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Since 2010, Islington Council has faced its biggest Government cuts in peacetime history. The council's budget has been cut by £112m since 2010 - a cut of almost a third. 

The Tory-led Government plans to cut the council's budget by another £95m over the next four years - cutting it by a third again. 

This means Islington Council's budget in 2018 will be one third the size it was in 2010, despite increasing demand for many of the services it provides. 

Every household in Islington will be over £2,000 worse off under the Tories' proposed cuts to local government. 

Council Leader Richard Watts said: “We are on the side of ordinary working people who will be hit hardest by the Tories’ unfair cuts and we will be leading the fight against them. 

“Elected representatives are the people who make the decisions in Islington and every decision we make will be guided by our strong mandate from local people to make jobs, housing and help with the cost of living the priorities in tough times.

“The leaked council managers’ draft proposals are not the decisions of the elected representatives, but do indicate the potential horrific consequences of us not standing together now against the Tory-led Government’s cuts that hit Islington far harder than the wealthy Tory-controlled shires. 

“Islington Labour is really proud of how we have made a difference with a third less government funding - by cutting the Chief Executive’s salary by £50,000, getting rid of top heavy management and achieving efficiencies in order to avoid having to make cuts to the frontline services on which our residents depend. We have also reduced wasteful spending by the former Liberal Democrat administration on things such as communications staff.  

“As we have done in each of the last 4 years’ budgets, we will prioritise protecting frontline services and our most vulnerable residents. By doing things differently and leaving no stone unturned, we will continue to do all we can to protect services such as libraries, leisure facilities and the ecology centre. 

“The elected councillors have not yet decided how to make the savings being forced upon us because it is our intention to fight them first.  In the future any actual proposals will be announced in advance of agreeing the Budget and the community will have a chance to have a say on them." 

 

Council to lead fight against Tory cuts of over £2,000 per household

Since 2010, Islington Council has faced its biggest Government cuts in peacetime history. The council's budget has been cut by £112m since 2010 - a cut of almost a third. ...

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Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, recently wrote on the LabourList website about the need for a fair deal for Islington and other local councils. Read Richard's article below about fighting for Islington. 

 

The policies are great, but what about the money?

After four years of massive cuts, 2015 is the year when council finances will start to fall off a cliff.

Local government has borne the brunt of the cuts to public spending since 2010. My Council, Islington, typical of authorities in urban areas across the country, has lost 35% of its budget over the last four years. That’s a staggering £112 million.

Councils have done a great job of coping with these cuts. My Council has gone through a process of transforming public services that would be the envy of any government department in Whitehall. In four years we have improved public services in a way that would be impossible for a sclerotic central government.

What is remarkable is that this kind of innovation is common across local government. Labour councils across the country are leading the way in showing how we can build a fairer Britain without breaking the bank.

But all of this work is threatened by the next round of cuts to councils. Under the Tory-led Government’s spending plans we are set to lose another third of our budget over the next four years.

Continuing to cut major councils this harshly will lead to chaos. Councils spend the vast majority of their resources on care for older people and children with disabilities, as well as on basic services like street sweeping and bin collections. After four years of big cuts I don’t know of a council that has much fat left to cut before core services become hard to deliver beyond what is legally required.

Labour’s current policy is to keep the Tories’ spending limits for local government but to redistribute the money towards the councils that have been cut the most. This will secure a few million more a year for councils like mine; welcome but nowhere near enough to stave off damaging cuts to services. It was telling that the National Policy Forum held last weekend agreed a range of excellent policies for local government, but was silent on the crucial question of money.

Put simply, Labour has to recognise that councils cannot survive the kind of cuts that are planned for the next few years and we need to definitively break away from the Tories’ spending proposals. Unless we do, some high profile councils will go bust.

The councillors I speak to aren’t unrealistic – we know spending won’t be returning to 2010 levels. There is zero appetite for a return to 1980′s gesture politics around illegal budgets. We’ve become used to managing services on eye wateringly tight budgets. But – and this is important – we don’t accept that under Labour things have to keep getting worse.

As the backbone of the party, Labour’s 7,000 plus councilors have every right to make this ask. We make the second biggest financial contribution to national party funding through our subs and, in addition, fund a national network of local organisers that many CLPs rely on. Councillors tend to be the activists that keep local parties alive. In an era where grassroots campaigning is more and more important we are crucial to the party’s electoral chances.

As champions of our local communities, councillors are duty-bound to make the strongest case for the people we represent. But we need strong voices to make sure the priorities of Labour in local government are heard by the central party. Jim McMahon as the new leader of the LGA Labour Group has already made a strong start on this front, and is telling everyone who will listen about the innovation Labour councils are driving.

Recognition of the work Labour councils do, respect for the thousands of councillors who are the back-bone of our party and understanding that cutting local services even further will be deeply damaging is what we need from the Labour Party leadership. I know my friend and colleague Cllr Alice Perry is fighting hard for this through the National Policy Forum and as a candidate for the NEC as an ALC representative. Together with others in local government, Alice has the ability and values to make a difference.

Labour’s first budget needs to protect local services, devolve more power to local councils and ensure a fairer funding formula, so Labour councils hit by Tory cuts will be better off. That way we can truly say that Labour in government will make a difference for local communities.

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Fighting for a fair deal for Islington

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, recently wrote on the LabourList website about the need for a fair deal for Islington and other local councils. Read Richard's article below...

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Cllr Alice Perry, Labour councillor for St Peter's ward and representative for local Labour Party members in London on the Party's policy-making body, reports back on the National Policy Forum which took place in Milton Keynes at the weekend. 

 

"What’s the point of the National Policy Forum?” A question I have been asked many times since I was elected to represent party members in my region on Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF).

“Why would you want to join the National Powerless Forum anyway? It’s a waste of time” I was told.

Returning home from this weekend’s NPF meeting in Milton Keynes, it did not feel like a waste of time, and as a constituency party representative, I did not feel powerless. Together, the representatives of party members from around the country made our voices heard and secured commitments for progressive policies that will help win us the general election.

A list was put together of improvements delivered by the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and regional representatives on the NPF. A snapshot of some of these includes:

Stronger Safer Communities

  • Replacing each council house sold under right to buy by with a new council house in the same local area.
  • Building at least 200,000 homes a year.
  • Removal of the cap on Housing Revenue Account for councils to allow more building.
  • Stop retaliatory evictions and reinforce tenants’ rights in the private rented sector.
  • An accessible and fair system of legal aid.

Health and Care

  • Increased support for carers and the role of local authorities.
  • Enhanced powers for democratic Health and Wellbeing Boards.
  • Properly resourced mental health care for children.
  • More effective regulation of care providers.

Britain’s Global Role

  • Protect public services from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and reform of investor-state dispute settlement.
  • Increased support for human rights (including women’s rights and LGBT rights).
  • Cross-departmental working in international development.
  • Creation of an Armed Forces credit union.

Education and Children

  • Improved citizenship education.
  • Duty to provide a youth service.
  • Commitments around Sure Start and free school meals.

All these policies were put forward by party members around the country, taken up by the constituency and regional reps and are now in the policy documents heading for the manifesto.

Some of the improvements were easy to achieve. I proposed an amendment from Walthamstow CLP seeking to improve women’s rights internationally. Unsurprisingly, I was knocking at an open door (although this popular and uncontroversial amendment would not have been included if party members in Walthamstow had not taken the initiative and put it forward).

Other amendments were more controversial and involved a lot of negotiating. It was clear that there would be no unfunded spending commitments and so compromises had to be reached. Despite this, what has emerged from the weekend is a very strong set of policies that show that Labour is listening to its members and the communities around the country that they come from.

More important than the individual policies themselves, Labour is developing a strong overarching narrative, based on our core values, which link these policies together.

A common complaint, heard many times on the doorstep around the country that all politicians are the same and there is no difference between the mainstream parties. The policies discussed this weekend show there is a real, distinct difference between a Labour and Conservative government. If we are successful next year, our Labour government will transform Britain, dramatically improving life for millions of ordinary working people. We have the policies. Now we just need to go out and win the election.

This article first appeared on LabourList. 

Cllr Alice Perry is standing for election to the Labour Party's NEC as a local councillor representative. Find out more about her campaign by clicking here.

We have the policies - now let's win the election

Cllr Alice Perry, Labour councillor for St Peter's ward and representative for local Labour Party members in London on the Party's policy-making body, reports back on the National Policy Forum...

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Chair of Islington Labour's LGBT Councillors Group, Cllr Nick Ward, writes about the priorities for the group in the months ahead.  

Following the local election results in May which saw Islington Labour win 47 out of 48 seats in the borough, Islington Labour now has more LGBT identifying councillors than ever before.

Islington Labour is committed to promoting equality, diversity and social justice.

The newly convened LGBT Labour Group has already met to discuss its priorities and how it can encourage LGBT members to participate in local politics. 

The first meeting identified many important topics and campaigns, including tackling homophobic bullying in schools. 

According to the charity Stonewall, almost nine in ten secondary school teachers (86 per cent) and almost half of primary school teachers (45 per cent) surveyed say pupils in their schools have experienced homophobic bullying. However, only eight per cent of primary school teachers and 17 per cent of secondary school teachers say they have received specific training on tackling homophobic bullying.

Over the coming months the LGBT Labour Group will be looking to identify best practice in Islington’s schools and elsewhere to help tackle bullying, and will bring forward new initiatives to address this important issue.

Tackling bullying in schools a priority for Islington Labour’s LGBT Councillors Group

  Chair of Islington Labour's LGBT Councillors Group, Cllr Nick Ward, writes about the priorities for the group in the months ahead.   Following the local election results in May which...

Former Royal Navy man and lifelong servant of his community, Bill Millet passed away on Good Friday.

The son of an engineer, he was born in Ecclesbourne Road in Canonbury in 1918 and left school at 14 to work in Chapel Market. He got the call-up and decided to join the navy to see the world.

Bill served in the navy throughout World War 2 firstly aboard a warship that helped rescue British soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches and later saw action protecting merchant convoys.

In 1942, his ship, the cruiser HMS Arethusa, was torpedoed by Italian aircraft escorting a Mediterranean convoy. When the ship was hit, Bill was in the engine room. He escaped with his life although about a third of the crew did not.

Bill was one of the founding members of the Islington Veterans Association and turned out with colours for every ceremony on Remembrance Day and Armed Forces Day. He was awarded the MBE in 2003 for his charity work.

After serving in the navy he spent his career working for Metropolitan Water Board.

In 1974, Bill was the first person to get his keys and move into the newly built Westbourne Estate. He lived the rest of his life with his wife, Edith who died two years ago, on Mackenzie Road.

After he retired, Bill worked tirelessly as Chair of the Westbourne Tenants and Residents Association for many years, as well as chairing the Housing Panel, the Safer Neighbourhood Panel and was chair of the Westbourne Community Centre Board.

As chair of the Safer Neighbourhood Panel, Bill took his role very seriously, and would patrol the Westbourne at 1am with a torch, making sure the estate was safe.

Cllr Charlynne Pullen said “I met Bill first at the Westbourne Community Centre because he organised my surgery. At our councillor induction, someone mentioned ‘council protection’ could come and help with our surgeries. That was not needed because, every month, Bill would set out the sign, arrange the forms, shepherd people in to see me, and work as the protection at my surgery. Bill was a fine man and an inspiring example of public and community service, a true Westbourne legend. We were proud to have known him”.

In March 2012, Cally Councillors successfully nominated Bill for one of the Mayor’s civic awards at a Town Hall ceremony.

This article was orginally posted on http://callylabourcouncillors.org.uk/

Veteran and community leader, Bill Millett, has died aged 95

Former Royal Navy man and lifelong servant of his community, Bill Millet passed away on Good Friday. The son of an engineer, he was born in Ecclesbourne Road in Canonbury...

Islington Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, today (Thursday 17th April) launched Islington Labour’s manifesto for the local elections which will take place on 22nd May.

Islington Labour’s mission is to make our borough a fairer place so that everyone can benefit from a successful Islington. After conducting a huge listening exercise involving 20,000 people, we found that local people's priorities were jobs, housing and the cost of living. As a result, our three priorities for 2014–18 are:

  • Jobs – bringing down unemployment levels to below the London average and making sure every young person in the borough has an offer of a job, a college place or an apprenticeship.
  • Housing – building a further 1,500 new homes for social rent, prioritised for local people, and setting up a non-profit lettings agency to provide an affordable alternative for private renters
  • Cost of living – cutting energy bills through insulation programmes and building new local power stations, and providing free school meals to all primary school children

Cllr Watts said: “The policies we’re announcing today will make a difference to people across our borough. Against the backdrop of massive cuts imposed on Islington by the Tory-led Government, we are proud to be able to present a radical manifesto that shows a clear alternative to the agenda put forward by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

“Over the last few months we’ve spoken to over 20,000 local people to hear what their priorities are. The top concerns people told us they have were jobs, housing and the cost of living. We listened and our key manifesto pledges will tackle these issues.

“On jobs, we will bring down unemployment levels to below the London average and will make sure every young person has an offer of a job, a college place or an apprenticeship.

“On housing, we will ensure that 1,500 new homes for genuinely affordable social rents are built and will also set up a non-profit lettings agency to provide an affordable alternative for private renters.

“To tackle the cost of living, we will cut energy bills through insulation programmes and building new local power stations, and providing free school meals to all primary school children. 

“As well as working towards these important goals, we will continue to run an efficient and effective council.”

Islington Labour is committed to making a difference for our borough, despite having to close a budget gap of £112 million at the Council since 2010 - equivalent to 35 per cent of the council’s budget. We are expecting further cuts from the Tory-led Government of £34 million in 2015/16 alone. Islington is facing more severe cuts that most parts of the country, as this Tory-led government targets the poorest people and places.

You can read the full manifesto by clicking here. 

Making a difference - Islington Labour launches its 2014 Manifesto

Islington Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, today (Thursday 17th April) launched Islington Labour’s manifesto for the local elections which will take place on 22nd May. Islington Labour’s mission is to...

Islington Labour has demanded action from banks and regulators to tackle rip-off charges at cash machines in the borough. 

There are over 120 pay-to-use cash machines in Islington, where charges are often £2 per transaction. Research by Islington Labour has found that pay-to-use cash machines are clustered in the most deprived areas of the borough. In contrast, more free-to-use cash machines can be found in the more affluent parts of Islington.

People living in an area like the Andover Estate, one of the most deprived communities in our borough, are facing financial penalties simply for withdrawing their own money. The most common charge at the eight pay-to-use cash machines in this area is £2. That means that a typical £20 cash withdrawal comes with a 10% charge. For someone claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, if they visit a cash machine three times a week withdrawing £20 each time, they will be charged £6 per week or a shocking £312 a year. 

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, attacked the rip-off cash machine charges saying: 

“The extortionate charges facing thousands of residents in Islington are outrageous. People are being penalised simply for withdrawing their own money. We need to improve access to free-to-use cash machines and I have called on the banks and the Government’s financial regulator to get a grip of this issue.”

“These crippling charges are made all the more perverse when you realise that within a seven minute walk of the home of Tory Mayor Boris Johnson, there are fourteen free-to-use cash machines. This is compared with only two within seven minutes of the Andover Estate. Wealthy individuals can access their money without being ripped-off, but people with less money to start with face steep charges to access their own money.”

Cllr Watts has kicked-off his campaign by writing to the British Bankers Association urging them to encourage the banks to make it easier for people to access their money for free. Cllr Watts has also applied pressure on the operator of the UK’s cash machine network, Link, to install more free-to-use cash machines in areas of Islington which currently have poor access.

Cllr Watts has also called on the Government regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, to take its responsibility to people in deprived communities more seriously and to look urgently at what can be done to bring down charges at pay-to-use cash machines.

Pictured above - Islington Labour Councillors and local residents outside a rip-off cash machine on Seven Sisters Road.  

Islington Labour heads campaign against rip-off cash machines

Islington Labour has demanded action from banks and regulators to tackle rip-off charges at cash machines in the borough.  There are over 120 pay-to-use cash machines in Islington, where charges...

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Islington Labour's Executive Member for Housing, Cllr James Murray (Barnsbury Ward), has been named in 24 Housing magazine's Top 50 Housing Power Players for 2014. 

The annual list was compiled from the votes of more than 200 senior housing figures. The list acts as a barometer of the most influential and inspirational people working in, or impacting on, the housing sector.

Cllr Murray is listed at number 44 and is the only councillor in the list – and is five places ahead of Richard Blakeway, the Deputy Mayor of London for Housing!

An article about the list can be viewed by clicking here. 

Cllr Murray is described as, "doing more than anyone else to promote council housebuilding at genuinely affordable rents rather than the government's version of it, according to one of those who voted for him. Cllr Murray, first elected to Islington Council in 2006, is a passionate believer in developing new homes at rents which low-income residents in pricey Islington can afford and has pioneered deals to unlock sites with council subsidy to allow for social rents."

Well done, James! 

Islington Labour Housing Chief in Top 50 Housing Power Players

Islington Labour's Executive Member for Housing, Cllr James Murray (Barnsbury Ward), has been named in 24 Housing magazine's Top 50 Housing Power Players for 2014.  The annual list was compiled...

AndyHull.jpgArsenal FC’s 60,000-seat Emirates stadium is in the sliver of north London I’m elected to represent. Gooners, as the club’s fans are known, pay some of the highest ticket prices in the land to watch matches there, swelling the coffers of the sixth biggest football brand in the world. Mesut Őzil, one of their star players, is paid £130,000 a week. The club’s Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, takes home £2 million a year. And yet hundreds of staff who work at the Emirates get paid well below the Living Wage, which in London is £8.80 an hour. Some of them are directly employed by Arsenal; others are the club’s contractors, employed by companies like Delaware North. They include caterers, cleaners, porters, programme sellers and stewards.

John F Kennedy once asked a cleaner at NASA what they did. They replied, ‘I help put men on the moon’. Everyone who works at the Emirates, in whatever guise, is a part of Team Arsenal. ‘Victory through teamwork’ is the club’s Latin motto, emblazoned in giant letters all around the ground. But many of its staff would have to work full-time for seven years to earn what Őzil does in seven days.

Citizens UK, who have led the Living Wage campaign since 2001, have lobbied the club for over six months now to become a Living Wage employer, meeting with senior Arsenal executives and asking questions at the club’s Annual General Meeting. We at Islington Council have written to the club repeatedly over the same period to urge them to follow our lead by going Living Wage. These meetings and letters have borne no fruit. Arsenal’s position, for now, is that unless the law is changed to force them to pay the Living Wage, they won’t.

The club cites four excuses for this, none of which wash. First, they argue that some people working at the club have second jobs. We point out that this is because they have to, as they are not paid enough for one job to make ends meet. Second, they say that workers’ remuneration packages as a whole add up to more than the Living Wage. But the Living Wage campaign is about cash in a worker’s pocket, which they can spend freely, not other perks. Third, they complain that the campaign is too political. We say that if tackling the scourge of working poverty in one of the world’s most expensive cities is political, then so be it. Finally, they point out that many of the workers in question are contractors, and so suggest it’s the contracting companies’ problem, not the club’s. We think this is an abject abrogation of responsibility when these staff are working on Arsenal’s premises on Arsenal’s behalf.     

Islington Council’s civic leadership on this issue has meant that the borough now has the highest concentration of accredited Living Wage employers anywhere in the country. They include public sector organisations like Ambler School and Children’s Centre, charities like Child Poverty Action Group and private companies ranging from large city firms such as Slaughter & May to small enterprises like Schools Offices Services and Casual Films. Over five per cent of all accredited Living Wage employers in the UK are in Islington. But Arsenal FC, one of the wealthiest and highest profile organisations in the borough, is not one of them. It’s shameful. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Arsenal could be the first Living Wage team in the Premiership, the most lucrative football league in the world. It could lead the way by showing that fair play on the pitch can be matched by fair pay off it. If it did, it would earn resounding plaudits not only from thousands of fans and from local residents here in Highbury and Holloway but also from all those nationally and internationally who campaign against poverty pay. In doing so, it would join the ranks of over 550 accredited Living Wage employers who have between them put £210 million of additional wages into the pockets of hard working people, lifting 40,000 families out of working poverty. For hundreds of workers at the club, it would mean earning enough to live on, not just enough to survive. It would mean a decent wage, not a handout, affirming the dignity of work. Most importantly, it would mean quitting that second job, getting some sleep and spending some time with their family.

So, despite Mr Gazidis’s misguided reluctance, we call upon the fans, the manager, the board, the sponsors and past and present players to join with us in urging Arsenal FC to do the right thing. Arsenal should pay the Living Wage, because no-one should have to do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on, especially at one of the richest football clubs on earth.

This article was originally published on the Football Beyond Borders website - http://fbeyondborders.tumblr.com

Cllr Andy Hull is a Labour Member for Highbury West and the Executive Member for Finance at Islington Council. He tweets at @AndyHull79.

Arsenal Should Pay The Living Wage

Arsenal FC’s 60,000-seat Emirates stadium is in the sliver of north London I’m elected to represent. Gooners, as the club’s fans are known, pay some of the highest ticket prices...

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Today (Thursday 20th March), Cllr. Watts Leader of Islington Council, Cllr. Phil Jones Camden’s Cabinet member for Sustainability & Transport and Assembly Member Jeannette Arnold visited City Hall to demand a meeting with Mayor Boris Johnson regarding air quality in the two boroughs.

Earlier this year Cllr. Watts and Cllr. Jones wrote a joint letter to the Mayor requesting a meeting on the issue which he refused to accept.

Cllr. Watts said:

‘After ignoring our request for a meeting, we came to City Hall today to demand that Boris Johnson introduces measures to improve the air quality in Islington and Camden.

Air quality is something we take very seriously and we are doing everything we can, but we need Boris Johnson to stop sitting on his hands over this issue.

The Mayor of London through TFL is responsible for most of the damaging air pollution in our boroughs through the major road networks and the high polluting buses, lorries and taxis that he controls. So he has to take action if we’re to really make a difference.”

Assembly Member Jennette Arnold said:

“Boris has shown time and again his apathy towards properly addressing the major issues we have in London when it comes to Air Quality. If the Mayor doesn’t start taking this matter seriously and putting in place measures to address the poor quality of air we have in London, then we could be heading for a similar scenario to the extreme measures that we’ve seen authorities take recently across the Channel in Paris.”  

Islington and Camden head to City Hall to Lobby Boris Johnson over air quality

Today (Thursday 20th March), Cllr. Watts Leader of Islington Council, Cllr. Phil Jones Camden’s Cabinet member for Sustainability & Transport and Assembly Member Jeannette Arnold visited City Hall to demand...

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