You are here: Agenda item

Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public

Minutes:

Question 1 from Gill Weston to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development:

 

In 2012 the Council began work on plans for accommodation for 14 people with learning disabilities to be built at Windsor Street. In 2014 the Council’s financial evaluation projected that the development would cost £2.298 million comprising £1.874 million build cost and £0.424 million development fees and other expenses, but noted that after 30 years the scheme would still have a £1.430 million deficit and that it would be over 30 years before the annual and cumulative revenue income would exceed running costs, depreciation charges and debt management costs. In 2018 the Council awarded itself planning permission for the development at Windsor Street (but to accommodate 11 people). Nearly four years later, building work has just begun. Please will the Council explain what are the current estimated costs – in terms of build costs, development fees and all other expenses?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. In recent years, Islington has consistently commissioned between 120 and 150 out-of-borough placements for adults with learning disabilities. Placements are made outside the borough for a variety of reasons, however a primary driver is a lack of appropriate accommodation to meet the care and support needs of individuals. Windsor Street has been designed specifically to cater for the needs of people with learning disabilities and will provide suitable accommodation, ensuring people are placed in appropriate environments, and are supported in living safely and independently, avoiding the need to provide additional support to mitigate needs arising from unsuitable accommodation.

 

The cost of the site has increased due to a range of factors. The Council has refined designs to ensure that it meets the needs of those who shall be using it, as well as ensuring the highest possible safety standards. Over the last few years, due to Brexit, the pandemic and other inflationary factors, construction costs have skyrocketed, which is something we have seen over a number of other developments too. Due to this, the total scheme cost will now be just over £7 million.

 

The scheme will provide high quality housing for residents with a range of learning disabilities, 24 hour on-site support available to all residents, flexibility in the building provided by a second entrance, and a variety of social spaces indoor and out. The scheme has been commissioned and designed by the Learning Disabilities Commissioner, along a family carers, who have also had an input into the contractor selection. The scheme as long awaited and will support some of the borough’s must vulnerable residents. Thank you again for your question.

 

Question 2 from John Hartley to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment and Transport:

 

Barnsbury suffers from some horrendous traffic. Many vehicles cut through totally inappropriate roads such as: Offord Road, Barnsbury Street, Theberton Street and Cloudesley Place. The junction at Roman Way and MacKenzie Road is far too busy for people on bikes to be safe. The whole Barnsbury area is desperately in need of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood and when the Council announced that this would be implemented in March 2021 we were delighted. But that just didn’t happen. We look on the other Islington LTNs (in St Peters, Canonbury, Highbury, etc.) green with envy. Now we understand that our LTN will be preceded by an extensive Engagement and Design process, which was due to start “Autumn 2021”. We are perfectly willing to “engage” and “design” along with the rest of the community but, please tell us: What will the process be, and most important, when will it start?

 

Response:

 

Thank you very much for your question, and thank you for your support for People Friendly streets. I know that Barnsbury & St Mary’s Neighbourhood Group, of which I think you are a part, have been very active in getting information out and raising awareness of the programme and trying to encourage people to feed their views in, so thank you.

 

I agree, there are a number of cut-through routes in the area. We did say that we wanted to do this as part of the recovery from Covid measures, but unfortunately with hindsight that was really just too ambitious. We’ve introduced eight People Friendly Streets neighbourhoods, but none of them is as complex as the Barnsbury and St Mary’s area. We do believe that the most appropriate approach will be to talk to residents, businesses and others in the community, to understand how people experience our streets, and understand how we can best address traffic problems in the area. We hoped to start this by now, but again, a combination of Covid re-emergence, and resource constraints has meant that this was just not possible.

 

We are really passionate about this, and sometimes we can be over optimistic about the volume of work we can take on, so I am sorry about the delay. The good news is we will do this as part of the Liveable Neighbourhood programme; that will not only include engagement about the traffic measures, but also about complementary changes such as greening, people friendly pavement measures, and other improvements. Thank you again for your question. 

 

Question 3 from Harry Nugent to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment and Transport:

 

How can the council let their own fleet of vehicles pass through the LTNs without being fined but Tradesman, Undertaker’s and Funeral Processions can’t?

 

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. For these schemes to work, it’s important that as few vehicles as possible drive through the filters. Council vehicles are not exempt from restrictions in our LTNs generally, but to ensure that a small number of services can operate safely for residents, clients and staff, a limited number of Council vehicles are exempt. These are broadly Community Transport passenger vehicles, and large refuse and recycling and street cleaning vehicles.

 

When not on operational business, vehicles will use main roads as far as practically possible, and will not make short cuts across residential areas. Exemptions for these classes of vehicle are written into each scheme's Traffic Order, and there are no other exemptions for council vehicles.

 

We are currently exploring ways to reduce the council's impact on the borough's traffic, because important that we do what we say others should be doing, to reduce short car journeys where possible. We've recently introduced electric bikes for our street supervisors to travel around the borough, and we're looking at other options for other services. We are also electrifying our council fleet, with investment in this year's budget to retrofit more of our vehicles. So while that's not as good as getting vehicles off the road, we are trying to reduce our impact by going electric where we can. Thank you.

 

Question 4 from Rebekah Kelly to Cllr Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety:

 

In response to the Islington Together, Walk for women and the Safe Haven scheme. Why is women's safety fears in LTNs not considered a priority? Women feel unsafe walking through deserted neighbourhoods, where there are no businesses to act as "Safe Havens", women feel unsafe after dark when there is often no people around. The restriction of traffic adds to this feeling of being alone, and these concerns have been diluted in the consultation process that has been lobbied by cycling campaigns.

 

Response:

 

Thank you very much your question Rebecca. It was a pleasure meeting at our community conversation last week. 

 

Making our streets safer for everyone, and especially women and girls, is a priority for us in Islington. Last year we published our strategy for tackling violence against women and girls, setting out the steps we are taking to make improvements, such as rolling out more safe havens, working on rehabilitation for perpetrators of domestic abuse, and supporting the survivors. Islington Council was one of the first in the country to undertake a consultation of all residents and businesses to better understand where people feel safe and unsafe in the borough. In July 2021 we launched the Safer Spaces campaign, and every household and business in the borough received a letter and leaflet where they are able to mark locations they don't feel safe. The Council also developed an online platform where locations could be marked so the Council and its partners can develop plans to take further action.

 

We are also currently running some community conversation events to feed back our findings and hear from residents. The Council's Community Safety Team constantly review crime and anti-social behaviour trends across the whole of the borough, including those within low traffic neighbourhoods. So far, we have not seen any trends that suggest that those neighbourhoods are making any part of our borough less safe. I understand you have concerns, but I personally don't believe that having more cars around makes streets safer. I did tell you at the event, in 40 years of living in Highbury I've had the misfortune to have my bag snatched twice, and one of those occasions was by somebody who was in a car, and then drove off. Cars can be enablers of crime. Conversely, I would say that our People Friendly Streets make roads safer, because they reduce the risk of road danger, which injures somebody in Islington more than once a day on average. Thank you for your question.

 

Question 5 from Finella Craig to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:

 

From the comparative lack of garden waste generated locally, to the high proportion of flats where architectural issues often make recycling more difficult, the obstacles faced by boroughs such as ours who are working hard to improve recycling rates are complex and structural. What steps are being taken to address these challenges and Increase recycling rates, as well as driving down waste generation through reduce and reuse initiatives, and in particular what action is being taken to tackle period waste?

 

Response:

Thank you very much for question. The comparative lack of green waste generated in Islington does give us a lower recycling rate than other boroughs, however that isn't a question of failing to recapture recyclable materials. However, lower levels of recycling on estates compared to street properties is an issue, and addressing this is a key priority. I’d like to share a few examples of what we're doing. We are now offering food waste recycling service to flats in the borough, and we are also considering how we offer this to residents in flats above shops.

 

One of the more important programmes is the improvement of recycling facilities on estates. We are investing more than £100,000 a year to make it easier and more convenient for residents on estates to recycle more. We know that attractive clean bins can have a real impact. You mentioned driving down waste generation, and of course it is better to reduce waste in the first place. We are offering initiatives to encourage reuse and to reduce waste, for example by opening Islington's Library of Things, introducing low plastic zones, and promoting reusable nappies and period products. These are promoted via social media, schools, and a dedicated week or month, such as Real Nappy Week and Plastic Free July.

 

But, to be as effective as we can, we need the government to take climate change seriously, put in place a national framework to reduce waste and increase recycling. Until then, we are operating with one hand tied behind our back. We know we can’t wait, so we are reviewing our Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan, published in 2019. We are going to publish revised proposals aimed at delivering on and exceeding our recycling targets and supporting our net zero carbon ambitions. Thank you very much for your question.

 

Question 6 from Ernestas Jegorovas-Armstrong to Cllr Chapman, Chair of the Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee:

 

The last Children's Services Scrutiny Committee meeting happened before last Full Council (December 2021), over 100 days ago. There has not been a meeting in January or February, why? May the council make sure that there is a Children's Services Scrutiny Committee meeting by next Full Council?

 

As Cllr Chapman was not present, the question was answered by Cllr Gill, Executive Member for Finance and Performance, as the relevant Executive Member with portfolio responsibility for Democratic Services:

 

Thank you for your question. This year the Committee has been carrying out a review of education transitions for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. It’s a very significant piece of work and the Committee looks forward to sharing the outcomes of this review in due course.

 

The Council agrees a programme of meetings each year, setting out the dates for committee meetings. The last meeting of the Committee was held on 6th December. It was intended to hold another meeting on 11th January, however unfortunately this was cancelled due to significant concerns about the Omicron variant at the time. Unfortunately, it is not lawful for council committees to hold virtual meetings, and there has been a campaign from across the local government sector asking the government to act on this issue, but they have not yet done so. The next meeting will be held on 28th March.

 

Question 7 from Nicholas Brainsby to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment and Transport:

 

A lack of charging points is one of the main reasons why consumers are reluctant to buy an electric vehicle (EV). What plans does the Council have to materially increase and properly maintain the number of fast charging points in Islington? I am an EV driver and am frustrated by the lack of fast chargers in Islington and the fact that often they are out of order for long periods of time.

 

Response:

 

Reducing emissions from vehicles is a key part of our strategy for tackling the climate emergency, and our Transport Strategy and Vision 2030, both adopted in November 2020, sets out actions support the roll-out of electric vehicle public charging infrastructure across the borough, and that includes on-street charging points.

 

By the end of December 2021, 285 on-street electric vehicle charging points had been installed. These are a mix of slow chargers, 103 of those in the lamp columns, 163 fast chargers, and 19 rapid chargers. We recognise a mix of all types of chargers is important to meet the needs of residents, business users, and visitors in the borough. By the end of April, we anticipate that we will have a met our target of 400 charging points installed since 2018. We do want to continue the programme, and we are continuing to seek grant funding to support the roll out of charge points through 2022/23.

 

We will continue to meet demand in partnership with third party providers, and this will include a mix of slow, fast and rapid charge points. All the on-street charge points in the borough are installed and maintained by network operators. Further details are available on the Council's website. If you do have any problems with these, please do get in contact.

 

Question 8 from Minda Burgos-Lukes to Cllr Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety:

                           

Every one of us has a role to play in making Islington a safe place for all – where women are free from harassment and violence, young people can grow up in safe environments with bright futures to look forward to, and Black and Brown, migrant, disabled, LGBTQ+, working class people and people of faith can go about their lives freely and happily, without fear of prejudice and discrimination. What plans does the Council have to make Islington a safer and more dignified place for all over the coming years, and what’s your message to the wider community about how we can help build this place together?

Response:

 

Thank you for your question. Islington is absolutely committed to making the borough safer place for all that live, work and spend time here. I've already explained the Safer Spaces campaign in the answer to a previous question. The Council have also been running a very successful Safe Haven scheme for many years now; these are a practical way of helping everyone in Islington enjoy their community, knowing that support is easily available if they need help from public premises such as shops, cafes, pubs, libraries and other places of interest. Venues can register to be officially known as a safe haven. Many already are, of course, but having the sticker builds confidence, makes us all feel safer wherever we go in the borough, and encourage us all to live our lives to the full. In Islington there are currently just over 100 safe havens, and we made a commitment to treble that number to over 300 within the next 12 months. I visited the Blackstock Pub last week to thank them for joining recently, and you may have seen that on BBC London News, alongside a good explanation of the scheme by the journalist, the pub manager and myself.

 

I'd like to take this opportunity to ask all residents, businesses and all our local councillors to nominate and encourage possible safe-haven sites in your area. We love practical solutions, they are an important part of our strategies to deal with complex issues. We recently launched the Women and Girls Strategy, and are working with local communities on the development of a five-year violence reduction strategy for our borough. We see violence as a public health problem, and one that can only be dealt with by us all working together, focusing on prevention, accountability, support and empowerment. Because the only way to tackle serious violence and the fear of violence is to come together to look after each other and build our power as a whole partnership and community, determined to make Islington safe for all. No one is safe until we are all safe. Thank you again for your question.

 

Question 9 from Benali Hamdache to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Housing and Development:

 

Can the Council let me know how much money the Council has had to spend responding to housing disrepair legal cases each financial year since 2019?

 

Response:

 

Thank you very much for your question. Providing good quality, genuinely affordable housing for local people is a top priority for our Council, and that starts with good council housing. I am proud of our 93 percent first-time-fix rate for repairs last year.

 

I agree that the increase in housing disrepair legal cases is concerning. Landlords across London have identified a steep rise in legal action, and there has been an increase in legal firms contacting residents and encouraging them to make claims.  I've had one resident call me up in distress recently, she had a cold caller saying her house was in disrepair, encouraging her to take legal action.

 

While cases have increased over the last couple of years, we have seen repairs performance improving, and the level of compensation paid out by the Council has decreased. In 2018/19, £408,982 was paid out for 84 cases. In 2019/20 £309,267 was paid out for 130 cases, in 2020/21, £239,921 was paid out for 144 cases, and in 2021/22, £361,245 pounds was paid for 204 cases.

 

The average per case is as follows: in 2018/19, £4,868; in 2019/20 £2,378; in 2020/21 £1,480; in 2021/22, £1,637. Thank you again for your question.

Supporting documents: