I jotted down these ideas as a possible agenda for Lancashire Citizens in 2017..Though I'm not going to be so directly involved in development of the organisation form now on I thought about some issues that might be worth listening out for to see if they could be the basis of some campaigning.
1. Refugees and asylum seekers.. At the national level Citizens UK have taken this up and there is a shameful reluctance on the part of UK govrnment to accept more than a token number or refugees, and in particular unaccompanied children. And it is clear that government is committed to providing a "hostile environment" for most migrants and asylum seekers and especially those who are determined to be illegally present. However, in Preston we do have an immense amount of goodwill and activity in the faith and community sector, and supported by the local authorities which is now coalescing around the City of Sanctuary group. Therefore it may be that this does not need to be a priority for Citizens.
2. Welfare Reform and benefits sanctions One of the most common issues I hear from social action projects in Lancashire is about the devastating effects of welfare entitlements which drive people further into poverty and destitution. Bedroom Tax, reduced disability benefits, health and fitness assessments the role out of universal credits and the shear incompetence and suspicion within the complexatic system that causes huge delays in payments (and must cost the taxpayer a fortune). Worst of all is the regime of sanctions for job seekers which is arbitrary, draconian, shockingly bad value for money and drives people into destitution and towards reliance on food banks and similar charitable projects. The Joint public issues team has done some good research and advocacy work on these issues https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/09/the-unaffordable-cost-of-benefits-sanctions
http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/issues/social-justice/poverty-and-inequality/ Maybe there could be enough concern in the Lancashire Citizens network to delve deeper and build a local campaign.
3. Lousy Employment practice Linked with the welfare benefits and job centre regimes for unemployed people I've become aware that in Preston and suurounding areas there are many employers locally who are using a range of bad practices to minimise their wage bill. Despite some progress in promoting the real living wage in Preston we still have employers who find loopholes that mean that jobs are below the minimum wage..I think we need to do more research on this but I'm already aware of call centres, takeaway food chains, numerous car wash firms, and supermarkets serving specialist minority communities which should be investigated. There are issues around agency working, employing migrants who may have no right to work and others on a cash in hand basis at below minimum wage rates, bogus self employment status, zero hours and variable hour contracts, unsocial hours that don't attract additional pay, avoidance of paid holiday entitlements and expectation that staff should turn up half an hour early to do preparatory work or stay around later without this time being counted as paid hours. And because of the benefits sanctions regime unemployed job seekers have no alternative other than to accept job offers from such firms.. event though in some cases it might well reduce their actuall or disposable income. This would be a classic case where a citizens oraganizing type campaign could challenge some of the worst employers..
Incidentally there is a good thoughtful piece on Child Poverty from Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, which touches on some of these issues here