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Agenda item

Leader's Announcements

Minutes:

The Leader congratulated Cllr Sara Hyde and her partner on the birth of their twins and Cllr Ward and his partner on the birth of their daughter.

 

The Leader expressed his disappointment at the government’s delay in publishing the local government finance settlement. The settlement was due to be published on 6th December 2018 however had been delayed until after Parliament’s ‘meaningful vote’ on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. It was not known when the final settlement would be published, however the Leader expected more cuts, more misery for Islington residents, and more challenges for the council to overcome. The Leader said that delaying the settlement added insult to injury by not allowing councils sufficient time to prepare their budgets for the next financial year. The Leader urged the government to tell councils how bad the settlement would be as soon as possible.

 

The Leader and Cllr Burgess had visited Highbury Leisure Centre today. The Centre was affected by a major fire in September 2018 and the Leader thanked all of the staff who had evacuated the Centre within 90 seconds for their professionalism. The fire was very serious and the fact that there were no injuries should not be taken for granted. The damage to the pool building was very substantial and the timetable for repairing the damage would not be known until next year, however the council was committed to getting the pool back up and running. The Leader was pleased that the adjoining gym suite, the most popular local authority gym per square metre in the country, would reopen the following week. A lot of work had been carried out to make the gym areas operational and it was fantastic news that the gym was able to reopen only a matter of months after such a serious incident.

 

The Leader and Cllrs Lukes, Burgess and Comer-Schwartz had attended a Safe Passage event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Kindertransport, which rescued young Jewish children from the horrors of the Nazi regime. The actions of those who did so much to safeguard those children were incredible. The Leader was proud that Islington was only one of three councils in the country to accept Safe Passage’s challenge to take in 100 more refugee children over the next ten years, to give them the same hope that the Kindertransport gave children 70 years ago. The council was now waiting for the government to announce that it would be properly funded and that the council had permission to take in unaccompanied asylum children at all, given that the previous scheme was abruptly and wrongly ended the previous year.

 

The Leader said he would never forget taking his son to school and seeing a Syrian family taking their child to the school for the first time in their first week in the country. The Council had made a real difference by agreeing to take 30 Syrian families under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme; this was life-changing for those families who had previously been in refugee camps and the Council should be proud of its work in supporting refugees.

 

The Leader noted that the report of the Sarah Morgan QC review had been published. The review focused on the serious allegations reported in the Islington Gazette that a former councillor was a supporter of paedophile rights organisations in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Leader encouraged all councillors to read the report’s contents and significant conclusions. The investigation was carried out independently and the council had no influence over the report’s findings. The Leader said that the council’s biggest ever failing was its failure to protect children in its care in the late 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s and apologised on behalf of the council. The Leader was clear that the council would do as much as it could to right the wrongs of the past by providing support survivors of the abuse now. The council had put in place a significant scheme of support for survivors of abuse including housing and welfare advice, psychological support and counselling. The council had allocated more than £2million in compensation for survivors to date and was looking forward to working with the Islington Survivors Network to ensure that there was a compensation scheme that was fit for purpose. Keeping children safe was the council’s highest priority, however the council failed in its duty in the past and it was the council’s responsibility to make sure this is put right. Sarah Morgan’s report had been sent to IICSA, the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. The council would support any investigations that IICSSA want to make into abuse in Islington. The report had also been sent to the Police to review if would assist criminal investigations into anyone involved at the time.

 

At the last Leader’s Question Time event, the Islington Survivors Network asked the Leader to make a promise to protect the support services that survivors were accessing. The Leader confirmed that the council would protect those services going forward, as well as the other work to ensure there is justice for the victims of abuse that the council failed to protect in the past.