Weaving Trust at Thames Valley Police – 7.12.15

Thames Valley Police hosted a Weaving Trust event in CMK on Monday 7th December. Fourteen officers, staff and volunteers met a similar group from various Citizens:mk communities.

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The Police talked about their work and how they spend their time. Although they have a lot of paperwork to contend with, they expressed a strong sense of public service and a desire to make MK a better place.

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Both Police officers and visitors enjoyed the event, and a few new links were made. It was a great event in our growing campaign.

Leaders Forum prioritises issues for research – 24.11.15

30 leaders from 12 institutions attended this year’s annual Leaders Forum at MK Academy on 24th November.  The aim of the evening was to share issues of concern arising from each institution’s listening to its people, then to prioritise the issues of common concern across our alliance according to importance and urgency.

In the process, four issues were identified as worthy of further research, based on a combination of support in the room and the volunteering of a leader to lead further research and development of a SMART campaign goal for presentation to Delegates Assembly on 9th February.  It was also shown that our existing Weaving Trust, Refugees Welcome and Living Wage campaigns have sufficient support to continue into next year.  Weaving Trust had overwhelming support.

For summary of the issues raised and how institutions supported them, click here:  Leaders Assembly 2015 results.

The four new issues identified for further research are:

  • Affordable bus transport (research team lead is Daniella Ghansah)
  • Homelessness (research team lead is Anna Kearns)
  • Youth Space (research team lead is Mary Stone)
  • Community Energy (research team lead is Marie Osborne).

A series of three meetings will be held between now and then for interested parties to come together to do this research.  The dates of these meetings are Tuesdays 4pm at Acorn House on 8th December, 12th January 2016 and 2nd February (details on our Events page).  If you would like to attend, please contact Tom.

The wheels are in motion!  The challenge now is for institutional leaders to organise turnout of 5 people from each institution to attend the Delegates Assembly on 9th February.  There we’ll decide which campaigns to work on in 2016-17.

Weaving Trust at MK Dons SET – 16.11.15

The MK Dons have become an important part of our local community. Citizens of Milton Keynes have really taken the team to their hearts, and the successes (and occasional failures) of the Dons matter to thousands of people. The MK Dons Sports and Education Trust does a lot of exciting work across the borough, so it was really good to hold a Weaving Trust Event with them at Stadium MK.

Young people from Brooklands Farm Primary School and MK Academy joined people from other Citizens:mk communities at this event. There were lots of questions and excited conversations. By the end of the event a lot of new friendships had been made and the visitors had learned a lot about their local team and the many things that take place in the stadium.

Weaving Trust is all about building up the links that hold us together as a community. The MK Dons have done a lot to help develop a sense of community in Milton Keynes, so it was really good for the Dons SET and Citizens:mk to be working together.

There were a few thoughts about future Weaving Trust events at Stadium MK, so we may be back…


Refugees Welcome Call To Action – 11.11.15

The Refugees Welcome campaigning team, supported by Citizens:mk, met with local groups and individual citizens at a Call to Action event on Wednesday 11th November, kindly hosted by the Church of Christ the Cornerstone in Central Milton Keynes.

The event had an impressive turnout – with representatives from numerous community groups, organisations and businesses across the town as well as a number of individual citizens, interested in getting involved in the campaign.

“The event showed Milton Keynes at its best – coming together to help those in need.”, said Jacqueline Eustace of the Campaign Organising Committee.

The purpose of the meeting was to present the Refugees Welcome Campaign Goals, illustrate the various ways for groups, businesses and individuals to support the campaign, and to build up the already existing Directory of people and services in Milton Keynes prepared to give practical help when refugee families arrive in the city.

A special part of the event was the emotional testimony from Ruth Desale, who gave an account of her horrendous and unforgettable experience as a refugee  – journey for a better life – from Eritrea to England.

The audience applauded Jeremy Beake’s statement, made on behalf of MK  Council, pledging to welcome and resettle at least 80 refugees. This follows a positive response from a number of estate letting agents and landlords who have been written to by the Campaign Organising Committee with a request to let their properties to Syrian refugees at affordable rates as part of this city-wide resettlement action.

John Cornwall, a Christian from Buckingham and a dedicated human rights activist, recalled an encouraging and personal example of how local communities in Buckinghamshire have in the past welcomed and helped to resettle a refugee family from Uganda, illustrating a joint effort from individual people, the churches and the local council that made this happen. This was back in 1972 when tens of thousands of Asian Ugandans were expelled from their country. “If we could do that then, you can do much more now”, said John.

The event’s structure created the opportunity for the attendees to interact with each other through 1-2-1 discussions and focus groups designed to explore and challenge each of the 9 goals of the campaign.

These have resulted with an overwhelming number of ideas, practical offers of help and contact details – for the Campaign Organising Committee to take forward. The call to action has shown very clearly that tangible actions can be taken across many different areas – from within own our families and communities, to schools, businesses and even workplaces.

Carmel Schmid, who is chairing the Refugees Welcome campaigning group said:

“For me it felt like an overwhelming wave of enthusiasm: at the start of the evening I had felt anxious – who would come and what might they expect? Would we be able to harness the energy? Would we find a way of empowering people to take action? But as soon as we had heard the moving testimony first from Ruth as a refugee and then from John who found a home for a refugee family, I felt a buzz of energy. It was as if everyone was talking in tongues and frankly that has not stopped. What is being achieved now is tremendous. A big thank you to all who participated and offered service for our directory. “

The Refugees Welcome Campaign team are now busy following up on ideas and contacts details shared at the event. If you were not able to join the meeting, but are keen to be part of the campaign, e-mail refugees@citizensmk.org.uk.

The team meets on the second Wednesday of each month at a CMK location – please follow updates on the Citizens MK website and on social media (#mkrefugees)

To register your interest in providing accommodation for refugees, and for advice on such matters, contact Positive Action in Housing.

Business leaders launch MK Living Wage Employers Network – 5.11.15

Leading a city-wide celebration of the real Living Wage during national Living Wage Week, business leaders met at Dentons’ office on Midsummer Boulevard to launch a new employers network.

The aim of the network is to promote the real Living Wage, which is different from the government’s new national minimum wage premium for over-25s (dubbed ‘living wage’ in the Chancellor in his budget statement) because it is voluntary for employers and linked annually to the real cost of living. The new hourly rate of the real Living Wage outside London was announced nationally on Monday 2nd November as £8.25 per hour.

At breakfast event John Cove, CEO of MK Dons SET, which has just become MK’s 14th Living Wage employer, said: “As soon as we knew that it was a viable option for the MK Dons SET, we worked towards becoming an accredited Living Wage employer. We hope this goes a small way to showing our appreciation to everyone within our organisation.  As Richard Branson once said, if look after your staff, they will look after your customers.”

Karen Robson, Head of Cost Management & Procurement at Santander UK, an accredited Living Wage employer since February, said: “The wellbeing of our employees, both direct and indirect, is paramount to the success of our organisation, as well as our goal to being a bank that is simple, personal and fair. This is why we decided last year to become an accredited Living Wage employee. We see real benefits in treating our sub-contracted staff as part of the bank now.”

Ben Stapleton of KPMG, one of MK’s first accredited Living Wage employers, said: “For us it’s been a win-win situation.  We find our staff are less stressed, more confident and see their families more often.  The Living Wage also benefits us from a business and economic perspective in that the turnover of our contracted staff has halved and we are paying less in recruitment fees.  Staff morale is higher and productivity has increased.”

Tracy Schembre, Pastry Chef at The Open University, which achieved Living Wage accreditation in 2013, said: “Me and my husband both work full time to make ends meet, so family trips to the cinema and bowling have been few and far between. Now I have the Living Wage we can put that extra money aside so once a month we can now have a family day out without worry, which in turn has brought our family unit closer and happier together.”

Julia Upton, Chief Executive of MK Community Foundation, which achieved Living Wage accreditation in 2014, said: “Our Vital Signs 2015 report shows that, despite MK’s business success, many MK workers remain poor. We are delighted that MK’s voluntary sector organisations have led the way with Living Wage accreditation and hope more private sector companies will now sign up so more workers are paid fairly.”

Peter Marland, Leader of MK Council, also committed to becoming a Living Wage employer, said: “We need to avoid MK becoming a twin track city. It’s only right that every worker gets a decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work.  MK should become the first Living Wage city, an exemplar in the UK and internationally.”

Debbie Wilson, Citizens:mk’s campaign leader, said: “Our campaign is going from strength to strength and we are already half way towards creating MK’s first Living Wage Zone at the Pinnacle Building on Midsummer Boulevard. For us it is important that MK’s fantastic business success remains linked to fair pay for all its workers.  We need more businesses to go beyond the legal minimums.”

Lucian Hudson, Director of Communications at The Open University and Chair of Citizens:mk, said: “It is exciting for Citizens:mk to be working with some of MK’s most successful businesses.  I hope we can develop these partnerships to address other social issues so that MK’s impressive prosperity is increasingly shared by all its people.”

In a separate event, on Tuesday 3rd November, the Bishop of Buckingham hosted a Living Wage Faith Breakfast, also organised by Citizens:mk, for MK clergy and other faith leaders at Christ the Cornerstone Church in Central Milton Keynes.

Pictured:  Liam Farquhar and Cormac Slevin of KPMG introduce the concept of MK Living Wage Employers Network

MK Dons SET get Living Wage award – 31.10.15

On Saturday 31st October, MK Dons Sport & Education Trust received its Living Wage accreditation certificate in a pitch side presentation before MK Dons’ home game against Hull City.

The certificate was presented by Debbie Wilson, Citizens:mk’s Living Wage campaign leader.  ““Our campaign is going from strength to strength,” said Debbie.  “We now have 14 accredited Living Wage employers, including some of MK’s biggest employers.   As a big MK Dons fan myself, it’s great to have MK Dons SET on board.”

John Cove, CEO for MK Dons SET (pictured with Debbie), said:  “As soon as we knew that it was a viable option for the MK Dons SET, we worked towards becoming an accredited Living Wage employer.  We hope this goes a small way to showing our appreciation to everyone within our organisation.”

St. Mary Magdalene’s Church Training – 24.10.15

On the morning of Saturday 24th October, 10 parishioners from St. Mary Magdalene’s Catholic Church in Stony Stratford attended a 90-minute training session on ‘Organising for the Year of Mercy’.

“It was interesting and enjoyable,” said Anna Kearns.  “It wasn’t until near the end, when I saw the timeline for the Citizens:mk assemblies in February and April, that I realised how our local community organising will contribute to the power of the alliance.”

Refugees Welcome – campaign group meeting 21.10.15

20 people representing 11 institutions, including non-members of Citizens:mk, met at the Civic Offices on the evening of Wednesday 21st October to discuss next steps in the campaign.   Also attending was Jeremy Beake, Corporate Equality & Diversity Officer for MK Council, who will be over-seeing the spend of central government funding to accommodate Syrian refugees in MK.

It was resolved for a sub-group to meet on 4th November to plan another large group meeting on 11th November, when it is expected that each I institution will pledge commitment to action to achieve a set of goals agreed by the group.

Weaving Trust – Water Eaton Church Centre 17.10.15


Meeting Amazing People

Water Eaton was once a tiny hamlet on the edge of Bletchley, but a lot has changed since then. There were people at our Weaving Trust event who remembered the days when only a couple of buses passed through each week and the nearest hospital was in Aylesbury! They reminded us that much of the change has been a good thing – and that local people have shaped their community by working together. The church in Water Eaton would not have been built if local people hadn’t raised the money needed to buy the land…

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At this Weaving Trust event we looked back but also looked forward. New relationships were formed as people from different cultures, faiths and backgrounds shared their experiences of life in MK. Amazing people met each other – and made plans to do more together. Weaving Trust may seem like a small thing but it makes a big difference.

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Living Wage – Lidl Does Us Proud 26.9.15

On Saturday 26 September, Rob Fletcher, Duty Manager at Lidl in Oldbrook, was pleasantly surprised by a group from Citizens:mk who came to present him with a ‘Thank You’ card for the Company declaring that it would be paying the Living Wage to its employees. In fact, Lidl has gone beyond this, since it will pay its staff more than £8 per hour, which is higher than the Living Wage of £7.85 (outside London). It is the first retailer in Milton Keynes to commit to the Living Wage.

Rob said that it was a no brainer for the Company as paying the Living Wage will lead to happier, motivated, and committed people. It is anticipated that Lidl will attend the Citizens:mk Business Breakfast planned for 5th November, to encourage other employers to follow their lead.

Weaving Trust – Islamic Centre 12.9.15

On Saturday 12th September, 30 guests from Citizens:mk institutions visited the Islamic Centre on Coffee Hall. Here they were greeted by Kurshida Mirza and others who had prepared food and drink, then heard testimony from Michael Willis of St. Frideswide’s Church about how it felt to be visiting a mosque.

Then there was a carousel of 7-minute conversations between hosts and guests, culminating in a round-up of comments on how they experience had made people feel. A wordle of those comments is pictured here.

What’s it like, Penny?

Penny Souster from St. Augustine’s RC Church spoke at our Delegates Assembly and Accountability Assembly in 2015.  Afterwards she said:

“My experience of speaking at the Assembly  was filled with a mixture of emotions.  I had witnessed many negative aspects of working in a care home in MK and speaking about them to a wide and varied audience was both relieving and revealing to them, I hope, and widened their scope about the kind of care they would plan for both their elderly loved ones and themselves in the future.

“The audience was very receptive to my disclosures and I was emotionally moved by their acknowledgement, affirmation and applause.

“Since then changes for the better in living wages for care workers and others are being implemented by the government which makes my very small part in bringing it about worthwhile.”