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Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, responds to the Government's policy announcement aimed to regulate the purchase of acids.

As you may have heard, the Home Secretary has announced at last a new government policy to prevent the sale of acids to under-18s. This comes after Islington Council’s own calls for local businesses to avoid selling acid to under-18s and to adopt a ‘Challenge 25’ approach to the sale of corrosive substances. The scheme is already widely and successfully used across the UK for products such as alcohol and tobacco.

Islington Council called on shops in the borough to use the approach to regulate the buying of acids. We also called on retailers not to stock corrosive substances in locations where they can easily be stolen, such as shop entrances.

Whilst it remains unclear exactly how the government plans to prevent the sale of acids to under-18s with its new policy, the announcement comes not a moment too soon.

In Islington, we have already taken action, sending out leaflets to relevant businesses in the borough and to local traders’ associations, encouraging them to use the Challenge 25 scheme – where teenagers and young adults attempting to buy acid are asked to present a form of ID to prove they are over 18.

Islington Council also supports tougher penalties for those who do use acid and corrosive substances as weapons.

We hope to see some movement from Government on that front soon too. 

 

Pictured - Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety

Government action on acid sales comes not a moment too soon

Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, responds to the Government's policy announcement aimed to regulate the purchase of acids. As you may have heard, the...

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Help is on the way for Islington's small businesses that are being hit by massive Tory Government increases in business rates bills, courtesy of a new 'relief scheme' designed by Labour-run Islington Council. 

Earlier this year, the council worked alongside local businesses and business groups to oppose the Government's business rates revaluation, which will see local firms facing an average 42 per cent rise in rate bills by 2020/21. A 14,250-strong signature petition was presented to HM Treasury, demonstrating the strength of local opposition to the rate rise. 

Following Islington's campaign, and pressure from business groups, the Government was forced to announce a relief scheme to soften the impact of the rate rises. Islington received £8.6 million in relief funding, which the council has agreed will be distributed to small businesses facing the biggest rate rises. However, with businesses across the borough having to pay a combined £315 million extra in business rates, the relief funding is far below what is needed. 

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, said: "The Government's rate rise is going to be really hard for many local businesses to cope with, so I am pleased that the council is able to provide some relief for the worst affected businesses.

"Small and independent businesses in Islington are incredibly important to our borough, and we are working really hard with them and local business groups to support them.

"However, we need the Government to realise that small businesses need more support and we urge them again to rethink this damaging hike in business rates."

For more information about business rates, including advice on how to appeal, please visit – https://www.islington.gov.uk/business/business-rates

Pictured – Cllr Asima Shaikh and local business owners submit petition to HM Treasury. 

Help for small businesses to cope with Government rate rise

Help is on the way for Islington's small businesses that are being hit by massive Tory Government increases in business rates bills, courtesy of a new 'relief scheme' designed by...

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Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, explains why Islington’s newest youth centre is the place for young people to hone skills for the future.

Islington Labour is committed to creating a fairer borough for all where everyone, regardless of their background, can realise their potential. Soapbox, Islington’s newest youth centre in Old Street, is an excellent example of how we are working towards that goal.

What was once an old Council office has now been transformed into a vibrant hub equipped with cutting-edge technology. From the virtual reality cave to 3D printers to coding classes to radio and music studios, there is truly something for everyone.

Soapbox’s technological offering is about much more than giving young people exciting things to do. Old Street’s tech industry is rapidly growing and yet child poverty in Islington is still among the highest in the country. If local residents are to enjoy and take part in the area’s economic growth, it is essential that they have access to education and activities that can help them get a step ahead in digital, creative and other tech industries.

As Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, has written, ‘regeneration’ is a word that has understandably become tarnished and is now viewed with suspicion. Too many developers argue that erecting a shiny block of flats or opening an expensive restaurant will be something the local community will feel the benefits of. But these examples are neither affordable nor welcoming to local communities, and they do not employ them. Islington and indeed the whole of London risks becoming a more unequal and unaffordable place to live.

The growth of these industries, including those in Old Street, is unsustainable if they do not employ and engage with local residents. That is why Islington Council is working hard to link them with growing sectors in the local economy, such as the tech industry, so we can support local people into jobs and apprenticeships. Soapbox is the latest chapter in this story.

Soapbox will enable local residents to truly be a part of Old Street’s growth. Its opening is part of a wider redevelopment and improvement plan of the Redbrick Estate. 39 much-needed new genuinely affordable homes are also being built on the estate, alongside improved outdoor spaces and new retail units. These are changes to Old Street that all local residents will benefit from.

We cannot create a fairer borough for all our residents if they are not included in the new opportunities provided by our borough. I am very excited about Soapbox and the possibilities it presents for Islington.    

Preparing Islington’s young people for a technological future

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, explains why Islington’s newest youth centre is the place for young people to hone skills for the future. Islington...

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Last week, Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, attended Nag’s Head Shopping Centre for the launch of a new free service to help smokers in Islington kick the habit for good.

Breathe, jointly commissioned by Islington and Camden Councils, is a free and flexible stop smoking service for people who live, work and study in the two boroughs. It launched ahead of Stoptober, a UK-wide campaign that encourages smokers to give up the habit for October.

Breathe offers out-of-hours support, accessible clinics in local community settings, online support and personalised one-to-one sessions with a specialist stop smoking advisor. Smokers will be able to try different types of support until they find what works for them.

Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer and claims up to 332 lives in Islington each year per 100,000 residents. Evidence suggests that people are four times more likely to give up smoking with specialist support, which hugely improves their quality of life and eases pressure on the NHS.

Islington Labour is committed to helping local people live healthy and fulfilling lives, and helping them give up smoking is a huge part of that. The integrated Camden and Islington Stop Smoking Service is working towards the admirable goal of smoke-free boroughs by 2030.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, said: “Islington Labour is committed to creating a fairer borough for everyone. This cannot be achieved without tackling smoking, which contributes to the significant gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society.

“We have been repeatedly calling on the Government to properly fund the Public Health Grant, which allows councils to provide effective smoking cessation services. The Tories have said they also want to see a smoke-free generation but we need actions, not words, for this to happen.

“We will continue to do all we can to support Islington residents to give up smoking and tackle health inequalities in the borough. Breathe will play an important role in this ambition.”

More information about the Breathe stop smoking service can be found on the service’s dedicated website. People can also call 020 3633 2609 or text QUIT to 66777.

 

Pictured - Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, at the launch of Breathe

New help for people to quit smoking in Islington

Last week, Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, attended Nag’s Head Shopping Centre for the launch of a new free service to help smokers in Islington...

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The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a "short-term cost-cutting exercise".

In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the councils covered by the North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Cllr Watts has expressed serious concerns about the process and called for commitments from the Chief Executive of NHS England that services will not be reduced.   

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “Health services in North London face huge challenges and local councils want to help meet them, so that local people continue to receive the care they need. However, the NHS-led STP process has moved worryingly away from looking at how we solve the issues we face and is instead focusing on short-term cost-cutting.

“Along with the leaders of the other councils in the North Central London STP area, I have called on the NHS to urgently confirm that this process will not lead to a reduction in health services.

"We need to rapidly move the conversation on to discussing long-term preventative activity that will help people to lead healthier lives and will also reduce demand for expensive care services.”

In a letter to Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, the leaders of Islington, Camden, Haringey, Enfield and Barnet councils say the mechanisms of NHS funding (including the STP process) are twisting the priorities of healthcare partners, forcing them to focus only on short-term cost-cutting exercises to balance increasingly precarious budgets. The council leaders warn that longer-term aims to transform healthcare in the region are under threat as a result.

The leaders’ letter calls for six commitments from the NHS – 

  • No reduction in health services, or service standards (including no detrimental changes in access to services) in North Central London as a result of pressures on CCG, the current exercise or the STP;
  • Additional funding if required to guarantee the above, including resolving the funding/ accounting issues we have mentioned in this letter;
  • Full and proper consultation with residents and patients on any proposals for health service changes, meaning that they will be involved in re-designing services;
  • Return the focus of NHS leaders in North London to long-term transformational change over the STP period, working across the health and care system with Councils as equal partners;
  • Returning to your ambition for local flexibility in determining our health and care system, reducing the central control exercised over the system;
  • Encourage NHS leaders to invest in long-term prevention activity, which by 2020/21 will reduce the demand for expensive health and care. 

The leaders have called for a meeting with Mr Stevens and have urged him to guarantee the protection of existing health services and standards in north London, even if additional funding is required; to address and resolve the systemic funding issues hampering current efforts; and consulting with residents and patients on any proposed changes to health services.

For more updates on the STP process, please visit Islington Council's website

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Council Leader attacks 'short-term cost-cutting' STP process

The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a "short-term cost-cutting exercise". In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the...

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Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised to do so several months ago.

With 36 per cent of Islington households now living in private rented homes, Labour councillors made clear they are on the side of those who are finding it harder to afford to live in the borough, in part due to soaring rents and unscrupulous landlords and letting agents. 

One issue that many private tenants face is being unexpectedly hit with letting fees. On average, they pay between £200 and £500 in letting fees, with agents inventing ridiculous excuses such as signing a form or moving furniture around a room. Worryingly, low-income tenants, who are already struggling to get by, are charged even higher fees. Currently, renters have no legal right to dispute these charges and usually are not in a position to 'shop elsewhere'.

This Labour council is standing up for private renters. It has been responsible for two thirds of total fines issued by London councils to rogue landlords since new enforcement measures were introduced in 2015. It has also fined letting agents over £50,000 for treating tenants unfairly and introduced an additional licensing scheme for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road, protecting over 3,500 tenants. In 2014 it launched London’s first not-for-profit lettings agency where tenants do not have to pay tenancy fees. In spite of these efforts to protect renters, Islington Labour councillors' powers are limited by law.

The Tory Government previously promised to ban letting fees but they are yet to announce a time line for when the draft Tenants' Fees Bill, which would make this law, will be debated in Parliament. Islington Labour councillors are calling on them to act on this yet-to-materialise promise and support Labour's campaign to introduce extra protections for private renters; including introducing a cap on rent rises, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for tenants. The 2017 Labour manifesto also pledged to grant the Mayor of London the power to give London renters additional security to tackle the particular pressures in the capital.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “This Labour-led Council is standing up for the many, not the few, and I encourage renters living in Islington who believe they are being mistreated by their landlord or letting agency to contact the Council housing team or their local councillors. The Leader of the Council and I will be writing to the Housing Minister to call on him to ban rip-off letting fees, which they previously promised to do, and support Labour’s calls for extra protections for private renters as soon as possible." 

For more information on how the Council supports private renters or to report a landlord or letting agency, visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/housing/private-sector-housing/private-rented-accommodation

 

Pictured - Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development

Islington Labour councillors call for ban on letting fees

Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised...

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Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about why Islington Council is calling on local shops to regulate the purchase of corrosive substances and acid.

Islington Council has recently urged retailers in the borough that sell corrosive substances to adopt a ‘Challenge 25’ approach.

Challenge 25 came about because of the difficult task of determining the age of young people trying to purchase age-related goods.

Under the Challenge 25 scheme, customers attempting to buy age-restricted products are asked to present ID to prove their age if, in the retailer's opinion, they look under 25. The scheme is already widely used successfully across the UK for products such as alcohol and tobacco.

Islington Council is now calling on shops in the borough to use the approach to regulate the buying of corrosive substances and acids. There is currently no legal age restriction on the sale of strong acids or such substances. The Challenge 25 approach would see retailers volunteering only to sell acids to over-18s.

We have also called on retailers not to stock corrosive substances in locations where they can easily be stolen, such as shop entrances.

We have all seen the devastating effects of acid attacks across London. Adopting the good-practice policy of Challenge 25 would help alongside the call for tighter legal restrictions on the sale of acids and corrosive substances.

In order to get the word out, Islington has distributed leaflets to local shops containing advice about selling corrosive substances, made the leaflet available to local trade associations and publicised it via the council’s website for the wider public to see.

We support tougher penalties for those who use acid and corrosive substances as a weapon. It ruins lives. If retailers in Islington adopt our advice, this should reduce the risk of these destructive and dangerous products being sold to young people in our borough.

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Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety

Leaflet on the sale of corrosive substances that has been distributed to Islington shops

Islington urges local shops not to sell acid to youngsters

Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about why Islington Council is calling on local shops to regulate the purchase of corrosive substances and acid....

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Islington Labour is building more genuinely affordable homes for local people in the borough.

The Labour-run Council is projected to build just over 2,400 genuinely affordable homes, including around 530 council homes, between April 2015 and the end of the 2019/20 council year.

The 2017/18 Council budget allocated £40 million for its council house-building programme, making it the biggest delivery programme in 30 years. In 2017/18 alone, the Council is expected to build over 300 new genuinely affordable homes, including 140 council homes.

The latest projected figures mean that Islington Labour is on track to meet its key election pledge of 2014 – to deliver 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes, including 500 council homes, by the end of the 2019/20 council year.

These welcome figures build on the 1,829 genuinely affordable homes that the Council delivered in the borough between 2010 and the end of the 2014/15 council year. They also demonstrate how Islington Labour is working hard to tackle the housing crisis affecting Islington and provide decent homes for local people.

Last month, councillors joined construction workers at Shearling Way to observe construction work that has started on four new terraced council houses on Manger Road, Holloway Ward. Each home will house seven people, and will have four bedrooms spanning over three storeys, a garden and a green roof with solar panels. They are vital additions to the Shearling Way Estate, and are just one example of how the Council is delivering more affordable homes for local residents across the borough.

To ensure the new homes meet the needs of the local community, the Council has a local lettings policy for all homes constructed on existing estates. The lettings of new homes will be prioritised to people currently living on the estate on which they are being built.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “Building more genuinely affordable housing for local people is a priority for this Council, and we were elected with the mandate to do just that. Islington is facing the effects of a severe housing crisis in London and we want to ensure that everyone in Islington has a place to live that is affordable, decent and secure.

“We have already delivered 1,829 genuinely affordable homes under the previous Labour administration. It is more important than ever that we continue to build more for the future and prioritise them for local people in genuine need.”

The Council’s flagship planning policy requires new residential developments of ten units or more to provide a minimum of 50 per cent genuinely affordable housing. Earlier this year it won a landmark case against a developer that refused to provide sufficient social housing. 

 

Pictured - Cllr Rakhia Ismail of Holloway Ward; Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development; and Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, on Shearling Way, where new genuinely affordable homes will be built

Islington Labour’s mission to build more genuinely affordable homes

Islington Labour is building more genuinely affordable homes for local people in the borough. The Labour-run Council is projected to build just over 2,400 genuinely affordable homes, including around 530...

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Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington Labour councillor for Highbury East, blogs about why all public sector workers deserve a pay increase.

The public sector is our greatest asset. From the NHS to police to firefighters to teaching assistants, they go above and beyond every day.

Yet public sector workers have suffered a pay squeeze and real-terms cut in their salary for the last seven years under the Tory Government. It is obscene that so many of them, who play such a vital role in our community, are struggling to make ends meet and relying on foodbanks.

The Tories have created a crisis in which public services are struggling to recruit and retain staff and morale is at an all-time low. This in turn fails the general public who rely on those vital services.

Earlier this week, the Government announced an end to the public sector pay cap. If only it were that simple. It has only extended an inadequate pay settlement to police officers and prison officers, with no details about pay settlements for other public sector workers.

All public sector workers are equally deserving of a real-terms pay increase, fully funded by Central Government. Cherry-picking services will not solve the problems facing the sector when frontline and backroom support staff rely on each other to work successfully.

I am pleased to be moving a motion at Full Council next week (21st September), urging the Tories to grant all public sector workers a real-terms pay increase and lending support to the GMB Union’s campaign on this vital issue.

Islington Labour councillors are committed to creating a fairer borough for everyone. This cannot be achieved without a well-paid and motivated public sector to serve and protect them.

 

Pictured: Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington Labour councillor for Highbury East

All public sector workers deserve a real pay increase

Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington Labour councillor for Highbury East, blogs about why all public sector workers deserve a pay increase. The public sector is our greatest asset. From the NHS...

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Labour-run Islington Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to close a council tax loophole that landlords have been exploiting for years.

In the past, blocks of student flats in Islington were given a block council tax exemption throughout the year, as students do not pay council tax. There are more than 4,000 such student flats in accommodation blocks across the borough.

Increasingly, over the summer when students are away, landlords are letting these flats to tourists and other visitors in order to maximise their income. The flats are therefore liable for council tax during this period, outside of university term-time. If 1,000 such flats are rented out for 10 weeks over the summer break, the council tax due is £121,250. This is money that could be going towards local services upon which residents rely.

Islington Council has taken action to close this loophole by now requiring landlords to supply the tenancy and student occupancy details for every flat for every week of the year. The landlords will be liable for council tax for any periods during the year when the flats are occupied by people other than students.

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, says: “It is unfair that landlords have effectively been getting a tax break on renting their student flats out over the summer, particularly at a time when Islington is experiencing massive and ongoing budget cuts from central Government.

“Islington Labour is on the side of the many who pay in full the tax they owe, not the few who would seek to maximise their income by exploiting a council tax loophole. This move is fairer for all our residents and helps to pay for essential local services. I am pleased that this Labour-run council has become one of the first in the country to close this council tax loophole.”

 

Pictured - Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety

 

Closing landlords’ council tax loophole

Labour-run Islington Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to close a council tax loophole that landlords have been exploiting for years. In the past,...

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