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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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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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Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, blogs on the future of the former Holloway Prison site and how it could help to tackle Islington’s housing crisis.

In July 2016, the last prisoners left what is now the former site of Holloway Prison, 164 years after the prison opened. The now-empty site represents a key opportunity to build more genuinely affordable homes for local people in Islington.

The history of Holloway Prison is intertwined with the pursuit of social justice. The suffragettes imprisoned there fought for votes for women. Today, the fight is about decent housing and making sure that everyone has a safe and secure home.

Islington faces a housing crisis, with over 19,000 people on our housing register and 806 households placed in temporary accommodation. While the land of the former prison is owned by the Ministry of Justice, any new use for the site must be approved by Islington Council’s Planning Committee.

Our planning policies require that at least 50 per cent of the new homes that are delivered in Islington are genuinely affordable to local people, so we are determined to see as much genuinely affordable housing as possible built on the former site of Holloway Prison.

Today (16 August) a consultation on the Council’s Holloway Prison Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) begins. The SPD offers a vision of what would be expected from the site’s future development and is an opportunity to ensure that any new development works for the local community.

The SPD is now being consulted on and we are seeking views from the local community, before a final document is taken to the Council’s Executive for adoption in Autumn 2017.

Any plan for the Holloway site will take time, but the Ministry of Justice has the opportunity to make a real difference to Islington’s housing crisis immediately. Just beyond the perimeter wall of HMP Pentonville sits Wellington Mews, with a total of 28 flats originally used as accommodation for prison staff. The vast majority of these homes have been empty for many years and the Council is ready to work with the Minister of Justice to ensure they are put back into use.

Islington Council is already committed to seeing 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes built in the borough by 2019, including 500 new council homes. More than 200 genuinely affordable homes are currently under construction. 2017-18 will see 131 council houses for social rent completed, the most council homes built in Islington 1987.

The future of the former Holloway Prison site could add to this legacy of creating much-needed genuinely affordable housing in Islington. To have your say on the SPD, visit the Council website.

 

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

Have your say on building more genuinely affordable homes on former Holloway Prison site

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, blogs on the future of the former Holloway Prison site and how it could help to tackle Islington’s housing crisis. In...

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Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about how only Islington Labour will guarantee the future of Islington schools' funding.

On Monday (17 July), the Tories had another chance to guarantee the future of Islington schools’ funding. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they failed once again.

The Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, promised that schools in England would receive an extra £1.3bn over two years, but this is being funded without a penny of new money. The funding comes from savings made elsewhere within the education budget, including from important projects that keep our children healthy.

Per pupil funding for schools will be maintained in real terms for only two years. That is no better than applying a sticker plaster to a much bigger problem. The Government needs to be looking well beyond 2019 so schools can plan for the long term.

Rising pupil numbers and inflationary costs mean that the Government needs to stop recycling announcements and reshuffling money, and urgently pledge new funding to our schools.

Despite continued pressure from teachers’ and parents’ campaign groups, the Government is going ahead with its National Funding Formula. The Tories claim the Formula will level the playing field for schools across the country. In reality, schools in wealthy shires will benefit and schools in poorer areas like Islington will be hit hard.

I recently wrote to the Government urging them to guarantee sufficient funding for Islington’s schools. Their response expertly dodged the question and was lacklustre at best. Clearly, there is much more work to be done before their words become actions.

Only Labour will stand up for Islington’s schools. We will continue to work alongside local campaign groups, who were so well represented at last weekend’s march, to call for fairer funding for Islington’s schools, so they can continue to deliver an excellent education for all.

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

Government needs to guarantee the future of Islington schools’ funding

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about how only Islington Labour will guarantee the future of Islington schools' funding. On Monday (17 July), the...

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Islington Council has a strong tradition of celebrating diversity and championing equality. We work closely with and support our wonderfully diverse communities. I am also proud that Islington has a reputation not only as a multi-cultural borough, but also as one that is no place for hate.

Unfortunately, hate crime against Jewish people has increased in recent years. The Community Security Trust recorded 1,309 incidents in 2016, up by 36% in 2015. What is even more worrying is that we know many crimes are not reported in the first place.

One of the challenges we face in identifying and combatting anti-Semitism is that there has been at times a disputed definition of what anti-Semitism is. That is why this week Islington Council adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.

Every year in January, the Council observes Holocaust Memorial Day. We remember not only those who were killed during the Holocaust, but those who have been affected by genocide around the world since then. It is an opportunity to educate about genocide and reaffirm our commitment to seek tolerance, respect and fair treatment of all members of our society.

Sadly, hate crimes do occur in our borough, and we work with the police to ensure they investigate all incidents and support those affected. The terrorist attack in Finsbury Park, which targeted members of the Muslim community, was responded to quickly by the emergency services, and I am proud of how our community came together to stand shoulder to shoulder against hate.

In October last year, we launched our hate crime strategy, which sets out how we will seek to stamp it out. We recognise that there is significant under-reporting of hate crime, so we need to do all we can to give people confidence to come forward.

By working closely with our partners and the community, we will work to ensure a timely and effective response and appropriate support and protection. Critical to this is holding perpetrators to account.

As a council, we are committed to improving residents’ quality of life. We cannot achieve this without improving community safety, so that people are not afraid of being targeted simply because of their race, religion or otherwise. By adopting this definition of anti-Semitism, the council will truly be one that stands for equality.

  • Definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Islington Council on 29th June 2017 –

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

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

Islington is no place for anti-Semitism

Islington Council has a strong tradition of celebrating diversity and championing equality. We work closely with and support our wonderfully diverse communities. I am also proud that Islington has a...

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Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, reflects on Refugee Week.

Refugees, past and present, have made many contributions to our society, not only to the UK as a whole but to Islington specifically. It is vital that we commend these successes.

A number of inspiring refugees have called Islington home throughout history. This includes Nadya Krupskaya, the wife of Lenin, and Carl Ludwig Franck, a German-born architect and designer of Finsbury Library and Estate who fled from Nazi Germany.

Refugee Week, which has been running this week (19-25 June), gives us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of refugees. It is also an important awareness-raising exercise of why so many are forced to flee their country of birth.

We must also call out negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media and certain individuals whenever we see them

The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is ‘Different Past, Shared Futures’. Despite our differences, we all want the same thing: to be safe, to have a good quality of life and for our children to have the best possible future.

As part of Refugee Week, I have been meeting with the refugees who make Islington great, from member organisations of the Islington Refugee Forum to the individuals who run our vital small businesses.

But the Council’s support for the refugee community is throughout the year and not limited to just one week.

We have led the way in supporting refugees and calling on the Government to play its part. We currently have 60 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who have presented themselves directly to the borough. We have also welcomed 25 Syrian refugees and are about to welcome one more. I hope they find Islington a welcoming, multi-cultural and diverse place, and we are working hard to ensure that all our refugees feel at home.

 

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

Working together for Islington’s refugees

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, reflects on Refugee Week. Refugees, past and present, have made many contributions to our society, not only to the UK as a...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the stark differences between the Labour and Conservative Parties' manifestos.

Last week, the Labour and Conservative Parties published their manifestos to set out their visions for the UK if they formed the next Government. They could not be more different; Labour’s a carefully costed plan on the side of working people and the Tories’ an uncosted shift from poor to rich.

Labour will introduce free school meals for all primary school children, funded by introducing a VAT on private school fees. This would mean only a small group would pay for a policy benefiting hundreds of thousands of children, but the Tories’ plan to end the current provision of free school meals means everyone loses out.

Labour-run Islington Council’s pioneering free school meals programme means that every primary school and nursery pupil receives a free hot and nutritious meal every school day. The policy has helped each family save over £500 every year per child and helped children to focus on learning. It is shameful that the Tories would deny this to the rest of the country.

The Tories are failing miserably on education as they waste money on their vanity projects like grammar schools and free schools. Islington parents and teachers have been campaigning hard against the estimated 10 per cent funding cuts set to hit their schools over the next four years.

Labour will reverse the £3bn of cuts to schools’ budgets faced by 2020 and protect the core schools budget through a £4.8bn annual real-terms funding increase. These education plans will be funded by reversing Tory cuts to corporation tax. This is a costed policy that would see much-needed funding shift from the richest to those who are less well off.

The Tories have presided over record low house building levels and have no plans to fix the housing crisis. Labour will build at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year and end insecurity for private renters by granting them new consumer rights.

I am proud of Islington Labour’s record on housing. The Council is undertaking its largest council house building programme in 30 years and has delivered 709 new genuinely affordable homes in the past two years, prioritised for local residents.

We have also been campaigning hard against the Tories’ plans to end secure lifetime tenancies and force the Council to sell hundreds of desperately-needed council homes every year. A Labour Government would scrap the Tories’ plan to end secure lifetime tenancies, offering security to Islington’s many council tenants.

The Tories will make people pay more towards the cost of social care, a sector in crisis thanks to their successive cuts. Labour will increase the social care budget by £8bn over the next Parliament but also establish a National Care Service to find a long-term solution. The fact that the Tories have already U-turned on their social care plans demonstrate they are anything but ‘strong and stable’.

By 2020, Islington Council will have had its budget cut by 70 per cent in a decade. At the same time, Tory Councils, such as former Prime Minister David Cameron’s home in Witney and the leafy shires, have been spared the same level of cuts. The idea that the Conservatives want to redistribute the wealth and stand up for working people is laughable.

The Tories are far more concerned with alienating our neighbours in Europe for the sake of a hard Brexit, stripping working people of their rights and dignity, and bringing back fox hunting. They are determined to further shift funding from the poorest, who need it most, to the richest. Labour’s policies are fully-costed, the only ones that benefit working people in Islington and worthy of your vote on 8th June.

 

Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

The manifestos prove that only Labour is on the side of working people

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, blogs about the stark differences between the Labour and Conservative Parties' manifestos. Last week, the Labour and Conservative Parties published their manifestos to...

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Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about what Labour's schools funding policies mean for Islington.

Last week, the Labour Party pledged to stop the cuts to schools' budgets and increase funding in real terms if it formed the next Government. It committed again to these policies in its manifesto, launched this week (16 May). This will be welcome news for the teachers, parents and pupils who are experiencing first-hand the impacts of the Tories’ damaging cuts to schools’ budgets.

Every child has the right to reach their full potential and schools must have the funding they need to provide an excellent education for all. Unfortunately, the Tories’ cuts and planned changes to how they fund schools make this more difficult to achieve.

Under the Tories’ planned funding changes to schools, schools in Islington South will lose £583 per pupil between 2015 and 2019, and this rises to £603 per pupil in Islington North. These cuts will be to the detriment of our children’s futures, as schools are forced to make savings or reduce resources.

Thanks to the dedication of parents, teachers and our community, Islington’s schools have gone from strength to strength. Since 2010, GCSE results have jumped from 143rd out of 151 local authorities to the top third. Islington’s primary schools are in the top 10 in the country for helping children from poorer backgrounds achieve good results. We cannot risk this progress with further cuts.

Labour's education plans, which include a real terms increase in schools budget funding, will be funded from the £19.4bn that will be raised by reversing cuts to corporation tax.

Only a Labour Government will deliver the funding our schools need so they can ensure a bright future for our children. On 8th June, the day of the General Election, we have a chance to make this a reality at the ballot box.

 

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

Ensuring a bright future for Islington's schools

Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about what Labour's schools funding policies mean for Islington. Last week, the Labour Party pledged to stop the...

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Cllr Claudia Webbe, Member for Environment and Transport, blogs about tackling poor air quality.

Here in Islington we have already been working for years to tackle poor air quality. From the first ever borough-wide 20mph speed limit, action on engine idling, introducing a diesel surcharge on parking permits, to support for businesses to reduce emissions - the Labour-run council has been implementing measures that make a difference.

Sadly, the Tory Government is still refusing to fully engage with the dangers that continued poor air quality poses to local people. The courts had to intervene to force the Government to publish its plan to improve air quality, which has been described as ‘woeful’. The Government’s reluctance to take a lead on this issue makes it clear that the election on 8th June is a chance for a clean start on air quality.

We need a Labour Government that will back the Mayor of London’s calls for a diesel scrappage scheme to remove the oldest polluting cars from London’s roads. We then need to go further and for Islington Labour’s calls for all diesel vehicles to be banned from London by 2025 to be accepted. But we also need a Labour Government that will fight hard to maintain the important environmental safeguards we currently receive from the European Union and that commits to fully implementing the Paris climate agreement.

In Islington we understand that tackling the real causes of poor air quality – polluting diesel buses, lorries and cars – is not just a public health campaign, it’s a social justice campaign because poorer residents live closer to the most polluting roads. It’s no wonder then that the Tories are failing to take action when their focus is on the few, unlike Labour who is standing up for the many.

 

Pictured - Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, Islington Council

Election is a chance for a clean start on air quality

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Member for Environment and Transport, blogs about tackling poor air quality. Here in Islington we have already been working for years to tackle poor air quality. From...

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