Thames Valley Citizens is the newest chapter of Citizens UK, growing out of the pioneering work of Citizens:mk in Milton Keynes over the last ten years, bolstered by Sponsoring Committees for new alliances in Oxford and Reading (first meetings later this month), and member organisations across the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the inaugural Thames Valley Citizens Assembly had been planned for late April, to coincide with the Police and Crime Commissioner election. What happened instead was a more reflective gathering which recognised and listened to those working on the frontline against Covid (council leaders, the CEO of a hospital, the Police Commissioner, volunteer co-ordinators, education providers, PPE-makers etc), held mini house-meetings in breakouts to envision a more just Thames Valley post-Covid, sought a seat at the table with with power-holders, and demanded action on 5 current issues: improving death registration services, Living Wage for Careworkers, tackling climate change, action on misogyny and improving death registration services (4 of these issues had been voted on at a Delegates’ Assembly that had been held pre-Lockdown on Zoom).
You can watch the Assembly in full on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dioceseofoxford/videos/573507640256567/.
Turnout was 95 on Zoom (almost double the target) plus 600 views on Facebook live, with a balance of participants across MK, Oxford and Reading – and a smattering from the wider Thames Valley area.
The Police and Crime Commissioner committed to quarterly meetings with Thames Valley Citizens, with a firm commitment on action to improve relationships between young people and the police, and an open door to explore Living Wage accreditation, action to reduce carbon emissions, and recording misogyny as a hate crime, in his remaining year of office.
The leaders of Milton Keynes Council and Reading Council also attended, and became the first in the country to back our Living Wage for Careworkers Campaign – they are already accredited Living Wage employers and will publicly join our call on the UK Government to invest £1.4billion so that social care employees are paid the Real Living Wage.
The Assembly welcomed the Diocese of Oxford, which is funding the development of Thames Valley Citizens with a £150,000 commitment over 5 years. All 4 bishops participated, with the Bishop of Oxford leading the opening reflection. Here’s how the Diocese wrote it up.
Thames Valley Citizens will now grow through the creation of Temporary Sponsoring Committees in Oxford and reading. If you would like to know more, contact: