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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Council


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


Islington has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with "dockless" electric bike operators including Lime (Uber) and Human Forest. What elements of the Memoranda provide the Council with control against irresponsible parking; is the Council prepared to enforce against irresponsible parking using such control; and is the Council prepared to enforce the provisions contained in the September 2018 TfL guide, "Dockless bike share code of practice For Operators in London"?




In the past year there have been 1.5m trips made by dockless hire bikes in Islington, and I believe this plays an important role in making Islington cleaner, greener and healthier working towards our Net Zero Carbon target. With the marked increase in trips last year, we have also seen an uplift in the number of poorly parked bikes causing very significant and understandable concerns amongst residents.


In the medium term, the council is looking at ways of managing this, making it fairer for those using the bikes and those using our pavements. This may include a system of designated parking spaces for dockless hire bikes to help maintain good pavement access.


On your question regarding what elements of the Memoranda provide the Council with control against irresponsible parking, the council has several mechanisms agreed within the memoranda with the three providers, Lime, Tier and Human Forest, to help address this issue.


When notified by the council or individuals, operators are required to remove bikes if badly parked within 1.5 hours between 7.00am and 10.00pm. Operators have a system to fine or ban users, which includes fines for inconsiderate parking, and parking in no parking zones. Operators have a geo-fence system to communicate where rentals can be ended and to prevent a build-up of bikes in an untidy and unsafe manner in popular areas. The council also reserves the right to remove any bikes that cause an obstruction and/or that pose a health and safety risk.


On the second part of your question, yes, the council is using these controls to enforce against irresponsible parking. We work cooperatively with operators to address issues and they have been very responsive to the issues we’ve raised with them, for example creating geo-fenced no parking zones around the RNIB building on Pentonville Road, and most recently around Moorfields Eye Hospital.


The council meets with operators each month to discuss and address issues and concerns. We are now asking operators to proactively identify no parking zones at sensitive locations.

To the final part of your question, the TfL Code of Practice (2018) does not contain any enforcement provisions that are not set out in our Memoranda with the operators. No operators have formally signed up to the Code, it is rather a set of expectations, whereas the operators have signed up to the memoranda with the council.


The TfL Code represents a reasonable set of base level expectations for dockless services but remains advisory as the bike and e-bike rental market remains unregulated.


Supplementary Question:

A small minority of users do not park these bikes in a responsible way. This causes disruption and has a big impact on those with disabilities and impairments. Why aren’t we enforcing against pavement obstruction such as these dumped bikes. Camden and Westminster are doing something about it why aren’t we now, instead of waiting a year.


Thank you. We have an officer working on it and are trying to roll it out as fast as we can.


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


Islington currently has no step free overground stations. This makes it extremely difficult for people with disabilities, parents and others to get around. Whilst I understand this is the responsibility of the Department for Transport (DfT), what is the Council doing to support the bid for Access for All funding to make Crouch Hill Station accessible?



The lack of step free overground stations in Islington is a huge issue that must be tackled urgently. People with disabilities, parents with pushchairs and many more people should be able to use our public transport but this means many cannot use their closest station.  Improving accessibility at Crouch Hill Station remains a key priority for the council. However, this work is likely to require significant funding from TfL and Network Rail. The Department for Transport offers funding to support the delivery of accessibility changes to stations as part of their Access for All programme. The council has previously asked the DfT to fund improvements at Crouch Hill station but unfortunately has not been successful with our bids.


In recent months, we have written to the Department for Transport calling for the funding to be granted, and the Islington Labour councillors for Tollington and Hillrise have been running a campaign to grow support locally.

We are continuing to push for improvements at Crouch Hill Station and in September 2022 the council submitted a joint bid with TfL to the DfT for the provision of two lifts at Crouch Hill station. This would offer step free access between the street and each platform. We expected to hear an announcement from central government in April this year, but this announcement has unfortunately been delayed.

Supplementary Question:

We are disappointed by DfT not to fund step free access at crouch end station. We have had hundreds of residents sign our petition for this. Please join us on writing to the DfT to demand this.


I will.


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


It's positive news that the council is exploring third party operators for Sobell ice rink. Can you give us an update on how these conversations are going?




We know how important the Sobell Leisure Centre is to local people across the borough, and how devastating last year’s flood and the resulting closure of the ground floor has been. It’s really important that we ensure that the rebuilt centre provides a space that local people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy. 


Like councils up and down the country, Islington Council is facing huge financial challenges – due to the cost of living crisis, the huge rise in energy prices, and more than a decade of austerity. That means that, like other councils, we’re having to make difficult decisions.


While it has been a much-loved facility for many residents over the years, the number of visitors to the Sobell Leisure Centre ice rink are low compared to other facilities at the site, and the proposals that we have put forward will help attract more visitors to the site. Furthermore, the opening of larger facilities, such as the new double Olympic-sized rink at Lee Valley and the rink at Alexandra Palace, would have led to a further fall in numbers. 


Throughout the consultation exercise, we’ve been clear that we’re listening to local people, while also stating the challenges that reinstating the ice rink would pose.


Regarding alternative operators for the ice rink, the Council has met with two external, commercial operators and the Sobell Ice Skating Club and those discussions have given all parties a better understanding of some of the issues. It also visited an ice rink of similar size to gather more information about its programming, maintenance, and operations. There is no outcome from this yet. The information and insight that officers have gained from these meetings will be used to help inform the final decision on the future of the Sobell Leisure Centre in the coming weeks.


Supplementary Question:

I understand there is financial pressure. However, I thought the council would be more optimistic with an upcoming election. Do you not think that finances will improve under a Labour government?

Response (from Cllr Ward):

Over the past decade, our council has faced a substantial reduction of 70% in funding, leaving us with just 30% to run all services. Despite these challenging circumstances, we have remained committed to safeguarding essential front-line services. While we are dedicated to preserving sports programs, the current financial constraints necessitate difficult decisions. It was disappointing the opposition voted against our budget. Please work with us not against us in the future.


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


How much compensation has the council paid out to council tenants and leaseholders each year since 2018 due to disrepair?



Ensuring our council tenants have the best possible homes is a top priority for our council. The service invested £42million in repairs and maintenance completing 88,000 repairs in 22-23. The council invests approximately £45m in addition to this improving homes through our capital program.


In a time of continuing government austerity which has seen us have to make £300 million of savings since 2010, we would love to invest even more in our repairs and maintenance programme but it isn’t possible. We know that some residents have repairs that we don’t manage fix in time and as a result, we pay compensation to those tenants.


The Council has paid an average of £130,000 per year in damages since 2018. An increase in recent years is seen to be due to a combination of increased workloads, resolving a number of historic PFI cases and an increase in claims farming. I am happy to forward a table of the exact amounts.


Islington along with other local authorities is seeing an increase in legal cases from claim management companies encouraging residents to submit and pursue disrepair claims. We want every resident to enjoy a decent home, so we are working hard to improve our repairs service and invest in our stock to prevent disrepair.


Supplementary Question:

£130,000 a year that could be better spent on upgrading systems for managing repairs. It is important the systems and processes work well. Can you try to shift that investment instead of compensation so we can upgrade the systems to manage all the housing repair cases?


We are working to reduce these cases, but we cannot stop claim management companies encouraging residents to submit claims.


Question (e) from Cllr Jegorovas-Armstrong to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:


Under Estate Management the council states, "Your Estate Services team will inspect each estate thoroughly at various frequencies over a 12 month period for: cleaning standards, safety and repairs standards in communal areas" How many estates have had an estate inspection in 2022, how many have not had an inspection and what percentage is this of the whole number of estates applicable?



Ensuring our council tenants have the best possible homes is a top priority for our council. This is why we regularly inspect our estates to ensure they are clean, well-kept and any issues are addressed.


I’m proud to say that all council managed estates and purpose-built blocks received an inspection for cleaning, safety, and repairs during 2022. From 1st January 2022 to 31st December 2022, we carried out a total of 15,313 inspections averaging 1,276 a month.


Supplementary Question:

I am proud of our estates too. When these scheduled checks are taking place can they be uploaded so not only councillors but residents can see when they have taken place?


Thank you. Residents also go out and do inspections and I am very proud of what our estate services teams do.


Question (f) from Cllr Staff to Cllr Woolf, Executive Member for Community Safety:


What steps is the Council is taking to ensure LGBT+ residents and visitors to the borough continue to feel safe and welcome, including addressing incidents of LGBT+ hate crime?



Hate Crime has no place in Islington, and we support tough action against those who perpetrate hate and fear against marginalised communities.

We saw last month, during Pride Month, the impact our large LGBT+ community has in our borough and the we take their safety incredibly seriously.


We have a wide range of approaches we take to tackling hate crime and keeping people safe, including having over 300 safe havens and our regular safer spaces discussions.


We are also supporting the independent, community-led, Islington Hate Crime Forum to give communities a voice in how the council and police are tackling hate crime, we have developed the Hate Crime Prevention Champion scheme, where members of the community com together to tackle discrimination by raising awareness of hate crime, encouraging the reporting of hate crime and signposting victims to support services, and we encourage people who live, work and socialise in Islington to sign the Islington Hate Crime Pledge, to encourage everyone to unite against hate crime.

We also work closely with the Metropolitan Police to understand the nature of hate crimes in Islington and with Forum+ to understand the nature of LGBT+ hate crimes in Islington and look at how we can improve our services to ensure victims feel listened to and supported. But there is always more we can do, and we are happy to work with anyone who is keen to tackle hate crime in our borough.


Supplementary Question:

How is the council working with the Police to improve this?


There have been a range of things. We are central to negotiations and consultations to the Met Police turn-around plan. When the Baroness Casey report landed, we demanded tangible action plan. We are the only Borough to have a 10-point action plan from the Police. There is a strong understanding with the Police that we are clear on expectations.


Question (g) from Cllr Bossman-Quarshie to Cllr Bell-Bradford, Executive Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs:


Many people who rely on cash have a low income, or other vulnerability, including visible and invisible disabilities such as low motor skills. Since the pandemic, shops and services increasingly only accept cards as a method of payment and research by Which? showed 1 in 5 consumers have been stopped from making cash payments for items such as groceries, small purchases in shops and refreshments. How will the Council support an inclusive economy and encourage our local SMEs to accept cash from customers?



We know that many small, local businesses and some groups of residents prefer to use cash. It is easier to manage for a number of reasons and doesn’t have the ability to eat into business profits in the same way as card payments, which incur fees.


The Bank of England noted in late 2022 that, while Covid has had a lasting impact, with some permanent shifts in payment habits towards digital payment methods, surprisingly cash use has proved resilient. This is promising.

To underpin this resilience, we will commit to ensuring that council-run facilities and services continue to accept cash. We will also work with business groups to encourage local businesses to continue to accept cash.

Digital payments just don’t work for everyone.  And if there is cash, people and small businesses are empowered.


The Mayor advised that the time for questions had expired and the remaining questions would receive a written response.


Question (h) from Cllr Cinko-Oner to Cllr O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities:


Over the last few months, we’ve seen how the cost-of-living crisis has made it difficult for people to heat their homes, causing issues with damp and mould. What is the Council doing to support people to reduce condensation and moisture in their homes, as well as reduce some of the financial strain they are currently facing?


Written Response:

Thank you for your question Ilkay, this is a very important issue that the Council is doing lots of work to tackle.


The cost-of-living crisis and the issue of damp and mould go hand-in-hand. When money is tight, people put their heating on less, leading to more damp and mould issues.


The cause of damp and mould can be from a variety of factors such as fuel poverty. We are currently investigating current cases and three years of historical cases to identify which causes are most common on certain estates so resources can target assisting our tenants.


The council has been given over £3 million in Social Housing Decarbonisation funding to contribute to a £7.5million programme to invest in our street properties and harder-to-insulate homes making them easier for tenants to keep warm and free from damp and mould.


The council is also funding and working with SHINE and VCS groups to ensure the best advice and assistance is there for tenants.


I’m proud that our council is also investing in direct support for people to avoid them washing their clothes in their home and reducing the risk of damp and mould. The new free community launderette on the Andover Estate will help residents with cost of living, and help reduce damp and mould in homes. It has already had a lot of local people using it since it opened, and I hope many more will in the coming months.


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


Thames Water's disastrous flooding of the Sobell has resulted in the ice rink being destroyed, instead it is proposed that it will continue in a different form but still as the Islington people's sport centre. Is the planned extension of the activity area more sustainable economically and environmentally than continuing with an ice rink?


Written Response:


We’re determined to create a more equal Islington, and we work hand-in-hand with local people so that they can help shape the borough they live in. 

We know how important the Sobell Leisure Centre is to local people, and we’ve run a major public consultation so that local people can help shape the future of the site. 


While it has been a much-loved facility for many residents over the years, the number of visitors to the Sobell Leisure Centre ice rink is low compared to other facilities at the site. The opening of the new double Olympic-sized rink at Lee Valley and the new rink at Alexandra Palace would likely lead to a further fall in usage.


Like councils up and down the country, we’re facing huge financial challenges from the cost-of-living crisis, the rise in energy prices, and more than a decade of austerity.


The proposals would see a significant increase in user numbers to the Sobell Centre enabling a wider range of people to be active more often. It would be a more financially viable facility as well because of the numbers of users it would attract. This would also support other community sports offers at the centre as new users are exposed to different programmes that are on offer.

Thank you for posing your question, I hope my response clarifies the position.


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


The Holloway Prison site development is underway, and residents have highlighted issues concerning noise and dust. What is the Council doing to hold the developer, Peabody to account and mitigate noise and pollution on the site so it doesn’t affect nearby residents?


Written Response:

Thank you for your question Gulcin and for your continued support of your residents in Tufnell Park.


The Holloway Prison Site development will bring hundreds of much-needed new genuinely affordable and social homes to our borough, which I know we are both very excited to see.


We also know that large developments can be disruptive to local residents so, to ensure that the development is being carried out in accordance with the planning controls and national legislation, the council employs a Construction Monitoring Impact Officer. This officer regularly visits the site, has access to monitoring information and is in very regular dialogue with the developer and residents to manage any adverse impacts on the local area.

We are aware of recent incidents of noise and dust nuisance and have therefore met directly with the developer to set out expectations and address concerns.


A subsequent residents meeting was organised to ensure that issues could be raised directly with the developer, which we both attended. The developer has committed to further consultation with residents regarding noisy works. Additional monitoring has been provided at the site and further mitigation measures, including measures to address dust, have been implemented. The council has also underlined the importance of good communication with residents and transparency in relation to the sharing of monitoring data.

In addition to this, the Council has served a formal notice on the developer under the Control of Pollution Act. This requires strict adherence to permitted construction hours, defines measures for reducing noise and vibration, implements quiet periods during construction hours and requires appropriate liaison with residents. 


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


The European flag is the flag which defends human rights and promotes European culture. Other European institutions - such as local governments - were encouraged to adopt the European flag, and thereby stand in solidarity with the ideals of European unity and defenders of human rights - freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law, promoting peace and stability. Therefore, please could we show the true colours of Islington and its people by flying the flag as we are Europeans and defenders of human rights and culture?


Written Response:

Thank you for your question, Clare. I completely agree that Islington is European and believes in the traditions of freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law, promoting peace and stability.


At the referendum in 2016, Islington voted to Remain with 75% of local people choosing to stay in the EU. I’m sure that this figure has increased since, having seen the disaster the Tories have made of Brexit. Sadly, while we would love to fly the European flag at certain times of the year, the Tory Government took the disgraceful decision of banning this in 2021. I know the GLA recently faced this problem when hoping to fly the flag on the anniversary of the referendum. The decision to ban the flying of the flag is in complete contradiction to the values of Islington and the EU, as you have stated.


Thank you for your question and I hope our response clarifies the position.


Question (l) from Cllr Bossman-Quarshie to Cllr Ngongo, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families:


In light of Child Q, what is the Council doing to ensure we are safeguarding young Black girls?


Written Response:

Thank you for your question, Val. We were all horrified by the Child Q incident which took place in Hackney last year and we are committed to ensuring our services are safe for all our young people, including young Black girls.


Following the publication of the review into the case, the Islington Safeguarding Children Partnership formulated an action plan based on the recommendations made in the report. This was used to analyse our local services and to ensure that we have effective services in place for Black girls and children from minority backgrounds.


As part of this, we have reinforced the responsibilities of practitioners to advocate for, and on behalf of, the children they are working with/who are in their care as part of their training. We also sought assurances from the Police regarding the amount of strip searches conducted in the education settings. Central North Police reviewed their data and in 2020 there were 6 Stop & Searches in a school environment. In 2021 4 stop and search were conducted and there were none for 2022 or in 2023 so far.


Another of the recommendations was to develop an awareness raising programme across schools and colleges about stop and search activity by the police. Senior officers at Central North Police (who have specific responsibility for Safer Schools, YET officers) have ensured that all officers have been briefed about Child Q so that no Black girls in the borough are subjected to the same appalling treatment. School Safety Officers are also delivering workshops to Black girls and other children and young people about their rights and ‘know your rights cards’ are shared with young people to understand this area further.


In addition to this, the Council’s Children’s Services department is working hard to help safeguard Black girls from harm and exploitation. We commission two Young Women and Girls workers from the organisation Abianda, working alongside Council staff to safeguard and support young women and girls affected by criminal exploitation and violence. We also have a range of services in our Targeted Youth Support team aimed at young Black people to keep them safe.


I hope you are assured that we are working hard to ensure that nothing like this ever happens in Islington, and hopefully never happens again anywhere.


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