Key Islington Council cabinet member Joe Caluori steps down
Council chief for young people is stepping down at the end of February
11 January, 2019 — By Emily Finch
A KEY cabinet member at the Town Hall is stepping down to start a new role as a deputy director of a left-wing think tank. Councillor Joe Caluori is credited as being one of the first politicians in the country to highlight the dangers of county lines for at-risk youngsters.
County lines are the networks created by drug dealers which sees teenagers transport drugs from the capital to towns hundreds of miles away.
The 37-year-old, who has been the executive member for children, young people and families for six years, explained to the Tribune how his work on combating county lines was born out of a “very dark time” for Islington.
He said: “The years 2014 and 2015 saw four young people killed in Islington. The community found that horrendous and so did the victim’s family. I found it upsetting and difficult. It was a tough time. It saw me focusing on the gang picture.”
Stefan Appleton, 18, was stabbed to death by a 17-year-old in a Canonbury park in June 2015 while Alan Cartwright, 15, was also stabbed for his bike in Caledonian Road four months earlier.
Cllr Caluori said: “What I realised was that I had to get more personally involved in holding the youth offending services to account. They were bad back in 2014 when I joined [the cabinet]. I got much more involved, going to youth court to see live cases, getting the data and meeting council workers to hear their problems.”
He praised the current youth offending team which he said “offers a better quality service than before with more focus on early intervention and it is properly integrated into the council”.
He added that his focus on combating gangs in the borough led him to hearing about county lines through the National Crime Agency.
Cllr Caluori spearheaded a new service called Rescue Response funded by the Mayor of London which helps young people leave county lines. The innovative service sees ex-gang members coach people out of a life of crime and also uses data to spot trends.
He said his role did not match his expectations of what being a cabinet member for young people would involve.
He said: “When I first start the job I thought it would be all about school, nurseries, youth clubs and universal services. I never thought I would spend most of my time in the role on serious youth crime, exploitation and gang crime and grooming.”
Asked why he was leaving now, Cllr Caluori said: “Job opportunities don’t come along at the time you would ideally like and six years is longer than I intended to do, I thought i would only do four but after four years it felt like serious unfinished business.”
An Ofsted inspector ruled that the council’s services for children in need of care and protection were “good” and highlighted the “outstanding” leadership and management in a 2017 report.
Cllr Caluori will remain a backbench councillor representing Mildmay ward and will be joining the Smith Institute – a left-wing think tank not to be confused with the neoliberal Adam Smith institute.
He said he was looking forward to spending more evenings with his children. Councillors are currently nominating their choice to replace Cllr Caluori and Town Hall leader Richard Watts will pick his choice in the coming weeks.