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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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Chair of Islington Labour's LGBT Councillors Group, Cllr Nick Ward, writes about the priorities for the group in the months ahead.  

Following the local election results in May which saw Islington Labour win 47 out of 48 seats in the borough, Islington Labour now has more LGBT identifying councillors than ever before.

Islington Labour is committed to promoting equality, diversity and social justice.

The newly convened LGBT Labour Group has already met to discuss its priorities and how it can encourage LGBT members to participate in local politics. 

The first meeting identified many important topics and campaigns, including tackling homophobic bullying in schools. 

According to the charity Stonewall, almost nine in ten secondary school teachers (86 per cent) and almost half of primary school teachers (45 per cent) surveyed say pupils in their schools have experienced homophobic bullying. However, only eight per cent of primary school teachers and 17 per cent of secondary school teachers say they have received specific training on tackling homophobic bullying.

Over the coming months the LGBT Labour Group will be looking to identify best practice in Islington’s schools and elsewhere to help tackle bullying, and will bring forward new initiatives to address this important issue.

Tackling bullying in schools a priority for Islington Labour’s LGBT Councillors Group

  Chair of Islington Labour's LGBT Councillors Group, Cllr Nick Ward, writes about the priorities for the group in the months ahead.   Following the local election results in May which...

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Islington is the first local authority in London to introduce a voluntary scheme to stop the sale of cheap super-strength alcohol. Two thirds of the Borough’s off-licenses have already signed-up to a voluntary agreement to remove high alcohol content beers, lagers and ciders from their shelves.

This is a further part of Islington Labour’s drive to cut alcohol fuelled crime and disorder.

The Council’s new licensing policy effectively results in a ban on new licensed premises across the Borough; scaling back the closing times for the Borough’s many pubs, clubs and off licenses; and rigorous enforcement against licensing breaches.

The Council’s latest ‘Reducing the Strength’ project has been supported by many local off-licenses, with over 65% agreeing to support the campaign. Shop owners have voluntarily reduced the availability of cheap super-strength alcohol, the sale of which has been linked to crime and anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council's Executive Member for Community Safety, said: "Cheap super-strength beer and cider fuels a lot of anti-social behaviour and violence that blights communities.

"I'm pleased that so many local off-licences have taken cheap super-strength drink off their shelves and urge others to follow their example, to make Islington's town centres and parks a better place for everyone."

“Islington has one of the highest concentrations of licensed premises in the country. We have some of the worst health problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption. And we have more crime, nuisance and family difficulties caused by alcohol than most other parts of London. We are taking a firm stand to fix these problems with a mix of sensible licensing policies and rigorous enforcement. I am delighted that the licensed trade understands what we are doing and their agreement to voluntarily remove high strength alcohol is a great indication of their positive and responsible attitude."

Cllr Convery was interviewed by BBC London News about this innovative scheme and his interview can be viewed here, approximately 14 minutes into the broadcast.  

Cracking Down on Cheap Super-Strength Alcohol

Islington is the first local authority in London to introduce a voluntary scheme to stop the sale of cheap super-strength alcohol. Two thirds of the Borough’s off-licenses have already signed-up...


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An ‘eleventh-hour intervention’ by the Tory Planning Minister-led Government  has torpedoed an attempt by Labour-run Islington Council to protect jobs and affordable homes. 

Islington Labour has been leading the charge against a developers’ free-for-all in the borough’s office space following a change the government introduced in May 2013. The change allows developers to convert offices into flats without any planning permission – meaning the council has been powerless to protect jobs or to demand affordable housing.

To protect valuable business space from being lost as developers make a quick-buck from high house prices, Islington Council used a local planning order which would have meant conversions once again required planning permission from 15th July 2014. 

But just two days before Islington Labour’s protective measures were due to come into effect, Tory Planning Minister Nick Boles MP quashed the plans – using incorrect figures in his justification for doing so. Mr Boles has now been moved from his job in the Government, but he used his last few days to fire a very unwelcome parting shot at Islington.  

Islington Labour’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, Cllr James Murray, said: "I'm very frustrated by the former Tory Planning Minister's decision to stop us doing what's right for Islington. 

"We're already seeing small businesses and charities being evicted from offices to make way for bedsits. People in Islington are losing out on jobs, affordable housing, and any community benefit. 

"I'm also very disappointed that the Minister waited until the eleventh hour to overturn our decision, refused to accept a compromise we offered, and in his reasoning got his figures wrong. Islington has consistently greatly exceeded its housing targets and is set to continue to do so." 

Developers have already registered 68 office buildings in Islington for conversion to residential under the new rules, with a further 11 in the pipeline. The total loss of office space is around 45,000 square metres - which equates to around 3,000 jobs. In some cases, small businesses and charities have been evicted. 

Of the homes created in these spaces, Islington Council estimates that 2 out of every 3 is a one-bedroom unit or a bedsit. No affordable housing has been created - despite the potential to deliver around 350 affordable homes. 

Cllr Murray added: "In Islington we already have successful plans for building good quality, affordable housing. But the Government's changes are undermining what we're trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans."

Tory Minister torpedoes Islington Labour's attempt to protect jobs and affordable homes

An ‘eleventh-hour intervention’ by the Tory Planning Minister-led Government  has torpedoed an attempt by Labour-run Islington Council to protect jobs and affordable homes.  Islington Labour has been leading the charge...

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Last week the people of Islington sent a clear message to the Tory-led Government. By electing 47 Labour councillors, local people made it clear that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have the wrong priorities for Islington.

Labour’s Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, commented: “I want to thank everyone who voted Labour in Islington for joining together to send a clear message to the Tory-led Government.

“The ringing endorsement that local residents have given Islington Labour - and our plans to tackle people’s top priorities on jobs, housing and the cost of living - shows that people felt Islington Labour is on their side.

“The next four years are going to be extremely challenging because of the unfair cuts the Tory-led Government is imposing on Islington.

“But, we’ll continue to listen to the people of our borough, stand up for the many and put the views of local people at the heart of the decisions we make.”

You can see the full election results in Islington by clicking here.

The local elections saw Islington Labour secure 56% of the vote across the borough and achieve our best result since 1974. In fact our share of the vote has increased by almost 50% since 2010.

In the European elections that took place on the same day, Islington Labour again received the most votes in the borough and there was a swing in support of 11.5% from the Green Party to Islington Labour. 

Pictured: Islington Labour Group

2014 Election Results

Last week the people of Islington sent a clear message to the Tory-led Government. By electing 47 Labour councillors, local people made it clear that David Cameron and Nick Clegg...


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Work to repair the War Memorial at Islington Memorial Green has been completed a week ahead of schedule.

Earlier this month, Islington Labour councillors gathered to celebrate the successful completion of the repairs.

First unveiled in 2006, the War Memorial was designed by Royal Academy sculptor, John Maine. However, due to mistakes made by the contractors during the construction of the memorial under the previous Council administration, the sculpture had begun to appear crooked. Investigations ordered by Islington Council in the autumn of 2013 revealed a serious failure in the concrete foundations. 

In November 2013, Cllr Richard Watts, Labour Leader of Islington Council ordered repairs to be carried out immediately. This work has now been completed and the area will be fully re-opened by the end of May 2014.

Council Leader Cllr Richard Watts said: “When we learned that the orginial contractors had done such a shoddy job, I was completely livid. This memorial marks the contribution and sacrifice that so many Islington residents have made for their country. We owed it to them to repair the memorial quickly and I am very pleased that this work has been completed ahead of schedule.”

Cllr Rakhia Ismail, Executive Member for Sustainability, commented: “It was vital that in the year we mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, the issues with our memorial were solved quickly. I’d like to thank everyone who helped with the challenging work of moving and repairing the memorial.”

Cllr Gary Poole, Islington Council’s Armed Forces Champion and St Mary’s ward councillor, added: “The Islington Veterans’ Association noted their thanks to the Leader & Council for taking decisive action to address the issues with the memorial. The memorial will be officially rededicated at a ceremony on Armed Forces Day on 28th June and I hope people will join us then.”

The remaining fencing on Islington Memorial Green will be removed at the end of May after newly laid grass has had time to establish itself.

 Pictured: Cllr Poole, Cllr Watts and Cllr Ismail at the War Memorial on Islington Memorial Green. 

Islington Green War Memorial Repaired

                        Work to repair the War Memorial at Islington Memorial Green has been completed a week ahead of schedule....

This Saturday (10th May), we will be aiming to speak to almost 20,000 local residents. People who have registered to vote by post will begin to receive their ballot papers in the next few days and it’s really important that we speak to these voters.

To help us make a difference for Islington on jobs, housing and the cost living, we need your help to speak to these residents. 

You can help us do this by coming along to one of the many events we are having across Islington this Saturday. There’s a list of all the events below. Please scroll down to find an event near you. 

Times and meeting places for events on Saturday 10th May:

Barnsbury Ward -  

  • 10am - Blackmore House, Barnsbury Estate - Location
  • Contact - 0793 190 6400

Bunhill Ward - 

  • 11am - Unite the Union Offices, 33-37 Moorland Street, EC1V 8BB - Location
  • Contact - 0797 381 6885 

Caledonian Ward - 

  • 11am & 2pm - Kigi Café, Caledonian Rd - Location
  • Contact - 0751 5359 377

Canonbury Ward -

  • 10:30am & 2pm - My Favourite Café, Essex Road - Location
  • Contact - 0778 211 5021

Clerkenwell Ward - 

  • 11am, 1pm & 4pm - Blacksmith & Toffeemaker - Location
  • Contact - 0755 711 5196

Finsbury Park Ward -  

  • 11am & 2:30pm - Atlas Café, Seven Sisters Road - Location
  • Contact - 0777 911 3450 

Highbury West Ward -  

  • 11:30am & 2pm - Arsenal Tube Station, Gillespie Road - Location 
  • Contact - 0779 305 5593

Highbury East Ward - 

  • 11am, 1:30pm & 4pm - White House, corner of Highbury New Park/Highbury Quadrant - Location
  • Contact - 0776 888 7766

Hillrise Ward - 

  • 11am & 2pm - Caxton House, St John's Way - Location
  • Contact - 0786 6632 768

Holloway

  • Saturday 10 am & 2pm - Café Bonami, 461 Caledonian Road, N7 9RP Location
  • Contact - 07931221504

Junction Ward - 

  • 11am & 2pm - Oak & Pastor, Junction Road - Location
  • Contact - 0797 312 6644

Mildmay Ward - 

  • 11am, 2:30pm & 4:30pm - Acoustic Café, Newington Green - Location
  • Contact - 0797 991 1249

St George's Ward - 

  • 11am & 2pm - Tuffnel Park Tavern - Location
  • Contact - 0795 831 6158

St Mary's Ward - 

  • 10:30am & 2pm - 65 Barnsbury Street - Location
  • Contact - 0777 190 2233

St Peter's Ward - 

  • 11am - Saponara, Prebend Street - Location 
  • Contact - 0798 514 1775

Tollington Ward - 

  • From 10am - Hamlet Cafe, Hornsey Road - Location
  • Contact - 0794 049 5625 

Help Us to Make a Difference

This Saturday (10th May), we will be aiming to speak to almost 20,000 local residents. People who have registered to vote by post will begin to receive their ballot papers...

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