Tag Archives: Islington

Mentoring in Islington – ” Bridging the Gap”

For several years, a small group in Islington called “Bridging the Gap” have been arranging mentoring partnerships in Islington. I am proud to be one of the trustees (Details of our trustees here: http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/who-we-are/)

In 2015 we became a registered charity and launched our website http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/. Please check us out , and share news of what we do to interested parties.

Bridging the Gap Islington is looking for:-
-mentors (we provide the training)
-sponsors  (people, local businesses or companies interested in being a patron, sponsor or partner)
-volunteers (to help with fundraising)

-funding! We welcome contributions toward our work. (All our mentors and trustees are volunteers, but we have some admin costs and cover mentor’s travel costs)

Donate via this link

I have been involved in many mentoring projects over the years, but I am really excited that at last in Islington we have a partnership that brings together people in need of help and guidance and those willing to provide it. Please spread the word!

NOTES

1 Bridging the Gap Islington is an Islington based charity, formed in 2012, that provides a mentoring service by providing trained volunteer mentors, and linking them with people in need of help and support.

2 Objects
The objects of the Charity are: –

-The prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of offenders by offering offenders, ex-offenders and people at risk of offending advice, guidance and support, including to address their needs and promote their integration into the wider law-abiding community.

-Working together with other organisations with similar aims particularly but not exclusively by providing a voluntary mentoring service for people at risk of offending.

3 Bridging the Gap Islington is a Membership organisation – because we believe that helping vulnerable people and people at risk of offending is a community responsibility. We welcome new members! To find out more and to join email Josie Osei at admin@bridging-islington.org.uk

2 The following are trustees:-
Mick Holloway
Maddy Robinson
Jonathan Joels
Robin Latimer
Greg Foxsmith

(Details of our trustees here http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/who-we-are/ )

We welcome new trustees, and if you are interested in joining the Bridging the Gap steering group, please contact Robin Latimer – Robin@bridging-islington.org.uk

4 Website: http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/

5 Appeal

1 Bridging the Gap Islington is looking for:-
-mentors
-sponsors (in particular local businesses or companies that may want to be an official sponsor)
-a Patron
– volunteers to help with fundraising

If interested in any of the above please contact Robin Latimer at robin@bridging-islington.org.uk

We also welcome contributions toward our mentoring work! All our mentors and trustees are volunteers. Donate online through the donation page of our website here http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/donate/ or contact Robin@bridging-islington.org.uk

6 Quotes

1 Founding member and trustee Robin Latimer :  “Bridging the Gap Islington provides a unique opportunity for local people to help many people in our community who are excluded by a competitive and bureaucratic society. Anybody can benefit from talking about their plans and friendly encouragement to put plans into practice. As well as welcoming prospective mentors, we are also looking for ways to make contact with people who need help.”

2 Islington Councillor Joe Calouri:  “It’s fantastic to have Bridging the Gap working in the Borough with some of our most vulnerable residents. Well trained mentors can provide the kind of trusted relationship that can help create real change for vulnerable people.”

3 Greg Foxsmith: “I have been involved in many mentoring projects over the years, but I am really excited that at last in Islington we have a partnership that brings together people in need of help and guidance and those willing to provide it”

 

Highbury Court Advice Centre-One Year On!

A Local court-based advice and support service celebrated its first year at Highbury Magistrates Court this month.
North London advice and support service, Community Advice based at Highbury Magistrates Court has been providing practical help and access to long term support to those who attend court.

  
Based inside the court, the service in its first year has helped over 600 people from Islington, Haringey, Camden and Enfield. It has assisted court users with accessing long-term support services such as alcohol treatment, housing, mental health services or providing immediate help with practical issues such as outstanding fines and benefit claims.

The service is aimed especially at those who are not eligible for probation support due to the level of their offences such as theft, vandalism, drunk and disorderly conduct, but appear in court again and again absorbing a considerable amount of the criminal justice system’s resources.

A paid coordinator and a team of volunteers at the service help identify and tackle the underlying problems that contribute to people’s offending such as housing needs, debt issues, and drug and alcohol misuse.

The service has made hundreds of referrals into wider community services ensuring those who come to court can continue to receive the support they need once they leave the building. In its first year, the clients attended three quarters of all the referrals made for them and two-thirds reported their issues had been resolved six months on.

Set up by the Centre for Justice Innovation, the service is supported by local magistrates and court service and is delivered by Islington Citizens Advice. For more info, check out this short film!

Joanne Thomas, Innovative Practice Manager at the Centre for Justice Innovation said: “Community Advice is an invaluable resource as it is addressing significant unmet needs of people who are coming to court. There are early, positive signs that it is helping people who would have had no other recourse to resolve their issues.” (See also this blog by Joanne)

Notes

• The Centre for Justice Innovation is a UK justice research and development charity. It works to build a justice system that holds people accountable, that is fair and feels fair, and which seeks to address the problems of those people who come into contact with it. It is an initiative of the Center for Court Innovation, based in New York.

• A reception event to mark the anniversary was held on March 9th in Islington Town Hall. My contribution:-

Anyone practicing in criminal law is aware that the vast majority of defendants have any one (or more) of a number of complex issues or difficult challenges , which often underpin or contribute to their offending, but which the Criminal Justice System does not address. These issues can include mental health issues, drug addiction, homelessness, welfare benefit issues, domestic violence, exploitation, pressure by gang members, unemployment, depression, and more. 

In some cases limited help provided comes from the probation service, but gone are the days when there was a probation “service” whose role was to “befriend the prisoner” and instead we have a fragmented, part-privatised, underfunded system whose main purpose is to punish, and, where there is a subsidiary component of help, it comes with sanctions for “non-compliance”. 

Leaving the offender to seek their own help, we have also seen a steady diminution of help and advice services , both Centrally and by Local Authorities, and a particularly brutal reduction in services since LASPO.

Solicitors cannot plug this gap-as a result of year on year Legal Aid cuts we barely have time to take meaningful instructions on cases to present a proper defence for a desirory fixed fee within an adverserial system. In earlier years a High Street Practice would offer a holistic service, with solicitors advising on employment law, benefits advice etc, now that rearely exists.

About 10 years ago I began mentoring ex-offenders, which I continue to do, and I have been amazed at the paucity of mentoring available compared to the potential demand, and the willingness of people to give up their time. My mentoring campaign led, accidentally, into politics, and indeed into this Town Hall where I was an elected Councillor from 2006-2014.

I never managed to establish an Islington mentoring service, but I have at least now seen the birth of an Islington mentoring project, BRIDGING THE GAP ISLINGTON.

Mentoring, which is time-intensive, essentially is signposting or referring clients to the right experts who can provide help with specific issues. “If only”, I sometimes mused, “there was a service where the people needing help and the volunteers who can provide it could be gathered together in one place”. It was no more than a pipe-dream.

So now I turn to the Highbury Court Advice Service.  The service that shows me that dreams can come true!

I was aware there was some kind of pilot project in Plymouth, (my home City!)

I was aware of the excellent work of the Centre for Justice Innovation.

And I was very aware of Highbury Corner Magistrates , my Local Court.

But never would I have believed that somehow these threads would be drawn together to create this outstanding service.

The first time I saw it in action, I spotted somebody gliding across the waiting area, friendly, welcoming, introducing themselves to clients. Naturally I thought it was one of the infamous solicitor-touts that proliferate at Highbury Court, trying to poach clients from other solicitors (fighting for scraps at the beggars banquet)

You cannot imagine my delight when I realised that instead this was a volunteer from the Advice Service, offering help and advice. On subsequent visits I introduced myself to the team, and gradually met more of the volunteers. I referred my clients to them. I visited the CJI for a seminar. I blogged about the Service. I am, in short, unambiguously a fan.

I tell everybody I can about this Service, and was glad to see Mr Gove visited. I hope he was impressed.

So well done, and thank you to the visionaries who developed the concept, the volunteers who deliver and all those who support it.

And I ask of you all one thing, support this scheme, and shout about this service from the roof-tops.

We need to ensure that it survives, and that it is rolled out across London and hopefully Nationally.

I look forward to the 10 year anniversary celebration! 

  

(A version of this speech appears on the CJI website here)

Expanding Sunnyside Gardens!

There are two wonderful pieces of Green Space in Hillrise Ward, Islington, seperated by an ugly but underused road. There is a great opportunity to increase greenspace by closing a stretch of that road.

The Green Spaces are Sunnyside Community Gardens and Elthorne Park, and the road is the short stretch of Sunnyside Road that divides them. The road is used by very little vehicular traffic, but is used as a short-cut by the 210 bus, rather than take the short detour around the Southern part of Elthorne Park.

In 2011 a campaign to “close the road” (see here) was launched jointly by Friends of Sunnyside Gardens and Friends of Elthorne Park, and supported extensively by local residents in a petition.

The Council faltered, blaming opposition from London Buses and failed to show leadership. But last year, the lead Councillor agreed to look again at the viability of the popular idea.

At the Council Meeting on 15th October I tabled a question for the Lead Councillor asking for an update. 

Cllr Claudia Webbe in an encouraging reply indicated personal and Council support for the proposal, noting the only barrier was raising the finance. She has agreed to provide a breakdown of the figures.

Local MP Jeremy Corbyn confirmed support for the road closure

Welcoming the support, Friends of Elthorne Park will be asking LBI to “close the road for a day” as part of next year’s “Car Free Day”. This would give residents, park users and Cllrs a chance to experience the benefits of what would literally be “joined-up thinking”.

Press coverage here.

watch this space….

Press Release 19/11/15

Campaigners for Greenspace welcomed the Council’s committment to permenantly closing part of Sunnyside road which separates two Green Spaces in the North of the Borough- Elthorne Park and Sunnyside Community Gardens.
Previously, LBI had not supported the proposal, citing opposition from London Buses who objected on the basis there would be a small re-routing of the 210 bus road.

But now the Council say the only barrier is finance -and the the lack of budgetary options following cuts in the Government central Grant.

Friends of Sunnyside Gardens welcomed the change of heart, and noted that in the next few years there was a proposed redevelopment of the side of the Park currently hosting the Islington Boxing Club-which will generate funds for local amenity from the planning process (1)

Greg Foxsmith, speaking for Friends of Elthorne Park, said “We have had for a long time the support of park users, environmental campaigners, local residents and Councillors and our local MP Jeremy Corbyn- now we finally have a commitment from the Council it seems we are moving in the right direction”

Friends of Elthorne Park are also asking the Council to close the road on the next “car-free” day, so that residents and Park Users can experience the benefits for a day.

Notes
(1) s106 Planning Act. The Boxing Club, currently housed in a temporary structure, is looking to rebuild in a development which may include housing and a cafe.

Prison Books: Helping to Turn over a New leaf

The decision earlier this year by Justice Secretary Michael Gove to lift the ban on family and friends sending books to prisoners was welcome

Anybody who describes prison as a “holiday camp” has either never been to prison, or never been on holiday- the reality of contemporary incarceration is boredom from enforced idleness, interspersed with occasional violence (assaults are rife) but little support for rehabilitation programmes or tackling prevalent issues of mental health. Cuts to staffing levels have overlapped with a rapidly rising prison population. Recent reports by the Prison Inspectorate have been damming.

Books do not in themselves provide a panacea, but they are a good start. They provide education, help literacy and personal development, and broaden the mind.

The book ban introduced by Gove’s predecessor Chris Grayling was a vindictive, unjustified act.

The purpose of prison is punishment and rehabilitation- the first is implicit in the removal of liberty by being locked up, the second currently not achieved by draconian policies that fail to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour. In Nelson Mandela’s moving autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”, he writes of the value and importance of books to him through his long period of imprisonment. Everyone but Grayling could see the value of books within prison.

In March last year I joined a demonstration against the book ban outside Pentonville prison organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform, and supported by authors including the Poet Laureate. See a short video clip here.

The reversal came initially as a result of a successful Judicial Review brought by solicitor Samuel Genen and counsel (all acting pro-bono) -read more about that here. The High Court ruled the policy was unlawful. Gove then confirmed in July the complete relaxation of the unfair and arbitrary rules Grayling introduced. That is a victory- unlawful policies do not always lead to policy reversal -look at the vexed issue of prisoner voting.

Now we no longer have a book ban, and we now longer have Grayling despoiling the office of Lord Chancellor. So what of his successor?

Gove has said that “the most useful thing we can do is make sure prisoners are usefully employed, and improve literacy, numeracy and work skills”. Will he act or are these just “words”?

I would suggest the most useful thing Gove could do would be to reduce the prison population by crime prevention and successful rehabilitation, and reducing the numbers imprisoned for pointless short sentences for non-violent crime.  This in turn would save money, which could be redeployed to properly fund the Justice system. Government cuts to Legal aid have put our Justice system at risk. The spending cuts were ideological, deferring costs elsewhere in the system.

Grayling was a wrecker, who for what he hoped would gain him short term popularity damaged both the Criminal Justice system and an effective penal system.

Gove has a long way to go to fix these problems, but reversing the book ban was a good start.

Published on International Literacy Day, 08 september 2015

An earlier version of this article was published here in the Islington Tribune in July this year

“Save Our Slide!” Guest Blog by Adam and Daniel FoxSmith

This first part of blog from 2014 is by Adam Foxsmith then aged 10 

We all know that children’s play space is important in a crowded place like Islington. So when my brother Daniel,( aged 6, yr2) and I heard that the Council were planning on taking down the Archway slide, we felt we had to do something about it.
There was a consultation, but we discovered that both options involved taking down the slide!
So, Daniel and I put together a question for the Council meeting, as reported in the Islington Tribune HERE
At the meeting, Daniel asked the question “Will you save the slide?”, and I asked a supplementary question. The Council said they would think about it!
We also presented a petition to save the slide.
We have decided to continue the petition, to see how many more signatures are gathered. The Council is still considering what to do, as reported HERE

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This part of the blog is by Daniel Foxsmith (now aged 10) in 2017

I am very happy that the Council has improved the park. It is great to have the slide back and I am glad that we saved it. I have tested the slide and can confirm that it as good as before or maybe better! 👍

Slide re-opening covered by Islington Tribune here

Notes

The park-including revamped slide was re-opened on September 30th 2017

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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)

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.