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11 Islington pharmacies could close as a result of the Tory Government’s planned cuts to community pharmacy budgets.

There are currently 49 pharmacies in Islington, serving a population of 225,000. They have a vital place in the local community, particularly for the elderly, disabled and those with long term illnesses. They also provide vital support to already over-stretched surgeries and hospitals.

Despite this, the borough risks being reduced to 38 pharmacies.

The Tory Government is ignoring national opposition and pushing ahead with huge cuts to community pharmacy budgets – a 12% reduction on current funding levels for the rest of this year and a 7% cut next year. Up to 3,000 across England could close as a result.

The Government has announced a ‘Pharmacy Access Scheme’ that it claims will protect access in areas where there are fewer pharmacies with higher health needs, but it is misguided. The scheme is simply based on distance from other pharmacies and takes no notice of local health needs at all.

Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, said: “At a time when the NHS is at breaking point, with A&E waiting times up and GP surgeries struggling to cope, the Tory Government should not be putting this extra strain on our community health services. 

“Islington Labour councillors will fight against these unfair cuts. We will also be writing to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, to outline our opposition. Pharmacies offer vital services to the local community, saving hundreds of GP visits and delivering preventative advice, and the shock of losing 11 of them will be felt by those who need them the most.”

Islington pharmacies under threat from Tory cuts

11 Islington pharmacies could close as a result of the Tory Government’s planned cuts to community pharmacy budgets. There are currently 49 pharmacies in Islington, serving a population of 225,000....

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Islington Labour councillors have been making their voices heard by TfL since the unexpected closure of Holloway Road was announced.

Since the closure came into effect three weeks ago, residents and local businesses have expressed their frustration at its wide-ranging effects and councillors have been raising their concerns with TfL. Following a public meeting between residents, TfL representatives and councillors last week, further concessions have been announced.

On Wednesday 2nd November, local Labour councillors organised a public meeting for residents to put their concerns to TfL managers directly.

As a result of councillors’ interventions, TfL has agreed to:

  • Promote that local businesses are open as usual by printing and distributing flyers to local community hubs, sending letters to 135,000 properties and providing supplementary signage.
  • Install additional signs advising on the HGV ban. Enforceable 7.5ft signs have also been in place on Tufnell Park Road since Friday 4 November.
  • Make additional changes to bus services in the area to help reduce congestion. Route 17 is running between London Bridge and Nags Head, rather than continuing to Archway, while route 263 is running between Barnet Hospital and Archway, rather than Highbury and Islington.
  • Continue to run a free shuttle bus every 10-12 minutes from 0600 to midnight, between stop L on Holloway Road (Nags Head) and temporary stops near Upper Holloway Station.
  • Install environmental monitoring equipment on Tufnell Park Road to measure air quality.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Since TfL agreed to a number of concessions, particularly around the HGV ban and changes to bus services, some of the worst effects of the closure have thankfully been reduced. However, there is still much work to be done.

“It is particularly important for our vibrant and thriving community that local businesses do not suffer as a result of the closure. That is why we have been calling hard on TfL to advertise widely that shops and businesses on Holloway Road are open as usual.

“We will continue to engage with TfL to ensure that they are delivering on their promises and raise concerns on behalf of the borough.” 

Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station

UPDATE – Latest Holloway Road closure concessions

Islington Labour councillors have been making their voices heard by TfL since the unexpected closure of Holloway Road was announced. Since the closure came into effect three weeks ago, residents...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, statement on HMP Pentonville –

“It is deeply concerning that two prisoners have escaped from HMP Pentonville. The police are leading efforts to find the escaped prisoners and we are offering assistance to them. Our priority is to ensure that local residents are kept safe.

“This latest incident at the prison comes after the recent murder of a prisoner and multiple reports of security concerns at the prison.

“It has been clear for some time that there are real problems at the prison, which has been chronically underfunded by the government. The government has cut prison budgets by more than a third and has cut 5,200 prison officers since 2010, despite the number of prisoners more than doubling over the last 20 years. This has led directly to the problems facing many prisons across the country, including HMP Pentonville.

“Despite the efforts of prison officers, who do an extremely difficult job that has been made harder by the actions of the government, drugs, weapons and other forbidden items are getting into the prison. The prison’s perimeter walls are being exploited as routes for contraband to be passed into the prison, and this is simply not acceptable to us or the local residents who see this criminal activity going on.

“This is a situation that cannot continue.

“Senior colleagues and I will be meeting with the Prison Governor very shortly to raise our serious concerns again and to demand clear action to address the issues in the prison and immediately outside of it.

“However, we must also recognise that until the government acknowledges the crisis facing our prison system, fully resolving HMP Pentonville’s issues will not be possible. We will continue to make this point to the government loud and clear.”

 

Statement on HMP Pentonville

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, statement on HMP Pentonville – “It is deeply concerning that two prisoners have escaped from HMP Pentonville. The police are leading efforts to...

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From 7th November, the Government's benefit cap for families on out-of-work benefits in London has been reduced to £23,000 (£15,410 for single people).

Islington Council estimates upwards of 800 local households will be affected, with an average reduction in income of around £50 per household each week.  Some households will lose more than £200 a week.

200 residents are already affected by the benefit cap, and a further 600 will be impacted from Boxing Day this year when they are subject to the benefit cap for the first time.

Islington Council is offering support to hundreds of households in the borough who will be affected by the benefit cap which the government is lowering today.

Independent research commissioned by the council looked at 22,388 low-income Islington households who are of working age and subject to welfare reforms. It found that benefit changes since 2010 have resulted in an average fall in income of £5.62 per week for these households. Between now and 2020, it predicts these households will lose on average a further £40 a week.

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council's executive member for finance, performance and community safety, said: "Today, around 200 Islington households already affected by the current benefit cap will get hit again, losing a further £57 a week as the cap is lowered to £23,000 a year. A third of these people are already living in temporary accommodation. Then, on Boxing Day, at least a further 600 Islington households will get a late, unwelcome Christmas present when they are hit by the benefit cap for the first time. 

“Islington Council's IMAX and iWork teams, who offer financial guidance and employment coaching, will continue to support all of these households closely to help them find work or consider their options.

"When it comes to so-called ‘welfare reform’, though, we need to consider not each government measure in isolation but the cumulative effect of this raft of reforms overall. 22,000 households in Islington – around a fifth of all the households in the borough – will be in the region of £45 per week on average worse off in real terms in 2020 than they were when a decade of Tory welfare reform began in 2010.

“In the face of these relentless cuts to social security, our local Council Tax Support Scheme and Resident Support Scheme can feel like fraying ropes in an increasingly threadbare safety net.”

For the full commissioned research on the impact of welfare reform in Islington, see here.

 

Pictured - Cllr Andy Hull

Government’s benefit cap to cost Islington families £50 per week

From 7th November, the Government's benefit cap for families on out-of-work benefits in London has been reduced to £23,000 (£15,410 for single people). Islington Council estimates upwards of 800 local...

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Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about how Islington is leading the way as a Living Wage employer.

This Living Wage Week, the Living Wage flag is flying proudly on top of Islington Town Hall and Living Wage posters have gone up around the borough to signal once more Labour councillors’ commitment to tackling the scandal of poverty pay.

Islington Council was the first local authority in the UK to become accredited as a Living Wage employer, back in 2012. This was off the back of the Islington Fairness Commission, itself the first of now 24 Fairness Commissions around England, Scotland and Wales.

All of the council’s own staff are paid at least the London Living Wage and we have also convinced our contractors to sign up, with 98 per cent of contracted staff now being paid at least the Living Wage too.

We are still working hard to address the outstanding 2 per cent of contracted staff who don’t get the Living Wage, all of whom work in the vital yet nationally underfunded area of residential adult social care. With very long contracts, limited property availability, care homes shared with other councils and reticent providers, this is proving a tough nut to crack. We are coordinating London-wide efforts though to see what can be done.  

There are now 110 other accredited Living Wage employers in Islington, across the public, private and voluntary sectors. This is the third highest figure of any London borough. We have actively sought to persuade these employers to go Living Wage and we celebrate their achievement. Islington North MP and Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, visited one such local employer, Schools Offices Services, yesterday morning to hear from cleaners there about the difference the Living Wage has made to them.  

Islington was also the first council in the country to be recognised as a Living Wage Friendly Funder, building a Living Wage requirement into our £2.7 million per year core grant-giving programme, supporting small charities and community organisations in the area to pay a Living Wage too.

By way of shareholder activism, committee members representing the £1 billion Islington Pension Fund have turned up as investors at FTSE 100 companies’ AGMs to lobby, for instance, supermarkets and pharmaceutical companies to go Living Wage as well.

The real Living Wage is based on the actual cost of living, unlike the Tory Government’s sham version, and is administered nationally by the Living Wage Foundation. To mark the start of Living Wage Week, London’s Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the London Living Wage will rise by 35p to £9.75 an hour in 2017. This will be welcome news for many Islington workers living in the most expensive city in the UK.

Most London Labour councils are now also accredited Living Wage employers, which sadly cannot be said of our Tory counterparts who talk a good game on tackling working poverty but do not walk the walk. By offering civic leadership on the Living Wage, our council has helped to make Islington one of the boroughs in London with the lowest levels of in-work poverty.

There is still more work to be done though. Islington Labour will continue to lead by example. Some other big employers in the borough also need to step up to the plate. It isn’t good enough, for instance, that Arsenal’s contracted cleaners and caterers still do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on at the world’s sixth richest football club. 

 

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

Islington continues to lead the fight against poverty pay

Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about how Islington is leading the way as a Living Wage employer. This Living Wage Week, the Living...

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Following relentless campaigning on behalf of residents and local businesses, Islington Labour councillors have won further concessions on the unplanned Holloway Road closure from Transport for London (TfL).

HGVs will now be banned from using Tufnell Park Road, which has so far been bearing the brunt of traffic congestion. A weight restriction came into force on 28th October, banning all large vehicles over 7.5 tonnes, except buses, from using the road as part of the diversion route.

TfL has also agreed in principle to not run empty buses along Tufnell Park Road, which has contributed to tailbacks as passengers have avoided the services while buses travelled along the diversion route. Some buses may also stop short of their destinations before they can reach the diversion route.

These measures will reduce the level of emissions along Tufnell Park Road, an issue that residents have expressed concern about.

Islington Labour councillors have secured other key concessions from TfL, including greater publicity for a shuttle bus laid on for the section of Holloway Road ‘cut off’ by the diversion. This will help anyone with a disability or mobility issues, and parents with prams, continue to get around.

To support local businesses, TfL is also considering leafletting residents or advertising locally that they all remain open during the works.

TfL has also agreed to station mobile CCTV units along Tufnell Park Road so it can accurately monitor traffic levels and congestion in real time.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “It was shocking to see the scale of TfL’s failure this past week as huge lorries and vans made their way gingerly down Tufnell Park Road. It was an accident waiting to happen – and so it proved.

“Nonetheless, we have been working hard behind the scenes with TfL to ensure as far as possible that the chaos of the last week will not be repeated at any point during these hugely disruptive works.

“Alongside other concessions, the ban on HGVs will help reduce the burden of taking all the traffic from the A1 on this single residential road. We will continue to keep up the pressure on TfL in the hope this will minimise the pain on behalf of local residents and businesses.”

Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station

 

UPDATE – Councillors win new concessions on Holloway Road closure

Following relentless campaigning on behalf of residents and local businesses, Islington Labour councillors have won further concessions on the unplanned Holloway Road closure from Transport for London (TfL). HGVs will...

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Islington Labour councillors have welcomed news that the Tory Government has abandoned its plans to force all schools to become academies.

The announcement on 27th October 2016 that the Education for All Bill was being dropped by the Tory Government, follows months of campaigning by Islington Labour and others, supported by the ‘Our Schools, Our Say’ petition.

Earlier this year, the Tory Government put forward plans that would mean all schools would be forced to convert into academies. Despite there being very little evidence that a school’s governance status impacted on its performance, the Tory Government were ready to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on what was purely an ideological vanity project.

The plans to impose this one-size-fits-all approach on schools, without any consideration for parents’ wishes or schools’ performance, prompted outcry from parents, teachers, trade unionists and even Tory councils.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “We are pleased and relieved by the Government’s announcement, although forcing all schools to become academies should never have been proposed in the first place. The proposals ignored the overwhelming evidence that council-maintained schools perform better than academies.

“I would like to thank Islington’s parents, teachers, trade unionists and residents who campaigned hard with us against the Tory Government’s ideological attack on education.”

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “This is yet another Government U-Turn that many people in Islington will welcome. Our schools continue to go from strength to strength, with the vast majority rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted. Islington’s ‘community of schools’ brings all schools together to share best practice, oversee improvement plans and raise standards to the benefit of all children. Forced academisation would have foolishly removed local councils from the school system.”

The proposals would have seen around £3.5m of funding wasted on forcing schools to become academies, at a time when schools’ budgets are being cut by the Tory Government.

Islington is now ranked in the top third of the country for GCSE results, having improved dramatically since it was ranked 143rd out of 151 in 2010.

Islington’s Labour councillors launched the ‘Our Schools, Our Say’ campaign to call on the Government to drop its ideological plans and put the needs of the borough first. The petition attracted over 300 signatures from concerned parents, teachers, trade unionists and residents.

However, the Tory Government’s divisive plans for new grammar schools remain in place and Islington Labour will continue to campaign for education, not segregation, and against these plans. 

Victory as Tory Government Drops Forced Academies Plan

Islington Labour councillors have welcomed news that the Tory Government has abandoned its plans to force all schools to become academies. The announcement on 27th October 2016 that the Education...

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Since the late-notice closure of Holloway Road, Islington Labour councillors have been working tirelessly to secure a range of concessions from Transport for London (TfL) to help those residents and business who will be worst-affected.

TfL gave only a few days’ notice that bridge replacement work had not gone to plan at Upper Holloway station and it needed to close Holloway Road southbound for nearly three months, including more than four weeks of total closure in both directions.

Despite winning some key concessions since the announcement, councillors are continuing to call on TfL for further measures to reduce the disruption of the works, which will last well into the New Year.

As a result of Islington Labour councillors’ interventions, TfL has committed:

  • To provide a shuttle bus service along the parts of Holloway Road ‘cut off’ by the diversion route, so people with a disability or mobility issues can get around, access their homes and shops, and reach the diverted bus routes;
  • To provide extra bus services on the Route 91 to help take the strain of commuters trying to avoid the bottleneck;
  • To ‘strengthen’ other bus services to maintain reliable journey times;
  • To station its staff in hi-vis clothing along Holloway Road and the Tufnell Park Road diversion route to help residents and visitors, and direct traffic;
  • To smooth traffic flow in the local area by revising traffic signal patterns;
  • To prevent wide loads and other abnormal vehicles from using the diversion;
  • To minimise traffic from motorways by extending the advance warning signs out to the M25, M1, M40, M11 and beyond – even as far as Birmingham;
  • To plan additional diversion routes in the immediate area in case of an emergency or incident along the current diversion;
  • To warn almost 1,000 businesses in the area affected of the disruption, and take on queries;
  • To return the residential roads taking the extra traffic to good condition.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “While there is no doubt TfL got this disastrously wrong with such a short-notice closure of this major road, we have been pushing them hard ever since to get this next stage right.

“We are keeping an open dialogue with TfL and will monitor the situation and keep up the pressure. But we should not underestimate the huge impact that this three-month closure will have – not just on Islington but the whole of London.

“Residents face a difficult and frustrating time over the next few months. They can be sure we are fighting their corner to make it as bearable as possible.”

Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station

 

Concessions on Holloway Road closure secured for Islington residents

Since the late-notice closure of Holloway Road, Islington Labour councillors have been working tirelessly to secure a range of concessions from Transport for London (TfL) to help those residents and...

Joe_Caluori.jpgCllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, writes about how the Tory Government is wasting £33m on a Highbury Free School while refusing to fund essential works to Islington’s ‘Outstanding’ Central Foundation School.

In July, the Leader of Islington Council Richard Watts revealed in The Guardian that the Government had paid £33.5m for Ladbroke House, a former London Metropolitan University building in Highbury. This was done in order to put a secondary school and sixth form between two existing popular and highly-rated secondary schools, Highbury Grove and Highbury Fields.

Here is a map, posted by Highbury Grove Head Tom Sherrington on his blog, showing just how close a new school would be to the two existing schools.

Richard rightly described this as a “staggering waste of money”, given Islington has clear plans to meet future need for secondary school places by expanding existing good and outstanding schools, including Highbury Grove. The likely costs of redeveloping the site for mixed educational and residential use would stretch into the tens of millions. When you consider that many local authorities are struggling to meet basic need for reception places and secondary places, the wrongheadedness of this is stark.

We now know that the Meller Trust have submitted a proposal to establish a new secondary Free School with a sixth form as part of a mixed development including luxury housing. They claim to have identified a need for places in Islington based on comparing our primary school numbers to our current secondary school capacity. However, they have not considered planning constraints and admitted they had no awareness of Islington Council’s place planning strategy, which identifies enlargement of existing schools to meet future demand.

It is worth noting that the Trust is Chaired by David Meller, a luxury property developer, Conservative Party donor and a member of the Department for Education Board. Furthermore, one of the Trust’s two UTCs, Elstree, has recently been rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ by Ofsted.  Their Watford UTC has not yet been inspected. All of Islington’s secondary schools are currently rated as Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.

Richard and I have written to Lord Nash, the Minister responsible at the Department for Education (DfE), urging him to think again, not only because of the possible impact of a new school on the existing school, but also on the grounds of public safety.

If this new school goes ahead, there would be up to 3,000 pupils entering and leaving the three secondary schools in a tiny area, in addition to the three closest primary schools. Narrow pavements and already overstretched bus services would effectively become a no-go zone for locals, raising serious road safety concerns.

Highbury Fields, the main thoroughfare from Highbury Barn to Highbury and Islington Station, would also suffer the impact of dramatically increased footfall.

Meller Trust has apparently told governors from Highbury Grove and Highbury Fields that they will be responding to a London-wide school places problem, drawing pupils from all over London with a curriculum specialising in film and performing arts. But why not invest in building new schools where they are actually needed by other local areas rather than forcing parents to bus their children across boroughs? And where is the evidence of demand from parents for this kind of school?

If the Government wants to do something useful with that building, they should convert it into keyworker housing for the countless teachers at Islington schools who cannot afford housing and struggle with long commutes. Many of our schools have high staff turnover rates because younger teachers say they are priced out of living in central London when they want to buy a property or have a family. 

We’ll find out at in November whether or not the DfE give this proposal the green light. If they do, they should expect huge local opposition from local parents, the local schools, the NUT and of course Ward councilors. 

Pictured: Cllr Joe Caluori

Tory Government's £33m Highbury White Elephant

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, writes about how the Tory Government is wasting £33m on a Highbury Free School while refusing to fund...

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Islington Labour councilors have expressed their dismay over Transport for London’s (TfL) last-minute decision to announce additional temporary closures of one of Islington’s most important and busiest roads. This week, TfL announced that a series of unexpected closures of the A1 Holloway Road are required to continue work on replacing Upper Holloway Bridge.

Labour councillors have accused TfL of underestimating the work that was needed and causing unfair chaos for drivers, local residents and businesses. The closures between Fairbridge Road and Wedmore Gardens will be in effect for nearly three months, including over the October half term holiday, Christmas and New Year.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “I am dismayed at this short-notice, unplanned closure of one of Islington’s critically-important major roads. Bus journeys will take much longer, and alternative routes through the borough will bear the brunt of this closure, spreading disruption far and wide. Local residents and businesses will suffer the consequences of this misjudgement, which is unfair.”

Cllr Tim Nicholls, Junction ward, added: “We understand that the bridge needs replacing, but it is outrageous that TfL has got this so badly wrong and will now cause major disruption for much longer than they had suggested all along.

“We need to hear from TfL now about what they are going to do to put on more buses, manage the traffic displacement on to other roads, and how emergency services will cope with this major road being out of action. 

"We’re on the case, and are just as angry as local residents.”

The council is currently considering its options and will be challenging TfL to minimise the extent of the disruption and maximise communication with residents and drivers.

The closures of the A1 between Fairbridge Road and Wedmore Gardens will be:

Friday 21 October - Monday 31 October - closed to all vehicles in both directions

Monday 31 October - Saturday 24 December - closed to all vehicles travelling southbound

Friday 18 November - Monday 21 November - closed to all vehicles in both directions

Friday 25 November - Monday 28 November - closed to all vehicles in both directions

This will be followed by a pre-planned full closure between 24 December 2016 and 16 January 2017.

For more information visit the TfL website.

 

Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station

Anger over TfL’s Holloway Road closure announcement

Islington Labour councilors have expressed their dismay over Transport for London’s (TfL) last-minute decision to announce additional temporary closures of one of Islington’s most important and busiest roads. This week,...

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