Islington Labour’s 2018 manifesto launch

On Sunday, 25 March I was proud to join Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry to launch Islington Labour’s manifesto for the 2018 local elections.

The Manifesto can be found in detail here.

At the launch I said:

Only eight years ago Lib Dems ran Islington Council. 10 years of wasted opportunities. Cuts, sell-offs and privatisations.

We won control of the Council back in 2010 with a very clear vision. In a borough that was rapidly becoming more unequal we wanted to make Islington a fairer place.

Over last eight years I’m proud of what we’ve achieved:

  • Biggest Council House building programme in 30 years. 2400 new socially rented homes built since 2010.
  • Massive improvement in school results, particularly for working class kids.
  • Introduced universal free school meals for all primary school kids
  • Introduced the Islington Bursary to replace EMA, so cruelly cut by the Tories
  • Brought services, and almost 2000 staff, back in-house
  • We were the first Council in the country to be accredited as a LLW employer, including for our home carers
  • Kept social care for people with moderate needs
  • Not only do we build the first new public owned power station in a century but we’ve now launched Angelic energy, a publicly owned energy supplier.
  • Helped over 4000 unemployed residents into work
  • Found apprenticeships for over 400 young people in 4 years and seen youth unemployment half
  • Helped 10,000 people to reduce their fuel bills, taking many out of fuel poverty altogether
  • Fined dodgy landlords records amounts and set-up an in-house private lettings agency
  • Vitally, we’ve stood up for an open, tolerant and diverse community: the Islington we all know and love where everyone is welcome and everyone can thrive.
  • And all the time we’ve ensured the Council is well run, efficient and listens to its residents. Public confidence in council services has never been higher.

We’ve done all this against a background of a Tory Government that has made record cuts to our funding, tried to privatise services and thrown people into poverty.

I’m very proud of our achievements. I’m also really clear that this isn’t about me, or the Council’s Executive, it’s about all of us: Team Islington Labour. MPs, councillors, members and unions working together to get things done.  We all share the vision about a fairer borough and we all contribute to making it happen: thank you.

After eight years it would be easy to rest on our laurels. To put our feet up and let complacency set in.

But not Islington Labour.

Manifesto we launch today is the longest we’ve ever written. Not because empty rhetoric but because it’s packed full of new ideas to carry on making our borough fairer.  The energy in our party in incredible and we’ve harnessed that to refresh our vision. That’s why we feel confident asking the people of our borough for another 4 years in office.

Our key priorities remain housing, jobs, community safety and the cost of living. They’re still our priorities because they’re still the people of Islington’s priorities.

Our manifesto is jam packed with new ideas:

  • Building at least 550 new council homes, prioritised for local people, as part of delivering 1,900 new genuinely affordable homes during the next 4 years.
  • A crack-down on rogue landlords, starting with a new landlord licensing scheme along Seven Sisters Road and Finsbury Park
  • Giving a say on new housing to people on our housing waiting list, not just the propertied few – the first scheme of it’s kind in the country and a clear statement of just whose side we’re on.
  • A new in-house homelessness outreach services
  • An ‘In-Work Progression’ programme will also help residents facing challenges from in-work poverty to gain new skills through lifelong learning – blazing a trail for the Jeremy’s National Education Service
  • The return of ‘night schools’, so people can learn at a time that suits them. 
  • New affordable workspace to create more jobs for local people, particularly making use of the wasted spaces and abandoned garages on our estates to build homes and create jobs
  • Accepting the recommendation of our Fair Futures Commission to guarantee 100 hours of work-related experience by 16
  • new careers advice in our schools, following the Tories’ cuts to Connexions
  • In yet another first we’ll address ‘holiday hunger’, where some children on FSM go hungry in school holidays, through genuinely affordable holiday clubs with decent food.
  • Tapping into the tremendous cultural opportunities and assets of the borough, the Council will aim for each child in an Islington school to have experienced 11 cultural experiences in the borough by the time they are in Year 11. Giving working class children the opportunities the middle class kids take for granted.
  • Working with our community and public services to reduce the lonliness that ruins so may lives
  • Committing to publish a far more transparent gender pay audit than we have to in law
  • Delivering 400 new electric car charging points over the next 4 years
  • closing some streets outside school to cars at drop-off and pick-up times to improve air quality breathed by our kids
  • Setting ourselves the bold ambition of making the borough energy self-sufficient within a generation, through an expansion of Bunhill Energy Centre-type power plants in the borough, as well as working towards the borough having net zero carbon emissions.
  • Removing the outdated gyratories that disfigure our borough and building new protected cycle routes from Old Street to Clerkenwell Road, along the Camden Road and Seven Sisters Corridor, along the Holloway Road corridor and Upper Street.
  • Installing 400 more bike storage facilities on streets and estates, over the next 4 years.
  • Banning HGVs on residential roads
  • Divest the Council’s pension fund from fossil fuel companies
  • Refuse to do business with any company the engages in modern slavery
  • And introducing a new charitable Fairer Islington Fund paid for a voluntary extra Council Tax band on the most valuable homes.

The list of new ideas goes on.

Keeping children’s centres, libraries, free school meals for all, pensioners council tax discount, weekly bin collections and keeping council tax under the London average.

That’s a radical vision for the future of our borough. It would be easy for austerity to have killed our ambition. It hasn’t. we’re more ambitious now than we’ve ever been before.

We’re also really clear about whose side we’re on. We’ve seen a small amount of noise recently from people campaigning against building genuinely affordable housing in the borough.  I’ll be honest with you that’s going to get louder. Because we’re on the side of people who need homes I’m unapologetic we need to build a lot more homes to end the housing crisis. It’s always easiest to listen to the loudest voices but it’s our job to listen to the voiceless. So I can’t stand here and promise you there won’t be more opposition to new house building. I can promise you that while we’ll always listen and be respectful to those who disagree, we’ll stick to the task of building the affordable homes Islington needs. The housing crisis ruins lives and a victory for Islington Labour in the election will give us a clear mandate to get on and build the homes the 10,000 households in the borough in severe housing need so desperately need.

At the heart of our manifesto is a long-term vision for the future. A radical Labour Council working with, we hope, a radical Labour government to fundamentally break down the unfairness that still so defines life in our borough. 

We want our borough to be a place where good quality social housing is available for those who need it. Where private rented housing is safe, secure and affordable. A borough where young people’s life chances aren’t determined by their background – where everyone can achieve their full potential. Where new world class jobs are open to people from all backgrounds, not just those with the connections and the confidence to get them. Where everyone can enjoy access to the world class culture on our doorstep. Where new technology is embraced by harnessed in the interests of ordinary people. Where our environment is clean and unpolluted. Where kids don’t live in poverty or get groomed into crime. Where public services and accountable and democratic. Where all older people have dignity in retirement and excellent care.

At heart we want a borough for the many, not the few. Islington is a special place and I think we can do it.

You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned other parties locally. We’re going to fight a wholly positive election campaign based on our record and our vision. I’d challenge the other parties in Islington to do the same, because at the moment I think we’re the only people running a positive campaign. Particularly disappointed by attack on the “Labour machine”. Make no mistake they mean you all.  Our party is made up of thousands of ordinary people across our borough. I think it’s fantastic that hundreds of Islington residents are volunteering their time to campaign for what they believe in. What you do makes all the difference.

While I feel really confident about this election nothing is in the bag. Not a single vote has been cast in this election yet. Take nothing for granted. Show no complacency.

The general election sent a shot across the bows of the establishment. To carry on the momentum to a Labour government, we need the council elections to do the same. We need to show them that a radical Labour party is also a popular one. We need to show that fighting austerity and building council houses works. We need to say loudly we want Jeremy and Emily running our country.

Are you up for it?

Do you want to make our borough a fairer place?

Do you want to send Theresa May a message?

Do you want to take a step towards Emily being our Foreign Secretary?

Do you want Islington to show our borough wants Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister?

Then get out there on the doorstep.

Together, let’s make it happen.

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About Cllr Richard Watts

I am the Leader of Islington Council and the Labour councillor for Tollington ward.
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