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
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...
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
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...
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
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...
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
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...
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, blogs about The Great Get Together.
In my role as Executive Member for Community Development, I am struck often by the generosity and kindness the people of our borough display in caring for their neighbours. However events across the world, the Brexit vote, the election of Trump and global terrorist attacks have left many of us feeling that our communities are divided.
As the austerity cuts by the Government continue to pile on; the majority of people’s lives feel insecure. There is a real danger that people look increasingly inwards. Islington Labour’s values of fairness are central to tackling the risks associated with fear and division. We know if everyone in the borough has a real chance to a decent life, we will all benefit.
In Islington there is so much to celebrate and understanding our common challenges means being able to tackle them together.
In order to encourage unity in our community, Islington Council has decided to join in with the Jo Cox Foundation’s new initiative, The Great Get Together - which looks to bring together neighbours and communities – on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of June 2017.
Last year, the Labour Party lost one of its greatest community champions, Jo Cox MP, in a brutal act of extremism. She had worked tirelessly to bring people across the UK and across the developing world together, to show us that “we have much more in common than that which divides us”– as she herself had proclaimed during her maiden speech in Parliament.
In Islington we have hosted events that celebrate and champion community, such as the Love Islington rally, where we got 400 local residents together to Say No to Hate Crime with our faith leaders present and our local MPs.
Altogether, the council’s VCS Grants programme, Local Initiative Fund, Community Chest Fund and our Festivals Fund, has invested £3.3 million into the social fabric of our borough. This is vital not only in terms of supporting our most vulnerable residents but also in bringing members of our community together.
But as ever we want to go further, by supporting local people to take control and organise their own community events, from picnics in the local park to tea dances; whether it’s a coffee morning or a party. Let’s celebrate the Great Get Together! And to back this, the Council is awarding grants of up to £500 per group or event. Residents have up until Sunday the 7th of May 2017 to apply.
Hate, division, ignorance and fear are destructive and have no place in Islington. Through the simple things in life, such as love for family, food or music we can find great commonality, an increased understanding of each other that benefits everyone.
So, I hope you enjoy getting together and finding out what you have in common.
To find out more information please visit: https://www.islington.gov.uk/advice/voluntary-community-organisations/funding/council_funding/the-great-get-together-17-to-18-june-2017
Applications are to be submitted via email to: email@example.com. The closing date for applications is Sunday 7 May 2017 (11:59pm)
Pictured - Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, blogs about The Great Get Together. In my role as Executive Member for Community Development, I am struck often by the generosity...
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council, writes about why this election is about stopping the Tories’ devastating housing policies.
Speak to any local councillor in Islington, or either of our two brilliant local Labour MPs, and they’ll all tell you that the number one issue people come to see them about is housing.
We face a housing crisis in London. Too many people live in over-crowded homes; people struggling to afford private rents and the dream of owning your own home being out of the reach of most people in Islington. That’s why this General Election is for me, and many people in Islington, all about housing.
Islington Labour has been working tirelessly to build more new genuinely affordable homes for local people, including new council homes. In fact our council home building programme this year is the largest for 30 years in Islington. We’ve also set-up a council-run not-for-profit private lettings agency to provide tenants and landlords with a better deal. We’ve also introduced targeted landlord licensing schemes to improve standards for private renters, and we’ve secured fines of over £50,000 against landlords who weren’t treating tenants fairly.
But the Tory Government is determined to make the housing crisis in Islington worse, not better. We were able to stand alongside local residents to defeat the Tory Tenant Tax, which would have forced working people to pay more tax just because they are council tenants, but other disastrous Tory housing plans remain in place.
Such as the Tory plans to force the council to sell-off council homes, which will see Islington lose up to 300 council homes each year, making it far harder for us to find people who need them secure and affordable homes. The Tories also want to ban lifetime tenancies for council tenants, something we strongly oppose.
That’s why on the 8th June, people in Islington have a clear choice between Labour - who will build a million new homes, including 500,000 council homes, across the country, as well as introducing caps on rents and banning letting fees – and the Tories, who have plans that will only make the housing crisis worse for local people.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council, writes about why this election is about stopping the Tories’ devastating housing policies. Speak to any local...
Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, blogs about the importance of supporting carers in Islington.
In the UK, there are currently 6.5 million people who provide unpaid care for older, disabled and seriously ill relatives and friends. In Islington that amounts to thousands. This means that our care service is heavily dependent on unpaid care that ordinary people, like you and me, provide every day to their family and friends.
Currently, the Government supports unpaid carers, through a Carer’s allowance, which is £62 per week and payable only to those unpaid carers on low incomes who work 35 hours per week. But imagine how tough it is, if your salary is low and you have full time caring responsibilities - the emotional and physical strain is immense.
I am proud that Islington has a package of offer that means more for unpaid carers. For example, we offer a Direct Payment scheme of up to £30 a week for leisure, social, training and or other activities to help improve the wellbeing and quality of life of carers themselves, which is vitally important in helping them to carry out their role. There is also a Flexible Breaks Fund, which unpaid carers can bid in for to help them with much-needed respite. The aim is to ease the pressure of unpaid caring.
We commission the Islington Carers Hub run by Age UK which provides a range of support to adult carers and the Young Carers service by Family Action, which provides support to young carers.
Every day Islington Labour is looking for new ideas and innovative ways to help those who care for others voluntarily. The Labour Party recently announced it will raise Carer’s allowance to £73 per week, funded by reversing the Government’s planned inheritance tax cut for the wealthiest, to recognise the contribution of Britain’s unpaid carers.
I welcome this policy announcement and wait to hear if other Parties are also giving carers the priority they need.
If you think you might be entitled to any form of carer’s support, please get in touch with the Islington Carer’s Hub at 020 7561 5517 or visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/social-care-health/carers for more information
Pictured - Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care
Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, blogs about the importance of supporting carers in Islington. In the UK, there are currently 6.5 million people who provide...
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.
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...
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
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...
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
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...