Question (a) from Cllr Heather to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development:
A maintenance problem has been ongoing concerning the security gates at Haden Court in Finsbury Park Ward for longer than I care to remember - but certainly since January 2017. I have raised this matter with council officers as a problem on many occasions previously - but it is still not resolved.
Not only must this problem be an enormous inconvenience to residents, and compromise their security and safety, but it must also be costing someone a fortune – and I sincerely hope that is not residents or the council. For these reasons we really need to get this problem fixed once and for all. Can you therefore please look into this matter and report back to me on your findings.
Thank you Cllr Heather for your question, and for continuing to be a true community champion for the residents of Haden Court by bringing this matter to my attention.
As part of our commitment to make sure everyone in our borough has a decent, safe and genuinely affordable home, when issues arise, we must respond in a timely way. As you know, whilst we have made good progress to improve the number of repairs completed first time, which now 87% - we are committed to increasing that rate, so that local people are not unnecessarily, inconvenienced by faults in their home or communal areas.
The security gate at Haden Court has unfortunately required considerably more repairs than would be expected given its age and it has also been upgraded following changes in the regulations governing automated gates. The amount of work needed has been compounded by repeated vandalism.
Council officers report that the gate is now working without issue. As we strive to do better, it’s important that we learn from past mistakes. I have asked council officers to look at the specifics issues on the Haden Court security gate, and learn the lessons so this does not happen again. We will continue to monitor its operation and if further issues arise we will consider putting it into a programme of planned works so it can be replaced with a stronger mechanism, with more security features.
This issue has been ongoing since 2017 and the gate has needed to be fixed many times. Who is responsible for the cost of that, and how much money has been spent on this? The council should be a champion of efficiency and we need to learn from such issues.
I agree that the situation has not been acceptable and we need to put it right. I’m had to say that the council is responsible for the cost of the works and I will get the exact figure for how much has been spent on this. There are lessons to be learnt.
Question (b) from Cllr Clarke-Perry to Cllr Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance and value of vaccinations. Pre-COVID-19, the MMR vaccine rate had fallen to dangerously low levels in Islington children. How is the Council addressing this?
I couldn’t agree more that this crisis has highlighted how important vaccines are which is why Islington Council is clear that immunisation is the safest way to protect children from serious diseases.
Unfortunately, we expect that rates of immunisation have fallen further during the pandemic but do not yet have local data for this period. London-wide data suggests that there has been a 25% drop in vaccinations to babies under age 1 across London. The latest published data showed that 86% of Islington children have had a single dose of MMR vaccine by age 5, and 68% of children have also had the recommended booster dose by age 5. The reasons for an expected reduction during the coronavirus period include parental fear at accessing healthcare, not wanting to burden the NHS, and a perception that services (including primary care) are not open for normal business.
As a council, we are committed to making our borough the best possible place for all children and young people to grow up, that must include doing everything we can to ensure children are vaccinated. We have already taken a number of measures to address the low levels of vaccinations in Islington, including encouraging parents and carers to continue to access healthcare, immunisations in particular, by using a number of communication channels including daily messaging to the 300 young families who receive the Bright Start, Bright Ideas e-newsletter, several adverts in the local press and Islington Life, and ensuring primary care providers are promoting routine vaccinations.
We are also working with the CCG quality improvement support (QIST) team to improve uptake by pro-active calling/reminders that vaccinations are due, creating guidance for practice staff in effective discussions with those who are “vaccine hesitant” and providing quicker, easier ways of administering vaccines to minimise close contact time. In the longer term, a local immunisation board is commencing in July, set up by the CCG to support delivery of all routine vaccinations. This will bring together local health partners to work collectively to improve uptake of early childhood vaccinations which will include greater access to reliable data, to help understanding variation across local geographies and communities, and take meaningful action.
Thank you. The 25% decrease is concerning. Vaccines can sometimes be the subject of “fake news”; how can our public health messaging counter fake news?
Fake news about medical issues is shocking and concerning. We need to continue to publicise the facts the importance of vaccinations. We will be writing to the government about this issue.
Question (c) from Cllr Russell to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment and Transport:
The ongoing need for physical distancing due to the coronavirus crisis has reduced public transport capacity to just a sixth of capacity before lockdown. This means our streets are having to work harder than ever to provide space for walking and cycling as we live our increasingly local lives. Can you provide an update on your plans for low traffic neighbourhoods and the timetable for implementation?
As Cllr Champion was not present the question was answered by Cllr Watts:
Thank you for your question. We are making massive progress on this issue. The Council is listening to local people and working hard to make streets across the borough friendlier for everyone, particularly children, young people and those who are vulnerable. Islington’s people-friendly streets will create more space to make it easier to walk safely, cycle as part of everyday life, use buggies or wheelchairs, and cross roads. The measures already being introduced will create more space for pedestrians and cyclists and allow people to travel safely around their local neighbourhood. The council will create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods by installing simple and cost-effective measures such as bollards, planters and smart cameras.
Our people-friendly streets won’t just make walking and cycling easier, help to eliminate road danger and create more space for social distancing, they will also help us to improve air quality, reduce emissions and make progress towards our ambitious goal of achieving a net-zero carbon borough by 2030.
Work on the people-friendly streets neighbourhood in St Peter’s started on Friday 3 July and was completed today. The people-friendly streets neighbourhood in St Peter’s is the first of its kind in Islington, and more people-friendly streets neighbourhoods are set to be introduced in the Canonbury, Highbury, Clerkenwell, Nags Head, and St Mary’s areas by the autumn.
People-friendly streets is a borough-wide programme and we intend to make interventions in every neighbourhood in the borough. I’d like to thank residents across Islington who have already had their say using the council’s common place map, and encourage everyone to tell us how we can make their streets more people-friendly.
The council is working at astonishing pace to introduce these and they will bring real benefits, please pass on my thanks to Cllr Champion.
Islington has very little green space and this could be addressed by introducing parklets across the borough. Unfortunately the process for introducing parklets is not straightforward, particularly in terms of public liability insurance and so on. Can we work together to make the parklet process as simple and easy as possible?
Thank you. I will pass this back to Cllr Champion to look into further.
Question (d) from Cllr Russell to Cllr Shaikh, Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs:
The coronavirus crisis has created a huge disruption to economic activity across London. It is becoming clear that many workers are going to be expected to continue mainly working from home if they can, due to the impact of the requirement for physical distancing on both public transport capacity and in workspaces. What are your plans to provide support for these new islington-based home workers?
Thank you for your question. As a council, our top priority is keeping people safe during the pandemic. That’s why we’ll continue to encourage the mass continuation of home-working until it is safe for the majority of workers to return to offices and use public transport.
At the start of this crisis the government told us the virus did not discriminate. This could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, while many of our residents have been able to work from home comfortably, at the same time protecting themselves from the virus, many of our less well-off residents in lower paid jobs have been unable to work from home, facing an impossible choice and having to choose between protecting their and their family’s health or having enough money to eat.
Even for people who have been able to work from home, we know this has been more challenging for some than for others, particularly those without access to Wi-Fi, living in overcrowded accommodation and with caring responsibilities in the home.
At the point of lockdown, the Conservative Government and employers assumed that all workers would have home Wi-Fi.
For many local people, this was simply not the case - there are an estimated 1.9 million households across the UK with no internet access and rely on pay-as-you-go data. This crisis has clearly shown just how out of touch with ordinary people the Tory government are. However, whilst the Tories may only recognise the needs of the privileged few, Islington Council is here to help and support every residents that needs it.
That’s why we have targeted use of the Government’s discretionary fund to ensure the survival of our network of independent co-working spaces in the borough. As these spaces begin to open up safely, they will provide alternative local venues for workers to use space out of the home and access good Wi-Fi, without having to travel on public transport. As I outlined earlier, we are also working to re-open our local libraries, as venues where people can safely and affordably access good connectivity; however public safety in libraries is our primary concern and there remain logistical issues to be resolved. We have worked closely with Mutual Aid groups to promote local businesses who have provided services throughout this crisis, including introducing home workers to a range of services that they may require, such as printing services, which are provided locally.
Finally, we are actively investigating funding opportunities to improve broadband and fibre connectivity across the borough. As part of the Council’s new Local Plan, we are planning for world class connectivity in new developments to help local people and businesses take advantage of digital opportunities. As government announces funding for infrastructure programmes, we will ensure that the Council makes a compelling bid for support, working closely with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Thank you, that is good to hear. As well as access to Wi-Fi, I am also concerned about the number of people living in cramped or overcrowded accommodation, having to work from their bedroom, when it really isn’t a suitable working environment. Will you consider a scheme where local people can apply to work in a council building where there is access to a desk and Wi-Fi?
That’s a good question. As you know, we have worked to develop co-working spaces over recent years, but that is an interesting suggestion. I think the first thing we would need to do would be to look at affordable workspace providers and if they can offer new spaces in the borough if people need that sort of facility.