Brexit: Islington Council leader angry at ‘hollow’ funding promises
PUBLISHED: 13:07 03 August 2016 | UPDATED: 13:15 03 August 2016
2016 Steve Bainbridge
The government has refused to back the Islington employment commission – which has helped 1,000 people into work since its launch nearly two years ago.
Its £1million running costs came from the European Union Social Fund. And after the Brexit vote, council leader Richard Watts - busy at the opening of new flats in Finsbury’s Brunswick Court Estate yesterday - was worried Islington would lose this funding.
He wrote to the government asking for assurances – but received no encouragement from employment minister Damian Hinds in his reponse dated Thursday.
The letter, seen by the Gazette, simply reads: “While the UK remains a member of the EU, current EU funding arrangements continue unchanged. It will be for the government under the new Prime Minister to begin the negotiation to leave and set out arrangement for those currently in receipt of EU funds.”
Cllr Watts said yesterday: “The response from the new employment minister will offer little comfort to local people who are looking for work, as it makes no commitment to continue funding the council’s successful employment schemes once EU funding stops.
“Half the people who we helped had been out of work for quite a long time. We have been able to do this by using EU funding to support new schemes, and it is now clear that the promise from government ministers who supported leaving the EU to protect funding is completely hollow.
“Just like with the promise of an extra £350million a week for the NHS, the promise to protect funding hasn’t been backed up. It’s clear that people were misled by the ‘leave’ campaign.
“We’ll keep pressing the government to make sure Islington gets the best deal, and continue our work to help people get decent and secure jobs.”
‘A completely different place’
Cllr Watts was speaking as ropey old garages and bedsits were relaunched as high quality council homes for tenants in Brunswick Court, Finsbury.
On a previously neglected part of the estate where an old oil tank once stood, the council has built 13 new homes: six for social rent, four for shared ownership and three for market sale.
They were officially opened on Tuesday and Lennox Charles, chairman of the estate’s tenant management organisation, said: “It is a completely different place now. I feel good looking down from the 12th floor.”