Peterborough council fails to check all suppliers comply with Modern Slavery Act

The two leading councils in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire have failed to make sure its suppliers comply with the Modern Slavery Act.

Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 4:55 am

An investigation by JPIMedia has revealed that of 70 suppliers to Peterborough City Council, only 68 have a modern slavery statement which is a legal requirement.

The same is true for 120 out of 124 suppliers to Cambridgeshire County Council, while all suppliers to Fenland and Huntingdonshire district councils have a statement.

Nationally, more than two-thirds of councils in England, Scotland and Wales use suppliers who are not complying with modern slavery legislation.

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The two leading councils in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire have failed to make sure its supplier comply with the Modern Slavery Act

The 2015 Modern Slavery Act requires companies with an annual turnover of at least £36 million to publish annual statements outlining what steps they take to prevent modern slavery in their business or supply chains and publish it in a prominent place on their website.

But a JPIMedia investigation has found more than 1,000 such companies are supplying goods or services to local authorities despite failing to publish a statement.

Analysis of data published by TISCreport, which provides supply chain transparency tools to public sector bodies, has found that 254 of the 373 councils featured (68.1 per cent) are using companies that do not have a statement.

Derbyshire’s Amber Valley had the worst compliance rate at 75 per cent – although it was only using four suppliers that were required to comply with the act, of which one was not.

This was followed by Lancashire (83.3 per cent), West Somerset (85.7 per cent), Sutton (86.7 per cent) and Liverpool (88.1 per cent).

At least 136 councils have voluntarily published a modern slavery statement, according to the Local Government Association.

This includes Peterborough City Council whose statement says it has “zero tolerance to slavery and human trafficking”.

It adds that it ensures the “elimination of any risk of modern day slavery features in our supplier on-boarding processes and strategic sourcing practices”.

A council spokesperson said: “As a local authority we recognise our responsibilities under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and are fully committed to working with our suppliers to prevent slavery in any of our corporate activities.

“The council has thousands of suppliers linked to our corporate activities and we are actively working to ensure that all of these organisations have a modern slavery statement.”

An independent review of the Modern Slavery Act carried out in 2019 concluded the Government should “strengthen its public procurement processes to make sure that non-compliant companies” are not eligible for public contracts.

The Modern Slavery Helpline can be called on 08000 121 700.

Calls for inquiry to resume

Leading anti-slavery charities have called for an abandoned parliamentary inquiry into modern slavery to be urgently resumed to address the impacts of Brexit and coronavirus on vulnerable victims.

The Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, had been conducting an inquiry into the Government’s efforts to stamp out human trafficking in the wake of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

But the inquiry was abandoned in November 2019 when Parliament was dissolved – and the committee with it – for the General Election and has never been resumed.

The committee had received almost 150 submissions of evidence from charities, police forces, academics and councils before the inquiry was shelved.

Now five leading anti-slavery charities – Unseen, the Human Trafficking Foundation, After Exploitation, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and Hestia – have called on the committee to reestablish its probe, warning Brexit and Covid could put vulnerable individuals at greater risk.

It comes after a JPIMedia investigation revealed police in England, Wales and Scotland had failed to being charges for more than 19,000 modern slavery crimes since the 2015 Act was passed, and its 2016 equivalent in Scotland, with suspects facing action in fewer than one in 20 cases.

Charities describe a “litany of issues” in the criminal justice and social support systems, with victims struggling to access sufficient support or compensation to help them overcome their ordeals.

Tamara Barnett, director of the Human Trafficking Foundation, which grew out of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said while the UK was going in the right direction, it was “tiny baby steps” with a lack of progress painful for survivors caught up in a “shoddy system”.

She said: “There’s still some really shameful gaps and I think it does need to be highlighted.

“There’s so many radical things that need to change. The Home Affairs Committee doesn’t have any executive power at all but it is a powerful scrutiny body.”

A spokesman for the Home Affairs Select Committee said it was “keeping an eye” on the issue but had no timeframe for resuming its inquiry at present.