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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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Statement from Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on 11th April - 

“Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister sought to taint Islington Council with the tax-avoidance scandal in which he has mired himself.

"Mr Cameron alleged that the council has the same sorts of offshore investments as those revealed in the Panama Papers. In doing so, he disingenuously conflated the terms ‘overseas’ and ‘offshore’ and cynically equated the notions of ‘avoidance’ and ‘exemption’ in order to try to implicate the council in a scandal of his own making.

"In defending his family’s own offshore investments, the Prime Minister said that Islington Council has money invested overseas.

"To be clear, all of Islington Council’s own monies are held domestically, either in the bank, lent to other local authorities or lent to the government itself.

"Islington Council’s £1bn Pension Fund does have overseas investments alongside its UK portfolio – as do all local government pension schemes across the country – as part of a prudent approach to diversifying risk.

"The fund, unlike the Prime Minister, is tax-exempt, as are all Local Government Pension Scheme funds. Its overseas investments – for instance in Apple and Toyota – are not hidden in hedge funds in far-flung tax havens.

"The fund’s committee meets in public, as it did last night; its financial statements are publicly available; and all its investments comply with UK government regulation. It pays all the tax that is due. What it does not have is lawyers or fund managers in Panama or the Cayman Islands helping it avoid tax.”

Prime Minister's Comments on Islington

Statement from Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on 11th April -  “Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister sought to...

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OUR SCHOOLS OUR SAY – CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED AGAINST FORCED ACADEMISATION

Islington Labour Group has today (6th April) launched its campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force all of Islington’s schools to become academies without giving parents a say.

The ‘Our Schools, Our Say’ campaign calls for the Government to drop plans that would force every school in Islington, and the rest of England, to become an academy regardless of the views of local parents and the community.

Sign the petition against forced academisation of our schools here.

First announced during the Budget, the Tory Government published a White Paper that is the first step in forcing all schools to become academies by 2022. The plan to force all schools to become academies could cost £1.3billion, with the cost of converting each school at around £66,000. There are currently 63 schools in Islington, with only 10 schools being either academies or Free Schools. The Government’s proposals would mean the cost of academising all schools in Islington would be approximately £3.5million.

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children and Families, said: “Thanks to the dedication and hard work of pupils, parents, teachers, and the council, we have been able to improve education in our borough.

“All of our borough's secondary schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, and the vast majority of our primary schools are too.  GCSE results in the borough have seen a dramatic improvement since the borough was ranked 143rd out of 151 local areas in 2010. We are also really proud that our fantastic primary schools are among the best in the country for helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve good results.

“But all this is at risk from a Tory Government that has announced reckless plans to force all schools to become academies.

“It is astonishing that, at a time of major cuts to school budgets, the Government would think it wise to spend over a billion pounds turning all schools into academies when there is not a shred of evidence it will help improve education standards or children’s chances in life. We know what works, good teaching and good leadership in a well-supported system.

“The Government’s proposals have been met with shock and anger from teachers, trade unions, and even Tory councillors who are appalled that a one-size-fits-all centralised system is being imposed on schools regardless of parents’ views or the wishes of schools themselves.

“We urge everyone that is concerned about these plans to sign the petition.”

Sign the petition against forced academisation of our schools here.

Islington operates a ‘community of schools’ model that brings all schools together to share best practice, oversee improvement plans, and raise standards for the benefit of all children. Under the Government’s proposals the local council would be removed entirely from the school system, despite evidence showing that local council-led school improvement services outperform multi-academy trusts in improving standards.

Islington Labour Group is working with local teaching trade unions, parents, and others, to organise opposition to the Government’s proposals.

Our Schools, Our Say - Petition Launched

OUR SCHOOLS OUR SAY – CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED AGAINST FORCED ACADEMISATION Islington Labour Group has today (6th April) launched its campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force all of Islington’s...

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Ahead of World Autism Awareness Week (2nd-8th April) Islington Labour councillors gathered with the Mayor of Islington to commit to doing more to support people with Autism in the borough.

Islington Council has announced plans to build more specialist accommodation for local residents living with Autism. Following a review of accommodation for people with Autism and those with learning disabilities, which set out plans for more supported living accommodation, so as to avoid placing people with complex needs outside of the borough.

Islington Council's Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Janet Burgess, said: “We’re committed to making Islington a better place to live and work for everyone, and we want to do more to help people with Autism and other learning disabilities be closer to their loved ones.”

“Ahead of World Autism Awareness Week, I’m pleased that we are progressing plans to build more homes for people with Autism and complex disabilities in the borough, so they can be nearer to their families. These plans are at quite an early stage but will be a big help.”

The planned new builds are set to be completed in the next 12 to 36 months, subject to full consultation and planning permission.

Ahead of World Autism Awareness Week, councillors, the Mayor, and council staff gathered to show their support for raising awareness of Autism (see photo).

The National Autistic Society previously awarded Wray Court – a specialist residential home for those with Autism, run by the council – ‘Excellence Accreditation’ for its service standards alongside Spectrum, which is a Council run day service for people with Autism.

Research by the National Autistic Society found that 87 per cent of people affected by Autism do not think the public have a good enough understanding of Autism.

Supporting World Autism Awareness Week

Ahead of World Autism Awareness Week (2nd-8th April) Islington Labour councillors gathered with the Mayor of Islington to commit to doing more to support people with Autism in the borough....

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In the Tory Budget announced on 16th March, the Government put forward plans to force all schools to become academies. 

Cllr Richard Watts has written about the dangers the proposals pose for education for the website LabourList

This ideological plan for more academies is as bad as Lansley’s NHS reforms

It is astonishing that, at a time of major cuts to school budgets, the Government would think it wise to spend hundreds of millions of pounds turning all schools into academies when there is not a shred of evidence it will help improve education standards or children’s chances in life.

Let’s nail the argument that converting a school to academy will, by itself, improve the quality of education. Despite years of looking by right-wing think tanks no evidence has come to light that a school’s governance status has much impact on its performance.

Schools maintained by local councils get, on average, better results than academies. Only one in six of the largest academy chains perform above the national average in terms of progress made by pupils, compared with almost half of councils. Struggling schools that are converted into academies are far more likely to stay rated as inadequate.

The problems with an all academy system are massive. Who will coordinate the admissions system if not local councils? Who will ensure that disabled and vulnerable pupils get school places? Academies currently aren’t obliged to respect disabled children’s Health and Care plan (the replacement of the statement) – will this change or will these vital plans become meaningless? Who will ensure there are enough school places in an area? Who will ensure schools are effectively safeguarding their pupils? Why are parents’ views being cast aside? All of these are major questions to which no answer has been provided by the Government.

The announcement begs one more massive question: where are the high quality academy chains that will take on schools and improve them? Only a few weeks ago the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, criticised the performance of large Academy chains, saying many had: “serious weaknesses”. The reality the Government cannot seem to admit is that those academy chains which expanded quickly are almost all doing very badly. What is more, the high performing academy chains are actually saying that they don’t want to expand further.

The Government’s response to this problem is to say that schools should just form new academy chains. Therefore, the entire Tory plan boils down to schools spending lots of money and time over the next few years just rearranging themselves into groupings that will likely just reflect their current council areas and do similar work to councils.

This is just the education equivalent of the Andrew Lansley plan for the NHS: spend a fortune reorganising and privatising the system but, in the end, leaving it with the same people doing similar jobs despite the massive waste of money through a top down reorganisation.

We know what works: good teaching and good leadership in a well-supported system.

In my borough of Islington we have achieved huge improvements in our school results by providing exactly this. Our community of schools model, which sees the local authority working closely with schools, parents and pupils has massively driven up standards and the same is taking place in local authority areas up and down the country.

These announcements are driven entirely by Tory ideology rather than any reality of what actually would deliver the best quality of education and best results for children.

In the coming weeks, we will be working with all those who agree with us, including our excellent Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Lucy Powell, to build a coalition of support to ensure schools stay accountable to local communities. 

Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council

@RichardWatts01

Tory Budget is an attack on Islington's schools

In the Tory Budget announced on 16th March, the Government put forward plans to force all schools to become academies.  Cllr Richard Watts has written about the dangers the proposals...

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On Sunday 13th March, Islington Labour councillors joined thousands of other demonstrators to march against the Tory Government's Housing and Planning Bill. 

As Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, has written elsewhere the Housing Bill is an attack on social housing, an attack on working families, and an attack on the mixed communities that we in Islington and across London are proud of.

The Bill contains plans that would be extremely damaging for Islington -

  • Forcing the council to sell-off thousands of council homes on the open market;
  • Introducing ‘Pay to Stay’, forcing families on modest incomes to pay up to market-level rents;
  • Scrapping secure tenancies for new council tenants;
  • Making ‘affordable housing’ a meaningless term by applying it to include homes for sale up to £450,000.

Islington Labour continues to fight this Bill and councillors were proud to march against the Bill alongside tenants and Islington residents.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, commented: "This Tory Bill is an attack on Islington and we will fight it every step of the way. It was heartening to see so many Islington residents on the march, and I was proud to be standing shoulder to shoulder with them, alongside many Islington Labour councillors.

"The Tory Government must listen to the chorus of opposition to this Bill and scrap it."

Pictured: Islington Labour councillors and Labour councillors from across London at the anti-Housing Bill March. 

 

 

 

Councillors march against Housing Bill

On Sunday 13th March, Islington Labour councillors joined thousands of other demonstrators to march against the Tory Government's Housing and Planning Bill.  As Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing...

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Transport for London (TfL) has today announced that Cally Road Tube station is set to remain open while its lifts are repaired, thanks to legal action taken by Islington council.

The council first raised concerns with TfL last year, after plans were revealed to close the station for eight months in order to carry out lift repair work.

TfL halted its plans in January, after legal action by the council drew attention to the impact that closing the step-free station would have on disabled and elderly residents.

Today TfL has confirmed a revised plan for the works, which will see the lifts repaired one after the other over an 18-month period so the station can remain open throughout.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for environment and transport, said: “We very much welcome the decision to keep Caledonian Road Tube station open while its lifts are repaired.

“This is great news for everyone who relies on the station – especially for elderly and disabled residents, and also the surrounding businesses, which would have faced a dramatic drop in trade.

“I’d like to thank TfL for making this decision, which is the right one for our community and means this important work can go ahead with much less disruption.”

Local Labour councillors for Holloway and Caledonian wards have also welcomed the decision.

Cllr. Paul Smith, Holloway ward councillor, added:

‘This is a huge victory and I’m delighted that TfL have made the right decision to keep the station open. I’d also like to thank the residents who have supported our campaign to make TfL think again.”

TfL have yet to confirm the dates for the start of the works, but will be communicating with station users as soon as this has been announced. 

Council victory to keep Cally Road station open

  Transport for London (TfL) has today announced that Cally Road Tube station is set to remain open while its lifts are repaired, thanks to legal action taken by Islington...

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Islington residents who switch their energy provider to a new council-run energy partnership are set to save around £200 per year, after Islington Council announced plans to take on the 'Big Six' energy companies.

The council is set to work with a non-Big Six energy provider to offer affordable gas and electricity deals to local residents, which will help to tackle fuel poverty and give residents a fairer deal. 

The new 'Islington Energy' scheme will particularly help residents that use pre-payment meters by switching them to cheaper tariffs and by installing smart meters that allow for better monitoring of energy usage and cheaper ways to top-up.

It is thought that around 1 in 5 households in Islington use pre-payment meters, with surveys suggesting as many as half of all residents on housing estates using them. 

Announcing the new scheme - the first of its kind in London - Islington Council's Executive Member for Environment & Transport, Cllr Claudia Webbe, commented:

"Fuel bills are a major part of the rise in the cost of living that so many Islington residents have had to deal with in recent years, and that's why we are taking radical action to save residents money.

"We've been working since September 2014 on this deal, the first of its kind in London. This partnership will particularly benefit residents that are struggling because of the extra costs involved in using pre-payment meters.

"By moving more residents to the new partnership, we will help give them better control of how they use energy and make it cheaper and easier for them to top-up when they need to."

The average pre-payment household in Islington paid over £170 more for their energy bills than someone paying via Direct Debit - in some cases, pre-payment customers paid as much as £432 more than the cheapest Direct Debit tariff. 

Proposals to establish the energy partnership will be debated at the council's Executive Meeting on Thursday 10th March. 

 

 

Council to take on the 'Big Six' energy firms

Islington residents who switch their energy provider to a new council-run energy partnership are set to save around £200 per year, after Islington Council announced plans to take on the...

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On Thursday 25th February, a meeting of Islington Council agreed the council budget for 2016/17. 

This budget will - 

  • spend an extra £500,000 to support young people in the borough most at risk of turning to gangs and crime, and to offer them an alternative;

  • protect existing budgets for youth work and maintain the Islington Bursary to help disadvantaged young people go to college;

  • protect libraries, care for older people, and other vital services.

The new investment and protection of services came despite the Tory Government's continued cuts to the council.

By 2020, Islington Council will have lost over 70% of its government funding in a decade. 

Commenting on the successful agreement of the budget, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said:

"This budget protects vital services and will help us to make a difference on the things that matter to local people - building more affordable homes, helping more people into work, and investing in the future of young people in our borough.

"We are continuing with the £100 Council Tax discount for older residents; protecting the bursary for less well-off young people that want to go to college; sustaining the Free School Meals policy; and all libraries are protected.

“Protecting young people in our borough is absolutely vital, and we will be spending an extra £500,000 to help those most at risk of turning to gangs and crime.  

"However, with the continued massive cuts this Tory Government are imposing on our borough - which include proposed devastating changes to housing rules that we are fighting against - working to make a difference for our residents becomes ever more important.

"The council I lead will always be on the side of local people, and we will continue to stand up against this Tory Government and its attack on our community."

The council budget for 2016/17 was passed with the sole Green Party councillor abstaining. 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts 

Council budget agreed

On Thursday 25th February, a meeting of Islington Council agreed the council budget for 2016/17.  This budget will -  spend an extra £500,000 to support young people in the borough...

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