Islington Labour spat over proposed creation of new executive position with £30,912 allowance

Islington Town Hall.Picture:Ken Mears

Islington Town Hall.Picture:Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

There was “bad feeling” at a meeting between Labour councillors where a vote narrowly passed to create a new executive position, the Gazette understands.

An email was sent to members over the weekend proposing a new community safety position, and the motion passed at a virtual meeting.

But some councillors have questioned whether it’s appropriate to create a separate post on the executive, which would come with a £30,912 allowance, while the council is struggling for funds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Police chiefs have warned an increase in unemployment and the predicted recession could lead to a “rise in crime and disorder” once the lockdown is lifted. This may be why the town hall wants someone totally dedicated to the crime brief.

Until recently, Cllr Andy Hull held both the finance and community safety posts – but he stepped down after the full council meeting in February.

Since then, education lead Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz has temporarily taken on the crime portfolio, while Cllr Satnam Gill OBE has been overseeing council finances.

Some councillors claimed the vote was “streamrollered through” by council leader Richard Watts, and said they’d have liked more time to debate the issue.

A spokesperson for Islington Labour said it does not comment on leaks.

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One councillor said: “It’s a one party state and a one man state. I think it’s dictatorial. People are pis*** off with the leadership, but actually it’s a minority.”

A second councillor said: “I can see the rationale [of separating the posts], it should have happened a few years ago. But it could probably have been handled better. We’re going to desperately need to focus on this anyway, after the lockdown is lifted there’s going to be a massive recession and I suspect an awful lot of unrest.

“It wasn’t that heated, I suspect it’s the limitations of technology and that’s a problem we’ll have to address.”

A councillor said: “It is £30,000 of public money at the same time as we are desperate for more and more money, but at the same time it’s law and order.”

Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) said: “With a council that has a sole opposition councillor and being in a position where most democratic processes are suspended, it’s really important that there’s accountability in decision making and that the council makes clear how scrutiny of decision making in this period is going to happen.”

The council is starting to host virtual committee meetings over Zoom and says “any local residents with an interest in the proceedings are welcome to attend”.