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Islington… they do things differently there

As elderly residents in Camden receive a financial shock through the post, pensioners in their neighbouring borough are getting a special 'discount'

29 March, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Emily Thornberry next to council leader Richard Watts, and Jeremy Corbyn, at the Islington manifesto launch

THOUSANDS of oldies may get a shock this week in Camden as the post arrives. Their council tax has leapt by nearly 5 per cent.

In some cases, they could be expected to pay up to £10 a week more if they are living in Band D properties, for instance.

For a very few well-off this may not be much an ordeal.

But say you are not on any form of government benefit, but are simply one of the genteel poor this level of hike can hit you.

The problem is that the genteel poor often accept their privations in silence.

Help is given to certain types of pensioners. Finance chief Richard Olszewski told me yesterday (Wednesday) about 7,500 are singled out for reductions of whom more than 5,000 are exempted completely. He could not tell me how many pensioners in the borough are sent payment demands but the council’s press office told me there are 29,000 of pension age.

It seems as if the council simply reacts to the obvious cases of poverty and that there has not been any analysis of the income of elderly residents. A confused picture.

In Islington, where the Labour council often seems to do things much better than in Camden, the elderly are automatically given a special “discount” of £100. Viewed against their annual bill, this may not be much of a discount but, at least, it is a gesture by a council which shows it is doing its best to relieve difficulties created by the government’s austerity programme.

Islington Labour have also created an energy company, Angelic, which already has 1,000 sub­scribers who are paying less for their energy than elsewhere, as well as being a very good policing measure against land­lords who are over­charging their tenants.

I thought this at a packed launch on Sunday afternoon of Labour’s manifesto in Finsbury Park.

Islington South MP Emily Thornberry made an often funny speech, showing she is good on her feet and, possibly, material for a future leadership role.

I don’t know whether it was intentional or not but in what seemed an unscripted moment, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn mentioned something very few bring up today, the notion of “municipal socialism”.

This was a fashionable slogan in the 1970s and 80s as Labour strong­holds in the north and London began to introduce reforms that went far beyond their normal remit – this was the moment the Freedom pass emerged in London, courtesy of the Greater London Council.

As for Corbyn, he seemed slightly less jovial than normal. No wonder, considering he had just been accused of supporting an anti-Semitic street mural.

I wasn’t aware of that at the time but on reflection realised he had was under the cosh. Supporters say: How does he take it? Why doesn’t he succumb? Some say, it is because he is sure about his principles. And it is this which sees him through it all. But this week the headlines and TV footage have torn into him with several Labour MPs joining in the attack.

All of this must make Mrs May smile.


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