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...
Following relentless campaigning on behalf of residents and local businesses, Islington Labour councillors have won further concessions on the unplanned Holloway Road closure from Transport for London (TfL).
HGVs will now be banned from using Tufnell Park Road, which has so far been bearing the brunt of traffic congestion. A weight restriction came into force on 28th October, banning all large vehicles over 7.5 tonnes, except buses, from using the road as part of the diversion route.
TfL has also agreed in principle to not run empty buses along Tufnell Park Road, which has contributed to tailbacks as passengers have avoided the services while buses travelled along the diversion route. Some buses may also stop short of their destinations before they can reach the diversion route.
These measures will reduce the level of emissions along Tufnell Park Road, an issue that residents have expressed concern about.
Islington Labour councillors have secured other key concessions from TfL, including greater publicity for a shuttle bus laid on for the section of Holloway Road ‘cut off’ by the diversion. This will help anyone with a disability or mobility issues, and parents with prams, continue to get around.
To support local businesses, TfL is also considering leafletting residents or advertising locally that they all remain open during the works.
TfL has also agreed to station mobile CCTV units along Tufnell Park Road so it can accurately monitor traffic levels and congestion in real time.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “It was shocking to see the scale of TfL’s failure this past week as huge lorries and vans made their way gingerly down Tufnell Park Road. It was an accident waiting to happen – and so it proved.
“Nonetheless, we have been working hard behind the scenes with TfL to ensure as far as possible that the chaos of the last week will not be repeated at any point during these hugely disruptive works.
“Alongside other concessions, the ban on HGVs will help reduce the burden of taking all the traffic from the A1 on this single residential road. We will continue to keep up the pressure on TfL in the hope this will minimise the pain on behalf of local residents and businesses.”
Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station
Following relentless campaigning on behalf of residents and local businesses, Islington Labour councillors have won further concessions on the unplanned Holloway Road closure from Transport for London (TfL). HGVs will...
Islington Labour councillors have welcomed news that the Tory Government has abandoned its plans to force all schools to become academies.
The announcement on 27th October 2016 that the Education for All Bill was being dropped by the Tory Government, follows months of campaigning by Islington Labour and others, supported by the ‘Our Schools, Our Say’ petition.
Earlier this year, the Tory Government put forward plans that would mean all schools would be forced to convert into academies. Despite there being very little evidence that a school’s governance status impacted on its performance, the Tory Government were ready to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on what was purely an ideological vanity project.
The plans to impose this one-size-fits-all approach on schools, without any consideration for parents’ wishes or schools’ performance, prompted outcry from parents, teachers, trade unionists and even Tory councils.
Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “We are pleased and relieved by the Government’s announcement, although forcing all schools to become academies should never have been proposed in the first place. The proposals ignored the overwhelming evidence that council-maintained schools perform better than academies.
“I would like to thank Islington’s parents, teachers, trade unionists and residents who campaigned hard with us against the Tory Government’s ideological attack on education.”
Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “This is yet another Government U-Turn that many people in Islington will welcome. Our schools continue to go from strength to strength, with the vast majority rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted. Islington’s ‘community of schools’ brings all schools together to share best practice, oversee improvement plans and raise standards to the benefit of all children. Forced academisation would have foolishly removed local councils from the school system.”
The proposals would have seen around £3.5m of funding wasted on forcing schools to become academies, at a time when schools’ budgets are being cut by the Tory Government.
Islington is now ranked in the top third of the country for GCSE results, having improved dramatically since it was ranked 143rd out of 151 in 2010.
Islington’s Labour councillors launched the ‘Our Schools, Our Say’ campaign to call on the Government to drop its ideological plans and put the needs of the borough first. The petition attracted over 300 signatures from concerned parents, teachers, trade unionists and residents.
However, the Tory Government’s divisive plans for new grammar schools remain in place and Islington Labour will continue to campaign for education, not segregation, and against these plans.
Islington Labour councillors have welcomed news that the Tory Government has abandoned its plans to force all schools to become academies. The announcement on 27th October 2016 that the Education...
Since the late-notice closure of Holloway Road, Islington Labour councillors have been working tirelessly to secure a range of concessions from Transport for London (TfL) to help those residents and business who will be worst-affected.
TfL gave only a few days’ notice that bridge replacement work had not gone to plan at Upper Holloway station and it needed to close Holloway Road southbound for nearly three months, including more than four weeks of total closure in both directions.
Despite winning some key concessions since the announcement, councillors are continuing to call on TfL for further measures to reduce the disruption of the works, which will last well into the New Year.
As a result of Islington Labour councillors’ interventions, TfL has committed:
- To provide a shuttle bus service along the parts of Holloway Road ‘cut off’ by the diversion route, so people with a disability or mobility issues can get around, access their homes and shops, and reach the diverted bus routes;
- To provide extra bus services on the Route 91 to help take the strain of commuters trying to avoid the bottleneck;
- To ‘strengthen’ other bus services to maintain reliable journey times;
- To station its staff in hi-vis clothing along Holloway Road and the Tufnell Park Road diversion route to help residents and visitors, and direct traffic;
- To smooth traffic flow in the local area by revising traffic signal patterns;
- To prevent wide loads and other abnormal vehicles from using the diversion;
- To minimise traffic from motorways by extending the advance warning signs out to the M25, M1, M40, M11 and beyond – even as far as Birmingham;
- To plan additional diversion routes in the immediate area in case of an emergency or incident along the current diversion;
- To warn almost 1,000 businesses in the area affected of the disruption, and take on queries;
- To return the residential roads taking the extra traffic to good condition.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “While there is no doubt TfL got this disastrously wrong with such a short-notice closure of this major road, we have been pushing them hard ever since to get this next stage right.
“We are keeping an open dialogue with TfL and will monitor the situation and keep up the pressure. But we should not underestimate the huge impact that this three-month closure will have – not just on Islington but the whole of London.
“Residents face a difficult and frustrating time over the next few months. They can be sure we are fighting their corner to make it as bearable as possible.”
Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station
Since the late-notice closure of Holloway Road, Islington Labour councillors have been working tirelessly to secure a range of concessions from Transport for London (TfL) to help those residents and...
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...
Islington Labour councilors have expressed their dismay over Transport for London’s (TfL) last-minute decision to announce additional temporary closures of one of Islington’s most important and busiest roads. This week, TfL announced that a series of unexpected closures of the A1 Holloway Road are required to continue work on replacing Upper Holloway Bridge.
Labour councillors have accused TfL of underestimating the work that was needed and causing unfair chaos for drivers, local residents and businesses. The closures between Fairbridge Road and Wedmore Gardens will be in effect for nearly three months, including over the October half term holiday, Christmas and New Year.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “I am dismayed at this short-notice, unplanned closure of one of Islington’s critically-important major roads. Bus journeys will take much longer, and alternative routes through the borough will bear the brunt of this closure, spreading disruption far and wide. Local residents and businesses will suffer the consequences of this misjudgement, which is unfair.”
Cllr Tim Nicholls, Junction ward, added: “We understand that the bridge needs replacing, but it is outrageous that TfL has got this so badly wrong and will now cause major disruption for much longer than they had suggested all along.
“We need to hear from TfL now about what they are going to do to put on more buses, manage the traffic displacement on to other roads, and how emergency services will cope with this major road being out of action.
"We’re on the case, and are just as angry as local residents.”
The council is currently considering its options and will be challenging TfL to minimise the extent of the disruption and maximise communication with residents and drivers.
The closures of the A1 between Fairbridge Road and Wedmore Gardens will be:
Friday 21 October - Monday 31 October - closed to all vehicles in both directions
Monday 31 October - Saturday 24 December - closed to all vehicles travelling southbound
Friday 18 November - Monday 21 November - closed to all vehicles in both directions
Friday 25 November - Monday 28 November - closed to all vehicles in both directions
This will be followed by a pre-planned full closure between 24 December 2016 and 16 January 2017.
For more information visit the TfL website.
Pictured - Local councilors opposite Upper Holloway Station
Islington Labour councilors have expressed their dismay over Transport for London’s (TfL) last-minute decision to announce additional temporary closures of one of Islington’s most important and busiest roads. This week,...
HOUSING CHIEFS SEND REAL LONDONERS’ STORIES TO HOUSING MINISTER OVER HOUSING ACT FEARS
London’s Labour Housing Chiefs have sent stories from real Londoners about the impact the Housing and Planning Act will have on their lives and have repeated calls for the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act to be halted by the new Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP (Croydon Central).
Mr Barwell has failed to reply to an early joint letter sent in August from Labour’s local council cabinet members for housing across London.
The Housing and Planning Act will force many councils to sell up to a third of their already desperately over-subscribed housing stock. The Act also introduces the Tenant Tax on hard-pressed working families, which will see households in council homes with incomes over £40,000 per year forced to pay a 15% additional tax to the government for every £1 they earn over the threshold, up to the level of market rent for their home. The Act also includes the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants and a new definition of what an ‘affordable home’ will cost in London, which will further worsen the housing crisis.
It is still unclear when secondary legislation will be published to announce the specific details of how these policies will work in practice, meaning residents and councils remain in the dark about the future.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, organised the letter and commented: “The Housing Act will be devastating for London and it’s important that the Housing Minister is aware of how it will affect real Londoners.
“Some of the stories we have been sent from concerned residents are desperately worrying and the Minister owes them an answer, even if he won’t reply to our letters.
“It seems clear to me that Mr Barwell cannot say on the one hand he is acting in the best interest of London, as he has to do in his job as Minister for our city, and then in his other role implement legislation that will make finding an affordable home much harder for working people in London.
“The government hasn’t published much of the detail of how it plans to implement the Act, so now is the time to halt its implementation. We stand ready to work with Mr Barwell and the Mayor of London to tackle the housing crisis, so that London can remain a home for all Londoners.”
Sinead, who has lived with her husband in their council flat in Islington for 15 years. They have a 19 year old daughter who suffers from mental health difficulties, and 2 sons aged 8 and 12. She started her career as an office administration apprentice aged 16, and she and her labourer husband now earn a household income that will mean they will be forced to pay a Tenant Tax of £193.75 per month. Sinead told us, “We’ve both worked hard to create a stable home for our children. If we’re forced to pay this new tax we might end up having to leave London. The other alternative is that I give up my job and try find a part time position instead.”
John works as a railway engineer. His wife is an administrator. They have lived in their council flat since 1990. Based on their combined income, they will be liable for a Tenant Tax bill of £200 per month. John comments that “the Government are making it impossible for me to earn a living. My wife and I can’t afford this new tax but we also can’t afford to rent in the private sector in London.”
The letter was co-signed by the following Labour Housing Leads from across London - Cllr Diarmaid Ward (London Borough of Islington), Cllr Martin Whelton (London Borough of Merton), Cllr Alison Butler (London Borough of Croydon), Cllr Patricia Callaghan (London Borough of Camden), Cllr Farah Hussain (London Borough of Redbridge), Cllr Harbi Farah (London Borough of Brent), Cllr Katherine Dunne (London Borough of Hounslow), Cllr Stephanie Cryan (London Borough of Southwark), Cllr Khevyn Limbajee (London Borough of Waltham Forest), Cllr Sirajul Islam (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), Cllr Dominic Twomey (London Borough of Barking & Dagenham), Cllr Matthew Bennett (London Borough of Lambeth), Cllr Averil Lekau (London Borough of Greenwich), Cllr Philip Glanville (London Borough of Hackney), Cllr Damian Egan (London Borough of Lewisham), Cllr Alan Strickland (London Borough of Haringey).
Pictured - Cllr Diarmaid Ward
HOUSING CHIEFS SEND REAL LONDONERS’ STORIES TO HOUSING MINISTER OVER HOUSING ACT FEARS London’s Labour Housing Chiefs have sent stories from real Londoners about the impact the Housing and Planning...
Local councillors, residents, and businesses have welcomed the installation of a new post box at the Nag’s Head Shopping Centre, Holloway Road, after a successful campaign by local councillors and the Nag’s Head Town Centre Management Group.
Following the closure of the Crown Post Office at Nag’s Head, local Finsbury Park councillors contacted Royal Mail to call for a new post box to be installed in the local area. After receiving a positive response to this request from Royal Mail, the post box did not materialise.
With the support of the Nag’s Head Town Centre Management Group, supported and co-ordinated by Islington Council, councillors lobbied Royal Mail alongside local businesses to call for a new post box to be installed as soon as possible. At the start of September the post box was installed on Holloway Road.
Cllr Gary Heather, Finsbury Park ward, said: “I was disappointed at the closure of the Crown Post Office at the Nag’s Head Shopping Centre, but I am really pleased that Royal Mail has now re-provided a post box nearby. The post box is such an important public service for residents, shoppers and businesses in this busy town centre area.”
Local resident, Linda Vass, from nearby Manor Gardens commented: “The new post box is a well needed improvement since the Post Office closed. It is such a long way to another post box. It's a no-brainer there should be one here.”
Local resident, Jeanette, added: “I am really delighted with the new post box. It is a vital service, especially for older people, who still like to keep in touch with friends and family by writing them letters. Without an accessible post box to post their letters some people would feel cut off and isolated.”
Sharon Black, the Manager of Selby's department store on Holloway Road, added: “The new post box is a big benefit to local businesses and their employees and customers. Since the Post Office closed it has been much harder to get to a post box, and thankfully now that inconvenience has been removed.”
Pictured - Cllr Gary Heather, Michael Calderbank (Town Centre Development Officer), and Sharon Black, the Manager of Selby's department store.
Local councillors, residents, and businesses have welcomed the installation of a new post box at the Nag’s Head Shopping Centre, Holloway Road, after a successful campaign by local councillors and...
£2million committed by Islington Council to help tackle serious youth violence
Specialist charities have been commissioned by the Islington Labour-run council to help tackle the root causes and consequences of serious youth violence in the borough.
Despite the massive financial challenges faced in Islington, with the government cutting funding in half since 2010, in February the council’s budget prioritised the future of young people. Alongside this additional £500,000 investment each year for the next four years, the council also protected existing budgets for youth services.
The decision to focus on young people came about because of the surge in serious youth violence over the last 12 months, including the tragic deaths of several young people and serious incidents as a result of youth crime in the borough.
Cllr Richard Watts said, “As leaders of the community, we have a responsibility to make sure vital services are in place at times of difficulty, even if we are facing massive cuts by the Tory government.
“This means investing in our young people. Islington’s young people are energetic, vibrant and full of potential, and the overwhelming majority stay clear of trouble. But to those at risk or those involved in crime, we want to offer them these opportunities as a way out”
The council introduced a new Youth Crime Strategy earlier this year, made changes to the Youth Offending Service and brought in a new specialised Integrated Gangs Unit that works with staff across different sectors and organisations on youth crime and will be a recipient of some of the funding.
However, the Labour-run council wanted to go further than this, by putting £500,000 a year into available services in the community, over the next four years. These specific projects will be targeted at young people in gangs and those at risk of joining them. Young people will also get a chance to have a say on what is missing and what type of services they want.
The extra funding will go to Chance UK, St Giles Trust and Safer London. Each of these organisations target a wide range of young people and offer them the opportunity to speak about issues with those who have been exposed to gang life, as well as offering training opportunities to improve their life skills, such as self-confidence and behavioural skills.
Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children and Young people, said: “Gang crime and serious youth violence is not only very damaging for those involved, but also harms their families and our wider society.
“To stop this requires a two-pronged approach. These projects and independent experts will help us direct significant efforts at encouraging tomorrow’s gang members to take an alternative path and turn their backs on crime, while also helping those already mired in that harmful lifestyle to get out.”
The Council will also be maintaining the Islington Bursary - set at £300 a year for each young person- to help disadvantaged young people go to college as well as other training and employment support.
Young people will also have the opportunity to access counselling services in order to overcome the effects of growing up around gang culture.
The council has also commissioned a project that looks at supporting young people who have experienced sexual exploitation in gangs.
If you are interested in becoming mentors and helping a child make positive behaviour changes, Chance UK would like to hear from you. For more information please see www.chanceuk.com
Pictured - Cllr Joe Caluori
£2million committed by Islington Council to help tackle serious youth violence Specialist charities have been commissioned by the Islington Labour-run council to help tackle the root causes and consequences of...
Following the country's decision to vote to leave the European Union, the Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has called for the government to confirm that vital EU funding that helps the council support local people into work will be protected, as was promised during the election campaign.
Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, commented on the response from the new Employment Minister, saying, “The response from the new Employment Minister will offer little comfort to local people who are looking for work, as it makes no commitment to continue funding the council’s successful employment schemes once EU funding stops.
“In the last year we’ve helped more than 1,000 local people find work, half of whom had been out of work for quite a long time. We have been able to do this by using EU funding to support new employment schemes, and it is now clear that the promise from government Ministers who supported leaving the EU to protect funding is completely hollow.
“Just like with the promise of an extra £350million per week for the NHS, the promise to protect funding hasn’t been backed up. It’s clear that people were misled by the Vote Leave campaign.
“We will keep pressing the government to make sure Islington gets the best deal, and we will continue our work to help more local people get decent and secure jobs.”
Following the country's decision to vote to leave the European Union, the Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has called for the government to confirm that vital EU funding...