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A blog post by St Peter's ward councillor, Alice Perry

Do you remember when David Cameron announced that the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”? Seems like a long time ago doesn’t it?

A lot has happened since then. The badgers moved the goalposts. A controversial planned sell-off of sell 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodlandhad to be axed after a furious public backlash. A responsible government would conserve our countryside and protect our national heritage for future generations. A responsible government would take action to mitigate the possible catastrophic effects of climate change. Instead, this government cuts spending on flood defences and advises people to stockpile petrol at home in jerry cans.

The potential/predicted consequences of climate change are terrifying. But despite this climate change has fallen down the political agenda. It is the responsibility of all of us to act now to mitigate the future risks of climate change but this is easier said than done. Particularly when money is tight and people are feeling squeezed by a cost of living crisis.

For many ordinary people climate change is an abstract concept that seems too far removed from the concerns of everyday life. It is distant, hard to relate to. As a result, it is not always seen as an immediate political priority.

Reducing high household energy bills, on the other hand, is something everyone can relate to and should be a priority for politicians from all parties.

Step forward Bunhill Energy Centre, Islington Council’s publicly owned power provider – one of many examples of how local government is working to tackle climate change and the cost of living crisis.

Bunhill is a densely populated, high rise neighbourhood on the edge of the City of London. The area’s high population density makes it the perfect site for a district heating network.

The award winning energy centre includes a 1KM district heating pipe network and a gas-fired 1.9MW CP engine that generates electricity. The centre provides cheap, greener energy heating 720 council houses and two leisure centres. Islington Council also sells heat to 162 new, privately developed homes.

This project was fully funded from external grants (grants that sadly have become harder to come by). Bunhill Energy Centre has lead to a CO2 reduction of around 60%. It has also allowed us to freeze energy bills for our residents while the market prices went up 20%.

But wait, there is more! We are working to extend the district heating network to connect to another 450 homes, using waste heat from a London Underground ventilation shaft and a nearby electrical substation.

Using the heat from the tube to warm homes and bring down bills – that is pretty darn exciting!

District heating is brilliant. It allows local Councils to tackling climate change and provides families, pensioners and some of our most vulnerable residents with cheaper bills and warmer homes.

Labour Councils in urban areas are pioneering district heating. In other parts of the country, Labour in local government is pioneering the use of solar, tidal and wind power. Exciting times, no?

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Cllr Alice Perry is a councillor for St Peter's ward, Islington Labour Chief Whip and a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee - representing councillors from across the country. 

Alice has her own blog - https://aliceperry.wordpress.com/ 

This blog first appeared on Labourlist

How local government can tackle climate change and the cost of living crisis

A blog post by St Peter's ward councillor, Alice Perry Do you remember when David Cameron announced that the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”? Seems like a long...

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Islington Labour's Cllr James Murray gives evidence to House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee

Islington Labour's fight for the best deal for local residents from the future development of the Royal Mail Mount Pleasant site made it all the way to Westminster this week. 

Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, gave evidence to MPs on the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee on Wednesday 10th September. 

Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has indicated that he will make the decision on 3rd October about whether the developer's proposals will be given the green light. Sadly, the Mayor is refusing to acknowledge the need for more affordable homes in Islington. 

Cllr. Murray said at the Select Committee:

"We estimate that if the Mayor of London gives the green light on October the 3rd he will be selling out on affordable housing and handing over a cheque for at least £30 million to Royal Mail private investors"

You can watch the hearing in full here 

Mount Pleasant fight makes it to Westminster

Islington Labour's Cllr James Murray gives evidence to House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee Islington Labour's fight for the best deal for local residents from the future...

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Islington Labour call on Tory Mayor of London to make Holloway Bus Garage hybrid only

Islington Labour has called on the Tory Mayor of London to follow their lead and take real action on air quality in Islington by making all buses at the Holloway bus garage hybrid by May 2016.

Add your name to the petition calling for the Mayor to act today.

Of the 226 buses at Holloway Garage less than 25% are currently hybrid models.

This is significant when hybrid buses are thought to produce around 40% less carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions and fewer particulate matters than conventional diesel buses.

Monitoring of pollution in Islington has found that Holloway Garage causes much higher pollution in the local area and that the bulk of dangerous particulate emissions came from buses.

These causes of emissions should be tackled first before other measures that might hit local people in their pocket.

Islington’s Labour Council has already taken significant steps to tackle air quality in the borough, including introducing a 20mph limit on the borough’s roads, clamping down on idling buses, lorries and diesel cars and having the greenest local authority fleet in the country.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment, has written to the Mayor of London calling on him to act now. 

Cllr Claudia Webbe said:

“High polluting diesel buses and lorries are one of the biggest contributors to poor air quality in our borough and we need the Mayor to act.

"Just 25% of the buses at Holloway Garage being hybrid isn’t good enough and again shows the failure of the Mayor of London to take this issue seriously that is damaging the health of people in our borough.

"Too many of Islington’s residents are dying too soon because of the air we breathe.”

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, added:

“The evidence is clear that the neighbourhoods that suffer the most from pollution are those with higher levels of deprivation. It’s about time that the Mayor took his responsibilities to these communities seriously and swapped his rhetoric of “beating the smog” for real action on the buses he controls.

"We are calling on the Mayor to follow Islington’s lead and take real action. We are asking him to commit to making 50% of buses at Holloway garage hybrid by May next year and 100% by May 2016.

"This relatively small step would go a long way towards improving the air quality in Islington."

Poor air quality kills over 4,000 Londoners a year prematurely and many believe it is one of the largest public health crises facing the capital.

In 2008 it was estimated that 100 deaths in Islington were a direct result of expose to air pollution.

There are currently 226 buses at Holloway Bus Garage of which 55 or 24% are currently Hybrid models.

Islington published its Air Quality Strategy earlier this year and part of that document committed the council to lobbying the Mayor of London. The document can be found here.

 

Pictured: Cllr Claudia Webbe and Cllr Richard Watts outside Holloway Bus Garage. 

Cleaner Greener Buses for Islington Now!

Islington Labour call on Tory Mayor of London to make Holloway Bus Garage hybrid only Islington Labour has called on the Tory Mayor of London to follow their lead and...

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A blog post from Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment

Last year Islington became the first borough in the country to introduce a 20mph limit on all council controlled roads.

We took this ground-breaking step because we are committed to making Islington a safer place for all our residents. While the number of deaths on roads in Britain has gone up in recent years, we are doing all we can to make sure Islington doesn’t follow this trend.

So far the signs are good and where 20mph schemes have been placed in our side roads we have seen a significant reduction in accidents by up to 60%.

However, our decision wasn’t simply based on making our roads safer. It was also about improving the quality of life for people in our borough and making it a better place to live. This includes improving health outcomes by encouraging active travel and also working towards reducing air pollution in the borough. 

We are now challenging the Tory Mayor of London and TFL to play their part and make the remaining roads that aren’t controlled by the council (such as Upper Street and Holloway Road) also 20mph zones. 

Since taking this decision I’m really pleased that other borough’s including Camden, Southwark and the City of London have all followed our lead. This week I met with another interested Local Authority - Labour controlled Croydon council to discuss the benefits of 20mph roads and how to make implementing this a reality.

We wish them all the best in their endeavours and urge other councils across London to do the same to make our roads safer across the capital.

By joining together we really can make the Mayor of London and TFL take action. 

You can read more about 20mph Islington here.

Pictured - Cllr Claudia Webbe (centre) is pictured above with councillors from Croydon, Cllr Kathy Bee Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment and Cllr Robert Canning (Deputy to Cllr Kathy Bee).

 

Islington Labour leading the way on road safety

A blog post from Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment Last year Islington became the first borough in the country to introduce a 20mph limit on all council controlled...

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Since 2010, Islington Council has faced its biggest Government cuts in peacetime history. The council's budget has been cut by £112m since 2010 - a cut of almost a third. 

The Tory-led Government plans to cut the council's budget by another £95m over the next four years - cutting it by a third again. 

This means Islington Council's budget in 2018 will be one third the size it was in 2010, despite increasing demand for many of the services it provides. 

Every household in Islington will be £2,300 worse off under the Tories' proposed cuts to local government. 

Council Leader Richard Watts said: “We are on the side of ordinary working people who will be hit hardest by the Tories’ unfair cuts and we will be leading the fight against them. 

“Elected representatives are the people who make the decisions in Islington and every decision we make will be guided by our strong mandate from local people to make jobs, housing and help with the cost of living the priorities in tough times.

“The leaked council managers’ draft proposals are not the decisions of the elected representatives, but do indicate the potential horrific consequences of us not standing together now against the Tory-led Government’s cuts that hit Islington far harder than the wealthy Tory-controlled shires. 

“Islington Labour is really proud of how we have made a difference with a third less government funding - by cutting the Chief Executive’s salary by £50,000, getting rid of top heavy management and achieving efficiencies in order to avoid having to make cuts to the frontline services on which our residents depend. We have also reduced wasteful spending by the former Liberal Democrat administration on things such as communications staff.  

“As we have done in each of the last 4 years’ budgets, we will prioritise protecting frontline services and our most vulnerable residents. By doing things differently and leaving no stone unturned, we will continue to do all we can to protect services such as libraries, leisure facilities and the ecology centre. 

“The elected councillors have not yet decided how to make the savings being forced upon us because it is our intention to fight them first.  In the future any actual proposals will be announced in advance of agreeing the Budget and the community will have a chance to have a say on them." 

 

Council to lead fight against Tory cuts of £2,300 per household

Since 2010, Islington Council has faced its biggest Government cuts in peacetime history. The council's budget has been cut by £112m since 2010 - a cut of almost a third. ...

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Islington Labour’s commitment to putting the needs of the borough’s residents first has been strengthened with the return of the housing repairs service to direct council control.

From 1st August, a team of 140 council housing staff will provide a fully integrated repairs service for residents living in council properties throughout the borough. The council manages around 30,000 homes in the borough; making the new in-house repairs service one of the largest in-house operations in the capital.

The move by the council comes alongside the biggest affordable home-building programme in Islington for 30 years, which will see 2,000 new affordable homes built by next year. 

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council's Executive Member for Housing said: 

“This is an important milestone for Islington’s council housing. At the same time as building a new generation of council housing we want to provide a high-quality service for our residents. 

“By running the repairs service directly, we can ensure resident satisfaction is a priority over profit. Over time, we want to maximise local employment and apprenticeships, alongside supporting the workforce and reducing dependence on sub-contractors. 

“Two years ago we brought housing management back in-house – and now our decision to bringing the repairs service in-house as well shows how important it is for us to get it right.” 

After the council’s decision about the repairs contract, Kier’s gas servicing contract with the council was terminated too. The council decided to bring that service in-house rather than re-tender for another private contractor. It has been directly managing the gas servicing formerly run by Kier since 1st June. 

The Housing Direct number for tenants to report repairs to will remain the same: 0800 694 3344.

Pictured: Cllr Murray welcoming housing repairs staff back to the council. 

Putting residents first – repairs service comes back in-house

Islington Labour’s commitment to putting the needs of the borough’s residents first has been strengthened with the return of the housing repairs service to direct council control. From 1st August,...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, recently wrote on the LabourList website about the need for a fair deal for Islington and other local councils. Read Richard's article below about fighting for Islington. 

 

The policies are great, but what about the money?

After four years of massive cuts, 2015 is the year when council finances will start to fall off a cliff.

Local government has borne the brunt of the cuts to public spending since 2010. My Council, Islington, typical of authorities in urban areas across the country, has lost 35% of its budget over the last four years. That’s a staggering £112 million.

Councils have done a great job of coping with these cuts. My Council has gone through a process of transforming public services that would be the envy of any government department in Whitehall. In four years we have improved public services in a way that would be impossible for a sclerotic central government.

What is remarkable is that this kind of innovation is common across local government. Labour councils across the country are leading the way in showing how we can build a fairer Britain without breaking the bank.

But all of this work is threatened by the next round of cuts to councils. Under the Tory-led Government’s spending plans we are set to lose another third of our budget over the next four years.

Continuing to cut major councils this harshly will lead to chaos. Councils spend the vast majority of their resources on care for older people and children with disabilities, as well as on basic services like street sweeping and bin collections. After four years of big cuts I don’t know of a council that has much fat left to cut before core services become hard to deliver beyond what is legally required.

Labour’s current policy is to keep the Tories’ spending limits for local government but to redistribute the money towards the councils that have been cut the most. This will secure a few million more a year for councils like mine; welcome but nowhere near enough to stave off damaging cuts to services. It was telling that the National Policy Forum held last weekend agreed a range of excellent policies for local government, but was silent on the crucial question of money.

Put simply, Labour has to recognise that councils cannot survive the kind of cuts that are planned for the next few years and we need to definitively break away from the Tories’ spending proposals. Unless we do, some high profile councils will go bust.

The councillors I speak to aren’t unrealistic – we know spending won’t be returning to 2010 levels. There is zero appetite for a return to 1980′s gesture politics around illegal budgets. We’ve become used to managing services on eye wateringly tight budgets. But – and this is important – we don’t accept that under Labour things have to keep getting worse.

As the backbone of the party, Labour’s 7,000 plus councilors have every right to make this ask. We make the second biggest financial contribution to national party funding through our subs and, in addition, fund a national network of local organisers that many CLPs rely on. Councillors tend to be the activists that keep local parties alive. In an era where grassroots campaigning is more and more important we are crucial to the party’s electoral chances.

As champions of our local communities, councillors are duty-bound to make the strongest case for the people we represent. But we need strong voices to make sure the priorities of Labour in local government are heard by the central party. Jim McMahon as the new leader of the LGA Labour Group has already made a strong start on this front, and is telling everyone who will listen about the innovation Labour councils are driving.

Recognition of the work Labour councils do, respect for the thousands of councillors who are the back-bone of our party and understanding that cutting local services even further will be deeply damaging is what we need from the Labour Party leadership. I know my friend and colleague Cllr Alice Perry is fighting hard for this through the National Policy Forum and as a candidate for the NEC as an ALC representative. Together with others in local government, Alice has the ability and values to make a difference.

Labour’s first budget needs to protect local services, devolve more power to local councils and ensure a fairer funding formula, so Labour councils hit by Tory cuts will be better off. That way we can truly say that Labour in government will make a difference for local communities.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Fighting for a fair deal for Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, recently wrote on the LabourList website about the need for a fair deal for Islington and other local councils. Read Richard's article below...

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Islington is set to benefit from £2 million of investment in cycle routes through a pioneering new approach.

The Council’s Executive agreed on 16th July to begin consultation with local residents on the cycle route plans. The proposals include:

  • A new east-west cycle route from Clerkenwell Road's junction with Farringdon Road to Old Street Roundabout.
  • A cycle route from Lloyd Baker Street, from the junction with Farringdon Road, to Arlington Avenue at the junction with New North Road.
  • A cycle route running from Bath Street from its junction with City Road to Finsbury Square at the junction with Wilson Street

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council's Executive Member for Environment (pictured), said: "We want to make Islington a safer, better place for cyclists and pedestrians.

"The Council has developed this pioneering programme, which aims to create new high quality cycling routes in Islington for residents, workers and visitors alike.

"It's essential that local residents and businesses have the chance to have their say, and there will be full consultation on the routes.

"We will continue to campaign for funding for our other proposed routes in Islington."

Funding for design, consultation and delivery of the routes will come from Transport for London's Central London Cycle Grid project.

Detailed plans will be drawn up before consultation begins.

More information about the proposed routes can be found by clicking here.

£2 million boost for cycle routes in Islington

Islington is set to benefit from £2 million of investment in cycle routes through a pioneering new approach. The Council’s Executive agreed on 16th July to begin consultation with local...

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Cllr Alice Perry, Labour councillor for St Peter's ward and representative for local Labour Party members in London on the Party's policy-making body, reports back on the National Policy Forum which took place in Milton Keynes at the weekend. 

 

"What’s the point of the National Policy Forum?” A question I have been asked many times since I was elected to represent party members in my region on Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF).

“Why would you want to join the National Powerless Forum anyway? It’s a waste of time” I was told.

Returning home from this weekend’s NPF meeting in Milton Keynes, it did not feel like a waste of time, and as a constituency party representative, I did not feel powerless. Together, the representatives of party members from around the country made our voices heard and secured commitments for progressive policies that will help win us the general election.

A list was put together of improvements delivered by the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and regional representatives on the NPF. A snapshot of some of these includes:

Stronger Safer Communities

  • Replacing each council house sold under right to buy by with a new council house in the same local area.
  • Building at least 200,000 homes a year.
  • Removal of the cap on Housing Revenue Account for councils to allow more building.
  • Stop retaliatory evictions and reinforce tenants’ rights in the private rented sector.
  • An accessible and fair system of legal aid.

Health and Care

  • Increased support for carers and the role of local authorities.
  • Enhanced powers for democratic Health and Wellbeing Boards.
  • Properly resourced mental health care for children.
  • More effective regulation of care providers.

Britain’s Global Role

  • Protect public services from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and reform of investor-state dispute settlement.
  • Increased support for human rights (including women’s rights and LGBT rights).
  • Cross-departmental working in international development.
  • Creation of an Armed Forces credit union.

Education and Children

  • Improved citizenship education.
  • Duty to provide a youth service.
  • Commitments around Sure Start and free school meals.

All these policies were put forward by party members around the country, taken up by the constituency and regional reps and are now in the policy documents heading for the manifesto.

Some of the improvements were easy to achieve. I proposed an amendment from Walthamstow CLP seeking to improve women’s rights internationally. Unsurprisingly, I was knocking at an open door (although this popular and uncontroversial amendment would not have been included if party members in Walthamstow had not taken the initiative and put it forward).

Other amendments were more controversial and involved a lot of negotiating. It was clear that there would be no unfunded spending commitments and so compromises had to be reached. Despite this, what has emerged from the weekend is a very strong set of policies that show that Labour is listening to its members and the communities around the country that they come from.

More important than the individual policies themselves, Labour is developing a strong overarching narrative, based on our core values, which link these policies together.

A common complaint, heard many times on the doorstep around the country that all politicians are the same and there is no difference between the mainstream parties. The policies discussed this weekend show there is a real, distinct difference between a Labour and Conservative government. If we are successful next year, our Labour government will transform Britain, dramatically improving life for millions of ordinary working people. We have the policies. Now we just need to go out and win the election.

This article first appeared on LabourList. 

Cllr Alice Perry is standing for election to the Labour Party's NEC as a local councillor representative. Find out more about her campaign by clicking here.

We have the policies - now let's win the election

Cllr Alice Perry, Labour councillor for St Peter's ward and representative for local Labour Party members in London on the Party's policy-making body, reports back on the National Policy Forum...

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Islington Labour's St George's ward councillors have joined forces with local residents who are dismayed at plans by Transport For London to close Tufnell Park Tube Station for possibly 7 months starting in February 2015.

TfL is planning to renovate the lifts in the station, but had decided to give the local community hardly any notice of the closure.

A petition against the plans has been launched and you can send TfL a message by clicking here.

St George's ward councillor, Nick Ward, said: "We were totally shocked to discover TfL's plans and we are appalled that they didn't see fit to consult the local community.

"Closing Tufnell Park station for 7 months would be devastating for so many businesses. Renovating the lifts is necessary, but closing the station for 7 months will have a disastrous effect on local businesses that rely on the footfall that the station brings in and are already struggling to pay ever rising rents. It will also cause untold amounts of disruption and inconvenience for the thousands of people that use it for commuting to work every day.

"We've already been out collecting signatures and have received support from hundreds of residents. We need to show TfL the strength of feeling in the community against these plans, so I'd encourage residents to sign the petition on the Islington Labour website."

Cllr Ward and his fellow ward councillors have called upon TFL to meet with the community to explain their plans before they sign any contracts for the project.

Cllr Ward is also asking TfL to look into ways to renovate just one lift at a time in order to keep the station operational and reduce the impact on tube users and local businesses.

Local Tufnell Park residents have set up a Facebook group and twitter account (@SaveTufnellPark). Please follow them to find out more information and get involved in the campaign.

Pictured: Islington Labour councillors and local residents collecting signatures against the proposed closure of Tufnell Park Station. 

Keep Tufnell Park Station Open!

Islington Labour's St George's ward councillors have joined forces with local residents who are dismayed at plans by Transport For London to close Tufnell Park Tube Station for possibly 7...

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