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...
Today’s Tory Government budget update will see cuts continue to services that working people rely on, like the council and the NHS. Against the backdrop of a chaotic Brexit, there is much uncertainty about the future health of the economy.
Key announcements in the Tories’ Autumn Statement:
- Cuts to the council will continue.
- Extension of Right to Buy for housing association tenants, funded by forcing the council to sell hundreds of council homes each year.
- A lower National ‘Living Wage’ than had been planned, which is well below the ‘real’ London Living Wage, which rises to £9.75 per hour in 2017.
- Continuing with cuts to Universal Credit that are part of changes that will see a fifth of Islington families lose on average £45 per week by 2020.
- A ban on letting agents charging fees to renters, following the lead set by Islington Council’s not-for-profit private lettings agency.
Shockingly, the NHS barely got a mention in the Autumn Statement, proving the Tories cannot be trusted with the NHS. There is also no new funding for social care, or any sign of the extra £350m per week for the NHS that was promised by Brexiteers.
Despite the cuts imposed by the Tories, last year Labour-led Islington Council helped over 1,150 local people into work, delivered hundreds of new genuinely affordable homes, and invested £500,000 in extra support for young people most at risk of turning to crime.
Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “The Tories talk a good game about helping those who are ‘just about managing’ but today’s Autumn Statement offered nothing to help people struggling to make ends meet.
“The Tories’ obsession with Brexit means they are letting working people down. Islington Labour is on the side of working people in our borough and we will continue to work hard to make a difference on the issues that matter to them.”
Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council
Today’s Tory Government budget update will see cuts continue to services that working people rely on, like the council and the NHS. Against the backdrop of a chaotic Brexit, there...
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,...
Following relentless campaigning by Islington Labour councillors and over 1,000 residents who signed the ‘Axe the Tory Tenant Tax’ petition, the Tory Government announced this week that the unfair Tenant Tax will be scrapped.
The Tenant Tax would have seen working people forced to pay extra tax, simply because they are council tenants. This would have hit families with a household income over £40,000 per year, seeing those affected pay 15% more tax.
In an astonishing U-turn, the Tory Government announced on Monday 21st November that the Tenant Tax would no longer be compulsory for local authorities. Islington Council will formally agree not to implement the policy at its Executive Meeting on Thursday 24th November.
The tax would have been a disincentive to work, as tenants could have been pushed over the Tenant Tax threshold by taking on a job or promotion.
But there is more work to do to fight the Tories’ damaging housing plans and we need residents’ continued support to send a message to the Government.
The Government still plans to force councils to sell hundreds of council homes each year, making it even harder for local people to find an affordable home in Islington.
The Tory Government still does not understand that everyone has a right to feel secure in their home, as it is determined to push ahead with its ban on lifetime tenancies. This would end the security that Islington Council tenants are currently offered.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, said: “Islington Labour has been campaigning against this new tax on working people since it was first announced. We are pleased the Government has listened and will not now force working people to pay more tax, simply because they are council tenants.
“I want to thank all the local residents who have supported our campaign against the Tenant Tax, including those who got in touch with their stories of how this new tax on working people would have had a really damaging impact on their lives.
“We will continue to campaign against the Government’s plans, which do nothing to deal with the housing crisis.”
Pictured - Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development
Following relentless campaigning by Islington Labour councillors and over 1,000 residents who signed the ‘Axe the Tory Tenant Tax’ petition, the Tory Government announced this week that the unfair Tenant...
Ahead of the next full closure of Holloway Road this weekend (18-21 November) by Transport for London (TfL), Islington Labour councillors have been keeping up the pressure on behalf of local people to reduce the potential impact.
Labour-run Islington Council has secured a number of significant concessions, including a ban on HGVs and changes to bus routes using the diversion route, and wide-reaching promotion from TfL that local businesses are open as usual.
Following a public meeting last week, Cllr Webbe's site visit with Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and ongoing dialogue with TfL, the Council has had further concessions from TfL ahead of this weekend’s closure.
As a result of Islington Labour councillors’ interventions, TfL have confirmed that:
- TfL will investigate whether further changes to bus services in the area are required, particularly those using the diversion route,
- Air quality monitoring equipment has been installed on Tufnell Park Road, where traffic is being diverted,
- TfL has installed additional signage across key locations across the capital to advise motorists to avoid the A1 Holloway Road. This includes signage reinforcing the HGV diversion route,
- TfL will reinforce the HGV ban on the diversion route by installing CCTV to monitor traffic and allow it to respond rapidly to any incidents. TfL and the Metropolitan Police are also deploying resources at the entrance to Tufnell Park Road to provide a visible deterrent to HGVs,
- TfL will ensure an integrated response to the impact of the road closures, including sending letters to 130,000 residential and business properties and placing adverts in the local press, the Evening Standard and local radio.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “As a result of tireless work from councillors, residents and local businesses, TfL is delivering on the actions it promised. But this is no time to be complacent, as the Holloway Road closures are set to continue into the New Year, and we have yet to see how all of these mitigations will work in practice.
“The full closure this weekend will undoubtedly cause disruption for Islington but these concessions are a positive step forward. We will continue to keep up the pressure on TfL to ensure it delivers on its promises and monitors the situation.”
Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station
Ahead of the next full closure of Holloway Road this weekend (18-21 November) by Transport for London (TfL), Islington Labour councillors have been keeping up the pressure on behalf of...
Islington Labour councillors have stepped up their campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force council tenants to pay more tax.
The Tory Tenant Tax will hit working people in Islington and Islington Labour is urging residents to sign a petition against the unfair Tory Tenant Tax.
The Tories’ new law will -
- Make tenants pay 15% more tax for every £1 they earn over £40,000 per household.
- Force the Council to sell hundreds of homes each year, making it even harder for local people to find an affordable home in Islington.
- Ban new lifetime tenancies, ending the security that Islington Council tenants are currently offered.
Islington Labour is on your side. Together we can stop the Tories.
The Tory Tenant Tax is part of the Housing and Planning Act, and will introduce a new tax for tenants living in council housing who have a combined annual household income of over £40,000 in London. The Tories will force those affected to pay a 15% additional tax on every pound they earn above £40,000.
The threshold for household income at £40,000 per year is too low. It means a newly qualified teacher and nurse living in a council house in Islington would be hit with a charge of £750 per year. Many Islington households will struggle to meet the new charge.
The Tory Tenant Tax will apply to tenants regardless of their age, the makeup of their household or how long they have lived there. Households that receive benefits (Housing Benefit or Universal Credit) will not have to pay Tenant Tax. The Council will have to collect this money, with all proceeds going to the Tory Government who continue to make damaging cuts to our community.
The Tory Tenant Tax will also be a disincentive to work. People will have to consider whether taking on a job or a promotion will be worth it because, if they are pushed over the new income threshold, any benefit could by lost through having to pay the Tory Tenant Tax.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, said:
“The Tory Government hasn’t published much of the detail of how it plans to implement the Tenant Tax, so now is the time to stop it from coming in. We need to tackle the housing crisis, so that Islington can remain a home for everyone.”
Islington Labour councillors have stepped up their campaign against the Tory Government’s plans to force council tenants to pay more tax. Sign the petition to Axe the Tory Tenant Tax....
11 Islington pharmacies could close as a result of the Tory Government’s planned cuts to community pharmacy budgets.
There are currently 49 pharmacies in Islington, serving a population of 225,000. They have a vital place in the local community, particularly for the elderly, disabled and those with long term illnesses. They also provide vital support to already over-stretched surgeries and hospitals.
Despite this, the borough risks being reduced to 38 pharmacies.
The Tory Government is ignoring national opposition and pushing ahead with huge cuts to community pharmacy budgets – a 12% reduction on current funding levels for the rest of this year and a 7% cut next year. Up to 3,000 across England could close as a result.
The Government has announced a ‘Pharmacy Access Scheme’ that it claims will protect access in areas where there are fewer pharmacies with higher health needs, but it is misguided. The scheme is simply based on distance from other pharmacies and takes no notice of local health needs at all.
Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, said: “At a time when the NHS is at breaking point, with A&E waiting times up and GP surgeries struggling to cope, the Tory Government should not be putting this extra strain on our community health services.
“Islington Labour councillors will fight against these unfair cuts. We will also be writing to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, to outline our opposition. Pharmacies offer vital services to the local community, saving hundreds of GP visits and delivering preventative advice, and the shock of losing 11 of them will be felt by those who need them the most.”
11 Islington pharmacies could close as a result of the Tory Government’s planned cuts to community pharmacy budgets. There are currently 49 pharmacies in Islington, serving a population of 225,000....
Islington Labour councillors have been making their voices heard by TfL since the unexpected closure of Holloway Road was announced.
Since the closure came into effect three weeks ago, residents and local businesses have expressed their frustration at its wide-ranging effects and councillors have been raising their concerns with TfL. Following a public meeting between residents, TfL representatives and councillors last week, further concessions have been announced.
On Wednesday 2nd November, local Labour councillors organised a public meeting for residents to put their concerns to TfL managers directly.
As a result of councillors’ interventions, TfL has agreed to:
- Promote that local businesses are open as usual by printing and distributing flyers to local community hubs, sending letters to 135,000 properties and providing supplementary signage.
- Install additional signs advising on the HGV ban. Enforceable 7.5ft signs have also been in place on Tufnell Park Road since Friday 4 November.
- Make additional changes to bus services in the area to help reduce congestion. Route 17 is running between London Bridge and Nags Head, rather than continuing to Archway, while route 263 is running between Barnet Hospital and Archway, rather than Highbury and Islington.
- Continue to run a free shuttle bus every 10-12 minutes from 0600 to midnight, between stop L on Holloway Road (Nags Head) and temporary stops near Upper Holloway Station.
- Install environmental monitoring equipment on Tufnell Park Road to measure air quality.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Since TfL agreed to a number of concessions, particularly around the HGV ban and changes to bus services, some of the worst effects of the closure have thankfully been reduced. However, there is still much work to be done.
“It is particularly important for our vibrant and thriving community that local businesses do not suffer as a result of the closure. That is why we have been calling hard on TfL to advertise widely that shops and businesses on Holloway Road are open as usual.
“We will continue to engage with TfL to ensure that they are delivering on their promises and raise concerns on behalf of the borough.”
Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station
Islington Labour councillors have been making their voices heard by TfL since the unexpected closure of Holloway Road was announced. Since the closure came into effect three weeks ago, residents...