Manchester Citizens meet with Mayoral Candidate

A 'constructive' discussion with Sean Anstee at Trafford Council
A 'constructive' discussion with Sean Anstee at Trafford Council

Representatives from Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy joined other community and social justice groups last week for a meeting with the city’s Conservative Mayoral Candidate, Councillor Sean Anstee. Fr Tim Byron SJ, Head Chaplain at the Chaplaincy, described the atmosphere as “constructive and very positive” and said it had been a “very impressive experience”.

The meeting took place at Trafford Council and involved a diverse group of three women and four men representing Oxfam, the Students Union, Unison, Human Appeal and Manchester’s Muslim community. “We discussed a range of things,” says Fr Tim, “such as social care, hate crime, women in the work place, student safety and the Living Wage. It was great to meet with the Conservatives’ Greater Manchester Mayoral Candidate, Sean Anstee, to discuss the work of Citizens UK and get confirmation that he would attend our Assembly in May.”

Dinner for refugees at the Holy Name night shelterAmong the cases discussed at the meeting was one of a Syrian family who had been welcomed by St Monica’s parish in Flixton as part of the Citizens UK scheme set up by the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy. Responding to Pope Francis’ call for parishes to actively welcome refugees, the parish has been involved in sponsoring Samir, his wife and two children and has helped them to integrate and settle in the UK, after their home in Homs was destroyed in the Syrian civil war.

Refugees’ night shelter

Samir, who is a trained chef, is not only attending night classes to learn English; he is also cooking for fellow refugees at the night shelter at Holy Name Church, part of the Manchester Chaplaincy, which has been approached to host a pop-up restaurant in the summer months. Furqan Naeem, the Lead Community Organiser at Greater Manchester Citizens who chaired the meeting, presented Cllr Anstee with a basket of Syrian sweets on behalf of Samir’s family.

The Manchester Citizens group with Mayoral Candidate Sean Anstee“This surprised him,” says Fr Tim, “but he expressed an interest in meeting the family and I said that I would be happy to arrange that if the family and sponsorship agreed.” Councillor Anstee, who will be publishing his manifesto towards the end of March, went on to confirm that he was prepared to attend the second Living Wage accredited Council (after Salford) and would work with the initiative. As the Tory leader of Trafford Council at present, he has been the first leader of a Greater Manchester Council  (of which there are 10) to sign off on a community refugee sponsorship scheme. He is a Board Member of the National Housing Federation and a Non-Executive Director of Trafford Housing Trust.

A public and accountable relationship

Greater Manchester Citizens UK is based in the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy on Oxford Road, next to the Food Bank, and coordinates a wide range of community initiatives with various groups, involving businesses and schools, faith groups and social justice organisations. Its sponsoring committee is chaired by Sir Peter Fahy, former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, and it works closely with the Living Wage Foundation.

Citizens UK has organised a major Assembly at the Lowry Centre (which has a capacity 1700) for the mayoral candidates to address the citizens on 1 May 2017. "This major ticket only event at the Lowry in Salford will be the largest pre-election Assembly in the run-up to the election," explains Furqan Naeem. "It will bring together our member organisations including those from faith groups, trade unions, NGOs, schools, colleges, student unions, housing associations and other community groups. The event will not be a public meeting nor a political hustings. Amidst joyful celebration and powerful stories, we seek to establish a public and accountable relationship with whoever becomes our Mayor on a common good agenda."

To find out more about Greater Manchester Citizens UK, visit their website.