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HOUSING CHIEFS SEND REAL LONDONERS’ STORIES TO HOUSING MINISTER OVER HOUSING ACT FEARS

London’s Labour Housing Chiefs have sent stories from real Londoners about the impact the Housing and Planning Act will have on their lives and have repeated calls for the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act to be halted by the new Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP (Croydon Central).

Mr Barwell has failed to reply to an early joint letter sent in August from Labour’s local council cabinet members for housing across London.

The Housing and Planning Act will force many councils to sell up to a third of their already desperately over-subscribed housing stock. The Act also introduces the Tenant Tax on hard-pressed working families, which will see households in council homes with incomes over £40,000 per year forced to pay a 15% additional tax to the government for every £1 they earn over the threshold, up to the level of market rent for their home. The Act also includes the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants and a new definition of what an ‘affordable home’ will cost in London, which will further worsen the housing crisis.

It is still unclear when secondary legislation will be published to announce the specific details of how these policies will work in practice, meaning residents and councils remain in the dark about the future.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, organised the letter and commented: “The Housing Act will be devastating for London and it’s important that the Housing Minister is aware of how it will affect real Londoners.

“Some of the stories we have been sent from concerned residents are desperately worrying and the Minister owes them an answer, even if he won’t reply to our letters.

“It seems clear to me that Mr Barwell cannot say on the one hand he is acting in the best interest of London, as he has to do in his job as Minister for our city, and then in his other role implement legislation that will make finding an affordable home much harder for working people in London.

“The government hasn’t published much of the detail of how it plans to implement the Act, so now is the time to halt its implementation. We stand ready to work with Mr Barwell and the Mayor of London to tackle the housing crisis, so that London can remain a home for all Londoners.”

Included in the letter are the stories of Islington residents Sinead and John (not their real names to protect privacy). 

Sinead, who has lived with her husband in their council flat in Islington for 15 years. They have a 19 year old daughter who suffers from mental health difficulties, and 2 sons aged 8 and 12. She started her career as an office administration apprentice aged 16, and she and her labourer husband now earn a household income that will mean they will be forced to pay a Tenant Tax of £193.75 per month. Sinead told us, “We’ve both worked hard to create a stable home for our children. If we’re forced to pay this new tax we might end up having to leave London. The other alternative is that I give up my job and try find a part time position instead.”

John works as a railway engineer. His wife is an administrator. They have lived in their council flat since 1990. Based on their combined income, they will be liable for a Tenant Tax bill of £200 per month. John comments that “the Government are making it impossible for me to earn a living. My wife and I can’t afford this new tax but we also can’t afford to rent in the private sector in London.” 

The letter was co-signed by the following Labour Housing Leads from across London - Cllr Diarmaid Ward (London Borough of Islington), Cllr Martin Whelton (London Borough of Merton), Cllr Alison Butler (London Borough of Croydon), Cllr Patricia Callaghan (London Borough of Camden), Cllr Farah Hussain (London Borough of Redbridge), Cllr Harbi Farah (London Borough of Brent), Cllr Katherine Dunne (London Borough of Hounslow), Cllr Stephanie Cryan (London Borough of Southwark), Cllr Khevyn Limbajee (London Borough of Waltham Forest), Cllr Sirajul Islam (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), Cllr Dominic Twomey (London Borough of Barking & Dagenham), Cllr Matthew Bennett (London Borough of Lambeth), Cllr Averil Lekau (London Borough of Greenwich), Cllr Philip Glanville (London Borough of Hackney), Cllr Damian Egan (London Borough of Lewisham), Cllr Alan Strickland (London Borough of Haringey).

Pictured - Cllr Diarmaid Ward  

 

 

 

Real stories of Tenant Tax impact sent to Minister

HOUSING CHIEFS SEND REAL LONDONERS’ STORIES TO HOUSING MINISTER OVER HOUSING ACT FEARS London’s Labour Housing Chiefs have sent stories from real Londoners about the impact the Housing and Planning...

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Local councillors, residents, and businesses have welcomed the installation of a new post box at the Nag’s Head Shopping Centre, Holloway Road, after a successful campaign by local councillors and the Nag’s Head Town Centre Management Group.

Following the closure of the Crown Post Office at Nag’s Head, local Finsbury Park councillors contacted Royal Mail to call for a new post box to be installed in the local area. After receiving a positive response to this request from Royal Mail, the post box did not materialise.

With the support of the Nag’s Head Town Centre Management Group, supported and co-ordinated by Islington Council, councillors lobbied Royal Mail alongside local businesses to call for a new post box to be installed as soon as possible. At the start of September the post box was installed on Holloway Road.

Cllr Gary Heather, Finsbury Park ward, said: “I was disappointed at the closure of the Crown Post Office at the Nag’s Head Shopping Centre, but I am really pleased that Royal Mail has now re-provided a post box nearby. The post box is such an important public service for residents, shoppers and businesses in this busy town centre area.”

Local resident, Linda Vass, from nearby Manor Gardens commented: “The new post box is a well needed improvement since the Post Office closed. It is such a long way to another post box. It's a no-brainer there should be one here.”

Local resident, Jeanette, added: “I am really delighted with the new post box. It is a vital service, especially for older people, who still like to keep in touch with friends and family by writing them letters. Without an accessible post box to post their letters some people would feel cut off and isolated.”

Sharon Black, the Manager of Selby's department store on Holloway Road, added: “The new post box is a big benefit to local businesses and their employees and customers. Since the Post Office closed it has been much harder to get to a post box, and thankfully now that inconvenience has been removed.”

Pictured - Cllr Gary Heather, Michael Calderbank (Town Centre Development Officer), and Sharon Black, the Manager of Selby's department store.

New post box for Nag's Head

Local councillors, residents, and businesses have welcomed the installation of a new post box at the Nag’s Head Shopping Centre, Holloway Road, after a successful campaign by local councillors and...

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£2million committed by Islington Council to help tackle serious youth violence

Specialist charities have been commissioned by the Islington Labour-run council to help tackle the root causes and consequences of serious youth violence in the borough.

Despite the massive financial challenges faced in Islington, with the government cutting funding in half since 2010, in February the council’s budget prioritised the future of young people. Alongside this additional £500,000 investment each year for the next four years, the council also protected existing budgets for youth services. 

The decision to focus on young people came about because of the surge in serious youth violence over the last 12 months, including the tragic deaths of several young people and serious incidents as a result of youth crime in the borough. 

Cllr Richard Watts said, “As leaders of the community, we have a responsibility to make sure vital services are in place at times of difficulty, even if we are facing massive cuts by the Tory government. 

“This means investing in our young people. Islington’s young people are energetic, vibrant and full of potential, and the overwhelming majority stay clear of trouble. But to those at risk or those involved in crime, we want to offer them these opportunities as a way out” 

The council introduced a new Youth Crime Strategy earlier this year, made changes to the Youth Offending Service and brought in a new specialised Integrated Gangs Unit that works with staff across different sectors and organisations on youth crime and will be a recipient of some of the funding. 

However, the Labour-run council wanted to go further than this, by putting £500,000 a year into available services in the community, over the next four years. These specific projects will be targeted at young people in gangs and those at risk of joining them. Young people will also get a chance to have a say on what is missing and what type of services they want. 

The extra funding will go to Chance UK, St Giles Trust and Safer London. Each of these organisations target a wide range of young people and offer them the opportunity to speak about issues with those who have been exposed to gang life, as well as offering training opportunities to improve their life skills, such as self-confidence and behavioural skills.  

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children and Young people, said: “Gang crime and serious youth violence is not only very damaging for those involved, but also harms their families and our wider society.

“To stop this requires a two-pronged approach. These projects and independent experts will help us direct significant efforts at encouraging tomorrow’s gang members to take an alternative path and turn their backs on crime, while also helping those already mired in that harmful lifestyle to get out.”  

The Council will also be maintaining the Islington Bursary - set at £300 a year for each young person- to help disadvantaged young people go to college as well as other training and employment support. 

Young people will also have the opportunity to access counselling services in order to overcome the effects of growing up around gang culture. 

The council has also commissioned a project that looks at supporting young people who have experienced sexual exploitation in gangs. 

If you are interested in becoming mentors and helping a child make positive behaviour changes, Chance UK would like to hear from you. For more information please see www.chanceuk.com

Pictured - Cllr Joe Caluori

Council commits £2million to tackle serious youth violence

£2million committed by Islington Council to help tackle serious youth violence Specialist charities have been commissioned by the Islington Labour-run council to help tackle the root causes and consequences of...

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Following the country's decision to vote to leave the European Union, the Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has called for the government to confirm that vital EU funding that helps the council support local people into work will be protected, as was promised during the election campaign. 

In response to a letter from Cllr Watts to the Employment Minister, Damian Hinds MP, Mr Hinds fails to confirm that EU funding will continue once the country leaves.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, commented on the response from the new Employment Minister, saying, “The response from the new Employment Minister will offer little comfort to local people who are looking for work, as it makes no commitment to continue funding the council’s successful employment schemes once EU funding stops. 

“In the last year we’ve helped more than 1,000 local people find work, half of whom had been out of work for quite a long time. We have been able to do this by using EU funding to support new employment schemes, and it is now clear that the promise from government Ministers who supported leaving the EU to protect funding is completely hollow. 

“Just like with the promise of an extra £350million per week for the NHS, the promise to protect funding hasn’t been backed up. It’s clear that people were misled by the Vote Leave campaign. 

“We will keep pressing the government to make sure Islington gets the best deal, and we will continue our work to help more local people get decent and secure jobs.”

Minister fails to promise EU funding support

Following the country's decision to vote to leave the European Union, the Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has called for the government to confirm that vital EU funding...

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Islington Labour councillors have welcomed a High Court ruling that could lead the way for vital HIV treatment to be funded by the NHS. 

The NHS had stated it would not fund the highly effective HIV prevention treatment, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), instead leaving this to local councils to fund.

It costs almost £380,000 to treat one person with HIV across their lifetime, while the cost of providing PrEP drugs for one person is around £4,700 per year. Extensive testing has shown that 86 per cent of those at risk who take the drug are protected from contracting HIV. 

On 2nd August the High Court ruled that the NHS could fund the treatment directly. The NHS is appealing the decision. 

Cllr Nick Ward (St George’s ward) raised the issue in a question at Full Council in June to Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health & Social Care. 

Commenting on the High Court ruling, Cllr Nick Ward said: “This is good news and is a first step in ensuring that this vital treatment is properly funded and made available by the NHS. 

“In Islington, more than 1,200 people are living with HIV, and in 2014, London accounted for 45 per cent of all people diagnosed as HIV positive in England. The Terence Higgins Trust has estimated that a delay in commissioning PrEP will see seven more people contract HIV every day. That’s unacceptable and the NHS needs to do the right thing and make this vital treatment available to those that need it.” 

Cllr Janet Burgess added: “At a time when council budgets have been cut by the government on such a massive scale, the NHS must fund and commission this effective treatment. Councils have faced in-year cuts to our public health funding by the government and this will make maintaining current funding levels for preventative work difficult.

“We have made major progress in Islington in reducing late diagnosis of HIV in recent years, and we commission local sexual health services which are making a real difference. However, we continue to see new HIV infections, and the use of these anti-HIV drugs for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) would help significantly reduce the number of people becoming HIV positive in future.

“I welcome the High Court ruling and hope the NHS will fund this treatment in future.”

Pictured - Cllr Nick Ward & Cllr Janet Burgess

 

Councillors welcome HIV treatment ruling

                Islington Labour councillors have welcomed a High Court ruling that could lead the way for vital HIV treatment to be funded by...

ISLINGTON LABOUR COUNCILLORS ELECTED TO LABOUR NATIONAL COMMITTEE

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This week, two Islington Labour councillors have been elected to sit on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

Cllr Alice Perry (St Peter’s ward) was re-elected to serve on the committee representing the interests of local Labour councillors from across the country.

Cllr Claudia Webbe (Bunhill ward & Executive Member for Environment & Transport) was elected for the first time to represent ordinary party members through the local constituency section of the NEC.

Having two Islington Labour councillors at Labour’s top-table will mean Islington has an influential voice on the committee and on how the Labour Party holds the Tory government to account as it develops campaigns and policies that make a difference for working people. 

Cllr Alice Perry, said, “Local Labour councillors are at the heart of their communities and where Labour is in power in local government we show just what our party can do to change working people’s lives for the better. I’m delighted to be re-elected to make sure that councillors get the respect they deserve and to make sure that the Labour Party develops policies to tackle issues that affect people in Islington.” 

Cllr Claudia Webbe, commented, “It’s a real honour to have been elected by ordinary Labour Party members from across the country to serve them on the NEC. My job will be to be the voice of local Labour parties across the country, and I look forward to taking up the challenge of making sure our party fights the Tory government that is doing so much damage to our communities.” 

Cllr Webbe received 92,377 votes in the election open to all members. Cllr Perry topped the poll in the election open to Labour councillors from across the country.

Pictured - Cllr Alice Perry & Cllr Claudia Webbe 

Councillors elected to Labour national committee

ISLINGTON LABOUR COUNCILLORS ELECTED TO LABOUR NATIONAL COMMITTEE               This week, two Islington Labour councillors have been elected to sit on the Labour Party’s...

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Labour councillors for Barnsbury ward are to help fund the restoration and conservation of two Grade II listed First World War memorials at Thornhill Road Gardens and St Silas Church.

The restoration works will include hand and pressure cleaning, re-pointing, re-carving of lettering, and general maintenance of memorials in Thornhill Road Gardens, and at Saint Silas Church, Risinghill Street.

Councillors Jilani Chowdhury and Mouna Hamitouche have used their allocation of the council’s Local Initiative Fund to contribute around 25% (£1,700) of the cost of the works, with The War Memorials Trust contributing the remaining amount (£5,000).

The memorials commemorate those from Holy Trinity Church and St Silas Church who lost their lives during the First World War. Almost 10,000 Islington residents lost their lives during the First World War.

Cllr Mouna Hamitouche, commented: “These memorials mark the sacrifice that local people made in service of their country during the First World War, and it is right that we ensure that their memory can continue to be honoured by generations to come by repairing the memorials.”

Cllr Jilani Chowdhury, added: “Almost 10,000 Islington residents lost their lives in the First World War, and I am proud to be able to help restore these memorials.”

The memorial in Thornhill Road Gardens is a Grade II listed Celtic granite wheel cross on a two-step granite plinth. The war memorial is a focal point for visitors to the garden and, as a Celtic cross, is a very unusual form for a WW1 war memorial. The memorial at St Silas Church is also a Grade II listed memorial made from limestone and timber.

Islington Council has organised several events and exhibitions to mark the centenary of the First World War, including ‘The Streets They Left Behind’ project, which included an interactive map which shows where each of the people who died during the First World War lived. Each soldiers’ former home is marked by a poppy on the map, and when clicked displays details about their military action during the war, and their last resting places.

Plaques have also been installed on streets across the borough, commemorating those who lived in those streets and lost their lives in the First World War. The Islington Museum currently has a display telling the remarkable story of a family’s desperate attempts to find a soldier, Hugh Victor Hember, who went missing on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The exhibition is on until Saturday 27 August 2016.

The decision to make the award was made before newly elected councillor Cllr Rowena Champion was elected, but received her full support. 

Pictured - Cllr Hamitouche, Cllr Watts (Leader of Islington Council), and Cllr Chowdhury. 

Barnsbury War Memorials to be restored

Labour councillors for Barnsbury ward are to help fund the restoration and conservation of two Grade II listed First World War memorials at Thornhill Road Gardens and St Silas Church....

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Islington Labour's Housing lead, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, has brought together all of London’s Labour Housing Chiefs to call for the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act to be halted by the new Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP.

In a joint open letter to Mr Barwell, Labour’s local council cabinet members responsible for housing across London have set out the devastating impact the government’s Housing Act will have on Londoners and have called for Mr Barwell, who is also the new Minister for London, to work with them and the Mayor of London to ensure that London can remain a home for all Londoners.

The Housing and Planning Act will force many councils to sell up to a third of their already desperately over-subscribed housing stock. The Act also introduces the Tenant Tax on hard-pressed working families, which will see households in council homes with incomes over £40,000 per year forced to pay a 15% additional tax to the government for every £1 they earn over the threshold, up to the level of market rent for their home.

The Act also includes the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants and a new definition of what an ‘affordable home’ will cost in London, which will further worsen the housing crisis.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, organised the letter and commented: “London faces a housing crisis and the Housing Act is set to make it worse. Mr Barwell is in a unique position as both Minister for Housing and the Minister for London to put a halt on the implementation of this devastating legislation, which will hurt many people in our great city.

“It seems clear to me that Mr Barwell cannot say on the one hand he is acting in the best interest of London, as he has to do in his job as Minister for our city, and then in his other role implement legislation that will make finding an affordable home much harder for working people in London.

“The government hasn’t published much of the detail of how it plans to implement the Act, so now is the time to halt its implementation. We stand ready to work with Mr Barwell and the Mayor of London to tackle the housing crisis, so that London can remain a home for all Londoners.”

The joint letter has been signed by the following Labour Cabinet members - Cllr Diarmaid Ward (Islington), Cllr Martin Whelton (Merton), Cllr Alison Butler (Croydon), Cllr Patricia Callaghan (Camden), Cllr Farah Hussein (Redbridge), Cllr Glen Hearnden, (Harrow), Cllr Ahmet Oykener (Enfield), Cllr Harbi Farah (Brent), Cllr Damian Egan (Lewisham), Cllr Katherine Dunne (Hounslow), Cllr Stephanie Cryan (Southwark), Cllr Khevyn Limbajee (Waltham Forest), Cllr Sirajul Islam (Tower Hamlets), Cllr Dominic Twomey (Barking & Dagenham), Cllr Matthew Bennett, (Lambeth), Cllr Averil Lekau (Greenwich), Cllr Philip Glanville (Hackney), Cllr Ken Clark (Newham), Cllr Alan Strickland (Haringey), Cllr Jasbir Anand (Ealing). 

Labour Housing Chiefs call for Housing Act Halt

Islington Labour's Housing lead, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, has brought together all of London’s Labour Housing Chiefs to call for the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act to be halted...

Islington Labour's Rowena Champion elected as new councillor for Barnsbury.

Last Thursday, local resident Rowena Champion was elected to represent Barnsbury ward with over 51% of the vote. 

Cllr Rowena Champion said: "Last Thursday I was very proud to be elected to represent Barnsbury which has been my home for twenty years.  Replacing James Murray who has been such an outstanding ward councillor will not be easy, but I am determined to work with my fellow councillors, Jilani Chowdhury and Mouna Hamitouche, to address the issues that affect our community.

"I also appreciate the responsibility I have undertaken to the people of Islington and look forward to working with my colleagues on the council and with our communities to tackle the many and wide ranging challenges that face us over the next few years.  This includes providing secure affordable homes and supporting our residents into secure well-paid jobs, while continuing to provide council services to those who need them. 

"I want to say thank you to everyone that supported me in the election.  I also want to say thank you to the elections staff and the police for running the election, and to my fellow candidates and their volunteers." 

Barnsbury By-Election Results - 14th July 2016

Rowena Champion - Labour Party - 1,192

Liberal Democrats - 409

Conservative Party - 367

Green Party - 302

Independent - 40

Turnout was 25.43%.

Rowena Champion Elected

Islington Labour's Rowena Champion elected as new councillor for Barnsbury. Last Thursday, local resident Rowena Champion was elected to represent Barnsbury ward with over 51% of the vote.  Cllr Rowena...

The Tory government’s Housing and Planning Act could damage Islington residents’ health, an Islington Council report has warned.

Concerns around increased overcrowding, reduced ability to rehouse vulnerable people, and the negative impact on residents with mental health issues have been raised by the council. The report, prepared by the Housing Strategy, Improvement and Partnerships Team, was presented to the Health and Wellbeing Board on 6th July.

It is estimated that poor housing costs the NHS £2.5bn a year treating illnesses linked to living in cold, damp and dangerous homes.  

The Housing and Planning Act includes many measures that will affect Islington, including the forced sale of council homes, the Tenant Tax, and changes to tenancies for new tenants. Many challenges stem from fewer homes being available for letting, with the council expecting to lose a third of empty properties due to the forced sale of council homes that the government is imposing.

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Commenting on the report, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, Cllr Janet Burgess, said: “The Housing Act represents a threat to people’s health. Overcrowding is a real problem in Islington, and the measures the government are enforcing will mean that people may choose to live in unsuitable homes for longer to avoid the risks that moving could bring.

“I will be writing with my colleague Cllr Ward to the government about the health impacts of the Housing Act. The government really needs to think again about the real impact of its plans on people’s health and the added costs this will put on the already strained NHS.”

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Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, added: “We have been fighting the Housing Act since it was first proposed, and we will continue to pursue any legal route available to us to challenge the Act and to mitigate its consequences. Measures like the forced sale of homes, the Tenant Tax, and changes to tenancies for new tenants, could see increased housing related stress and have other negative consequences for residents’ health.”

The council report notes that –

  • Multiple housing problems increase children’s risk of ill-health by up to 25% during childhood and early adulthood.
  • 22% of people living in areas with high proportions of social housing have long term health conditions, compared with 9% in areas with no social housing.
  • Prevalence of certain types of health issues are high for those living in social housing, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (24%), asthma (15%), chronic liver disease (57%), stroke (14%), Chronic Heart Disease (10%).

The report also highlights particular risks to people requiring rehousing after being discharged from hospital and less supported housing being provided when the 1% rent reduction is applied after a delay of one year.

A copy of the report can be found here.

Over the past year Islington Labour haa been opposing the Housing Bill and raising awareness of the damaging effects it would have. Some of the actions we have taken include:

  • May 2015 - We led a four-borough group to commission the first research showing how damaging the forced sale of council homes will be in London.
  • June 2015 - We first raised the threat of the council homes sell off in the national press.
  • June 2015 - We organised a contingent on a march through central London under the banner 'Our Homes: Our London', supported by Unite, GMB, and London Labour Housing Group.
  • September/October 2015 - Along with colleagues across London, we wrote to, lobbied, and publicly called on housing associations not to accept the voluntary RTB extension.
  • October 2015 - At the council we passed a unanimous motion against the housing associations' voluntary RTB deal and urged them to protect social housing in Islington.
  • November/December 2015 - We responded to the government's consultation on pay to stay, setting out how damaging the policy will be for Islington, as well giving evidence to the Bill committee.
  • January 2016 – Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, raised again the damaging effect of council home sell off on London through a piece on BBC London News.
  • February 2016 - Councillors attended the Islington Hands Off Our Public Services meeting at Islington Town Hall to set out how the damaging the Bill would be for Islington and to continue to oppose it.
  • March 2016 – Public meeting held at the Town Hall for tenants about potential impact of Bill.
  • June 2016 – Motion passed on Tenant Tax at Full Council.
  • September/October 2016 – Further public meeting planned.

Housing Act could damage people's health, report warns

The Tory government’s Housing and Planning Act could damage Islington residents’ health, an Islington Council report has warned. Concerns around increased overcrowding, reduced ability to rehouse vulnerable people, and the...

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