By Sean Woodcock

LIKE most of you I have been indulging in unabashed patriotism while following the Three Lions' fantastic (so far) efforts in the World Cup.

This is not hard, as someone who is very proud of our country. In fact, 1966 joins that list of dates our country can collectively look back on with pride like 1940 and the Battle of Britain or 1948’s creation of the NHS.

Another date I look back on with pride is 1807, when the Act prohibiting the slave trade was passed. Unfortunately, while it should be a thing of the past, modern slavery is still a reality.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 21m people around the world are trapped in some form of forced labour - the term it uses to describe modern slavery - whether it is trafficking, debt bondage or child labour.

In the UK more than 13,000 people are working as slaves, including more than 2,000 children, and it is prevalent in sectors as diverse as agriculture, hospitality, nail bars and car washes.

Many of the victims are from abroad, trafficked into the country before they have their passport confiscated and are threatened with deportation should they refuse or fail in their duties.

But UK nationals make up the biggest group of potential victims and women are particularly more likely to be at risk, with more than a third subject to sexual exploitation.

In December, Anthony Stansfeld, the Police and Crime Commissioner of Thames Valley Police, said he believed the problem in Oxfordshire was much worse than previously thought, with as many as 157 victims. So the issue is very much real and local.

To its credit, in 2015 the coalition government passed a law in recognition of the scale of the problem and the next year we saw the first conviction under the terms of the Act.

But enforcement is tough in an era of cuts and with support services overstretched, many victims do not have access to anywhere safe to report their plight.

It has fallen to the third (and voluntary) sector to take up the mantle of combatting this vile practice, with both the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church running their own campaigns against it.

And now the Co-operative Party, the sister party to Labour, of which I and many of my colleagues are members, is launching its charter against modern slavery. This targets local authorities and councils.

Councils have immense influence as purchasers of goods and services, collectively spending around £40bn each year. Yet in an age of shrinking budgets, procurement decisions open a potential source of public funding for exploited labour.

That is why the Co-operative Party has a ten-point plan to ensure councils become part of the solution rather than the problem.

It covers training staff to spot the signs, cleaning up supply chains and regular reviews which I will propose to the council and hope to achieve cross-party consensus with.