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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public

Minutes:

 

Question (a) from Gill Weston to Councillor Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development: 

 

Regarding Islington Council's scheme for a large building on Windsor Street to accommodate adults with learning disabilities:  In 2014 council officers calculated that the scheme would cost £1.98 million; in September 2015 the costs had risen to 2.72 million; there was then a further increase in September 2016 to £3.2 million; and by December 2017 costs had climbed to £4.12 million.  Will the Council please share the latest calculated/estimated costs of this scheme and explain the year on year increases at a time of austerity?

 

As Gill Weston was not present, a written response was sent after the meeting, as follows:

 

In Islington, we believe that it is vitally important that as many of our residents with additional needs are able to live in Islington, close to friends and families and where they can benefit from personalised support from Social Services, who have statutory responsibilities for them wherever they may be placed in the country. 

 

National and local best practice has for many years shown that local accommodation services, which offer alternatives to out-of-area residential care, improve outcomes by offering greater independence, more choice and control and offer better value for money through access to Housing Benefit and other entitlements.  The development at Windsor Street will help us provide homes within the borough for people who need them, and I am very proud of the Council for delivering this project.

 

The last review of the costs of this project was undertaken in July 2017 by the quantity surveyor on the project. This was quoted in the financial appraisal, as requested by residents in 2017, despite a financial appraisal not being required for planning on this scheme. 

 

At the time of the July 2017 cost plan review, the scheme had not yet been subject to a Design Review Panel.  This took place in September 2017, and the recommendations of the Panel resulted in further changes to the design and materials used in the scheme in order to ensure a greater likelihood of planning approval. 

 

Incorporating the recommendations of reports, such as the fire safety strategy, had also not been included in the July 2017 cost plan.  All of these changes resulted in additional costs to the developing project. 

 

Since planning permission has been achieved, further, more detailed work has been done on the design, learning disabilities commissioner requirements, and in conjunction with other services required for the project have been further specified. These changes have also contributed to the increase in costs of the project.  

 

In addition, since July 2017, tender prices have also risen by 11 %.  These factors taken together have all contributed to the increase in build costs from £3,459,000 as detailed in the July 2017 cost plan to £3,836,000 in July 2018.  This figure will not include the other development costs such as additional consultant fees which would form part of the total development costs.

 

The proposed Windsor Street development is a key part of our strategy to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities in Islington, and to ensure we meet our duties under the Care Act to meet the needs of vulnerable people with care and support needs.  It will offer much needed high quality accommodation to adults with learning disabilities who need support to live independently. As a 'supported living' scheme it will offer people security of tenure, with support and care tailored to their individual needs.

 

Our aim is to ensure people with learning disabilities can live fulfilling lives in our local community, and I look forward to the new homes on Windsor Street contributing to this worthy goal. 

 

 

Question (b) from Ian Fearnley to Councillor Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development: 

 

Will the Council please explain why, when supported living accommodation is such a scarce resource in this borough and Council budgets are said to have been slashed, did it turn down the offer by Hyde and Partnership to build several new apartments at Packington Square for adults with learning disabilities?

 

As Ian Fearnley was not present, a written response was sent after the meeting, as follows:

 

I am pleased to assure you that Islington Council has not turned down any offers from Hyde to build new apartments at Packington Square for adults with learning disabilities.  The Council works with many partners to secure new properties to be used as supported living for adults with learning disabilities.  New accommodation is sourced to meet identified demand and all viable options are explored on an ongoing basis. 

 

Question (c) from Benali Hamdache to Cllr Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport: 

 

How will Islington Council be ensuring residents are fully consulted on the Islington transport strategy?

 

As Benali Hamdache was not present, a written response was sent after the meeting, as follows:

 

Islington Council is developing a new transport strategy for the next two decades until 2041.  This follows the publication of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy earlier this year, which sets out ambitious policies and targets, including to promote healthier lifestyles by encouraging people to walk and cycle, to make streets safer and more secure, to increase the use of public transport and reduce car use, and to clean up the air that we breathe. 

 

The Council’s transport strategy will build on this strong foundation and will set the policy framework for streets, public spaces, neighbourhoods and transport services that will improve the lives of all in Islington, including the most vulnerable and those on lower incomes. As this strategy will affect everyone living, working or studying in Islington or visiting the borough, we will develop this strategy together with local people.  I have been having conversations with the local pedestrian and cycling groups as key transport stakeholders to develop key walking and cycling principles that will underpin our aspirations and policies.  However, there is an opportunity for everyone to get involved during a comprehensive two-month public consultation where we invite comments on our draft transport strategy.

 

The consultation will be widely publicised, including through the Council’s usual media channels and on the Council website.  There will be drop-in sessions, workshops and focus groups with a number of key groups and communities, including: disability groups; Somali women’s group; young people through a youth centre; a Special Education Need school; and transport stakeholders (eg Living Streets and Cycle Islington). There will also be an opportunity for residents to ask questions at ward partnership meetings held during the consultation period. I will listen to the ideas, concerns, questions and suggestions from all Islington’s communities so that Islington’s final transport strategy represents and protects the interests of all.

 

Question (d) from Ernestas Jegorovas to Councillor Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:

 

How successful was Islington Council's bid for Young Londoners Fund?

 

Response:

 

Thanks for your question. We as a council did not directly put in a bid to the Young Londoners Fund, instead we worked with the voluntary sector in Islington to support local organisations in getting their bids together. We’re really pleased; we did incredibly well out of that. Across the borough we will benefit from around £1.3million of funding from the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund that aims to stop young people getting stuck in violent and bad lifestyles. The organisations locally that will benefit from that include Abianda, who did excellent work to help girls to exit from gangs, Finsbury Park Mosque, the Ben Kinsella Trust, and there are London-wide services that benefit those in Islington as well.

 

Supplementary question:

 

That’s really good to hear that you consulted people and engaged with others. Waltham Forest Council did the same, but they also put in their own direct bid as a council and managed to raise £300,000 for young people. The London Borough of Southwark raised £150,000 for young people. The London Borough of Sutton raised £150,000 for young people. Can we make sure that we as a council do put in a bid in the next round that comes up, having consulted extensively with young people, which is one of the criteria to get the funding.

 

Response:

 

Our strategy was very much to look at the organisations in our borough who can provide the greatest benefit to the lives of young people. What we have in Islington is a really vibrant voluntary sector who have an incredible array of services, probably in excess of what any other borough can draw on. So I have to be honest with you, I feel like the strategy of prioritising those organisations has really paid off, because we are about half the size of those boroughs you mentioned in terms of population, but we are benefitting hugely from the funding that is coming through. So I think our strategy to support those organisations has really paid off. I am really happy to talk to young people and the youth councillors on if they think we should bid differently in the future.

 

Question (e) from Natasha Cox to Councillor Watts, Leader of the Council: 

 

What action will you take as Leader of Islington Council following the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published in October 2018, describing the enormous harm that a 2°C rise in global temperatures is likely to cause compared with a 1.5°C rise, and confirming  that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible but only with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities and others.

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. Climate change, despite what a certain politician from the other side of the Atlantic says, is a very real and present danger to all of us; I am very proud that this council takes its responsibilities seriously, and we do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint as a borough. I picked up some of your comments in the newspaper about the ground-breaking work we are now doing to decarbonise our pension fund, which I think is ahead of anyone else in the country; I think that is incredibly important.

 

The Council’s Energy Services team will be implementing a new strategyearly next year, absolutely to keep us in line with the IPCC’s Special Report you mention in your question. We all understand the importance of that 1.5°C limit you refer to. Our current strategy is strongly in line with the Mayor of London’s climate change action plan and what other London Boroughs are doing on this issue.  We are one of the top five boroughs with the highest per capita reduction in carbon emissions over the last few years. But you are right, the IPCC’s Special Report provides an excellent reference point for defining that new strategy and building on our previous performance. I know that under Cllr Webbe’s outstanding leadership we will be driving forward this issue. It’s also worth saying we have by far the most progressive parking charging policy; we charge the most polluting vehicles far more than cleaner vehicles. We are also working on other initiatives, but we accept there is more to do and welcome further ideas.

 

Supplementary question:

 

Thank you for your response. Do you have plans to draw up an emergency plan with the actions specifically needed to make Islington carbon neutral by 2030?

 

Response:

 

Given we are in the process of drawing up a new plan, I don’t think we need a separate emergency plan. But the plan we are already drawing up will absolutely bear in mind the findings of the IPCC report and the fundamental need for us to do what we can to keep the planet inside that 1.5°C limit. The fact that there is new unimpeachable science available will absolutely influence that new strategy we are drawing up.

 

As there was time remaining of the thirty minutes allocated for public questions, the Mayor accepted questions from the floor:

 

Question from Nafisah Graham-Brown to Councillor Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development:

 

Thank you for letting me ask a question. I note that in the additional papers for the meeting it mentions that Islington Council, along with other legal support organisations are providing free advice for EU citizens resident in the borough. I just wonder how that is being advertised, what the reach is in terms of take up, and are there any restrictions on eligibility? Do you have to be under a certain income to access that?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your interesting question. We have held three sessions so far, all here in the Chamber. They have all been completely full. They are advertised in partnership with Islington in Europe; we have a panel of immigration specialist lawyers who give practical advice on what to do around issues like settled status. It is absolutely free. There are no criteria other than signing up on the Eventbrite page, but to be honest you could just turn up on the day. This is something we are looking to expand; we want to work with our partners to really focus on helping people with certain vulnerabilities to get through the process, but if you want to give me your details I’d be happy to pass on the details of the next session. 

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