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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


Question (a) from Sebastian Sandys to Cllr Ward, Executive Member for Finance, Planning and Performance:  

How many Islington council taxpayers had the Single Person Discount to which they are entitled removed from their account in December after they failed to notice or respond to a single email sent in November that had no follow up. And might officers time be better used in future years by making short reminder telephone calls than by first removing the discount and issuing a new bill and then reinstating it and issuing a third bill once people notice.



Thank you for your question, Sebastian. Of the 4,645 residents sent an email review notice at the start of November 2022, a total of 1,692 were removed at the end of November 2022 as they were ineligible or did not respond to the review request.  We reinstated 697 following later representation from residents. The Service intention is to issue reminder alerts after the initial notices for future reviews. The review highlighted approx. 1k residents in band E to H range properties were no longer eligible for the reduction. Thank you again for your question.


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

As the new Liveable Neighbourhood schemes are rolled out across the borough, what is the plan for the existing 7 Low Traffic Neighbourhoods? Will they also benefit from investment to make them into Liveable Neighbourhoods?



Thank you for your question, Rebekah. As you know, our council is committed to creating a cleaner, greener, healthier Islington. Poor air quality kills thousands of Londoners every day and the time to tackle the climate emergency has long passed. Our people-friendly streets schemes are having a real positive impact. Air quality is improving, the number of people cycling has increased and traffic is falling within the neighbourhoods and on most boundary roads.


In our manifesto for the 2022 Local Elections, we committed to fully consult and co-design a range of Liveable Neighbourhoods across the borough, making changes to reduce car use and introduce more greening. Hundreds of people have joined recent meetings to hear about our plans and have their say on their local area. Thank you for joining me at some of them.

As part of these plans, the council is committed to uplifting the 7 PFS neighbourhoods which were delivered to make them liveable neighbourhoods. This will include implementing greening improvements, people-friendly pavements, child friendly pavements public realm improvements, boundary road improvements, and improvements near businesses.  The council has already started with some of this work with the delivery of Clerkenwell Green Public realm scheme, Charlton Place environmental improvements scheme, Cleveland Road Islington Greener together scheme and the improvements of numerous pavements across the 7 areas. The council is working on the delivery of the new liveable neighbourhoods schemes with the intention to return to the already delivered areas in 2025 to make them even better. Thank you again for your question Rebekah.


Question (c) from William Batemen to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport:   

Why have the council decided not to notify residents that their parking permits are due to expire? Notification one month before expiry by both email and by letter would be courteous and in line with caring for the community and the residents that live here.



Thank you for your question, William. Parking services are continuing to notify residents when their parking permits are due to expire. A small issue occurred at the beginning of February when the parking permits moved to a new system, there was a slight delay in the reminder notices being sent out by post and email to residents. This error has now been rectified. Permit reminder notices will continue be sent out sent out via email to all customers who have an email account and sent out in writing to those who do not. Thank you again for your question.


Question (d) from John Ackers to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport:

Lambeth Council say in their critically received 2023 Kerbside Strategy policy 1.4 that 'Cycle parking spaces are always cheaper than all residential parking permits'. Meanwhile Islington has the most expensive bikehangar spaces in London. Cyclists have been told that the council would 'invest in secure cycle storage with enough space to meet demand'.  However, there are 3000+ people on the waiting list for a space.  When will the review of Islington bikehangar charges mentioned by officers in the most recent Environment and Regeneration Committee be complete?



Thank you for your question John. Islington Council is determined to support more local people to take up cycling, helping up take cars off the road and tackle the climate emergency. We are investing £450,000 to deliver 100 bike hangars with 600 new cycle parking spaces each year. So far, we have an on-street network of 488 hangars and are on track to achieve our target of 500 hangars by the end of March 2023. In the two years to March 2023, we will have delivered 260 hangars with 1,560 new spaces – a great achievement and a positive step towards encouraging cycling across the borough, particularly for those who don’t have the space in their homes to store a bike. Having written to all people on the waiting list recently, we currently have 2,000 people on the waiting list, a significant reduction from the nearly 7,000 people waiting in March 2022. This is still a significant number of people waiting and we are committed to continue to tackle this by providing enough bike hangar space to meet demand by 2026, as included in the Islington Labour manifesto for the 2022 local elections.


The council is reviewing the charges it makes to rent a bike hangar space. This is not straightforward, as the council does not subsidise the cost of renting a hangar space, and the charges we make also helps contribute towards their repair, maintenance and renewal. As we continue to tackle the government austerity which has seen the Council forced to make nearly £300 million of budget savings since 2010, we have to make sure every penny counts. The council is working on introducing a new digital platform in the summer of 2023, which will improve the efficiency of the service and help reduce some of the operational costs. This in turn will help us complete the review of charges. At the same time, it is worth highlighting that the council offers secure bike parking on its estates free of charge for our estate residents. There are currently more than 2,500 spaces in secure cycle parking facilities on estates, - including an additional 110 bike hangars. Thank you again for your question John.


Question (e) from Louisa Hillwood to Cllr Champion, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport:     

Islington has taken impressive climate action since declaring a climate emergency in 2019. In December of 2020 the council agreed to serve only vegetarian food at catered meetings and events. This was a commendable landmark decision. However, two years have passed, and the climate and ecological crises continue to become more critical. While the council has acknowledged the devastating impact that meat production has on the environment, it is yet to recognise the impact of dairy. When compared to plant-based milk, dairy causes around three times as much greenhouse gas emissions; uses around ten times as much land; two to twenty times as much freshwater; and creates much higher levels of eutrophication. According to an Oxford University study, switching to a plant-based diet is the single most effective thing an individual can do to reduce their environmental impact. Not only do plant-based diets reduce emissions, but they also require one quarter less fresh water, 76% less farmland, and reduce acidifying and eutrophying emissions which degrade land and water ecosystems.

Other councils such as Oxfordshire County, Cambridge City, Exeter, Faversham and Hythe have made commitments to serve fully plant-based food at catered meetings and events. In London, Lewisham has done the same. I’d like to see Islington take the next logical step by committing to serve only plant-based fare at catered meetings and events for which it is responsible. Not only will going fully plant-based reduce the council’s own emissions, but it will help to normalise plant-based eating across the borough. By leading the way, the council has the opportunity to encourage wider plant-based dietary shifts, which scientific consensus shows is an essential and effective way to address the climate crisis.


Given the climate emergency and Islington Borough Council’s commitment to reducing emissions in line with the Vision 2030 strategy, will the council consider committing to serving fully plant-based fare at any future catered meetings and events? This will be a positive and forward-thinking step, bringing its food policy into line with its other climate-aware policies.




Thank you for your question, Louisa. As you say, Islington Council is taking great steps in cutting carbon emissions and tackle the climate emergency, something I am extremely proud of.


We are working hard to reduce reliance on motor vehicles, get more people walking and cycling, retrofitting homes and businesses, electrifying our council fleet and moving to cleaner energy, among so many other things. You are right that, globally, meat and dairy production creates a lot of emissions. I am very happy to confirm that, except for meals at the Assembly Hall which you will appreciate is a very different section of the council, we have already committed ourselves to only providing vegetarian food, a move we made a number of years ago. While we don’t serve plant-based food only, I am happy to investigate this possibility in future. The council also no longer provides beverages for most internal meetings and therefore milk is not generally provided. Thank you again for your question Louisa.


Question (f) from Jonny Evans to Cllr Turan, Executive Member for Health and Social Care:   

At this time, I believe that the matter of funding a new community space in Tollington Ward’s only significant park in Wray Crescent is going to be discussed at the full council meeting on March 2. As we understand it, the original plan at this location faced significant local opposition, as a result of which the project as originally proposed foundered and is now up to full council for review.


Given a significant number of local people were opposed to the original plans on the grounds of lack of consultation, how does repeating such lack of consultation reflect LBI’s constitutional commitments to ensuring the decisions it takes lead to improvements in quality of service, community representation, and increasing community engagement, given that the plans we believe may be proposed at this meeting haven’t at this time been discussed with local people to any sincere extent?


I would respectfully ask that this project be put aside pending thorough consultation with the people of Tollington as to what they need from this precious green space, which is one of very few in Islington, a borough with less public park space than any other in the UK. Having already encountered such resistance from the local community, why is LBI now raising this matter to achieve funding from a full council meeting without having first consulted with the local community concerning its revised plans?



Thank you for your question, Jonny. Islington Council is determined to provide high-quality, accessible leisure and park families for local people across the borough. That includes the Wray Crescent pavilion where we are working with the community to provide the only cricket families in the borough and ensure the park is accessible for non-cricket players.


The scheme that was fully consulted on in 2021 has been subject to a financial review due to the inflationary cost pressures that all construction projects are currently grappling with. The full consultation report is available on the Council website which shows that although there were concerns and objections to the proposed scheme, the proposal also had a substantial level of support from the local community.


Following this review, further capital allocations were required to enable the project to proceed. This year’s Budget, as we are looking to pass this evening, will agree additional capital allocations to the project to enable it to proceed to the next stage. While the Council’s budget pressures as a result of austerity make delivering significant projects harder, we determined to ensure Wray Crescent goes ahead with the best scheme possible, and I know the Tollington councillors feel the same. The Council will share the final proposals and engage with the community and key stakeholders prior to submitting for planning permission later in the year. Thank you again for your question Jonny.


Question (g) from Lynne Friedli to Cllr Turan, Executive Member for Health and Social Care:


A report from Age UK London revealed that 81% of Londoners would be more likely to visit shops, cafes, and businesses if public toilet provision were better. Has the Council conducted a local population needs assessment on the level of public toilet provision that is required to meet the needs of Islington residents? If a needs assessment has not been undertaken, what plans are in place to conduct a needs assessment to ensure that public toilet provision in Islington is adequate?



Thank you for your question, Lynne. The Islington Labour manifesto for the 2022 Local Elections included a commitment to implement an access to toilets scheme, working with local businesses to allow people to use their toilets when out and about. I am delighted to say that we have just started this, working with Toilets4London in identifying the provision of publicly accessible toilets via the Toilets4London app. We currently have over 60 locations on this platform and we are working with local businesses to open toilet provision across the borough. On top of that, we also recently committed to spend £1 million to replace our automated public toilets, to ensure that access to toilets is fair and equal across Islington. Thank you again for your question Lynne.







Question (h) from Simon Carruth to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:

Does the Council believe that the proposed programme of major works for Charles Rowan House, Margery Street represents a responsible use of public funds and a fair and humane attitude towards leaseholders living in the estate, given that:

-        The double-glazed replacement windows which account for about two-thirds of the contract cost work out at a cost of about £4,000 per window.

-        As a result, the cost imposed on a leaseholder with a three-bedroom flat is estimated by the Council to be about £41,000.

-        This is happening at a time of cost-of-living crisis when most leaseholders, like most of the general public, are experiencing a real-terms reduction in their income.

-        There is a viable alternative way of providing the necessary improvement in insulation of the flats at a fraction of the cost – namely installing secondary glazing which can be done from inside the flats and does not require replacement of the window frames or cause any issues in respect of the listed building status of Charles Rowan House.

-        Although it is often claimed that double glazing is significantly more efficient at reducing heat loss, good secondary glazing can reduce heat loss by up to 65%.  It also provides excellent noise reduction and causes less condensation and damp problems than double glazing.  It is recommended for historic and listed buildings because it does not change the external appearance of the building.

-        Several of the leaseholders in the estate already have secondary glazing, so they will not experience any noticeable improvement in insulation in return for the vast cost imposed on them, yet the Council refuses to allow them to opt out of this wasteful scheme.

-        Although there is standard protocol whereby leaseholders in Council buildings can apply for a Deed of Variation to take responsibility for their own windows, the Council will not allow applications in this case because they say the deadline has passed.


Thank you for your question, Simon. The Council invests a lot of money in ensuring that our council homes are in the best possible condition. That includes cyclical works which provide better homes for local people and include retrofitting which reduces carbon emissions and saves residents money on their energy bills.


We know that the proposed works at Charles Rowan House represent a significant investment in the property. A main component of this cost is the window replacement which currently are single glazed units and form a major part of the listed status of the building. A great deal of work has been undertaken with Planners to agree a suitable replacement to these windows with an aluminium alternative. This alternative has now received listed building approval following the review of a pilot installation on site. An important benefit of the agreed aluminium window is that they will not require the cyclical decoration currently required to the existing units.


The works identified are based on need, if the work is required, and it is our obligation to undertake, then Islington will meet its landlord requirements.

The installation of secondary glazing is an option leaseholders already have and, as you point out, some leaseholders have installed. Islington would not install secondary glazing to leasehold flats because the installation would be undertaken within the demised premises and Islington has no right or obligation to undertake such work. In addition, the installation of secondary glazing would not negate the need to maintain and decorate the existing windows as per our obligations on a 7-10 year cycle. Thank you again for your question Simon.


Question (i) from Mike Sanderson to Cllr Turan, Executive Member for Health and Social Care

In a response to Councillor Russell on the provision of public toilets in Islington, Councillor Champion said there are ‘a number of toilets that are open to the public… which number 40 sites with a variety of facilities.’ Will the Council provide a full list of locations and opening times for these facilities and make this information publicly available including in hard-copy format for residents without internet access?



Thank you for your question, Mike. It’s vital Islington has good, accessible public toilets, so residents and visitors can take part in all that our fantastic borough has to offer. Work is well under way on action to make sure Islington gets the public toilet network it needs. Over the next two years, we will invest more than £1 million in good public toilets across Islington, with a further £200,000 of national Changing Places funding, awarded specifically to create better accessible facilities. We will replace the old automated public toilets in Islington, that are now near the end of their working lives. It’s hard to find spare parts for these old toilets when they have a fault, and they’re also vulnerable to anti-social behaviour. The current situation, where old toilets are regularly fixed and then quickly go out of service again, isn’t good enough, and we’re very sorry for the inconvenience it causes. We will replace these old facilities with modern, accessible, reliable automated toilets.


Also, as I mentioned earlier, we’re launching a new programme to work with local businesses and local organisations to encourage sign up to the Toilets4London app, which gives details of toilets in the community that are available for people to use. This excellent app is really helpful, with more than 50 toilet locations listed in Islington, enabling people to plan their day better and stay out and about longer. Many Islington Council locations – like Islington Town Hall, 222 Upper Street, and libraries – are already included on the app, which is used increasingly widely by people out and about in London. Businesses and other groups can make a real difference to their local community by getting involved. Thank you again for your question Mike.


Question (j) from John McGeachy On behalf of Cornelius McAfee to Cllr Turan, Executive Member for Health and Social Care

In a letter to the Islington Tribune, Councillor Turan and Councillor Khondoker pledged that the Council will replace all of Islington’s automated toilets with accessible facilities as part of a more than £1million investment in provision in Islington. Residents who require more frequent toilet visits (in particular, older residents and/or those living with certain health conditions) have been forced to limit their time outside or forego leaving the house at all. With works on site initially scheduled for the first quarter of 2023, can the Council provide an update on whether work has started; if the new replacements be themselves automated; and clarify what timescale residents can expect for its delivery?



I will just be repeating myself here from the previous response, but I want to make clear the Council are Committed to providing accessible toilets to everyone so people can go out with confidence they will be able to access a toilet when out in the borough free of charge.


Question (k) from Leonie Philip to Cllr Bell-Bradford, Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs:

It is welcome that the replacement of seven toilets in the Borough will include a planning maintenance contract which will be 3 years with an option of a 2-year extension.  Does this contract include the employment of toilet attendants paid at a London Living Wage with good working conditions?  Is improvement of public toilet provision viewed as an opportunity to offer good jobs in the Borough?  These jobs should pay a decent living wage, decent pension scheme, training to improve their prospects.



Thank you for your question, Leonie. As Cllr Champion has mentioned, we will invest more than £1 million in good public toilets across Islington, with a further £200,000 of national Changing Places funding, awarded specifically to create better accessible facilities. On top of this, we are working on the Toilets4London scheme with local businesses. As a Council, we are determined to ensure everyone is paid a fair wage. We have paid the real Living Wage to our workers since 2013 and last year we became a Living Wage Borough.  The 7 toilets that are being replaced will not have attendants as they are 24hrs automated toilets but the Chapel market toilets who do have attendants are paid above the London Living Wage. Thank you again for your question Leonie.


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