Category Archives: Islington

Late Night Levy Madness

The streets of Islington are, according to Islington Labour, rife with violent drunks after the midnight hour, and thus they have rushed to be the first London Borough to raise a tax on licenced premises- well summarised in the Tribune here as the Islington “late night levy”
The move will have little effect on high-profit clubs with promotional drinks offers, disgorging their drunken clientele in the early hours, but will hasten the closure of small community pubs according to CAMRA
In classic Islington style, the money raised will be spent on more saturation CCTV coverage, and recruiting a private security force, who will patrol the streets with no powers of arrest, a rag-tag motley-crew of para-military red-coats.
This hare-brained scheme was introduced by Islington Labour’s Councillor Paul Convery.

There was always something of the Puritan about Cllr Convery.

Unfortunately, Captain Convery’s New model Army is more of a “Dad’s Army”, with Paul as a cross between Private Frazer and the pompous Captain Mainwaring character, supported by his loyal sidekick Cllr Poole, and some loyal backbenchers resembling Cpl. Jones, running around wringing their hands and shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!”

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The proposal to introduce a privatised security squad was buried in the policy paper (at para 5.3 ) and was not a “recommendation” , perhaps because the idea had nothing to recommend it, but more likely as under the Constitution it is possible only to amend recommendations, so therefore impossible to table an amendment to the goon squad proposal. 

Predictably, Councillors supporting the levy ignored the failure of current licensing policy and policing, and naively assumed that the levy would somehow magic away the problems associated with late night drinking. Thus, they argued anyone against the lobby was somehow in favour of vomit, urine and yobbery. Each speaker was keen to outdo each other with apolacyptic visions of Hogarthian imagery, Cllr Poole offering to conduct guided tours of the hellish scenes in his ward. It’s only a matter of time before someone takes up that idea, and we see “drunk and disorderly” tours advertised in TimeOut or Rough Guide. It was this hellish imagery that gave rise to the headline “Islington rivers of vomit and urine” in the Islington Gazette.

In 1979 Elvis Costello recorded Oliver’s Army.
Now we have Convery’s Army:-
Convery’s Army are on their way
Convery’s Army are here to stay
And we would rather see anything else than Islington run this way…

Full music playlist for “Cap’n Convery’s Late Night Levy Army” here

Letter in Islington Tribune here

Protecting Children Services in Islington

UPDATE:-My amendments to the Budget were unsuccessful, and the cuts to Children Services have gone through, with Labour Councillors voting instead to keep their press officers, support officers, and allowances (with the Lib Dems abstaining)
Coverage in islington Tribune here

November 2015-shock rise in crime in Islington reported.

Original Post from 27 February:-
At Islington Council’s Budget Meeting tonight, the Council is potentially going to make a grave error with its proposed drastic cuts in children’s services.
The Council has of course been unfairly hit by disproportionate and draconian funding cuts from central Government, and there are inevitably difficult decisions to make.
However, targeting posts in Children’s Services is making the axe fall in the wrong place, and potentially putting vulnerable children at risk.
In my amendment, I will argue that the cuts should fall instead on the bloated Communications budget (currently running at about £1million per year), and on Councillors own allowances.
When Labour took control in Islington in 2010, they had pledged to “slash” expenditure on both communications spending and allowances. Now they can fulfil that pledge, and protect a front-line service.

My budget amendment also provides additional funding for road safety, especially around schools, and preventing bike theft (which is prolific in Islington)
Detail
I’m trying to stop the Councils proposed slashing of jobs in children’s services. (See appendix B esp items 3,4 and 7) In nearly £4million of proposed cuts, there are six senior posts and a management post being deleted amongst staffing reduction.
I will protect these posts by instead:
-abolishing party political spin doctors
-abolishing the Councils propaganda magazine “Islington Life”
-reducing the Councils million pound Communications budget by about a third
-reducing Councillor allowances by 10% (to follow the example of Council Leader Richard Watts)
(I will follow Cllr Watts Leadership, and take a 10% reduction in allowances, whatever the outcome of the budget amendment)
-abolishing “special allowances” for chairing planning meetings.

My amendment also provides funding for an air quality strategy to tackle killer pollution levels.

Finally, my amendment also provides some additional funding for the Advice Alliance- there help for vulnerable people needed more than ever with Coalition attacks on welfare and the needy.
(Also topical, with today’s announcement by Grayling killing off Criminal Legal Aid)

Islington Employment Commission

Islington Council set up an employment commission, to solve the unemployment crisis in the Borough by having a series of meetings.
It sadly never reached the high profile those who dreamt it up felt it deserved, so I’ve made this playlist to help promote it.
The terms of reference, appointees and timetable were carefully controlled by the Council Leadership. Nonetheless, the aim of reducing unemployment was a laudable one.
The process has finished, and the report is here
Good luck with that!

Legal Aid Protest- lawyers on strike!

I was not representing anyone on January 6th this year.
Together with fellow legal aid lawyers, we were MAKING A STAND

What happened on 6th January?

There was this protest against legal aid cuts in the morning outside Westminster Court organised by the Justice Alliance.
This was a public demo, well attended despite the weather, to show support for legal aid and against Grayling’s proposed cuts.
I was stewarding a “training session” for lawyers, at Islington Town Hall (from 1115) organised by the LCCSA
It all started to feel a bit like a strike!
The protest was billed as a strike in the Daily Mirror
This had never happened before, and shows the MOJ is in a right old mess reported the Telegraph
The guardian also reported on the action
but was this just the usual stuff from fat cat lawyers?
The reality of life for the majority of legal aid lawyers is far, far removed from the distortions regularly reported in the popular media. What is dispiriting is that selective and misleading quotes and stats are routinely deployed by the MOJ to re-in force the stereotype.
Check out the Legal Aid MythBuster here
The point of the demo was to help make people aware that if this Government continues with these cuts, It will lead to the collapse of proper publicly funded defence, and innocent people will be either unrepresented or poorly represented, with bitter consequences for Justice and Society.
A report on the Days events in Islington is here

legal Aid playlist here

Catch up on twitter comments #fight4legalaid and/or #walkout4justice

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Cycle theft in Islington.

playlist: “bike theft in Islington”-click here to listen
Bike Theft in Islington
About 1500 cycles were reported stolen in the London Borough of Islington in 2013 and about the same the year before. (One of them was mine.) The true figure is almost certainly higher, as many people in Islington no longer bother to report the loss of a push-bike.
I was able to get confirmation of how many of the 3000 bikes stolen were recovered- the answer being about 5%.
It is hard to imagine many crimes where the clear-up rate would be so low, or considered acceptable. Article in Islington Tribune here

The figures for the following years were equally dire.

1,021 bicycles were reported stolen between 1/11/14 and 31/10/15. Of these, 36 were recovered and returned to their owner. The recovery rate has actually fallen -to about 3%

A year later, and some Islington Cyclists had their bikes stolen and had to compete in charity race on Boris Bikes (as reported in Standard 08/16)

What is needed:-
1 Recognising bike theft as a crime and allocating police resources to preventing, deterring and solving bike-theft
( on 27/02/14 – I proposed an amendment to Islington budget to provide additional funding for that instead of propaganda and Councillor allowances, but the amendment was defeated by Labour)
2 Council provision and encouragement of more (and better) secure cycle storage
3 Better and more co-ordinated bike identification, so that every bike sold in LBI should be properly marked, identifiable and traceable at point of sale

Notes
Islington Cyclist? link to ICAG website
Islington:- a Borough where it is not safe to leave a bike locked up in public
However, cycle racks are pointless if cyclists have no confidence that their bike properly locked and secured will still be there on their return. Bike thieves in Islington now act with impunity, pushing cycle theft to epidemic proportions. Many stolen bikes are then used to commit ride-by robberies, making Islington the phone-snatch capital of London.
The Labour Council have failed to act, and chose to divert resources away from traditional policing to CCTV. It was interesting to watch a film of someone stealing my bike, but it didn’t prevent the theft, or get it returned.
I’ve had three bikes and one set of wheels stolen in Islington in ten years, and will no longer cycle in the Borough if there is not secure indoor storage at the other end of the journey. It’s simply not safe to do so.

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Compulsory recycling in Islington

You can enjoy a playlist about recycling whilst reading this piece-why not give it a listen?!

LABOURS COMPULSORY RECYCLING-TIME FOR A CHANGE
Introduction
Under Labour Control, Islington Council have introduced a compulsory recycling policy, snooped through residents bins, and issued fines-as set out in the Islington Gazette here
Now the Councils stats in their report and have set an unambitious target of less than 1% in two years.
Most people understand why it is important to recycle more (as well as re-using items where possible and reducing waste in general.) Polling shows that most people actually want to recycle more, and what is needed to achieve a higher rate of recycling is encouragement and the provision of adequate facilities. What residents don’t want is a coercive policy, with a bullying Council issuing threats, followed by fines, and which makes recycling mandatory rather than desirable. Pensioners have said they would rather go to prison than pay fines unfair recycling fines (example here)
Evidence shows that such an approach is counter-productive, perhaps unsurprisingly as to make such a policy effective, it requires the Council to snoop through its citizen’s bins, spying on those it should be serving.
Islington’s Labour Council have proved this with their compulsory recycling policy, a policy introduced without warning ( it was not in their manifesto) or debate.(This was the subject of criticism at the time, which was of course ignored by the Labour Executive)
The policy means in practical terms the imposition of fines for those deemed to be not recycling enough, which necessitates council resources being deployed not to collect or recycle your rubbish, but checking through it to see what residents have put in one bin or another. This practice has been condemned locally as “the return of the bin snoopers” (see Gazette article above or Tribune article here)
It is a straightforward issue. You either support compulsory Recycling (Islington Labour Councillors) or you do not (most of the rest of us). But it is important to the debate to know whether the policy works, or at least (if causation unclear) whether recycling is rising or falling since the policy change.
Policy not working
Fact is, recycling under Labour has fallen in Islington since the introduction of compulsory recycling.
Islington Labour deny the fall, even in the face of the Councils own figures which prove the case.
Take for example the Tribune article link above.
In this, we see “Environment chief Cllr Rakhia Ismail said : “Recycling rates are up since we introduced compulsory recycling.”
Yet the report on which the news item is based, an official Council document, shows a fall in the figures. The author of that report? The same Cllr Ismail. The report is published and publicly available here
By 21 September there was an acknowledgement of a a drop, blamed on “government cuts” in this tweet
That’s not the first time that excuse has been deployed-it was a favourite of Cllr Ismail’s bungling predecessor as Exec member for environment-the hapless Cllr Paul Smith (later reshuffled or sacked) – see e.g. here
Then, in a further tweet there is a denial that the Council engages in bin snooping. Once again, to establish the truth we may merely look at the report signed off by Cllr Ismail , which states that 11 people so far have been fined (and many more-number unspecified-warned) under the compulsory policy. Short of using a psychic, or randomly selecting people to fine (a bit like jury selection) , then there must have been some kind of intrusive investigation. And that is what you and I call snooping.
Finally, let’s put the recycling figures into context.
Recycling rates in Islington
When Labour previously ran Islington (up to 1998) the Borough had the lowest recycling rate of any Borough in London.(3.5%)
After losing control, recycling shot up, (quadrupling in four years and increased year on year.
(Let me declare an interest – from 2008-2010 I was the Councillor with responsibility for recycling.* I know well how hard Council Officers work on trying to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill. It was heartbreaking to see good officers lose their jobs when in their first budget the 2010 incoming Labour administration axed the sustainability team.)
Conclusion
Islington’s recycling policy is unwanted and not working, but rather than trying to fudge or deny the figures, they have an opportunity to stop compulsion and concentrate on supporting and encouraging residents to recycle more.
In the meantime, beware Council Officers rifling through your rubbish , sifting for evidence .
TOP TIPS TO AVOID BIN SNOOPERS

-always shred any correspondence or documents
-If you are uncomfortable with Council snoopers looking through your bottles and tins, consider recycling direct to bottle bank or other facilities.
-Watch out for people dropping rubbish in your recycling box, or recyclables in your bin- you may face questioning, or be placed under suspicion
-If you face a fine or investigation, and want to take advice, feel free to contact me or your local Councillor
-lobby Labour Councillors to drop the mandatory policy

*During 2008-2010 recycling rates improved, and LBI was the recipient of numerous awards for recycling, including:- Best Local Authority Recycling Initiative ( 2009); Consistent Commitment to Developing Environmental Awareness & Sustainability (VALPAK Awards 2009) ;Most Innovative Local Authority (VALPAK Awards 2008);Best Regional Project – Watch your Waste week – 2009; Joined Up Award – Giant Green Environment Awards 2008 and see here

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SunnysideGardens -Rising from the ashes

Sunnyside Community Gardens are a precious (although small) piece of Green Space in Hillrise ward, the Northern tip of Islington. The physical location is opposite the only significant Park in the ward, Elthorne Park, and separated from it by a quiet part of Sunnyside Road. I have campaigned for years to close that stretch of Sunnyside Rd, green it over and create a larger green space-see my YouTube clip here
But Sunnyside is more than just a physical space. Sunnyside provides a range horticultural and other services,notably helping and supporting residents with learning difficulties.

Fire
The fire of July 2013 that burned the Community Gardens building beyond repair was devasting news, reported in the Islington Gazette here.  (See also this report in Islington Tribune )

    
However, the local Community has rallied round, and until such time as the Insurance settle, and we can rebuild, services will continue. My call for the Council to provide a portakabin was picked up by Cllr Lorraine Constantinou, and with help from Mullaley, a portakabin duly arrived.
We set up a support group on Facebook
And local campaigner Carl Quilliam organised an auction in the Royal Oak pub, where I was proud to be auctioneer at an event which saw generous donations from residents and Councillors Stacy, Horton and Constantinou. And then of course there were the numerous residents who turned out to bid for the lots, and buy the raffle tickets.
But it didn’t stop there. Local residents group WHPARA donated £100 and publicised the event, and prizes were donated by other local groups including Islington Boxing Club and Caxton House.
Local MP Jeremy Corbyn also offered tea in The Commons as a raffle prize.
And there were contributions and help from many more-too numerous to mention (but maybe a quick plug for Archway with Words who donated tickets for a very interesting forthcoming community event )
So from this adversity we have found a real community spirit, and hopefully (if you will forgive the cliche) we will see a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
In total, the auction/raffle raised over £700, but there is of course a long way to go.

letter to local paper

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Sunnyside Gardens Playlist here
Thanks to M.Heath for the photo from auction.