Ranters of Mow Cop

Ranters of Mow Cop

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Culture wars around Christmas

My seasonal blog for William Temple Foundation sheds some light on the culture wars around Christmas, and the messages and mission of church in society.


and I missed posting this earlier one from September (a full length Temple Tract is forthcoming)

ON white, male privilege and the role of the Church in a world still beset by racial inequality.


Friday, 20 October 2017

Book Review -The End of Evangelicalism

Book Review : David E. Fitch. The End of Evangelicalism: Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission. Eugene, or: Cascade, 2011. Pp. xxvi + 226. $28.00. isbn 978-1-60608-648-1.

Does evangelicalism have a future? In this book published in 2011 and therefore already overtaken by events, in particular the election of Donald Trump with the support of 81% of white evangelical voters, David Fitch offers a trenchant critique of evangelicalism in North America. Drawing on the theoretical insights of Zizek he describes a section of the church that is fixated on three master signifiers, the inerrancy of the Bible, the need to make a decision for Christ and the concept of the Christian nation. These issues although so poorly defined as to be empty of meaningful content, become the boundary markers by which evangelicals distinguish themselves from unbelievers, including liberal Christianity. The result is a section of the church which rejects science and scholarship, accepts cheap grace without the need for repentance , conversion,and transformation of lifestyle (think Donald Trump as “God;s anointed one”), and has sold out to right wing conservative politicians. For some of us these forms of fundamentalism have crossed the boundary from evangelical orthodoxy into heresy and idolatory.

Fitch, who continues to describe himself as an evangelical, would argue strongly for a more solid evangelical theology which is grounded in a Trinitarian understanding and demands a personal and corporate identification with the Living Christ. In a final chapter he sees some signs of hope in post evangelical movements of the emerging church and leaders such as Brian McLaren, peter Rollins, Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. However, he alerts us to potential traps in these new theologies such as de-incarnationalizing the word, over realized eschatology, and individual faith without roots in the historic and currently embodied church..

The situation in North America is somewhat different from that in the evangelical world in Britain. Yet there are similarities and in some sections of the church admiration, modeling and personal networks that could lead to similar problems in our churches. For example a failure to understand these issues and political naivety of church leaders has resulted in an invitation to the extreme fundamentalist preacher Franklin Graham to lead a mission in Blackpool that can only be described as divisive and provocative in the local context. Fitch's book is well worth a read but someone needs to write a similar book exploring the strengths and weaknesses, the common identities, theological disputes and internal tensions in the UK.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Book review ; A Church for the Poor: Transforming the church to reach the poor in Britain today

 A Church for the Poor: Transforming the church to reach the poor in Britain today

By Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams

Published by David C Cook £8.99 from https://www.eden.co.uk/shop/a-church-for-the-poor-4523056.html

The option for the Poor which was the keynote slogan of Latin American liberation theology from the 1970s onwards has been around now for a long time. In our current age of austerity and since Francis became Pope there has been a significant revival of this theme in the Catholic world. Evangelicals in Britain have also recently rediscovered the heritage of social action, and projects such as food banks, homeless shelters, work clubs and debt counselling centres have proliferated. Yet as Bishop Philip North recently pointed out, the church as a whole has failed to make a priority of marginalised communities in what were once known as council estates and has spectacularly failed to establish thriving worshipping communities in these settings. In many ways this story is not news; in the late 19th Century for example William Booth Salvation Army struggled to recruit from the most deprived communities and in the 1970s urban evangelicals such as David Shepherd began to catalogue and seek explanations for the gulf that existed between the church and the Urban working class. However, a new generation of Christians in the 21st century now needs to grapple with these wicked issues for themselves.

In this context Charlesworth and Williams' new book, the sequel to their "The Myth of the Undeserving Poor", plays a useful role. It is a short popular treatment of the issues, clearly aimed at the evangelical and charismatic market and presents a serious challenge to comfortable middle class Christians who struggle (or fail) to connect with and integrate into their congregations, people who are caught in the web of poverty. If you have a group of young enthusiastic Christians, or older church members who are encountering poverty for the first time as volunteers in a local food bank, this book could be very useful for them. It also has some useful practical advice for people charged with leadership in the local churches. It also offers a useful survey of the wide range of social and community action approaches that are currently in operation in a broad and ecumenical range of Christian churches and organisations. It also recognizes the different varieties, experiences and cultures of poverty, of those in work, in rural areas, and of asylum seekers as well as those on benefits. Perhaps it could have paid more attention to issues of race, religion, disability and gender. However, it is not an advanced level what academic text and therefore has some limitations.

Both authors clearly have their hearts in the right place and have years of practical experience in planting and growing churches. They exhibit a sincere longing to serve the poor, to welcome them into their fellowships, to treat them with sensitivity and dignity, to share the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom and to challenge people to respond and grow as disciples of Christ. They ground their theology in the practice of the New Testament church and cite numerous biblical verses. I think they could have made more of the Old Testament and it's system of welfare provision and radical redistribution in the jubilee as well as the prophets denunciations of injustice and oppression. It is only on page 150 that they raised the question of advocacy and there they rely on James rather than Amos. Even here there is not much sign of a manifesto for radical economic and political change. However this is an inevitable consequence of their earlier political and social analysis, which fails to recognise growing inequality and poverty as a direct consequence of free market ideology which has dominated the global economy since the 1980s. Rather they explain the current situation in Britain as the unfortunate outcome of the failure of the banking system in 2007.

A final weakness is that the book betrays some vestiges of a messiah complex. The preposition FOR rather than OF or WITH is perhaps the key. It is still mainly about how we as affluent Christians can bring the word and the love of God to them. There is still an assumption that getting people saved is the endpoint of mission, and that subsequent to that there should be personal and social transformation. This leaves relatively little room for the voices of marginalised people to be heard, and for the recognition that God may already be at work in their communities and that the missionaries themselves may need to heed a call to conversion.

So do buy this book as a primer for your gap year mission trainee, your project volunteers or even your new curate. But please don't rely on it if you are doing a theological or sociological dissertation or if you have already been in community work or urban ministry for twenty years. Nor would it be much use for someone who has lived on the streets, been housed on a sink estate, claimed JSA and been sanctioned for trivial reasons, or who has just scraped a living by insecure work at minimum pay. After all these are the people who are the experts on the realities of poverty in Britain today. And they often don't choose to read books in order to understand it.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Does Faith make you healthier and happy?

My new Blog for William Temple Foundation
from a recent Evangelical Alliance survey and reflects on the findings.
The final academic project of John Atherton, who sadly died last year, involved a comprehensive survey of the literature on health and well-being. One of the important hypotheses in this field is that participation in religious activity is associated with higher levels of health and well-being..............

Friday, 23 June 2017

New Blog for William Temple Foundation - Tim Farron

The resignation of Tim Farron and his explanation of his reasons raise some profound questions about the place of faith in public life in 21st Century Britain

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Friday, 19 May 2017

My personal manifesto

I am absolutely fed up with finding great piles of horseshit on the roads, footpaths, and parks of my local neighbourhood. I have a willing assistant in this task, my favourite doggy, Harry who is only 6 months old and regards the aforesaid commodity as an exceptional delicacy. Many a time I have been dragged into the road narrowly avoiding a pile up, all been required to chase him in circles around the steaming heap of poo, in vain attempts to prevent him feasting upon it.  
As a dog owner I rage at the injustice that while I am personally liable for clearing up canine deposits, with the threat of a fixed penalty fine or even a court appearance if I fail to do so, yet horse owners and riders can, and do, leave immense mounds of equine excrement in public places without fear of reprisal. In my own neighborhood I know by observation love among the offenders are the mounted section of Lancashire Constabulary. I demand that something is done about it. I have already written to the mare but have received no reply.
I would like to see the current general election campaign fought upon this single issue. It should be not the brexit election but the horseshit election. My vote will go for any party or candidate who makes a manifesto commitment to the legal equality of dogs and horses and their owners. I hope the others will all lose their deposits, but not in our streets. If only they were to promise legislation requiring horse riders to dismount and clear up on pain of prosecution. Motions need to be passed in the House of Commons to this effect. No filly busters should be permitted. While I understand that the greens are taking some careful steps in this territory, and that they regard horse manure as prime material for recycling in municipal allotments, as yet their policy is not strong enough to win my vote. I trust that other electors in this constituency will continue to kick up a stink until this problem is solved.

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Friday, 24 March 2017

Reviews of two new books on urban misison

 Mission with: Something Out of the Ordinary Paperback – by Paul Keeble
  • Paperback: 192 pages

  • Publisher: Instant Apostle (17 Mar. 2017)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 1909728608

  • ISBN-13: 978-1909728608

I have known Paul Keeble for a couple of decades as a colleague in the national urban mission networks and have appreciated his significant contribution to the church and community in inner city Manchester. In his new book Paul reflects on his own journey over 35 years starting out as a student and youth evangelist who joined and put down roots in an urban parish not far from Piccadilly station. His experience of living in a council flat and later in an ordinary terraced street, where with his wife Judith he raised his family, has given him a rich understanding of urban life end of the relationship between church and community. The book is largely biographical and Paul tells a good story which is easy to read. At the same time which is a profound and significant theological reflection on living as a Christian in a context of deprivation and diversity.

At the heart of the author's theological and missiological thinking is a gradual progression from concentrating on mission to the community through a commitment to mission for the community that has led in more recent years to a notion of mission with the community. As a new evangelical incomer to Manchester Paul's priority was communicating the gospel to young people outside the church. As he grew to know his neighbours more closely and observed material and social problems he became more involved and committed to mission activities which served their needs. Every urban church, and many now in suburban and small town settings, has become familiar with projects such as food banks, family projects and money advice services. But long-term every day life in urban settings tends to draw you into low level community politics and community partnerships. In Paul's case it was a community response to gun crime in the locality which was taking a devastating toll among local young people, that led to the recognition that he was involved in the mission of God with the community. It is familiar enough to say that the kingdom of God is wider than the church, yet it often takes Christians a long time to understand the implications of this for their mission practice, and indeed this is often resisted on the basis of a desire to remain pure and holy. It is also an established practice in community development to work alongside and with local residents while the recent emphasis on asset based community development resonates well with the approach.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is living and working in the context of an inner city church and community and especially to the new generation of Christians who are intentionally relocating to urban neighbourhoods and deprived estates with a view to church planting, Christian outreach and community transformation. It should be required reading for Eden Network and Urban Expression teams, new clergy and gap year interns. However, it does surprise me that it is taken 35 years for this book to come to publication and I have a degree of concern that it is still needed. 40 years ago when I and a similar group of young people arrived to work in the church and community in East London we soon found we were talking and writing about similar themes and issues. The debates of that time and the period following the publication of the faith in the city report in 1985, produced a considerable literature which came to similar conclusions about community mission. In some senses it is a tragedy and failure that the church as a whole has not listen to these prophetic voices and if anything has retreated into the mission to and mission for models of Christian outreach.

One criticism I have of the book is that in concentrating on telling his own story Paul has not been able to give an account of religious diversity in the city and therefore does not seem to recognise the distinct contribution of new and emerging congregations, many of which serve ethnic minority communities. In some of these the model can better be described as mission from within the community, and although in many cases they operate in silos and do not adopt incarnational methods they are an important sign of the times. They may indeed be God's answer to our earlier longings to see an indigenous, self sustaining and locally led indigenous urban church. They are also a marker of a rapidly changing ecology of the city and of the church in the context of globalisation. We need a stronger sociological account of these processes if we are to develop appropriate and flexible networks and methods of urban mission and community work in the 21st century.

Pears, M. & Cloke P. (eds), 2016. Mission in Marginal Places: The Theory. Authentic Media Inc.

Mike Pears is another veteran of urban mission in London and Bristol while his co-author Paul Cloke is Professor of geography at Exeter University. The volume of edited essays from mission practitioners covers similar ground to Paul Keeble's book but is written with academic rigour in a less accessible style. But it is well worth the effort of engaging with the arguments for anyone who is concerned for the life of the church and community involvement in marginal places. The editors top and tail each section of the book and frame their concerns in terms of contextualisation, dialogue and presence and the notion of third space and redemptive places. It is rooted at the intersection of urban geography and missiological thinking, and recognises the importance of social justice in an age of austerity and welfare reform, the widespread dissatisfaction with the priorities of the institutionalized church and the failure of its mission among people at the margins of society.

The first chapter by Mike Pears develops an interesting and helpful theology and sociology of place and recognises the rapidly changing, increasingly unequal and exclusionary nature of urban settings such as East London. Stewart Christine's chapter on incarnation and connecting with marginal communities is a theological reflection drawn from experience in Brazil and Manchester and focuses on the experience of children in contemporary cities and in their encounters with Jesus in the Gospels. Sean Murray Williams shares the story of an emerging Christian community as it sought "to identify the contours of the kingdom of God or the profound cry for God's presence in a context of deep and systemic need or injustice". Sharing food together became a profound element in the liturgy of this group. Together these chapters can be summarised has exploration of what it means to participate together in the word becoming flesh in mission in marginal places.

Part 2 of The Book is about loving neighbours and corresponds in some sense to Keeble's mission for the community. Andrew Williams writes about embrace and encountering others in a post welfare society and draws significantly on the theology of Miroslav Volf. His context is food banks and similar Christian ministries which have become popular and necessary in austerity Britain. Where secular politics would prefer to deal with marginal people by expulsion, assimilation, domination or abandonment the Christian way to challenge such exclusion is hospitality and embrace. Food banks at their best create this open contact space where the diversity of volunteers of different backgrounds and political persuasions working together builds community and understanding, which potentially could lead to political and ethical transformation. But Williams is aware that such church led welfare approaches are not without problems and could be colluding with policies of exclusion and injustice. Cathy Ross reflects upon hospitality as welcome of the stranger. She advocates sharing table fellowship which involves not only eating and drinking but sharing stories and listening. The Christian discipline of hospitality symbolised above all in the Eucharist she believes is really a spiritual discipline, and that when we practice hospitality as both givers and receivers our worldview begins to change. Paul Cloke's chapter concerns working across religious and secular boundaries and his routed in his understanding of the notion of postsecularity. He examines Richard Niebhur's analysis of the possible relationships between Christ and culture but finds it lacking. He turns to and draws on recent work by Elaine Graham and Chris Baker, which leads him to advocate a Christian approach that goes beyond self-interest and church interest and works towards spaces of post-secularrity where Christian projects and activities relate more openly and generously to local and Civic and political structures.

The third section of the book is more strictly theological. David Purves speaks about cruciformity and the tension between centrifugal and centripetal tendencies in mission. He advocates dialogue and mutuality as central to his approach and the need for the church to be embedded in the culture of marginal communities. Juliet Kilpin, writing out of her experience of urban ministry and work with refugees and asylum seekers, concentrates on the concept of shalom as an alternative narrative to the dominant ones that marginalise and exclude. She illustrates this with the Tale of Two sofas, both seemingly abandoned in the street by lazy poor and antisocial residents, but which could be interpreted in radically different ways. She points to a Jesus whose feet are well grounded, who tells a truthful story, who seeks the welfare of the whole community and radically redefines the use of power. His presence is calming, his style is relational and as such this is the model for our Christian involvement. Stephen Finnamore's final chapter on Hope, prophetic vision and the lie of the Land radically deconstructs the dominant myth of prosperity and consumerism and finds hope in a Bible based anthropology that goes beyond individualism into common ground and social justice.

This volume is a welcome new contribution to the srban mission literature and brings some new voices and themes into important debates. As a volume devoted to the theory it is the first of a promised series infer the volumes reflecting on stories case studies and practice eagerly anticipated by this reviewer.

Reviews by Greg Smith - March 2017

Monday, 13 March 2017

Sanctuary - Entertaining angels unawares

A new blog I've done for the William Temple Foundation drawing on our work with asylum seekers and refugees.
Here is a longer version of the first paragraph

The issue of immigration is deeply personal to me. When I moved to East London in 1975 my very first job involved teaching English as a Second Language to some of the East African Asian refugees heard recently settled in Newham. In a career of 40 years the concerns of refugees asylum seekers and migrants have never been far from my working life. In the 1980s and 1990s as a member and trustee of Evangelical Christians for Racial Justice, and as a church related community worker I became involved in numerous campaigns to support people who were facing difficulties in their immigration status or being threatened with deportation. I attended an immigration tribunal with a house mate from the Ivory Coast who eventually was required to leave the country, and I was involved with others in campaigns to prevent the deportation of Marion Gaima, Viraj Mendes and the Danso family  (p 4&5). After judicial review Marian was allowed to stay, while Viraj who had been offered sanctuary in a church in Manchester for several months was forcibly deported to war torn Sri Lanka. The Danso case highlighted the irrationality of a system where a husband from Ghana and a wife from Jamaica who were both deemed to be over-stayers were threatened with deportation to their two separate native countries, while their British born children work faced a possible breakup of their family life. They were offered sanctuary in a small room in the community centre at the end of our road, and given practical support by a wide range of local Christians. Eventually the government saw sense and the family were allowed to stay in the UK. In more recent times our family hosted in our home for nearly two years a mother and daughter who were seeking asylum and accompanied them successfully through the application procedures.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Christian food aid could be excluding those from other religions in need of help


A new article in THE CONVERSATION suggests rather provocatively and with a headline that might be read as assertively secularist and anti Christian in tone.

Christian food aid could be excluding those from other religions in need of help

Click the link to read it:


The longer academic version of the research paper is published in Journal of Social Policy and can be accessed here


In summary it finds

Few Muslims going to Christian food banks

During six months in 2015, we spoke to 27 people working to help provide food aid and combat food poverty in Bradford. The people we spoke to were either directly managing a food bank, or held positions of responsibility to try and prevent food poverty, including in local government.

Despite the generosity of many of those involved, we found that some food aid was being dispersed in a way that could potentially be exclusive. In Bradford, faith-based food aid was common, but most faith-based providers were Christian, with very little Muslim provision. Of the 67 community food aid providers, 35 were secular, 24 Christian and seven Muslim. Secular provision is largely run by charities, a minority of which are funded by the local authorities.

For example, most secular and Christian organisations were unable to cater for cultural diets, and did not provide halal meals.

A manager of a Christian food bank told us that faith-based food aid could be considered an opportunity for preaching to or praying with clients, at times with the objective of religious conversion:

The other thing which some people find difficult but which we do offer, we make it clear that we are a group of churches running it and that we are a Christian organisation. We believe in the power of prayer and we offer to pray with people.

This raises some important questions for those of us working or volunteering in food projects in multi-faith areas such as Lancashire. However as the authors state they have only been studying the situation in one city – on the wrong side of the Pennines – and Bradford is a particularly unusual city with a high degree of residential segregation between predominantly poor white and poor almost exclusively Pakistani Muslim neighbourhoods.

The authors hint at some factors which might explain the pattern of provision and take up of charitable food provision though some of them need to be questioned and analysed in greater depth before accepting the suggestion that there is systematic, albeit unintentional, exclusion of minority faith people in need of food.

Culturally and Religiously restricted diets – halal food :

  • It's probably true some food banks and open kitchens haven't even thought about this, probably on the basis they think there is no demand, but it should be fairly easy to ensure there is a choice of vegetarian food which is usually acceptable in most of the faith communities.

Geographical distribution of services...

  • Providing free food is usually a very localised service, but it does often depend on the location of available and suitable premises. Inevitably there is a postcode lottery in food provision, depending on where relatively thriving churches, temples, mosques and community sectors are to be found.. and whether the people who manage them have a vision for setting up and sustaining a food project. The critique here should be addressed to politicians who have over recent years dismantled many aspects of the welfare state, made receipt of benefits highly conditional, and been content to scrounge off churches and charities to plug the holes of provision for destitute and vulnerable people.

What proportion of Pakistani Muslims in Bradford are in need of food aid?

  • The researchers tentatively suggest "some ethnic minority groups, despite often being in a low socio-economic position, have better health outcomes than expected due to support within their social networks …. Lower levels of food insecurity among Pakistani Muslims would be in keeping with this." It does seem plausible that a high proportion of white people who attend food banks are isolated individuals, suffering from what CUF calls in its web of poverty, poverty of relationships. However, there is no evidence presented, (and it would be very difficult to gather it) as to whether this is the case. It is also plausible as the researchers point out that help is found through the existence of alternative, hidden forms of food assistance among the Pakistani Muslim community surrounding mosques. Or it may be that family and biradari networks are sufficient to make sure no one goes hungry for long.

The shame factor

  • One concept that is totally missing from the research paper is that of "shame". In every faith and ethnic group it is not easy to admit that you cannot feed yourself and your household. Visiting a food bank which inevitably is a public act, and often needs formal referral interviews is emotionally difficult for most people. In a close community where everybody knows everybody else's business it is doubly so. And since most Muslim communities, and Pakistani ones in particular have highly developed notions of izzat (honour) and shame that redound on the whole family it is likely to be extremely difficult to ask for help with food. It is also conceivable that many would prefer to ask the council or a Christian food provider before risking an approach to their local neighbourhood mosque.

The religious ethos...

  • In my view the researchers comments on the religious ethos of food provision is not based on a high level of religious literacy or close observation of everyday interaction in multi-faith communities. It is the case that some Christian churches, and indeed mosques and other faith based organisations, may be clumsy and insensitive in expressing their beliefs and may indeed have inappropriate priorities about the call to conversion. The reality however is that when asked about faith and values, people of faith cannot be expected to keep silent. Personal experience over many years in East London and Lancashire suggests that few people of minority faith are offended by the articulation of Christian belief, and vice versa. Indeed many expect and prefer people to be up front about faith rather than rely on a cold secular an bureaucratic organisation. Indeed many Muslims are happy to attend church schools, children's clubs and family activities such as Messy Church. It may of course be different in some highly segregated and polarised cities such as Bradford, and at highly politicised moments, such as the Iraq war and the current post-Brexit. However it would be wrong to assume that religious ethos in itself is a driver of religious discrimination in service delivery.

I am interested to receive feedback from people in the Together Lancashire and wider Together Network as to whether the picture painted for Bradford rings true for your work.

My impression of food project work in Lancashire towns suggests a different story. There are a number of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and secular food provider services, and many of these work happily together in providing help to anyone in need. The varied geography and demography of the county means that some local providers may rarely if ever expect to see a Muslim, while others have a mixed clientele.

However, it is really important that we all keep examining ourselves to make sure our services are high quality and open to all, and that if we ever talk about our faith, or offer to pray with or for our service users, we do that in a sensitive way which respects their integrity and personal religious views.

Please do respond.. and lets have a discussion about the best way forward.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Some ideas about issues to work on in 2017..

I jotted down these ideas as a possible agenda for Lancashire Citizens in 2017..Though I'm not going to be so directly involved in development of the organisation form now on I thought about some issues that might be worth listening out for to see if they could be the basis of some campaigning.
1. Refugees and asylum seekers.. At the national level Citizens UK have taken this up and there is a shameful reluctance on the part of UK govrnment to accept more than a token number or refugees, and in particular unaccompanied children. And it is clear that government is committed to providing a "hostile environment" for most migrants and asylum seekers and especially those who are determined to be illegally present.   However, in Preston we do have an immense amount of goodwill and activity in the faith and community sector, and supported by the local authorities which is now coalescing around the City of Sanctuary group. Therefore it may be that this does not need to be a priority for Citizens.
2. Welfare Reform and benefits sanctions   One of the most common issues I hear from social action projects in Lancashire is about the devastating effects of welfare entitlements which drive people further into poverty and destitution. Bedroom Tax, reduced disability benefits, health and fitness assessments the role out of universal credits and the shear incompetence and suspicion within the complexatic system that causes huge delays in payments (and must cost the taxpayer a fortune).  Worst of all is the regime of sanctions for job seekers which is arbitrary, draconian, shockingly bad value for money and drives people into destitution and towards reliance on food banks and similar charitable projects. The Joint public issues team has done some good research and advocacy work on these issues https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/09/the-unaffordable-cost-of-benefits-sanctions
http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/issues/social-justice/poverty-and-inequality/   Maybe there could be enough concern in the Lancashire Citizens network to delve deeper and build a local campaign.
3. Lousy Employment practice Linked with the welfare benefits and job centre regimes for unemployed people I've become aware that in Preston and suurounding areas there are many employers locally who are using a range of bad practices to minimise their wage bill. Despite some progress in promoting the real living wage in Preston we still have employers who find loopholes that mean that jobs are below the minimum wage..I think we need to do more research on this but I'm already aware of call centres, takeaway food chains, numerous car wash firms, and supermarkets serving specialist minority communities which should be investigated. There are issues around agency working, employing migrants who may have no right to work and others on a cash in hand basis at below minimum wage rates, bogus self employment status, zero hours and variable hour contracts, unsocial hours that don't attract additional pay, avoidance of paid holiday entitlements and expectation that staff should turn up half an hour early to do preparatory work or stay around later without this time being counted as paid hours. And because of the benefits sanctions regime unemployed job seekers have no alternative other than to accept job offers from such firms.. event though in some cases it might well reduce their actuall or disposable income.  This would be a classic case where a citizens oraganizing type campaign could challenge some of the worst employers..
Incidentally there is a good thoughtful piece on Child Poverty from Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, which touches on some of these issues here