Latest Stories


James_Murray.jpg

An ‘eleventh-hour intervention’ by the Tory Planning Minister-led Government  has torpedoed an attempt by Labour-run Islington Council to protect jobs and affordable homes. 

Islington Labour has been leading the charge against a developers’ free-for-all in the borough’s office space following a change the government introduced in May 2013. The change allows developers to convert offices into flats without any planning permission – meaning the council has been powerless to protect jobs or to demand affordable housing.

To protect valuable business space from being lost as developers make a quick-buck from high house prices, Islington Council used a local planning order which would have meant conversions once again required planning permission from 15th July 2014. 

But just two days before Islington Labour’s protective measures were due to come into effect, Tory Planning Minister Nick Boles MP quashed the plans – using incorrect figures in his justification for doing so. Mr Boles has now been moved from his job in the Government, but he used his last few days to fire a very unwelcome parting shot at Islington.  

Islington Labour’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, Cllr James Murray, said: "I'm very frustrated by the former Tory Planning Minister's decision to stop us doing what's right for Islington. 

"We're already seeing small businesses and charities being evicted from offices to make way for bedsits. People in Islington are losing out on jobs, affordable housing, and any community benefit. 

"I'm also very disappointed that the Minister waited until the eleventh hour to overturn our decision, refused to accept a compromise we offered, and in his reasoning got his figures wrong. Islington has consistently greatly exceeded its housing targets and is set to continue to do so." 

Developers have already registered 68 office buildings in Islington for conversion to residential under the new rules, with a further 11 in the pipeline. The total loss of office space is around 45,000 square metres - which equates to around 3,000 jobs. In some cases, small businesses and charities have been evicted. 

Of the homes created in these spaces, Islington Council estimates that 2 out of every 3 is a one-bedroom unit or a bedsit. No affordable housing has been created - despite the potential to deliver around 350 affordable homes. 

Cllr Murray added: "In Islington we already have successful plans for building good quality, affordable housing. But the Government's changes are undermining what we're trying to do by allowing developers to bypass these plans."

Tory Minister torpedoes Islington Labour's attempt to protect jobs and affordable homes

An ‘eleventh-hour intervention’ by the Tory Planning Minister-led Government  has torpedoed an attempt by Labour-run Islington Council to protect jobs and affordable homes.  Islington Labour has been leading the charge...

2014GroupPhoto.jpeg

Last week the people of Islington sent a clear message to the Tory-led Government. By electing 47 Labour councillors, local people made it clear that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have the wrong priorities for Islington.

Labour’s Council Leader, Cllr Richard Watts, commented: “I want to thank everyone who voted Labour in Islington for joining together to send a clear message to the Tory-led Government.

“The ringing endorsement that local residents have given Islington Labour - and our plans to tackle people’s top priorities on jobs, housing and the cost of living - shows that people felt Islington Labour is on their side.

“The next four years are going to be extremely challenging because of the unfair cuts the Tory-led Government is imposing on Islington.

“But, we’ll continue to listen to the people of our borough, stand up for the many and put the views of local people at the heart of the decisions we make.”

You can see the full election results in Islington by clicking here.

The local elections saw Islington Labour secure 56% of the vote across the borough and achieve our best result since 1974. In fact our share of the vote has increased by almost 50% since 2010.

In the European elections that took place on the same day, Islington Labour again received the most votes in the borough and there was a swing in support of 11.5% from the Green Party to Islington Labour. 

Pictured: Islington Labour Group

2014 Election Results

Last week the people of Islington sent a clear message to the Tory-led Government. By electing 47 Labour councillors, local people made it clear that David Cameron and Nick Clegg...


GP_RW___RI_Arms_Folded.JPG   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work to repair the War Memorial at Islington Memorial Green has been completed a week ahead of schedule.

Earlier this month, Islington Labour councillors gathered to celebrate the successful completion of the repairs.

First unveiled in 2006, the War Memorial was designed by Royal Academy sculptor, John Maine. However, due to mistakes made by the contractors during the construction of the memorial under the previous Council administration, the sculpture had begun to appear crooked. Investigations ordered by Islington Council in the autumn of 2013 revealed a serious failure in the concrete foundations. 

In November 2013, Cllr Richard Watts, Labour Leader of Islington Council ordered repairs to be carried out immediately. This work has now been completed and the area will be fully re-opened by the end of May 2014.

Council Leader Cllr Richard Watts said: “When we learned that the orginial contractors had done such a shoddy job, I was completely livid. This memorial marks the contribution and sacrifice that so many Islington residents have made for their country. We owed it to them to repair the memorial quickly and I am very pleased that this work has been completed ahead of schedule.”

Cllr Rakhia Ismail, Executive Member for Sustainability, commented: “It was vital that in the year we mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, the issues with our memorial were solved quickly. I’d like to thank everyone who helped with the challenging work of moving and repairing the memorial.”

Cllr Gary Poole, Islington Council’s Armed Forces Champion and St Mary’s ward councillor, added: “The Islington Veterans’ Association noted their thanks to the Leader & Council for taking decisive action to address the issues with the memorial. The memorial will be officially rededicated at a ceremony on Armed Forces Day on 28th June and I hope people will join us then.”

The remaining fencing on Islington Memorial Green will be removed at the end of May after newly laid grass has had time to establish itself.

 Pictured: Cllr Poole, Cllr Watts and Cllr Ismail at the War Memorial on Islington Memorial Green. 

Islington Green War Memorial Repaired

                        Work to repair the War Memorial at Islington Memorial Green has been completed a week ahead of schedule....

photo_1.JPGDespite huge opposition from local residents, the postal services watchdog and local representatives, Post Office Ltd appears determined to plough-on regardless with their plans to close Highbury Corner Post Office. 

Islington Labour has campaigned against the proposed closure and Islington Council is still offering £750,000 towards securing a new branch at Highbury Corner, as well as a temporary home while work was carried out.

Sadly, Post Office bosses have turned down this offer - which remains on the table. 

Today, Cllr Richard Watts - Leader of Islington Council, local MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, and Geoff Poole from the CWU have written an open letter to the Chief Executive of the Post Office urging her to think again. 

A copy of the letter, which appeared in the Islington Gazette, can be found below.  

Open Letter to Chief Executive of Post Office Ltd - 

Dear Paula Vennells,

We write this open letter to express our utter despair that the Post Office seems determined to push on with your short sighted plans to close the Highbury Corner Post Office.

This branch provides an invaluable service to thousands of local people – many of whom are elderly or disabled and would struggle to travel to another post office. The branch also provides a convenient stop-off point for commuters and a vital service for local small businesses.

Together with the local community, we have opposed your plans to shut the branch. Our campaign received the support of over 1,000 residents who signed our petition.

Islington Council wrote to the Government asking them to intervene.  There was a debate in the House of Commons led by local MPs.  But as usual, the Government ignored Islington. Islington Council also offered £750,000 towards a new branch at Highbury Corner, as well as a temporary home while the work was carried out, but were turned down by postal chiefs. That offer is still very much on the table.

It hasn’t just been local politicians and residents that have opposed your plans. The industry watchdog also said that service provision should be retained in the Highbury Corner area. There were plenty of opportunities for both the Government and Post Office managers to think again and secure the future of this vital facility. Sadly, you have chosen to ignore these warnings and press ahead with your plans to close the branch on 14th June.

Islington is being short-changed by your plans. The remaining branch on Upper Street will not be ‘new’ as you describe it. We already have a Post Office on Upper Street. As your plans do not contain a replacement for the closure of Highbury Corner, they are simply a service cut. The threat of job losses from this cut – as has happened with other ‘mergers’ – is of deep concern to us.

We remain concerned about the future of the Holloway Post Office. Local people – and your staff - deserve to be told that the branch will not be franchised, moved or closed.

As ever, it is not too late to reconsider your decision to close Highbury Corner. We stand ready to work with you to find a solution which saves this vital community asset.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour MP for Islington North

Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury

Geoff Poole, Communication Workers Union  

Highbury Corner Post Office - Bosses urged to think again

Despite huge opposition from local residents, the postal services watchdog and local representatives, Post Office Ltd appears determined to plough-on regardless with their plans to close Highbury Corner Post Office. ...

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...

jamesmurray.jpg

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...

Islington_CamdenAirQuality.JPG

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...

See more stories →

In your area

Click to find out what’s happening where you live.

Latest Tweets

Follow @Islingtonlabour on Twitter

Welcome to Islington Labour