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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, writes about Living Wage Week 2015 - 

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It’s been three years since Islington became the joint-first local authority to become an accredited Living Wage employer. I am proud that, under Islington Labour’s leadership, we are ensuring more people receive fairer pay.

The benefits of paying the Living Wage are not just felt by those people who receive better pay, they are also felt by the employers themselves. Our homecare providers have reported that since they started paying the Living Wage, staff turnover has reduced from 10% per year to 3%. They have also reported improved staff performance and morale. All of this gives strength to our argument that the Living Wage is good for all.

All directly employed council staff and 98% of its contracted staff are now paid at least the London Living Wage. Last year, we were proud to announce that our major providers of homecare would pay their staff, who do some of the most vital work for some of the most in need people in Islington, the Living Wage.

You may have seen lots of reports lately about the pressures the care sector faces, particularly around the introduction of the Tory Government’s ‘national living wage’. It’s true, social care faces many pressures, and this isn’t helped by the massive cuts imposed on local councils by the Tory Government.

However, Islington’s story shows that this does not have to mean that homecare workers should not receive fair pay.

I was delighted this week to celebrate Living Wage Week by confirming that Islington has achieved yet another first - we are the first local council to ensure that any charities or voluntary groups that we fund through our core grants scheme pay the Living Wage.

However, whilst more private employers are paying the Living Wage, there is much more work to do.

Pictured - Cllr Janet Burgess and Cllr Richard Watts

The real Living Wage making a difference

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, writes about Living Wage Week 2015 -  It’s been three years since Islington became the joint-first local authority to become an accredited Living...

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Transport for London (TfL) have announced plans to replace the two lifts at Caledonian Road tube station, which will result in the closure of the station for 8 months from March 14th 2016 until the end of 2016.

Your Islington Council has written to the Mayor of London as the Chair of TfL, calling upon him to reverse the decision to close the station as it can be kept open by replacing one lift at a time.

You can help by signing the petition - click here

The good news is that we have TfL on the run. Under pressure they have:

  •  moved back the station closure to March 14th,
  •  admitted that the station can easily be kept  open by repairing one lift at a time.

The report that went to the TfL board shows that the reason TfL chose to close the station for 8 months was to save themselves £524,000, an 11% saving on the project cost, even though they estimated that cost to the travelling public would be £4,297,000.

TfL took no account of the broader needs of the travelling public who own TfL. They did not consider the impracticality of putting extra buses on Caledonian Road, travel for the disabled or Arsenal Match day plans. 

Cally Road Tube

Transport for London (TfL) have announced plans to replace the two lifts at Caledonian Road tube station, which will result in the closure of the station for 8 months from...

All across the country, October marks Black History Month (BHM). BHM is designed to celebrate, recognise and promote knowledge of the achievements of the Black community to British history, culture and heritage.

Each year, Islington has a comprehensive set of activities and events to mark BHM. Last year events in Islington, with the theme of Social Justice, saw a 50% increase in participation from the previous year - with over 2,000 participants and community partners taking part in celebrations and activities. 

But at the Full Council Meeting on 15th October, councillors called for a new approach to ensure that black history is fully integrated into the school curriculum. This is part of our move to an approach called, 'All World History, All Year Round'

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Islington Council's Equalities Champion, Cllr Kaya Comer Schwartz, said about the motion passed at Full Council

"The rich diversity of Islington is fundamental to the very fabric of our community and to making the borough a fantastic place in which to live and work.

“Every child should feel included and engaged by the history they study in school, at all times, and no student should feel overlooked by the education they receive.

“We are already working together with some schools to develop a more culturally inclusive curriculum. But we think that much more could be done to showcase Black cultural heritage and Black contributions to British society and history.

“I’d encourage anyone who wants to contribute to Islington’s All World History agenda to get in touch with ideas, events and educational resources.”  

The motion was seconded by Cllr Claudia Webbe.

Black history to be fully integrated into school curriculum

All across the country, October marks Black History Month (BHM). BHM is designed to celebrate, recognise and promote knowledge of the achievements of the Black community to British history, culture...

Islington Labour Party are looking to recruit a Borough Organiser to help us with our ongoing campaign work.

This position represents an excellent opportunity to gain experience in working on a successful campaign in a borough recognised as being a leader in campaign best practice.

The successful candidate will be based at the Islington Labour Party Offices, which has excellent transport links.

The successful candidate will have:

  • experience of being employed or working as an election organiser for the Labour Party
  • experience of organising events and motivating groups of volunteers
  • experience of using new technology, (experience using Nation Builder is desirable)
  • experience of managing and developing volunteers
  • experience of working on own initiative
  • experience of fundraising

The position is full-time and will require a great deal of flexible working, including some weekend work – especially in the run up to the elections in May 2016.

The successful applicant will work to the campaign priorities established by the Campaign Committee of the Islington LCF, with day-to-day line management provided by the Chair of the LCF.

The starting salary will be £30,856.25 (inclusive of London weighting) per annum.

This is a fixed term contract from the time of appointment to the end of June 2018.

Applications should consist of a CV with a covering letter explaining why you are suitable for the role to islingtonorganiser@hotmail.com by Monday 2nd November at 6pm.

A full job description and person specification can be found here.

 

Job Opportunity - Borough Organiser

Islington Labour Party are looking to recruit a Borough Organiser to help us with our ongoing campaign work. This position represents an excellent opportunity to gain experience in working on...

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St Peter's ward councillor, Cllr Alice Perry, spoke at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Read her speech below - 

Our lives our defined by our work, the communities we come from and our most strongly held values and beliefs. Our lives are defied by the people and places we love. The Stronger, Safer Policy commission covers the issues at the heart of what matters to us most.

May’s General Election defeat was devastating. Some of us still feel in shock at the prospect of what another five year’s of a Conservative Government means for our communities.

Labour’s general election defeat has been particularly hard for all of us in local government. Councils have had their funding cut dramatically since the Tories came to power in 2010. These reckless cuts to Council budgets endanger vital public services. We must come together as a Labour movement to oppose them.

But despite the massive cuts to our budgets, Labour Councillors continue to make a huge positive difference to our communities. Despite enormous cuts to our funding, Councillors continue to demonstrate the positive difference voting Labour makes.

Together we continue to champion policies that make a real difference to people, policies like:

  • Building new affordable Council housing
  • Tackling rouge landlords
  • Paying workers the living wage – the real living wage
  • Helping residents reduce energy bills and tackling fuel poverty
  • Securing new jobs and apprenticeships, and helping people back to work
  • tackling payday lending
  • promoting the use of credit unions
  • regenerating our communities
  • supporting local businesses
  • Supporting our armed forces and honouring those who have served our country
  • Developing new models of integrated health and social care
  • Providing free school meals to school children
  • Pioneering new ways of improving public health
  • Using ethical procurement policies and challenging companies guilty of blacklisting workers.
  • Improving roads and access to transport
  • And supporting refugees

If people want to know why they should vote Labour, they should look at what we are doing in local government.

As well as important areas like local government, devolution, housing, immigration, crime and justice, this policy commission also covers sport.

Remember when David Cameron forgot what football team he is supposed to pretend to support? David Cameron doesn’t really get football, he just doesn’t understand.

Labour, however recognise that football clubs are not businesses, instead they belong to their communities. They are an important part of many people’s cultural identity and sense of belonging.

But despite football club’s importance in the lives of their members and supporters, too often there are no effective means for fans to have a say in how their clubs are run. Labour’s 2015 manifesto planned to introduce legislation to enable accredited supporters trusts to appoint and remove at least two of the directors of a football club and to purchase shares when the club changes hands.

The principal of supporters on the boards of football clubs reflects our wider values and should also pave the way for places for workers on the boards of companies. The plans were symbolic of the wider narrative – that the Labour Party is prepared to take power away from a self-interested elite and this give power back to our communities.

We know the next five years are going to be incredibly tough. Unless something very dramatic happens we are out of national government until 2020. But despite massive, unfair cuts from the Tory government, that hit the most deprived areas hardest, Labour Councils still deliver.

We run many of the UK’s major cities, towns and regions. In many areas Labour’s Councillors are the last line of defend against this Tory government. There are many, vital local elections between now and 2020. Our 7,000 Councillors are leading the Labour fightback.

Labour's 7,000 Councillors are leading the fightback

St Peter's ward councillor, Cllr Alice Perry, spoke at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Read her speech below -  Our lives our defined by our work, the communities...

On Tuesday 29th September, Islington North MP, Jeremy Corbyn, gave his first speech to Labour Party Conference as Leader of the Labour Party.

Following Jeremy's victory in the Leadership contest, he has set out his new direction of honest, straight talking politics. 

Jeremy's speech showed that it’s time for grown-up politics as he set out how Labour will build a better, more caring and prosperous society based on the values of decency, justice and equality.

We are building a new politics that involves real debate. A vision rooted in British values and committed to mutual respect.

Jeremy showed that Labour can provide a real alternative to the Tories’ failed austerity, by investing for the future and giving economic security to families – campaigning against tax credit cuts, and looking at new ways to support Britain’s growing number of self-employed people.

Watch Jeremy's speech here - 

Jeremy was introduced before his speech in Brighton by 19 year old Islington resident, Rohi Malik. Rohi lives in Tufnell Park and her father came to Britain in the early 1980s as a refugee from Pakistan. 

Rohi was interviewed by Labour MP, Cat Smith, and you can watch the video here - 

 

Jeremy Corbyn MP's Leader's Speech

On Tuesday 29th September, Islington North MP, Jeremy Corbyn, gave his first speech to Labour Party Conference as Leader of the Labour Party. Following Jeremy's victory in the Leadership contest,...

On Saturday 12th September, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, was elected as the new Leader of the Labour Party. 

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, welcomed Jeremy Corbyn MP’s election, saying: 

“I want to wish Jeremy my sincere congratulations on his election as Leader of the Labour Party. Jeremy’s victory was stunning and is good news for Islington. 

“Jeremy has been a friend and colleague for many years, working closely with the council as we work to make a difference for ordinary working people in Islington. 

“The Labour Party has voted for a new kind of politics, and for urgent action on the issues that really matter like building more genuinely affordable homes, helping people into work, and tackling the cost of living; all issues we have been working with Jeremy on for years. 

“I look forward to continuing to work with Jeremy to deliver for Islington, and to getting rid of this Tory Government.”

 

Congratulations Jeremy!

On Saturday 12th September, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, was elected as the new Leader of the Labour Party.  Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, welcomed Jeremy Corbyn MP’s...

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Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has today called on residents to join him in calling on the Government to deliver real action on the refugee crisis. 

Cllr Watts said: 

Islington, London, and Britain as a country, has always understood that people facing persecution or fleeing conflict have a home here. Sadly, the Government has forgotten this. 

That's why Islington must come together to put pressure on the Government to offer help and a home to refugees.

Please join me in signing this petition calling on the Government to increase support for refugees and to accept more people seeking asylum.

Islington Council has been working with London Citizens since November 2014 to agree how our borough can play its part in helping refugees fleeing the war in Syria. But our plans to help people have been blocked by the Government who need to agree to take more refugees and provide proper financial support for communities willing to receive people. 


No one could fail to be moved by the images we have seen in the last few days. My sons are about the same age as Aylan and Galip Kurdi, whose deaths have so shocked the world. I held my sons extra closely last night. But tweeting our shock, outrage, and disbelief, is not enough. We have to demand real action is taken and that starts with the Government. 

Join me in signing the petition today.

You can also make a donation via Unicef here.

Government must act on refugee crisis

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has today called on residents to join him in calling on the Government to deliver real action on the refugee crisis.  Cllr Watts...

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Islington Council is set to investigate how companies that avoid paying UK tax can be barred from council contracts.

The Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee will report before Christmas after calling-in large companies that have been accused of tax avoidance to answer councillors’ questions. 

The ‘scrutiny review’ follows the pioneering work of the same committee which led to the first anti-blacklisting policy adopted by the council in 2014. 

Chair of the Committee, Cllr Troy Gallagher, commented: “Tax avoidance is a disgrace and deprives the country of billions of pounds each year. At a time of massive cuts from the Government to Islington, we need to make sure that big companies are paying their fair share of tax.”

The committee will identify companies that the council currently contracts with that are allegedly avoiding tax, and investigate how procurement processes could be updated to ensure that these companies do not win Council contracts.

The investigation will also seek to understand how companies are avoiding UK tax and what powers, such as licensing powers, the council has to influence companies’ behaviour.

Following an investigation by the Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee in March 2014, Islington Council became the first council to take decisive action against firms that had been involved in the practice of blacklisting. Blacklisting is the illegal practice of denying employment to individuals on the basis of information, accurate or not, which is held on a database. Firms who want council contracts must now show they do not practise blacklisting, and those who have used blacklisting in the past must prove they have ceased and taken sufficient measures to remedy their past wrongs. Any council contractor caught practising blacklisting in the future will have their contract terminated.

Cllr Gallagher added: “The pioneering work the committee did on blacklisting is something we will build on as we call time on tax avoiders. We will be hearing evidence from tax experts, council managers, and will be requesting input from HMRC and others.

“People in Islington know that it is only fair to ask companies to pay their tax; it’s time we made sure the council does all it can to tackle tax avoidance.” 

Calling Time on Tax Avoiding Companies

Islington Council is set to investigate how companies that avoid paying UK tax can be barred from council contracts. The Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee will report before Christmas after...

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Two ground-breaking policies have been announced this week by Islington Labour to help deliver more homes for local people. 

Since 2010, we have seen 2,000 genuinely affordable homes built - including council homes for social rent - and Islington Labour is committed to delivering a further 1,500 new affordable homes. Despite the largest affordable homes building programme in a generation, like the rest of London, Islington faces a housing crisis. 

Part of the problem we face in Islington is developers using unclear 'financial viability' assessments to reduce the amount of affordable housing required as part of new building projects. This is part of what happened at Mount Pleasant when the Mayor delivered only a fraction of the affordable housing we needed.

Under our policies, the council always secures the most affordable housing it can, and this week launched a new front in the battle to deliver the homes local people need. Since changes by the Tory Government in 2012 were brought in, it has become more common for developers to use excuses through 'viability assessments' to claim they cannot afford to build affordable homes. 

In ground-breaking new guidance to developers, a number of measures will help us to what is right for Islington when assessing viability. You can read more about the new guidelines here.

But Islington Labour's action to tackle the housing crisis doesn't end here. In a separate pioneering move, the council has announced new rules to tackle the scourge of 'buy-to-leave' - where homes are bought and never lived in, before being sold on - denying local people housing.

By requiring developers to ensure that evidence is produced that homes are regularly lived-in, these new policies will aim to reduce the 'wasted supply' from these homes not being used to provide homes for local people. You can read more about these policies here.

Commenting on these new policies, Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, said:

"Islington, like London, is facing a housing crisis and it's vital that all new homes help meet the huge demand for places to live.

"Our new measures make it clear that "buy-to-leave" is unacceptable. They make clear that new homes have to, at the very least, be lived in - I think that's a pretty reasonable thing to ask.

“There is growing evidence some developers use ‘viability assessments’ to their advantage, such as inflating land costs to say they can’t afford to build affordable housing.

“Our new rules make sure developers can’t game the system. We want to make the system transparent, clear, and fair, to help make sure the affordable housing we badly need is built.”

 

 

Action to deliver homes for Islington

Two ground-breaking policies have been announced this week by Islington Labour to help deliver more homes for local people.  Since 2010, we have seen 2,000 genuinely affordable homes built -...

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