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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Council

Minutes:

Question (a) from Councillor Heather to Councillor Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety:

 

Finsbury Park Ward is afflicted by a drug related crime crisis. The ward also has high levels of anti-social behaviour (ASB) related to business activities, with motor traffic offences being committed regularly by Uber and Deliveroo delivery drivers, servicing food and alcohol retailers, whose activities are proving to be incompatible with ethical trading and the well-being of residents living nearby.

 

In view of this situation, would you agree that in order to tackle these problems more effectively, the council and the police need to work together much more closely with people in the local community, and that to assist this cooperation the processes for reporting crime and ASB to the authorities, and the procedures for using CCTV to prevent and detect crime and ASB, need to be improved and communicated much more effectively to the public? 

 

Response:

 

Thank you for the question, Gary. Islington Council is committed to making our borough a safer place for everyone. To tackle anti-social behaviour effectively we must continue to work with police, other partners and the wider community.  That is why we share the deep concerns expressed by local residents, businesses, councillors and police about current levels of drug dealing, drug use and associated issues of antisocial behaviour, crime and violence in the wider Finsbury Park area.

 

The Safer Islington Partnership has taken on the issue of drug-related offending as one of its five key priorities for this year. We have put in place a joint Finsbury Park Community Safety Plan, involving council and police colleagues in Hackney, Haringey and British Transport Police, and will continue to work with other partners like the NHS and local charities to tackle the problems you have raised. We are committed to improving the safety, security and welfare of all of the area’s residents and have already introduced a number of measures in the Finsbury Park are to prevent and tackle crime including –

 

               seven extra uniformed police officers

               increased the size of policing teams

               increased police patrols, stop-and-searches and arrests

               a knife-bin outside St Mellitus Church

               installed new CCTV cameras in crime hotspots

               physical improvements to ‘design out’ crime

               needle-exchange schemes

               disabled the free-calls-to-mobiles function on BT Inlink booths

               expanded the network of Safe Havens

               substance misuse support for both adults and young people

               specialist targeted support for children at risk and their families

               safe and secure accommodation for rough sleepers

               an extensive programme of positive activities for young people during the summer.

 

These measures have already seen the closure of 8 crack houses, the removal of over 1,00 weapons from local streets and helped get 39 rough sleeper from Stroud Green Road into secure accommodation.

 

We are also working hard to find practical ways to reduce the anti-social behaviour caused by the congregation of delivery drivers linked to the gig economy including tackling noise pollution and parking and traffic violations, mainly around the Nags Head area.  We are engaging with delivery companies including Uber Eats and Deliveroo to ensure that divers are given clear instructions on parking legitimately, noise nuisance and behaviour whilst working. Some of their drivers have been suspended as a result. A number of pro-active patrols have been carried out in the area already, and the ASB team are monitoring the area at night. They have identified a number of mopeds at the location and are gathering evidence of unreasonable behaviour, leading to enforcement action against drivers.

 

The Finsbury Park Neighbourhood Policing Team and traffic officers patrol the area regularly. On their last patrol three riders were reported for various offences. Finally, while deliveries are not currently a licensable activity forming part of a restaurants licence conditions, in the future consideration may be made to adding conditions to new licenses regarding the use of motorised deliveries.

 

I welcome this progress but know there is so much more to do, and you are right that we need to do even more work with our communities, not just for them.

 

Supplementary question:

 

Thank you Councillor Hull for your comprehensive answer. I’ve noticed that, with all the problems we talk about in the Finsbury Park area, there is a lack of reporting and communication. This is one of the key things we need to improve. For example, in relation to the Police, there was a very useful newsletter that went out, but it would have been helpful to include contact numbers for Safer Neighbourhood Teams in the area, or even an email address. I think an area that needs more attention is the anti-social behaviour telephone line. It’s an opaque and uphill complaints process. I’ve heard lots of complaints about the process, and I’m not blaming council staff, but I think the process needs to be looked at. It seems to have random hours, sometimes you don’t get a response, it’s really complicated and time consuming and doesn’t lend itself to efficient reporting. In terms of traffic offences, I think we need to give more publicity on how you report those. As for CCTV, we can make improvements by working with the Police, looking at where it is deployed and how it is used.

 

Response:

 

Yes, we are enhancing our communications plan. We have written to every household in Finsbury Park ward and many households in Highbury West. Around 16,000 letters went out in my name and the name of the Borough Commander raising a number of the issues you have raised. We wanted to ensure that local residents and businesses are informed on the progress we are making and understand the critical value of reporting crimes as they occur. I think you’re right that the ASB service and the CCTV service could be further improved and I’ll ensure that I raise this in my conversations with officers. Despite central government cuts, that have seen the council’s core funding cut by 70% and 300 police officers taken off our borough’s streets, we are determined to do all we can to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour that blights communities and make Islington a safer place for everyone. I look forward to working with you and the other Finsbury Park and Highbury West ward councillors to make that happen. 

 

Question (b) from Councillor Clarke to Councillor Burgess, Executive Member for Health and Social Care:

 

All councillors in Islington received a letter from Unite London Region about a month ago informing us about the Unite members dispute with GLL in Bromley – they have been on strike since 6th June this year. They are striking about staff cuts and to protect the service and staffing. They say that 70% of GLL staff are on zero hours contracts are not paid the London Living Wage (LLW.) They also state that GLL refuse to recognise trade unions.

 

As a user of GLL run leisure facilities in Islington I am concerned in case the problems Unite members are having in Bromley are happening in centres run by GLL in Islington. Some of my concerns are whether GLL Islington pay the LLW, whether they use zero hours contracts, whether they recognise trade unions and provide facility time for union reps, practicing collective bargaining.

I am also concerned about the accountability of the top level of managers in GLL and who they are answerable to.

 

Can you confirm that we as a council support the workers in GLL and will work with GLL and the unions involved to ensure that workers’ rights to organise in a union are being protected, jobs are being protected and that GLL is adhering to our contract with them? 

 

Response:

 

We are committed to making the borough a fairer place and that includes that staff working directly for the council, or through contractors, receive fair pay and terms and conditions. I’m pleased to have this opportunity to assure you and all members that GLL is adhering to the terms of our contract. They have been responsible for the management and delivery of leisure services in the London Borough of Islington since April 2014 and they have been paying the London Living Wage to staff since that time. I think we were probably the first borough in London to pay the London Living Wage to leisure centre staff. They do recognise trade unions, they engage in collective bargaining, and they provide facilities for union representatives to protect the rights of workers. In Islington the relevant union is Unison. They also have Investors in People Silver Status, and they have contractual obligations to employ local residents. In 2017, 17 local residents were trained and that led to 8 being employed locally. The following year, 39 local residents were trained and 15 of those were locally employed. There were 10 local apprenticeship placements in 2017 and 7 in 2018. They have had some trouble in getting people to fulfil those apprenticeship roles, so they are working hard to get more and we are helping them with that.

 

Islington Council does not support the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts, which deny employees the opportunity to take work with other employers or to refuse work that is offered by their main employer. GLL have confirmed that they do not use exploitative zero-hours contracts of this nature and about 70% of the hours of work at GLL locally is carried out by people on permanent contracts. However, sports coaches and fitness instructors often prefer the flexibility of casual contracts.

 

GLL is a charitable social enterprise owned by its staff on a one-person-one-share basis and the management are accountable to the elected management board which includes staff members, independent trustees and Greenwich councillors. I’d be happy to give you more information after the meeting.

 

Supplementary question:

 

Thank you, that is very reassuring. To give you an update, in Bromley GLL are running the libraries. The Bromley library service, supported by Unite, have been on strike for 15 weeks. Does GLL have an anti-bullying policy in Islington, and is it in operation in all centres and at all levels of the organisation, including management? 

 

Response:

 

I assume they have an anti-bullying policy but I’d need to find out. I’m not responsible for GLL elsewhere in the country, but I know in Islington we keep them to the contract we have with them, that I think is a very good contract. It would be up to Bromley Council to give their workers a better deal, but it’s not something I can comment on I’m afraid.

 

Question (c) from Councillor Russell to Councillor Webbe, Executive Member for

Environment and Transport:

 

What lessons did you learn from Car Free Day?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. We were very excited by Car Free Day and our ability to participate in the London-wide celebrations. Islington Council is committed to cleaning up the air we breathe and creating healthy streets, safe for walking and cycling. World Car Free Day allows people of all ages and backgrounds to reimagine their city free from cars and reclaim their streets while walking, cycling and exploring the place they live. We’ve learned that we can close our streets and can experience what it feels like to reimagine those streets.

 

This year’s World Car Free day was Islington’s biggest by far, with a council organised event in St John Street. The councillors of Bunhill and Clerkenwell were delighted to attend that event. We also made it possible for residents to apply for a Play Street; we had 18 Play Streets organised by local residents across the borough.  Play Streets enable children and their families and their wider community to reclaim their streets by enabling residents to close residential streets to traffic and vehicles for a few hours turning them into a place where children can play and where residents and their neighbours can get together and by participating in Play Streets residents can celebrate World Car Free Day with us.

 

The council will go back to those who organised the Play Streets and work with them and encourage them to run a regular Play Street, so those 18 streets can be added to our existing Play Streets, so we can continue to grow the notion of closing your street to make it more enjoyable and reclaim that street for people not cars.

 

Supplementary question:

 

Thank you for your response. Car Free Day was fantastic, at St John Street the council staff were doing an amazing job in the rain, people were really enjoying themselves. I’d just like to read something from a 7-year-old about Car Free Day: “It feels really strange to be playing in the streets; I felt scared I was going to get hit by a car, but then I remember there are no cars. It’s amazing”. Thank you Councillor Webbe, you enabled a really good thing to happen. Some parents tried to organise a play street but were told that they couldn’t do one because they’d already had one this year. I think there may have been a problem with communication between all the different bits of the council that manage the process, so what I’m asking is, can we work together to try and make sure that the process is as smooth as possible to make sure we have an even bigger Car Free Day next year?

 

Response:

 

Thank you. We are absolutely clear that we want these celebrations to grow. Next year will be even bigger than this year. We also want our Play Streets to grow. We will remove all barriers to that growth. Play Streets have been in Islington for as long as I can remember. There is no notion that if you run a Play Street in a year once you can’t hold it again; the whole point is that you run them time and time again. That is what this Council is committed to; so absolutely, we will do more to allow Play Streets to grow and develop. After all, it is residents themselves that know their streets. We want residents to organise together, work together, and enable their streets to feel free and be free of cars, as it is right that our streets are reclaimed for people. Thank you.

 

Question (d) from Councillor Russell to Councillor O’Halloran, Executive Member for

Community Development:

 

Can you provide an update on the Council’s preparations for a No Deal Brexit?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question, Cllr Russell. The Council is doing all that it can to prepare for all Brexit eventualities, but as you will hear me say later tonight, it is clear that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit would be devastating for the country and the uncertainty of what ‘No Deal’ would mean for the services and support the council provides for local people is a huge challenge. The Brexit Resilience Group, which brings together services across the council to assess risks and issues facing the council as a consequence of Brexit, including a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, has been meeting regularly to ensure that contingency plans are in place. We are also in close contact with bodies such as London Councils and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide updates on preparations and to raise issues of concern.   

 

The BRG has produced and continues to monitor the Islington Brexit risk register and has been engaged in civil contingency planning with partner organisations. A comprehensive update on Islington’s Brexit readiness was presented at the last Audit Committee on the 2nd September. A full report detailing the work that has been done and the risk register can be found online with the papers of this meeting, but I want to take this opportunity to repeat our commitment to our dedicated staff and people living in Islington from other EU countries – you are welcome here, you all play a vital part in our community, and you have our full support in continuing to do so. We will continue to monitor the risk register, and update it if further messaging is received from Central Government and the situation changes or becomes clearer.

Thank you again for your question.

 

Supplementary question:

 

Thank you. Can I thank you for the constructive and helpful way in which you followed up on my question at the last Council meeting, I really appreciate it. I’m really reassured at your update, particularly in that solid commitment to EU citizens in the event of a crash-out ‘No Deal’ Brexit. EU citizens are concerned that they may not be able to vote in the London Elections next year in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and I just hope that Islington Council will make representations to make sure EU citizens are able to continue to vote.

 

Response:

 

As far as I am aware that information is not true; but I will defer to Councillor Watts on this point.

 

Response from Councillor Watts:

 

As I understand it, the legal position is clear. EU citizens have the right to vote until Parliament passes primary legislation to remove their right to vote. The message needs to be really clear from all of us this evening, that our EU friends, neighbours and citizens can absolutely democratically participate in those elections until that right is taken away by Parliament, and I would never support any legislation that did that.

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