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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the impact of the 2017 Budget on Islington.

Today (8 March), the Chancellor delivered his Budget statement, setting out the Tories’ plans for the country’s finances. Unfortunately, this Tory Budget has once again failed to deliver for working people in Islington.

For all the press coverage and attention the Budget receives today, it offers little of real value to Islington residents. There will be no help to build more genuinely affordable homes, no new funding for local council services that help people into work and no real help for local businesses that will be hit by the massive increase in Government taxes.

The Chancellor offered warm words to small and medium businesses in Islington who are set to see their business rates rise significantly. However, despite rigorous campaigning from Islington Labour and business representatives, there will not be a freeze on business rates rises. Also, the relief being offered to small businesses is nowhere near enough to support all those who need it.

Despite inflicting 70 per cent cuts on Islington Council, the Tory Government has miraculously found hundreds of millions of pounds to bring back divisive grammar schools. There is overwhelming evidence that grammar schools undermine social mobility and do not increase overall educational performance, so this move is entirely dogmatic. 

Although it is welcome that the Budget promises more money for social care, this is still only a sticking plaster that lasts for a mere three years. Once again the Tories have proven they are anything but the party of the NHS.

By contrast, Islington Labour will continue to build new genuinely affordable homes, with the largest council home building programme for 30 years. We will also continue to help more local people into work, building on the more than 3,000 people we have helped find secure jobs since 2014.

The Tory Budget will also disproportionately hit young people, who will be saddled with the ideological decisions of this Government for years to come. That is why we will support young people by protecting youth services for all and invest in targeted support for those at risk of turning to crime.

The Chancellor did not address the elephant in the room while he was delivering his Budget – Brexit. Despite repeated calls, the Tories have failed to confirm that vital EU funding to councils will be protected post-Brexit. It was also quietly announced today that billions more pounds have been put aside to cope with the effect of Brexit, proving that the Tories do not have a clear plan.

Today’s Tory Budget shows that only Islington Labour is on the side of working people. 

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

This Tory Budget lets down Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the impact of the 2017 Budget on Islington. Today (8 March), the Chancellor delivered his Budget statement, setting out the Tories’...

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Today (1st March) an Islington Labour councillor and business representatives delivered a 12,658-strong petition to the Treasury. The petition calls on the Government to freeze plans to dramatically raise Islington’s business rates.

The Tory Government’s proposed business rates rise will see Islington businesses’ rateable values rise by 45 per cent – the third highest rise in England.

The Islington Chamber of Commerce and Angel Business Improvement District, supported by Islington Council, handed the petition to Treasury officials ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget announcement on 8th March.

12,658 signatories asked the Government to freeze the implementation of the business rates valuation until after Britain leaves the EU. The petition also urges the Treasury to extend reliefs, which will help small and medium businesses cope with the effect of a significant rise.

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, said:

“A big increase in business rates could force small and medium businesses to close or move – damaging the diverse and independent nature of our business communities.

“We urge the Treasury to stop these plans and support our shops and services in these turbulent times ahead.”

You can still add your call to the ongoing petition against the business rates rise on Change.org.

 

Pictured - Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, and business representatives delivering the business rates petition to the Treasury

Islington Labour councillor and businesses deliver business rates petition to Treasury

Today (1st March) an Islington Labour councillor and business representatives delivered a 12,658-strong petition to the Treasury. The petition calls on the Government to freeze plans to dramatically raise Islington’s business rates....

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Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about the Fair Futures Commission.

This week (22 February) Islington Council launched its pioneering Fair Futures Commission, which will explore how we can create a truly child and youth friendly community.

Islington Labour is committed to creating a fairer borough for all. That is why in 2017 there will be a focus on all children and young people to help them better reach their full potential.

Islington is a fantastic place to grow up, with brilliant parks, museums, sports facilities and cultural venues right on the doorstep. However, for far too many children and young people, growing up in Islington is challenging. We want to take a radical look at how the Council and its partners can help to change that.

Since taking control of the Council in 2010, Islington Labour has been working hard to make the borough a place where all children, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to succeed.

We have had significant achievements in and are continuing to work hard on key areas, such as building more genuinely affordable homes, helping local people into work, and targeting support to young people who need it most. Local schools continue to improve, with the progress pupils make in Islington’s secondary schools ranking in the top 20 in the country.

Despite significant cuts to council funding by the central Government, we have kept all our children’s centres open and invested millions in youth services. Our pioneering universal free school meals programme means no child in Islington has to start their day hungry.

But there is still more that can be done to ensure all children and young people get the best start in life.

There are challenges but also opportunities to drive innovation and positive change. The only way to achieve this is to listen to everyone, inspire others and challenge ourselves.

I am delighted that Jermain Jackman, a former Islington Arts and Media School student and winner of TV talent show The Voice in 2014, will be chairing the Fair Futures Commission. High profile academics, psychologists, Islington parents and young people, will also serve on the Board. This meeting of talented minds will mean the Commission can provide independent advice and support by bringing everyone together who wants to make Islington a fairer place for all.

We are keen to hear from everyone who is passionate about creating a fairer Islington for children and young people. If you are interested in getting involved in the Commission please visit the website.

I look forward to sharing the Commission’s story with you over the coming year.

Pictured - Jermain Jackman, Chair of the Fair Futures Commission, and Duncombe Primary school pupils at the launch of the Fair Futures Commission

Helping Islington’s children and young people get the best start in life

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about the Fair Futures Commission. This week (22 February) Islington Council launched its pioneering Fair Futures Commission, which...

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Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, blogs on the Government's housing white paper

Last week, after months of waiting, the Government issued its housing white paper, which promised to fix our broken housing market. Instead, all we got was a damp squib.

Once again, the Tories have failed to take any meaningful action to help ease the housing crisis. There is no new money for council homes, yet we all know that Islington desperately needs more genuinely affordable housing. That is why the Council is investing £40 million in this year alone to deliver the biggest house building programme for 30 years.

It is clear that the Government does not understand that working people in Islington need secure and affordable homes. In 2014, Labour-led Islington Council pledged to deliver 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes, including 500 council homes, by 2019, and we are on track to meet this target.

For private renters, promises of more security and protection are welcome, but warm words alone do not lead to secure warm homes for families trapped in private renting.

The Government cannot pretend to take security for families seriously if they are also pressing ahead with plans to end lifetime tenancies for council properties and forcing councils to sell off council homes.

Once again, the Tories have failed to properly deal with the housing crisis. Labour-led Islington Council will continue to fight the most damaging elements of the Government’s housing plans and will continue to build more genuinely affordable homes.

 

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

Tories once again fail to tackle the housing crisis

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, blogs on the Government's housing white paper Last week, after months of waiting, the Government issued its housing white paper, which...

Islington Labour backs calls for Government to freeze business rates hike

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Islington Labour is supporting calls by local business groups for the Tory Government to freeze the implementation of higher business rates across the borough.

Business rates are set by national government and the valuations of all businesses in the country were recently reviewed. Many businesses in Islington, including small businesses, will see business rates bills increase significantly.  

The average 45% increase in rateable values for Islington is the 3rd highest in England.

Islington Chamber of Commerce and Angel Business Improvement District (BID) have organised a petition calling on the government to -

  • freeze the implementation of the new rates;
  • extend support for businesses affected by higher business rates;
  • give more help to small businesses by increasing the threshold for Small Business Rate Relief in inner London, funded by national Government.

Labour-run Islington Council is supporting the initiative.

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, said –

“Islington is very lucky to have such diverse high streets and the impact on smaller firms from this increase will be severe. We’ve already seen rents go up significantly over recent years and I am worried that the hike in business rates will put more pressure on local shops to close or move elsewhere.

"Our local businesses provide jobs and vital services for local people, and we are deeply concerned about the impact the Tory Government’s hike in business rates will have.

“I’ve been working closely with businesses and business groups, and many people are really worried about what these massive increases in bills will mean for them.

“We are calling for the Government not to go ahead with these plans and the council is offering local companies advice on how they can manage the changes ahead.”

The petition can be found here and will be handed to the Government before the national budget is set on 8th March.

Please join the campaign and add your name to the petition today.

Freeze business rates hike

Islington Labour backs calls for Government to freeze business rates hike Islington Labour is supporting calls by local business groups for the Tory Government to freeze the implementation of higher...

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The iconic LGBT flag will be flying over Islington Town Hall once again this February to mark LGBT History Month.

Islington has a proud LGBT history, where it played host to the UK’s first gay rights demonstration on Highbury Fields in 1970.

LGBT History Month 2017 has particular significance, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years and in private.

To mark the start of LGBT History month, a rare artwork purchased through the generosity of anonymous donors and an Art Fund Grant went on display for the first time at Islington Museum.

‘World of Cats’, a five-and-a-half foot, four panel screen decorated with a collage of cats, was created in 1966 by artist Kenneth Halliwell. Halliwell lived with his playwright partner, Joe Orton, between 1959 and 1967 in Noel Road, Islington.

Halliwell and Orton notoriously stole books from Islington libraries then defaced and returned them in the 1960s. Eventually they were caught and imprisoned for sixth months and it is thought their sentence was in part so harsh because of their then-illegal homosexual relationship. In 1967, Halliwell killed Orton before committing suicide.

The defaced book jackets are kept permanently in Islington Museum, along with ‘World of Cats’ until 13th March 2017.

Cllr Aysegul Erdon, Equalities Champion, said: “Islington’s LGBT community contributes so much to our borough. Without them, we would not be the diverse and eclectic society we are today.

“It is fantastic that ‘World of Cats’ has been returned to its home in Islington. It is a valuable piece of our borough’s cultural history and I encourage everyone to see it while it is on display.”

 

Pictured - Islington Labour councillors fly the LGBT flag at Islington Town Hall

Islington Labour marks LGBT History Month

The iconic LGBT flag will be flying over Islington Town Hall once again this February to mark LGBT History Month. Islington has a proud LGBT history, where it played host...

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Islington Labour councillors have secured significant concessions on the Archway transformation works from Transport for London (TfL) on behalf of residents and passengers.

The removal of the gyratory will create a new public space and two-way traffic system, along with cycle lanes and improved pedestrian crossings. The works are expected to be completed by summer 2017 and will also allow new genuinely affordable homes to be built.

However, TfL’s works have resulted in the relocation or removal of bus stops in Archway, as well as traffic congestion on residential roads. Long before the works began, Islington Labour councillors have been pressing TfL to introduce measures to mitigate any negative impact for residents and passengers. Islington Labour have committed to campaign every day to ensure TfL gets this major transformation right, so as to maximise the benefits for all.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, has been raising concerns about the works for months. In December 2016, she wrote to the Mayor Sadiq Khan to express frustration with TfL’s communication with the Council and local community about the Archway bus consultation report.

Following ongoing campaigning from Islington Labour, TfL have agreed to -

  • Monitor and review putting bus stops at other locations, so that route destinations and stop locations work for passengers
  • Reroute certain buses to terminate at Whittington Hospital and/or St John’s Grove near Upper Holloway station
  • Introduce new clearer signage in the area to let passengers know about the changes
  • Deploy uniformed transport information helpers in the area, to help residents and visitors alike for the duration of the works and beyond
  • Introduce ‘live’ next bus information boards at Archway station, and countdown signs at a number of bus stops around Archway
  • Introduce a clean bus fleet at Archway as quickly as possible
  • Ensure bus drivers comply with Islington Council’s anti-engine idling agenda
  • Take action now to design out crime and anti-social behaviour, including rubbish at bus stop locations
  • Undertake traffic modelling once the works are complete and take corrective action as necessary
  • Undertake corrective measures and changes if traffic monitoring shows significant increases in traffic volumes on local roads
  • Allow residents to take ownership of the look and feel of the new public space
  • Monitor and review the information arrangements for cyclists whilst the public square is being built, and take action to eradicate any pedestrian and cyclist conflict once built
  • Provide a modest improvement to the Archway station façade
  • Support the Council on planting at Pauntley Street and additional trees and hedges to mitigate the effect of the bus stands
  • Consult on and implement a border of trees and other greenery at Vorley Road outside the children’s centre
  • Consult and reach a resolution on the Despard Road loading bay

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Throughout TfL’s work to transform Archway, Islington Labour councillors have been putting residents and passengers first. We have demanded and secured these key concessions from TfL on their behalf, and will continue to hold TfL to account.

“For years, we campaigned for the removal of the Archway gyratory. It will bring the greatest transformation to the area in a generation, giving the town centre a much-needed boost in terms of safety and economically. Everyone who uses the area will benefit from these exciting changes.” 

Val Shawcross, London's Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “‘The Archway scheme will bring significant benefits to people living and working in the area – including substantial safety improvements for walking and cycling.

“TfL have been working very closely with Islington Council, Assembly Members and particularly councillors like Claudia Webbe to ensure the scheme is the very best it can be. This includes looking at small further changes – specifically reconsidering the location of a bus stop, some signage improvements  and  improving pedestrian access to a bus stop across a cycle lane.”

 

Pictured - Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport

Islington Labour councillors secure more Archway concessions from TfL

Islington Labour councillors have secured significant concessions on the Archway transformation works from Transport for London (TfL) on behalf of residents and passengers. The removal of the gyratory will create...

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Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, blogs for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017.

Today (Friday) is Holocaust Memorial Day, which offers us an opportunity to reflect on the millions of people around the world who have lost their lives to genocide. We openly commit to standing against intolerance and, through our awareness of the Holocaust’s atrocities, pledge never to let it happen again.

As someone whose family was profoundly shaped by the Holocaust, Holocaust Memorial Day has a particular significance for me and my family. My grandfather survived Dachau concentration camp and came to the UK as a Refugee. I have always been aware that my existence was predicated on the people being brave and willing to help others. 

From the Holocaust to Rwanda to Bosnia, genocides are humanity’s darkest nightmares realised. We must never forget these tragedies and learn from history so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. And we must never be silent when confronted with racism and hatred.

Holocaust Memorial Day reminds us why we must counter the rising tide of anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms. Why we must continue to respond to global crises like the conflict in Syria with compassion.  I am proud to call Islington my home, where people can practice whatever religion they choose without fear of being persecuted. I am even prouder that as a council we have been able to make Islington a home for over twenty refugees from Syria.

It is obscene that, in this day and age, many people in this country have been attacked because of their religious affiliations and confronted with racist graffiti, verbal threats and even physical violence. That is why the Council has set up the Anti-Hate Crime strategy, so we can bring the perpetrators to justice and send a clear message that hatred has no place in Islington.

We must lead by example, both in the UK and internationally, and stamp out hatred wherever we find it.

 

Pictured: Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Jeremy Corbyn MP and others at Islington Council's Holocaust Memorial Day reception

Hate has no place in Islington

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, blogs for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017. Today (Friday) is Holocaust Memorial Day, which offers us an opportunity to reflect on the millions...

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Islington now ranks in the top 20 in the country for boosting pupils’ attainment, new figures released this week reveal.

Islington has been ranked 18th out of 151 local authorities for the academic progress made by pupils between the end of primary school and their GCSE results across eight key subjects.

This represents a radical transformation in the performance of Islington’s schools. In 2008, the borough ranked in the bottom 20 local authorities for its GCSE results.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, says: “We now have some of the best schools in the country that are helping young people in Islington progress faster than many other areas.

“These results are a ringing endorsement for the quality and high standards in our schools, and are a testament to the hard work of all teaching and support staff, as well as the pupils themselves.”

New figures from the Department for Education (DfE) show that Islington pupils’ GCSE results are far ahead of the national averages in several key subjects. 64.2% of pupils gained a grade C or better in GCSE Mathematics and English Language or English Literature. These compares with 59.3% in England, a new measure introduced this year.

Some 58.7% of Islington pupils achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Mathematics, up by 0.8%. This was again above the national rate, which fell by 0.3% to 53.5%.

The Progress 8 score showed that Islington pupils’ GCSE results were almost one-fifth of a grade better than their peers nationally in 2016.

The figures also build on the progress in primary schools. Recent DfE figures revealed the performance of disadvantaged children in Islington primary schools for reading, writing and maths combined last year was the 11th best in England.

Islington schools in the top 20 in the country for pupil progress

Islington now ranks in the top 20 in the country for boosting pupils’ attainment, new figures released this week reveal. Islington has been ranked 18th out of 151 local authorities...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, responds to the Prime Minister's speech confirming the Government will be pursuing a 'hard Brexit.

Today, the Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed her Government would be pursuing ‘hard Brexit’ at the expense of people’s jobs, wellbeing and rights.

Hard Brexit not only risks the economy but also the regulations that guarantee workers’ rights, human rights and environmental protection. It is no wonder some Tories are so excited at the prospect.

This chaotic Brexit offers nothing for Islington, where 75 per cent of residents voted to remain.

May’s Brexit plan is far removed from reality. She claims that the UK will continue to work with and welcome its neighbours but refuses to guarantee the rights of the 30,000 EU nationals living in Islington. She claims immigration must be cut to protect public services but it is really years of damaging Tory cuts that are to blame.

It is obscene that the Tories scapegoat immigrants for the problems they have created.

I am proud to represent a borough where people from all over the world have set up businesses and contributed to our economy, from the NHS to our very own Council. The Tories have removed much of the NHS’ money. Now they seem determined to starve it of staff too.

Hard Brexit will be felt by everyone who lives and works in Islington. The Government has refused to guarantee that vital EU funding, which helps councils support local people, will be protected. This is despite promises that were made throughout the election campaign. Of course, the Tories have also abandoned that promise of an extra £350m per week for the NHS.

The road ahead will be hard and the effects of leaving the European Union will be felt for generations to come. Thanks to the Government’s chaotic Brexit, even further cuts will come. However, Islington Labour will continue to fight for a fairer borough and protect spending in the areas that are most important to working people.

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Hard Brexit is the worst-case scenario for Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, responds to the Prime Minister's speech confirming the Government will be pursuing a 'hard Brexit. Today, the Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed her...

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