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Following relentless campaigning by Islington Labour councillors and over 1,000 residents who signed the ‘Axe the Tory Tenant Tax’ petition, the Tory Government announced this week that the unfair Tenant Tax will be scrapped.

The Tenant Tax would have seen working people forced to pay extra tax, simply because they are council tenants. This would have hit families with a household income over £40,000 per year, seeing those affected pay 15% more tax.

In an astonishing U-turn, the Tory Government announced on Monday 21st November that the Tenant Tax would no longer be compulsory for local authorities. Islington Council will formally agree not to implement the policy at its Executive Meeting on Thursday 24th November.

The tax would have been a disincentive to work, as tenants could have been pushed over the Tenant Tax threshold by taking on a job or promotion.

But there is more work to do to fight the Tories’ damaging housing plans and we need residents’ continued support to send a message to the Government.

Please sign the petition to tell the Tories that our homes are not for sale.

The Government still plans to force councils to sell hundreds of council homes each year, making it even harder for local people to find an affordable home in Islington.

The Tory Government still does not understand that everyone has a right to feel secure in their home, as it is determined to push ahead with its ban on lifetime tenancies. This would end the security that Islington Council tenants are currently offered.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, said: “Islington Labour has been campaigning against this new tax on working people since it was first announced. We are pleased the Government has listened and will not now force working people to pay more tax, simply because they are council tenants.

“I want to thank all the local residents who have supported our campaign against the Tenant Tax, including those who got in touch with their stories of how this new tax on working people would have had a really damaging impact on their lives.

“We will continue to campaign against the Government’s plans, which do nothing to deal with the housing crisis.”

 

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

Axe the Tax Update - Tories drop Tenant Tax

Following relentless campaigning by Islington Labour councillors and over 1,000 residents who signed the ‘Axe the Tory Tenant Tax’ petition, the Tory Government announced this week that the unfair Tenant...

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Ahead of the next full closure of Holloway Road this weekend (18-21 November) by Transport for London (TfL), Islington Labour councillors have been keeping up the pressure on behalf of local people to reduce the potential impact.  

Labour-run Islington Council has secured a number of significant concessions, including a ban on HGVs and changes to bus routes using the diversion route, and wide-reaching promotion from TfL that local businesses are open as usual.

Following a public meeting last week, Cllr Webbe's site visit with Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and ongoing dialogue with TfL, the Council has had further concessions from TfL ahead of this weekend’s closure.

As a result of Islington Labour councillors’ interventions, TfL have confirmed that:

  • TfL will investigate whether further changes to bus services in the area are required, particularly those using the diversion route,
  • Air quality monitoring equipment has been installed on Tufnell Park Road, where traffic is being diverted,
  • TfL has installed additional signage across key locations across the capital to advise motorists to avoid the A1 Holloway Road. This includes signage reinforcing the HGV diversion route,
  • TfL will reinforce the HGV ban on the diversion route by installing CCTV to monitor traffic and allow it to respond rapidly to any incidents. TfL and the Metropolitan Police are also deploying resources at the entrance to Tufnell Park Road to provide a visible deterrent to HGVs,
  • TfL will ensure an integrated response to the impact of the road closures, including sending letters to 130,000 residential and business properties and placing adverts in the local press, the Evening Standard and local radio.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “As a result of tireless work from councillors, residents and local businesses, TfL is delivering on the actions it promised. But this is no time to be complacent, as the Holloway Road closures are set to continue into the New Year, and we have yet to see how all of these mitigations will work in practice.

“The full closure this weekend will undoubtedly cause disruption for Islington but these concessions are a positive step forward. We will continue to keep up the pressure on TfL to ensure it delivers on its promises and monitors the situation.”

Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station

 

Update – Holloway Road closure concessions come into force

Ahead of the next full closure of Holloway Road this weekend (18-21 November) by Transport for London (TfL), Islington Labour councillors have been keeping up the pressure on behalf of...

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Islington Labour councillors have stepped up their campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force council tenants to pay more tax.

Sign the petition to Axe the Tory Tenant Tax.

The Tory Tenant Tax will hit working people in Islington and Islington Labour is urging residents to sign a petition against the unfair Tory Tenant Tax.

The Tories’ new law will -

  • Make tenants pay 15% more tax for every £1 they earn over £40,000 per household.
  • Force the Council to sell hundreds of homes each year, making it even harder for local people to find an affordable home in Islington.
  • Ban new lifetime tenancies, ending the security that Islington Council tenants are currently offered.

Islington Labour is on your side. Together we can stop the Tories.

You can help by signing the petition here.

The Tory Tenant Tax is part of the Housing and Planning Act, and will introduce a new tax for tenants living in council housing who have a combined annual household income of over £40,000 in London. The Tories will force those affected to pay a 15% additional tax on every pound they earn above £40,000.

The threshold for household income at £40,000 per year is too low. It means a newly qualified teacher and nurse living in a council house in Islington would be hit with a charge of £750 per year. Many Islington households will struggle to meet the new charge.

The Tory Tenant Tax will apply to tenants regardless of their age, the makeup of their household or how long they have lived there. Households that receive benefits (Housing Benefit or Universal Credit) will not have to pay Tenant Tax. The Council will have to collect this money, with all proceeds going to the Tory Government who continue to make damaging cuts to our community. 

The Tory Tenant Tax will also be a disincentive to work. People will have to consider whether taking on a job or a promotion will be worth it because, if they are pushed over the new income threshold, any benefit could by lost through having to pay the Tory Tenant Tax.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, said:

“The Tory Government hasn’t published much of the detail of how it plans to implement the Tenant Tax, so now is the time to stop it from coming in. We need to tackle the housing crisis, so that Islington can remain a home for everyone.”

Add your voice to say ‘Axe the Tory Tenant Tax’ by signing Islington Labour’s petition here.

Axe the Tory Tenant Tax

Islington Labour councillors have stepped up their campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force council tenants to pay more tax. Sign the petition to Axe the Tory Tenant Tax....

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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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