Election countdown as parties make their pitch to Tribune readers
With polling only days away, the Tribune asked the major parties to explain where they stand... on housing, education, crime, transport and equality
27 April, 2018
WITH just under a week to go to the local elections, candidates from each of the main parties have made their final pitch to voters.
Labour is expected to retain control of the council for another term on May 3 after eight years in charge at the Town Hall.
Four years ago, Labour gained a huge majority, taking 12 new seats and 54 per cent of the vote after wiping out the remaining Liberal Democrats councillors.
The Town Hall has been led by current council leader Richard Watts since 2013.
The Green Party’s Caroline Russell has been the only opposition councillor Labour, with 47 seats, has faced since 2014. She faces a battle to cling onto her seat after taking her Highbury East ward by just eight votes in 2014, when Labour also gained two Lib Dem seats there.
Conservatives have put forward a full slate of candidates this time, despite not being in control of the Town Hall since 1968. They received 10 per cent of the votes in 2014.
The Women’s Equality Party is putting forward its first-ever candidate, Nikki Uppal, in Hillrise ward.
All have had their chance to debate their policies at hustings across the borough in the run-up to the elections.
The Tribune is now giving the parties their final chance to put forward their case in these pages before voters take to polling stations on Thursday.
Change schools for good
Rod Gonggrijp, Green Party candidate for St George’s ward, writes:
AS a parent of two young children, I of course appreciate the importance of good school results. And Islington’s schools are rated highly nowadays.
But I’m also a parent governor at their primary school and I see at first hand not only the dedication and professionalism of the whole school team but also observe that to be a student or a teacher today is to be judged constantly. Teachers and pupils are often figures on a spreadsheet.
We recently had a visit from Ofsted to assess the school’s progress, and the pressure endured by the school did little to nurture either staff or pupils.
Education is to nurture, to encourage values of compassion and cooperation, and to prepare people for their future life. There is much research that shows children should start formal schooling at age seven, not five. Until that age, children still need to be spending time doing the kind of activities that set them up for life: learning to socialise, to explore and play.
We should reduce the exam pressure placed on children. The kind of culture that early years education is supposed to provide – one of creativity and exploration – should not just be limited to those years. We should scrap Sats – pointless pressure on students too early in school life.
And we need to take the pressure off teachers. Teachers are amazing and achieve so much, but under the current system, they are also administrators, managers and fillers-in of copious forms. The bureaucracy designed to measure pupil progress and their own performance is a cause of significant stress.
We can change schools for good. One of the stated aims of the National Curriculum is “to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare all pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.” As a Green Party councillor I will start by working with local schools to emphasise this aim further. Let’s make it more about the child.
We are determined to go further
Labour leader of Islington Council Richard Watts writes:
ISLINGTON Labour is committed to making the borough a fairer place for all, and we are the only party to have set out a radical plan for how we will achieve this.
While Islington is a wonderful place, we know that too many people still struggle to have decent housing, are out of work and do not have the same chances in life as others.
Our innovative plans will help us to make Islington a fairer place for all.
Since 2010, we have seen more new council homes built than at any time in the last 30 years, a transformation in the quality of our local schools and we have taken bold action to improve air quality.
But we are determined to go further. If you give your full support to Islington Labour, we will:
• Build at least 550 more new council homes, as we deliver 1,900 new genuinely affordable homes by 2022, and crack down on rogue private landlords;
• Support 4,000 local people into work and guarantee support for young people to get apprenticeships;
• Guarantee 100 hours of work-related experience by 16 for all young people, and invest £1million in targeted support for those at risk of turning to crime;
• Help people with the cost of living and keep council tax below the London average;
• Protect vital frontline services, despite massive ongoing Tory government cuts, ensuring all libraries remain open, maintaining weekly bin collections and support services for older people.
We will extend outreach support for homeless people; ban HGVs from driving through the borough on residential roads; create more safe space for cycling and close streets near schools at opening and closing times to improve air quality.
The elections are a chance for local people to send a clear message to the Tory government that Islington rejects its unfair policies, especially their cuts to police, which have seen Islington lose 240 police officers since 2010.
To do all this, we need local people’s full support. Please vote 3 Xs for Islington Labour on Thursday, May 3.
Mick Collins, Conservative candidate for Bunhill ward, writes:
ISLINGTON has a wonderful and diverse community which deserves a better council than we’ve had for the past eight years. Under Labour the council has become complacent and stopped listening to residents. Only Conservatives have the policies to give Islington the council it deserves:
• More homes but no demolition of local facilities. Conservatives are committed to building more houses but we won’t use housing as an excuse to demolish essential local facilities and build over open spaces. We support the thousands who have petitioned the council not to demolish Sotheby Mews Day Centre and Finsbury Leisure Centre. Under Conservatives the demolition plans will be scrapped.
• Conservatives will introduce free parking on Saturdays for residents. No more will local businesses lose out because customers can’t park on the busiest shopping day of the week. Also, we will simplify Labour’s chaotic parking restrictions. No more will there be two or three different time restrictions on the same street.
• The only long-term solution to air pollution is switching to electric cars. But under Labour, Islington has fewer electric car charging points than any of its neighbours – only 20. Conservatives will install more than 400 points. Islington has fewer segregated bike lanes than its neighbours. Hackney has more than 300 secure bike storage hangars for residents but Islington has only a handful. Conservatives will consult with residents on new segregated bike routes and will equal Hackney’s provision of bike hangars.
• Islington has experienced appalling gang-related knife attacks and anti-social behaviour. We believe police are best placed to combat anti-social behaviour. Conservatives will negotiate with police to allow them to draw on the council’s existing anti-social behaviour budget to increase police presence where it’s needed most.
At the last election in Islington South, Conservatives received more votes than the Lib Dems and Greens put together. If you want to end Labour’s monopoly, Conservatives are the only realistic opposition.
Women’s unpaid labour plugs the gaps during austerity
Nikki Uppal, Women’s Equality Party candidate for Hillrise ward, writes:
I WANT to put equality at the heart of Islington Council’s decision-making. This is a fantastic borough where I have brought up my children and lived for more than a decade. But last year Islington was ranked the worst area for women to live in the UK. That is not good enough. We need fresh thinking so the bigger parties wake up to the problems and opportunities in our borough. Economic opportunities are not being distributed equally, as has been illustrated by the gender pay gap and the fact women are more likely than men to be unemployed, especially single mothers. We need to invest in childcare and adult social care, because equality in the workplace starts with equality at home.
Despite fewer people having access to the social care they need, the council says it is helpless in the face of Westminster austerity. But it is women whose unpaid labour is plugging the holes left by rising demand. This forces unpaid carers out of their jobs or into low paid, insecure employment. In short, cuts have been passed from Westminster to Islington, which has then passed austerity onto women.
The council needs to see social care as an investment that can drive local growth and support local people, not as a cost to be cut. The same applies to childcare and local schools, including Whitehall Park, where I am a governor. By giving equal opportunities to all children, we can make sure no child is left behind.
The council needs more diverse voices: 47 of 48 councillors are Labour, who vote – and often think – the same way, because their party demands that of them. I want to work with
Labour to advance the equality agenda – and to hold them to account whenever they fall short. The Women’s Equality Party is not tied down by partisan politics. I would be free to reflect residents’ interests and concerns with complete dedication.
One hundred years after the first women got the vote, give one of your three votes to equality. Because equality is better for everyone.
We will bring genuinely new ideas
Ilana Lever, Lib Dem candidate for St Mary’s ward, writes:
SINCE last summer, Islington Liberal Democrats have been out speaking to residents, carrying out a full survey of the borough to understand the biggest issues impacting them.
We’ve been inspired by the passion residents feel for their local area. But we’ve also captured deep concern about the increased cost of living, the rise of homelessness, the impact of Brexit on jobs, and cuts to support services.
Our four straightforward policies are reflective of the concerns that you’ve shared: building 1,000 new social rent homes, plus a full programme of repairs; increased investment in police presence to reduce the current epidemic of moped and knife crime, and to reverse Labour cuts to youth services for those most at risk; improved clean air – impacting young and old alike in the borough; and reversal of Labour’s 33 per cent fee increase for citizenship applications, supporting the rights of our EU residents.
Brexit will have a significant negative impact on Islington, as across the whole country. We are the only major party united in challenging its outcomes.
Policies by themselves are not enough. In addition, we commit to driving real rigour and accountability, avoiding financial wastage; true resident representation and genuinely new ideas.
Today, Islington under Labour is reduced to a one-party state, with only one opposition councillor.
Major decisions are made behind closed doors (and in Labour Party meetings) and laziness abounds. The High Court had to intervene because Labour was allocating a third of social housing outside the points system. Thirty-nine per cent of repairs in Islington have been delayed by over a year.
In key local issues, Islington residents are being neglected – ignored at housing consultations at St Mary’s Path, Finsbury Leisure Centre and Richard Cloudesley sites.
Unlike the current council, we will proactively find ways to incorporate community needs and residents’ views into solutions for Islington.
We will bring fresh ideas, from alternative finance initiatives to tackle the housing crisis, such as community land trusts and rent deposit loans, to radical approaches to large sites.
We champion efforts to make Holloway Prison a beacon of redevelopment – as a hub of local activity, honouring its heritage by providing a women’s services centre, and providing significant amount of social housing.
The Liberal Democrats stand for a fair and open Islington, individual freedoms, and for the support you need when you need it most. We think that’s what Islington residents deserve.