Tackling modern slavery is something Calderdale Council should do – but councillors argued about the best way to go about it.
Labour and Conservative councillors both felt each other’s preferred policy – aiming to ensure council procedures will be robust enough to mean it will never even inadvertently support modern slavery – lacked something.
In the end, a Liberal Democrat compromise amendment combining elements of both received the support of the full council at Halifax Town Hall last night (Wednesday, July 18) with Cabinet being instructed to produce a policy which will then be submitted for scrutiny by councillors.
Council leader Councillor Tim Swift (Lab, Town) asked councillors to adopt the Co-operative Party’s Charter against Modern Slavery.
Proof that modern slavery – which ranged from forced labour to sexual and criminal exploitation – existed and was happening on the doorstep came with the Halifax Courier’s front page news story last week, he said.
The Courier story reported how Calderdale Police had rescued two teenagers thought to have been trafficked into the UK by criminal gangs, he said.
Councillor Swift hoped councillors would support the Co-operative Party’s policy which he believed was robust in tackling a matter which was a worldwide problem and, as the police case showed, a local one.
But Conservative group leader Scott Benton proposed an amendment recognising work the Government was doing to prevent modern slavery including the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and requesting Cabinet produce a report outlining steps they had taken to prevent it, and considering its approach to contracts and procurements.
Labour councillors Helen Rivron (Ovenden) and Josh Fenton-Glynn (Calder) said the problem with the Act was that it focused on large scale Government action and a weakness was lack of support for victims which the Co-operative policy brought.
“We’re not talking about nationally but what we can do locally,” said Coun Fenton-Glynn.
Conservative councillor George Robinson (Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said some figures used in Labour’s motion used a methodology difficult to prove and he would not be happy supporting it for that reason.
No-one disputed modern slavery had to be tackled and the 2015 Act would allow that to be done, he said.
With both sides acknowledging the end goal was the same and some if not all of each other’s arguments, Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor James Baker drafted a second amendment which recognised both the Co-operative charter and the Government’s work, with scrutiny of a policy now to be drafted by Cabinet giving councillors a say.
Councillors agreed it was a way forward and backed it.