July 24 2014 Latest news:
By Amie Keeley
Thursday, April 24, 2014
The party’s leader, Cllr Richard Watts, has also pledged to build 2,000 new “affordable homes” and continue the free school meals programme for all primary school children.
However, he could not rule out future rises in council tax and said there would have to be a radical shake-up of how social care – the council’s most costly public service – is delivered across the borough.
Launching the party’s manifesto, Cllr Watts said every 16 to 18-year-old would be guaranteed the offer of a job, an apprenticeship or a college place by 2018.
A council-run non-profit lettings agency will also be set-up offering cheaper and reliable private rental accommodation and a further 1,500 new homes would be built for rentable social housing by 2019, 500 of which would be council owned.
Cllr Watts pledged to keep council tax rates below the London average but stopped short of committing to freeze bills in the future in light of further government cuts.
“Our priorities are going to be helping people with jobs, housing and the cost of living,” Cllr Watts said. “We’re pledging to get every young person a job or a place in training or college by the time they’re 18.”
The council has so far made around £60-70million worth of cuts a year but Cllr Watts warned there was “far less fat to cut” than when the party first came to power and there were “difficult choices” ahead.
“It’s quite clear this Government is going to continue it’s war on Islington,” he said.
“Clearly the council’s a lot more efficient now and we’ll keep on making the council more efficient, but the big areas where the council spends it’s money is social care and I think the whole of the care system is breaking, so we’ll be working with our partners in the NHS to get the care system looking completely different.”
He said there would be more “preventative spending” and a bigger focus on “reablement” - tailored support given to elderly or disabled people, over a short period so they can stay in their homes.
The council currently spends around £100million on social care every year - more than half of the overall budget.
“If we can succeed in keeping people well for longer that will bring massive savings for the council,” he said.
Islington’s Labour Party has also pledged to cut salaries for senior council staff and not ruled out further redundancies at the council.
Schools will be discouraged from converting to academies under Labour and the creation of free schools will be opposed.
Expanding the council’s free home insulation programme and curbing the spread of fast food restaurants are also manifesto commitments, while a special domestic violence co-ordinator will be appointed to help tackle the rising number of reported incidents in the borough.
Despite already holding a huge majority in the council, Cllr Watts said the party was campaigning harder than ever before.
“We’re confident but not complacent. We’re not taking anyone’s vote for granted, we’re fighting hard for very seat.”