The Leader noted that it was the first meeting of the Council since the murder of teenager Nedim Bilgin on Caledonian Road on 29th January. The Leader said that any loss of life due to senseless violence is an absolute tragedy and should serve to toughen our resolve to address this scourge on our city and our society. The incident had shocked the community and the Leader fully understood the concerns of local residents. The Leader and Cllr Caluori had met with Nedim Bilgin’s mother earlier the same week. The Leader said that meeting the parents of young people who had lost their lives was one of the toughest and most humbling parts of his job.
The Leader wanted to provide assurance that, despite the massive cuts the council had faced after years of pernicious austerity, the council was working hard to make our communities safer and would never stop doing so. The Leader also wanted to make clear that the council understood the deep unfairness at the heart of youth crime. Youth crime must be seen through the prism of the deep unfairness in society and the lack of opportunity that affected so many in the local community. Fundamentally, youth crime was a fairness issue as much as it was an issue of law enforcement.
The Leader said that the Council would always stand shoulder to shoulder with any community suffering from hate and intolerance and stood against hate crime in all of its forms. A shocking and disgusting anti-semitic attack took place on Highbury Corner on Tuesday of this week which the Police were treating as a hate crime. The Leader said that Islington was united in standing against hate. The Leader thanked all of the community representatives and councillors who co-signed the statement issued to condone the attack and reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to stand against hate crime. The Leader was concerned about the rising tide of hate and intolerance across the country and the world. The standard of public debate often reflected this and too often the national political rhetoric was translated by people on the ground into violence. The Leader said that it was important to be very clear that all of us in Islington stood on a platform of community inclusion and of all of Islington’s communities were welcome in the borough.
The Leader was proud that at the end of January the council hosted a powerful, informative and deeply moving holocaust remembrance event in the Assembly Hall. This was attended by both of the local MPs, councillors and children from schools from across the borough. Those present had heard the powerful and harrowing words of holocaust survivor Harry Spiro, read movingly by his daughter, Tracey Moses. Attending the event every year was a reminder of how important it was for the council to commit to fighting anti-semitism, islamophobia and all other forms of hate crime and racism.
The Leader was proud to announce that Islington Council was one of the first boroughs to adopt the new formal definition of Islamophobia proposed by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. This defined Islamophobia as follows:
"Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness."
The Council had spoken with representatives of the Muslim community and believed that defining islamophobia was useful in helping to understand it. The Leader hoped that the working definition would help to challenge bigotry, hatred and discrimination in the community and help to understand the challenges faced by Muslims in society. The terrorist attack committed by Darren Osbourne outside Muslim Welfare House affected the whole community, but it was Muslims who were the specific target of that attack. The Leader was proud of how Islington’s communities came together in the hours and days after the attack and rallied round to make it clear that Islington was welcoming to all. By adopting this definition, the Council was putting on record that it would not stand for anti-muslim hatred.
The Leader welcomed campaigners from Fossil Free Islington to the meeting and noted that Councillor Webbe had already spoken to the campaigners to reiterate that the Council absolutely agreed that the chaos enveloping our climate was an emergency and that the Council would pass a motion on the issue at the first available opportunity. The Leader thanked Fossil Free Islington for their campaigning and said that they would always be welcome in the Chamber. The Leader also thanked Councillor Webbe for the leadership she was showing on this issue.
The Leader thanked Councillor Joe Caluori, who was standing down as the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families after six years in the role. Councillor Caluori had overseen the incredible transformation of Islington’s school performance, campaigned on issues such as county lines drug dealing and exploitation, and had overseen significant changes to the council’s youth services and the integrated gangs team. Islington’s children’s services had also received two very impressive Ofsted reports during Councillor Caluori’s time in office. The Leader wished Councillor Caluori the best of luck in his new role and thanked him for all he had done as Executive Member.
The Leader was delighted to welcome Councillor O’Halloran as the Executive Member for Community Development. The Leader said that Councillor O’Halloran had been a fantastic Mayor and Chair of Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee and he looked forward to working with her.
The Leader was also delighted to confirm that Councillor Comer-Schwartz would become the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families. The Leader said that Councillor Comer-Schwartz had done a great job as the Executive Member for Community Development and was delighted that she had agreed to take on the Children, Young People and Families portfolio. The portfolio covered the very important issues of youth crime, school standards and making sure Islington’s most vulnerable young people stayed safe. The Leader looked forward to working with Councillor Comer-Schwartz in addressing those issues.