Displaying items by tag: United Kingdom
Last month we prayed for water quality to be improved and managed before protected areas are built upon. This week the House of Lords blocked the Government's plan to relax restrictions on water pollution to encourage house building in England. Governments often lose votes in the House of Lords, but what makes this one stand out is that ministers can't revive this plan easily. Because it is a new idea, parliamentary procedure means the only way to have another go would be attaching it to another proposed law, or bill. This is a row that gets to the heart of one of the biggest issues in contemporary domestic politics. Building more homes in England in places people want to live. Labour plans to solve environmental concerns by letting developers build but ensuring they have sorted out the environmental issues before anyone can move into the new homes.
British Asian Christians are issuing an urgent call for peace in Manipur as the area grapples with escalating violence and persecution. They are calling on people to join a peaceful protest in London next week. They said, ‘This unified effort, driven by the desire for justice and equality, seeks to shed light on the discrimination faced by Christians in the region.’ They are calling for ‘people of faith or no faith, who have good conscience and are moved by the recent attacks to come together and call for change.’ The violent persecution of Christians, which began four months ago over land rights and jobs, has been brought to the attention of British MPs, and a meeting in Parliament to discuss the situation is scheduled for later this month. Prime minister Modi is accused of ignoring the situation and not doing enough to quell the violence, earning him a vote of no confidence.
Birmingham City Council has announced that it is bankrupt, and all new spending will stop, with the exception of money protecting vulnerable people and legal services. Following the bankruptcy announcement, Birmingham’s faith leaders raised a ‘Call to Prayer for Birmingham’ outside the council house between 6.00 and 6.45 pm on Friday 8 September. Currently, the council's outgoings and legal liabilities are more than it can afford, and Bishop Desmond Jaddoo is calling all faith leaders to come together in prayer and to offer what help they can in this time of need. Bishop Jaddoo said, ‘We've noticed that at times like this, the poor, the vulnerable, families who are struggling with the cost of living, our children will feel the impact this is going to have. It's going to exacerbate pre-existing hardships along with cuts in services. We are in this together, and we've got to come together to deal with this collectively.’
As families navigate the start of school, the Church of England has released a statement following news that 156 schools are at risk of collapsing because a type of concrete known as 'RAAC' was used in their construction. 52 buildings could suddenly collapse, and action was immediately taken to make them safe by propping up the concrete. The other 104 are scrambling to put safety measures in place and stay open. Schools with RAAC and no safety measures prepared must close, with pupils relocated to temporary facilities or pandemic-style online learning reintroduced. The CofE education office, which is in contact with government ministers and the Department for Education on this matter, is ensuring that dioceses are aware of the situation where it affects their schools. It says, ‘We are in close communication with them about any needed mitigations or contingency measures.’ See also
Shelter states that two-thirds of families living in temporary accommodation (TA) have been there for over a year; some families have lived in TA for more than ten years. TA is usually overcrowded and of very poor quality. Children share beds with siblings or parents, with little to no space for belongings. Youngsters have no room to play safely or even learn to walk. Older children have no privacy, nowhere to do homework or have friends over. Parents struggle to feed their children nourishing meals without suitable cooking facilities, relying on expensive, unhealthy takeaways or what they can heat up with a kettle or a microwave if they have one. Children attend school tired, or late, or hungry; many travel long distances from their TA. Families are cut off from support networks. Families live in limbo. They move frequently. Uncertainty and insecurity hang over them. Their children’s mental health suffers.
Khalife, a former soldier who was on remand at HMP Wandsworth, a category B prison rather than a high-security prison, escaped by clinging to the bottom of a delivery van. Professor Ian Acheson, a former prison governor and head of security at HMP Wandsworth, called it a ‘catastrophic system failure that actually starts with the allocation of Khalife to Wandsworth’. He said: “It’s pretty odd because what you would expect in terms of the allocation process is that somebody who was charged with terrorist offences under the Official Secrets Act, who’s an alleged fake bomb maker and is collecting information of use to terrorists, all of that package would lead you - I think reasonably - to conclude that this person is a flight risk, is an escape risk. The place that he should have ended up in, by all estimations, is Belmarsh prison. Wandsworth is filthy and infested with vermin; 44% of staff are off sick, and morale is awful.’
House prices fell at their fastest annual rate in 14 years in August as rising mortgage rates affected the market. ‘We may be seeing a greater impact from higher mortgage costs flowing through to house prices,’ said the Halifax director of mortgages. ‘The market will continue to rebalance until it finds an equilibrium where buyers are comfortable with mortgage costs in a higher range than seen over the previous fifteen years.’ First-time buyers have welcomed a fall in prices but face relatively high repayment costs, alongside other cost-of-living pressures such as higher prices in the shops. On the flip side, wage growth has helped affordability. Despite the fall in property values, the Halifax said that prices were only back to the level seen at the start of last year, and still £40,000 higher than before Covid.
The Catholic Union, Christian Institute, and Evangelical Alliance have written to the chair of the human rights committee, asking for religious freedom to be a ‘key part’ of a parliamentary inquiry into human rights at work. Catholic Union director Nigel Parker says that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a faithful Catholic in many workplaces in this country, and his concerns are shared by people from other denominations and other faiths. A Catholic Union survey found that almost five in ten workers do not feel able to talk about their faith openly with colleagues, with 41% of respondents saying they didn’t believe religious discrimination was given the same weight as age, race, sex, and sexuality discrimination. Although the inquiry's focus includes ‘freedom of thought, conscience, and religion’, they worry this won’t receive enough attention. They want a separate session discussing religious freedom at work to help shape the final recommendations for the Government.
Only 14% of river water bodies in England currently achieve ‘good ecological status’. Pollution is the biggest problem; a quarter of rivers are not in good ecological health due to sewage pollution from water companies, homes and businesses, costing £1.2bn per year. Wildlife is threatened by poor water quality as fish spawning grounds are lost to silt building up. Too many nutrients in rivers feed algae growth, leading to streams and rivers becoming choked up with vegetation and a decrease in plant and wildlife diversity. Sadly, government ministers have proposed scrapping the pollution rules to build more homes - which will worsen sewage pollution. They propose building 100,000 new homes by 2030, loosening the rules around building near waterways in protected areas. The Wildlife Trust accused the Government of disgusting behaviour, saying that change will lead to ‘lots more poo in our rivers’ and ‘not solve the root causes of housing problems’.
The Government refused to attend a UN review of its treatment of disabled people after an inquiry warned of grave violations of disabled people’s rights. The UN report found welfare reforms had adversely affected disabled people. The UK's delegation should have gone to the Geneva hearing on 28 August to assess their progress, but the Government pulled out, saying it would meet UN officials in March 2024 instead, sparking anger from campaigners. The UK published responses to the UN's recommendations in 2018, 2021, and 2022, and was to give a further update this year. After its no-show there were feedback sessions with British disability rights groups who complained, ‘No one from the Government heard the facts and stories of increasing poverty, lack of support, inaccessible services, and an infrastructure that limited the life chances of disabled people’.