Conservative government ‘hates’ Islington – council leader Richard Watts as budget is passed

Cllr Richard Watts said the Tory government 'hates' Islington and Islington Council. Picture: Em Fit

Cllr Richard Watts said the Tory government 'hates' Islington and Islington Council. Picture: Em Fitzgerald - Credit: Archant

Theresa May’s government “hates” Islington, council leader Richard Watts said last night.

It’s the strongest language Cllr Watts has used against the Conservative government, which has slashed its funding to Islington since winning power in 2010.

Cllr Watts (Lab, Tollington) took aim as Islington’s 2018/19 budget was passed at last night’s full council meeting.

“It’s not an easy time for our council,” he said, “£200million cuts in the course of a decade. At the same time we are seeing a massive increase in demand for council services.

“We have a government that hates this borough, hates this council and what it stands for. Every day it makes the lives our residents harder.”

After making £32million of savings, the budget saw £57m signed off for 200 new council homes across estates, as well as a £14m pot to pay for the new Tufnell Park Primary School. But it comes with a 5.99% council tax rise: a weekly increase of £1.24 for an average band D property.

Cllr Watts added: “I am proud of our response: including keeping young people safe, cutting council tax for foster carers and protecting core services. Those are the responses the people of Islington want us to make.”

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Sole opposition Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) put forward three amendments to the budget.

Two of these were installing 20 bike storage hangars across the borough, paid for by a 0.5 per cent increase in parking fees; and employing a community engagement officer working towards cutting residual waste, paid for by removing one of the council’s political support officers.

Cllr Andy Hull (Lab, Highbury West), the town hall’s finance boss behind the budget, went in for the kill.

“She is pulling out the same old ideas,” he said, “talking about making political officers redundant – when she employs four of them at the Greater London Assembly!”

Cllr Russell is a member of the Assembly, which holds mayor of London Sadiq Khan to account. Cllr Hull’s line was met with a roar of laughter and applause.

“With the Greens,” he continued, “it’s things like subsidised bike hangars. With Labour, it’s social housing, tackling crime and supporting foster carers.

“I’m afraid to say Cllr Russell has no new ideas – bring on the May elections.”

All 39 of her Labour colleagues present at the meeting rejected the amendments.

At another vote, Cllr Russell was the only member to oppose Labour’s budget.