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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public

Minutes:

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

 

How many schools (as a percentage) in Islington have CO2 monitors installed, and how is the council supporting schools to increase ventilation in school buildings?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for a question. CO2 monitors are a vital tool for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. Monitoring the levels of CO2 allows schools to identify locations that need more ventilation and take action to keep people safe. The Department for Education CO2 monitor programme is rolling out over the autumn term. Our special schools are given priority and should receive them from this month. However, this government has failed us as a local council by not giving us data on when schools will be allocated monitors. Officers are working closely with schools to provide advice on increasing ventilation in school buildings to ensure our young people can continue in education as safely as possible. Thank you again for your question; this Council will stand together with our schools and young people to make sure that their education is delivered in a safe environment.

 

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

 

In the absence of sufficient EV charging points, is there any provision for the council to provide a gunnel in the pavement to allow householders in street properties to safely charge an electric car from their home?  I've seen people putting out a cable with a plastic protector over it. Wouldn’t it be safer for vulnerable pedestrians to replace this with a gunnel, possibly paid for by the householder?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. Enabling increased use of electric vehicles for journeys which can't be undertaken by walking or cycling or wheeling is a key part of our strategy to tackle both climate change and air quality. We are keen to support local people to switch to electric and we currently have 279 on-street electric vehicle charging points; we have a goal of installing 400 before the end of 2022.

 

I do appreciate that your suggestion sounds quite reasonable as a solution, particularly as, unlike other parts of the country, many people don't have access to private outside space to charge vehicles from. However, there are two main problems with your suggestion; if you cut gunnels into paving it creates weaknesses that can allow water in and can lead to the break-up of the paving thereby creating a trip hazard. Also, in Islington there are so many services under the pavements that it almost makes it impossible to dig on our pathways. We are trying to improve the condition of pathways, in particular for less mobile and disabled people who need them to remain clear and trip free, and cutting portions out on the pavement would make that task harder.

 

The following two questions received a joint response:

 

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

 

It has come to our attention that Islington will soon start to run consultations on its People-Friendly Streets scheme. This consultation is strongly encouraged and the intention is applauded. As you well know there are groups with strong feelings both for and against these improvements in disability access and road safety on Islington’s streets; and a robust and inclusive consultation is thus most important.

 

Can the councillor clarify to the public what form is the consultation is taking and how is the council ensuring it hears the views of all people-friendly neighbourhood residents, as well as stakeholder organisations?

 

Question (h) from Rebekah Kelly to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:

 

The Council has not yet made announcements regarding the first formal consultation of St. Peter's People Friendly Streets scheme. I sent a Freedom of Information request to find out more about consultation and was told we would be told in due course. There is no public awareness that this is the first chance for people to have their opinions recorded and considered on whether the scheme would be adapted or made permanent, although a local cycling group have full knowledge and sharing with those that support the scheme. It seems the council only want to hear the views of those that favour. Online surveys exclude those that are digitally enabled or require communication in different languages and are more likely to be completed by those that are politically engaged. All views should be heard when making major changes to the borough and ultimately the views of residents should be the ones that count.

 

How will consultation take place and who can take part? The Council should consider sending a survey to every address in the borough for a more inclusive, representative view on what the residents want and how they are affected. Therefore preventing the consultation from being railroaded by London or national campaign groups.

 

Joint Response:

 

Thank you very much for your questions. The consultation started on 13 September and will last for four weeks and will consist of a questionnaire designed to understand people's experiences of low traffic neighbourhoods. We have sent out over 10,000 leaflets to properties in the St Peter's area and its boundary roads, with details of the consultation events and information on how to access the questionnaire and website. 2,000 further leaflets will be available and distributed at on-street events during the consultation. I have been to two events in St Peter's, standing on street corners talking to people. We advertise that we are there, we put up posters, and we have had a number of people coming along to talk to us. Officers have also held another one, so in the last week we've been to St Peter's three times, for more than two hours each time. We are also promoting the consultation in the local press and on social media to ensure as broad a range of response as possible.

 

Paper copies of the survey are available and translations are available if necessary. We will also run a disabled person's drop-in session and there is an online event planned to ensure those who cannot join in person have an opportunity to take part. We will be reaching out to businesses and local organisations to ensure their views are reflected in consultation responses.

 

As a Council we do want to make sure we work with local people to create safer, greener, healthy streets.

 

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

 

Islington's insect population plays an important part in feeding local bats and birds. Given recent findings on the detrimental affects of LED lighting on insect numbers, does the council have any plans to fit cheap filters on them to screen out blue light, especially in green spaces and areas that have vegetation?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. We don’t just want to protect biodiversity, but also to increase it. We are aware of the study on the impact of lighting on insects; the findings are currently under review by the Institution of Lighting Professionals. We have no immediate plans to fit blue light filters until we fully understand the impact of this; we will take into account advice from the ILP and ensure any filters are compatible with the range of lighting equipment used throughout the borough.

 

In 2018 we took the decision to change our street lights to LED bulbs to decrease carbon emissions and realise savings accounted for in our budget, which allows us to spend more on vital services for local people. Most of our LED lights are connected to a central management system which does enable lights to be adapted as appropriate to the local environment. We will of course keep local people updated on any changes.

 

Question (e) from Benali Hamdache to Cllr Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:

 

What guidance are Islington schools giving to children about attendance, when someone in the household has Covid?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. Advice to schools is provided by the Department for Education, however we know that there has been a lack of clear guidance for schools throughout the pandemic. While people are not required to self-isolate when a member of their household tests positive, the Council operates regular lateral flow tests to spot infection and if anyone develops symptoms they should remain at home and take a PCR test. If the test is negative they are able to go back to school. If someone in that household tests positive, everyone in the household is strongly advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible in order to identify any other cases.

 

As a Council we are determined to keep our community safe. We are facing a serious situation. This government doesn’t give any clear guidance or support to local schools to make sure our young people and their families and teaching staff are kept safe. We are liaising with our local schools day in day out in full collaboration to make sure every child, every student and every teacher is kept safe.

Who can protect our young people if it's not us? We stand in solidarity with our schools because we have witnessed the failure of any guidance to support education. We have put everything in place we can to make sure if they raise a problem or situation we can step in to protect, advise and support them through our Covid reactive response which is running seven days a week. We will continue to put pressure on the government to provide clear and consistent guidance to schools. As we head into winter, which will see rising of cases, we need to do our best to make sure we are protecting our young people.

 

 

Question (f) from Devon Osborne to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Housing & Development:

 

How many people living in council housing have contacted the council in the past four years about mould or damp in their homes; and what action is the council taking to deal with damp/mouldy homes and ensure no one is exposed to damp and mould?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. The Council is determined to provide safe, decent, genuinely affordable homes for local people. A vital part of that is maintaining and improving our current stock of council homes. The repair service is being proactive and providing accessible information on ways to prevent and report any cases of damp and condensation in the home. This is in addition to our reactive work which deals with reports of damp or mould and then looks at how to prevent it from reoccurring. Over the period 2018 to 2021 there have been just over 5,000 inspections of council homes for damp. The number of inspections has fallen slightly since 2018 with 1,177 inspections taking place in 2020 compared to 1,423 the year before.  The data on reported damp is Islington is being analysed to identify hotspots of damp and this information is then used to identify areas for investment on estates to stop it from happening in the future. This is a key part of our £40million per year investment in maintaining and improving our council homes.

 

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

 

Tree canopy cover needs to reach a critical mass of 40% to start to mitigate against climate change. Given the appetite residents have shown in supporting Islington Forest for Change, the project run by Islington Clean Air Parents, and the thousands of empty street tree pits, will Islington Council revise its current tree planting ambitions up to 40% by 2030 as part of its net zero carbon target?

 

Response:

 

I'd like to start by thanking Lucy and Islington Clean Air Parents for their help in sourcing about 200 trees for Forest for Change Islington and organising a successful fundraising campaign to defray some of those costs. I would also like to thank the council’s Greenspace team in particular for enabling this to happen.

 

In Islington we already have tree cover of 25 percent which is above the London average of 21 percent and the national average of urban areas of 17 percent.

It's an impressive level of canopy cover due to the council's determination over a number of years to protect our borough’s trees and plant more every year. We have what we believe is an ambitious target of 30 percent tree coverage, but we will of course look at all opportunities to maximise our tree planting where we can.

 

Given the density of borough and the limited amount of land we have available for planting it is quite challenging and to achieve the existing target we will need the help of residents and other landowners in the borough to plant trees on their land as well as the council planting in our parks, housing estates and of course highways.

 

Our plans are made much more difficult by the government’s continued austerity restricting funds for such projects. That's why community funding initiatives are so important to this work. We will continue working with local people, businesses and community groups find locations and ways to plant even more trees to make Islington the greener and healthy place we all want to see. 

 

 

Question (i) Martyn Perks to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:

 

How is Islington Council faced with a climate crisis, when the UK nation as a whole contributes 1% of carbon emissions globally?

 

Climate change, as we know is happening. But how is it a crisis or an emergency for us in this borough, even for Londoners? Especially when it is driving many of your policies, including the reduction of transport-related emissions, and to become carbon net neutral by 2030.

 

Response:

 

Thank you your question. The Climate Crisis is a global crisis. Every nation, every person, has to be part of the solution. It is absolutely not the case that Islington is not impacted. Recent weeks and months have shown us the effect the climate emergency as having already, both globally and locally. Just this summer many parts of London suffered from severe flooding, harming local homes and businesses. I walked down Tufnell Park Road a month or so ago to see a utility access cover and surrounding pavement damaged from the amount of water rushing through the Thames Water drains after a torrential rain storm. Just today, and very worryingly, Islington was named as one of the six London boroughs most vulnerable to climate change.

 

We need to contribute towards the global effort to reduce the wide-ranging impact of climate change on our planet. We know that climate change will hit poorest countries in the world hardest and they will not have resources to protect themselves from its effects. We do recognise that many elements of achieving our objectives are outside the control of the Council. This is why we need to tackle this issue together. A collective approach is required with much of our efforts directed towards working closely with residents, visitors, partner organisations, businesses and community groups. I hope you will join us at our forthcoming climate festival where we can hear from local people about their climate concerns and discuss how we can work together to tackle the climate emergency across Islington.

 

 

 

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