Hints Islington’s council tax could rise during leader’s question session

Cllr Richard Watts

Cllr Richard Watts - Credit: Archant

Heavy hints were dropped that council tax may rise next year at a frenetic first leader’s question time last night.

People wait eagerly for Islington's first leader's question time

People wait eagerly for Islington's first leader's question time - Credit: Archant

The inaugural event at Birchmore Hall, in Birchmore Walk, Highbury, on Tuesday, saw Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, field questions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous from the public.

The power of trees, private finance deals and politician’s tweets were all discussed, but responding to one resident, Cllr Watts refused to rule out putting up taxes in next year’s budget.

Christine, from Highbury, said: “I don’t think my council tax has gone up in the last five years.

“I suggest the council should think about increasing council tax rather than making these astronomical cuts in the services they have to provide and the voluntary groups we all support.”

Cllr Watts said: “I completely agree with you, the local tax system is broken beyond repair.

“It’s an unfair, regressive tax. It hasn’t been revaluated since 1991, and with properties doubling in value in the last five years in Islington it is completely detached from what it was supposed to do.

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“We need a new form of local taxation and we can achieve more in local government than they can in a logjam in Westminster.

“We said in our election manifesto we wold keep council tax below the London average.

“We are currently well below the average, so we will keep to our commitment.”

Des Riley, who runs Islington Link-Up, a charity that has been helping Holloway’s young people for 30 years, asked about the future of their Seven Sisters Road home, which the town hall had originally earmarked for sale.

He said: “You say the building needs expensive repair work and that’s fair enough.

“And we have given you the top two floors of the building to do what you want with.

“But now the council are saying we should share our downstairs space with other groups, faith groups and so forth.

“It feels like you are pushing us out of our home which we’ve had since 1979.

“It’s too small to share. To any councillor we will say now: ‘we are not going to give up’.

“Make no mistake, we will accept nothing that will lead to out demise.”

Also under discussion was the future of the Highbury Corner one way system, which the Gazette revealed in February was set for the chop by Transport for London (TfL).