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Blog by Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance and Resources - 

Too many people go to work but come home without the fair pay they deserve.

That's why Islington Labour has been at the forefront of the campaign for the Living Wage ever since we were elected to run the council in 2010. We've been working hard with our partners in community groups, the trade unions and others to tackle the scourge of poverty pay.

In 2010, we launched the UK’s first Fairness Commission (there are now more than 15) to tackle poverty and inequality in our borough. In 2011, its top recommendation was that we should lead the way on the Living Wage. In 2012, we became the first council in the country to become accredited as a Living Wage local authority, paying all our own 5,000 staff the Living Wage. This included cutting our Chief Executive’s salary by £50,000 to secure the Living Wage for our cleaners. In 2013, we guaranteed the Living Wage for 92 per cent of our contractors as well. In 2014, we have extended this to 98 per cent of those working on a council contract. 

Next week is Living Wage Week and we are delighted that Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, will be joining us to celebrate the fact that Islington is now the first council in the country to ensure that all its 500 home care workers receive the Living Wage. These carers who look after elderly and vulnerable people on our behalf are doing some of the most important work in our society and deserve nothing less. What's more, last week the council’s Executive decided to secure a contract for a residential care home where all staff will be paid the Living Wage as well. We're the first council in the country to do this and it's something of which Islington should be really proud.

But there is more to do. Our borough is home to the second highest number (75) of accredited Living Wage employers of any area in the country, but that is still too few.

As we mark Living Wage Week from Monday, flying the Living Wage flag from the roof of the Town Hall, let's celebrate how far we've come. But let’s also recommit ourselves to campaigning to make Islington a place where no-one has to do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on.

Pictured: Cllr Hull with Islington Council cleaners who all receive the London Living Wage. 

Leading the way on the Living Wage

Blog by Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance and Resources -  Too many people go to work but come home without the fair pay they deserve. That's why Islington...

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BLOG - Islington Labour's Cllr Alice Perry writes about the housing challenges facing the country and how the Labour Party is planning to tackle them. 

This week Vince Cable warned of “inequalities caused by the housing crisis”, fuelled by government policies like Help to Buy and Right to Buy. Yes that’s right, fuelled by government policies. His government’s policies. The policies of the government which he is a part of.

If attacking the inequality caused by your own government seems a bit ridiculous (as the Lib Dem’s own former press spokesman recently said “if the Lib Dem’s didn’t exist, who would invent them?”), talking about ways to tackle the UK’s housing crisis makes perfect sense. For many voters housing is a key issue for next year’s general election.

Labour’s National Policy Forum in Milton Keynes agreed some really strong policies on housing. This included a commitment to building at least 200,000 homes a year, a commitment to replace each council house sold under Right to Buy by with a new council house in the same local area, removing Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap for councils, stopping retaliatory evictions and reinforcing tenants’ rights in the private rented sector.

We all know the story. For parts of the UK experiencing the housing crisis most acutely, a combination of high private rents and high house prices mean owning a home seems like an impossible dream many young people are giving up on. Meanwhile those unable to buy, or access affordable social housing, have little choice but to rent privately. Some private landlords are good. Others are not so great. The same goes for letting agents.

The current government has shown little interest in regulating the private rented sector. In contrast, Labour have a range plans to make the private rented sector work better for tenants.

It is hard to emphasis enough how important it is that Labour now gets the importance of sorting out the private rented sector. For too long mainstream politics neglected the issues faced by transient communities of predominately young people in the private rented sector (particularly as they did not always vote in elections).

As a founding member of a local private tenants association, we were constantly asked by potential funders and other voluntary sector organisations “if you can’t afford to live in the area, why don’t you just move somewhere cheaper? Why does it matter that you can’t afford to live here any more?”

I am from the place where the term “gentrification” was first coined. Parts of Islington today are totally unrecognisable from the borough I grew up in. These days of course the same goes for most of central London, as well as many other parts of the UK.

There is nothing wrong with an area improving – quite the opposite. It is a good thing for an area to become a nicer place for its residents to live. In local government Labour continuously works to make life better for our local communities.

The problem with gentrification, however, is that it displaces people, forcing one group out to make way for another, more affluent group. This can be very corrosive and can significantly contribute to a range of complex social problems.

The NPF commitment to replace homes sold under Right to Buy with new council houses in the same local area is an important recognition that Britain doesn’t just need brand new garden cities. When we are building those hundreds of thousands of new homes, we need to make sure we are building them where people want to live. We need to be building some of the new homes in areas where long-term residents are being priced out. By doing this we will strengthen our communities and keep families and support-networks together.

Of course every local area has a different housing need. Various housing initiatives should match the requirements of their local communities. The key thing is that Labour now gets it on housing. We have policies that can positively and dramatically transform our communities. All we need to do is win next year’s general election and get on with it.

Cllr Alice Perry is a St Peter's ward councillor and represents local Labour councillors on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. 

This article also appeared on LabourList.

Labour now gets it on housing

BLOG - Islington Labour's Cllr Alice Perry writes about the housing challenges facing the country and how the Labour Party is planning to tackle them.  This week Vince Cable warned...

Influential Guardian writer, Dave Hill, has praised Islington Council as being "considered by many to be the capital's most radical local authority" in tackling the housing crisis facing London.

Writing earlier this week, Mr Hill identified how Islington Council, "is fostering support for intensified council house building by using its local lettings policy to ensure that local people benefit. It is also succeeding in avoiding introducing new, higher "affordable rent" levels brought in by the government, and proposing to use planning policy to impose penalties on 'buy-to-leave' owners."

Three years ago, Islington became the first council to reject the government’s plans to raise so-called ‘affordable rents’ to near-market level.

Since taking power in 2010, the council has been building new council homes as part of the biggest affordable homebuilding programme for a generation.

Earlier this year, Islington became the first local authority to announce plans to tackle the scandal of 'buy-to-leave' - where predominately-overseas investors buy properties and never occupy them, simply to benefit from ever-rising property prices.

The Council has also taken enforcement action against private landlords who are letting out homes that are unacceptably small for people to live in, and that often flout planning rules.

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Cllr James Murray (pictured), Executive Member for Housing & Development, said: "We desperately need more genuinely-affordable homes in London. That’s why we’re building a new generation of council homes in Islington and why we are robust in demanding that new ‘affordable’ homes are for social rents that people can actually afford. 

“The housing crisis in London is hitting people across the board. 

“We’re helping private renters too by going after rogue landlords and setting up a new council-run lettings agency. We’re also are taking on buy-to-leave investors with a bold new planning policy, since it’s an insult to the housing crisis when new homes are snapped up and left empty. 

"Londoners need radical solutions to the housing crisis. We need national change and a Mayor who understands the problem, and in Islington we are showing we can make a difference."

Islington the 'most radical' in tackling the housing crisis

Influential Guardian writer, Dave Hill, has praised Islington Council as being "considered by many to be the capital's most radical local authority" in tackling the housing crisis facing London. Writing...

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In our continued efforts to make Islington’s roads safer, Islington Labour is working with the police to keep motorists’ speeds down.

Last year, Islington Labour campaigned to become the first London borough to introduce a 20mph speed limit on all roads the Council manages.

From this week, police enforcement action will begin – making Islington the first borough in London where motorists flouting the 20mph limit could face penalty action.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment (pictured above), said: “It has long been known that people living in inner city boroughs like Islington are at a greater risk of being hit by speeding motorists.

“Islington Labour is committed to tackling the scourge of traffic accidents and our pioneering introduction of the 20mph limit on all of our roads is part of addressing this problem.

"Most motorists stick to the speed limits, but those who don’t can now expect to be prosecuted and risk losing their licence.

“We’ve worked closely with the police over the past 12 months to target hot-spots where drivers frequently speed, and together we’ve stopped more than 900 motorists to remind them to keep within the limit.

“With continued injuries and fatalities from speeding, the time is now right to start enforcement action and I welcome the action by Islington police.”

All roads in Islington are covered by 20mph restrictions, apart from those managed by Transport for London (TfL) and Islington Labour is campaigning for TfL to see sense and adopt 20mph limits on the roads they control.

Cllr Webbe, added: “We’ve had lots of interest in our pioneering scheme from other Councils that are interested in following our lead. The missing piece in Islington is the TfL managed roads and I want the Mayor of London to join us in making their roads 20mph as well.”

Since November 2013, Islington Council and the police have carried out 24 targeted ‘stop and advise’ speed reduction operations on our borough roads. The 13 different locations chosen have been ones that have been identified by the public and community groups as of concern and by the police or council as having high casualty rates.

Islington Labour is also doing more to make cycling easier and safer on the borough’s roads. You can read more about a £2m scheme to deliver new cycle routes here.

Making our roads safer – 20mph speed limit enforcement action

  In our continued efforts to make Islington’s roads safer, Islington Labour is working with the police to keep motorists’ speeds down. Last year, Islington Labour campaigned to become the...

The Mayor of London has ignored the voices of local residents, councillors, and MPs by approving plans to redevelop the Royal Mail's Mount Pleasant site with less than a quarter of housing being affordable – and with 'affordable' rents around double nearby council rents. 

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Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, described the decision taken on Friday October 3rd as "wrong for London", as the Mayor took just 20 minutes to grant planning permission for 681 homes on the Mount Pleasant site with fewer than a hundred being for 'affordable' rent. The Guardian has reported that these 'affordable' rents could be as high as £2,800 a month.

Cllr Murray challenged the Mayor at the City Hall hearing, saying: “If you think the rents being proposed by the Royal Mail are in any way affordable, then I’ll quote yourself Mr Mayor, you must be from the Planet Zog.” 

Later he added: “We know the Royal Mail privatisation was botched and I am sure you won’t want to follow Tory or Liberal ministers in committing another sleight of hand for the Royal Mail." 

Despite the protests from Islington and Camden councils, as well as local residents lead by the Mount Pleasant Association, the Mayor waved the plans through – delivering a windfall to the privatised Royal Mail likely to be over £30m at the expense of affordable housing.

After the hearing, Cllr Murray said: "A vital opportunity to build hundreds of genuinely affordable homes for local people has been bulldozed by Boris. Our independent advice shows the Mount Pleasant scheme would still make money with almost twice as much affordable housing and at social rents. 

"We need genuinely-affordable housing in the capital - but the Mayor's decision means that Londoners are missing out, whilst investors in luxury flats and Royal Mail shares are benefiting. This decision is wrong for London.” 

Islington and Camden councils had both urged the Mayor to reject the Royal Mail plans, and supported resident-backed calls for the decision to at least be deferred whilst an alternative scheme could be worked up.

Watch Cllr Murray deliver evidence to the Mayor's hearing here - 

Pictured above: Cllr James Murray addressing the hearing on the Mount Pleasant planning application. 

 

Mayor must be from 'Planet Zog' in approving Mount Pleasant plans

The Mayor of London has ignored the voices of local residents, councillors, and MPs by approving plans to redevelop the Royal Mail's Mount Pleasant site with less than a quarter...

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Islington Labour has announced plans for a pioneering ‘people’s energy company’ to take on the 'Big Six' energy companies to provide cheaper energy for local people.

Energy bills have risen by almost £300 for families under this government - twice as fast as inflation and four times faster than wages, adding to the cost of living crisis affecting households across Islington.  The average household energy bill is now a staggering £1,300 a year.

The innovative proposals being considered are the next stage in Islington Labour’s fight against the cost of living crisis affecting people across Islington.

At Labour Party Conference in Manchester, the proposals were announced by Cllr Richard Watts and Cllr Claudia Webbe at a meeting attended by Jenny Saunders of National Energy Action charity, Member of the European Parliament for London Seb Dance MEP, and Cllr Nicola Heaton from Nottingham Council (pictured).

A detailed investigation into how the energy company will be set up are to be led by the Council's Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee chaired by Councillor James Court.

Potential routes to delivering the 'people's energy company' could include working with specialist purchasers of wholesale energy that secure energy packages on a global level at cheaper rates and, crucially, would then be able to pass these savings on to our residents.

The scope of 'the people's energy company' could see the Islington based company provide cheaper energy to homes across London. Customers could choose to switch provider to the company which would provide energy through the national grid.

Other local authorities are looking at ways to take on the ‘Big Six’, such as Nottingham Council which has announced plans to buy out an existing energy company and Labour councillors there are keen to work with Islington to stand up for working people and take on the ‘Big Six’. 

richardwatts.jpgCllr Richard Watts, Leader of the Council, said:

“Islington Labour is committed to fairness in our borough and tackling the cost of living crisis is a top priority for   local people.

“Soaring energy bills from the rip off ‘Big Six’ energy companies have left many homes having to choose between heating and eating, which is why we're looking at making a difference by providing a cheaper alternative.

“The idea of a ‘people’s energy company’ is an exciting prospect and there will be more details to follow.” 

claudiawebbe.jpgCllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment, said:

“We've already taken big steps in the fight against fuel poverty with our insulation programme, boiler   replacement scheme and the Bunhill Energy Centre. But the rigged energy market is still dominated by the ‘Big   Six’, which is a massive barrier.

“Our proposals for an Islington energy company will put people before profits and provide a much better deal for local people.” 

James_Court_two.jpgCllr James Court, Chair of the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee, said:

"Local councils are well placed to deliver services best for their residents, and energy is an area many people   are being failed by the old ways of doing things.

“Islington Labour wants to break-up the energy market to give people here a fairer, cheaper and greener way   to heat and power their homes.”

These proposals come on back of plans announced by Ed Miliband MP in his conference speech on Tuesday   that a future Labour government will make the money available to insulate a further 5 million homes across the country. This measure will help families save £270 a year on their heating bills. This announcement builds on Labour’s commitment to freeze energy bills until 2017 – saving households on average £120 and businesses £1,800.

Islington Council has already taken innovative steps to help bring down residents’ bills and to help the estimated 22% of households who live in fuel poverty in the borough.

The Bunhill Energy Centre and the district wide heat network provide cheaper, greener heat to homes and other sites in Islington. Phase 1 has brought cheaper energy to over 850 homes and two leisure centres in the south of the borough. 

As the energy centre and network is owned and managed by the Council, we have been able to freeze prices for those homes connected to the network, which relates to a £321 saving per year for residents compared to the London average. The more efficient energy production system has delivered a 60% cut in CO₂ emissions.

Plans for Phase 2 of the project are progressing and will use waste heat generated from the London underground and will connect a further 500 homes to the network. 

In the 2014/15 Council Budget, Islington Council invested a further £2.5million of funding to help local people reduce their energy bills. This built on work the Council has already done to insulate every cavity wall that can be insulated in our Council housing stock (12,000), which has led to savings of £170 per year on household heating bills (18% saving).

Work has begun on insulating solid wall properties which will see over 600 households save £245 per year (27%), and this will also bring health benefits by reducing condensation and mould.

£3m has been invested in a Boiler Upgrade Scheme – replacing boilers in 1,300 homes with A-rated condensing boilers. This year will see a further 700 efficient boilers installed – saving residents £145 a year on heating costs.

More details about the exciting plans for the 'people's energy company' will be announced in the near future. 

Islington Labour Plans People's Energy Company

Islington Labour has announced plans for a pioneering ‘people’s energy company’ to take on the 'Big Six' energy companies to provide cheaper energy for local people. Energy bills have risen...

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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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