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Poverty, Elections and Protests

Updated: May 15


On Thursday, April 25th, 2024, Voice4Change England organised a Local Elections Event focussing on the cost-of-living crisis in the run up to election day on 2nd May. Our objective was to raise awareness, educate voters, and engage in discourse surrounding the pressing cost-of-living crisis, with emphasis on housing security, as well as addressing matters of local and global significance relevant to the election.


The event included presentations by subject experts and a panel discussion. I would like to extend my gratitude to all those who turned out for the event and give special thanks to our speakers and contributors: Bashir Uddin, Jennifer Wat, Jonathan Thomas, Anjona Roy, Ugo Ikokwu and Jahanara Khanom.


During the discussion, insights highlighted about issues of economy, personal finance, housing, and the future of the environment point to the relationship between increasing costs and how they impact the cash left in our pocket. These issues will play as big a role in this election as the local issues that will be thrown up.


Despite efforts to revive the economy post-COVID-19, the UK faces stagnant growth and mounting national debt, posing challenges to long-term financial stability. The consequences of this for individuals and families are hugely challenging – particularly in places like Birmingham, where local government has gone bust – with significant cuts in funding to community-based services. This reality forms the background to the local election.


I must address the regrettable disruption caused during our constructive dialogue by the former staff of Rooted Finance. In my 11 years with V4CE, this is the first instance of such disruption in a public event. As a former TU activist myself I have no problem with the principle of people protesting. However, like many of today’s protest movements, this intervention was ill thought out and lacked clarity. Despite giving the protestors the opportunity to summarise their grievances during the meeting, their specific demands remained unclear to all.


I received this message from Muna Yassin, CEO of Rooted Finance, the following day:


“Dear Kunle,


Jahanara has updated me on the unfortunate incident that took place last night. I'd like to express my gratitude to you and your team for the support given to Jahanara in light of the difficult and challenging position she was placed in.


I'd also like express my regret that an internal Rooted Finance issue has affected you and your organisation. The discussion last night was not the time or place to raise these issues and the behaviour of our ex-staff and the IWGB union has been nothing short of intimidatory and harassment. They have engaged in a campaign of smearing Rooted Finance and we are disappointed that they have escalated this campaign to include other organisations.”


The disturbance also underscored a point from the People Like Us survey of over 2,000 workers from Black, Asian, mixed-race and minority ethnic backgrounds, which cited redundancy worries were worse for workers from Black, Asian, mixed-race and minority ethnic backgrounds. The survey found that 41 per cent these communities were worried that they will lose their job due to rising costs, compared to 27 per cent of those from a white British background.


In the next few days, we will continue to maintain an interest in the developments taking place in the aftermath of election day, particularly regarding voter turnout and Voter ID.


The current political lurch to ramp up immigration controls and changes to parts of the benefits system – necessary change or simply electoral opportunism, you decide – will be closely watched.


We will continue to monitor and report on the results across the country and determine if the impact will be significant enough to determine the timing of the next General Election.


Once again, I thank everyone for their participation and understanding during the event.

 

Kunle Olulode

Director, V4CE

April 30th, 2024

 

 

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