Cllr Osh Ganty writes about how Islington is leading the way on transgender equality
I am proud to be an Islington Labour councillor, and one of just a few openly transgender elected representatives in Britain today.
Under Richard Watts’ leadership, fairness and equality are central to Islington Council’s ways of working, and that of course also extends to transgender people in our borough. That is why, just a few weeks ago, the transgender flag flew above Islington Town Hall to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance (20th November). A day that aims to raise public awareness of transphobic hate crime, and commemorate the victims of transphobic violence.
Unfortunately, many transgender people still experience harassment and hate crime on a regular basis. We are fortunate that here in Islington, transphobic hate crime is lower than the London average and I know Islington Police continues to take the matter very seriously. It is by educating people of all ages and backgrounds, and yes cracking down on transphobic hate crime, we can continue to make a real change.
For transgender people, self-acceptance and subsequent self-realisation can be a long and difficult journey, but ultimately something we should all celebrate. That is why today (1st December) I welcome that Labour MPs are taking part in a debate on transgender rights, which gives us all the opportunity to note the UK’s pioneering status in legislating for LGBT equality and also call for action on the areas where transgender people are still being let down.
One area where urgent legislative improvement is needed relates to the out-dated legal process to gain gender recognition. The simple truth is, though pioneering in its day, the original gender recognition act hasn’t stood the test of time and now urgently needs revision. I hope parliament will seize the opportunity for positive change.
Currently in Britain, transgender people are faced with unwarranted pathologisation and a slow bureaucracy that is burdensome and dehumanising, just to be considered for recognition. This contrasts with other progressive societies such as Malta, Argentina and the Republic of Ireland, where the gender recognition process simply requires the (self) completion of a short form.
The announcement of a new transgender equality action plan is welcome, but it must get off the ground quickly if it is to deliver real results. Not only do we need to improve how transgender people are included in society, whether it is in work or in education or by the NHS, but it is important that we change the rhetoric too.
As my own transition gathers inexorable pace, I am proud to be a member of a Labour Party that long ago recognised that transgender people are an integral part of a dignified society and proud also to live in a borough where ultimately all are welcome.
We have come a long way on transgender rights in the UK but the fight for true equality isn’t over yet.
Pictured - Councillors mark Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015.
Cllr Osh Ganty writes about how Islington is leading the way on transgender equality I am proud to be an Islington Labour councillor, and one of just a few openly...
Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, blogs about Islington’s thriving small business community ahead of Small Business Saturday.
It’s Small Business Saturday on 3rd December, and there’s no better time to celebrate the success and diversity of Islington’s small businesses. These businesses and the hard-working people behind them make a vital contribution to our local economy.
Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign which highlights the success of small businesses across the UK. It also encourages residents to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.
From innovative start-ups to the antique shops lining Camden Passage, Islington has a diverse mix of small businesses. It’s vital that we continue to protect and boost these local businesses.
Although many small businesses in Islington are likely to see their business rates increase from April 2017 under the Tory Government, Islington Council is determined to work with our local business and trade organisations to mitigate the effect of the increase. We are writing to all businesses to advise them of the changes and providing ongoing advice and support on applying for relief.
We know that vibrant and diverse high streets and town centres play an important role in our communities and neighbourhoods. 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 will continue to look at ways we can work to strengthen and develop our high streets and town centres.
The local business community will be at the heart of the festive atmosphere as festive lights are switched on around Islington this weekend. Stroud Green Road have produced a trail to encourage residents to shop local. Shoppers will pick up a sticker in each local shop and, with at least six stickers, shoppers can claim a free drink at La Fabrica of Clapton Craft Brewery.
I would like to thank all the local businesses who have given up their time to make our festive events so successful. I encourage everyone to shop local and support their local businesses, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.
Islington festive lights switch ons:
- Thursday, 1 December – Finsbury Park (Fonthill Road), 2.30pm-7pm, lights switch-on 4.30pm;
- Friday, 2 December – Archway (Archway Mall), 3.30pm-5.15pm, lights switch-on at 4.45pm;
- Saturday, 3 December – Nag’s Head (in and around the Nag’s Head shopping centre), 12 noon-5pm, lights switch on at 4.30pm.
- Sunday 4 December – Highbury Barn and Blackstock Road, 6pm
- Wednesday 7 December – Campdale Road and Tufnell Park Road, 4.30pm
- Saturday 10 December – Cally Road (Tilloch Street), 11am-5pm
- Wednesday 28 December – Menorah lights (Islington Green), 5pm-7pm
Pictured - Cllr Asima Shaikh and Vava Mouhtari, owner of Opera in Fonthill Road
Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, blogs about Islington’s thriving small business community ahead of Small Business Saturday. It’s Small Business Saturday on 3rd December, and there’s no...
Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, blogs about the importance of social care services in Islington
Today, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee is hearing evidence on social care. This is a vital issue for Islington, where over 8,000 residents receive care support at home.
By 2020, the Tory Government will have cut the Council’s budget by 70 per cent in ten years, making it harder to meet the needs of an ageing population. The Tories are spending less on social care now than Labour in 2010, despite the significant increase in demand.
From 2010 to 2017, expenditure on adult social care in Islington will have suffered an 11.6% real terms cut. This threatens the most vulnerable and undermines the NHS.
We cannot let the Tories’ irresponsible social care cuts affect people’s ability to live independently, which is why Islington Council has protected frontline services in social care.
With the high cost of living in Islington and as a Living Wage Employer, it is right that Islington was the first Council to pay the London Living Wage to care home workers, including covering carers’ travel time.
Islington was also one of the first two Councils to co-sign UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter, becoming the first council to ban poverty wages and axe 15 minute care visits for service users.
Carers are often the unsung heroes of local authority social services. I am proud of the vital work they do and the Council’s record on protecting frontline services in the face of damaging Tory cuts. However, we will continue to call on Government to fund this service properly so it can meet demand.
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 social care services in Islington Today, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee is hearing...
Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about how Islington Council is improving education and social mobility in the borough
Yesterday (22nd November) in Parliament, Labour MPs led a debate on education and social mobility. According to a recent report, Islington has a child poverty rate of 38%, one of the highest rates in London. In Islington, we know how important a high quality education is in determining the life chances of young people.
In order for our young people to unlock their true potential, education is the key to helping young people exceed the educational achievements of the parents and move out of poverty.
Since 2010 Labour-led Islington Council has made education one of the centrepieces of our vision of creating a fairer, more equal Borough. In Islington we have seen rapid improvement in educational achievement. Not too long ago 70% of parents chose schools outside Islington, but now that statistic has been reversed.
Islington’s primary schools are in the top 10 in the country for helping children from poorer backgrounds achieve good results. GCSE results in the borough have massively improved in recent years, meaning more young people living in Islington have the chance to go on to further education or enter the world of work with the skills they need. All of our secondary schools are rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Islington is ranked fifth in the Government’s Social mobility Index, which shows our hard work is paying off. However, there is no room for complacency. The aim of increasing social mobility through education is challenged by Government policy.
The Social Mobility Commission recently warned that low and middle-income families are being held back by a “deep social mobility problem”, pointing to an unfair education system, a two-tier labour market and unaffordable housing as key causes. These are also areas that the Tories have done nothing to address, and even worsened through their own policies, in recent years.
The cost of housing plays a significant role in child poverty and social mobility. This is why Islington Council has pledged to deliver a further 2,000 affordable homes, including 500 council homes by 2020. We are also actively campaigning against the Tory Government’s Housing and Planning Act, which will force councils to sell off housing stock and make finding an affordable home in Islington harder.
Government policy on Housing will increase overcrowding, which is already a huge problem for us. Imagine trying to do your homework or revise for exams in a two bedroom flat with two siblings and parents.
We will continue to fight to remove any barriers to our young people reaching their true potential and take action to provide the jobs, housing and education that enables people to live a life beyond the parameters of the one they were born into.
Public meeting on Ladbroke House
As the DfE have no plans to consult the community over their controversial plans to open a free school sixth form with luxury flats on the Ladbroke House site in Highbury, local people have come together and arranged a ‘Community Consultation’. The meeting will take place at 6.30pm on Monday 5th December at Highbury Fields School and is open to anyone with an opinion on this proposal.
Pictured - Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families
Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, blogs about how Islington Council is improving education and social mobility in the borough Yesterday (22nd November) in Parliament,...
Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about how Islington is leading the way as a Living Wage employer.
This Living Wage Week, the Living Wage flag is flying proudly on top of Islington Town Hall and Living Wage posters have gone up around the borough to signal once more Labour councillors’ commitment to tackling the scandal of poverty pay.
Islington Council was the first local authority in the UK to become accredited as a Living Wage employer, back in 2012. This was off the back of the Islington Fairness Commission, itself the first of now 24 Fairness Commissions around England, Scotland and Wales.
All of the council’s own staff are paid at least the London Living Wage and we have also convinced our contractors to sign up, with 98 per cent of contracted staff now being paid at least the Living Wage too.
We are still working hard to address the outstanding 2 per cent of contracted staff who don’t get the Living Wage, all of whom work in the vital yet nationally underfunded area of residential adult social care. With very long contracts, limited property availability, care homes shared with other councils and reticent providers, this is proving a tough nut to crack. We are coordinating London-wide efforts though to see what can be done.
There are now 110 other accredited Living Wage employers in Islington, across the public, private and voluntary sectors. This is the third highest figure of any London borough. We have actively sought to persuade these employers to go Living Wage and we celebrate their achievement. Islington North MP and Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, visited one such local employer, Schools Offices Services, yesterday morning to hear from cleaners there about the difference the Living Wage has made to them.
Islington was also the first council in the country to be recognised as a Living Wage Friendly Funder, building a Living Wage requirement into our £2.7 million per year core grant-giving programme, supporting small charities and community organisations in the area to pay a Living Wage too.
By way of shareholder activism, committee members representing the £1 billion Islington Pension Fund have turned up as investors at FTSE 100 companies’ AGMs to lobby, for instance, supermarkets and pharmaceutical companies to go Living Wage as well.
The real Living Wage is based on the actual cost of living, unlike the Tory Government’s sham version, and is administered nationally by the Living Wage Foundation. To mark the start of Living Wage Week, London’s Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the London Living Wage will rise by 35p to £9.75 an hour in 2017. This will be welcome news for many Islington workers living in the most expensive city in the UK.
Most London Labour councils are now also accredited Living Wage employers, which sadly cannot be said of our Tory counterparts who talk a good game on tackling working poverty but do not walk the walk. By offering civic leadership on the Living Wage, our council has helped to make Islington one of the boroughs in London with the lowest levels of in-work poverty.
There is still more work to be done though. Islington Labour will continue to lead by example. Some other big employers in the borough also need to step up to the plate. It isn’t good enough, for instance, that Arsenal’s contracted cleaners and caterers still do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on at the world’s sixth richest football club.
Pictured: Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety
Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, blogs about how Islington is leading the way as a Living Wage employer. This Living Wage Week, the Living...
Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, writes about how the Tory Government is wasting £33m on a Highbury Free School while refusing to fund essential works to Islington’s ‘Outstanding’ Central Foundation School.
In July, the Leader of Islington Council Richard Watts revealed in The Guardian that the Government had paid £33.5m for Ladbroke House, a former London Metropolitan University building in Highbury. This was done in order to put a secondary school and sixth form between two existing popular and highly-rated secondary schools, Highbury Grove and Highbury Fields.
Here is a map, posted by Highbury Grove Head Tom Sherrington on his blog, showing just how close a new school would be to the two existing schools.
Richard rightly described this as a “staggering waste of money”, given Islington has clear plans to meet future need for secondary school places by expanding existing good and outstanding schools, including Highbury Grove. The likely costs of redeveloping the site for mixed educational and residential use would stretch into the tens of millions. When you consider that many local authorities are struggling to meet basic need for reception places and secondary places, the wrongheadedness of this is stark.
We now know that the Meller Trust have submitted a proposal to establish a new secondary Free School with a sixth form as part of a mixed development including luxury housing. They claim to have identified a need for places in Islington based on comparing our primary school numbers to our current secondary school capacity. However, they have not considered planning constraints and admitted they had no awareness of Islington Council’s place planning strategy, which identifies enlargement of existing schools to meet future demand.
It is worth noting that the Trust is Chaired by David Meller, a luxury property developer, Conservative Party donor and a member of the Department for Education Board. Furthermore, one of the Trust’s two UTCs, Elstree, has recently been rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ by Ofsted. Their Watford UTC has not yet been inspected. All of Islington’s secondary schools are currently rated as Good or Outstanding by Ofsted.
Richard and I have written to Lord Nash, the Minister responsible at the Department for Education (DfE), urging him to think again, not only because of the possible impact of a new school on the existing school, but also on the grounds of public safety.
If this new school goes ahead, there would be up to 3,000 pupils entering and leaving the three secondary schools in a tiny area, in addition to the three closest primary schools. Narrow pavements and already overstretched bus services would effectively become a no-go zone for locals, raising serious road safety concerns.
Highbury Fields, the main thoroughfare from Highbury Barn to Highbury and Islington Station, would also suffer the impact of dramatically increased footfall.
Meller Trust has apparently told governors from Highbury Grove and Highbury Fields that they will be responding to a London-wide school places problem, drawing pupils from all over London with a curriculum specialising in film and performing arts. But why not invest in building new schools where they are actually needed by other local areas rather than forcing parents to bus their children across boroughs? And where is the evidence of demand from parents for this kind of school?
If the Government wants to do something useful with that building, they should convert it into keyworker housing for the countless teachers at Islington schools who cannot afford housing and struggle with long commutes. Many of our schools have high staff turnover rates because younger teachers say they are priced out of living in central London when they want to buy a property or have a family.
We’ll find out at in November whether or not the DfE give this proposal the green light. If they do, they should expect huge local opposition from local parents, the local schools, the NUT and of course Ward councilors.
Pictured: Cllr Joe Caluori
Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, writes about how the Tory Government is wasting £33m on a Highbury Free School while refusing to fund...
All across the country, October marks Black History Month (BHM). BHM is designed to celebrate, recognise and promote knowledge of the achievements of the Black community to British history, culture and heritage.
Each year, Islington has a comprehensive set of activities and events to mark BHM. Last year events in Islington, with the theme of Social Justice, saw a 50% increase in participation from the previous year - with over 2,000 participants and community partners taking part in celebrations and activities.
But at the Full Council Meeting on 15th October, councillors called for a new approach to ensure that black history is fully integrated into the school curriculum. This is part of our move to an approach called, 'All World History, All Year Round'.
Islington Council's Equalities Champion, Cllr Kaya Comer Schwartz, said about the motion passed at Full Council -
"The rich diversity of Islington is fundamental to the very fabric of our community and to making the borough a fantastic place in which to live and work.
“Every child should feel included and engaged by the history they study in school, at all times, and no student should feel overlooked by the education they receive.
“We are already working together with some schools to develop a more culturally inclusive curriculum. But we think that much more could be done to showcase Black cultural heritage and Black contributions to British society and history.
“I’d encourage anyone who wants to contribute to Islington’s All World History agenda to get in touch with ideas, events and educational resources.”
The motion was seconded by Cllr Claudia Webbe.
All across the country, October marks Black History Month (BHM). BHM is designed to celebrate, recognise and promote knowledge of the achievements of the Black community to British history, culture...
St Peter's ward councillor, Cllr Alice Perry, spoke at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Read her speech below -
Our lives our defined by our work, the communities we come from and our most strongly held values and beliefs. Our lives are defied by the people and places we love. The Stronger, Safer Policy commission covers the issues at the heart of what matters to us most.
May’s General Election defeat was devastating. Some of us still feel in shock at the prospect of what another five year’s of a Conservative Government means for our communities.
Labour’s general election defeat has been particularly hard for all of us in local government. Councils have had their funding cut dramatically since the Tories came to power in 2010. These reckless cuts to Council budgets endanger vital public services. We must come together as a Labour movement to oppose them.
But despite the massive cuts to our budgets, Labour Councillors continue to make a huge positive difference to our communities. Despite enormous cuts to our funding, Councillors continue to demonstrate the positive difference voting Labour makes.
Together we continue to champion policies that make a real difference to people, policies like:
- Building new affordable Council housing
- Tackling rouge landlords
- Paying workers the living wage – the real living wage
- Helping residents reduce energy bills and tackling fuel poverty
- Securing new jobs and apprenticeships, and helping people back to work
- tackling payday lending
- promoting the use of credit unions
- regenerating our communities
- supporting local businesses
- Supporting our armed forces and honouring those who have served our country
- Developing new models of integrated health and social care
- Providing free school meals to school children
- Pioneering new ways of improving public health
- Using ethical procurement policies and challenging companies guilty of blacklisting workers.
- Improving roads and access to transport
- And supporting refugees
If people want to know why they should vote Labour, they should look at what we are doing in local government.
Remember when David Cameron forgot what football team he is supposed to pretend to support? David Cameron doesn’t really get football, he just doesn’t understand.
Labour, however recognise that football clubs are not businesses, instead they belong to their communities. They are an important part of many people’s cultural identity and sense of belonging.
But despite football club’s importance in the lives of their members and supporters, too often there are no effective means for fans to have a say in how their clubs are run. Labour’s 2015 manifesto planned to introduce legislation to enable accredited supporters trusts to appoint and remove at least two of the directors of a football club and to purchase shares when the club changes hands.
The principal of supporters on the boards of football clubs reflects our wider values and should also pave the way for places for workers on the boards of companies. The plans were symbolic of the wider narrative – that the Labour Party is prepared to take power away from a self-interested elite and this give power back to our communities.
We know the next five years are going to be incredibly tough. Unless something very dramatic happens we are out of national government until 2020. But despite massive, unfair cuts from the Tory government, that hit the most deprived areas hardest, Labour Councils still deliver.
We run many of the UK’s major cities, towns and regions. In many areas Labour’s Councillors are the last line of defend against this Tory government. There are many, vital local elections between now and 2020. Our 7,000 Councillors are leading the Labour fightback.
St Peter's ward councillor, Cllr Alice Perry, spoke at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Read her speech below - Our lives our defined by our work, the communities...
Islington's Executive Member for Finance and Performance, Cllr Andy Hull, writes about the Tory Government's summer budget.
Welfare reforms brought in by the government since 2010 have already hit our community in Islington hard. The council has sought to respond through the ground-breaking work of its IMAX social security advisers, its iWork employment coaches, its award-winning Shine energy initiative and its innovative Families First programme. The £12bn of further welfare cuts announced by the government in this week’s budget though will leave many more residents struggling to cope and cash-strapped local services less able to help them.
Recent modelling carried out by the council shows that the Chancellor’s plans to cut the benefit cap by £3,000 from £26,000 to £23,000 will hit an additional 575 households in the borough, on top of the 250 already affected by the current cap, and could impoverish 1,000 more local children.
The budget also commits the government to:
- Cutting working tax credits, expected to hit 45% of working families nationwide
- Freezing local housing allowance, meaning housing benefit will not keep up with rising private sector rents
- Turning maintenance grants for students into loans, threatening to deter poorer students from going to university
This budget represents an attack on families and those in low-paid work, as the government looks to balance the nation’s books on the backs of the poor. When people fall through the increasingly threadbare safety net, it is councils that are left to pick up the pieces at the taxpayer’s expense. But how are we meant to do that when our own budgets are being cut to the bone?
Cllr Hull tweets at @AndyHull79
Islington's Executive Member for Finance and Performance, Cllr Andy Hull, writes about the Tory Government's summer budget. Well unfair Welfare reforms brought in by the government since 2010 have already...
Cllr Alice Perry, St Peter's ward, writes about the importance of tackling the practice of 'blacklisting' -
Our lives our defined by our work, the communities we come from and our most strongly held values and beliefs. Defending and strengthening our rights at work is at the heart of what it means to be Labour. Back in 2009, the Information Commissioner exposed details of a large-scale surveillance operation run by a company called The Consulting Association. This company collated files on thousands of construction workers and sold the information to 44 construction companies.
Blacklisting is the illegal practice of systematically denying individuals employment on the basis of information, accurate or not, held on some kind of database. While it has been a serious blight on the construction industry for many decades, the discovery of this database was concrete proof of a massive national blacklisting scandal.
The raid resulted in the closure of the database, which had been used to record details of union activity and health and safety campaigning by construction workers. In some cases, just attending a meeting was enough to get you blacklisted from future employment.
The list contained over 3,000 names of workers, many of whom had had their lives ruined as a result. As the GMB point out “Blacklisting has devastating effects, including lengthy periods of unemployment, and being forced to retrain to work in other industries. Not only does this cause financial hardship for the person blacklisted, but also for anyone who is dependent on that person’s career.”
A national campaign led by Trade Unions like the UCATT, the GMB and Unite has sought to achieve justice and compensation for those affected, as well as calling for a full public inquiry and for companies guilty of blacklisting to be barred from tendering for publicly procured contracts.
Shockingly, around half of the workers on this secret database still do not know they were victims of blacklisting. As a society, we cannot turn a blind eye to this unjust, illegal practice.
Many Councils across the country have passed motions against blacklisting and supported the national anti-blacklisting campaign. In 2013 Islington Council wanted to look into what additional practical measures could be taken. Due to the scale of the practice and the terrible impact this had on the lives of thousands of workers, we investigated how local authorities could avoid doing business with companies guilty of blacklisting who had not self-cleansed (e.g. providing detailed evidence of the steps taken to remedy past damage done and prevent future occurrence.)
As a council, we adopted the following changes to its procurement policy:
- The Council will now not enter into contracts with companies implicated in ‘blacklisting’ unless they can demonstrate that they have ‘self cleansed’ and taken adequate measures to remedy past damage done and prevent future occurrence.
- The Council is amending its standard contract terms and conditions to introduce a new clause on ‘blacklisting’ to make explicit the link between ‘blacklisting’ by the contractor (or any sub-contractors that they engage) and the Council’s ability to terminate the contract.
- If during a tender process, a candidate is unable to declare that they have never ‘blacklisted’, they will now be required to prove to the Council’s satisfaction that they have ‘self-cleansed’.
I am delighted that other Councils have adopted similar procurement processes to tackle blacklisting. It is great to see so many Labour Councils adopting ethical procurement processes. If Labour had won the election the party had promised a full enquiry into blacklisting. We should continue to campaign for this and supportthe ongoing major legal action. There is also a lot we can do right now in local government to challenge this disgraceful practice, hold guilty companies to account and fight for justice for thousands of workers.
Cllr Alice Perry, St Peter's ward, writes about the importance of tackling the practice of 'blacklisting' - Our lives our defined by our work, the communities we come from and...