Help is on the way for Islington's small businesses that are being hit by massive Tory Government increases in business rates bills, courtesy of a new 'relief scheme' designed by Labour-run Islington Council.
Earlier this year, the council worked alongside local businesses and business groups to oppose the Government's business rates revaluation, which will see local firms facing an average 42 per cent rise in rate bills by 2020/21. A 14,250-strong signature petition was presented to HM Treasury, demonstrating the strength of local opposition to the rate rise.
Following Islington's campaign, and pressure from business groups, the Government was forced to announce a relief scheme to soften the impact of the rate rises. Islington received £8.6 million in relief funding, which the council has agreed will be distributed to small businesses facing the biggest rate rises. However, with businesses across the borough having to pay a combined £315 million extra in business rates, the relief funding is far below what is needed.
Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development, said: "The Government's rate rise is going to be really hard for many local businesses to cope with, so I am pleased that the council is able to provide some relief for the worst affected businesses.
"Small and independent businesses in Islington are incredibly important to our borough, and we are working really hard with them and local business groups to support them.
"However, we need the Government to realise that small businesses need more support and we urge them again to rethink this damaging hike in business rates."
For more information about business rates, including advice on how to appeal, please visit – https://www.islington.gov.uk/business/business-rates
- Pictured – Cllr Asima Shaikh and local business owners submit petition to HM Treasury.
Help is on the way for Islington's small businesses that are being hit by massive Tory Government increases in business rates bills, courtesy of a new 'relief scheme' designed by...
Last week, Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, attended Nag’s Head Shopping Centre for the launch of a new free service to help smokers in Islington kick the habit for good.
Breathe, jointly commissioned by Islington and Camden Councils, is a free and flexible stop smoking service for people who live, work and study in the two boroughs. It launched ahead of Stoptober, a UK-wide campaign that encourages smokers to give up the habit for October.
Breathe offers out-of-hours support, accessible clinics in local community settings, online support and personalised one-to-one sessions with a specialist stop smoking advisor. Smokers will be able to try different types of support until they find what works for them.
Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer and claims up to 332 lives in Islington each year per 100,000 residents. Evidence suggests that people are four times more likely to give up smoking with specialist support, which hugely improves their quality of life and eases pressure on the NHS.
Islington Labour is committed to helping local people live healthy and fulfilling lives, and helping them give up smoking is a huge part of that. The integrated Camden and Islington Stop Smoking Service is working towards the admirable goal of smoke-free boroughs by 2030.
Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, said: “Islington Labour is committed to creating a fairer borough for everyone. This cannot be achieved without tackling smoking, which contributes to the significant gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society.
“We have been repeatedly calling on the Government to properly fund the Public Health Grant, which allows councils to provide effective smoking cessation services. The Tories have said they also want to see a smoke-free generation but we need actions, not words, for this to happen.
“We will continue to do all we can to support Islington residents to give up smoking and tackle health inequalities in the borough. Breathe will play an important role in this ambition.”
More information about the Breathe stop smoking service can be found on the service’s dedicated website. People can also call 020 3633 2609 or text QUIT to 66777.
Pictured - Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, at the launch of Breathe
Last week, Cllr Janet Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, attended Nag’s Head Shopping Centre for the launch of a new free service to help smokers in Islington...
The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a "short-term cost-cutting exercise".
In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the councils covered by the North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Cllr Watts has expressed serious concerns about the process and called for commitments from the Chief Executive of NHS England that services will not be reduced.
Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “Health services in North London face huge challenges and local councils want to help meet them, so that local people continue to receive the care they need. However, the NHS-led STP process has moved worryingly away from looking at how we solve the issues we face and is instead focusing on short-term cost-cutting.
“Along with the leaders of the other councils in the North Central London STP area, I have called on the NHS to urgently confirm that this process will not lead to a reduction in health services.
"We need to rapidly move the conversation on to discussing long-term preventative activity that will help people to lead healthier lives and will also reduce demand for expensive care services.”
In a letter to Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, the leaders of Islington, Camden, Haringey, Enfield and Barnet councils say the mechanisms of NHS funding (including the STP process) are twisting the priorities of healthcare partners, forcing them to focus only on short-term cost-cutting exercises to balance increasingly precarious budgets. The council leaders warn that longer-term aims to transform healthcare in the region are under threat as a result.
The leaders’ letter calls for six commitments from the NHS –
- No reduction in health services, or service standards (including no detrimental changes in access to services) in North Central London as a result of pressures on CCG, the current exercise or the STP;
- Additional funding if required to guarantee the above, including resolving the funding/ accounting issues we have mentioned in this letter;
- Full and proper consultation with residents and patients on any proposals for health service changes, meaning that they will be involved in re-designing services;
- Return the focus of NHS leaders in North London to long-term transformational change over the STP period, working across the health and care system with Councils as equal partners;
- Returning to your ambition for local flexibility in determining our health and care system, reducing the central control exercised over the system;
- Encourage NHS leaders to invest in long-term prevention activity, which by 2020/21 will reduce the demand for expensive health and care.
The leaders have called for a meeting with Mr Stevens and have urged him to guarantee the protection of existing health services and standards in north London, even if additional funding is required; to address and resolve the systemic funding issues hampering current efforts; and consulting with residents and patients on any proposed changes to health services.
For more updates on the STP process, please visit Islington Council's website.
Pictured - Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council
The Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, has slammed NHS plans that have become a "short-term cost-cutting exercise". In a joint letter with the four other leaders of the...
Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised to do so several months ago.
With 36 per cent of Islington households now living in private rented homes, Labour councillors made clear they are on the side of those who are finding it harder to afford to live in the borough, in part due to soaring rents and unscrupulous landlords and letting agents.
One issue that many private tenants face is being unexpectedly hit with letting fees. On average, they pay between £200 and £500 in letting fees, with agents inventing ridiculous excuses such as signing a form or moving furniture around a room. Worryingly, low-income tenants, who are already struggling to get by, are charged even higher fees. Currently, renters have no legal right to dispute these charges and usually are not in a position to 'shop elsewhere'.
This Labour council is standing up for private renters. It has been responsible for two thirds of total fines issued by London councils to rogue landlords since new enforcement measures were introduced in 2015. It has also fined letting agents over £50,000 for treating tenants unfairly and introduced an additional licensing scheme for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in Caledonian Road and Holloway Road, protecting over 3,500 tenants. In 2014 it launched London’s first not-for-profit lettings agency where tenants do not have to pay tenancy fees. In spite of these efforts to protect renters, Islington Labour councillors' powers are limited by law.
The Tory Government previously promised to ban letting fees but they are yet to announce a time line for when the draft Tenants' Fees Bill, which would make this law, will be debated in Parliament. Islington Labour councillors are calling on them to act on this yet-to-materialise promise and support Labour's campaign to introduce extra protections for private renters; including introducing a cap on rent rises, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for tenants. The 2017 Labour manifesto also pledged to grant the Mayor of London the power to give London renters additional security to tackle the particular pressures in the capital.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “This Labour-led Council is standing up for the many, not the few, and I encourage renters living in Islington who believe they are being mistreated by their landlord or letting agency to contact the Council housing team or their local councillors. The Leader of the Council and I will be writing to the Housing Minister to call on him to ban rip-off letting fees, which they previously promised to do, and support Labour’s calls for extra protections for private renters as soon as possible."
For more information on how the Council supports private renters or to report a landlord or letting agency, visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/housing/private-sector-housing/private-rented-accommodation
Pictured - Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development
Last week at Full Council (21 September), Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to bring forward plans to ban rip-off letting fees to private renters, which they promised...
Islington Labour is building more genuinely affordable homes for local people in the borough.
The Labour-run Council is projected to build just over 2,400 genuinely affordable homes, including around 530 council homes, between April 2015 and the end of the 2019/20 council year.
The 2017/18 Council budget allocated £40 million for its council house-building programme, making it the biggest delivery programme in 30 years. In 2017/18 alone, the Council is expected to build over 300 new genuinely affordable homes, including 140 council homes.
The latest projected figures mean that Islington Labour is on track to meet its key election pledge of 2014 – to deliver 2,000 new genuinely affordable homes, including 500 council homes, by the end of the 2019/20 council year.
These welcome figures build on the 1,829 genuinely affordable homes that the Council delivered in the borough between 2010 and the end of the 2014/15 council year. They also demonstrate how Islington Labour is working hard to tackle the housing crisis affecting Islington and provide decent homes for local people.
Last month, councillors joined construction workers at Shearling Way to observe construction work that has started on four new terraced council houses on Manger Road, Holloway Ward. Each home will house seven people, and will have four bedrooms spanning over three storeys, a garden and a green roof with solar panels. They are vital additions to the Shearling Way Estate, and are just one example of how the Council is delivering more affordable homes for local residents across the borough.
To ensure the new homes meet the needs of the local community, the Council has a local lettings policy for all homes constructed on existing estates. The lettings of new homes will be prioritised to people currently living on the estate on which they are being built.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development, says: “Building more genuinely affordable housing for local people is a priority for this Council, and we were elected with the mandate to do just that. Islington is facing the effects of a severe housing crisis in London and we want to ensure that everyone in Islington has a place to live that is affordable, decent and secure.
“We have already delivered 1,829 genuinely affordable homes under the previous Labour administration. It is more important than ever that we continue to build more for the future and prioritise them for local people in genuine need.”
The Council’s flagship planning policy requires new residential developments of ten units or more to provide a minimum of 50 per cent genuinely affordable housing. Earlier this year it won a landmark case against a developer that refused to provide sufficient social housing.
Pictured - Cllr Rakhia Ismail of Holloway Ward; Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development; and Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, on Shearling Way, where new genuinely affordable homes will be built
Islington Labour is building more genuinely affordable homes for local people in the borough. The Labour-run Council is projected to build just over 2,400 genuinely affordable homes, including around 530...
Labour-run Islington Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to close a council tax loophole that landlords have been exploiting for years.
In the past, blocks of student flats in Islington were given a block council tax exemption throughout the year, as students do not pay council tax. There are more than 4,000 such student flats in accommodation blocks across the borough.
Increasingly, over the summer when students are away, landlords are letting these flats to tourists and other visitors in order to maximise their income. The flats are therefore liable for council tax during this period, outside of university term-time. If 1,000 such flats are rented out for 10 weeks over the summer break, the council tax due is £121,250. This is money that could be going towards local services upon which residents rely.
Islington Council has taken action to close this loophole by now requiring landlords to supply the tenancy and student occupancy details for every flat for every week of the year. The landlords will be liable for council tax for any periods during the year when the flats are occupied by people other than students.
Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, says: “It is unfair that landlords have effectively been getting a tax break on renting their student flats out over the summer, particularly at a time when Islington is experiencing massive and ongoing budget cuts from central Government.
“Islington Labour is on the side of the many who pay in full the tax they owe, not the few who would seek to maximise their income by exploiting a council tax loophole. This move is fairer for all our residents and helps to pay for essential local services. I am pleased that this Labour-run council has become one of the first in the country to close this council tax loophole.”
Pictured - Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety
Labour-run Islington Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to close a council tax loophole that landlords have been exploiting for years. In the past,...
After years of campaigning for the Archway public space, Islington Labour councillors alongside Jeremy Corbyn MP and the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, opened the new Archway public space on 22nd August 2017.
The previous one-way gyratory for many in the local community was inefficient, outdated and congested with traffic. For years the local community had asked for it to be changed. After some tough campaigning from councillors, it has now been replaced with a two-way traffic system, better pedestrian crossings on Holloway Road, separated cycle routes and a more connected town centre, opening up safer access to shops and businesses.
The Archway public space would not have been possible without the joint partnership with the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL), alongside the £12.6m investment to make the new public space at the heart of Archway’s transformation.
As part of the celebrations, Islington Council is now running a naming competition, where members of the public are invited to suggest a name for the new public space. Suggestion boxes are located in local shops and can be submitted until 3rd September or alternatively the public can email email@example.com with their suggestions.
The shortlisted suggestions will be announced in a live event on the public square on 16th September where people can vote for their favourite names, as well as enjoy food, live music, market stalls, an Arsenal penalty shootout and Zumba lessons!
Cllr Kaya Comer Schwartz, Executive Member Community Development said: “As someone who was born here and has lived in the area for over 30 years it has been wonderful to see a dangerous road transformed into a public square. Now the Jeremy has officially opened the square I look forward to the many activities that will created for and by our community, starting with the live event on 16th September. This beautiful square belongs to and should be enjoyed by local people.”
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport said: “This once in a lifetime scheme is the culmination of a massive joint effort to transform what was once a fragmented, traffic dominated area into a safe, attractive public space that local communities and visitors alike can enjoy; encouraging more to walk and cycle and lead healthier lives. This massive transformation would not have been possible without the patience and support of local residents, whom we wholeheartedly thank.”
More information about the Archway Improvement Scheme is available on the Council’s website.
For more information about Archway see www.archwaylondon.com
Pcitured: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington councillors and members of the public at the opening of the new Archway public space
After years of campaigning for the Archway public space, Islington Labour councillors alongside Jeremy Corbyn MP and the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, opened the new Archway public space...
Canonbury councillors have ensured improvements to New River Walk, a small picturesque park along a stretch of the New River.
The walk, which can be accessed from Canonbury Grove, St Paul’s Road and Willowbridge Road, is frequented by local residents. However, the lack of level access previously made it more difficult for wheelchair users and disabled people to visit the area.
Local Canonbury Ward councillor Clare Jeapes was keen to improve access to the area so more residents could enjoy New River Walk. She awarded £3,000 from Islington Council’s Local Initiative Fund (LIF), a small grants scheme that supports activities and improvements in the borough, which went towards the accessibility improvements, with the remaining funding for the works coming from elsewhere.
Level access has been created at various points throughout the walk, including from a previously dis-used gate and by raising existing walkways so they are now step-free. Some parts of the path along New River Walk are not straight and can only be reached by steps, so a new path has been laid to cut along the garden area and existing parts of the path have been widened.
The changes, while seemingly small, will improve access for wheelchair users, disabled people and parents with pushchairs, allowing them to explore the area more easily.
Cllr Clare Jeapes, councillor for Canonbury Ward, said: “I am grateful to local residents and the Council’s Greenspace team for bringing these accessibility improvements to New River Walk. Islington is a densely populated borough, so it is essential that residents can get off pavements and onto footpaths to exercise and breathe cleaner air.
“Islington Council’s LIF scheme has helped to make these changes a reality. I encourage other local community groups with great ideas to come forward and apply for LIF funding.”
Jack Lambert of Friends of the New River Walk, added: “We are pleased that our concerns about the lack of level access to New River Walk have been listened to and acted upon. These changes to create step-free access are relatively simple and in keeping with the aesthetic of the rest of the walk, and will make a big difference to residents who would otherwise struggle to visit this lovely part of Canonbury.”
Pictured - Diane Brace and Jack Lambert of Friends of New River Walk, and Cllr Clare Jeapes of Canonbury Ward, on the new pathway cutting along the garden area and on one of the raised walkways leading to New River Walk
Canonbury councillors have ensured improvements to New River Walk, a small picturesque park along a stretch of the New River. The walk, which can be accessed from Canonbury Grove,...
Labour-run Islington Council is rolling out more on-street bicycle parking to residents as part of its plans to encourage cycling in the borough.
Bikehangars are secure, covered, lockable units that take up just a single car parking space on the road, but each one provides rental space for up to six bicycles. They offer a safe and effective way of protecting bikes from the weather and theft in places where storage space is at a premium.
A pilot scheme, which last year installed two Bikehangars in Crayford Road in St George's ward and Hanley Road in Tollington ward, was so successful that there is now a waiting list of more than 600 residents who have requested a space in a unit.
The Council has secured external funding for 18 Asgard hangars across Islington, meaning 120 bicycles can be kept secure and protected from the weather in lockable on-street units. This is in addition to more than 700 spaces on public bike stands around the borough, and the numerous bike stand spaces and similar secure covered lockable bike shelters on the borough’s council estates.
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Islington Labour is firmly committed to encouraging more residents to cycle, which is healthier and better for the environment. Bikehangers are an ideal solution to help address the concerns of those who may otherwise be worried about cycle theft of vandalism.
"The borough is densely populated and built-up, so it is important we provide a secure space for residents who cannot store their bike at home.
"I hope more residents will make the most of the health and financial advantages of cycling as we roll out more Bikehangars in Islington"
Residents have been consulted on proposed locations for these units, and more will be rolled out borough-wide, subject to winning further funding and localised consultation.
The council is developing an application and payment system for residents on its website, but until then residents can email firstname.lastname@example.org to signal their interest.
Pictured - Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, at the new Bikehangar in Crayford Road, St George's ward.
Labour-run Islington Council is rolling out more on-street bicycle parking to residents as part of its plans to encourage cycling in the borough. Bikehangars are secure, covered, lockable units that...
Labour councillors, local vicars, local residents, staff from the Whittington Hospital and Catherine West MP, have joined together to demand an end to Transport for London’s (TfL) delays in installing suicide prevention barriers on Archway Bridge.
Gathering together at Archway Bridge this week (20th July), Islington Labour councillors led calls for decisive action to be taken by TfL to install the barriers as soon as possible. The calls follow another tragic death on 29th June, which saw the Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Richard Watts, declare “I am furious these vital safety measures have not been put in place.”
Planning permission was granted in October 2015 by both Islington and Haringey Councils for the installation of suicide prevention barriers along Archway Bridge, which has been the scene of multiple suicides and attempted suicides. Delays have meant that TfL has failed to produce a compliant sample panel of the prevention barriers 21 months after permission was granted.
Cllr David Poyser, Labour councillor for Hillrise ward, said: “Every suicide is a tragedy, especially for the loved ones left behind, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of suicide. We know these barriers will work in stopping others from taking their lives. It is utterly unacceptable that TfL has not been able to get a compliant sample panel produced, and there can be no more excuses. The strength of feeling about this is clear to see and we need TfL to listen to the community and to make our bridge safe.”
Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Labour councillor for Junction ward and Executive Member for Community Development commented: “The suicides at Archway Bridge could and should have been prevented. There is no justifiable reason why the barriers have not been installed, given that planning permission was granted 21 months ago.”
Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Community Safety, added: “This saga has been running for years, and as a council we have done all that we can to help TfL produce the barriers. We have even taken to offering to find manufacturers ourselves. Thankfully, the CCTV we have installed near to the bridge has helped us prevent several suicides, but clearly it is not enough as the tragic death a few weeks ago shows.
“I am pleased that a positive meeting took place this week between Islington, TfL and Haringey. Haringey are now managing the project and are responsible for its delivery, and we will support them in any way we can to ensure the barriers are installed as soon as possible. To help speed-up the process, Islington has agreed to purchase specialist steel needed for the fencing.”
Please visit NHS Choices website here – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Suicide/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Helplines for those needing support –
- Samaritans – 116 123
- Childline – 0800 1111
- Papyrus (specialists for teenagers and young adults) – 0800 068 41 41
- Pictured from right to left – Catherine West MP, Cllr David Poyser, Dr Janice Gibbons (NHS), Cllr Andy Hull, Andrew Robins (Consultant – Whittington Hospital), Revd. Peter Vannozzi (St Augustine of Canterbury, Highgate), Carol Hansen-Vessa (local resident), Bisi Williams (local resident), Jan Whelan (local resident), Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Steve Clarke (Vicar, St Andrew’s, Whitehall Park), Cllr Paul Convery, Cllr Marian Spall, Jan Tucker (Archway Town Centre Business Group), and Juliet Penrice (Consultant – Whittington Hospital).
Labour councillors, local vicars, local residents, staff from the Whittington Hospital and Catherine West MP, have joined together to demand an end to Transport for London’s (TfL) delays in installing suicide...