Today the Tory-Lib Dem coalition is once again slashing funding for local government. Disgracefully, the country’s most deprived communities are receiving the biggest cuts. My local authority has suffered another £20million a year cut. This £20million is in addition to the eye-watering £120million a year cuts we have already received. Basically, since 2010 our budget has been cut by 38%.
So, how can local government cope with such devastating cuts?
It isn’t easy, but even in tough times local government has the power to make an amazing, positive difference to people’s lives. At a recent Council meeting Islington Labour looked back over the past three years at how our Fairness Commission recommendations had been implemented. I have included a few of the highlights below.
- All Council employees are now paid at least the London Living Wage
- Over 90% of the Council’s contracts now also pay at least the London Living Wage, with plans in place to reach 100% over the next two years
- Cutting the Chief Executive’s pay by £50,000 along with the increase in pay for those on lower wages has reduced the Council’s pay differential to a ratio of 1:10
Dealing with debt
- We opened a new a new Citizens Advice Bureau in 2010 (the first new CAB in London in 20 years)
- The Council’s Trading Standards team has mystery shopped payday lenders, gold buyers and pawn brokers to ensure they operate within the law
- A Shop a Shark campaign was against illegal loansharks
- We promoted the London Capital Credit Union – its membership rose from 2,866 in 2011 to 5,658 by March 2013
- By 2015, Islington Labour have delivered 2,000 new affordable homes
- Islington became the first council in the country to introduce a Rent Guarantee Scheme for tenants who downsize
- 151 homes were recovered from illegal subletting and 139 empty properties were brought back into use
- Islington Council’s pension scheme has invested £20m in new house-building nationwide
- Islington Council gives Free School Meals to all primary school children
- We offers school-leavers a £300 student bursary to replace the Educational Maintenance Allowance that the Tory-Lib Dem government has cut
- We have established a Youth Council to guide the Council’s work with and for young people
A cleaner, greener environment
- Islington has become London’s first 20mph borough
- Local residents groups have been given funding to maintain their local open spaces
- Islington Council has insulated over 16,000 residents’ homes to help tackle fuel poverty
- We have built a communal power station to provide Bunhill residents with cheaper, greener heat
While there is still more to do, and times will get tougher with the cuts ahead, we have worked towards making Islington a better place for all its residents. Through our fairness agenda, Islington Labour is demonstrating the positive difference local government can make to our local community.
Here’s hoping an incoming Labour government in 2015 will be committed to funding local government properly and helping communities realise their potential.
Alice Perry is a Councillor is Islington and represents Labour Party Members in London on the National Policy Forum