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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


Due to COVID-19 safety procedures it was not possible to accommodate members of the public in the Council Chamber. There was no opportunity to ask supplementary questions or questions without notice and Procedure Rule 19.2 was suspended accordingly.


Question (a) from Helena Farstad to Cllr Comer-Schwartz, Leader of the Council:


Does the Councillor believe that we are headed towards a Sixth Mass extinction, putting the future of humanity at significant risk, because of our inaction to halt biodiversity loss and stop the increase in global temperatures?




As Leader of Islington Council, I am extremely concerned about the Climate Emergency and the impact it is having on our planet, which can be seen right now by the extreme heatwave in the west of the USA.


As you’ll be aware, Islington Council declared a climate emergency on 27 June 2019 and we adopted our new Net Zero Carbon strategy in November 2020.

Since 2012, we have cut emissions in the borough by 40% and seen the 12th highest decrease in emissions per person for any council area in the country. However, we know there is much more to do.


Tackling the climate crisis is a matter of social justice. Our strategy, ‘Vision 2030: Building a Net Zero Carbon Islington by 2030’, sets out our plan for a fair and green future for local people, to reach net zero carbon Islington by 2030. It builds on our work so far to reach our net zero target, including energy efficient homes, affordable green electricity, lower energy costs, cleaner air and streets free of harmful emissions. We will be doing this by building more genuinely affordable homes for local people and getting local people into good, well-paid green jobs.


Our Biodiversity Action Plan for 2020-25, also sets out our strategy for protecting and improving the borough’s biodiversity, which includes protecting Islington’s network of green spaces, creating more areas of planting in parks, housing estates, and our built environment, and converting some areas of amenity grass in parks and housing estates into meadows.


We must continue to work together across our communities to do all we all can to tackle the Climate Emergency and push for real and radical change from Central Government, who frankly, are utterly failing to get to grips with this important issue.



Question (b) from Lucy Facer to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


Toxic air is killing 25 people prematurely every day in London alone. Recent reports show air pollution is damaging male and female fertility and pollution particulates have even been found in foetuses. The largest single source of inner city toxic air (NO2 and PM) is caused by vehicle movements. Does the councillor think it’s time to for Islington to demonstrate it’s commitment to its pedestrian priority policy by being the first borough to commit to being an anti-car borough, and leading the way in tackling air pollution issues?


As Councillor Champion was not present, the question was answered by Cllr Comer-Schwartz:

Thank you for your question. As you’ll know, Islington Council is very concerned about the impact of toxic air pollution in our borough and we are taking action to tackle this. The most visible action we have taken so far is our people-friendly streets programme. Islington Council has introduced seven people-friendly street neighbourhood trials, creating cleaner, safer and healthier streets for local people.


The monitoring reports for the St Peter’s, Canonbury East and Clerkenwell Green schemes have now been published and we have been extremely encouraged by the results. The number of vehicles speeding fell by an average of 88% within Canonbury East and traffic fell on local streets in St Peter’s by 57%. On top of this, we also now have School Streets Scheme covering 36 primary schools, making the school gates safer and healthier.


In November 2020, the council adopted the Islington’s Transport Strategy 2020 – 2041, with a vision of delivering a fairer, healthier, safer and greener transport environment. The strategy includes the target that 90% of trips made by Islington residents will be by walking, cycling and public transport.


We need to be honest, language like ‘anti-car’ simply doesn’t help.   We all must work together to engage with local people about the many benefits of choosing a different mode of transport rather than a private car, if they can. We as a council will continue to prioritise making it easier and safer for everyone to walk, cycle or wheel around our neighbourhoods.



Question (c) from Ernestas Jegorovas to Cllr Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families: 


The percentage of 16 & 17 Year old residents who are NEET or ‘Not Known’ has gone up, what is the council doing to urgently address this?




Thank you for your question. Young people are one of our top priorities. We know that lockdown didn’t help this situation, but we as Islington Council never sit down because our young people are our future, and we are focused on the future of our young people.


There has been increase of 0.1% in the number of young people NEET and a 0.6% increase in the number of ‘unknown’ young people; we couldn’t reach them. Because of the national lockdown, our outreach workers were not able to visit them at home.


But we have a system to make sure we reach them, we have started to visit them at home, to know what is going on and to help them receive support. 


Employment, education and training is the top of our agenda and we are working with schools in full collaboration to prevent any young person becoming NEET. We are also working with colleges to ensure they are working with young people on application forms and enrolment. If there is any young person at risk of becoming NEET we step in as soon as possible to give them all of the support they need.


We have a good system in place for this summer, we will be working in collaboration, giving one-to-one support to our young people. We will be working with young people through our local communities, youth hubs, and also 222 Upper Street will be open to them. 


Islington Council cannot accept young people becoming NEET; we are determined to do everything we can to help them and to resolve this matter. I hope this reassures you that this is top of our agenda.



Question (d) from Benali Hamdache to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


Mountgrove Road is in poor repair, with incredibly uneven surfacing that makes cycling and driving difficult. What plans does the council have to repair the road?


As Councillor Champion was not present, the question was answered by Cllr Comer-Schwartz:


This road is a boundary road maintained by Hackney Council. It merges into Riversdale Road at the Green lanes junction which is maintained by Islington. We will raise the issues with the carriageway surfacing with Hackney Council. 



Question (e) from Saiqa Pandor to Cllr Shaikh, Executive Member for Inclusive Economy & Jobs:


What is the council doing to get local people back into work now that the lockdown is beginning to lift?




Thank you for your question. We are an anticipating an increase in demand for our employment services when furlough ends in September.   


We know that the pandemic has led to a rise in unemployment in Islington over this past year and Islington's in-house employment support service iWork has been working very hard with its partners to ensure that residents get the support they need. We've been doing a wide range of interventions I'd like to share a few of those with you; as I mentioned already we have an in-house employment support service iWork which continues to offer a one-to-one tailored coaching and mentoring support service to Islington residents looking for work. We've adapted the service during the pandemic so it's a blended service that is online as well. We haven't stopped the service during the pandemic.

During the lockdown restrictions iWork has been working with Islington Working which is our network of over 50 local employment support services. We have managed to support 988 unemployed residents back into work, surpassing our target.


We have also launched the Islington Working jobs portal in March this year; this is an online portal that connects local residents to local vacancies, we have 1,300 residents registered on the portal and 77 local employers. Recent analysis of that has shown that we have over 60% of users from black and minority ethnic community backgrounds and 65% are women. We are working with key priority sectors that have remained buoyant during the pandemic such as the health and social care sector.  This month all three of the local NHS hospital trusts approached the team to help co-promote key roles, that includes 50 technician trainees at Moorfields Eye Hospital, 10 healthcare assistants at Whittington Hospital, and 20 roles at Great Ormond Street Hospital.


We are also helping residents into the tech and digital sector through our LIFT programme which is own abbreviation for Leading Inclusive Futures Through Technology. It’s a £7.4m programme in collaboration with Camden, Hackney and Tower Hamlets that seeks to target getting women and black and minority ethnic residents into the tech and digital sector.  


To conclude, we anticipate that there will be an increased demand for employment services as the furlough scheme finishes at the end of September, we are working to ensure that we have recovery plans in place, and we are reviewing the services that we have at the moment to ensure they remain relevant. Partnership working continues to play a pivotal role in employment support services.


Question (f) from Ann Bradford to Cllr Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety:


Having lived in the borough for many years, recently it appears that there have been quite a few episodes of violence locally. Women need to know they can feel safe when out and about. What is the Council doing to ensure that women are not only safe in our borough, but feel safe too?




Thank you for thoughtful question. There are two parts to this; there is an issue about women’s safety, and there's also the fear that women often feel when they're going out, and that in itself then limits our lives.


In Islington we take women’s safety, in the home and out of it, very seriously. We are in the process of working with partner organisations to write a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls which will build on some excellent work that we are already doing. We passed a motion at Full Council last year which called for making misogyny a hate crime, seeking to tackle toxic attitudes towards women and girls in the borough.


In 2020, in spite of the tight financial situation, Islington Council invested £2million in programmes focused on reducing violence towards women and girls. This included direct work with men who use violence, safety planning for children experiencing domestic abuse, and supporting victims affected by domestic violence. We also run programmes in schools to tackle violence against women and girls and sexual bullying because for women to feel safe men have to address their behaviour and step up, and that has to start from an early age.


We're also doing some practical things as well; Islington council this year as supporting Islington for Women to run a series of walks across the borough with different organisations. The next one is on 21 July from Hornsey Road Children's Centre and Platform. It's a chance for women to work together enjoy their neighbourhood but also think and talk about where they feel safe and where they don't, and why. Our Community Safety Officers and Police Officers walk with them and use these sessions as environmental audits to identify changes need to make us all feel safer.  


In July we're launching the ‘X marks the spot’ campaign to ask every household in the borough where and when and why they don't feel safe in any area across Islington. Council officers will also work with key partners to develop area improvement plans particularly focusing on those changes identified by women as needed. We want women to enjoy being in Islington, to have fun and feel safe. We encourage and support licenced premises to sign up for the Mayor's Nightsafe Charter and train bar staff to better identify and support women who appear vulnerable or feel unsafe. One third of the premises in London signed up to this initiative are in Islington.


Working with partner organisations and businesses we have also set up over 100 safe havens on in the borough. They provide a place of safety on the local streets for anyone, including women; look out for the signs in local businesses, community centres and so on if you're in danger of if you feel threatened or harassed on the street.


Question (g) from Roderik Gonggrijp to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


School Streets are of immense benefit to local communities as they protect children’s lives as they make their way to and from school, encourage active travel rather than school runs by car and crucially improve air quality especially at the times most important during the day. Currently 36 of the 47 primary schools have a School Street schemes in place. However only 15 of these were consulted on prior, the remaining 21, like my local one at Tufnell Park Primary and The Bridge School were put in place as part the council’s People Friendly Streets Programme with an 18-month Experimental Traffic Order. The School Streets are hugely popular with schools, parents and children.


Can the councillor assure parents that these schemes are not at risk when the 18-month period expires?




Thank you for your question. School Streets are an important part of the Council’s drive to create cleaner, safer and healthier streets in Islington, including around the school gate. The acceleration of the delivery under our people-friendly streets scheme has delivered school streets as trials for 18 months initially. School Streets are a key commitment in both the Transport Strategy and the net zero carbon strategy and therefore the council fully intends to make the school streets a permanent fixture subject to monitoring and consultation.


The council has been monitoring the new School Streets and will be publishing monitoring results for each School Street in advance of the public consultation. The monitoring reports will reflect a before and after assessment of the trials using the following data: motorised traffic counts, speeds, cycling counts, and air quality data.



Question (h) from Jimmy Bell to Cllr Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety:


As we are still responding to the pandemic and the infection numbers are rapidly rising nationally I would like to ask, what is Islington Council doing to help engage all parts of our community, both when responding to Covid and also to rolling out the vaccine locally? It is important every part of our community is contacted and encouraged to participate in order to make sure the response is the best it can be.




Thank you for your question. Councillor Ibrahim has also asked a question which will go into quite a lot of detail about vaccinations, so please look at that in in conjunction with what I'm about to say.


We've already talked today about the amazing mass vaccination event that we organised in partnership with the NHS and Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Community engagement made that possible; thank you to the hundreds of volunteers over four days who helped guide, steward, support and help everyone who came to what was a really joyful expression of how we are all Islington and all working together to respond the pandemic.


We have been running vaccination pop up clinics in areas of low take-up in the Borough the, and this week, with the help of St Clement's Church in Bunhill, we've been running one and I'm glad to say that we're now extending that by two more days. We're also planning more in schools and other venues; so people will go to a place that's familiar to them, that is nearby and easy to access.


All these rely on real community engagement; we have to find the sites, we have to negotiate with them, we have to get cooporation from people running them, we have to publicise the site, recruit volunteers, run information desks and support the clinical staff. We can have another pop-up running very soon at the House on the Rock in partnership with a local pharmacy and the church.  


It's not just about the vaccination effort, it's also about keeping everyone safe and supporting those who need it. Since the start of the pandemic we've been working with all our communities; it's my view that the willingness of so many of our staff to go above and beyond to find creative solutions to the unprecedented problems we faced, such as the We Are Islington helpline used by thousands of residents, has also allowed us to build and cement relationships with voluntary, community and faith organisations, and the mutual Aid groups that sprang up. By working together, creating honest and respectful relationships, we've been able to look after each other.


It's been a very worrying and sometimes frightening time for us all, and this has been compounded by the many ways in which this government has shown its contempt for the country, for the science, and for the truth, so it's even more important that we as a local council step up to the plate and look after our communities and work with them.


The community conversations that Cllr O'Halloran and I run are open to local organisations and offer clear and accurate information from our excellent Public Health team. These sessions ensure that there are real opportunities to be heard and to explore how we can all work together; they've been a model for other local authorities and I'm exploring how else we could use them here.


Question (i) from Vanessa Carson to Cllr Turan, Executive Member for Health and Social Care:


What support are you giving to Young Minds in their campaign to fund mental health hubs in Islington?




Thank you for your question. While The Young Minds campaign is calling for a network of early support hubs across the country, I believe the Council’s existing mental health offer for young people offers much of what is being asked, and even more.


In Islington we have a well-developed mental health offer for young people which was launched in September 2019 after consultation with local children, young people, families and professionals in Islington.


The local Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Transformation Plan had a strong focus on increasing access, equity and capacity, with an aim to ensure all children and young people reach the right service at the right time. This approach means we are able to meet the need of every child and young person with a strong focus on preventing mental health issues from escalating. We have worked with our local NHS and partners to increase capacity in our community services and launch a Central Point of Access approach for children and young people to access to access all social, emotional and mental health services in the same way.


Changes were also made to the core Whittington Health CAMHS service including new assessment and intervention pathways and a staff restructure. These changes have provided more consistency in clinical allocation, reducing the need for clients to have to tell their story more than once. Whereas previously most CAMHS appointments were held at one local health centre, more children and young people can now be been seen in a range of community settings, including youth hubs and leisure centres, offering more choice and flexibility. This transformation of services for children and young people was awarded the Health Service Journal ‘Highly Commended’ Award for ‘Integrated Care Partnership of the Year’ and was a finalist for the Health and Local Government Partnership Award’.


We know that young people’s mental health will have suffered further during the pandemic and these changes have meant our services can respond flexibly as issues arise. 


Question (j) from John Ackers to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


Policy 3C of Appendix One of the Islington Transport Strategy (draft) says the phasing out of resident and business parking permits for diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030 is being investigated.  I very much welcome this because it would make the Council's zero carbon ambitions and intentions very clear.


Could the Council investigate phasing out new permits for the most polluting vehicles in Band M starting in 2023 and move up to Band A, the smallest vehicles, by 2030?  Requests for replacement permits would also be declined but starting two years later (e.g. in 2025 for B and M). This avoids a single dramatic deadline. Exemptions could be considered for blue badge holders, key workers, and/or very low annual mileage vehicles (as declared on MOT entries). Charges for residents parking permits for EVs should be ramped up over the same time frame.


As Councillor Champion was not present, the question was answered by Cllr Comer-Schwartz:


Thank you for your question John. Islington Council is determined to tackle toxic air pollution in our borough and one way of doing that is by reducing the amount of journeys made by the most polluting vehicles.


In November 2020, the council adopted the Islington Transport Strategy 2020 – 2041. The adopted strategy includes a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by supporting residents to switch to electric vehicles and to investigate the phasing out of resident and business parking permits for diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030.


The Council will consider all options when seeking to achieve these objectives, including working with and consulting local people to hear their views on the best way forward.


The Council is seeking to build on the pioneering emissions-based charging policy which has seen us as amongst the first councils to set parking permit charges based on vehicles’ CO2 emissions, reducing the borough’s impact on climate change. We are the first local authority to implement a parking permit surcharge for diesel vehicles and the first local authority to implement diesel surcharges throughout the borough’s short stay parking spaces.


We are aware that it may be difficult for some people on low incomes to switch to alternative vehicles if they need to use their car and the Council will make a case for a fair system of subsidies and incentives for low-income groups which are genuinely reliant on cars to meet their mobility needs.


Despite their relative environmental benefits, electric vehicles are still motorised vehicles which contribute to road congestion, road safety issues and particulate pollution. Therefore, encouraging public and active transport, walking and cycling, remain the Council’s top priority in terms of transport. 



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