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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Council


Question (a) from Cllr Poyser to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport: 


On 13 August 2022, at 12.10am, Police attended a serious road traffic collision outside the Shell Garage on Hornsey Rise, N19, in Hillrise Ward. Four people were injured, one with life threatening injuries. Our deepest sympathies are with the families of the victims. Obviously the incident will be investigated by the relevant authorities and blame cannot be apportioned until this has happened


Some local residents that have cars on this road drive too fast. Is there anything Islington can do to make this stretch of road safer in future?




Cllr Poyser was not present in the Chamber and a written response was sent, as follows: 


I was very saddened to hear about the collision in your ward and the Council is working with the police to fully understand the circumstances surrounding it. The collision is currently still part of an active investigation by the police and we have recently attended a site meeting with them, as part of this investigation.


Whilst we wait the outcome of the police investigation, we are commissioning speed counts to understand the extent of speeding here and we will be reminding drivers of the speed limit through the installation of additional ‘SLOW’ and ‘20’ mph road markings. Once we’ve received the final police report and speed data, we will be in a position to discuss and consider additional speed reduction measures.


As you are aware, our Labour Council is committed to reducing road danger on the borough’s road networks to eliminate deaths and serious injuries by 2041 and the occurrence of other types of road collision and incident and work with the Mayor of London to achieve this.


We are clear that having fewer cars on the road, and reducing the speed of the cars that are on the road, are important aspects in making our roads safer. Our 20mph borough policy, as well as our people-friendly streets schemes, are intended to make our streets cleaner, greener and safer. I look forward to working with you and your Hillrise colleagues to make the streets safer in the ward.



Question (b) from Cllr Convery to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport: 


On Wednesday 17 August, heavy rainfall caused "flash" flooding in Islington on Upper Street and Pentonville Road at Kings Cross seemingly worsened by blocked drains on TfL roads. In the previous week, a Thames Water mains burst on Tollington Way caused extensive damage partly exacerbated by the slow speed at which drains could remove water.


With the risk of such extreme events recurring, please will you say whether Islington's preventative programme of gully maintenance will be adjusted to ensure that further episodes of very heavy rain do not cause flooding on Borough roads and residential streets?




Can I just thank officers who attended the events mentioned in the question so quickly and particularly the emergency planning team, who we all know always do such a brilliant job in ensuring that the damage and disruption events like this are kept to a minimum and have just been very, very busy over the past few months and recent years.


There are two parts to the premise of the question.  The first is the recent water main burst which has caused so much damage to homes and businesses and of course to the Sobell Centre and great distress to those affected and I think that we are both painfully aware this wasn't the only burst in the last few months which has damaged homes.  Residents of Offord Road have now suffered a number of bursts in the past years and it hasn’t just caused property damage, it has and continues to cause anxiety as we anticipate the next burst and the consequences thereof.


Of course, drains play some role in moving water, but a pressurised water main burst will always overwhelm the system.  Responsibility firmly lies with Thames Water to invest in the network properly to make sure that bursts don't happen in the first place and I am very grateful to my colleagues on the Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee who held Thames Water to account and to the residents who came and gave such powerful testamonies.


The second part of that is drainage more generally, which I think is the nub of your  question.  I absolutely agree that going forward we need to make sure that our infrastructure is able to cope with the level of rainfall we are experiencing, and we are likely to experience going forward.  As you say, we are already seeing flash flooding, which is only likely to get worse, so we are looking at what we need to do to make our public run more resilient and this does include looking at whether maintenance needs to be increased.  Currently, the Council has a preventative programme gully maintenance where gully pots receive twice yearly service.  In addition, where water is not draining, Highways officers will investigate the reasons and will instigate remedial works where necessary, but that's of course reactive. 


As part of the review we are investigating the use of sensors that are able to detect when a gully pot needs to be cleaned, using technology to maximise performance.  If this is successful it would enable the Council to redirect gully maintenance to places that require more frequent cleansing. 


But it is likely that whatever we do, there will be times when the drainage system is just not able to cope, so changing our public realm to make surfaces more absorbent including through greening and adding sustainable urban drainage such as rain gardens is absolutely vital to a sustainable future.  Which is why I’m pleased to say that we've introduced programmes such as Islington Green Together, which is not only working with local people to create more attractive green community spaces across the borough, but will make us more resilient going forward not just in relation to rainfall but also in relation to extreme heat events, which unfortunately we also  experienced this summer.  Thank you.


Supplementary question:


I would like to thank Rowena for that answer.  I entirely support the observations about the extraordinary hard work of our officers in dealing with these emergency bursts and I'd like to join the remarks made by many of our colleagues on Policy and Performance last week, rightly criticising Thames Water for their persistent failure to invest in the water mains infrastructure and the repeated incidences of very catastrophic bursts.   Offord Road happens on average once a year and the impact down the Cally is really extensive not simply people's homes being flooded and lives being completely upended, but extensive damage to the highway.  Paradoxically the fact is that a water burst isn’t just erupt a large amount of water, it sends vast amounts of grit and sand down the highway thereby blocking the drains. 


So as these risks persist and as Thames Water fail to invest in the infrastructure and climate instability poses greater risks, I very much welcome what you've just said and wonder whether you would agree with me that we need mechanisms to identify where risk is at the highest and we need to put in additional resourcing.  The sad fact is that when these things happen, particularly Thames Water's failure, it is  Islington Council that cleans up the mess.  We need to make sure that we do that expeditiously and well, in order to protect our citizens from further flooding.  Thank you.




I agree.


Question (c) from Cllr Gallagher to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance: 


The conservative government has spent 12 years making this unprecedented cost of living crisis through 12 years of deliberately planned austerity, attacking working people from all ages, backgrounds and all sectors. To add insult to this injury inflicted on normal working islingtonians and people across all of the UK, the average pay of FTSE 100 CEOs jumps by 39% - an inflation busting pay-rise which is at a rate of 109 times that of the average UK worker; energy firms make £170 billion excess profits. People are living in fear and despair at being unable to survive. Winter is coming. What can the council, our key partners and organisations do to prevent normal people from having to turn to crime to make ends meet, pay the daily bills or feed their families?




Cllr Gallagher was not present in the Chamber, it was advised that a written response would be sent. This will be appended to the minutes.


Question (d) from Cllr Gallagher to Cllr Turan, Executive Member for Health and Social Care:  


Has the Executive Member received the latest up-to-date figures on male suicide and suicide in general within the London Borough of Islington? Could he share with me and members what is the strategy to tackle male suicide within the borough and to have an integrated approach across all council services and departments to address this issue and prevent the cost of living crisis becoming a cost of life crisis?




Cllr Gallagher was not present in the Chamber, it was advised that a written response would be sent. This will be appended to the minutes.



Question (e) from Cllr Jackson to Cllr Khondoker, Executive Member for Equalities, Culture and Inclusion:


Black men are 17 times more likely to develop severe mental health problems than any other group. They are also 4 times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. These stark statistics show us a focus on mental health for Black men is more important than ever before. Can the exec member tell me their plans to tackle and ensure Young Black Men can live well and access the support they need?




Thank you for your question Jason and thank you for the work you've done on this important project.  Challenging inequality and racism and injustice is at the heart of this Council's work.  We recognise the profound impact of intergenerational cycles of racial injustice and inequalities affecting young black men. 


We know they are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with psychotic disorders and there are higher admission rates into secondary level care and psychiatric provision and there's a disproportionate number of exclusions from school.   Equally, we know this endemic cycle is not new.  Here in Islington we want to develop something that was pioneering, truly new, that could leave a lasting impact; a legacy to transform the lives of young black men.


Islington Council and the NHS were successful in receiving investment funding of £1.6M to lead a programme designed to tackle mental health inequalities, which will help to create a better future for young black boys and men and support the Council and the NHS is efforts to tackle this inequality.  It's a three year programme named ‘Elevate young black men and mental health’ and it will see a much more

holistic approach to addressing mental health issues among young black boys and men in Islington with the aims of improving personal mental health and wellbeing, aspirations and life chances. 


It's got four pillars of delivery they are: the ‘Becoming a man programme’, a pioneering 24 month programme delivered in three secondary schools through a full time ‘Becoming a man’ counsellor based in each school.  This is launching in three secondary schools this month already.  There’s also the ‘Elevates’ innovation hub delivering holistic and wraparound therapeutic support through a small team of community therapeutic coaches lead by a clinical psychologist.  This will take on referrals and commence work with young people in October, alongside the launch of the Barbers Round Chair project, training of barbers to become Community Mental Health Ambassadors and lastly, rolling out cultural competency and anti-racist training across the workforce.  We’re very proud of this work that we're doing here in Islington, in creating significant shifts in thinking, approach, practice in challenging mental health inequalities for young black men, that we believe will lead to longer term system changes and greater life chances for young black men living in Islington.  I am also delighted to announce a formal event to mark the launch of the ‘Young black men in mental health programme’ is being planned to take place in October 2022, next month.  Thanks again for your question.



Question (f) from Cllr Heather to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:


What action is being taken by the Council to protect renters, including private renters, in Islington amidst the cost of living crisis?


Thank you Councillor Heather for your question.  You are completely right, this Tory cost of living crisis is having severe impact on Islington renters, both social and private.  We are continuing to protect social rents and building more council homes for local people, as well as keeping Council rents as low as possible and investing more into our estates via the £10M thriving neighbourhoods programme, which will be launched from Monday.


While we want to get as many people into social housing as possible and as the second biggest social landlord in the country we are doing a good job,  we know not everyone can access good social housing and many are forced to rent through the private sector.  Our Council is working hard to protect private renters through our landlord licensing scheme but we know more needs to be done.  It is high time this government allowed the Mayor of London to introduce rent controls so we can bring down the rents.  It’s unfair in the private sector how high the rents are. 


In the meantime, our Council is supporting private renters by providing dedicated housing advice assistance and support services for all tenants living in the private rented sector, to prevent homelessness, providing housing advice and increase financial inclusion by maximising benefits private renters are entitled to.  Working with the private landlords to ensure we minimise people be made homeless from the private sector, adopting a borough-wide HMO and selective licensing scheme for landlords operating in Islington, currently undergoing expansion from Finsbury Park to Tollington and Hillrise, organising private renters focus groups and liaison meetings to help redesign our services to meet the needs of the private rented sector tenants.  Working across the council to address the needs of private rented sector tenants through the cost of living crisis, providing financial assistance and support to private rented sector tenants to help access discretionary housing payments, supporting people to obtain employment through the Council's employment services, providing money advice, debt management and financial services, working with food banks and partners to address fuel poverty and food poverty, the Shine team are working to provide advice on reducing energy consumption and signposting residents to any available grants, to other council support services working with the Job Centre and the DWP to maximise the income for our residents working with private landlords.


The Mayor advised that the time to answer the question had expired and Cllr O’Halloran advised that she would provide the remaining information in writing to Cllr Heather.


Supplementary question:


Thank you Councillor O'Halloran for that very comprehensive answer about what Islington Council is doing to protect renters in the borough.  Of course what we known is another issue is housing supply for renters as well and therefore it's really concerning the we have housing associations in this borough that are selling off properties as a cash cow so they can actually invest elsewhere.  Now, that’s not good, what I would say is that the Council has got really proud record on this one. Councillor Ward met with the Peabody, who are a particular offender and implored him not to sell off the homes.  Today, Peabody, at auction, sold of yet another home in Islington, so that’s one less home for residents. Clearly, we clearly need to address this in some way and my question really is what can we do to highlight this issue and deal with Peabody and other housing associations selling homes, when we have 14,000 people on the waiting list that need homes.  Thank you.





I want to say on record that Councillor Ward was right, he went and faced Peabody, face to face, and when I got that e-mail today that's what I intend to do.  We are not a cash cow, we do not want people selling off and not investing back in Islington, so be assured, people give us this mandate and I am very proud that we are building council homes everywhere, even on build overs and small places, because I am someone that lived in Quaker Court and there was 8 children, so I know what overcrowding is like, but trust me, we will be facing them, I will be ringing and on their doorstep.


Question (g) from Cllr Chapman to Cllr Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:


We were delighted by the fantastic GCSE, A Level and vocational results this summer which significantly improved compared to 2019. What work is the Council doing to maintain these high standards in the years ahead?




Thank you very much Councillor Chapman for your question.  I completely agree, we  had the best results for our young people.  Our young people couldn’t achieve these results by themselves.  I recognise the great work the schools are doing and Islington Council.  If they don’t have a decent life and a decent home to live in, they can't achieve this great result.  That means housing also impacts on this.  I agree with my colleagues, we must make sure we do decent work for our young people, our families, if we want really to carry on celebrating these great results.  


These great result.  All of us, we are proud of our young people who have surpassed expectations.  We need to carry on to ensure we go better, because I believe in Islington we want to be the best and we are the best borough.  This is what leads us to work in full collaboration with our schools and different partners.


We are in the process of developing our Education Plan, where we have nine pillars and six priorities.  Among those priorities is to make sure that every single young person, every single child in this borough, deserve the best in terms of education, skills and employment and we do have a powerful plan through Fairer Together; they start well, live well and they age well.   As soon as we can pull it all together and we give them a great place they can call home where they can live, we're going to carry on to celebrate these results. 


We managed to bring our secondary school head teachers together around the table to speak with them, to discuss, to make them understand we are together in this journey.  Our children come first and through that network we are discussing how can we improve the quality of education, with our help.


We are focussing on school improvement, what we can do together and I'm proud to see what we are doing Islington and I feel we still have a better future for our young people.  Thank you again for your question.




Question (h) from Cllr Poyser to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance: 


This summer has demonstrated the severity of the climate crisis we face and the urgency to respond. Coupled with the energy crisis, not only will our residents feel the impact through their bills, so too will our council buildings and schools. With this in mind, what steps are the council taking to retrofit and insulate our council buildings and schools?




Cllr Poyser was not present in the Chamber, it was advised that a written response would be sent. This will be appended to the minutes.



Question (i) from Cllr Hamdache to Cllr Woolf, Executive Member for Community Safety:


Can you give an update on the progress of expanding the selective licensing scheme for landlords operating in Finsbury Park and the positive impact that the scheme has had?


The Mayor advised that the question would be answered by Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities. 




As I mentioned in my long answer to Councillor Heather earlier we are committed to supporting private renters.  Sadly without the government's help we know rents are out of our control and we are unable to extend our landlord licensing scheme as far as we would like.  However, we are still taking action.  The consultation for the second phase of our licensing scheme finished at the end of March.  Officers are currently in the process of doing some further analysis on the responses to provide more context for the results, which were heavily skewed, as more landlords appeared to answer the consultation than any other stakeholder. 


The next stage will provide a report to the Executive for consideration.  If this agreed then we will designate the scheme and it becomes enforceable three months after that.  Looking at the current licensing scheme that became operational February 2021, due to the Covid restrictions at the time, we were not able to inspect property straightaway, so we focused initially on processing applications and other reactive work, but since year one, we've now inspected 226 properties.  Benefits include that tenants are more empowered to contact the council to complain about poor housing conditions and unlicensed premises.  This is the case even for un-licensable premises and since the scheme began we've had a 105 unlicensed complaints compared with 56 in the previous two years.


We have definitely improved over 200 properties that have received an inspection, but the application process itself is increasing compliance, as landlords generally start work on improving their properties before we inspect, which allows us to focus resources on non-compliant properties.  Previously problematic landlords have now started to get on board with the process, the conditions and standards, but we know that compliant landlords are those who have applied so far, which will narrow down the search for the rogue non-compliant landlords.  The software has quickened up  the application process and currently 1,754 licences have been issued and more currently are being processed.  We will continue to put pressure on the Tory government and I hope you will join us to allow the Mayor of London to implement the rent controls and allow us to roll out a landlord licensing scheme across the borough, but I'm not holding my breath because we know what the Tories are like.  Thank you for your question.


Supplementary question:


As a private renter, I find a lot of common ground with what Cllr O’Halloran has said.  I think there's a lot of great work there.  One thing that I want to draw attention to is the London Renters Union manifesto. I think a really sound document, created by renters from across the borough and I know many of us as Councillors at the last election signed a pledge to support their work.  As part of their manifesto one of their calls is to expand selective licensing borough as far and wide as possible across the borough.  Councillor O’Halloran how far do you think we will be able to reach that ambition and will eventually Islington Labour and  Islington Council sign the manifesto and back in full?




Many of my colleagues, and we have our own private renters champion, Cllr Kay, have been doing lots of work.  So I am actually a meeting and we've had several meetings with them to discuss how we can work together, because we are about protecting, so it's important to us.  A resident is a resident, you know and deserve a fair rent, so I will fill you in with progress.


Question (j) from Cllr Russell to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:


The papers to the Executive on 1st September showed that Council tenants and leaseholders living in the 57 council buildings with communal heating systems will be subject to escalating costs for heating and hot water. Can you set out how many buildings with communal heating systems are in each EPC category from A to F?




Thank you Councillor Russell.  The Council holds data for energy performance certificate banding on tenanted homes and those served by communal heating systems.  67% of these are in Band C with a further 0.5% in band B and 22% falling into Band D and 0.6% in Band E.  Individual properties within the buildings receive different ratings according to their particular features and positions within the building. 


We are pursuing funding opportunities to support work to improve the energy performance of residents homes.  However, without improved funding from the Tory government, again, it's extremely difficult to invest as much as we would like into improving our council homes and their energy efficiency.  National statistics demonstrate that social homes generally have better performance than homes in the private rented sector and this is borne out in Islington too.  We have been proactive in the work we do.  We do ensure all homes are insulated in cavity walls and many loft spaces, however, there are some buildings that are much more challenging to carry out improvement measures to and we are piloting new techniques and approaches in street property homes, to better understand how we can apply these to housing stock. 


There is still more we can do and we're committed to improving the performance of blocks.  We have successfully applied for wave one in the social housing decarbonisation fund and will continue to seek future ways of funding and to the green heat networks fund for future proofed homes.  Cyclical improvement works have been commissioned to our communal heated homes as part of the Council's capital programme we are seeking to undertake works to improve the energy performance for all of all our homes under C banding.


Supplementary question:


Obviously, I agree with you entirely that if the Conservative government hadn't decided to stop funding installation, when David Cameron decided to cut the green crap, back in 2012,  we would be looking at a completely different situation right now.  So a couple of things, one is can you give me those numbers in writing because I've written them down, but I haven't necessarily heard every word that you said correctly.  My supplementary question would be, have you got a priority list for when funding does become available, which homes will be insulated and does that priority include buildings with communal heating systems where there are people who are very exposed to energy prices.




I am happy to give any information to any councillors.  We have definitely got programme, we are doing work with UCLH for this and I'm happy to share any finding as a result, but you're right I think the more we could do together, is all to fight to the Tories, so while you stand this in this Chamber it would be really great to just do what you can with us.  I’m always happy to share.


The Mayor announced that the 30 minutes allowed for questions had expired and the remaining questions will receive a written response from the Executive Member.


Question (k) from Cllr Jegorovas-Armstrong to Cllr Woolf, Executive Member for Community Safety:  


Can you update us on the Safe Havens program? How many people have used a safe Haven in Islington?




As the time allowed for questions had expired, it was advised that a written response would be sent. This will be appended to the minutes.


Question (l) from Cllr McHugh to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport:


With fuel prices at near-record highs, the impact on our vital public and community transport providers is proving substantial. In particular, we were saddened to learn of the difficulties faced by HCT Group, a social enterprise, resulting in the withdrawal of the 812 community bus service and the forfeit of several TfL routes to for-profit competitors.


Given this, and the ongoing funding constraints faced by TfL as a consequence of Government austerity, what steps has the Council taken to protect our local transport services and support those residents affected by the cuts, and what further steps need to be taken to protect our transport network from rising costs over the coming months?




As the time allowed for questions had expired, a written response was sent, as follows: 


I agree.  Hackney Community Transport (HCT) has been a really valuable partner to us, not only providing the service but also helping support it financially.


It is very sad that the financial impact of the pandemic, the recent surge in fuel prices, and the cost-of-living crisis have resulted in Hackney Community Transport no-longer being able to operate the 812 bus service. Officers did see whether we could work with HCT to try to save the service but HTC were clear that was not possible.


In those circumstances the action the council could and did take was to communicate the closure of the service as quickly as possible, letting users know and inviting those with concerns to contact the ‘We are Islington’ helpline for advice on alternatives and any other support they need.


Officers are looking at the options now that HCT can no longer run the service and we are looking at how best to support those who rely on the service, and we will be engaging with councillors and local people in due course.


In relation to your broader question about transport services, the 812 was unique in Islington, and we believe across London in that it was a public service over which we have some control.  All other forms of public transport are outside our direct control.


As we have seen in recent months, the severe funding constraints placed on TfL by the Tory Government has put a lot of pressure on TfL and its ability to provide a high-quality public transport network. The recent settlement does not give confidence that pressure of TfL finances will not remain. We have all been concerned about the proposed loss of or degradation a number of bus services in the borough. Colleagues here were very much part of our recent campaign to Stop the Proposed bus cuts which culminated in us delivering the petition to the DfT.


The Council put in a submission to the recent consultation on the proposed bus cuts and will continue to impress upon TfL and the government the importance of reliable and resilient public transport in tackling climate change but also in tackling inequality and fairness. We know that people on lower incomes, older people and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by cuts in particular to bus services. If we are serious about tackling the public health crisis that is caused by air pollution a reliable public transport system is vital. We can offer support to people affected in other ways.


We know that if we make walking, wheeling and cycling safer and more attractive many people will see that as an alternative and that has a huge benefit in terms of health and well being. That is why I am so pleased that for the second year running Islington has achieved the top score among the London boroughs in the Healthy Streets Scorecard ranking.


But walking, wheeling and cycling are often not alternatives to public transport, they are complimentary. And some people can not or do not want to walk or cycle instead of hopping on a bus. We will continue to roll-out of our people-friendly streets programme, continue with active travel initiatives including a network of 500 bike hangars by the end of this financial year, continue to expand free and secure cycle parking on council estates,  continue to support for schools to encourage students to walk and cycle as part of the STARS programme, and continue free cycle training for adults and children in Islington.


We will also continue Our Try Before You Bike scheme allows anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough to try out a new or nearly new bike for a monthly fee to help with the cost of purchasing a bike.


But we will also continue to not just defend our current public transport system but also continue to put pressure on TfL to make it more inclusive and accessible so that all local people can choose it as a sustainable way of travelling. Thank you for posing your question.



Question (m) from Cllr Russell to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:


What is the Council’s timeline for insulating and ventilating every council home in the borough?




As the time allowed for questions had expired, it was advised that a written response would be sent. This will be appended to the minutes.


Question (n) from Cllr Jegorovas-Armstrong to Cllr Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:


What has Islington Council and Islington schools planned for Anti-Bullying Week 2022 (Monday 14th - Friday 18th November)?




As the time allowed for questions had expired, it was advised that a written response would be sent. This will be appended to the minutes.





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