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Islington elections: Labour plans optional ‘charity tax’ for rich people, kids’ meals in school holidays and extra homes

PUBLISHED: 14:30 25 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:24 29 March 2018

Richard Watts said the manifesto promises 'would make a difference for the many, not the few'. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Richard Watts said the manifesto promises 'would make a difference for the many, not the few'. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Em Fitzgerald

Ahead of the local elections on May 3, the Gazette will be bringing you the manifesto pledges from each of the main parties: Labour, Green, Liberal Democrats and Conservative. To kick things off, James Morris heard from Labour’s Richard Watts, the current council leader.

The manifesto incorporates recommendations made by the Islington Fair Futures Commission, which was chaired by Jermain Jackman, centre. It includes the possibility of taking down 'no ball games' signs on estates and 100 hours of work experience by the age of 16. Picture: Em FitzgeraldThe manifesto incorporates recommendations made by the Islington Fair Futures Commission, which was chaired by Jermain Jackman, centre. It includes the possibility of taking down 'no ball games' signs on estates and 100 hours of work experience by the age of 16. Picture: Em Fitzgerald

Islington Labour will ask rich people if they want to pay extra council tax.

It’s one of the radical ideas in the party’s 15,000 word manifesto, launched this afternoon, for May’s local elections.

Anyone who lives in Islington’s “highest value homes” will be given the choice of paying additional council tax into a “Fairer Islington Fund”, which would help a Labour-run town hall pay for early intervention and prevention services.

The plan is borne out of cuts from central government: Islington Council has lost 70 per cent of its funding since 2010. But the party believes the borough’s “tremendous” community spirit, as demonstrated after the Finsbury Park terror attack, could make it a popular policy.

Among other stand-out pledges include measures to help kids at risk of going hungry during the school holidays. Labour would put on “genuinely affordable” holiday clubs in order to deliver the equivalent of a school meal.

And Labour, led by Richard Watts, has also aimed for each child in an Islington school to have had 11 cultural experiences in the borough – for example a show at Sadler’s Wells – by the time they are in Year 11.

At a town hall briefing with the Gazette on Friday, current council leader Mr Watts said: “This manifesto is a statement of our ambition.

Labour won all but one of the 48 seats in the 2014 local elections. That seat was in Highbury East, where members including Jeremy Corbyn are pictured campaigning in January. Picture: Alastair HarperLabour won all but one of the 48 seats in the 2014 local elections. That seat was in Highbury East, where members including Jeremy Corbyn are pictured campaigning in January. Picture: Alastair Harper

“It’s jam-packed with good ideas of how we can take this borough forward. We clearly haven’t run out of steam.”

Labour has run the town hall since 2010, and many of the policies are a continuation of its work during those eight years.

For instance, it has promised to deliver 550 new council homes by 2023, as part of plans to deliver 1,900 more genuinely affordable homes. It has already built, or is in the process of building, 2,400 new homes at social rent.

There would also be a crackdown on rogue landlords in Seven Sisters Road, where many tenants are said to be treated poorly. Labour said it will adopt a new landlord licensing scheme for the area. It follows similar work in Caledonian Road.

It has also pledged an extra £15million for dealing with damp-ridden council homes.

Meanwhile, Labour, long perceived as poor performers when it comes to cycling provision, said it will lobby TfL for protected cycling lanes in major routes such as Clerkenwell Road, Camden Road, Holloway Road and Upper Street.

The full manifesto is available on islington-labour.org.uk/manifesto

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