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Cllr Alice Perry, St Peter's ward, writes about the importance of tackling the practice of 'blacklisting' - 

Our lives our defined by our work, the communities we come from and our most strongly held values and beliefs. Defending and strengthening our rights at work is at the heart of what it means to be Labour. Back in 2009, the Information Commissioner exposed details of a large-scale surveillance operation run by a company called The Consulting Association. This company collated files on thousands of construction workers and sold the information to 44 construction companies.

Blacklisting is the illegal practice of systematically denying individuals employment on the basis of information, accurate or not, held on some kind of database. While it has been a serious blight on the construction industry for many decades, the discovery of this database was concrete proof of a massive national blacklisting scandal.

The raid resulted in the closure of the database, which had been used to record details of union activity and health and safety campaigning by construction workers. In some cases, just attending a meeting was enough to get you blacklisted from future employment.

The list contained over 3,000 names of workers, many of whom had had their lives ruined as a result. As the GMB point out “Blacklisting has devastating effects, including lengthy periods of unemployment, and being forced to retrain to work in other industries. Not only does this cause financial hardship for the person blacklisted, but also for anyone who is dependent on that person’s career.”

A national campaign led by Trade Unions like the UCATT, the GMB and Unite has sought to achieve justice and compensation for those affected, as well as calling for a full public inquiry and for companies guilty of blacklisting to be barred from tendering for publicly procured contracts.

Shockingly, around half of the workers on this secret database still do not know they were victims of blacklisting. As a society, we cannot turn a blind eye to this unjust, illegal practice.

Many Councils across the country have passed motions against blacklisting and supported the national anti-blacklisting campaign. In 2013 Islington Council wanted to look into what additional practical measures could be taken. Due to the scale of the practice and the terrible impact this had on the lives of thousands of workers, we investigated how local authorities could avoid doing business with companies guilty of blacklisting who had not self-cleansed (e.g. providing detailed evidence of the steps taken to remedy past damage done and prevent future occurrence.)

As a council, we adopted the following changes to its procurement policy:

  • The Council will now not enter into contracts with companies implicated in ‘blacklisting’ unless they can demonstrate that they have ‘self cleansed’ and taken adequate measures to remedy past damage done and prevent future occurrence.
  • The Council is amending its standard contract terms and conditions to introduce a new clause on ‘blacklisting’ to make explicit the link between ‘blacklisting’ by the contractor (or any sub-contractors that they engage) and the Council’s ability to terminate the contract.
  • If during a tender process, a candidate is unable to declare that they have never ‘blacklisted’, they will now be required to prove to the Council’s satisfaction that they have ‘self-cleansed’.

I am delighted that other Councils have adopted similar procurement processes to tackle blacklisting. It is great to see so many Labour Councils adopting ethical procurement processes. If Labour had won the election the party had promised a full enquiry into blacklisting. We should continue to campaign for this and supportthe ongoing major legal action. There is also a lot we can do right now in local government to challenge this disgraceful practice, hold guilty companies to account and fight for justice for thousands of workers.

We can't ignore blacklisting

Cllr Alice Perry, St Peter's ward, writes about the importance of tackling the practice of 'blacklisting' -  Our lives our defined by our work, the communities we come from and...

Thousands of council homes are likely to be forcibly sold to help fund the extension of Right to Buy after plans were announced by the Tory Government. 

In Islington alone, an estimated 1,840 vital council homes could be sold in the first 5 years of this disastrous policy. 

The Tory Government included plans in the Queen's Speech to allow more housing association tenants to buy the homes they live in at a discount under the Right to Buy policy. To fund this extension, the Government will force councils to sell higher-valued properties as they become empty. 

Islington has joined forces with several other London Boroughs to investigate the impact this policy will have, discovering that as many as 3,500 council homes could be sold in Islington, Camden, and Haringey alone within the first 5 years. 

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Cllr James Murray (pictured), Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing, commented: “With Londoners already facing a huge housing crisis, forcing councils to sell homes in high-value areas is likely to have a destructive impact in Islington and right across the capital.

“Thousands of council homes would have to be sold, particularly in inner London boroughs, and the report we have produced underlines that there would be a big question mark over the Government’s promise that the homes would be replaced. We'll see a fall in the number of council lettings, which in turn will push up private rents even further, particularly in outer London boroughs.

“This report seems to confirm what we feared – that the Tory Government's policy is wrong for London, both socially and economically, and will make our grave housing crisis even worse.”

The key findings of the report were - 

  • Around 3,500 homes can be expected to be sold across Camden, Haringey and Islington in the first five years of the new policy.
  • The sales of empty properties is not likely to be enough to pay for the right-to-buy discounts, to compensate housing associations for loss of asset, to build replacement homes and also contribute to a brownfield fund
  • Even if the Government's proposal for replacing homes works, there would be an estimated time lag of at least two years from the sale of homes to replacement ones being built. The report uses DCLG data to estimate that this would result in 579 families with children and 385 homeless households being unable to get a council tenancy in the first two years.
  • Many families unable to get a council tenancy would face the prospect of remaining in overcrowded homes, whilst households who are underoccupying would likely take remain in their home for longer before downsizing.
  • Homeless households would have to enter or remain in temporary accommodation. This is likely to have an effect on the private rented sector and on other council services in outer London boroughs as inner London boroughs rent homes for use as temporary accommodation outside of their own boroughs. 

 

Council homes at risk from Tory Government

Thousands of council homes are likely to be forcibly sold to help fund the extension of Right to Buy after plans were announced by the Tory Government.  In Islington alone,...

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Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, writes about the next 5 years following the general election - 

I'd like to start by saying thank you. Thank you to each and everyone person in Islington that voted Labour and re-elected our fantastic local MPs, Emily Thornberry and Jeremy Corbyn.

Emily and Jeremy have always been dedicated fighters for working people in our communities, and after beating the Tories into second place, I know they will continue to make a difference on the things that matter. 

Sadly, however, the results across the country mean we now face five more years of a Tory Government. 

I think it's right that we are completely upfront with people when we talk about just how bad the next few years will be. 

Further massive cuts to the council, devastating policies that will make it harder for people to get and keep affordable homes, and brutal cuts to vital welfare support, will all make the lives of people in Islington harder. 

I want to make you a promise today - no matter how hard the next five years are, Islington Labour will always be on your side. 

We will fight this Government every step of the way, and continue to make a difference on this issues that matter to working people - jobs, housing, and help with the cost of living. 

But we need your support and help to continue our work to improve the lives of people in our community. 

I hope that you will join me and start the fightback today. Volunteer today with Islington Labour by clicking here and join the Labour Party here.

Best wishes,

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Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council

@RichardWatts01 

Thank you, but we need your help

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, writes about the next 5 years following the general election -  I'd like to start by saying thank you. Thank you to each...

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, Islington Council today raised the Irish flag above the Town Hall. 

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This occasion was witnessed by members of the local Irish community, councillors, and the Leader of the Council, Cllr Richard Watts. 

Organiser of the event Cllr Troy Gallagher said of the occasion: "St Patrick’s Day is an important date in London’s calendar.

"Raising the Irish flag is a great gesture to mark the occasion, and to celebrate our Irish population in Islington and the contribution they have made to our local community. 

"Islington's strength is our diversity and I’m proud that today we’re celebrating the distinctive contribution of our Irish residents in the borough."

Pictured: Councillors and council employees with the Irish flag at the Town Hall. 

Irish flag raised to celebrate St Patrick's Day

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, Islington Council today raised the Irish flag above the Town Hall.  This occasion was witnessed by members of the local Irish community, councillors,...

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Labour-run Islington Council has agreed to introduce a new landlord licensing scheme to tackle poor housing on Holloway Road and Caledonian Road. 

Islington Labour is committed to ensuring that everyone in the borough has a decent and affordable home. Since 2010, the council has helped deliver 1,800 genuinely affordable new homes, and will deliver a further 1,500 by 2019. We have also taken tough action to improve the standards of housing in the growing private rented sector in the borough. 

To help to improve standards further, a new landlord licensing scheme will come into force to protect around 3,500 private tenants in shared homes. Properties known as HMOs along Holloway Road and Caledonian Road will be subject to the new scheme. 

The proposals were agreed after the council inspected properties in the area and found that more than two thirds of HMOs had problems – including fire alarms not working, mice infestations, poor electrical systems, and rooms being let that were too small for someone to live in. 

Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, said: “We’ve been concerned about poor conditions in some properties in these areas and our inspections confirmed many were in a bad way. The targeted licensing scheme will mean landlords have to provide tenants with decent homes. 

“Any landlord on Holloway Road or Caledonian Road will have to meet the standards we set, or they face prosecution and fines of up to £20,000. It’s right that we fight for a fair deal for private tenants.” 

More information about the scheme can be found here. 

The council also provides a helpline for private tenants for all issues and concerns - 020 7527 3001. 

Tackling poor housing with targeted landlord licensing

Labour-run Islington Council has agreed to introduce a new landlord licensing scheme to tackle poor housing on Holloway Road and Caledonian Road.  Islington Labour is committed to ensuring that everyone...

Islington Labour councillors have described Transport for London's (TfL) plans to shut Tufnell Park underground station for 8 months from June as showing 'complete contempt for local people'. 

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Rumours surfaced last summer that TfL were considering closing the station to replace the station lifts. At the time, local St George's ward and Junction ward Labour councillors worked with residents and local businesses to warn against the plans.

TfL assured the council in writing that no plans were in place to close the station and that any future developments would be communicated to the council first. 

However, earlier this week, TfL announced that the station would indeed close from 8th June until March 2016 - an 8 month closure that will cause massive disruption for residents and hits many local businesses. 

This decision has been made without consultation with local people. 

St George's ward councillor, Cllr Nick Ward, said: "TfL has shown complete contempt for local people in announcing its plans to close Tufnell Park tube station. 

"Closing the station entirely for 8 months will cause massive disruption and hit businesses hard. Over 2 million journeys would be affected by a six month closure of the station. Thousands of residents use the station every day to get to work. Have TfL considered how this will impact them, or how the local businesses around the station that rely on the passing trade will be affected by a closure? Of course they haven’t.   

"Our community deserves better and the concerns of local people should not be dismissed so easily by TfL.

"My fellow St George’s ward councillors and I are calling for TfL to put their plans on hold and to genuinely consult the local community before starting any work. It is astonishing that TfL has failed to run a consultation exercise for such an intrusive and significant project."

Leader of the Council, Cllr Richard Watts, and Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, have written to TfL calling for the plans to be put on hold and meaningful consultation to take place with local people. Cllr Watts and Cllr Webbe have also called for local businesses to be compensated if the closure does go ahead. 

 

TfL shows 'complete contempt' with Tufnell Park Station closure

Islington Labour councillors have described Transport for London's (TfL) plans to shut Tufnell Park underground station for 8 months from June as showing 'complete contempt for local people'.  Rumours surfaced...

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Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, wrote this week in the Evening Standard about the Tory-led Government's massive cuts to local councils and the impact yet more cuts would have on services. 

Cllr Watts wrote - 

Your editorial on Monday about the impact of further major cuts to public spending is too complacent.

Local councils have been making the kind of relatively pain-free efficiency savings you suggest for four years now. My own authority has cut its spending by more than £100 million this way.

However, these efficiencies cannot keep being found. If, say, you’ve shared your public health department once (as Islington and Camden councils have done) you can’t do it again and again and expect to keep on saving money.

Substantial further cuts to local councils can only be made by cutting deep into valued public services. Such cuts would be deeply damaging and a false economy that will pile costs onto the state elsewhere.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Cllr Watts has also written about the need to give local councils a secure financial future and why giving councils the powers they need to help improve services and get results, is good for everyone. 

 

There are limits to local authority cuts

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, wrote this week in the Evening Standard about the Tory-led Government's massive cuts to local councils and the impact yet more cuts would...

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, has welcomed news that Transport for London (TfL) will be piloting 20mph speed limits on select ‘red routes’ in the borough. 

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In 2013, Labour-run Islington Council became the first borough to adopt 20mph speed limits on all residential roads managed by the council. Since then Islington Labour has been campaigning for TfL to adopt the same safer speeds on the main routes through the borough which they manage. 

TfL have now announced plans for 8 pilots across the city, including Upper Street and on Holloway Road (between Pentonville Road and Seven Sisters Road).

Cllr Webbe commented: “I’m delighted that TfL has finally listened to our calls for safer 20mph speed limits to be introduced on the main routes they manage in Islington.

“We’ve been calling for such a move ever since we became the first borough to adopt borough-wide 20mph speed limits in 2013.

“20mph limits make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and also help to improve air quality. After a series of successful ‘stop and advice’ exercises with motorists, we were the first borough to have our 20mph limits enforced by the police.

“I look forward to the pilots beginning, and I hope this is a first step to making all our roads safer.” 

More information about the TfL pilot plans can be found here.

Pictured: Cllr Webbe with police officers on enforcement action of the 20mph speed limits. 

Islington Labour welcomes 20mph trials on TfL ‘red routes’

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, has welcomed news that Transport for London (TfL) will be piloting 20mph speed limits on select ‘red routes’ in the borough. ...

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Throughout March, Islington Labour councillors are joining forces with the local community in a ‘spring clean’ programme in four areas of the borough. 

Starting in Nag’s Head town centre last week, grot spots will be tackled with litter picks, graffiti removal, pavement cleaning and other measures to clean up our streets.

The roving programme moves to Finsbury Park this week, then on to Archway from 16th March, and Cally Road from 23rd March.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment & Transport, said: “We are determined to make sure our town centres and main high streets are welcoming and clean for the residents and businesses that live and work in our community. 

“It’s been great to see the impact the first exercise has had in Nag’s Head, and I am really pleased that councillors have joined the community and lent a hand.” 

If you see a grot spot in any of the areas listed above, you can tweet a photo and the location accompanied by the following hashtags - #CleanUpFinsburyPark, #CleanUpNagsHead, #CleanUpArchway, and #CleanUpCallyRoad – and this will alert the council to the problem.

More information can be found here.

Spring Clean across Islington

Throughout March, Islington Labour councillors are joining forces with the local community in a ‘spring clean’ programme in four areas of the borough.  Starting in Nag’s Head town centre last...

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, writes about the council budget and Islington Labour’s commitment to making a difference for our borough.

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On Thursday 26th February, Islington Council was yet again forced to make tough choices in order to set a legal budget for the year ahead.

Since 2011, the council's funding has been cut in half by the Tory-led Government. That has meant we have had to carry out our agenda to make Islington a fairer place and to make a difference for working people, in a time of unprecedented financial pressures.

Imagine for a minute that you had to run your household with half as much money as you used to have, and you will understand the scale of what we have had to do.

The difference Islington Labour makes can be seen in our budget which protects all our libraries, children's centres, and continues to support vital adult social care. It also delivers fair pay for all our staff with our continued commitment to the Living Wage.

We have also found new ways to generate income, such as selling our expert advice in certain areas and by installing solar panels on council buildings. We’ve been able to keep job losses as low as possible, and have made some agency staff full council employees with better terms and conditions.

We were very clear at the election that we would prioritise homes, jobs and helping people with the cost of living. I know that people understand that if we had not set a legal budget, all this work to make a difference to people’s lives would have been put at risk.

I'm proud that the 47 members of the Labour Group did not duck this challenge and set a legal budget.

In contrast, the Green Party showed that they are neither serious nor up to the job of running a council. The last few weeks have shown us that their policies don’t stand-up to scrutiny, and this was the case with their amendment which proposed raiding vital funds that help us to protect the poorest people against the Tory-led Government’s welfare reforms. The Greens aren’t up to the job – just look at Brighton where they couldn’t set a budget this week or even collect the rubbish.

We are committed to making a difference for Islington, and that's what my administration will continue to do.

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Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council 

Council Budget Passes – Tough Choices, Right Priorities

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, writes about the council budget and Islington Labour’s commitment to making a difference for our borough. On Thursday 26th February, Islington Council was...

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