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

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

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

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

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

Barnsbury By-Election Results - 14th July 2016

Rowena Champion - Labour Party - 1,192

Liberal Democrats - 409

Conservative Party - 367

Green Party - 302

Independent - 40

Turnout was 25.43%.

Rowena Champion Elected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The council report notes that –

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

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

A copy of the report can be found here.

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

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

Housing Act could damage people's health, report warns

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

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, has written to the Tory government demanding that funding to help local people back to work is protected following the vote to leave the European Union. 

In advance of the EU Referendum, Cllr Watts wrote in the local papers about the funding Islington receives from the EU to support employment projects that are working to help more local people into work. 

The council currently receives just under £1m per year from the Skills Funding Agency to provide adult skills training and community learning projects. The Skills Funding Agency is backed by the European Social Fund. 

Cllr Watts has now written to Tory Employment Minister, Priti Patel MP, seeking assurances that this funding will continue to be awarded after Britain leaves the EU. Ms Patel confirmed on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on 14th June that, “We have been abundantly clear that there would be more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU – including universities, scientists, farmers, regional funds – would continue to get money, while ensuring that could be spent on our priorities.”

Cllr Richard Watts said: "The EU currently supports vital work the council does to help local people find jobs, and to gain new skills. Following the referendum and Britain’s decision to leave the EU, I’m worried about where the £1million of funding we receive is going to come from in future. 

“During the campaign, Vote Leave spokespeople repeatedly said that EU funding would be replaced if we left. However, the Leave campaign has already backtracked on its pledge to give £350million a week to the NHS, so we need to know whether their pledge to replace EU funding is going to go the same way. 

“I’ve written to the Employment Minister who went on the radio making the pledge to ask her to back it up with concrete answers.”

In the last year Islington Council supported 1,150 unemployed residents into paid work, half of whom were long-term unemployed. The council also delivered 2,300 adult learning courses to help people develop new skills for work. The adult learning service was rated as 'Good' by Ofsted in an inspection earlier this year. 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts

Back to work funding must be protected

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, has written to the Tory government demanding that funding to help local people back to work is protected following the vote to leave...

On Saturday 2nd July, Islington came together to reject hate crime.

Following reports of an increase in hate crime incidents across the country in recent days, community leaders and faith leaders from across Islington met on Highbury Fields to address a crowd of around 300 local residents.

Speakers included local councillors and MPs, faith leaders, and community leaders.

Many of the speakers were those that had co-signed a letter organised by Islington Labour denouncing hate crime and pledging to work together to support our community. 

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: "Islington is stronger because of its diversity, and I am proud our community is welcoming and tolerant of others.

"People from across the world make a massive contribution to our borough, working in vital public services like the NHS and helping to make Islington a vibrant and welcoming place. They are our neighbours and our friends.

"I know we all stand together in condemning any acts of hate crime that occur, and Saturday's rally was a fantastic occasion for our community to come together."

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Pictured - speakers at the 'Love Islington - Say NO to Hate Crime' Rally, Highbury Fields, 2nd July 2016. 

'Say NO to Hate Crime' Rally brings Islington together

On Saturday 2nd July, Islington came together to reject hate crime. Following reports of an increase in hate crime incidents across the country in recent days, community leaders and faith...

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A rally is to be held on Saturday 2nd July to bring Islington together to say no to hate crime.

Worrying reports of increased incidents of hate crime across the country in recent days are to be met with a show of support and solidarity from the Islington community that is tolerant, welcoming, and diverse.

The rally has been called by Islington Labour Group, and will feature speakers from faith and community groups from across the borough, as well as Jeremy Corbyn MP and Emily Thornberry MP. 

The rally will take place in the lower field of Highbury Fields (closest to Highbury & Islington station) and begins at 10am on Saturday 2nd July.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “Islington is stronger because of its diversity, and I am proud that local people are welcoming and tolerant of others.

“People from across the world make a massive contribution to our borough, working in vital public services like the NHS and helping to make Islington a vibrant and welcoming place. They are our neighbours and our friends.

“However, in recent days we have received worrying reports of increases in hate crimes across the country. We need to come together to say no to hate crime.

“I have been working with community and faith groups to reassure local residents, and with the police to ensure that reports of hate crimes are investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

In addition to the rally, Islington Labour Group has tabled a motion at Full Council condemning hate crime and resolving to work with faith and community groups to ensure Islington remains welcoming to all. The Leader of the Council has also coordinated a statement from faith and community leaders to say that Islington is proud to be a diverse, tolerant and cohesive community. A meeting will also be held with the police about measures to tackle hate crime and bring perpetrators to justice.

A ‘Love Islington – Say No to Hate Crime’ poster has also been produced that local residents and businesses will be encouraged to display. Click here to download a copy of the double-sided poster.

Sign-up to say you are attending here.

Love Islington - Say NO to Hate Crime Rally

A rally is to be held on Saturday 2nd July to bring Islington together to say no to hate crime. Worrying reports of increased incidents of hate crime across the...

Following the EU Referendum, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, issued an email to over 11,000 residents. A copy of this email can be found below.

Dear Friend, 

I am immensely disappointed that the UK voted to leave the EU last night.

I fundamentally believe that as a community, and as a country, we achieve more together than we do alone. But the people have spoken, and we must respect the result of the referendum.

Being honest, I didn’t anticipate this result. As we all look for a way forward I have two priorities.

First, to ensure Islington remains a tolerant, diverse and welcoming borough.  This was an ugly campaign and if I was a member of one of the groups scapegoated during the last few months, I would be feeling pretty worried today.

When I dropped the kids off at school this morning, I have never seen such worry in the eyes of many of my fellow parents who could be forgiven for asking if they’re still welcome in their own country.  We need to stand with those who are under attack and say that, in Islington, everyone is welcome.  I will be spending some time over the next few days and weeks to spread that message of solidarity.

Second, we must protect our economy, particularly investment in new homes and jobs.  Islington has a housing and unemployment crisis, and the uncertainty created by yesterday’s vote is already hitting planned investment in the borough.  I’m worried a downturn my trigger further damaging cuts to public services from an even more right-wing Tory government.

It’s vital that the government works with Mayor Sadiq Khan and councils like Islington to start an emergency housing programme to stop house building coming to a complete stop.  

I am proud that in Islington 75 per cent of residents who voted chose to remain in the EU and that a record number of people turned out to vote.

I believe our borough can remain a beacon of tolerance, mutual respect and decency. If given the opportunity we can continue to run good services, build homes, create jobs and reduce poverty. 

Islington Labour remains on the side of working people in Islington, and we will continue to fight to protect local people from whatever challenges are created in these uncertain times.

Best wishes,

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Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council

On your side, no matter what

Following the EU Referendum, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, issued an email to over 11,000 residents. A copy of this email can be found below. Dear Friend,  I...

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Local Barnsbury resident, Rowena Champion, has been selected by Labour Party members to stand in the Barnsbury by-election on 14th July.

Rowena has lived in Barnsbury for 20 years, is a Barrister and has played an active role in the local community. As a long standing local Labour Party activist she has regularly spoken with Barnsbury residents about the issues that matter to them.

Commenting on her selection, Rowena said: “Barnsbury is my home, and it would be a tremendous honour to represent the local area.   

“Everyone deserves a decent, affordable, and secure home, and that is why tackling the housing crisis would be my top priority if I am fortunate enough to be elected. 

“The council has done great work in building more council and genuinely affordable homes, and I want to help deliver more homes for local people. I also want to see improvements to housing repairs and I am committed to fighting the Tory government’s disastrous Housing and Planning Act." 

The by-election was triggered following James Murray’s appointment as Deputy Mayor for Housing by Sadiq Khan. Mr Murray served Barnsbury ward from 2006 until stepping down at the end of May this year.

Rowena added: “James was a brilliant local representative, and I will work extremely hard to continue to his excellent work for the people of Barnsbury."

Click here to get involved with campaigning to help Rowena.

Follow Rowena on Twitter @RowChampion.  

Local resident, Rowena Champion, to stand for Labour in Barnsbury By-election

Local Barnsbury resident, Rowena Champion, has been selected by Labour Party members to stand in the Barnsbury by-election on 14th July. Rowena has lived in Barnsbury for 20 years, is a...

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Cllr Diarmaid Ward has been appointed as the new Islington Council Executive Member for Housing and Development. 

Following James Murray's appointment as Sadiq Khan's Deputy Mayor for Housing, Cllr Ward has joined the Executive to become the borough's new housing lead. 

Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: "I am very excited about my new post, and look forward to the challenge of continuing the excellent work already happening in Islington. 

"Like most of London, Islington faces a housing crisis.  We are building new council homes, but also face huge challenges from the Government's new Housing and Planning Act, which will put our council housing under even more pressure. 

"I will work hard to deliver the genuinely affordable housing Islington needs, and to protect council housing.  I will also support private renters in Islington to help make sure they have decent places to live, and are treated fairly."

Cllr Ward has been councillor for Holloway ward since 2014, and has lived in Islington for six years. He has worked as a legal aid solicitor, specialising in criminal defence, and was a member of the duty solicitor scheme at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.

Islington is building the most new council homes in a generation, and over 50 per cent of new homes on eligible sites have been genuinely affordable homes over the last 5 years. 

A further 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes will be built between 2015 and 2019, including 500 new council homes.

New Housing Executive Member ready for the challenge

Cllr Diarmaid Ward has been appointed as the new Islington Council Executive Member for Housing and Development.  Following James Murray's appointment as Sadiq Khan's Deputy Mayor for Housing, Cllr Ward...

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Islington Labour councillor, James Murray, has been appointed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as the new Deputy Mayor for Housing. 

An Islington councillor for Barnsbury ward since 2006, Cllr Murray has been the Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council since 2010. In that time the council has delivered almost 10,000 new homes in the borough, with nearly 50% of homes on eligible sites in the last three years being affordable, and with the largest council house building programme in a generation. 

Commenting on the appointment of James Murray as the Deputy Mayor for Housing, Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts said – 

“Sadiq Khan’s appointment of James Murray as his Deputy Mayor for Housing will mean London has someone supporting the Mayor that knows first-hand how to tackle the housing crisis facing London.

“James has been a crucial member of the Council Executive, spearheading much of the pioneering work this Labour administration has undertaken to build the most council homes in a generation. He has also been key in taking on rogue landlords, making sure local people have priority for new housing, and driving forward improvements to council housing.

“James’s appointment is also great news for Islington. Not only is it a ringing endorsement of the housing policies the council has pursued, but it will mean that we will have both a Deputy Mayor for Housing and a London Mayor that are on side the of working people in Islington.”

James Murray said –

“It’s the most amazing honour to be offered this position; a chance to work with Sadiq and his team to make London a fairer place to live.

“It has been a privilege to serve on Islington Council with such dedicated fellow councillors and officers, and I'm proud of the difference we have made on the key issue of providing more affordable homes for local residents. I know Islington will continue to deliver on this vital issue, and I look forward to working alongside the council and others in my new role at City Hall.

“I would also like to say just what a privilege it has been to represent Barnsbury since 2006, alongside my colleagues and friends Cllr Hamitouche and Cllr Chowdhury. I'd like to sincerely thank the people of Barnsbury for putting their trust in me to be their councillor for the last decade.”

Pictured: James Murray with Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, at the Brunswick Estate in Clerkenwell during the election campaign. 

Islington Labour housing chief to become London's Deputy Mayor for Housing

Islington Labour councillor, James Murray, has been appointed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as the new Deputy Mayor for Housing.  An Islington councillor for Barnsbury ward since 2006, Cllr...

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Following a community campaign involving parents, teachers, school governors, trade unions, and Islington Labour, in support of a national outcry against the government’s plans to force all schools to become academies, the government has been forced into a partial U-turn.

In the Budget the Tory Government announced plans to force all schools to become academies, regardless of parents’ wishes or the performance of the school. Further details announced in a government White Paper – Educational Excellence Everywhere – included no longer requiring schools to have parent governors.

In response to this attack on Islington’s schools, the vast majority of which are rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted - including all secondary schools - Islington Labour launched a campaign ‘Our Schools, Our Say’.

A local petition launched online received over 300 signatures, in addition to national campaigns from parents, teachers, trade unions, and others.

On Friday 6th May, the government announced that some schools would no longer be forced to become academies, but schools falling into two major areas would still be forced to convert to academy status. The two areas were -

  • Where a local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because too many schools have already become academies.
  • Where the local education authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools.

Further details will be published by the Department for Education and consulted upon, the government said.

Commenting on the government’s announcement, Cllr Joe Caluori (pictured), Executive Member for Children and Families, said:

“It’s astonishing how much of a mess the government has made of its attempts to force all schools to become academies.

“I want to thank all those people in Islington who have supported our campaign so far, but we need to redouble our efforts as the government is still hell-bent on making all schools become academies.

“In Islington we have improved standards and turned schools around by working together. Ofsted figures also show that poor performing schools are more likely to improve if they stay with their local authority, rather than being forced to become an academy.”

Sign the petition here.

Pressure forces Tory U-turn on academies plan

Following a community campaign involving parents, teachers, school governors, trade unions, and Islington Labour, in support of a national outcry against the government’s plans to force all schools to become...

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