More action to be taken to tackle rise of modern slavery in Flintshire
More action is being taken to tackle the rise of modern slavery in Flintshire after the area was said to be one of the worst hit North Wales.
It follows a number of high profile cases in the county in recent years, including one in Deeside in 2017 where three men were found to have been held “virtual captives” for up to three years.
Meanwhile, in a separate raid last year, workers were found living in “appalling and squalid” conditions in a caravan in Connah’s Quay.
Flintshire Council has revealed that one alleged illegal operation was discovered as recently as this week.
The local authority has already taken a number of steps towards addressing the issue, including introducing measures to ensure companies it works with are not involved in exploiting workers.
Chief executive Colin Everett said it was important that staff continued to gather intelligence on cases of forced labour.
Speaking at a meeting of leading councillors in Mold Tuesday, he said: “Unfortunately we’ve had a number of cases in the past of modern slavery in Flintshire, as you all know.
“In fact, we’re dealing with another one at the moment which we can’t disclose in public, that happened only yesterday.
“It was a small number of people, but nonetheless had all the traits of people being economically trapped.
“I think North Wales Police would say we’re probably the most proactive councils because of the number of cases we’re dealing with.”
He added: “We’ve also had a lot of learning from a case in Sealand a few years ago.
“We learnt a lot about intelligence, monitoring and how to act.
“It’s not just happening in big cities, it’s happening here unfortunately.”
The council spends more than £150 million every year with around 4,500 suppliers.
Business sectors identified as posing the highest risk of being involved in modern slavery include agriculture, leisure, hospitality and catering, many of which the authority conducts in-house.
It has committed to undertake more than 30 actions to ensure no unethical employment practices are carried out by its suppliers or contractors.
They include producing a statement on modern slavery and carrying out risk assessments on suppliers.
Cllr Christine Jones, cabinet member for social services, also suggested the signs of forced labour could be picked up by the planning process.
She said: “I think it’s really important with the modern slavery aspect that we look at the planning stage and if there’s a change in use of a premises, what that change in premises is for.
“There’s an awful lot of similar businesses popping up, which we know are linked to modern slavery and trafficking, so we need to know if we need six of these types of businesses in one place.
“I think it’s really important because we know things are happening in other parts of the country.”
Further work is being carried out to ensure staff are fully trained on new systems which have been introduced to tackle the issue.
The modern slavery statement, which was unanimously approved by members of the ruling Labour administration, also notes the limitations on the authority’s ability to carry out checks.
It states: “The council has limited resources to monitor and manage its supply chains and so will focus on its direct suppliers and will require its suppliers to ensure that their supply chain is free from modern slavery.
“The council will ensure that its direct suppliers are aware of its commitment to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking and that they also understand their obligations as a supplier or contractor of the council.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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