Bucks County Council form action plan against modern slavery

Cllr Stephen Lambert leads the fight against modern slavery
Cllr Stephen Lambert leads the fight against modern slavery

Council chiefs backed an action plan to help victims of modern slavery across the county, after it was delayed earlier this year amid confusion over funding.

Bucks County Council’s cabinet met yesterday (April 23) to discuss the report for a second time – which includes steps that need to be taken to identify victims of modern slavery.

Chairman of the inquiry group, Steven Lambert, assured councillors the cost for BCC is “limited” as the council’s main role in the project is providing people with information on how to identify victims and where to report them.

The partnership project is in conjunction with Thames Valley Police, which is providing the main bulk of the funding, and Rahab – a Reading charity that has experience in raising awareness and supporting people who have become victims of exploitation.

Liberal Democrat, Cllr Lambert, said: “The costs for us are actually quite limited. If the funding is pulled as it were in a year or two years’ time, that’s the victim support service, the national modern slavery commissioner and their team, they are responsible for the overall strategy and how will that work.

“Our responsibility is about sign-posting and putting those people in place.”

BCC also hopes to identify how many victims of modern slavery there are in Bucks as the figures are currently “unclear”.

Cllr Lambert added: “There are approximately 2,500 victims in the Thames Valley area but the national reporting mechanism only really captured around 24 during the period of our inquiry.”

The Transport, Environment, Economy and Communities Select Committee’s report was presented to cabinet in February – however plans were delayed amid confusion over the council’s role in the project and how it will be funded.

In light of the investigation it was agreed in January a pilot project run by Rahab, aiming to support victims of modern slavery will be trialled in Bucks for one year.

Leader Martin Tett praised the investigation saying the cabinet is “very supportive” of the project, however admitted he is still has concerns regarding funding.

Addressing cabinet yesterday morning he said: “We are very supportive of what you have done, we are full of praise for what the committee has done on this so if you could pass our remarks and thanks back to all the members of the committee that would be great.

“We are somewhat cautious about the financial side of this – we have scars on many cases where we get into things then suddenly find the money whipped away from underneath us, and that just means cuts to libraries and other stuff if we can’t find the money elsewhere.”

To view the full report and recommendations visit https://democracy.buckscc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=124&MId=9522