Why do I want to stand for the Council - again?


Local activism runs in my background. I come from a strong Labour family and have been politically active since the early 1970s. I have lived in Islington for over 25 years and been resident in this neighbourhood for the last 8 years. I am currently chair of Governors at Copenhagen Primary School and was a founder member of our local residents association, of which I am also chair. I served as a Labour Councillor in Islington between 1990 and 1998, having had responsibility for economic development and latterly serving for 4 years as the Finance chair. Recently I have taken on the chair of the Caledonian Safer Neighbourhood Panel and I have been determined in this role to really ensure that local policing priorities reflect the community priorities – and get more police officers, better youth provision, family support, better CCTV and deterrence of crime and anti social behaviour.


Put simply, my vision for a better Islington is one driven by a single goal: social justice and community cohesion - resulting in a less divided Borough. Even within Caledonian ward, we live in a place that has growing social tension caused by:


o     streets and estates that are blighted by physical decay just hundreds of yards from places with pristine environmental standards.

o     those who are increasingly affluent living cheek by jowl with those left in poverty;

o     rapid growth in jobs – yet many are beyond the reach of residents causing enduring economic inactivity and a growth in the working poor;

o     neighbourhoods where poor health conditions mean that residents have considerably shorter life expectancy than in adjoining streets

o     low educational attainment that leads to continuing inter-generational poverty


I want us to play a new active role in local leadership to deliver good quality services to everyone, but to concentrate on meeting the needs of our less affluent population and needier neighbourhoods. Political management of the Council is no longer just about

the efficient delivery of “Council services”. In the future it must be about supplying leadership that shapes and determines priorities for all public services in our neighbourhoods. That is the clear difference between Labour and the Lib Dems.


When Labour effectively lost control of the Council in 1998, it did not surprise me. The last few years of the Tories – and the first year of the Blair Government – were a very tough time for Islington. Every single year, the Council’s budget was stressed-out and most of my time as Chair of Finance seemed to be a constant process of cutbacks in spending and services.


The Lib Dems could not have taken over at a more perfectly timed moment for them: since then, the Council’s support from central government has grown by a staggering amount. Revenue support is up by 40% and capital grants have more than trebled as the

Labour Government money has poured into the Borough. It’s no surprise that services have improved – the least popular have been privatised and more popular ones have benefited from new investment. A Labour Government has really delivered for this Borough – especially in healthcare and education.


Yet, the Lib Dems have failed massively. It staggers me that Islington is still making financial cuts. I am outraged by how much the Lib Dems deliberately bias in favour of the affluent parts of the Borough. I am shocked at how anti-family their policies are. I am furious that the Lib Dems simply fail to understand the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour. I am incensed at how the Lib Dems are letting commercial developers cash-in on the rising land values in Islington – with utterly inadequate community benefits. And I despair every time I hear the Lib Dems pat their own backs for things a Labour Government has done for Islington – never mind how the local Councillors have the gall to claim credit for things Rupert Perry got for this neighbourhood!


The LibDems were convinced Bridget Fox would easily win the Parliamentary

seat in 2005 and Labour inflicted a defeat on the Lib Dems that they took very badly. Now their winning momentum is halted, the spotlight turns to their performance in local government. After 6 years, they have become arrogant and out-of-touch. Many of their policies have back-fired and their reserve of goodwill is depleted. Locally, the 3 Ward Councillors have not “clicked” with residents and they have acquired a reputation for being pretty lazy. They lack the community leadership skills that animate voters – especially tenants on the major estates.


Over the last couple of years I kept finding myself thinking “we can do better than this”. That’s why I decided to seek election once again – to really do something decisive about the quality of public services in this Borough and to make sure they benefit the less prosperous majority who live here.


I hope I can therefore offer a combination of personal commitment, experience, good political judgement and original thinking to the challenge of winning for this neighbourhood in May 2006.


I hope that Labour’s message will prove to be visionary and convincing. I want us to campaign on a platform that promotes equality, opportunity and tackles discrimination and disadvantage. That is what we believe in and it’s what voters expect from us.


There’s an instinctive pro-Labour electorate in this Ward but a sizeable part has been disillusioned by Labour nationally and still has negative memories of our years running the Council. We must win-over new supporters and persuade doubters to stick with Labour. We must promise changes that strike a chord with what Labour voters really want. In this Ward especially, that means an emphasis on:


Educational achievement – I want us to concentrate resources on the primary schools that educate children from less affluent streets and estates.


Early years childcare – we must extend the benefits of Surestart to ensure fuller coverage of all the hard-pressed families in this Ward.


Public safety – I want local policing that reflects the community and is sensitive to local needs, community and is sensitive to local needs, backed-up with a Neighbourhood Warden service and sensible use of CCTV


Youth services – we need tougher application of powers to crack-down on anti-social behaviour, but we must also invest substantially in diversionary services that give young people more activity and re-engage them with learning, work and restore the norms of orderly and respectful social behaviour


Excessive development – the Borough has to stop buckling under pressure from developers and resist the drive towards unsustainable housing density; I want Islington to have consistently applied planning policies


Housing crisis – amidst the property boom are thousands of families and single people seeking to be affordably housed; a minimum 50% of all new housing should be affordable or socially rented.


Environmental challenges – the Lib Dems have “top-sliced” £2m from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund to finance a glory-project, the “A1Borough” which clean-ups Holloway Road/Upper Street and would massively cut vehicle traffic on this main route. It’s outrageous that funding for this Ward has been siphoned-off – and a disgrace that other traffic-choked routes like Caledonian Road are sidelined.


Touchstone issues

Over the coming months, voters will want to know exactly where we stand on critical decisions facing the Council. Be assured that, on some of the bell-weather issues, I stand for:


Decent homes – Government stimulated investment has poured into the Borough’s public housing stock and management standards have improved. But thousands of tenants are apprehensive about transfer of their homes to housing associations and are resentful about being arm-twisted into changing their landlord. I think we must listen to tenants and give them a genuine choice between RSLs and continued tenancy with the Council


Diversity – we live in one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in the Borough. Local political leadership must make extra efforts to promote integration and cohesion at a time of rising antagonism in our neighbourhood. We have a special obligation towards our neighbours who are of the Muslim faith to ensure they enjoy peace and security in their daily lives.


Outsourcing – over the last ten years, huge swathes of public services have been privatised and I believe the time is right to seriously review the effectiveness of outsourcing. Most private contractors might be cheaper, but do they really offer a public service ethos? Most residents appreciate public services that are more responsive and individualised, but the private sector has no monopoly on “customer focus”. I think it’s time to actively consider bringing some services back in-house.


The education authority – this is the largest single piece of outsourcing and was forced upon the Borough after many years of weak management. Although there is a risk that the Lib Dems will fast-forward the decision to re-contract with CEA, I want us to seriously consider the case for returning the education authority more directly to the Council and run a joint education authority with Camden.


New secondary schools – as the population grows, we clearly need at least one further secondary school. But I do not support the current plan for a Church of England sponsored Academy and believe we should be looking more widely at different ways of bringing educational investment into the Borough – and having a pretty hard look at where any new school should be located.


Council finances and local taxation – It is essential that we keep Council Tax close to the London average. Almost a third of working-age households in Islington pay more in Council Tax than Income Tax. For many people on modest occupational pensions, Council Tax represents a huge dent in their income. Instead, we need to strengthen the Council’s taxbase and benefit from new initiatives which will let us retain a larger share of Islington’s business rates.


Councillors’ remuneration – the public is rightly outraged at the Lib Dem gravy train. It is essential we promise to peg remuneration to an average wage in London. But I also doubt how many Executive Councillors really need to spend their entire time engaged in Council business – we should get a “job evaluation” study undertaken to see really how much time is needed. I think that having full-time Councillors is generally unhealthy – and I want to see a “timesheet” system like in Tower Hamlets whereby all Councillors account for their activity.


Traffic management and parking control – have massively alienated many people, although we should neither over-estimate the strength of this sentiment, nor assume that dissatisfaction over this issue will convert into support for Labour. We must manage car parking sensibly, reduce through-traffic and encourage Islington residents to use their vehicles less. Road space is a finite public resource and vehicle pollution is a serious health hazard. But Islington’s crazy parking regime is not the way to do it – indeed

it has become completely self-defeating as drivers now know they can challenge cases in court confident that the Council is bogged-down with appeals.


Transforming the delivery of public services – We need a new type of decentralisation in Islington – one in which we bring-together the local management of all public services in neighbourhoods. The Borough already has forums where senior public service managers discuss ways of coordinating and integrating the main services – health, social care, public safety, environmental and emergency services – but these do not result in services being delivered more locally . We need to “pool” funds from different public agencies

and bring-together all the special grants that come from central government into the Borough. We need to exercise good local leadership at the neighbourhood level to make all the major public agencies - from healthcare, police to transport - all focus on improving services and responding to local priorities. The Copenhagen Play and Youth Partnership and the Caledonian Safer Neighbourhood Panel are already beginning to do this local “joining up”.


A short biog

I was born in Scotland and educated in Wales, Bristol and London. I have lived in Islington most of my adult life – first in Highbury and then on Gifford Street where my wife and I built a family home from the wreck of an old house (a familiar experience for many in the Borough).


For most of my working life I have been employed in the voluntary sector. In the 1990s, I was Director of the campaign group, the Unemployment Unit and a charity called Youthaid. In 2001, I was a founding director of the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion. For the last three years I have been an Associate Director with an economic development consultancy firm. My specialist interests are in social policy, the labour market and in economic and neighbourhood development.


I have also served on a number of public bodies. In addition to being an Islington Councillor (1990 to 1998) for 6 years I was chair of the main board of Greater London Enterprise leading it through a period of immense change. Between 1997 and 2002, I was a specialist advisor to a House of Commons Select Committee, was on the Government’s New Deal Advisory Panel and was a board member of the Central London Learning & Skills Council along with national advisory positions for the LSC.