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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, writes about why on 8th June, it's a choice between Labour and the Tories in Islington.

Once again, the Tories have decided that their own political opportunism should come before the needs of working people in Islington. Just as with the EU Referendum, the future of our country is being used as a bargaining chip by the Tories with Theresa May’s decision to call a snap General Election.

Unlike the Tories, Islington Labour is on the side of working people in Islington and we are making a difference on the issues that matter most to them. From delivering the biggest council house building programme in the borough for 30 years, to helping more than 3,000 local unemployed people into work since 2014 – Islington Labour, working as a united team, is making a difference.

But our efforts to make Islington a fairer place have been despite massive cuts imposed by this Tory Government, and by the last Tory-led government which was propped up by their favourite stooges – the Lib Dems.

Since 2010, the Tories have cut core government funding to Islington by more than half, and will have cut it by more than 70 per cent by 2020. At the same time, some Tory-run councils in leafier parts of the country have seen their funding increase, despite Islington being the 24th most deprived area in England. This is in addition to cuts to the police, NHS and fire services, as well as hugely damaging changes to vital social security for the least well-off.

But that’s the Tories for you – putting the best-off first and doing nothing to help places like Islington tackle the challenges we face.

We are lucky to have two local MPs in Emily Thornberry and Jeremy Corbyn who are champions for our community. They have been with us every the step of the way as we have fought to make our borough a fairer place, supporting our pioneering policy of free school meals for all primary and nursery pupils and our £100 council tax discount for older residents.

I am proud to stand alongside Emily and Jeremy as they fight the General Election on 8th June. With Labour’s commitment to build 500,000 council homes across the country, to introduce a real Living Wage of £10, to give the NHS the funding it needs and to tackle the crisis in social care – it is clear there is only one party that understands what matters most to working people in Islington.

I have written before about how damaging the Tories’ extreme hard Brexit would be for Islington. I fully support Labour’s demands for the rights of EU citizens living here to be protected, as well as ensuring access to the single market and protecting employment and environmental rights.

We need two Labour MPs for Islington to stand-up for local people. We need them to help us to challenge the Tories’ plans to force councils to sell-off council homes and to ban lifetime council tenancies. We need Emily and Jeremy to help us fight for fair funding for our local schools that will be hit by the Tories’ cuts to school budgets. We need a strong Labour team to fight the Tory cuts to the council.

Let’s not forget that the Tories finished second in both constituencies at the last General Election, so a vote for anyone other than Labour only helps the hard Brexit Tories.

On 8th June it’s a straight choice between Labour, on your side and making a difference, or the Tories and five more years of cuts and playing politics with our community. 

Islington Labour - On Your Side

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, writes about why on 8th June, it's a choice between Labour and the Tories in Islington. Once again, the Tories have decided that...

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Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, blogs about how Islington Labour is supporting SMEs.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islington’s diverse highstreets. Our borough is home to over 33,000 SMEs and the hard-working people behind them make a vital contribution to our local economy and communities. It is only right that this Labour-run Council protects and boosts them.

Apart from our highstreets, Islington’s economy is dominated by the SME sector. Last year the Council commissioned an Employment Land study which highlighted the dominance of SMEs in the local economy. So speaking up and supporting this sector is key to the economic success of Islington.

Last year, we successfully secured Greater London Authority (GLA) funding to support small businesses in our town centres to improve shop fronts and provide them with visual merchandising workshops. We are continuing to look at ways we can strengthen and develop our high streets and town centres.

The Tories claim to be the Party of small businesses but many business owners in Islington feel otherwise. Islington businesses will see their rateable values increase by 45 per cent – the third highest rise in England – under the Tories’ business rates rise. This puts more pressure on SMEs to relocate or close, which would damage the diverse and independent nature of our business communities.

It is essential that we protect our local businesses, which is why last month I handed in a 13,600-strong petition to the Treasury, alongside Islington business representatives. The Government has since announced some small concessions but it is not enough. We will continue to push the Government to bring forward genuine support for local businesses and offer support to those affected by the business rates hike.

This week, Jeremy Corbyn MP set out plans for how a Labour Government would support SMEs. One of these measures was tackling late payment from large companies, which is a problem many Islington SMEs will be all too familiar with.

Over 15,000 SMEs in the borough are owed upwards of £144 million in late payments. This can affect their ability to pay staff on time and pay the bills. Nearly 3,000 SME directors in Islington have sacrificed their own salary because of late payments.

We are determined to support Islington’s SMEs so that our high streets remain diverse and successful. From advice on starting your own business to support on business rates, you can find out more about the Council’s services for businesses here.  

 

Pictured - Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development

Standing up for Islington’s SMEs

Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, blogs about how Islington Labour is supporting SMEs. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islington’s diverse highstreets. Our borough...

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Islington Labour councillors have welcomed the progress of the creation of a new public space in Archway and removal of the gyratory, which are part of transformation works from Transport for London (TfL).

For years, local councillors have been campaigning for the gyratory’s removal, which will create a new public space and two-way traffic system, along with cycle lanes and improved pedestrian crossings. The new public space is expected to be open at the end of April.

Since the works were announced, Islington Labour councillors have been continually pressing TfL to introduce measures to mitigate any negative impact of the transformation works for residents and passengers. This has led to some significant concessions from TfL, so that this major transformation of the area maximises the benefits for everyone.

As a result of ongoing campaigning by Islington Labour councillors, TfL have agreed to:

  • Monitor and review putting bus stops at other locations, so that route destinations and stop locations work for passengers
  • Review the location of bus stops and arrange for them to be moved as necessary and appropriate. This includes reviewing the location of the bus stop serving bus 41 to provide a better interchange and bus stop access for elderly and disabled passengers
  • Reroute certain buses to terminate at Whittington Hospital and/or St John’s Grove near Upper Holloway station
  • Introduce new clearer signage in the area and deploy uniformed transport information helpers, to help residents and visitors for the duration of the works and beyond
  • Introduce ‘live’ next bus information boards at Archway station, and countdown signs at a number of bus stops around Archway
  • Introduce a clean bus fleet at Archway as quickly as possible and ensure bus drivers comply with Islington Council’s anti-engine idling agenda
  • Take action now to design out crime and anti-social behaviour, including rubbish at bus stop locations
  • Undertake traffic modelling once the works are complete and take corrective action if there are significant increases in traffic volumes on local roads
  • Allow residents to take ownership of the look and feel of the new public space
  • Monitor and review the information arrangements for cyclists whilst the public square is being built, and take action to eradicate any pedestrian and cyclist conflict once built
  • Provide a modest improvement to the Archway station façade
  • Support the Council on planting at Pauntley Street and additional trees and hedges to mitigate the effect of the bus stands
  • Consult on and implement road safety and air quality improvements on Vorley Road, including a road build-out in front of the children’s centre and planting trees and shrubs
  • Consult and reach a resolution on the Despard Road loading bay

Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “The removal of the gyratory represents the greatest transformation of Archway in a generation, which will lead to new jobs, investment and improved safety. That is why Islington Labour has been calling for this change for years and we are pleased to see it is nearing completion.

“We have consistently put passengers and residents first in our negotiations with TfL, and will continually hold the organisation to account to ensure the scheme is the very best it can be. The concessions we have won from TfL and the changes the Council has implemented will benefit all who use the new public space.”

New Archway public space nears completion

Islington Labour councillors have welcomed the progress of the creation of a new public space in Archway and removal of the gyratory, which are part of transformation works from Transport...

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Despite Islington Council having its funding cut by more than half by the Tory Government since 2010, the Islington Labour-run council has protected vital services, such as keeping all our children’s centres and libraries open.

We have also made a difference with policies like free school meals for all primary and nursery pupils.

At the 2014 council elections we said we would build more genuinely affordable homes, help more people into work and help residents with the rising cost of living.

We are proud that, by working as a united team that campaigns all year-round, we have kept our word to Islington voters while demonstrating how Labour in power can change people's lives.

We have - 

  • Helped over 3,000 local people into work since 2014
  • Delivered the biggest programme of council home building in 30 years 
  • Invested more money in giving young people opportunities to make the most of their lives and to keep them safe. 

Here's what some local people have to say about how Islington Labour has made a difference for them - 

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Making a difference with less

                      Despite Islington Council having its funding cut by more than half by the Tory Government since 2010, the Islington...

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Cllr Troy Gallagher, Islington Labour Councillor for Bunhill Ward, blogs about his recent visit to an Irish civil rights event in New York on St Patrick’s Day

There are more Irish living outside Ireland than in it. St Patrick’s Day is therefore an opportunity for us to remind the world that Ireland is an immigrant nation. This message has never been more relevant than today, with the suspicion of the outsider at the core of both Trump’s victory and, to an extent, Brexit. 

This St Patrick’s Day, I had the pleasure of being invited in my capacity as Chair of the London Irish Councillors Network to the ‘Irish Stand’ civil rights event in New York. This was an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our Irish American family to protest against President Trump’s immigration ban, which affects all emigrant communities.

Speaking at the event were people from all nationalities and religious backgrounds who have contributed to American communities and helped to shape modern society. Regrettably, this seems to be rapidly changing, with freedoms being eradicated. I met inspiring representatives from the Democratic Party including Max Kennedy, son of Robert F Kennedy and Irish politicians, along with Irish playwrights and poets.

The event was also a call to arms, urging everyone to speak out against injustice. We cannot stand idly by and allow immigrant communities to be persecuted. If we allow it to happen to others, it will continue and eventually affect those closest to us.

Trump’s discriminatory immigration ban is wrong in every way. The Irish community know better than most what it is like to be persecuted and forced to emigrate. That is why it is right that Irish communities around the world stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow brothers and sisters, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality, to rally against Trump’s terrible anti-immigration policies and say “not in our name”.

I am proud of the role our Irish representatives have played in speaking up for immigrant communities and condemning the Trump regime. Just like my own party, they are standing together for justice, equality and dignity.

I am also proud to call Islington, a diverse and tolerant borough which is home to people from backgrounds across the world, including Irish, my home.

You can watch the inspiring event, which includes speeches and poetry, here:

 

Pictured - Cllr Troy Gallagher, Islington Labour Councillor for Bunhill Ward

 

Standing up for immigrants around the world on St Patrick’s Day

Cllr Troy Gallagher, Islington Labour Councillor for Bunhill Ward, blogs about his recent visit to an Irish civil rights event in New York on St Patrick’s Day There are more...

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Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, writes about how Islington Council is leading the fight against rogue letting agents in London.

New research into the enforcement action against rogue letting agents by councils across London shows some very interesting results. The research looks into enforcement measures carried out since the new rules on displaying letting fees and membership of deposit and redress schemes, were introduced in May 2015. 

Islington Council issued total fines of £42,000 to letting agents that had breached the new requirements, amounting to two thirds of the total fines issued by councils in London. 

We are very proud of this record and want our residents to know that our work in this area continues, especially in relation to “ghost-listing.”

Recently the council prosecuted an estate agent for falsely listing a flat as sold. They were issued with a £1250 fine plus £925 in costs. Another estate agent based in the borough, was prosecuted following a report from a concerned resident that their home was listed for rent on the Zoopla property website, even though the property was not actually available. They received a £4000 fine and £2500 in costs.

We are setting an example in Islington by taking a zero tolerance approach. London is facing a housing crisis. More and more people are struggling to find decent places to live at an affordable rent, and letting agents should be helping us to tackle the problem, not making it worse.

Tackling these issues is a top priority for our borough and I am proud to say that Islington is leading the fight against rogue letting agents. 

We will be campaigning for the Mayor of London to introduce his promised databases of rogue landlords and letting agents as soon as possible. These measures can't come quickly enough. 

 

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

Islington Council is leading the fight against rogue letting agents in the capital

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, writes about how Islington Council is leading the fight against rogue letting agents in London. New research into the enforcement action...

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Cllr Dave Poyser, Labour Member for Hillrise Ward, blogs about Brexit and EU citizens in Islington.

As the triggering of Article 50 looms, signalling the beginning of the UK’s Brexit negotiations, the future of Islington and the country is a question I frequently hear from residents.

Islington did not vote for Brexit and many people, myself included, remain concerned and angry. A record number of residents turned out to vote in the referendum, 75 per cent of whom voted to remain, and many were heartbroken that the national vote went the other way.

I accept that the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU but what exactly did they vote for? This is a fundamental question that needs a proper answer, not ‘Brexit means Brexit’, so we can guarantee jobs and growth in Islington.

It is shameful that the Conservatives voted against Amendments, hard-won by Labour Peers, that would have guaranteed the legal status of EU nationals who are already living and working in the UK, and a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal in Parliament.

I am proud to live in a multi-cultural borough that is home to people from across the world, including over 17,000 EU nationals. These people are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. We cannot ease off the pressure on the Prime Minister to do the decent human thing by guaranteeing their future early on in the Brexit negotiations.  

Brexit must work for everyone, not just the wealthy few, and only Labour can be trusted to deliver a deal that prioritises the economy, workers’ rights, human rights and environmental protection.

We must never forget that the referendum was only held to help Tory divisions, not in the interests of working people, or that it was the Liberal Democrats that put the Tories in a position of power to do so in the first place.

Islington Labour is committed to creating a fairer borough for all. The Tories’ Brexit will make this harder but we will continue to fight for and prioritise the issues that matter most to people in Islington.

 

Pictured - Cllr Dave Poyser, Labour Member for Hillrise Ward

On the Side of EU Citizens in Islington

Cllr Dave Poyser, Labour Member for Hillrise Ward, blogs about Brexit and EU citizens in Islington. As the triggering of Article 50 looms, signalling the beginning of the UK’s Brexit...

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Following the tragic incidents at Westminster on Wednesday 22nd March, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, made the following statement - 

Yesterday, an act of horrific barbarism came to the streets of London once again.

It came to shake us. It came to divide us. It came to break us.  

But it shall achieve none of these things.  

On behalf of Islington Council and Islington Labour, I send our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of those who lost their lives in and around Parliament. The Town Hall is flying the Union Jack at half-mast today in a sign of respect for the victims, and observed a minute's silence at 9.33am to coincide with the start of the Parliamentary day.  

I would like to place on the record my immeasurable thanks to the emergency services personnel who ran towards the chaos and danger that was brought to Westminster on Wednesday. We are fortunate to have so many who put themselves in harm's way to protect us in our daily lives. PC Keith Palmer did just that, and undoubtedly saved the lives of others in doing so.  

I would also like to thank our local police and council emergency teams for their response to these tragic events, which ensured that calm and vigilance were brought to our borough swiftly.  

In the coming days there will be much discussion and conjecture regarding the events of yesterday. I ask that we remember that the actions of one person do not represent anyone but themselves.

Islington's strength comes from our diversity, acceptance and shared values. We must never allow the cowardly actions of those who seek to sow hatred and suspicion to divide us. 

Islington united

Following the tragic incidents at Westminster on Wednesday 22nd March, Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, made the following statement -  Yesterday, an act of horrific barbarism came to...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the recent EU rally at Islington Town Hall

This week (21 March), the Prime Minister announced that she plans to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday 29 March, officially beginning the UK’s withdrawal from EU membership.

Last week, I spoke at a packed ‘Islington IN Europe’ rally at Islington Town Hall, where I promised to defend the rights of the 17,000 EU citizens living in Islington to stay in Britain. I spoke alongside some high profile speakers about our future relationship with the EU: campaigner Gina Miller, columnist Professor Anthony Grayling and dramatist Bonnie Greer.

You can watch a video of the rally and my speech here:

I am proud to call Islington home. It is a fiercely multi-cultural borough, where people from across the world live, work and contribute to our community. These people are our friends, neighbours and family. They are also business owners and entrepreneurs, and many of them work for our vital public services.

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.

The priority for us now is to ensure that Islington remains a tolerant, diverse and welcoming borough, as it always has been. We will not see politics played with the lives of our neighbours.

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, speaking at the 'Islington IN Europe' rally (with thanks to 'Islington IN Europe' for producing the image and video)

Standing up for EU citizens in Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the recent EU rally at Islington Town Hall This week (21 March), the Prime Minister announced that she plans to trigger...

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This March, Islington has been undergoing a serious spring clean. Labour-run Islington Council, schools and colleges and the wider community have been coming together this month to tidy up local streets, communities and parks.

Islington Labour is committed to keeping the borough clean, which is why it took Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘The Great British Spring Clean’ weekend campaign further by running it for four weeks.

Town centres will be deep-cleaned with specialist teams jet-washing pavements, removing graffiti and chewing gum, washing commercial bins, litter-picking, filling in potholes in the road, clamping down on fly-tipping, dog fouling and drivers who leave their engines idling.

This month, cutting-edge new technology is being introduced to improve long-term efficiency of rubbish and recycling collections and quicker responses to reports of fly-tipping and other issues. Labour-run Islington Council’s ongoing effort to clean up the borough also include a clampdown on fly-tippers and new ways of driving up recycling rates.

Members of the community are also invited to get involved to keep Islington’s town centres, estates and green spaces looking spick and span, long into the future.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, launched the spring clean campaign with a visit to Nag’s Head shopping centre in Holloway, joining council workers who will be leading the clean-ups. She also met children and teachers from Copenhagen School who got involved with picking up litter and helping to keep nearby streets spotless.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “This is about the community coming together. We all share Islington’s streets and town centres and feel passionately about keeping them clean.

“We are committed to improving our environment for the benefit of everyone and hope to see everyone doing their bit for the borough.

“New innovations, alongside community spirit and involvement, as well as our dedicated teams, are what’s needed to keep the borough clean and tidy.”

You can sign up here to volunteer at an upcoming spring clean day in your area.

 

Pictured - Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, and council workers cleaning up Nag's Head

Islington Gets a Thorough Spring Clean

This March, Islington has been undergoing a serious spring clean. Labour-run Islington Council, schools and colleges and the wider community have been coming together this month to tidy up local...

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