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The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a "short-term cost-cutting exercise".

In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the councils covered by the North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Cllr Watts has expressed serious concerns about the process and called for commitments from the Chief Executive of NHS England that services will not be reduced.   

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “Health services in North London face huge challenges and local councils want to help meet them, so that local people continue to receive the care they need. However, the NHS-led STP process has moved worryingly away from looking at how we solve the issues we face and is instead focusing on short-term cost-cutting.

“Along with the leaders of the other councils in the North Central London STP area, I have called on the NHS to urgently confirm that this process will not lead to a reduction in health services.

"We need to rapidly move the conversation on to discussing long-term preventative activity that will help people to lead healthier lives and will also reduce demand for expensive care services.”

In a letter to Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, the leaders of Islington, Camden, Haringey, Enfield and Barnet councils say the mechanisms of NHS funding (including the STP process) are twisting the priorities of healthcare partners, forcing them to focus only on short-term cost-cutting exercises to balance increasingly precarious budgets. The council leaders warn that longer-term aims to transform healthcare in the region are under threat as a result.

The leaders’ letter calls for six commitments from the NHS – 

  • No reduction in health services, or service standards (including no detrimental changes in access to services) in North Central London as a result of pressures on CCG, the current exercise or the STP;
  • Additional funding if required to guarantee the above, including resolving the funding/ accounting issues we have mentioned in this letter;
  • Full and proper consultation with residents and patients on any proposals for health service changes, meaning that they will be involved in re-designing services;
  • Return the focus of NHS leaders in North London to long-term transformational change over the STP period, working across the health and care system with Councils as equal partners;
  • Returning to your ambition for local flexibility in determining our health and care system, reducing the central control exercised over the system;
  • Encourage NHS leaders to invest in long-term prevention activity, which by 2020/21 will reduce the demand for expensive health and care. 

The leaders have called for a meeting with Mr Stevens and have urged him to guarantee the protection of existing health services and standards in north London, even if additional funding is required; to address and resolve the systemic funding issues hampering current efforts; and consulting with residents and patients on any proposed changes to health services.

For more updates on the STP process, please visit Islington Council's website

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Council Leader attacks 'short-term cost-cutting' STP process

The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a "short-term cost-cutting exercise". In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the...

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Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised to do so several months ago.

With 36 per cent of Islington households now living in private rented homes, Labour councillors made clear they are on the side of those who are finding it harder to afford to live in the borough, in part due to soaring rents and unscrupulous landlords and letting agents. 

One issue that many private tenants face is being unexpectedly hit with letting fees. On average, they pay between £200 and £500 in letting fees, with agents inventing ridiculous excuses such as signing a form or moving furniture around a room. Worryingly, low-income tenants, who are already struggling to get by, are charged even higher fees. Currently, renters have no legal right to dispute these charges and usually are not in a position to 'shop elsewhere'.

This Labour council is standing up for private renters. It has been responsible for two thirds of total fines issued by London councils to rogue landlords since new enforcement measures were introduced in 2015. It has also fined letting agents over £50,000 for treating tenants unfairly and introduced an additional licensing scheme for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road, protecting over 3,500 tenants. In 2014 it launched London’s first not-for-profit lettings agency where tenants do not have to pay tenancy fees. In spite of these efforts to protect renters, Islington Labour councillors' powers are limited by law.

The Tory Government previously promised to ban letting fees but they are yet to announce a time line for when the draft Tenants' Fees Bill, which would make this law, will be debated in Parliament. Islington Labour councillors are calling on them to act on this yet-to-materialise promise and support Labour's campaign to introduce extra protections for private renters; including introducing a cap on rent rises, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for tenants. The 2017 Labour manifesto also pledged to grant the Mayor of London the power to give London renters additional security to tackle the particular pressures in the capital.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “This Labour-led Council is standing up for the many, not the few, and I encourage renters living in Islington who believe they are being mistreated by their landlord or letting agency to contact the Council housing team or their local councillors. The Leader of the Council and I will be writing to the Housing Minister to call on him to ban rip-off letting fees, which they previously promised to do, and support Labour’s calls for extra protections for private renters as soon as possible." 

For more information on how the Council supports private renters or to report a landlord or letting agency, visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/housing/private-sector-housing/private-rented-accommodation

 

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

Islington Labour councillors call for ban on letting fees

Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised...

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Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about why Islington Council is calling on local shops to regulate the purchase of corrosive substances and acid.

Islington Council has recently urged retailers in the borough that sell corrosive substances to adopt a ‘Challenge 25’ approach.

Challenge 25 came about because of the difficult task of determining the age of young people trying to purchase age-related goods.

Under the Challenge 25 scheme, customers attempting to buy age-restricted products are asked to present ID to prove their age if, in the retailer's opinion, they look under 25. The scheme is already widely used successfully across the UK for products such as alcohol and tobacco.

Islington Council is now calling on shops in the borough to use the approach to regulate the buying of corrosive substances and acids. There is currently no legal age restriction on the sale of strong acids or such substances. The Challenge 25 approach would see retailers volunteering only to sell acids to over-18s.

We have also called on retailers not to stock corrosive substances in locations where they can easily be stolen, such as shop entrances.

We have all seen the devastating effects of acid attacks across London. Adopting the good-practice policy of Challenge 25 would help alongside the call for tighter legal restrictions on the sale of acids and corrosive substances.

In order to get the word out, Islington has distributed leaflets to local shops containing advice about selling corrosive substances, made the leaflet available to local trade associations and publicised it via the council’s website for the wider public to see.

We support tougher penalties for those who use acid and corrosive substances as a weapon. It ruins lives. If retailers in Islington adopt our advice, this should reduce the risk of these destructive and dangerous products being sold to young people in our borough.

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

Leaflet on the sale of corrosive substances that has been distributed to Islington shops

Islington urges local shops not to sell acid to youngsters

Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about why Islington Council is calling on local shops to regulate the purchase of corrosive substances and acid....

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Islington Labour is building more genuinely affordable homes for local people in the borough.

The Labour-run Council is projected to build just over 2,400 genuinely affordable homes, including around 530 council homes, between April 2015 and the end of the 2019/20 council year.

The 2017/18 Council budget allocated £40 million for its council house-building programme, making it the biggest delivery programme in 30 years. In 2017/18 alone, the Council is expected to build over 300 new genuinely affordable homes, including 140 council homes.

The latest projected figures mean that Islington Labour is on track to meet its key election pledge of 2014 – to deliver 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes, including 500 council homes, by the end of the 2019/20 council year.

These welcome figures build on the 1,829 genuinely affordable homes that the Council delivered in the borough between 2010 and the end of the 2014/15 council year. They also demonstrate how Islington Labour is working hard to tackle the housing crisis affecting Islington and provide decent homes for local people.

Last month, councillors joined construction workers at Shearling Way to observe construction work that has started on four new terraced council houses on Manger Road, Holloway Ward. Each home will house seven people, and will have four bedrooms spanning over three storeys, a garden and a green roof with solar panels. They are vital additions to the Shearling Way Estate, and are just one example of how the Council is delivering more affordable homes for local residents across the borough.

To ensure the new homes meet the needs of the local community, the Council has a local lettings policy for all homes constructed on existing estates. The lettings of new homes will be prioritised to people currently living on the estate on which they are being built.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “Building more genuinely affordable housing for local people is a priority for this Council, and we were elected with the mandate to do just that. Islington is facing the effects of a severe housing crisis in London and we want to ensure that everyone in Islington has a place to live that is affordable, decent and secure.

“We have already delivered 1,829 genuinely affordable homes under the previous Labour administration. It is more important than ever that we continue to build more for the future and prioritise them for local people in genuine need.”

The Council’s flagship planning policy requires new residential developments of ten units or more to provide a minimum of 50 per cent genuinely affordable housing. Earlier this year it won a landmark case against a developer that refused to provide sufficient social housing. 

 

Pictured - Cllr Rakhia Ismail of Holloway Ward; Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development; and Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, on Shearling Way, where new genuinely affordable homes will be built

Islington Labour’s mission to build more genuinely affordable homes

Islington Labour is building more genuinely affordable homes for local people in the borough. The Labour-run Council is projected to build just over 2,400 genuinely affordable homes, including around 530...

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Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington Labour councillor for Highbury East, blogs about why all public sector workers deserve a pay increase.

The public sector is our greatest asset. From the NHS to police to firefighters to teaching assistants, they go above and beyond every day.

Yet public sector workers have suffered a pay squeeze and real-terms cut in their salary for the last seven years under the Tory Government. It is obscene that so many of them, who play such a vital role in our community, are struggling to make ends meet and relying on foodbanks.

The Tories have created a crisis in which public services are struggling to recruit and retain staff and morale is at an all-time low. This in turn fails the general public who rely on those vital services.

Earlier this week, the Government announced an end to the public sector pay cap. If only it were that simple. It has only extended an inadequate pay settlement to police officers and prison officers, with no details about pay settlements for other public sector workers.

All public sector workers are equally deserving of a real-terms pay increase, fully funded by Central Government. Cherry-picking services will not solve the problems facing the sector when frontline and backroom support staff rely on each other to work successfully.

I am pleased to be moving a motion at Full Council next week (21st September), urging the Tories to grant all public sector workers a real-terms pay increase and lending support to the GMB Union’s campaign on this vital issue.

Islington Labour councillors are committed to creating a fairer borough for everyone. This cannot be achieved without a well-paid and motivated public sector to serve and protect them.

 

Pictured: Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington Labour councillor for Highbury East

All public sector workers deserve a real pay increase

Cllr Osh Gantly, Islington Labour councillor for Highbury East, blogs about why all public sector workers deserve a pay increase. The public sector is our greatest asset. From the NHS...

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Labour-run Islington Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to close a council tax loophole that landlords have been exploiting for years.

In the past, blocks of student flats in Islington were given a block council tax exemption throughout the year, as students do not pay council tax. There are more than 4,000 such student flats in accommodation blocks across the borough.

Increasingly, over the summer when students are away, landlords are letting these flats to tourists and other visitors in order to maximise their income. The flats are therefore liable for council tax during this period, outside of university term-time. If 1,000 such flats are rented out for 10 weeks over the summer break, the council tax due is £121,250. This is money that could be going towards local services upon which residents rely.

Islington Council has taken action to close this loophole by now requiring landlords to supply the tenancy and student occupancy details for every flat for every week of the year. The landlords will be liable for council tax for any periods during the year when the flats are occupied by people other than students.

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, says: “It is unfair that landlords have effectively been getting a tax break on renting their student flats out over the summer, particularly at a time when Islington is experiencing massive and ongoing budget cuts from central Government.

“Islington Labour is on the side of the many who pay in full the tax they owe, not the few who would seek to maximise their income by exploiting a council tax loophole. This move is fairer for all our residents and helps to pay for essential local services. I am pleased that this Labour-run council has become one of the first in the country to close this council tax loophole.”

 

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

 

Closing landlords’ council tax loophole

Labour-run Islington Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to close a council tax loophole that landlords have been exploiting for years. In the past,...

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Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, blogs about how Islington Labour is keeping up the pressure on Government to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Islington

Today, MPs are continuing their debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, signalling the beginning of talks in Parliament about what the UK might look like after the EU. Unfortunately, yet again with this Tory Government, there is very little detail and people are being left in the dark.

I am particularly concerned that the Bill does not mention EU nationals currently living in the UK and what their rights might be after Brexit. The EU nationals living and working in Islington, an estimated 30,000 of them, are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. They form not only a significant part of our population but also our identity.

EU nationals’ contribution is vital to all aspects of UK life, from our public services to our small business community. Islington is fiercely proud of its identity as a diverse and welcoming borough that is home to people from across the world.

Islington Labour campaigned hard to remain in the EU and a record number of people turned out to vote in Islington – 75% of whom voted to ‘remain’. Many of us were heartbroken that the UK as a whole voted the other way but believe we have to accept to result. This does not mean however that the government can engage in scapegoating in their ever increasingly desperate attempts to hold on to power.

The only indication we have had from the government is a draft Home Office document that was leaked last week, which suggests the Government is determined to keep out EU citizens and even split up families. It refers to valued members of our community in terms like “Type and Volume”. It has rightly been slammed as economically mad and socially divisive.

We will not let politics be played with EU nationals’ lives and have been repeatedly calling on Government to guarantee the status of EU nationals post-Brexit, which they have had many opportunities to do.

In June, the Council also passed a motion resolving that we would continue to keep up the pressure on Government and work with our partners and the voluntary sector to co-ordinate practical support for EU nationals who want to remain in Islington. 

As part of this, I recently spoke at a legal advice event, jointly organised by the Council, Islington in Europe and expert immigration solicitors, which offered support and advice to EU nationals in Islington about their options for remaining in the UK. It was genuinely one of the most important events I have attended as a councillor. Due to the level of demand we will be holding another session in November.

The battle is not lost. With millions railing against them and the global community shocked by the arrogance of a Government that falsely believes it is above scrutiny, I believe we will start to see a shift behind all that posturing.

Islington Labour is on the side of its residents, including EU citizens, and we will continue to make our support and demands for them loud and clear.

 

Pictured - Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, Islington Council

On the side of EU nationals in Islington

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, blogs about how Islington Labour is keeping up the pressure on Government to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Islington Today,...

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Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, congratulates Islington’s students for their outstanding English GCSE results

Congratulations to Islington’s fantastic GCSE students, who bucked the national trend and outshone their peers nationally in English language and English literature this year.

More Islington GCSE students achieved top results than last year, despite changes in the grading system which meant that results fell across the country.

Some 20.6 per cent of pupils gained a grade 7 or better in English literature – equivalent to A and A* grades under the old system. This is a huge improvement on last year – a rise of 2.5 per cent on 2016 and 3.7 per cent higher than this year’s national average.

In English language, 15.9 per cent of pupils gained a grade 7 or better – a rise of two percent.

English literature and language are two of the most important GCSEs for young people to have under their belt, so it’s great news that the proportion of Islington pupils achieving a grade 4 or better in those subjects – equivalent to a C or better under the old system – also rose this year and again beat the national averages. In English literature this was a rise of 2.5 per cent to 76.1 per cent, and in English language of 1.3 to 72.8 per cent.

There was a brilliant atmosphere across Islington’s schools as students received the results they had worked so hard for. It is fantastic that so many of them have achieved and even exceeded the grades they hoped for, and they thoroughly deserve them.

An exciting future now lies ahead for these young people, whether they are starting A-levels, vocational qualifications or training.

And, of course, a huge thank you to Islington’s exceptional headteachers and teachers and the students’ families for their support and hard work. The transformation of performance in local schools in recent years would not have been possible without them.

 

NB: All results are provisional. Full comparative results will be available once they have been verified early next year.

Pictured: Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families

 

Islington students shine bright in English GCSEs

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, congratulates Islington’s students for their outstanding English GCSE results Congratulations to Islington’s fantastic GCSE students, who bucked the national...

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After years of campaigning for the Archway public space, Islington Labour councillors alongside Jeremy Corbyn MP and the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, opened the new Archway public space on 22nd August 2017. 

The previous one-way gyratory for many in the local community was inefficient, outdated and congested with traffic. For years the local community had asked for it to be changed. After some tough campaigning from councillors, it has now been replaced with a two-way traffic system, better pedestrian crossings on Holloway Road, separated cycle routes and a more connected town centre, opening up safer access to shops and businesses.

The Archway public space would not have been possible without the joint partnership with the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL), alongside the £12.6m investment to make the new public space at the heart of Archway’s transformation.

As part of the celebrations, Islington Council is now running a naming competition, where members of the public are invited to suggest a name for the new public space. Suggestion boxes are located in local shops and can be submitted until 3rd September or alternatively the public can email town.centre@islington.gov.uk with their suggestions.

The shortlisted suggestions will be announced in a live event on the public square on 16th September where people can vote for their favourite names, as well as enjoy food, live music, market stalls, an Arsenal penalty shootout and Zumba lessons!

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Cllr Kaya Comer Schwartz, Executive Member Community Development said: “As someone who was born here and has lived in the area for over 30 years it has been wonderful to see a dangerous road transformed into a public square. Now the Jeremy has officially opened the square I look forward to the many activities that will created for and by our community, starting with the live event on 16th September. This beautiful square belongs to and should be enjoyed by local people.”

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport said: “This once in a lifetime scheme is the culmination of a massive joint effort to transform what was once a fragmented, traffic dominated area into a safe, attractive public space that local communities and visitors alike can enjoy; encouraging more to walk and cycle and lead healthier lives. This massive transformation would not have been possible without the patience and support of local residents, whom we wholeheartedly thank.”

More information about the Archway Improvement Scheme is available on the Council’s website.

For more information about Archway see www.archwaylondon.com

 

Pcitured: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington councillors and members of the public at the opening of the new Archway public space

New Archway public space officially opens

After years of campaigning for the Archway public space, Islington Labour councillors alongside Jeremy Corbyn MP and the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, opened the new Archway public space...

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Junction Ward councillors are supporting an exciting educational project in Foxham Gardens, which aims to raise awareness of the park’s wildlife and history.

Seven sign boxes have been placed around the park and will be updated on a seasonable basis with rolling information displaying information about plants and creatures, as well as history of the park.

The signs will change with the seasons and provide different information on what to see and smell in the gardens and alert visitors to unusual sights. The next change will be in September to mark the start of Autumn. One of the signs will tell visitors about the history of the gardens, from the bombings of the street in the 1940s through to the present wildlife park.

£700 has been awarded to Friends of Foxham Gardens through Islington Council’s Local Initiative Fund (LIF), a small grants scheme that supports activities and improvements across Islington. The funding will cover the cost of purchasing and installing the seven sign boxes in the park.

Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care and Junction Ward councillor, said: “I am delighted to support this important project by Friends of Foxham Gardens, which everyone who visits the park will enjoy and benefit from.

“Islington Council’s LIF grants scheme plays an important role in supporting community projects like this. As a councillor, it is very rewarding getting involved in what may seem like a small project that actually has a big impact on the local community. I urge other local community groups with exciting ideas to apply for LIF funding.”

Christine Wise, Chair of Friends of Foxham Gardens, said: “It is fantastic to have councillors’ support on our new project. All park users will benefit from the signage, especially local children and dog walkers who come from further afield to make use of the dog friendly space.”

 

Pictured: Junction Ward councillors Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz and Cllr Janet Burgess, and Chris Wise, Chair of Friends of Foxham Gardens, in front of the new signs

Junction councillors award funding to exciting Foxham Gardens educational project

  Junction Ward councillors are supporting an exciting educational project in Foxham Gardens, which aims to raise awareness of the park’s wildlife and history. Seven sign boxes have been placed...

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