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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Living Wage – to have 50 accredited Living Wage employers in 2017 to celebrate MK’s 50th birthday.
- 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.
- 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|
|Global Outreach Foundation||TBC|
|MK Equality Group||TBC|
|MK Muslim Association||10|
|MK Quaker Meeting||20|
|St. Augustine’s RC Church||TBC|
|St. Francis’ & St. Mary Magdalene’s||7|
|St. Paul’s RC School||10|
|Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership||9|
“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.”
Ten parishioners attended a two-hour training on ‘Community Organising for the Year of Mercy’ at St. Mary Magdalene’s Catholic Church on Saturday 23rd January.
“The session was good for helping us focus on the corporal works mercy we can act on during this important year,” said Father Bernard Barrett.
“I really appreciated the training and enjoyed the sharing of interests among the group,” said parishioner Mary Stone. “I hope we will form our own Citizens group in the parish and will then be in a place to identify more people to become involved with achieving goals that have set.”
On 19th January, four volunteers from our Living Wage campaign group took to Stony Stratford High Street to ask shop owners and managers for their position on Living Wage.
“The action was a success,” said Sheila Bacon, who teamed up with Ann Smith to canvass the east side of the High Street. ” We spoke to a 15 employers in total and three expressed interest in becoming accredited Living Wage employers.”
These will now be followed up and helped with the accreditation process…and will help the group reach its target of 50 Living Wage accredited employers in Milton Keynes by the end of MK’s 50th birthday year, 2017.
“I found it quite difficult because I knew some of the shopkeepers involved, I use the shops regularly,” said Sheila.
“I enjoyed it because of the insight into the difficulties small businesses have,” said Debbie Wilson (pictured with Suresh Nesaratnam). “One butcher first said he wasn’t interested, then ended up talking with us for 20 minutes. By the time we left he was quite interested!”
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.
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.
Both Police officers and visitors enjoyed the event, and a few new links were made. It was a great event in our growing campaign.
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.
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…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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.”
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.”
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.
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…
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.
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.
On Friday 25th September, 9 guests visited MK Academy for afternoon tea and a discussion about how to deal with the problem of litter inside the school and beyond the school gates.
Local resident Margo talked of her experiences having rubbish thrown into her garden.
Students resolved to create a campaign team to meet weekly and work with sixth formers to reduce the problem.
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.
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.”