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To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, Islington Council today raised the Irish flag above the Town Hall. 

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This occasion was witnessed by members of the local Irish community, councillors, and the Leader of the Council, Cllr Richard Watts. 

Organiser of the event Cllr Troy Gallagher said of the occasion: "St Patrick’s Day is an important date in London’s calendar.

"Raising the Irish flag is a great gesture to mark the occasion, and to celebrate our Irish population in Islington and the contribution they have made to our local community. 

"Islington's strength is our diversity and I’m proud that today we’re celebrating the distinctive contribution of our Irish residents in the borough."

Pictured: Councillors and council employees with the Irish flag at the Town Hall. 

Irish flag raised to celebrate St Patrick's Day

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, 17th March, Islington Council today raised the Irish flag above the Town Hall.  This occasion was witnessed by members of the local Irish community, councillors,...

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Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, wrote this week in the Evening Standard about the Tory-led Government's massive cuts to local councils and the impact yet more cuts would have on services. 

Cllr Watts wrote - 

Your editorial on Monday about the impact of further major cuts to public spending is too complacent.

Local councils have been making the kind of relatively pain-free efficiency savings you suggest for four years now. My own authority has cut its spending by more than £100 million this way.

However, these efficiencies cannot keep being found. If, say, you’ve shared your public health department once (as Islington and Camden councils have done) you can’t do it again and again and expect to keep on saving money.

Substantial further cuts to local councils can only be made by cutting deep into valued public services. Such cuts would be deeply damaging and a false economy that will pile costs onto the state elsewhere.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Cllr Watts has also written about the need to give local councils a secure financial future and why giving councils the powers they need to help improve services and get results, is good for everyone. 

 

There are limits to local authority cuts

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, wrote this week in the Evening Standard about the Tory-led Government's massive cuts to local councils and the impact yet more cuts would...

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, writes about the council budget and Islington Labour’s commitment to making a difference for our borough.

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On Thursday 26th February, Islington Council was yet again forced to make tough choices in order to set a legal budget for the year ahead.

Since 2011, the council's funding has been cut in half by the Tory-led Government. That has meant we have had to carry out our agenda to make Islington a fairer place and to make a difference for working people, in a time of unprecedented financial pressures.

Imagine for a minute that you had to run your household with half as much money as you used to have, and you will understand the scale of what we have had to do.

The difference Islington Labour makes can be seen in our budget which protects all our libraries, children's centres, and continues to support vital adult social care. It also delivers fair pay for all our staff with our continued commitment to the Living Wage.

We have also found new ways to generate income, such as selling our expert advice in certain areas and by installing solar panels on council buildings. We’ve been able to keep job losses as low as possible, and have made some agency staff full council employees with better terms and conditions.

We were very clear at the election that we would prioritise homes, jobs and helping people with the cost of living. I know that people understand that if we had not set a legal budget, all this work to make a difference to people’s lives would have been put at risk.

I'm proud that the 47 members of the Labour Group did not duck this challenge and set a legal budget.

In contrast, the Green Party showed that they are neither serious nor up to the job of running a council. The last few weeks have shown us that their policies don’t stand-up to scrutiny, and this was the case with their amendment which proposed raiding vital funds that help us to protect the poorest people against the Tory-led Government’s welfare reforms. The Greens aren’t up to the job – just look at Brighton where they couldn’t set a budget this week or even collect the rubbish.

We are committed to making a difference for Islington, and that's what my administration will continue to do.

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Cllr Richard Watts

Leader of Islington Council 

Council Budget Passes – Tough Choices, Right Priorities

Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, writes about the council budget and Islington Labour’s commitment to making a difference for our borough. On Thursday 26th February, Islington Council was...

On Wednesday 14th January, Cllr Rakhia Ismail resigned from Islington Council's Executive as Lead Member for Community Development for personal reasons. 

A copy of Cllr Ismail's letter of resignation to Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of the Council, can be found here. 

Cllr Watts' reply can be found here

Cllr Ismail will continue to serve the Holloway ward on the Council. 

Cllr Ismail's resignation from Council's Executive

On Wednesday 14th January, Cllr Rakhia Ismail resigned from Islington Council's Executive as Lead Member for Community Development for personal reasons.  A copy of Cllr Ismail's letter of resignation to...

A blog from Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Islington Council - 

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Today, we welcomed another London Borough to the club of local authorities that are taking steps to make our roads safer for all road users and pedestrians. 

At last night's Cabinet Meeting in Lewisham, the Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, and his colleagues voted to introduce 20mph speed limits on all the borough's roads that the council controls. 

I'm delighted that Lewisham has joined Islington and a number of other London Boroughs in adopting this progressive policy. Islington introduced our 20mph limit policy in 2013 and remains the only local authority to enforce the limits with our partners in the police. 

Our decision wasn’t simply based on making our roads safer. It was also about improving the quality of life for people in our borough and making it a better place to live. This includes improving health outcomes by encouraging active travel and also working towards reducing air pollution in the borough. 

Since launching our policy, we have worked with the police to firstly make drivers aware of the new limits and then - as I wrote about in October - we began enforcing the policy with the police. 

But we mustn't stop there.

We need the Mayor of London to take his responsibilities to make our roads safer seriously.

Currently, local councils can only implement 20mph zones on the roads we directly manage. The major routes through our communities are managed by Transport for London (TFL) and are known as 'red routes'. So far the Mayor has refused to implement 20mph on red routes and we need to keep the pressure up on him to make him see sense. 

I hope that we can continue to work across London to encourage more boroughs to adopt 20mph zones and to lobby the Mayor to adopt the safer limits on the roads TfL manages. 

Another step towards safer roads in London

A blog from Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Islington Council -  Today, we welcomed another London Borough to the club of local authorities that are...

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A blog by Islington Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Gary Poole (St Mary’s ward) – 

The beginning of November marks a poignant period in the civic year for our borough. This year, as we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the remembrance events of the past week have an added significance. 

The crowds that have flocked to the Tower of London to see the magnificent and powerful poppies demonstrate the importance to people of remembering those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Here in Islington, 9,400 army personnel and residents lost their lives between 1914-1918. That’s almost equivalent to the entire population of one whole ward of our borough. 

The fields of France and Belgium, the sands of Egypt and the beaches of Gallipoli, all saw ordinary people from Islington fall in service of their country. 

To emphasise and remember that it was ordinary people from Islington that went to fight in the First World War, but never returned home, Islington Council has established the ‘The Streets They Left Behind’ project.

Today, we have launched the next part of the project – an interactive map which shows where each of the people who died during the First World War lived. Each soldiers’ former home is marked by a poppy on the map, and when clicked displays details about their military action during the war, and their last resting places. 

The locations have been compiled from the Islington Book of Remembrance, which commemorates the 13,000 men, women and children of Islington who died as a result of war from the beginning of the Boer War (1899), to the 1950s.

You may have already seen some of the plaques that have been placed on streets across our borough, which commemorate the men who lived in those streets and lost their lives in the First World War. 

Here's a piece BBC London did about the plaques - 

This project aims to highlight the impact on the communities back home of the loss of so many Islingtonians, and to remember the soldiers’ great sacrifice. Communities, families and workplaces were torn apart by the loss of so many and we hope that It will be an invaluable resource for schools and other groups wishing to study the impact of the First World War on their communities. 

There are many events and exhibitions taking place as we mark the centenary of the First World War and you can find details of these here, including information about the ‘Islington during the First World War’ exhibition at Islington Central Library. 

I am proud that the people of our borough won’t forget the sacrifice of those that fell in the Great War, and the sacrifice of so many others in conflicts that came after. 

We will remember them. 

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Pictured: Islington Labour councillors at Spa Green Memorial on Sunday 9th November 2014. 

The Streets They Left Behind

A blog by Islington Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Gary Poole (St Mary’s ward) –  The beginning of November marks a poignant period in the civic year for our borough....

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Blog by Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance and Resources - 

Too many people go to work but come home without the fair pay they deserve.

That's why Islington Labour has been at the forefront of the campaign for the Living Wage ever since we were elected to run the council in 2010. We've been working hard with our partners in community groups, the trade unions and others to tackle the scourge of poverty pay.

In 2010, we launched the UK’s first Fairness Commission (there are now more than 15) to tackle poverty and inequality in our borough. In 2011, its top recommendation was that we should lead the way on the Living Wage. In 2012, we became the first council in the country to become accredited as a Living Wage local authority, paying all our own 5,000 staff the Living Wage. This included cutting our Chief Executive’s salary by £50,000 to secure the Living Wage for our cleaners. In 2013, we guaranteed the Living Wage for 92 per cent of our contractors as well. In 2014, we have extended this to 98 per cent of those working on a council contract. 

Next week is Living Wage Week and we are delighted that Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, will be joining us to celebrate the fact that Islington is now the first council in the country to ensure that all its 500 home care workers receive the Living Wage. These carers who look after elderly and vulnerable people on our behalf are doing some of the most important work in our society and deserve nothing less. What's more, last week the council’s Executive decided to secure a contract for a residential care home where all staff will be paid the Living Wage as well. We're the first council in the country to do this and it's something of which Islington should be really proud.

But there is more to do. Our borough is home to the second highest number (75) of accredited Living Wage employers of any area in the country, but that is still too few.

As we mark Living Wage Week from Monday, flying the Living Wage flag from the roof of the Town Hall, let's celebrate how far we've come. But let’s also recommit ourselves to campaigning to make Islington a place where no-one has to do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on.

Cllr Hull has also written a blog for the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network and for the NewStart website

The work Islington Labour has done to champion the Living Wage also featured in this weekend's Observer newspaper. 

Pictured: Cllr Hull with Islington Council cleaners who all receive the London Living Wage. 

Leading the way on the Living Wage

Blog by Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance and Resources -  Too many people go to work but come home without the fair pay they deserve. That's why Islington...

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BLOG - Islington Labour's Cllr Alice Perry writes about the housing challenges facing the country and how the Labour Party is planning to tackle them. 

This week Vince Cable warned of “inequalities caused by the housing crisis”, fuelled by government policies like Help to Buy and Right to Buy. Yes that’s right, fuelled by government policies. His government’s policies. The policies of the government which he is a part of.

If attacking the inequality caused by your own government seems a bit ridiculous (as the Lib Dem’s own former press spokesman recently said “if the Lib Dem’s didn’t exist, who would invent them?”), talking about ways to tackle the UK’s housing crisis makes perfect sense. For many voters housing is a key issue for next year’s general election.

Labour’s National Policy Forum in Milton Keynes agreed some really strong policies on housing. This included a commitment to building at least 200,000 homes a year, a commitment to replace each council house sold under Right to Buy by with a new council house in the same local area, removing Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap for councils, stopping retaliatory evictions and reinforcing tenants’ rights in the private rented sector.

We all know the story. For parts of the UK experiencing the housing crisis most acutely, a combination of high private rents and high house prices mean owning a home seems like an impossible dream many young people are giving up on. Meanwhile those unable to buy, or access affordable social housing, have little choice but to rent privately. Some private landlords are good. Others are not so great. The same goes for letting agents.

The current government has shown little interest in regulating the private rented sector. In contrast, Labour have a range plans to make the private rented sector work better for tenants.

It is hard to emphasis enough how important it is that Labour now gets the importance of sorting out the private rented sector. For too long mainstream politics neglected the issues faced by transient communities of predominately young people in the private rented sector (particularly as they did not always vote in elections).

As a founding member of a local private tenants association, we were constantly asked by potential funders and other voluntary sector organisations “if you can’t afford to live in the area, why don’t you just move somewhere cheaper? Why does it matter that you can’t afford to live here any more?”

I am from the place where the term “gentrification” was first coined. Parts of Islington today are totally unrecognisable from the borough I grew up in. These days of course the same goes for most of central London, as well as many other parts of the UK.

There is nothing wrong with an area improving – quite the opposite. It is a good thing for an area to become a nicer place for its residents to live. In local government Labour continuously works to make life better for our local communities.

The problem with gentrification, however, is that it displaces people, forcing one group out to make way for another, more affluent group. This can be very corrosive and can significantly contribute to a range of complex social problems.

The NPF commitment to replace homes sold under Right to Buy with new council houses in the same local area is an important recognition that Britain doesn’t just need brand new garden cities. When we are building those hundreds of thousands of new homes, we need to make sure we are building them where people want to live. We need to be building some of the new homes in areas where long-term residents are being priced out. By doing this we will strengthen our communities and keep families and support-networks together.

Of course every local area has a different housing need. Various housing initiatives should match the requirements of their local communities. The key thing is that Labour now gets it on housing. We have policies that can positively and dramatically transform our communities. All we need to do is win next year’s general election and get on with it.

Cllr Alice Perry is a St Peter's ward councillor and represents local Labour councillors on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. 

This article also appeared on LabourList.

Labour now gets it on housing

BLOG - Islington Labour's Cllr Alice Perry writes about the housing challenges facing the country and how the Labour Party is planning to tackle them.  This week Vince Cable warned...

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A blog post by St Peter's ward councillor, Alice Perry

Do you remember when David Cameron announced that the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”? Seems like a long time ago doesn’t it?

A lot has happened since then. The badgers moved the goalposts. A controversial planned sell-off of sell 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodlandhad to be axed after a furious public backlash. A responsible government would conserve our countryside and protect our national heritage for future generations. A responsible government would take action to mitigate the possible catastrophic effects of climate change. Instead, this government cuts spending on flood defences and advises people to stockpile petrol at home in jerry cans.

The potential/predicted consequences of climate change are terrifying. But despite this climate change has fallen down the political agenda. It is the responsibility of all of us to act now to mitigate the future risks of climate change but this is easier said than done. Particularly when money is tight and people are feeling squeezed by a cost of living crisis.

For many ordinary people climate change is an abstract concept that seems too far removed from the concerns of everyday life. It is distant, hard to relate to. As a result, it is not always seen as an immediate political priority.

Reducing high household energy bills, on the other hand, is something everyone can relate to and should be a priority for politicians from all parties.

Step forward Bunhill Energy Centre, Islington Council’s publicly owned power provider – one of many examples of how local government is working to tackle climate change and the cost of living crisis.

Bunhill is a densely populated, high rise neighbourhood on the edge of the City of London. The area’s high population density makes it the perfect site for a district heating network.

The award winning energy centre includes a 1KM district heating pipe network and a gas-fired 1.9MW CP engine that generates electricity. The centre provides cheap, greener energy heating 720 council houses and two leisure centres. Islington Council also sells heat to 162 new, privately developed homes.

This project was fully funded from external grants (grants that sadly have become harder to come by). Bunhill Energy Centre has lead to a CO2 reduction of around 60%. It has also allowed us to freeze energy bills for our residents while the market prices went up 20%.

But wait, there is more! We are working to extend the district heating network to connect to another 450 homes, using waste heat from a London Underground ventilation shaft and a nearby electrical substation.

Using the heat from the tube to warm homes and bring down bills – that is pretty darn exciting!

District heating is brilliant. It allows local Councils to tackling climate change and provides families, pensioners and some of our most vulnerable residents with cheaper bills and warmer homes.

Labour Councils in urban areas are pioneering district heating. In other parts of the country, Labour in local government is pioneering the use of solar, tidal and wind power. Exciting times, no?

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Cllr Alice Perry is a councillor for St Peter's ward, Islington Labour Chief Whip and a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee - representing councillors from across the country. 

Alice has her own blog - https://aliceperry.wordpress.com/ 

This blog first appeared on Labourlist

How local government can tackle climate change and the cost of living crisis

A blog post by St Peter's ward councillor, Alice Perry Do you remember when David Cameron announced that the coalition would be the “greenest government ever”? Seems like a long...

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A blog post from Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment

Last year Islington became the first borough in the country to introduce a 20mph limit on all council controlled roads.

We took this ground-breaking step because we are committed to making Islington a safer place for all our residents. While the number of deaths on roads in Britain has gone up in recent years, we are doing all we can to make sure Islington doesn’t follow this trend.

Our decision wasn’t simply based on making our roads safer. It was also about improving the quality of life for people in our borough and making it a better place to live. This includes improving health outcomes by encouraging active travel and also working towards reducing air pollution in the borough. 

We are now challenging the Tory Mayor of London and TFL to play their part and make the remaining roads that aren’t controlled by the council (such as Upper Street and Holloway Road) also 20mph zones. 

Since taking this decision I’m really pleased that other borough’s including Camden, Southwark and the City of London have all followed our lead. This week I met with another interested Local Authority - Labour controlled Croydon council to discuss the benefits of 20mph roads and how to make implementing this a reality.

We wish them all the best in their endeavours and urge other councils across London to do the same to make our roads safer across the capital.

By joining together we really can make the Mayor of London and TFL take action. 

You can read more about 20mph Islington here.

Pictured - Cllr Claudia Webbe (centre) is pictured above with councillors from Croydon, Cllr Kathy Bee Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment and Cllr Robert Canning (Deputy to Cllr Kathy Bee).

 

Islington Labour leading the way on road safety

A blog post from Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment Last year Islington became the first borough in the country to introduce a 20mph limit on all council controlled...

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