Members gave consideration to a report which sought to implement a Modern Slavery Statement across all working practices of the Authority.
In March 2015 the Modern Slavery Act gained royal assent which enabled enforcement agencies to pursue allegations of modern slavery under one piece of legislation instead of several different complicated ones. It gave prominence to the offence and meant statutory guidance was issued in how to identify victims and the type of services to be offered to victims.
October 2019 would see the publication of the Serious Adult Review (SAR) into Modern Slavery across Lincolnshire. This would include the involvement of West Lindsey District Council (WLDC) during the criminal prosecutions related to Operation Pottery, which included offences relating to activities on the Drinsey Nook site within West Lindsey as well as further involvement of all agencies across the broader term of modern slavery across Lincolnshire.
As a result of the SAR a list of recommendations would be published to ensure future learning was taken on board within agencies who may come into contact with modern slavery. Part of the recommendations would be a modern slavery charter, the modern slavery statement would form part of the charter and ensure that West Lindsey District Council was committed to identifying and working with partners to prevent and stop practices of modern slavery.
The statement ensured that there was a formal commitment by West Lindsey District Council to acknowledge the crime and impact of modern slavery within the District, whilst ensuring the Authority did not unwittingly support or further any acts of modern slavery. The statement would also ensure that all services operated, and all policies initiated by the Authority had reference to understanding any potential risks to the Authority in regards to practices of modern slavery.
Debate ensued and Members questioned whether the word “appropriate staff”, in respect of training, was adequate enough or whether in fact it should simply state “all staff”, as in their view it was important all staff received all training. In responding Officers clarified that there would be different levels of training dependent on an employee’s role within the organisation, outlining the varying roles and the varying levels of engagement with the public each role had, to demonstrate why different levels of training were appropriate.
In response to Members’ questions Officers advised that as the Statement affected all corporate policies and staff, it would also be submitted to Corporate Policy and Resources Committee for approval. Officers also confirmed that the requirements of the Statement would form part of any due diligence undertaken by the Council in respect of commercial investments and appropriate action would be taken against any contractor or partner, for example, who failed to meet the requirements.
In response to suggestions the Council was not doing enough to identify modern slavery it was stressed that the Statement, the proposed training and all actions on the action plan would lay the foundations to ensure all staff were well trained and well placed to identify and know where to report such concerns.
(a) the Modern Slavery Statement be supported and RECOMMENDED to the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee for formal adoption across all operations of West Lindsey District Council; and
(b) Delegated authority be granted to the Executive Director of Resources to make minor housekeeping amendments to the policy in the future, in consultation with the Chairman of the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee and the Chairman of the Joint Staff Consultative Committee.