School community of being involved in a community energy scheme.  Hala Rafify of MK Muslim Association (pictured below) talked about her positive experience of welcoming non-Muslims to a ‘weaving trust’ event at the Islamic Centre on Coffee Hall.

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Several prominent MK businesses including Network Rail, Santander, KPMG, Dentons and IKEA, took turns to talk about the business benefits of being accredited Living Wage employers and urged others to join the Living Wage accreditation campaign. The new Living Wage Business Network made a ‘Special Contribution to the Community’ award to Julia Upton, who is retiring from her post as CEO of MK Community Foundation, for championing the idea of Milton Keynes as a Living Wage city.

MK Council Leader Pete Marland was given a fresh baked cake for completing seven of the eight pledges he made at last year’s Assembly, Then the leaders of MK’s main political parties each committed to further pledges for the year ahead. “We have three main parties on the Council and 80% of the time we actually agree,” said Cllr Edith Bald, Leader of the Conservative Party. “These are pledges about things that really matter to the people of Milton Keynes.”

And there was more. The Bishop of Buckingham pledged to fund additional training in community organising for church leaders. And student Daniella Ghansah of St. Paul’s School shared the results of a survey of 500 students which showed that students were being charged different bus fares by different drivers. “We are working on a campaign to introduce an All-in-One card with a flat fee for any bus journey across the city.” The Council Leader pledged to meet with the students and discuss it further.

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – 17.5.16

On May 17th, CitizensMK member institution, Q:alliance will be hosting a celebration to mark the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. There will be a short ceremony at the MK Rose in Campbell Park at 1pm, followed by refreshments at the Milton Keynes Gallery Project Space.

Despite tremendous advancements over last 15 years in the UK, prejudice continues to be a serious issue at home and abroad. Although steadily declining, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic violence and discrimination continues to make headlines in the UK.

CitizensMK works to bring together the diverse communities of Milton Keynes to work together for a better MK. Our Weaving Trust campaign has been focussed particularly on bringing ordinary people together to meet each other as neighbours in our city.  We are delighted the Q:Alliance are a member of CitizensMK and are keen to create more understanding and tolerance.

Living Wage at Ikea – 25.4.16

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On the 1st of April IKEA introduced the Living Wage for all its co-workers. In the Milton Keynes Store. Staff were also treated to a celebration Living Wage breakfast and a box of goodies.

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Tanya Hamilton, HR Manager of the MK store said “I am very proud of IKEA for paying the Living Wage. I am really looking forward, together with my team, to exploring the relationship with Citizens MK and the Living Wage team.”

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Invitation to ‘Building Community’ Assembly 26.4.16

Members and non-members are invited to attend our annual Accountability Assembly on 26th April, this year themed ‘Building Community’.  Here you will see Citizens:mk in action as member institutions rally their members to support our four campaigns.  We will ask for pledges from power-holders, including the Leader of the Council and business leaders, to support our goals.  We will also hold them to account for pledges made last year.  Leaders of all main political parties will attend.  See the leader of your institution or click here to book a place.

Bus Passengers Charter At Last – 14.3.16

On Monday 14th March, the new MK Bus Passengers Charter was launched at The Bowl. This document outlines the rights and responsibilities of bus passengers in MK and takes another step towards improved bus services.

It also gives a big tick to MK Council who pledged to Citizens:mk to help make this happen.

“Bus transport has been a big issue for some time,” said Jacqueline Eustace of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church and Citizens:mk Fair Transport campaign group. “Although the bulk of the work on this has been done MK Bus Users Group, our campaign helped get this going in the first place.”

“I’m very pleased we’ve got it off the ground at last,” said Peter Ballantyne, Chair of MK Bus Users Group. “The next stage is to get MK Council to publish it and get in posted in bus shelters across MK.”

Click here for the new bus passenger charter

Southwood School meets Leader of Council – 10.3.16

16 school councillors from Southwood Primary School visited the Leader of MK Council, to talk about the problems they are experiencing at the back gate of their school because of too many parents collecting their children by car.

After hearing testimony of the problem from several school councillors, aged 7-11, Cllr Marland pledged to send a Council roads officer to the school to investigate the problems.

“It was very good to meet the pupils and hear them talking about real issues,” said Cllr Marland. “This is one of the best parts of my job!”

“The pupils really enjoyed the experience,” said deputy headteacher Elaine Hawkins, “and they are enjoying working on this campaign.”

The school councillors will be holding Cllr Marland to account for his pledge when they meet again at the Citizens:mk Accountability Assembly on 26th April.

MK leaders attend Citizens UK Council in Nottingham – 25.2.16

by Kurshida Mirza, MK Muslim Association

Five members from Citizens:mk attended the Citizens UK National Council Meeting on 25 February 2016:  Tim Norwood, St. Fridewside’s Church; Mike Kasibo, Global Outreach Foundation; Fidele Mutwarasibo, Church of the Christ the Cornerstone; Kurshida Mirza, Milton Keynes Muslim Association; and Community Organiser, Tom Bulman.

The CUK National Council is in effect a Delegates’ Assembly with representatives from each Chapter of alliances affiliated to CUK.  The aim is to debate the direction, planning and implementation of UK wide political issues and to ensure the Manifesto agreed into the last General Election is implemented.  The meetings provide an opportunity to bring issues which cannot be tackled solely by local chapters to the attention of the national Council.

This was the first time MK fielded a delegation comprising five people and was a great learning curve and an eye opener to those of us who are new members to CMK:

“CUK Council was an eye opener and an opportunity to get a whole picture of the work of Citizens UK. It was also an opportunity to network and make new friends” (Fidele Mutwarasibo).   “I was so much inspired by the great enthusiasm and courage of CUK. I thought the phrase ‘It takes a Community to raise a Child’ was only applied in Africa, but on Thursday I learnt that it’s actually everywhere in the world. We all live in the same global village!!” (Mike Kasibo, Global Outreach Foundation.

And few actions we took away:

Living Wage – Building on our successful work in MK continue to work to see if we can get more institutions to become accredited and target care providers to become Living Wage employers (the CUK noted that social care workers are poorly paid and this needs to improve).

Refugee Welcome – we reported on the successful work in MK which has brought together a diverse group of people to put together a package of support for new refugees arriving in MK and acknowledged that we needed to consider also other ways in which we could support the refugee settlement effort across the UK and elsewhere.

Weaving Trust with Q:alliance – 20.2.16

At 11am-1pm on Saturday 20th February, 11 people from five institutions of Citizens:mk alliance met with eight people from Q:alliance in a Weaving Trust event in the Community Room at John Lewis.

“The event helped me understand the issues faced by LGBT people,” said Yvonne Smith of Christ the Cornerstone Chuch.  “I was impressed by the openness, stoicism and resilience of the Q:alliance members.”

“The Weaving Trust event was a valuable exercise to find out what common interests we have as a community, regardless of age, gender, religion or sexuality,” said Suzanna Raymond, Support, Advice & Advocacy worker for Q:alliance.  “It was also a great way to find out ways we might support each other now and in the future.  I hope that Q:alliance can use this as a basis to build strong community connections in Milton Keynes.”

 

“Weaving Trust is going from strength to strength,” said Phil de Marco of St. Frideswide’s Church in Water Eaton.

In a short evaluation session at the end, the event was given 8.5/10.

Thanks to Anne Dodds, Community Liaison Coordinator at John Lewis, for use of the space.

Delegates Assembly visions MK in 50 years – 9.2.16

On  Tuesday 9th February, 95 delegates from 15 member institutions attended the annual Citizens:mk Delegates Assembly in The Guildhall, Cornerstone Church.  After a roll call and updates from several institutions on successful training events and campaign developments within their institutions, delegates were asked to consider MK’s 50th birthday next year and imagine what MK will be like in 50 years.

The key themes emerging from this visioning were:

  • city – MK a proper city, one of the best in the UK
  • energy – self-sufficient, sustainable city
  • equality – fewer families in poverty, able to hold my partner’s hand in public
  • environment – lots of green spaces, beautiful
  • housing – more affordable housing, integrated infrastructure
  • public transport – reliable, friendly and fairly priced
  • diversity – full integration of refugees unable to return to their country
  • technology – more tech businesses, robots to tidy!

The most frequently mentioned was public transport (see full list here).

Delegates were then asked to vote for campaign proposals presented by campaign teams.  The following campaign goals were formally approved for the year ahead:

  1. Weaving Trust – hold at least 8 Weaving Trust events between April 2016 and March 2017, including one massive event  involving 50 different MK institutions in January, to begin MK’s 50th birthday celebrations in January 2017.
  2. Living Wage – to have 50 accredited Living Wage employers in 2017 to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.
  3. Community Energy – ask MK Council to:
    • Work with Wolverton Community Energy on a pilot community energy project, involving the installation of solar panels installed on at least 2 roofs it owns or controls.
    • Work with Citizens MK to share lessons learned from this project with communities across MK.
    • Designate a Cabinet member and Director with responsibility for tackling Fuel Poverty, reducing energy use and making MK a more sustainable city.
    • Provide information and help to promote the Citizens MK Big Green Switch initiative to MK residents.
  4. Refugees Welcome
    • identify 25 landlords willing to lease premises to MK Council for purpose of housing refugees.
    • school members will receive a presentation or workshop for staff and/or students about refugees and the current crisis and we will engage with 25 or more other schools
    • lobby MK Council to double its current commitment (80 refugees) and settle 50 refugee families during this Parliament.
    • continue to build up a directory of support services.

At Accountability Assembly on 26th April, power-holders will be asked to pledge commitment to achieving these goals.   Pledges made by member institutions for turnout on 26th April is 170 against a target of 300, with some still to be confirmed, as follows:

Brooklands Farm Primary School 20
Christ the Cornerstone 10
Future Wolverton 10
Global Outreach Foundation TBC
MK Academy 20
MK College TBC
MK Equality Group TBC
MK Muslim Association 10
MK Quaker Meeting 20
MK YMCA TBC
Open University 10
Q:alliance 15
St. Augustine’s RC Church TBC
St. Francis’ & St. Mary Magdalene’s 7
St. Frideswide’s 12
St. Paul’s RC School 10
Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership 9
Southwood School 9
Transition MK 8
170

“Chairing a meeting like the Delegates’ Assembly is always a game of two halves,” said Peter Leeson of Q:alliance.  “On the one side, there is the thrill of seeing so many volunteers and people willing to support and encourage and move things on, on the other side, the continuous angst as to what is about to go wrong: the person who does not show up, the one who will ignore the bell and not stop talking, the failure of technology, the project which does not get the support it needs… Thankfully, no major incidents disrupted the evening and the whole event was dominated by the optimistic support of all participants and volunteers.”

“Co-Chairing the Delegates Assembly was a real pleasure,” said Rukshana Malik, of MK Muslim Association.  “It was really nice to see so many people voice issues that matter to them. It really made me appreciate how much effort people were putting into their campaigns and opened my eyes to things going on in and around Milton Keynes.”