Question (a) from Rebekah Kelly to Cllr Woolf, Executive Member for Community Safety:
Between July and December last year, Islington Council ran the Safer Spaces consultation. I believe there was an insufficient amount of publicity and promotion to call it the largest community safety consultation of its kind. The results were broadcast in a series of community events at which the former Executive Member for Community Safety presented the Safe Haven scheme and stated the results of the consultation would be published and available, although I'm struggling to find evidence of this publication so am dubious of its existence.
Will the newly appointed Executive Member for Community Safety continue the Safe Haven scheme, working with communities to make the scheme effective, and actually hear our concerns?
Thank you very much Rebecca for your question and the very short answer is yes and yes to both. If I can elaborate slightly further I'd like to start by putting on record my thanks to the predecessor in my role Sue Lukes who did so much great work to make Islington a safer place for all.
We know that community insight into crime is an essential component of any community safety strategy and therefore the Council set out to listen to residents, partners and businesses to ensure that we understood the different experiences of crime, perceptions of safety, broader community insights, priorities and community aspirations for a safer for borough.
With this in mind from July to December last year the Council initiated work to address these concerns locally by consulting on a five-year violence reduction strategy, as well as running the safer places campaign. The safer spaces consultation was the largest community safety engagement programme in the country last year. I know you said that you believe there might have been insufficient publicity or promotion but the Council did write to every household and business individually, to get their views on what could be done to improve the local area.
In addition, we also held a Violence Reduction public launch event at Islington Assembly rooms with over 100 people in attendance, attended 19 library and community centre events, joined 8 virtual partnership meetings, convened 30 community led discussions, in conjunction with the voluntary and community sector, as well as parent champions, and developed an online reporting platform which received 1,700 public responses.
We are proud that a Labour run Council, through its wider Safer Islington Partnership, has been the first borough in London to undertake such consultation. Our approach is being adopted by other London boroughs with the work recognised as best practice.
The information we received from this consultation directly fed into the Council's five-year violence reduction strategy, as well as making sure that we were listening and responding to those issues raised. We look forward to continuing to work with local people to ensure we are making Islington the safe place for all. Thank you for your question.
Thank you for your reply. I was part of the formal consultation last year. I believe there were 100 thousand leaflets produced. I didn't get one. My road didn’t get one. In fact, I got in touch with the Community Safety Team and collected 200 to distribute in our ward of Canonbury. I put them up in blocks where there had recently been burglaries. I attended the public engagement sessions where my views were disregarded, particularly about the Safe Haven scheme. When I walk through my low traffic neighbourhood there is no safe haven scheme for me then. What really concerned me about that consultation with the low participation of children and young people and that not one respondent who was under 18 said that they felt safe in Islington, so what can we do to improve their participation and make young people feel safe? Obviously, we had these community engagement events and with the slideshows there was a lot of information to take in at once. I was promised that these would be put into a report to be distributed and I can't find them anywhere and I don't believe they have been distributed. If it was the biggest
safety consultation in the country, what are we going do with the results?
Thank you very much for your question Rebecca. As I said, it was the largest consultation in the country. I don't need to repeat the answers. I think in terms of the Safe Haven scheme we're looking at trebling the numbers and are going from 100 to 300 across the borough. What we're doing with the results from the Safer Spaces consultation, is going through those analysing them and then tasking our resources to particular areas and hotspots directly informed by what local people have raised with us, and this is particularly evident in certain hotspot locations around the borough.
Subsequent to that, my promise to you is that, as we’re implementing the safety measures across the borough in response to the Safer spaces consultation, we will then go back to the community in the new year to say, this is what you said and this is what we've done in response. Let's continue that listening exercise and make this an ongoing conversation and dialogue with the community. I know in our ward in Canonbury we've already been in dialogue, the two of us, and I hope that that will continue, but you have my assurance that this is not the end of it. We are working on the data now, we're implementing safety measures across the borough and will be going back out to consultation at the beginning of the new year to feedback those results. I should say we're doing that regularly at a local level as well, but you know if you have any further questions or concerns, you are always welcome to come to me. Thank you.
Question (b) from Hilary Green to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance:
Is the planning department at Islington Council willing to undergo a public review of its policy on mansards, taking into consideration the complex needs and wishes of residents?
Thank you very much for your question Madam. Islington Council is committed to tackling the climate emergency by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
You correctly identify that the planning policies are a key mechanism for achieving this goal, with our draft Local Plan setting out some of the most ambitious net zero carbon and sustainability policies in London.
The Council is currently working on a supplementary planning document (SPD) to set out in detail how the Council's net zero carbon planning policies can be delivered. This will include clear guidance for local residents and businesses who want to install carbon reduction measures in their buildings, including listed buildings and conservation areas. This guidance will be based upon up-to-date technical evidence relating to specific types of buildings in Islington and the SPD will be subject to two rounds of public consultation.
Once this has been developed the council will examine whether any changes are needed to the Islington Urban Design Guide and Conservation Area guidelines to ensure that they better support our net zero carbon objective. Any review of this will, of course, be based on clear technical evidence and any changes to policy will be subject to statutory procedures including consultation with local people and local organisations.
In the coming months the Council will focus on the adoption of its Local Plan. The policies set out in the plan are crucial to building a fairer Islington by delivering desperately needed genuinely affordable housing, supporting an inclusive economy and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Thank you very much again for your question.
Thank you for your considered reply. My initial question, however, was actually in regards to policy on mansards specifically in Islington. The question, if I may read it, was ‘Is the planning department at Islington Council willing to undergo a public review of its policy on mansards, taking into consideration the complex needs and wishes of its residents?’ so I appreciate what you've said about sustainability environmental concerns and that is certainly a part of it, but it's not getting to the heart of the question.
Thank you very much Madam, I did say that the Council will examine whether any changes are needed to the Islington Urban Design Guide and the Conservation Area Guidelines and both of those things are part and parcel to the heart of what you're saying on the specific issue of mansards, so the answer is that we are specifically looking at the planning policies which relate to mansards.
Question (c) from Max Campbell to Cllr Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:
Islington Boat Club provides vital services to the whole community from children, young people, the older generation and those with Special Educational Needs. It's closure over this summer has had a devastating effect.
In the last Council meeting in June, the Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families stated that "Islington Boat Club has been closed due to failing a health and safety audit and needs significant repairs". However, upon investigation it seems that redevelopment was highlighted in Site Allocation from 2019. Why hasn't the Council helped more to keep the Boat Club open?
Max Campbell was not present in the Chamber and a written response was sent, as follows:
I agree that Islington Boat Club provides important services to local people and the Council is completely committed to ensure its activities are retained. However, it is important to note that the Boat Club is not a Council service and is run by a third party.
Following concerns about the state of repair across the boat club site, the council commissioned an independent building condition survey. The results revealed substantial disrepair and health and safety issues as well as other breaches of tenancy obligations. It is the Boat Club’s responsibility to ensure the premises are safe to operate, and following consultation with the Boat Club, it made the decision to close the site as it was not in a position to safely reopen the site.
The Boat Club’s lease expires in December 2022 and will be writing to them in the near future to consider next steps.
The Council wants a thriving, inclusive boat club providing water-based leisure and sports opportunities for Islington’s residents. We are potentially willing to grant a new lease to support these ambitions, but it needs a robust, financially sustainable and locally rooted organisation in place with the ability to raise the funds needed to deliver new facilities. Thank you very much again for your question
Question (d) from Helena Farstad to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance:
As part of the Dixon Clark Court negotiation process (when the site was occupied by tree protectors), one of the conditions for leaving the site was that Islington Council would hold a Citizen's Assembly on the Environmental Emergency in Islington. While not defined the idea was to focus on how to address the Housing Crisis in Islington alongside achieving the commitment of Net Zero Carbon by 2030.
The agreement was signed on 21st October 2020 and the occupation of which negotiation parties belonged, then ceased. Since that point, several attempts to get a confirmation on when such a Citizen's Assembly should be held has taken place. The Councillor has not yet responded providing any clarity on the matter and already two years have passed.
Is the Councillor intending to hold this promise, and if so, when will they deliver on it?
Thank you very much for your question. Islington’s Labour run Council is focused on tackling the Tory housing crisis, which has led to a housing waiting list of 19,000 people and the climate emergency, which we're seeing the effects of more and more every year.
The Dixon Clark Court development is very important for our borough; building brand new, genuinely affordable Council homes for local people, whilst also increasing the amount of trees and greenery on the site. We agreed to a minimum of 63 new trees being planted in Dixon Clarke Court and around other sites in the Borough; a mix of small medium and large species and a range of habitats.
Sadly the occupation didn't end as planned and many of the people who had been occupying the site, including members of your negotiating team, continued to take part in the subsequent occupation. As you are aware, we would have been able to plant even more trees, if we hadn't spent so much money on legal costs. We did agree to that and sadly that didn't happen because we had to use legal means to regain the site.
Nevertheless, we, as a Council, have chosen to honour the agreement of Extinction Rebellion Islington because we think is the right thing to do for our borough. The Council is determined to work with people from across the borough to achieve our goal of net zero carbon by 2030 and as part of this, in October 2021 we held our Let's Talk About a Greener Future festival, which involved around 100 events over two weeks and was an important opportunity to raise the profile of the Council's work on net zero. One of the events was the Housing and Environmental Assembly. I was on paternity leave suddenly, but my colleague Rowena Champion was in attendance at the event. I understand you didn't attend which I was a bit disappointed about, but our approach to delivering net zero carbon homes in our new build programme and investment in our existing homes, as well as the steps private homeowners and businesses need to take to keep their carbon footprint down and what support and advice is available were all covered. We held the event as a hybrid event to be able people to attend online, or in person, at socially distanced venues with workshops. A great number of ideas came from that event and they have steered our work since. I'd love to have more those events – it was great.
Subsequent to the festival we have had a major borough-wide engagement on equality called Let's Talk Islington and housing emerged as a key priority for residents during this process. We continue to make new, net zero carbon, genuinely affordable homes a priority, as well as investing in our existing homes to reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption. The council is keen to continue working with residents across the borough to tackle housing, climate change and the cost of living emergencies.
Thank you very much for your answer Councillor Ward, but this question was specifically on Citizens' Assemblies. You know because it has been discussed in some detail that there is a specific definition of a Citizens' Assembly. What you described in your comprehensive answer was not a Citizens' Assembly by that definition. I am asking if you will deliver a Citizen’s Assembly on the climate emergency, perhaps with a specific focus on the housing crisis, as discussed and, if you are going to honour your commitment and your promise, when that will be? Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for your supplementary question. Could I ask you to reflect on what you're saying this evening. Your group held what you describe as a People's Assembly at the site of the occupation. That People's Assembly voted to end the occupation, but many of the people who attended the Assembly and members of your group actually chose to ignore that and didn't end the occupation, they continued to occupy, including a member of your negotiating team.
So I would ask you, if Extinction Rebellion have got strict definitions of a People's Assembly and Citizens' Assemblies, I'm not sure they're actually quite effective. We haven't done this kind of engagement before but we are very, very keen to and we’re keen to work with you on further assemblies, but I don't accept the kind of the strict prescriptive definition that Extinction Rebellion have. I think we have honoured the agreements but we're happy to continue to work with you and to continue to honour agreements. Thank you.
Question (e) from Leyla Boulton to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance:
The UK has signed the Paris Accord on climate change and enshrined its objective of carbon neutrality in law. Now, the double whammy of soaring energy bills and Russia's use of gas as a weapon of economic warfare make the development of renewables and increasing energy efficiency more urgent than ever before.
Islington’s grade 2 listed properties are numerous and among the most energy-inefficient in the borough. Yet current planning regulations are preventing the landlords, tenants and residents of such homes from taking steps to radically reduce their carbon footprint, including the installation of solar panels and double-glazing.
For instance, a resident who installed sensitive double-glazing that is invisible from the street has been refused planning permission while secondary glazing on a neighbour's house, which is visible from the street, is allowed. Listed homes were mostly discouraged from joining the Mayor’s now-closed Solar Together scheme on the grounds they would not get planning permission from Islington Council.
Councils such as Kensington & Chelsea are adapting their planning rules to help.
With its strong record on the need to tackle climate change, will Islington Council quickly change planning regulations to facilitate the installation of solar panels and double-glazing on grade 2 listed homes and help make street properties in Islington warmer in winter and more affordable to heat for all tenants and residents?
Thank you very much for your question. Islington Council is, as I’ve said committed to tackling the climate emergency by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. The Council's planning policies are a key mechanism for achieving this goal, with our draft Local Plan setting out some of the most ambitious net zero carbon and sustainability policies in London.
Many measures to reduce carbon emissions do not need planning permission as they are considered to be permitted development. There are however important exceptions set out in national planning policy. These exceptions include listed buildings. The installation of many carbon reduction measures on listed building are not considered to be permitted development and would therefore require planning permission and listed building consent. There is nothing in the Council’s planning policies that specifically prohibit these measures on listed buildings, for example the Planning and Development Service has approved applications for solar panels on listed Buildings in the borough.
In making decisions on carbon reduction measures on listed buildings the council's planning department is obliged to apply the statutory national policy test. This involves weighing the possible harm to the listed building, or conservation area, against the public benefits that may include a reduction in carbon emissions. As mentioned in a previous answer, the council is currently working on a supplementary planning document to set out the detail of how the Council's net zero carbon policies can be delivered. This will include clear guidance to local residents and businesses who want to install carbon reduction measures in their buildings, listed building and conservation areas. This guidance will be based on up-to-date technical evidence relating to the specific types of buildings in Islington. As I've said earlier, the supplementary planning document will be subject to two rounds of public consultation.
We are of course aware of the approach taken by Kensington and Chelsea and will contact them to find out how well that approach is working there. You provided with specific details of the case of that you refer to in your question to me and I’m very happy to look into this and ask a planning officer to respond to you in detail. Thank you very much again for your question.
Thank you Councillor Ward. The Council tonight has reminded us of its intention to tackle the cost of living crisis which is urgent, as the winter looms, my question is how quickly do you envisage making the changes you speak about tonight and whom can I stay in touch with to follow progress?
Me. Very, very happy to talk to you about this over the phone or by e-mail. I'll also involve are absolutely wonderful planning team who will be happy to keep you updated.
Question (f) from Lucy Facer to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport:
100% of Islington exceeds the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) air quality guidelines. The guidelines provide evidenced, health-based standards that cities should adopt. Last year, an estimated 74 people in Islington died from diseases caused by air pollution.
There is far-reaching evidence that shows how air pollution affects many aspects of health, even at low levels. Air pollution particles reach unborn babies through the placenta and children are being exposed daily to unsafe levels of air pollution on their journeys to school, the park or the local library.
Islington Clean Air Parents would like to know does the council have a comprehensive plan for the borough to meet WHO’s air quality guidelines?
Lucy Facer was not present in the Chamber and a written response was sent, as follows:
Before I answer the question, I would just like to say that I am pleased that the Air Quality report we published shows that there continues to be a significant improvement in air quality in Islington. However we know that air pollution even at the current levels remain a serious threat to public health resulting in premature deaths and ill health. Recent research only make this more apparent.
In recent years, we have implemented a number of measures including School Streets, people-friendly streets, air quality monitors at schools, providing more space for walking and cycling, planting hundreds of new trees, and much more. Measures such as the Mayor of London’s ultra low emission zone have also made a big difference. Continuing measures we are taking to tackle the primary sources such as from motor transport remains vital as it moving towards a net zero carbon Islington with the replacement of polluting sources such as gas boilers.
In relation to the specific question about the new WHO guidelines which were updated in 2021. In short. No, we do not yet have a comprehensive plan.
Work is going on. Over the next year the council is reviewing our Air Quality Strategy, and the new WHO guideline levels and interim targets will be very much part of this. It is fair to say that the new levels, particularly in relation to pollutants giving rise to PM2.5 or fine particulate matter, which are particularly damaging to health, are very very challenging.
As you know PM2.5 pollution is very complex, and comes from natural sources, such as from salt spray, soil, volcanic eruptions, Saharan sand etc, as well as sources over which we have some control, transport, energy, industry, and homes. It can also form in the air from complex chemical reactions involving other pollutants, like ammonia from agriculture or organic chemicals from domestic products, and remains in the atmosphere for weeks at a time and drift between nations so a concerted global effort is required and even national regulations, long with regional and local efforts may not necessarily on their own reduce pollution far enough to meet the limit set at 5µg/m3. It is for reasons such as this that 99% of the world’s population live in areas over the WHO guideline levels in this regard.
Recent studies from organisations such as the Clean Air Fund and Imperial College London show that achieving air quality within the World Health Organization’s interim target for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of 10µg/m3 (WHO-10) is possible across most of the UK by 2030, if current and proposed government policies related to net zero and air pollution are implemented in full.
In relation to nitrogen dioxide more confident there is a clear pathway, if clean technologies work as hoped, and the implementation of net zero progresses at pace, this is something that we think can be achieved in Islington. But it is dependent on the pace at which, for example gas heating and cooking systems are replaced by clean technology.
Saying all that it does not mean for one minute that we should not do all we can to try and come up with a pathway to meet the goals. We are really happy to continue working with ICAP on what is such an environmental risk to human health.
Question (g) from Zak Vora to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance:
Islington Council have once again failed to conduct adequate consultation, this time with the residents of Braitwaite House and Quaker Court, the residents most directly impacted by any potential development on the Podium and surrounding area behind Braithwaite House on Bunhill Row. Will the Council commit to a full and thorough consultation with defined thresholds for objections to nullify plans and, if it somehow passes these thresholds, commit to all properties being offered for social housing given the desperate need for such confirmed by the Council itself?
Thank you very much for your question Mr. Vora. You’re still continuing your campaign against building council homes in the borough. I can confirm there is a defined set of thresholds that can be used in this instance and we have used those thresholds in poll was held on the 5th of May 2022. The results were as follows Valerie Bossman-Quarshie, 1,277, Troy Gallagher, 1,174, Phil Graham, 1,057, Zak Vora, 337. You and the Tory party's long campaign against council housing for families in desperate need in Islington has failed Mr. Vora. It's been rejected by the residents of Bunhill. You know there's a housing crisis here caused by over 12 years of a Tory government which not only fails to build enough homes, it stops us from building homes as well. It actively stops us from building homes.
We only get a third grant for every home and the government makes us sell homes under Right to Buy, then the Treasury take some of the money and tells us how we can spend our own money. The Council has been consulting residents in these blocks about proposals to build homes since 2016 and it’s helped shape the proposals. We're now finalising the planning submission to deliver 44 homes, over half of which will be council homes for local residents on the estate in desperate need.
Residents have a further chance to have their say on the proposals as part of the statutory planning consultation and all the responses are reviewed and assessed by our Planning Committee. You've been Planning Committee and you know our Planning Committee are not a pushover. These schemes are all gone through with a fine tooth comb by our Planning Committee. Local people will continue to have a voice throughout the development process and if the plans are approved will be seeking views on landscaping play areas, planting, as well as ‘Meet the Contractor’ in due course, to discuss how these works are managed to minimise any disruption.
We would build 100% council housing on every site. Sadly, Mr. Vora, your rotten Tory government makes that impossible. £271 million pounds we've lost since 2010. If Mr. Vora would like to have a word with his new Tory leader to get her down here, families are in desperate need of council homes. We will tell her what we need, we need new council homes for local people Mr Vora. Thank you for your question.
Thank you so much for spending most of your time just having a dig at the Conservatives without actually answering most of the questions which were bought to you. Firstly, will you have a threshold with regards to residents, where their objections will actually register with the Council and you will not go ahead with the planned permission. With regards to the fact that that you boast so well about trying to build and also question the merits of this council, claimed by your Leader to be on the side of local residents, why is it when a historical site at Junctions station was torn down, it was sold by the Council to private developers just so that the threshold for properties to be developed went all for private and none for residential. How, with regards to the development at the Holloway Prison the terms were changed after signing in favour of Peabody to have more for private sale as opposed to social housing. How is it on Windsor Road with a development for 11 residents, the costs have gone up from £2M to £8M without even doing anything? This is incompetence on the terms of the Council and the Labour Council that has been in charge for well over a decade. At Netnet we are having residents at Braithwaite House and Quaker Court suffer from your incompetence and mismanagement of housing stock and the manner in which things are being conducted.
Have a word with yourself Mr Vora. I am proud of all of my brilliant colleagues at the Council, who ensured that there were 60% genuinely affordable homes on the Holloway site, including 42% for social rent. In the meanwhile your mates in the Tory government came in to see us and said ‘No you can't do this, you can't put in this Supplementary Planning document which talks about at least 50 percent genuinely affordable’. We said ‘Yes we can’ we are the local planning authority
Every step of the way when we try to build social rent homes and council homes, we are faced by your government, your party, stacking the deck against us. I have been to the drop ins at Braithwaite and Quaker about the new build. I'm proud that I was there with my colleague Councillor Bossman-Quarshie, listening to residents. Every month at our surgeries we get families in desperate need of a council home. If you want to continue your Tory rotten campaign against council homes, be my guest, but I know that Councillor Bossman-Quarshie, Councillor Gallaher and Councillor Phil Graham, of course, will be there to oppose you every step of the way with the strong, huge mandate they have from the people of Bunhill. Thank you.
Question (h) from Claire Davies to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance:
Regarding the proposed redevelopment of the Banner Estate (Braithwaite house and Quaker Court EC1Y) for Private and social housing-
What steps have been take to fully investigate nearby alternative sites for redevelopment, namely the properties and sites in close proximity to the already densely populated Banner Estate, that have been left vacant, empty and disused for numerous years and could be feasible for compulsory purchase? For example the site at Oliver's Yard on City Road.
Thank you very much for your question Miss Davies. As I have said in my previous answer, for the past 12 years the Tory government has created a housing crisis in our borough and we're doing everything we can tackle the housing crisis. Were focused on building as many new genuinely affordable homes for local people as possible and we're always looking for potential sites.
As I’ve said, Cllr Bossman-Quarshie, Graham and Gallagher will tell you all about the families who come to their surgery in Bunhill in desperate need of a home. The capacity for existing estates to accommodate further homes is carefully assessed and the density you refer to is also reviewed by the local authority with standards protected by planning policy.
The Council does seek to acquire a new land and buildings where it's possible to do so and it regularly engages in with other public sector partners such as the NHS, the GLA and central government to look for new sites for development.
I'm sorry to say that this idea that we can just compulsory purchase a piece of land because it's not being used is not accurate. Believe me, if we could acquire every unused piece of land and every unused building in the borough and convert them into council housing, if we had that power to do that, this borough would be a very different place. I genuinely want to say that, if we had the power, we would do it every step of the way and work with you as well.
In some limited circumstances the Council does acquire land or buildings through compulsory purchase but the Secretary of State has to approve it and we have to pay market rates and would have to pay compensation to affected landowners as well. As you've just heard that we only actually get one third of the cost of a new council home in the grant regime brought in by this government, but we will continue to look at all possible sites in the borough to build genuinely affordable homes for local people and tackle the Tory housing crisis.
I do encourage residents like yourself to come to me every step of the way. If you find a bit a bit of the council land you think could be used better, come to me. We are always on the look-out for bigger and better sites to build council homes for families in genuine need. Thank you.
I understand that you're doing your best to solve the social housing problem. As a social housing resident myself, I very much appreciate that. I think most people that live in Braithwaite House and Quaker Court, a large percentage of them are social housing residents and we encourage new social housing. However, it seems like the budget which had been estimated at the beginning of the year as approximately £30M for this redevelopment, seems a very high cost given the fact there's just 24 suggested council houses / apartments / affordable housing that's going come out of it. There seems to be a large percentage of the build is going to be private. I understand that's going to fund the social housing, however, it still seems like a high cost.
I understand that the Council is in the process of trying to improve recycling, looking at ways of using things again, looking at the cost of living crisis. Surely £30M in the grand scheme of things, for 24 social houses, is a massive, huge undertaking given at this point in time where contractors can't be guaranteed in terms of their costs and expenditure, loans and borrowing is increasing, no cost can be estimated, how can you even guarantee that the cost that you estimated back in in in March or last year, whenever that was prepared, is even applicable now, as so much has changed over the last 2,3, 4 months.
We can’t guarantee that money. That’s the sad reality of it. This Tory cost of living crisis has thrown inflation through the roof and the entire building industry is in disarray. As I've said, we do have to build some private homes because we just don't get the funding from the government. We only get the funding for a third of each home and when the government makes us sell off homes, they actually pocket some of the money. So the position is that we have to get the rest of the money through borrowing and building some private homes; that's the way we have to do it. But I absolutely agree with you that this is a very, very uncertain market and there are unique challenges to our council housing programme. We’ve pledged to build 750 council homes by 2026 and that's part of a programme of 1,550 genuinely affordable homes by 2026. It’s going to be challenging but hold me to that. Come back here in April 2026 and even before, hold me to that because, even in these challenging times, we owe it to families who are in desperate need here in our borough.
Question (j) from Pete Gilman to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:
As a proportion of income rents in Britain are the highest in Europe and high rents are a major cause of poverty and deprivation. There is an understandable fear among council tenants that on top of the huge rise in the price of food and fuel we will see a huge rise in council rents in Islington.
Can the council give an assurance that there will be no such rise? In addition, many housing associations operating in Islington are planning big increases in rents and service charges. Can the council give an assurance it will use its power and influence to stop and/or curb such increases?
Thank you, Pete, for your question. I completely agree that rising rents are having a severe impact on local people with private rent increasing, even further exacerbated this year by the cost of living crisis. The Council knows that socially rented homes are the fairest, most effective way of providing safe, decent housing for local people. We will continue keeping rents as low as we can to protect our much-loved Council tenants but sadly we have far less influence over private rented homes and we know this is very worrying for local people too.
We are deeply concerned about the impact the cost of living pressures are having on residents of Islington. Islington Council have increased support for residents including providing additional funding for vital crisis support, on top of the work we are doing to bring down people's energy bills by improving the energy performance of the homes we provide. The support that the government has announced for energy bills is welcome but it is clear that further assistance is urgently needed, but it is the Tory government which is stopping us going further. We want to extend our selective landlord licensing scheme to cover the whole borough ensuring better standards of homes for tenants and the Labour Mayor of London is seeking the powers to implement rent controls, capping rents at an affordable rate for people but unfortunately the Tories to continue to block both of these requests, denying private tenants the support they need.
Islington Council is here to support our residents in these difficult times and any residents who are concerned about paying the rent to Islington Council partners or housing associations or private landlords should seek advice and assistance and support from Islington Council. And again thank you Pete for coming tonight with this question.
I just want to say, on behalf of the tenants of Islington, Council tenants and Housing Association and also private tenants, that we were very grateful for what Islington Council is doing for us. It is one of the few councils in Britain that actually represent the interests of tenants and when I say that I don't just mean that we are under attack from Tory and Lib Dem Councils, I mean some of our own Labour Councils as well are attacking tenants of all kinds, so we are very grateful for what you are doing. Big rent increases are causing real poverty and hardship for millions of people and what we are saying is that what we need in Britain is rent controls.