Photos by Liam Hyatt.
158 people attended Citizens:mk’s annual Accountability Assembly at the City Church on 25th April 2019, representing 17 member institutions and many other MK organisations.
After welcomes from Rev George Mwaura and Mayor Martin Petchey (pictured above) , a 50th birthday cake was presented to The Open University to mark its 50th birthday. Receiving the cake, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Keith Hetherington (pictured below) said: “The Open University is a social justice organisation. It is our mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. We are proud of our membership in Citizens:mk.”
Then Fidele Mutwarisibo of Cornerstone Church led a review of the progress of last year’s campaigns (Mental Health, Life Skills for Young People, House the Homeless and Fight Against Hate) and a minute of silence for the victims of recent hate atrocities around the world.
Alan Bainbridge of MK Quaker Meeting (pictured below left) organised attendees to send by text their ideas about ‘how can we reduce hatred and build a more caring and friendly society in MK’. While this was happening, Papa Huite of MK Congolese Community (pictured below right) sang a spiritual song.
Ian Revell, CEO of MK Community Foundation, presented teenagers and adults with certificates for attending Community Leadership training (‘‘Anger to Action’ and Two-Day Training) and 9-year-old pupil councillor Zoya (pictured below), from Jubilee Wood Primary School, gave testimony of her own training experience of the One-Day Schools Training.
Zoya said: “I am proud to have attended the training and I learned a lot about refugees who are trying to escape problems in their country and how we can help them and make our country a safe haven.”
Headteacher Kate Mathews and Southwood Primary School pupils (pictured below) read a poem about their successful campaign to get their broken steps fixed.
Then this year’s campaign goals were presented:
- Police & Primaries Together
- Refugees Welcome
- Fair Work.
Campaign 1: Police & Primaries Together
Led by headteachers Tony Berwick and Kate Matthews, pupils presented their survey findings and told stories about feeling safer with ‘Police and Primaries Together’ (pictured above). They called on Police Commander Yvette Hitch (pictured below) to pledge more police officer time visiting their schools, which she did. With her colleague Tim Metcalfe, she agreed to implement, monitor, evaluate and report on increased Police presence in Jubilee Wood and Southwood primary schools in Summer and Autumn Terms 2019.
Campaign 2: Refugees Welcome
Following an introduction to Refugees Welcome MK from Area Dean and Co-chair Tim Norwood, Zvi Friedman of MK & District Reform Synagogue (pictured below left) gave testimony of his family’s experiences as refugees nearly 100 years ago. Debbie Brock of MK Cenotaph Trust (pictured below right)outlined the formal process required for creation of a pillar at MK Rose to mark World Refugee Day.
Then Jess Maddocks of Citizens UK and Fred Grindrod of NASUWT teachers’ union awarded Refugee Welcome Schools certificates to three schools and MK College who have recently been accredited (Jubilee Wood, St. Paul’s Catholic School, MK College and Lord Grey School – pictured below). “This puts MK in the lead nationally,” said Jess Maddocks.
A Special Contribution award was made to Janan Abdulbake, headteacher of Al Ajyal Supplementary School (pictured below) for encouraging mainstream schools to achieve Refugees Welcome School accreditation.
Then students from St. Paul’s Catholic School (main picture at top) asked to the front the secondary headteachers of MK Academy, Walton High and The Radcliffe School (pictured below), who were asked and agreed that their school would pursue Refugee Welcome accreditation.
The final goal of Citizens:mk’s new Refugees Welcome campaign is to launch MK’s first Sponsor Refugees scheme, in which a community group raises £9,000, secures accommodation and commits to helping a newly arrived Syrian refugee family to settle in. Rev Gill Barrow-Jones (pictured below) of St. George’s Church, Wolverton, asked party leaders to pledge that MK Council would formally approve the launch of the scheme, as legally required.
Campaign 3: Fair Work
The ‘Fair Work’ campaign presentation began with Fr Francis Higgins of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church (pictured below) talking about how unfair employment practices are criticised in the Bible.
When campaign leader Hala Afify began speaking, she was dramatically interrupted by testimonies shouted from around the hall (pictured below left): “People on zero-hours contracts are more likely to be young, part-time and women”, “I had to change my name to Agnes as my Polish name was a barrier to me getting a job”, “I worked four years as a System Analyst on a zero hours contract and never knew if I was an employee or self-employed”.
Hala gave her own testimony and explained that law firm Dentons had helped to draft the new ‘Fair Work Charter‘ which local employers were to be asked to sign up to, starting with MK Council. Anna DeLiddo of The Open University (pictured above right) explained that she has been involved in a bid for a research grant to help the Fair Work campaign understand the impact of being fired by email.
It was then the turn of the leaders of MK’s main political parties (pictured below – Cllr Peter Marland (Labour), Cllr Alex Walker (Conservative) and Cllr Douglas McCall (Lib Dems) – to respond in turn to the three Asks.
The Asks were:
- read and consider all the text messages gathered at this Assembly, circulate to other Councillors, discuss at full Council meeting, and report back to Leadership Group members within three months?
- commit MK Council to formally approving a Community-led Sponsor Refugees scheme in Wolverton?
- commit MK Council to Level one Fair Work Charter status, committing the Council to maintaining a fair job application process and talking with contracting agencies about fair transparency and termination processes as outlined in the Fair Work Charter?
All three party leaders agreed to all three asks above apart from Cllr Walker (pictured below)who said he couldn’t commit to Ask 3, but would discuss it further with Citizens:mk campaign leaders.
Cllr Douglas McCall (pictured below), pledged commitment to all of the Asks.
Special event: Weaving Trust Between Leave and Remain
Then a special event was announced, ‘Weaving Trust Between Leave and Remain’, intended to promote dialogue and trust between MK people who have opposing views on Brexit. Volunteers were asked to stand if they could commit to attending on 16th May and bringing to the event one person who voted differently to them in the EU Referendum. Nine people, including Cllr Walker, stood. Click here to sign up.
Finally the Assembly was informed by Rev Alison Webster, Deputy Director of Mission (Social Responsibility) for the Diocese of Oxford (pictured above), of plans to grow the Citizens:mk alliance and create the newest chapter of Citizens UK, Thames Valley Citizens.
In post-event evaluation, the Assembly was scored 8 out of 10 and participants in the evaluation pledged to help to double the turnout (to more than 300) at next year’s Accountability Assembly.