I'm really delighted that Government figures released today have confirmed that 63.2% of pupils in the borough achieved five A*- C grades – including the key subjects of English and Maths – in 2013.

The transformation in our secondary schools over recent years has been nothing short of amazing, and these results are a validation of all the hard work undertaken by pupils and teachers. I'm particularly pleased that Islington have improved significantly faster than the national rate over the last five years, and by a whopping 10 percentage points in the past year alone!

Despite a drop across England, we have seen an increase in the level of students attaining top grades (three or more A – A* grades)

Islington is joint-top in the country for the number of secondary schools rated as either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, with all of our secondary schools achieving good or outstanding status.

At a time when Michael Gove and the Tory-led Government seem hell-bent on dismantling our education system, the experience of Islington’s ‘Community of Schools’ model clearly shows that with strong support from the local authority, strong leadership from heads and commitment from Governors, community schools can and will succeed.

It’s important to remember, beyond the league tables and number crunching,  that these results represent better outcomes for Islington children and will give our pupils greater opportunities to thrive and achieve their ambitions.

The challenge to all of us now is to sustain and improve on these results in future years!

Cllr Joe Caluori

Executive Member for Children and Families Labour Member for Mildmay Ward, LB Islington

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Islington celebrates best ever GCSE results

I'm really delighted that Government figures released today have confirmed that 63.2% of pupils in the borough achieved five A*- C grades – including the key subjects of English and...

When Anna sought help from a Solace Women's Aid refuge she had no money and had experienced abuse at the hands of her husband and his family. With a young child in tow, she did not even have a home to go to.

A lease was arranged on an unfurnished flat for Anna (not her real name) and an application made to Islington's resident support scheme for things like furniture, including a bed and sofa.

The Women's Aid refuge offered support, working closely with the council, to make sure that Anna was helped to find a job and get money advice. It was because of this that Anna and her child could rebuild their lives.

The council was able to help because of funding, but now families already left reeling from successive cuts to social security are about to be hit again. This time, the government has decided to axe the local welfare provision grant.

The £172m national scheme, which Islington council uses its £1.2m share of to provide essential goods and small cash payments to residents in crisis like Anna, will be scrapped from 2015-16. It is the latest in a series of steps the government has taken; the impact being that local authorities feel ever more pressure to deliver vital welfare services with ever-diminishing budgets.

Last year council tax benefit was localised and at the same time cut by 10% – a £2.9m loss in our borough alone.

Despite concern that some local authorities have failed to spend their funding for crisis grants in full (see Simon Danczuk MP's article on the Guardian Local Leaders Network on 7 January), in Islington where 42% of children grow up below the poverty line we are on target to spend our full allocation of £1.2m in each of 2013-14 and 2014-15.

No money has been offered to compensate the council for this cut. Indeed, it comes at a time when the government is slashing more than £20m (11%) from the council's core grant next year alone.

In 2012, concerned that aspects of the local welfare provision grant were to be devolved with a reduced budget, Islington council teamed up with local grant-giving charity Cripplegate Foundation to support Islington residents when they need it most. Islington's resident support scheme (RSS) was born. Run in partnership with Cripplegate, who include their own grants in the scheme, the RSS also benefits from other charities pooling their resources and expertise.

We have been using our RSS to shield our poorest residents – including homeless people, those with chronic illnesses, mental health issues and physical disabilities - from the worst excesses of the government's welfare reforms.

All the money we have spent from the fund has supported those in genuine need – keeping families together, sustaining tenancies and helping residents on the breadline to survive.

But the government's latest short-sighted cut means more tough decisions lie ahead for councils, charities and residents like Anna. The support Anna got has helped her rebuild her life and provide a home for her son. I don't believe that Hertfordshire council's failure to spend its crisis fund in full should mean that people like Anna here in Islington have another lifeline cut.

Cllr. Andy Hull is executive member for finance at Islington council. He tweets @AndyHull79

This article was first published on the Guardian Local Leaders Network

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Don't scrap crisis loans just because some councils fail to use them

When Anna sought help from a Solace Women's Aid refuge she had no money and had experienced abuse at the hands of her husband and his family. With a young...

Islington has a proud tradition of artistic creativity. Many wonderful artists have made our borough their home. Art plays an important role in our society. Art supports tourism, our creative industries and helps us achieve a better understanding of ourselves.

It’s great to see the University of the Arts students flourishing in Islington, especially since the opening of their fantastic new campus in King’s Cross. The UK must continue to support art and art education. I support the University of Arts Student Union “Arts for All” Campaign. Themes of the campaign includes promoting art education as a public good, investing in the creative industries and protecting funding for arts subjects in Schools. Let’s keep art accessible for all our community. 

Cllr. Alice Perry

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Let’s keep art accessible to all

Islington has a proud tradition of artistic creativity. Many wonderful artists have made our borough their home. Art plays an important role in our society. Art supports tourism, our creative...

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A scrutiny report commissioned by Labour Councillors looking at the illegal practice of Construction Industry Blacklisting has just been published by Islington Council.

This is the latest stage in the campaign to end blacklisting that for more than 20 years has seen employers in the construction industry use secret files to vet new recruits and keep union and health and safety activists out of work.

The report which ran from June to December this year heard evidence from a variety of sources and has published recommendations for adoption by the Council to ensure they no longer enter into contracts with companies implicated in blacklisting.

Council will do this by adding a clause to future terms and conditions that will allow the council to terminate a contract if a contractor or sub-contractor is found to be blacklisting.

Cllr. Gallagher Chair of the Policy and Performance Committee that commissioned the report said:

‘Blacklisting is a shameful practice and workers who were placed on this list were deprived of an honest living through no fault of their own. Islington Labour along with the GMB have been at the forefront of the campaign against blacklisting and my report shows the measures local authorities can take to ensure this terrible practice is never allowed to happen again.

I will also be writing to the Secretary of State for Local Government to request an urgent public enquiry be instituted’

Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council said:

Blacklisting is a national scandal that has destroyed lives. Here in Islington we are sending a message that we will not do business with people who have ruined decent people’s lives in this way."

Paul Kenny the General Secretary of the GMB said:

‘The GMB is delighted that Labour in Islington has taken an important step to ensure those companies guilty of blacklisting workers will get no more of the public contracts until they own up, clean up and pay up for what they did to their 3,213 victims. It’s now time other Local Authorities follow Islington’s lead.’

Claude Moraes MEP said:

"The practice of blacklisting employees in the UK has been operating for decades and has devastating effects on reputations, livelihoods and families.

"I warmly welcome Islington’s report and along with the recent work in the European Parliament, Labour is making real strides to ensure this abhorrent practice is stopped and never returns.” 

The report will be formally submitted to the Council’s Executive Meeting on 14th January 2104.

The draft recommendations can be seen here :

http://democracy.islington.gov.uk/reports/16d95dd05c194eb6accd9f428daa81f2/report.aspx

 

 

Islington Labour says no to ‘Blacklisters’

  A scrutiny report commissioned by Labour Councillors looking at the illegal practice of Construction Industry Blacklisting has just been published by Islington Council. This is the latest stage in...

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This morning Cllr. Richard Watts leader of Islington Council along with the boroughs two Labour MPs, the CWU and Islington pensioners Focum delivered a giant postcard to the Post Office's headquarters in opposition to the company's plans to close its branch at Highbury Corner.

Islington Labour along with the Communication Workers Union have opposed these plans that will see this busy part of the borough lose a well-used branch causing inconvenience to local residents and businesses, especially older and disabled people.

Cllr. Watts said:

‘We’re here today to show the Post Office the strength of local feeling against their plans to close the Crown branch at Highbury Corner. Closure would be hugely inconvenient for a number of our residents and businesses and we won’t give up the fight until the branch is saved.’  

Islington Council has offered support to the Post Office to help keep the branch open, including helping to find a temporary home for the Post Office while the new site is being built and pledging £750,000 to transform Highbury Corner and create a new station square after the relocation has been made. However to date this offer has not been accepted.

You can help our campaign by signing our petition against the closure here

 

 

 

 

Taking the Fight to Post Office HQ

  This morning Cllr. Richard Watts leader of Islington Council along with the boroughs two Labour MPs, the CWU and Islington pensioners Focum delivered a giant postcard to the Post Office's...

Richard

Leader’s New Year Message
Cllr Richard Watts

I get lots of people coming to my advice surgeries, even more so since becoming Leader of the Council in October. What has really struck me this year is the new faces, people who've never needed help before but suddenly don't know where to turn. One lady told me she'd worked all her life but with her hours suddenly cut back she'd been forced to go to a foodbank because she couldn't afford to pay the latest massive gas bill and feed her family. Another came, at breaking point because Atos had told him he was 'fit for work' when he knew he wasn't. He was terrified he would lose his home as a result.

Nobody should spend this Christmas forced to choose between heating or eating. Nobody should be worrying that this will be their last Christmas in the home they've lived in for years, because they can't afford to stay there.

We're doing everything we can as a Council to help people manage the rising cost of living and stand up for those affected by the government's cuts. Things like saving families £500 per year per child with free, nutritious school meals for all our primary school children - a policy that's now going to be partially rolled out across the country because Islington has shown it works. Keeping our council housing rents as low as possible and taking the Mayor of London to court because he's trying to increase rents in the borough. Paying the London Living Wage to all our staff. And with fuel prices rocketing and the private companies reporting ever bigger profits, we've even started generating our own power. 700 homes in Bunhill are already enjoying cheaper, greener energy from the Bunhill Energy Centre. Soon at least 500 more homes will see the same benefit with a ground breaking project that takes waste heat from London Underground tunnels and pipes it into the heat network to warm local homes.

I wish I could say that our actions meant nobody needed to come to our advice surgeries in desperation. But with a fourth year of this Government attacking some of the most vulnerable people in society, this sadly isn't a Christmas wish I'm going to see fulfilled.

What I can promise in 2014 is this Labour Council will continue standing up for our community and even as our budgets continue to be slashed by the Government, we'll keep prioritising spending what we have on making a difference in tough times.

We'll keep up the fight to save our vital public services, from our post offices and  fire stations to our much loved local Whittington Hospital. We'll keep tackling the unemployment crisis by working with businesses to create jobs and setting up a new Employment Commission to better help people get skills and support. And we'll keep building the new genuinely affordable council housing Islington desperately needs - the borough's biggest house building programme for 30 years.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Christmas Message From Cllr. Watts

Leader’s New Year Message Cllr Richard Watts I get lots of people coming to my advice surgeries, even more so since becoming Leader of the Council in October. What has...

No one should be paid less than they can live on and as a Council we are committed to playing our role in making sure they don’t have to.

Islington’s Labour Council is proud to be one of the UK’s first Councils be accredited as a Living Wage employer. We pay all our council workers the London Living Wage or more and it’s great that most of the council’s contractors have now also signed-up to become Living Wage employers.

It is extremely disappointing, however, that a minority of private companies, particularly those responsible for delivering social care, still do not pay their staff a Living wage.

Islington’s carers do an incredibly important job. Carers work long hours in challenging circumstances caring for our neighbours, family and friends. Society should value their hard work and dedication. The very least they deserve is to be paid a London Living wage.

This letter was published in this week’s Islington Gazette

Cllr. Alice Perry

Proud Islington’s Labour Council is a Living Wage employer

No one should be paid less than they can live on and as a Council we are committed to playing our role in making sure they don’t have to. Islington’s...

Islington Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, has condemned the ‘complacent, dismissive’ response the Minister of State for Disabled People has given to Islington’s declaration of no confidence in Atos.

In October, Islington became the first local authority in the country to directly challenge the Government over Atos’ poor performance in determining eligibility for benefits.

Cllr Richard Watts wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith with details of the wrong decisions Atos are making and the damaging impact on some of Islington’s most vulnerable residents.

The response from Mike Penning MP dismisses these concerns and insists that “when a Tribunal overturns a DWP decision it is not necessarily because that decision was wrong”.

Speaking at an International Day of Disabled People event in Islington Assembly Hall, Cllr Richard Watts tore up the letter in disgust and said: “I’m extremely angry about what was a complacent response by the government to a very real issue. Almost 90 per cent of the people we have supported have been successful in appealing Atos’ decisions, which suggests a massive problem with the quality of work”.

“We want the Minister of State for Disabled People to respond properly – not just send us PR spin”

“We’ll keep gathering even more evidence of the wrong decisions Atos are making and sending it to the government until they sit up and listen”

If you have been affected by an Atos decision and want to share your story with us, please email info@islington-labour.org.uk

Atos fight continues: Council Leader condemns ‘complacent’ government response

Islington Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, has condemned the ‘complacent, dismissive’ response the Minister of State for Disabled People has given to Islington’s declaration of no confidence in Atos. In...

Islington Labour Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, publicly moved a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Atos at a Council Executive meeting last night (Thursday 17 October) and slammed their ‘demeaning and demoralising’ tests to determine if disabled people are fit to work.

An Islington Council scrutiny investigation into Atos, the Government contractor running Work Capability Assessments for local residents on disability benefits, raised serious concerns about their performance. 

Across London 45 per cent of all appeals against Atos ESA ‘fit for work’ decisions are successful.  Within Islington, almost 90 per cent of the 108 ESA appeals made by local residents and assisted by the council were successful.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of the Council said: “Atos’ performance in Islington has been shocking.  Our disabled residents deserve better so I’m calling on the Government to take urgent action.”

“We’re hearing that assessors are ignoring evidence of sickness or disability and don’t always have the medical knowledge to judge whether someone is fit for work.  They seem to be making life changing decisions by ticking boxes on a computer screen”.

In a letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, Cllr Watts writes “The wrong decisions Atos are making have important, even life-changing consequences for some of our most vulnerable residents while the appeals process puts many who are seriously ill under unnecessary stress and uncertainty.”

This action by Islington’s Labour Council is believed to be the first time a council has made a direct challenge to Government over Atos’ poor performance in determining eligibility for benefits. 

Read more about the action in the Islington Tribune

 

(Picture shows Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council and Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing signing the letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) 

Islington Council Leader declares ‘no confidence’ in ATOS

Islington Labour Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, publicly moved a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Atos at a Council Executive meeting last night (Thursday 17 October) and slammed their ‘demeaning and...

The safety of cyclists on Islington's roads is a matter of life and death which the council takes extremely seriously. So, at last night's council meeting, amid ongoing concern following a spate of fatal accidents in the capital, I announced a new three-part package of measures to be introduced by summer next year:

1)    The council will send all its own Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers on the one-day Safe Urban Driving (SUD) training course, which includes spending half a day on a bike to get a cyclist’s view of the road and experience what it’s like riding in a lorry’s blind spot.

2)    The council will, when procuring any major new contract that involves the use of HGVs in the borough, require that the drivers of these vehicles complete the SUD training (or equivalent).

3)    The council will use the Construction Management Plan for any major new development in the borough to urge the developer to ensure that any HGV drivers used on the development complete the SUD training (or equivalent). 

The new rules will apply to vehicles weighing 3.5 tonnes or more, contracts over £100,000 in value and developments of 10 units or more. We will expect contractors and developers to satisfy the conditions within a reasonable timeframe and at no additional cost to the council. Existing council contract managers will monitor implementation alongside the council’s public protection team.

 The new policy, using a range of levers at the council’s disposal, enjoys the backing of Islington Cyclists’ Action Group and the London Cycling Campaign. It builds on the council’s existing efforts to protect cyclists in the borough, including through:

  • engineering improvements at known accident hotspots
  • cycle safety training and educational work
  • lobbying Transport for London (TfL) to make roundabouts and gyratories at King’s Cross, Archway, Nag’s Head, Highbury Corner and Old Street safer. 

Only 6 per cent of Islington’s roads are under the control of TfL, but these roads account for 47 per cent of all traffic accidents, including those involving cyclists. 

We can never eliminate all risk on our roads, but by acting now on our fleet, procurement and planning policies we are doing what we can to minimise it, not only for people on bikes, but for pedestrians and drivers too.

 

Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance and Performance

Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling

The safety of cyclists on Islington's roads is a matter of life and death which the council takes extremely seriously. So, at last night's council meeting, amid ongoing concern following...

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