New Islington Council leader vows to tackle job crisis

Cllr Watts

Cllr Watts - Credit: Archant

It’s the dawn of a new era for Islington as new man takes over the reins at the Town Hall, vowing to tackle the scourge of unemployment.

Cllr Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, will become leader when he is sworn in at a meeting of the full council tonight (Thursday).

The 37-year-old, who has been a councillor since 2006, will take over from Cllr Catherine West, who is stepping down to contest the Hornsey and Wood Green parliamentary seat.

The new leader, who was voted into the top job by his fellow Labour members on Tuesday, said: “It’s a real honour to be selected and I’m delighted.

“My key priorities can be summed up in five words: jobs, housing, cost of living.

“My focus is on the bread and butter issues of work and housing and the standard of living.

“It’s the 21st century. It shouldn’t be too much to expect to be able to work and to afford decent housing but tens of thousands in this borough both in and out of work and even those on high incomes don’t have these things and that needs to change.”

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Cllr Watts is determined to tackle the unemployment crisis in Islington – which he says has a higher proportion of homes where no one works than anywhere else in the country – and will set up a jobs commission to confront the problem.

He also plans to build more homes, fight Mayor of London Boris Johnson over affordable rents and slash energy costs by building a new power station in Islington.

Cllr Watts was born into a Labour family and studied politics at university.

He moved to Islington 15 years ago where the “massive differences in opportunities” spurred him on to become a councillor in 2006.

Since then, he joined the council’s ruling executive in 2010 as member for children and families, during which time he was instrumental in adopting free school meals in the borough – a policy which has just been rolled out nationwide –then earlier this year he was appointed finance chief.

The appointment marks a double milestone for Cllr Watts, who celebrates his 38th birthday this week.

But the father of two says that he will not be having much of a party, because his “kids come first”.