Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Silence on Violence

Sex workers are reporting fewer crimes to police and West African victims of sex trafficking risk being overlooked.
That's the conclusion of the report I have produced in response to a request by the Mayor of London to look into the policing of sex trafficking and brothels in London.
As a result of the evidence I have heard, I'm persuaded that crimes against sex workers should be treated in the same way as hate crimes. There has been a decrease in the number of sex workers reporting crime to police. It’s is only a matter of time before someone gets murdered as a result.
We need clear communication. Londoners would be surprised to learn that the police arrested more people for prostitution-related offences than for knife offences. Furthermore the Met's trafficking unit were unaware that 80 brothels had been closed by local police in Newham in the last 18 months.
We also need an evidence-based approach. Brothel raids have gone up in east London in time for the Olympics, even though the police admitted that prostitution has actually decreased. These raids damage communication, make women less safe as sex workers are displaced, and police lose intelligence on sex trafficking due to this deteriorating relationship.
Police need to focus more resource on non-organised sex trafficking outside the sex industry. I found evidence that sex trafficking is often not ‘organised’ and happens within closed networks: the majority of trafficking victims in accommodation units are West African, yet they are not usually the victims found in brothel raids.
Crucially, we need to stop assuming sex workers are a ‘special’ group who don’t know what’s best for them. They must be involved in helping the police and government create strategies to tackle crime related to sex work.
You can download the report here:


Friday, 27 January 2012

Cutting fares is easy if you cheat

On Wednesday we had the chance to get a glimpse of how Ken Livingstone was going to cut fares if he were to be elected. The Labour Group's John Biggs proposed their amendment to Boris Johnson's budget and this was seconded by Val Shawcross, Livingstone's nominee for deputy Mayor, who said that the figures were “Sourced from TfL documents and have been checked and approved by GLA officials”. It promised, amongst other goodies, the election pledge of cutting 7% off fares.

In order to pay for this, Labour found a whopping £190 million which they describe as “Anticipated unbudgeted surplus estimates”.

Wow! They've found £190 million of free money which no-one else spotted! Good on you! Look at page 18 of the quoted report and sure enough those figures are there.

So how did everyone else miss it?
Well, they didn't. Page 1 of the report contains the following explanatory note.

A lot of accountant-speak, but the phrase “Details will be included in the TfL's budget submission to the Mayor's Budget for 2012/13 – 2014/15” must have been a hint? That £190 million is already taken account of in the Mayor's budget so no amendment can spend it again. With this budget, Livingstone would get into office with a massive £190 million shortfall in his plans for TfL and a tough decision on how to pay for it - perhaps cutting the Safer Transport Teams who have made London the safest public transit system on the planet? perhaps slashing the investment programme that aims to make our transport system safer and less congested?
Anyway, we shouldn't be surprised by Livingstone's grasp of finance. Figures showing a shortfall of £159 million in estimates of the LDA's Olympic Land Debt were suppressed prior to the elections when he was last in power in 2008.
If Livingstone gets back in - expect more of the same.