joe

By Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children & Families  Back in July I wrote about Michael Gove’s move to take a plot of land from the Council on which we plan to build 82 family homes, so that two private companies can start a Free School on the site – a school which we neither want nor need.

The consortium who are planning to open the Free School are currently conducting a flawed ‘consultation’. It seems that the only people they are contacting to ask for responses are people who have previously registered on their website as supporters! They don’t provide much information for people to base their responses on, and there are only five questions to respond to. 

But you can make your voice heard by going to their website http://www.whitehallparkschool.co.uk/consultation/

A few points you might like to consider when responding:

- There is no evidence of parent led demand for a Free School – this bid seems to be led by the interests of two private education companies, not the wishes of a large number of local parents.

- Unlike other Boroughs, Islington does not have a shortage of school places. In fact 99.35% of Islington residents applying this year have been offered a place at one of their preferred schools. Our place planning shows that future need for places will be in the South of the Borough, not in the North, where there is the least need for places in the future.

- This Free School will mean less money to invest in Islington’s schools. We stand to lose £3M which we were planning to use for school repairs. That means windows, roofs and other basic improvements.

- The old Ashmount school building is not fit for use as a school.  We rebuilt the school down the road because the old building was beyond repair and would cost millions to bring up to any kind of acceptable standard. It has no disabled access and is freezing in the winter and boiling hot in the summer.

- This Free School will lower educational standards. Islington is currently the fourth best local authority in the country in terms of the number of good or outstanding schools we have. But Free Schools can employ unqualified teachers, and to the best of my knowledge this consortium have not yet even found a head teacher or wider leadership team for their school. 

Make sure you get your response in by the 28th October, when the consultation closes, and ask friends to make their voices heard too, especially local parents.

Please come and join Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, Cllr Richard Watts, the new Leader of Islington Council and myself, Cllr Joe Caluori, Lead Member for Children and Families at a public meeting to oppose the Free School at 7pm Thursday 24th October at Church Hall, Christ Church, Crouch End Hill, N8.

The meeting has been organised by Support Our Local Schools (SOLS) an alliance of local parents, teachers, governors and residents in Islington and Haringey.

We decided to rebuild Ashmount School at our own expense so local children could be educated in a modern, safe and attractive new building with amazing facilities. It was part of a wider plan to provide family homes and invest in the local area.

It is completely unfair that the Government can deprive 82 families of new homes and take £3M from our schools repairs budget to allow two companies to set up a Free School for which we have no use.

We need family homes, not this Free School. Make your voice heard.

Say no to the Islington Free School

By Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children & Families  Back in July I wrote about Michael Gove’s move to take a plot of land from the Council on which...

claudiawebbe

I welcome this opportunity to talk about the scourge of betting shops in our borough. I feel particularly strongly about this, partly because I have campaigned on the issue for some time and partly because they are a particular issue in my ward and in Islington as a whole. Unless people live in an area like ours, which has seven or eight betting shops on one high street, they cannot understand the blight that the proliferation of these places represents.

We have seen a huge rise in the number of betting shops over the past decade, particularly in inner London. I think that there are now 62 in Islington, which is well above the national average.  In my ward alone there are 14 betting shops within 0.7 miles of each other – this is outrageous and no one can claim is necessary.

However they are not just betting shops, and in many cases, they are the equivalent of casinos, with highly addictive fixed-odds betting terminals that prey on the poorest in our borough. Often, there are many of these in one shop and their predatory nature suck vulnerable people into addiction and despair.

Betting shops put nothing back into our community. The pattern of new betting shops opening within the M25 shows that they have targeted the poorest areas with the highest unemployment and poverty. There are three times the number of betting shops in Newham as there are in Richmond. What could be more predatory than that? The people who can least afford to bet are being tempted by four or five betting shops in a row. Furthermore, hundreds of public order offences are committed outside betting shops every week, contributing to low-level social disorder.

As a local authority we’ve done what we can to stop their proliferation and I’d like to commend Councillor Murray for the work he has done on this and the firm plans he has set out. But the government’s changes are undermining what we’re trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans in a reckless free-for-all.

Their further deregulation of the planning system earlier this year which allows more use classes to change into betting shops without planning permission is going to have damaging repercussions in our borough.

This council motion makes some important points and I agree that now is the time, following the trigger of the Portas report, for government to take note and give local authorities more power over their high streets.   Putting betting shops into a separate ‘Use class’ of their own” would be a good start  and would help local authorities like ours to end the scourge of predatory betting shops in some of the poorest communities in our country.

Why Islington is fighting to end the scourge of predatory betting shops

I welcome this opportunity to talk about the scourge of betting shops in our borough. I feel particularly strongly about this, partly because I have campaigned on the issue for...

Cllr Catherine West announces she is standing down as Leader of Islington Council

Being Leader of Islington Council has been a huge privilege and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in the face of the Tory-led government’s unfair attack on inner city areas like ours.

We have shown that a Labour Council, on the side of our community, can make a difference and build a fairer Islington even in these tough times.   

Since Labour won a resounding majority in 2010, my proudest moments have been introducing free school meals for every primary school child in the borough, a Living Wage for all council staff, a bursary scheme to help children from low income families stay in education and taking forward Islington’s biggest affordable house building programme for 30 years.  Our Fairness Commission, looking at how we can reduce inequality and build a fairer society, was the first in the country and it is wonderful to see other councils now establishing their own.

We need a one nation Labour Government standing up for the many not the few and I am stepping down as Leader now so I can focus on winning Hornsey & Wood Green for Labour in 2015.  I have learnt so much over the past 10 years as a councillor and hope to use that experience to bring practical examples of social justice to the national stage.

Islington Labour is full of incredibly talented councillors and I know the group will elect an excellent successor when they meet on 7 October.  In the meantime, I will remain Leader until my successor is formally appointed at the next Council Meeting, and will stay on as a Tollington ward councillor until the end of my term in May 2014.

Thank you to everyone for your support over the years"      

Cllr Catherine West
Saturday 14 September 2013

Cllr Catherine West announces she is standing down as Leader of Islington Council

Cllr Catherine West announces she is standing down as Leader of Islington Council Being Leader of Islington Council has been a huge privilege and I am incredibly proud of what...

Free School Meals For All is a policy that helps both children and families. It is the  ultimate 'One Nation' policy and can be demonstrated to give children better learning, better diet and to ease the pressure on hard working families.

Islington Labour and the GMB are holding a fringe event to hear from councils who have already rolled out the policy along with other experts to launch the campaign for free school meals for all to be included on Labour’s 2015 manifesto.

Speakers include: 

Fiona Twycross: London Assembly Member, Sharon Hodgson MP: Shadow Minister for Children and Families, Cllr Catherine West: Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Peter John: Leader of Southwark Council and Mary Turner: President of the GMB

The details are as follows:

Tuesday the 24th September 2013: 5.30pm

At the Queen's Hotel, 1 Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 1NS in the Sandringham Suite

Refreshments will be provided, and there is no need to book, please just come along on the day.

Free School Meals: The Ultimate One Nation Policy Fringe Event

Free School Meals For All is a policy that helps both children and families. It is the  ultimate 'One Nation' policy and can be demonstrated to give children better learning,...

alice-and-martin-canal-festival

Last Sunday (1st September) the Islington Labour Councillors for St Peter’s ward staffed a stall at the Angel Canal Festival to talk to local people about some of the important issues in the area. This annual event is always a wonderful family occasion and celebration of Regent’s Canal and London’s industrial heritage. The festival is based around the City Road Lock, Basin and towpath alongside the Regents Canal.

Our petition this year was to make the canal and towpath safer.

The petition calls for the Canal and River Trust (CaRT) to introduce cycle calming measures on the towpath that force speeding cyclists to slow down, to enforce their license conditions against the small minority of boaters that cause a nuisance, either with noisy smelly generators, or by holding noisy late-night parties and events that disturb residents and other boaters, and to keep the bins emptied. The response to the petition was very positive, and over 100 local people signed.

City Road Basin is one of the largest open spaces in Islington and Regent’s Canal is an important leisure space. Our whole community should be able to share and enjoy it.

We had a visit from the chief executive of the CaRT, and we had an interesting and useful discussion with him about ways in which we can work together between the Council, the Police and the Trust to try and resolve some of the towpath issues, but we also stressed to them that residents want to see a real difference in the levels of nuisance and disturbance that they experience from the minority of disruptive boaters, and other disruptive persons that are currently being attracted to the canal.

You can find out more about our campaign here http://cllrmartinklute.blogspot.co.uk/

Councillors Alice Perry, Martin Klute and Gary Doolan

Angel Canal Festival

Last Sunday (1st September) the Islington Labour Councillors for St Peter’s ward staffed a stall at the Angel Canal Festival to talk to local people about some of the important issues...

Islington records some of the UK’s highest figures for smart phone street robberies. The hot weather has coincided with a spike in mobile phone snatches.  

In Caledonian Road on Monday a youth on a bicycle snatched my sister’s phone. Fortunately, the robber then dropped it and she managed to grab it before he did.

She was a bit shaken by the incident.

I can sympathise – a similar thing happened to me a few weeks ago in Drayton Park by the Emirates Stadium.

Two young men on a motorbike drove up on the pavement behind me and tried to grab my phone.

My instinctive reaction was to tighten my grip and shout at them to go away. My reaction seemed to come as a shock and after a bit of a tussle they rode away, leaving behind both me and my phone.

I felt silly as I knew I had failed to follow the advice the council and police have been issuing. This advice includes:

• If you use your phone in busy, public places, be aware of what is happening all around you at all times.

• Be extra vigilant when leaving public transport or stepping outside to make a call.

• If possible, avoid texting or using the internet while walking, and if using phone try to keep away from the edge of the road.

• Register your phone IMEI number for free on immobilise.com – this makes it much more likely stolen property will be returned.

Police also advise: “If you do have your phone stolen, remember don’t fight back.”

Take care of yourself and your phone.

Thieves eye your phone

Islington records some of the UK’s highest figures for smart phone street robberies. The hot weather has coincided with a spike in mobile phone snatches.   In Caledonian Road on Monday a...

It has emerged this week that plans by the Tory Mayor of London’s Fire Brigade that Islington is set to lose three vital fire appliances that currently serve the borough.

Under the new proposals the Fire Commissioner has announced he will be removing 27 pumping appliances from around London in preparation for possible industrial action.

If the plans go ahead Islington will face the prospect of going through another period of hot weather with a reduced fire provision which will significantly increase response times in the event of an emergency - and with no timescale for when they will be returned.

Cllr. Catherine West Leader of Islington Council said:

 “This is a dangerous plan. We're already fighting the prospect of losing two fire stations that serve our borough; now to lose three appliances on top of this is completely unacceptable.

Going into the bank holiday weekend and with the prospect of more good weather on the way this will again put Islington residents at risk” 

 Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said:

 “Islington residents will pay the price for the Mayor of London’s failure to manage the fire service. The removal of three appliances could cost lives.

 There has been no public consultation on this and I share the anger of local people”

Islington Labour Condemns The Removal of Fire Engines

It has emerged this week that plans by the Tory Mayor of London’s Fire Brigade that Islington is set to lose three vital fire appliances that currently serve the borough....

Joe

The Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove seems hell-bent on making a gift of the old Ashmount School site to two private education companies, so they can open the ‘Islington Free School’ in the north of the Borough. Worryingly, the first we heard of this was when the Department for Education (DfE) published a list of new Free Schools on their website, and to our horror we saw the ‘Islington Free School’ on that list.  It seems incredible to me that the DfE would approve a bid for a Free School on a major site in our Borough without even bothering to pick up the phone and ask us what we think about it.  So much for localism.

So why are we so worried about this?  If the DfE allow a Free School to open on that site, they will make a gift of a strategically important plot of land to these private companies.

We already had plans for that site, and by taking it from us, Michael Gove will be taking £3 million out of our finances which would have been used for repairs and improvements to our existing family of schools, and taking a plot of land on which we were planning to build 100 new homes, 80% of which would be available for social rent.

Coming hot on the heels of the announcement in the Comprehensive Spending Review that Islington is likely to face £50 million of further cuts, with our School Support Grant cut by as much as 20 per cent, this Free School debacle seems like the final insult. 

We are calling on Michael Gove to see sense and put a stop to this ‘Free School’.  In Islington we have 18,000 people on our housing waiting list, many of whom are living in badly overcrowded conditions.  What we need most right now are more family homes, not this Free School.

Why Michael Gove must stop 'Islington Free School'

The Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove seems hell-bent on making a gift of the old Ashmount School site to two private education companies, so they can open the...

robertkhan

Last year the government brought forward draconian cuts to the legal aid budget, the effects of which are already being seen with people unable to get advice and help for their legal problems.  In the last few months the Government has since announced further deep cuts to civil legal aid – including to areas such as judicial review which is the one area where organisations and interest groups can challenge decisions made by the government itself.

But along with this they are now also proposing to introduce a series of changes to criminal legal aid. This includes a £220 million annual cut in funding and a proposal to introduce ‘price competitive tendering’ for defence work. In the eighties we had the Conservative government introduce CCT for services and this is a similar type of policy, driven purely by cost. Under this system firms of defence solicitors will have to bid for government contracts for work and the lowest bidder wins, subject only to a minimum threshold quality of service.

This sector is dominated by high street firms who – if they want to bid – will have to scale up their operations to cover entire counties. And in London for example firms would have to expand their operations to cover areas of ten or more boroughs. And they will have to do this from within only three months from the date of any bid.

The result is that many firms will find themselves in serious difficulty with their ongoing viability seriously threatened. But this actually seems to be the government’s intention as they want ‘new entrants’ into the market. Eddie Stobart have already said they want to enter this market (yes, they’re a road haulage firm) and there are rumours about Serco and Capita being ready to move in. The outcome will be a relentless drive to cut all costs.

Added to this, the Government propose to flatten the fee structure so that these firms will get the same fee for handling a not guilty plea as a guilty plea. So now there will be a financial incentive on these firms to chase profits for shareholders rather than focus on the quality of service that they provide. The result of this is bound to be miscarriages of justice and people being convicted for crimes they haven’t committed. The original proposals also had a clause which would mean that people accused of offences would no longer be able to choose their own solicitor to represent them. This would mean that the Government funded police and prosecution services would bring cases against people – and the Government would then effectively choose who should represent them as well.

This inequality of arms could not be in the best interests of justice.

After a strong campaign led by the Law Society – supported by other legal interest groups – and through a broad based campaign by MPs across the political spectrum the Lord Chancellor signalled on Monday that he was now willing to listen, announcing to the Justice Select Committee that he would remove the requirement for the Government to choose the accused person’s solicitor and would allow client choice to continue. He also signalled “an intention” to consider alternative proposals. Let’s hope the Government keeps on listening, because if the original proposals are eventually implemented, the consequences for access to justice and the rule of law could be incalculable.

Robert Khan is an Islington councillor and a non-practicing barrister

This article first appeared on www.labourlist.org

What do the government’s legal aid changes mean for justice?

Last year the government brought forward draconian cuts to the legal aid budget, the effects of which are already being seen with people unable to get advice and help for...

 Alice

I am really please to see the launch of Islington Private Tenants, the association for people in Islington who rent from a private landlord or letting agent. 

Private renting is at an all time high, with record numbers of people in London’s private rental sector. Around 26% of people in Islington rent privately. Islington Private Tenants is formed to give a voice to private tenants, who have sometimes been forgotten by politicians.

Back in Feburary 2012 I wrote the following blog about this for Labourlist:

The UK is in the grips of an urgent housing crisis. New home building has ground to a halt. Council housing is in scarce supply, with remaining stock in danger of being sold off at cut prices. High house prices and the giant deposits that go with them have made home ownership a distant, barely attainable dream to most people in their 20s and early 30s. Instead of being able to save for a mortgage, we end up spending significant proportions of our salary on rent.

Like most of friends my age, I rent my flat from a private landlord. In 2001, just 10.1% of English households rented from private landlords. Thanks to the rise of to buy-to-let landlords mortgages, this has now risen to 16.5% and as high as 23% in London.

Often when Labour talks about housing policy, we talk about social housing. With hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need on housing waiting, it isn’t hard to see why.

However, it is extremely welcome that the London Mayoral election campaign is drawing attention to the urgent need for better regulation of the private rental sector. Slum landlords are on the rise and exploiting tenants across the UK. Councillors from the London Borough of Newham recently discovered tenants living in cramped, Dickensian conditions, renting garages and walk in refrigerators.

For me and my friends, issues arising from private tenancy tend to involve things like problems getting back a full deposit, high annual rent increases or long delays getting broken things fixed. But we all know some housing horror stories.

From a campaigning point of view, it can be very difficult to engage with voters who live in the private rental sector. I live above a shop on a busy high-street. No one from any party has ever canvassed me.

It is comparatively easy to canvass the local housing estate, where there are generally lots of Labour voters happy to open their door to talk to you. Trying to canvass the flats above shops can be a nightmare. Not only do the buzzers often not work, it can be hard to even find the entry phone. There might be one bell for 20 flats. Many front doors don’t have letter boxes. No one ever seems to be in. And don’t get me started on gated communities.

Often private rental tenants have short-term contracts. They move after six months or a year. If you go through all this effort to canvass them in September, there is the risk they might move before an election in May. In my block of flats, we are the only household registered to vote.  Yes, it’s easy to see why we’ve never been canvassed.

We recently got chatting to one of our neighbours. (I know! Talking to your neighbours – not something you always do in London.) It turned out our neighbour was actually a member of the Labour Party. He was a postgraduate student and hadn’t transferred his membership to his new address. He hadn’t got around to registering to vote yet. Now he had met other activists he was happy to deliver some leaflets and come out campaigning. His flat was above the high street in a prime spot for a big “Vote Labour” poster. (The 2010 election saw a highly competitive / ridiculous local “poster war” between Labour and the Liberal Democrats – I would have loved to have put a giant poster up in his window.)

If Labour is to win back power, every vote counts. The harder we work (and the more people we speak to) can be the difference between winning and losing. It might be more challenging to reach young people living in the private rental sector, particularly through traditional campaigning, but with social media and PR campaigns Labour can meaningfully engage with this key demographic. Coupled with the right policies concerning the issues that really matter to us, this is a winning combination.

Standing up for private renters in Islington

I am really please to see the launch of Islington Private Tenants, the association for people in Islington who rent from a private landlord or letting agent.  Private renting is at an...

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