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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, has written to the Tory government demanding that funding to help local people back to work is protected following the vote to leave the European Union. 

In advance of the EU Referendum, Cllr Watts wrote in the local papers about the funding Islington receives from the EU to support employment projects that are working to help more local people into work. 

The council currently receives just under £1m per year from the Skills Funding Agency to provide adult skills training and community learning projects. The Skills Funding Agency is backed by the European Social Fund. 

Cllr Watts has now written to Tory Employment Minister, Priti Patel MP, seeking assurances that this funding will continue to be awarded after Britain leaves the EU. Ms Patel confirmed on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on 14th June that, “We have been abundantly clear that there would be more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU – including universities, scientists, farmers, regional funds – would continue to get money, while ensuring that could be spent on our priorities.”

Cllr Richard Watts said: "The EU currently supports vital work the council does to help local people find jobs, and to gain new skills. Following the referendum and Britain’s decision to leave the EU, I’m worried about where the £1million of funding we receive is going to come from in future. 

“During the campaign, Vote Leave spokespeople repeatedly said that EU funding would be replaced if we left. However, the Leave campaign has already backtracked on its pledge to give £350million a week to the NHS, so we need to know whether their pledge to replace EU funding is going to go the same way. 

“I’ve written to the Employment Minister who went on the radio making the pledge to ask her to back it up with concrete answers.”

In the last year Islington Council supported 1,150 unemployed residents into paid work, half of whom were long-term unemployed. The council also delivered 2,300 adult learning courses to help people develop new skills for work. The adult learning service was rated as 'Good' by Ofsted in an inspection earlier this year. 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts

Back to work funding must be protected

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, has written to the Tory government demanding that funding to help local people back to work is protected following the vote to leave...

On Saturday 2nd July, Islington came together to reject hate crime.

Following reports of an increase in hate crime incidents across the country in recent days, community leaders and faith leaders from across Islington met on Highbury Fields to address a crowd of around 300 local residents.

Speakers included local councillors and MPs, faith leaders, and community leaders.

Many of the speakers were those that had co-signed a letter organised by Islington Labour denouncing hate crime and pledging to work together to support our community. 

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: "Islington is stronger because of its diversity, and I am proud our community is welcoming and tolerant of others.

"People from across the world make a massive contribution to our borough, working in vital public services like the NHS and helping to make Islington a vibrant and welcoming place. They are our neighbours and our friends.

"I know we all stand together in condemning any acts of hate crime that occur, and Saturday's rally was a fantastic occasion for our community to come together."

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Pictured - speakers at the 'Love Islington - Say NO to Hate Crime' Rally, Highbury Fields, 2nd July 2016. 

'Say NO to Hate Crime' Rally brings Islington together

On Saturday 2nd July, Islington came together to reject hate crime. Following reports of an increase in hate crime incidents across the country in recent days, community leaders and faith...

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A rally is to be held on Saturday 2nd July to bring Islington together to say no to hate crime.

Worrying reports of increased incidents of hate crime across the country in recent days are to be met with a show of support and solidarity from the Islington community that is tolerant, welcoming, and diverse.

The rally has been called by Islington Labour Group, and will feature speakers from faith and community groups from across the borough, as well as Jeremy Corbyn MP and Emily Thornberry MP. 

The rally will take place in the lower field of Highbury Fields (closest to Highbury & Islington station) and begins at 10am on Saturday 2nd July.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “Islington is stronger because of its diversity, and I am proud that local people are welcoming and tolerant of others.

“People from across the world make a massive contribution to our borough, working in vital public services like the NHS and helping to make Islington a vibrant and welcoming place. They are our neighbours and our friends.

“However, in recent days we have received worrying reports of increases in hate crimes across the country. We need to come together to say no to hate crime.

“I have been working with community and faith groups to reassure local residents, and with the police to ensure that reports of hate crimes are investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

In addition to the rally, Islington Labour Group has tabled a motion at Full Council condemning hate crime and resolving to work with faith and community groups to ensure Islington remains welcoming to all. The Leader of the Council has also coordinated a statement from faith and community leaders to say that Islington is proud to be a diverse, tolerant and cohesive community. A meeting will also be held with the police about measures to tackle hate crime and bring perpetrators to justice.

A ‘Love Islington – Say No to Hate Crime’ poster has also been produced that local residents and businesses will be encouraged to display. Click here to download a copy of the double-sided poster.

Sign-up to say you are attending here.

Love Islington - Say NO to Hate Crime Rally

A rally is to be held on Saturday 2nd July to bring Islington together to say no to hate crime. Worrying reports of increased incidents of hate crime across the...

Following the EU Referendum, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, issued an email to over 11,000 residents. A copy of this email can be found below.

Dear Friend, 

I am immensely disappointed that the UK voted to leave the EU last night.

I fundamentally believe that as a community, and as a country, we achieve more together than we do alone. But the people have spoken, and we must respect the result of the referendum.

Being honest, I didn’t anticipate this result. As we all look for a way forward I have two priorities.

First, to ensure Islington remains a tolerant, diverse and welcoming borough.  This was an ugly campaign and if I was a member of one of the groups scapegoated during the last few months, I would be feeling pretty worried today.

When I dropped the kids off at school this morning, I have never seen such worry in the eyes of many of my fellow parents who could be forgiven for asking if they’re still welcome in their own country.  We need to stand with those who are under attack and say that, in Islington, everyone is welcome.  I will be spending some time over the next few days and weeks to spread that message of solidarity.

Second, we must protect our economy, particularly investment in new homes and jobs.  Islington has a housing and unemployment crisis, and the uncertainty created by yesterday’s vote is already hitting planned investment in the borough.  I’m worried a downturn my trigger further damaging cuts to public services from an even more right-wing Tory government.

It’s vital that the government works with Mayor Sadiq Khan and councils like Islington to start an emergency housing programme to stop house building coming to a complete stop.  

I am proud that in Islington 75 per cent of residents who voted chose to remain in the EU and that a record number of people turned out to vote.

I believe our borough can remain a beacon of tolerance, mutual respect and decency. If given the opportunity we can continue to run good services, build homes, create jobs and reduce poverty. 

Islington Labour remains on the side of working people in Islington, and we will continue to fight to protect local people from whatever challenges are created in these uncertain times.

Best wishes,

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Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council

On your side, no matter what

Following the EU Referendum, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, issued an email to over 11,000 residents. A copy of this email can be found below. Dear Friend,  I...

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Local Barnsbury resident, Rowena Champion, has been selected by Labour Party members to stand in the Barnsbury by-election on 14th July.

Rowena has lived in Barnsbury for 20 years, is a Barrister and has played an active role in the local community. As a long standing local Labour Party activist she has regularly spoken with Barnsbury residents about the issues that matter to them.

Commenting on her selection, Rowena said: “Barnsbury is my home, and it would be a tremendous honour to represent the local area.   

“Everyone deserves a decent, affordable, and secure home, and that is why tackling the housing crisis would be my top priority if I am fortunate enough to be elected. 

“The council has done great work in building more council and genuinely affordable homes, and I want to help deliver more homes for local people. I also want to see improvements to housing repairs and I am committed to fighting the Tory government’s disastrous Housing and Planning Act." 

The by-election was triggered following James Murray’s appointment as Deputy Mayor for Housing by Sadiq Khan. Mr Murray served Barnsbury ward from 2006 until stepping down at the end of May this year.

Rowena added: “James was a brilliant local representative, and I will work extremely hard to continue to his excellent work for the people of Barnsbury."

Click here to get involved with campaigning to help Rowena.

Follow Rowena on Twitter @RowChampion.  

Local resident, Rowena Champion, to stand for Labour in Barnsbury By-election

Local Barnsbury resident, Rowena Champion, has been selected by Labour Party members to stand in the Barnsbury by-election on 14th July. Rowena has lived in Barnsbury for 20 years, is a...

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Cllr Diarmaid Ward has been appointed as the new Islington Council Executive Member for Housing and Development. 

Following James Murray's appointment as Sadiq Khan's Deputy Mayor for Housing, Cllr Ward has joined the Executive to become the borough's new housing lead. 

Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: "I am very excited about my new post, and look forward to the challenge of continuing the excellent work already happening in Islington. 

"Like most of London, Islington faces a housing crisis.  We are building new council homes, but also face huge challenges from the Government's new Housing and Planning Act, which will put our council housing under even more pressure. 

"I will work hard to deliver the genuinely affordable housing Islington needs, and to protect council housing.  I will also support private renters in Islington to help make sure they have decent places to live, and are treated fairly."

Cllr Ward has been councillor for Holloway ward since 2014, and has lived in Islington for six years. He has worked as a legal aid solicitor, specialising in criminal defence, and was a member of the duty solicitor scheme at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.

Islington is building the most new council homes in a generation, and over 50 per cent of new homes on eligible sites have been genuinely affordable homes over the last 5 years. 

A further 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes will be built between 2015 and 2019, including 500 new council homes.

New Housing Executive Member ready for the challenge

Cllr Diarmaid Ward has been appointed as the new Islington Council Executive Member for Housing and Development.  Following James Murray's appointment as Sadiq Khan's Deputy Mayor for Housing, Cllr Ward...

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Islington Labour councillor, James Murray, has been appointed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as the new Deputy Mayor for Housing. 

An Islington councillor for Barnsbury ward since 2006, Cllr Murray has been the Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council since 2010. In that time the council has delivered almost 10,000 new homes in the borough, with nearly 50% of homes on eligible sites in the last three years being affordable, and with the largest council house building programme in a generation. 

Commenting on the appointment of James Murray as the Deputy Mayor for Housing, Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts said – 

“Sadiq Khan’s appointment of James Murray as his Deputy Mayor for Housing will mean London has someone supporting the Mayor that knows first-hand how to tackle the housing crisis facing London.

“James has been a crucial member of the Council Executive, spearheading much of the pioneering work this Labour administration has undertaken to build the most council homes in a generation. He has also been key in taking on rogue landlords, making sure local people have priority for new housing, and driving forward improvements to council housing.

“James’s appointment is also great news for Islington. Not only is it a ringing endorsement of the housing policies the council has pursued, but it will mean that we will have both a Deputy Mayor for Housing and a London Mayor that are on side the of working people in Islington.”

James Murray said –

“It’s the most amazing honour to be offered this position; a chance to work with Sadiq and his team to make London a fairer place to live.

“It has been a privilege to serve on Islington Council with such dedicated fellow councillors and officers, and I'm proud of the difference we have made on the key issue of providing more affordable homes for local residents. I know Islington will continue to deliver on this vital issue, and I look forward to working alongside the council and others in my new role at City Hall.

“I would also like to say just what a privilege it has been to represent Barnsbury since 2006, alongside my colleagues and friends Cllr Hamitouche and Cllr Chowdhury. I'd like to sincerely thank the people of Barnsbury for putting their trust in me to be their councillor for the last decade.”

Pictured: James Murray with Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, at the Brunswick Estate in Clerkenwell during the election campaign. 

Islington Labour housing chief to become London's Deputy Mayor for Housing

Islington Labour councillor, James Murray, has been appointed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as the new Deputy Mayor for Housing.  An Islington councillor for Barnsbury ward since 2006, Cllr...

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Following a community campaign involving parents, teachers, school governors, trade unions, and Islington Labour, in support of a national outcry against the government’s plans to force all schools to become academies, the government has been forced into a partial U-turn.

In the Budget the Tory Government announced plans to force all schools to become academies, regardless of parents’ wishes or the performance of the school. Further details announced in a government White Paper – Educational Excellence Everywhere – included no longer requiring schools to have parent governors.

In response to this attack on Islington’s schools, the vast majority of which are rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted - including all secondary schools - Islington Labour launched a campaign ‘Our Schools, Our Say’.

A local petition launched online received over 300 signatures, in addition to national campaigns from parents, teachers, trade unions, and others.

On Friday 6th May, the government announced that some schools would no longer be forced to become academies, but schools falling into two major areas would still be forced to convert to academy status. The two areas were -

  • Where a local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because too many schools have already become academies.
  • Where the local education authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools.

Further details will be published by the Department for Education and consulted upon, the government said.

Commenting on the government’s announcement, Cllr Joe Caluori (pictured), Executive Member for Children and Families, said:

“It’s astonishing how much of a mess the government has made of its attempts to force all schools to become academies.

“I want to thank all those people in Islington who have supported our campaign so far, but we need to redouble our efforts as the government is still hell-bent on making all schools become academies.

“In Islington we have improved standards and turned schools around by working together. Ofsted figures also show that poor performing schools are more likely to improve if they stay with their local authority, rather than being forced to become an academy.”

Sign the petition here.

Pressure forces Tory U-turn on academies plan

Following a community campaign involving parents, teachers, school governors, trade unions, and Islington Labour, in support of a national outcry against the government’s plans to force all schools to become...

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Statement from Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on 11th April - 

“Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister sought to taint Islington Council with the tax-avoidance scandal in which he has mired himself.

"Mr Cameron alleged that the council has the same sorts of offshore investments as those revealed in the Panama Papers. In doing so, he disingenuously conflated the terms ‘overseas’ and ‘offshore’ and cynically equated the notions of ‘avoidance’ and ‘exemption’ in order to try to implicate the council in a scandal of his own making.

"In defending his family’s own offshore investments, the Prime Minister said that Islington Council has money invested overseas.

"To be clear, all of Islington Council’s own monies are held domestically, either in the bank, lent to other local authorities or lent to the government itself.

"Islington Council’s £1bn Pension Fund does have overseas investments alongside its UK portfolio – as do all local government pension schemes across the country – as part of a prudent approach to diversifying risk.

"The fund, unlike the Prime Minister, is tax-exempt, as are all Local Government Pension Scheme funds. Its overseas investments – for instance in Apple and Toyota – are not hidden in hedge funds in far-flung tax havens.

"The fund’s committee meets in public, as it did last night; its financial statements are publicly available; and all its investments comply with UK government regulation. It pays all the tax that is due. What it does not have is lawyers or fund managers in Panama or the Cayman Islands helping it avoid tax.”

Prime Minister's Comments on Islington

Statement from Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, commenting on the Prime Minister's statement on 11th April -  “Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister sought to...

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OUR SCHOOLS OUR SAY – CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED AGAINST FORCED ACADEMISATION

Islington Labour Group has today (6th April) launched its campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force all of Islington’s schools to become academies without giving parents a say.

The ‘Our Schools, Our Say’ campaign calls for the Government to drop plans that would force every school in Islington, and the rest of England, to become an academy regardless of the views of local parents and the community.

Sign the petition against forced academisation of our schools here.

First announced during the Budget, the Tory Government published a White Paper that is the first step in forcing all schools to become academies by 2022. The plan to force all schools to become academies could cost £1.3billion, with the cost of converting each school at around £66,000. There are currently 63 schools in Islington, with only 10 schools being either academies or Free Schools. The Government’s proposals would mean the cost of academising all schools in Islington would be approximately £3.5million.

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children and Families, said: “Thanks to the dedication and hard work of pupils, parents, teachers, and the council, we have been able to improve education in our borough.

“All of our borough's secondary schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, and the vast majority of our primary schools are too.  GCSE results in the borough have seen a dramatic improvement since the borough was ranked 143rd out of 151 local areas in 2010. We are also really proud that our fantastic primary schools are among the best in the country for helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve good results.

“But all this is at risk from a Tory Government that has announced reckless plans to force all schools to become academies.

“It is astonishing that, at a time of major cuts to school budgets, the Government would think it wise to spend over a billion pounds turning all schools into academies when there is not a shred of evidence it will help improve education standards or children’s chances in life. We know what works, good teaching and good leadership in a well-supported system.

“The Government’s proposals have been met with shock and anger from teachers, trade unions, and even Tory councillors who are appalled that a one-size-fits-all centralised system is being imposed on schools regardless of parents’ views or the wishes of schools themselves.

“We urge everyone that is concerned about these plans to sign the petition.”

Sign the petition against forced academisation of our schools here.

Islington operates a ‘community of schools’ model that brings all schools together to share best practice, oversee improvement plans, and raise standards for the benefit of all children. Under the Government’s proposals the local council would be removed entirely from the school system, despite evidence showing that local council-led school improvement services outperform multi-academy trusts in improving standards.

Islington Labour Group is working with local teaching trade unions, parents, and others, to organise opposition to the Government’s proposals.

Our Schools, Our Say - Petition Launched

OUR SCHOOLS OUR SAY – CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED AGAINST FORCED ACADEMISATION Islington Labour Group has today (6th April) launched its campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force all of Islington’s...

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