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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, responds to the Prime Minister's speech confirming the Government will be pursuing a 'hard Brexit.

Today, the Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed her Government would be pursuing ‘hard Brexit’ at the expense of people’s jobs, wellbeing and rights.

Hard Brexit not only risks the economy but also the regulations that guarantee workers’ rights, human rights and environmental protection. It is no wonder some Tories are so excited at the prospect.

This chaotic Brexit offers nothing for Islington, where 75 per cent of residents voted to remain.

May’s Brexit plan is far removed from reality. She claims that the UK will continue to work with and welcome its neighbours but refuses to guarantee the rights of the 30,000 EU nationals living in Islington. She claims immigration must be cut to protect public services but it is really years of damaging Tory cuts that are to blame.

It is obscene that the Tories scapegoat immigrants for the problems they have created.

I am proud to represent a borough where people from all over the world have set up businesses and contributed to our economy, from the NHS to our very own Council. The Tories have removed much of the NHS’ money. Now they seem determined to starve it of staff too.

Hard Brexit will be felt by everyone who lives and works in Islington. The Government has refused to guarantee that vital EU funding, which helps councils support local people, will be protected. This is despite promises that were made throughout the election campaign. Of course, the Tories have also abandoned that promise of an extra £350m per week for the NHS.

The road ahead will be hard and the effects of leaving the European Union will be felt for generations to come. Thanks to the Government’s chaotic Brexit, even further cuts will come. However, Islington Labour will continue to fight for a fairer borough and protect spending in the areas that are most important to working people.

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Hard Brexit is the worst-case scenario for Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, responds to the Prime Minister's speech confirming the Government will be pursuing a 'hard Brexit. Today, the Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed her...

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Removal of one-way gyratory traffic system and introduction of two-way operation is a historic change for Archway.

Islington Labour councillors have been keeping a close eye on the progress of Transport for London’s (TfL) project to transform Archway, something for which the local party has been campaigning for years.

TfL’s improvements will create a new public space, replacing the gyratory, along with cycle lanes and improved pedestrian crossings. The works are expected to be completed by summer 2017.

In December 2016, the change from the one-way gyratory traffic system to a two-way operation marked a significant step forward in the project, which will open up new employment opportunities and improve safety in Archway.

The traffic switch-over, which is the first of its kind in Archway, has meant that TfL has had to make some changes to bus services passing through the new road layout and bus stop locations.

Following pressure from Islington Labour councillors, TfL agreed to install clearer signage in the area to inform passengers of the changes and review the possibility of some bus routes terminating elsewhere.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “I am pleased that we are edging closer to this major change in Archway. The removal of the gyratory will radically transform the area, benefitting all who use it.

“Islington Labour councillors are pushing TfL, on behalf of residents, to reduce the impact of the changes to buses and traffic flow. However, once the works are complete, everyone will benefit from a safer, more accessible town centre, which will also open up new employment opportunities in the local area.”

Cllr Marian Spall, councillor for Junction Ward, added: “Islington Labour has long campaigned for the removal of the Archway gyratory, which will transform the area. It will give the town centre a much-needed boost, both in terms of safety and economically, which everyone who lives and works in the area will benefit from.”

 

Pictured - Archway improvements design (TfL)

Archway one step closer to major transformation

Removal of one-way gyratory traffic system and introduction of two-way operation is a historic change for Archway. Islington Labour councillors have been keeping a close eye on the progress of...

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Islington’s Labour-run council has announced details of the council budget for the coming year (2017-2018), with a commitment to continue to make a difference on Islington’s top priorities.

The budget includes £40 million of investment in new council homes, new funding for targeted support for young people most at risk of being involved in crime and protects the budget for services that help local unemployed people into work.

Continued cuts imposed by the Tory Government will mean that by 2020, the council will have lost 70 per cent of its central government funding in a decade. This year’s budget brings the total savings the council has been forced to make to £170 million since 2010.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, commented: “Despite another year of massive cuts from the Tory Government, I am proud that Islington Labour will deliver a budget for Islington's top priorities.

"By 2020, the Tory Government will have cut funding to the council by 70 per cent in a decade.

"But our commitment to making a difference for working people in Islington means that we are continuing to deliver on the issues that matter most.”

This year's budget will see a further £40million invested in delivering new council homes, as we work towards building 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes by 2019. The 131 council homes we will build this year will be the most built in Islington in a single year for 30 years.

Funding will be protected for services that help local people find decent and secure jobs, allowing the council to build on the success of our services that have seen 2,700 people helped into work since 2014, including 700 young people.

The budget will also help young people in Islington achieve their potential with further investment in targeted services, as well as protecting youth services budgets and our pioneering policy of free school meals for all primary school pupils.

Islington will, from April 2017, also scrap council tax for young people leaving care. This will help care leavers as they make the transition into adulthood and will mean that they will not have to pay council tax in Islington until they are aged 25. 

The council budget can be viewed here and will be presented to the Full Council Meeting on 23rd February 2017. 

Budget to build new council homes

Islington’s Labour-run council has announced details of the council budget for the coming year (2017-2018), with a commitment to continue to make a difference on Islington’s top priorities. The budget...

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St Mary’s Ward councillors are supporting a vital project that offers shelter to homeless people in Islington in the cold winter months.

The Margins cold weather shelter project, which offers homeless people a lifeline between January and March, runs in conjunction with CARIS (Christian Action and Response in Society) Islington. Seven churches in the borough take turns to provide shelter on a different night to provide week-round cover. One of these churches is the Union Chapel in St Mary’s Ward, which opens on Wednesday nights. 

St Mary’s Ward councillors have contributed over £2,300 to the Margins cold weather shelter project through Islington Council’s Local Initiative Fund (LIF), a small grants scheme that supports activities and improvements across Islington. The funding will support Margins to provide vital and potentially life-saving services for homeless people.

At Margins, up to 17 street sleepers are catered for and have access to a range of support; warm beds, good food, clothing, laundry facilities, showers, medical support, books, games, television and, perhaps most important of all, the company of others.

The people who use the shelters may not necessarily be Islington residents but it is a reciprocal arrangement, meaning there are homeless people originating from Islington being offered a lifeline in another borough.

The project relies on 35 dedicated volunteers, some of whom will be from the wider community and others who are ex-clients. This is the result of Margin’s work to support clients to move away from the streets.

Cllr Angela Picknell, of St Mary’s Ward, said: “I am proud that we are supporting Margins again this year. It’s impossible to be content knowing that, in the cold after-Christmas days, people are on the streets, exposed and uncared for. The project offers a vital lifeline to homeless people who are particularly at risk at such a cold time of year.”

Cllr Nurullah Turan, of St Mary’s Ward, added: “The Margins project does vital work for the homeless and I am pleased we are able to support it through Islington Council’s LIF grants scheme. Many of the people who rely on Margins have nowhere else to turn to and, by the end of each season, some of them will be settled and housed. This funding will help to change vulnerable members of society’s lives for the better.”  

 

Pictured - Cllr Angela Picknell, St Mary's Ward 

Local councillors award funding to Islington homeless shelters

St Mary’s Ward councillors are supporting a vital project that offers shelter to homeless people in Islington in the cold winter months. The Margins cold weather shelter project, which offers...

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Last weekend (18 December) the ongoing improvement works to transform Archway moved into the next phase as a new two-way traffic system was introduced, therefore ending the gyratory.

Transport for London (TfL) has been working to transform Archway to make the town centre more pleasant, accessible and safe for road users. It will create a new public space and introduce dedicated cycle lanes and improved pedestrian crossings.

Islington Labour councillors have spent years campaigning for the gyratory’s removal, which will transform the area.

However, they are challenging TfL over the outcome of its own bus consultation, which ignored public opinion and has seen a number of bus stops removed or replaced.

Islington Labour has challenged TfL to introduce measures to combat some of the negative effects of the bus changes and ease some of the changes caused by the gyratory removal.

Following campaigning from Islington Labour, TfL have agreed to:

  • Review the possibility of some bus routes terminating elsewhere, like at Upper Holloway
  • Provide better information, inside and outside the station, and distribute street information to pedestrians on the changes to traffic, crossings and buses
  • Work with Islington Council to ensure bus drivers comply with its anti-engine idling agenda

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “The removal of the Archway gyratory is the most important change for the Archway area in a generation. It will introduce a new public space with dedicated cycle lanes and improved pedestrian crossings, creating a safer space for all who use it.

“However, this change has not come without its problems. TfL failed to work with the Council to plan for the bus changes and ignored the findings from its own public consultation.

“I hope that lessons are learned from this experience so we can continue to deliver transport improvements in Islington.”

For more information about the Archway gyratory improvement works, visit the TfL website.

 

Pictured - Artist's impression of the proposed Archway town centre (TfL)

Archway transformation works move into next phase

Last weekend (18 December) the ongoing improvement works to transform Archway moved into the next phase as a new two-way traffic system was introduced, therefore ending the gyratory. Transport for...

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Islington Council has pledged its support to The Royal British Legion’s Count Them In campaign, which calls on Government to include questions on the Armed Forces community in the next UK census.

Cllr Gary Poole, Islington Council Armed Forces Champion and St Mary’s Ward councillor, and Cllr Rakhia Ismail, Holloway Ward councillor, moved a motion at a Council meeting last week (15 December) urging Council to formally support the campaign. They praised the courage, service and sacrifice of past and present members of the Armed Forces.

Little is known about the exact numbers, location and needs of the Armed Forces community – which includes current serving members, veterans and their families. Including new questions on the next census would provide local authorities, charities and public bodies with valuable information to ensure they are delivering the best services for them.

Cllr Gary Poole, Islington Council’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “I am proud that Islington Council has pledged support to this important campaign, and particularly that we are the first North London Borough to do so. We count on our Armed Forces community, so let’s count them in.”

 Cllr Rakhia Ismail, Holloway Ward councillor, added: “It cannot be right that our servicemen and women, veterans and their families are effectively hidden from official statistics. Adding new questions to the next UK census would allow the Council, charities and public bodies to deliver the best services possible for our Armed Forces community.” 

 

Pictured - Islington Labour councillors, the Mayor of Islington and Islington Veterans Association representative pledge to 'Count Them In'

 

Islington Labour Councillors Pledge to Count Armed Forces Community In

Islington Council has pledged its support to The Royal British Legion’s Count Them In campaign, which calls on Government to include questions on the Armed Forces community in the next...

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Today (8 December) Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, visited the Royal Mail Islington Delivery Office to thank local postmen and women for their hard work during Royal Mail’s busiest period – Christmas.

Cllr Watts visited the delivery office to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on Christmas greetings to the hardworking staff. He was shown around the office and introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard to deliver mail across Islington over the Christmas period.

Christmas is Royal Mail’s busiest period as millions of people shop online for presents and send cards and parcels to loved ones. 2016 is the 500th anniversary of Royal Mail, making Christmas an opportunity to reflect on the centuries of hard work delivering in Islington and across the whole country.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “I want to thank Islington’s postmen and women for the extraordinary lengths they go to ensure Christmas cards and presents are delivered to loved ones on time, and for all they do year-round.

“At no other time is the hard work and dedication of postmen and women clearer than during Christmas.”

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts and Royal Mail postmen

Delivering a first class Christmas

Today (8 December) Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, visited the Royal Mail Islington Delivery Office to thank local postmen and women for their hard work during Royal Mail’s...

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Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about the community consultation meeting on Ladbroke House

On Monday (5 December), 115 local residents crowded into Highbury Fields School to take part in a community consultation meeting about the Ladbroke House site in Highbury Barn.

The Department for Education (DfE) purchased the building for £33.5m and the Meller Educational Trust are proposing to open a secondary free school and sixth form on a site with no outside space, along with luxury flats. This will bring over 1,000 pupils to an already congested and confined part of the Borough every day.

This proposal seems especially strange when you consider that the site is smack bang between two existing secondary schools, Highbury Grove and Highbury Fields, both rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

At the meeting, many local residents agreed that this proposal was a huge of money and will have a negative effect on neighbouring schools. Residents were also concerned about the safety of children and parents using already congested pavements and local transport.

At the end of the meeting, residents voted unanimously against this free school proposal and in favour of using the building to provide affordable housing for keyworkers, including local teachers, many of whom struggle to get a foot on the property ladder in London.

Please sign and share this petition and join the campaign.

 

Pictured - Cllr Caluori at the community consultation meeting

'Yes' to affordable homes for teachers, 'no' to an unwanted free school

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about the community consultation meeting on Ladbroke House On Monday (5 December), 115 local residents crowded into Highbury...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, reports on the latest Leader’s Question Time meeting

Last night (5 December), I took questions from residents in a lively Leader’s Question Time session. When Islington Labour was re-elected to run the Council in 2014, I pledged to make the Council more open to the public. These events represent an important opportunity for residents to have their say on local issues and hold the Council to account.

At Leader’s Question Time, Islington residents are invited to join me and raise issues that are affecting them. The latest meeting, at the Half Moon Crescent Community Centre in Barnsbury Ward, was attended by over 40 Islington residents.

I took questions on the allocation of council housing, overcrowding and leaseholders’ fees. It is glaringly obvious that there is a severe housing crisis in London, which is why the Council has embarked on the largest house-building programme in 30 years. This will see 2,000 affordable homes, including 1,500 council homes, built by 2020.

However, residents raised questions and concerns about a wide range of other issues affecting Islington. I responded to questions on how the Council is tackling crime and pollution in the borough, as well as how it works with TfL on major transport projects, and employment opportunities for young people.

I am proud of the Council’s work on making Islington a fairer borough for all, but there is still much work left to be done, which is why Leader’s Question Time is so well-attended. The Tory Government’s vicious cuts and punitive legislation mean that more people are struggling to make ends meet and want to see better value for money from Council services.

I am determined to deliver on Islington Labour’s promise to make Islington somewhere where everyone can achieve their potential and enjoy a good quality of life.

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, and Councillors at Leader's Question Time

Housing high on the agenda at Leader’s Question Time

  Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, reports on the latest Leader’s Question Time meeting Last night (5 December), I took questions from residents in a lively Leader’s Question...

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Cllr Osh Ganty writes about how Islington is leading the way on transgender equality

I am proud to be an Islington Labour councillor, and one of just a few openly transgender elected representatives in Britain today.

Under Richard Watts’ leadership, fairness and equality are central to Islington Council’s ways of working, and that of course also extends to transgender people in our borough. That is why, just a few weeks ago, the transgender flag flew above Islington Town Hall to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance (20th November). A day that aims to raise public awareness of transphobic hate crime, and commemorate the victims of transphobic violence.

Unfortunately, many transgender people still experience harassment and hate crime on a regular basis. We are fortunate that here in Islington, transphobic hate crime is lower than the London average and I know Islington Police continues to take the matter very seriously.  It is by educating people of all ages and backgrounds, and yes cracking down on transphobic hate crime, we can continue to make a real change.

For transgender people, self-acceptance and subsequent self-realisation can be a long and difficult journey, but ultimately something we should all celebrate.  That is why today (1st December) I welcome that Labour MPs are taking part in a debate on transgender rights, which gives us all the opportunity to note the UK’s pioneering status in legislating for LGBT equality and also call for action on the areas where transgender people are still being let down.

One area where urgent legislative improvement is needed relates to the out-dated legal process to gain gender recognition. The simple truth is, though pioneering in its day, the original gender recognition act hasn’t stood the test of time and now urgently needs revision.  I hope parliament will seize the opportunity for positive change.

Currently in Britain, transgender people are faced with unwarranted pathologisation and a slow bureaucracy that is burdensome and dehumanising, just to be considered for recognition. This contrasts with other progressive societies such as Malta, Argentina and the Republic of Ireland, where the gender recognition process simply requires the (self) completion of a short form.

The announcement of a new transgender equality action plan is welcome, but it must get off the ground quickly if it is to deliver real results. Not only do we need to improve how transgender people are included in society, whether it is in work or in education or by the NHS, but it is important that we change the rhetoric too.

As my own transition gathers inexorable pace, I am proud to be a member of a Labour Party that long ago recognised that transgender people are an integral part of a dignified society and proud also to live in a borough where ultimately all are welcome.

We have come a long way on transgender rights in the UK but the fight for true equality isn’t over yet.

Pictured - Councillors mark Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015. 

Making transgender equality a reality

Cllr Osh Ganty writes about how Islington is leading the way on transgender equality I am proud to be an Islington Labour councillor, and one of just a few openly...

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