#Islington’s Comedy Against Austerity – 16 May

May 2, 2014
  • Time and Date: Friday 16 May, 7-11pm
  • Place: Sotheby Mews Day Centre, Sotheby Road, (just off Blackstock Road)
  • Cost: £10/Concessions, £5

Help pay for the venue before the gig by sending your cheques to and collect tickets from IHOOPS, The Elfrida Society, 34 Islington Park Street, London N1 1PX. Tel. 020 7359 7443.

Progressive comedians, Jeremy Hardy, Francesca Martinez and David Jordan are coming to Islington to support good causes and give people a laugh.

PIC Jeremy Hardy

Jeremy Hardy: opposing the ConDem comedians

They will perform in a fundraising comedy and music gig. Food, drink and a raffle will feature.

Funds go to local anti-austerity campaigners, IHOOPS, Islington Disabled People Against the Cuts and the Elfrida Society’s entertainment team, the Wild Bunch Club.

The gig is supported by Islington GMB, Islington National Union of Teachers and the Islington Trades Council.

IHOOPS chair, Andy Bains said:

“Protest against injustice is never a waste of time and IHOOPS works as a coordinating group to raise the struggle in Islington against austerity, cuts and privatisation.

“The Accident and Emergency unit at the Whittington would not be there if there had been no protest. IHOOPS is pleased to support this fundraising night of comedy and music as a step in building the movement against this Government.”

Austerity isn’t working, so come and have a laugh while resisting the cuts!


#Islington’s #anti-cuts policy ideas

October 21, 2013
  • Help us develop policies for the next Islington People’s Assembly on 7 December.
  • Feed ideas to the anti-austerity campaign at our next public meeting.
  • Policies covered: Education, Pensions, Hosuing, Disability, Environment, Equality
  • Review policies for the borough produced by people attending the last Islington assembly in September 2011.
  • IHOOPS is supporting the North London People’s Assembly, 26 October, 10am at Haringey Cypriot Community Centre, Earlham Grove, London N22 5HJ

Interim Report from Islington Peoples Assembly 2011

“We won’t pay for their crisis!”

On Saturday 17th September 2011 over 80 people attended Islington People’s Assembly, organised by Islington Hands off Our Public Services (Ihoops). The following is a report on the outputs from the People’s Assembly that relate to Islington Council.  Other actions, such as NHS issues, will be progressed in other ways. There are eight sections and the theme for each is briefly summarised and then followed by our demands on Islington Council, including aspects where we hope we can work together.

Introduction
The Tory-led coalition government is implementing a wide programme of devastating cuts in public sector spending. The cuts threaten a huge range of services that ordinary people rely on, from the NHS and pensions to local public services, community organisations, benefits and access to education.

On Saturday 17th September 2011 over 80 people attended Islington People’s Assembly, organised by Islington Hands off Our Public Services (Ihoops). Workers, trade unionists, community groups and local residents met to debate and discuss what could be done to stop the government’s assault on our communities, jobs and lives. There were a range of speakers and workshops covering the many areas in which the Tory cuts are impacting on the local community.

In February 2010 Islington Council voted through a range of cuts totalling over £40m in cuts to public services, and have stated a figure of £39m in cuts for 2011-12. It is clear that these cuts would not only further decimate a community already struggling following last year’s cuts, but would also lead to huge increases in social problems such as crime, youth offending, mental health problems and homelessness. All problems, which, in turn, will cost significantly more to remedy than the preventative services originally funded to avoid them.

The following is a report on the outputs from the People’s Assembly that relate to Islington Council.  Other actions, such as NHS issues, will be progressed in other ways. There are 8 sections and the theme for each is briefly summarised and then followed by our demands on Islington Council, including aspects where we hope we can work together.

Conclusion

Many people feel this is a defining moment in which the outcome of the battles over the austerity measures being proposed and imposed will shape the kind society we live in for generations to come. The Welfare State, which the majority rely on is about to be dismantled.

Ihoops has been formed to ensure that the battle to defend our public services and welfare state is successful. We recognise that this will require the greatest possible unity in campaigning and the involvement of the largest number of organisations and people, from community groups to trade unions to the many individuals whose voices are often not heard.

We believe that the best way to do this is for the council to refuse to implement a budget which makes cuts. We recognise this is most effective as part of a mass mobilisation and mass public support. We call on the council to work with others including Ihoops, trade unions and local people in building such a campaign to defend an alternative budget and defeat the Coalition government’s cuts. We recognise that there is disagreement between ourselves and the current position of the council on this issue. We will continue to campaign for and publicise a no cuts budget and work with others where we can to further this aim. We will also continue to campaign against all cuts in the borough.

We recognise the commitment of the council to a Fairness agenda as demonstrated through the Islington Fairness Commission. We also recognise that there are many opportunities to work with the council in opposing cuts and challenging the attack on the Welfare State. At the Assembly Councillor Catherine West specifically spoke about the campaign against Council Tax subsidy cuts and the importance of housing as a campaigning area. We want to ensure that we work together in such campaigns.  The current battle to defend public sector pensions must be one such opportunity to work together to support the proposed strike action and campaign for decent pensions for all.

We also hope that the demands that have arisen from the People’s Assembly are areas where we can campaign together to defend and improve services and the Welfare State.

________________________________

Education for all: schools, colleges and universities

The education workshop brought together students, parents and teachers from different sectors – primary and secondary school, FE College, youth services and Higher Education.  There was a wide ranging discussion. Cuts and privatisation are destroying existing structures and many vital services that provide for the most vulnerable children. Retired head teacher Sue Seifert spoke of her dismay that vital services were being cut and that, once gone; they are likely to be lost forever.  The cuts in funding which have resulted in a total of twenty six staff, both teachers and support staff in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) being made redundant is an example of significant services, impacting often on the most vulnerable children,  being lost. 

It was recognised that the council, Ihoops and local education unions had worked well together campaigning against the specific threat of academy conversions. It was felt that a similar approach to youth unemployment, the cuts to EMA and the introduction of tuition fees could benefit from the same alliance approach. However some of us felt that by implementing Coalition cuts the Council is making it more difficult to achieve this unity. We want to work with the council in opposing cuts and want to see Councillors leading the whole community in a fight against cuts as a matter of urgency. We would like to see the council engage in a wide ranging discussion with all those involved, seeking to democratise the decisions about education provision. Ihoops are keen to work with others in such a forum to produce an alternative manifesto for education and youth services in the borough: outlining what needs to be done to improve education, and to make it more democratically accountable, involving children, young people and their parents as well as workers in the education and youth services.

Education – Key Demands for the Council:

    1. There is an existential threat to public education from academies and free schools. We have to be positive and proactive in defending public education, and we want the council to be equally proactive
    2. To encourage local trade union branches and workplace groups to invite local councillors to attend their meetings to discuss educational issues and to urge the councillors to take up the invitations.
    3. To call on Islington Council to create a forum for all those involved to discuss the future of education in Islington after it is brought back “in house” in 2013, following the end of the contract with Cambridge Education

Decent Pensions for All: The fight for dignity in old age

The pension’s workshop discussed the need to campaign for Pensions for All. The demand has now been adopted by the TUC. The 30th November which is likely to be a date of strike action by public sector unions is a key date to campaign around Pensions for All.

The importance of building solidarity across the generations was discussed. Supporting and developing the kind of forums that had been begun at the People’s Assembly is a necessary part of doing this.

The workshop also discussed the issue of fuel poverty and its impact on elderly people. The need to defend winter fuel payments and campaign against cuts in them was identified. A free national health care system was seen as necessary to establish dignity in old age. Similarly maintaining a warden service in sheltered housing and preventing cuts to lunch clubs which provide a range of support and services for elderly people was seen as vital.

Pensions – Key Demands for the Council:

  1. The council to ensure no cuts to wardens in sheltered housing
  2. The council to defend and protect lunch clubs and ensure no cuts to these services.
  3. To work with other organizations including Ihoops and Islington Pensioners Forum to build solidarity across the generations and find ways of developing opportunities to do this.
  4. To work with local public sector unions to support the Nov 30th pensions strikes and demonstrations.

The attack on the NHS and mental health services: Keep the NHS public

The workshop discussed the huge attack facing the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill currently on its way through the Houses of Parliament will result in the privatisation of the Health Service. The workshop discussed the opposition to it and the importance of the campaign to stop the Bill. In addition the workshop also discussed the need for a focus on mental healthcare where devastating cuts and changes are taking place. It was agreed of the need urgently to involve health worker trade unionists in the broader campaign against the Health and Social Care Bill. The workshop agreed to support the upcoming public sector strikes and include case studies in campaigning leaflets.

The workshop discussed establishing an Ihoops working group on health, aiming to support the Defend the Whittington and wider HNS campaign. The idea of a petition which could be used to get GPs surgeries and dental practices to sign up against marketisation of the NHS was raised. Finally the workshop suggested a Defend Islington NHS conference in 2012 with a focus on participation by grassroots organisations.

Housing: why the cuts are breaking up communities

The Housing workshop agreed that council housing should, in principle, return to council control where it is more accountable and secure. There was concern that Government policy will drive up rents and that secure tenancy agreements will no longer be available for future tenants. There was also concern that former local authority housing which is transferred to arms length companies will, like Housing Associations become accountable to shareholders rather than tenants, leading to a poorer service for tenants in all areas.

If Homes for Islington keep control of housing stock, will they merge with other ALMOs to become large business concerns? Will they push for more part buy/part rent stock as other housing associations have, at the expense of less housing for rent in social housing? It was argued that if council housing is returned to local authority control that there will be an opportunity to have the service scrutinised by democratically elected councillors making it more accountable and transparent. 
 The workshop argued for full consultation and a ballet of all tenants on the issue who runs the local authority housing stock by 2014. Tenants should be given an opportunity to examine equally the case for local authority control and against it. The material provided should not be biased propaganda produced by wealthy ALMOS, as it has been on previous occasions when tenants have been asked to make decision. The decision over the original contract won by Homes for Islington and the contract for refurbishment of bathrooms and kitchens were both given as examples where tenants were asked to make decisions based on one-sided information.

Housing – Key Demands for the Council:

    1. To join with Ihoops and other groups to campaign for the return of local authority housing to Local Authority Control.
    2. To organise a ballot of tenants by 2014 on the issue of which organisation should run local authority housing.
    3. To ensure that the ballot process allow tenants to make an informed choice based on material which allows the case to be made equally by both sides.

Attacks on disability benefits and services and how to resist

The workshop discussed a number of important areas. At the moment the benefit system is undergoing major reform both locally and nationally. Over 1.3 million Incapacity Benefit claimants are being re-assessed. The assessment has three possible outcomes; ready for work – straight onto Job seekers Allowance, ready for support into work qualifying for Employment and Support Allowance, not ready to work placed onto Employment and Support Allowance. In the latter case a long term sick review may not take place again for eighteen months.

This affects thousands of people in Islington, currently 70% of claimants are assessed as ready to work – which affect Housing Benefit entitlement, Council tax levels of contribution and charges for services locally. Many people appeal their decisions and 40% of appeals by claimants are won. However the appeal process can have a major impact on mental and physical health during that time, sometimes requiring crisis intervention. It was agreed that an impact assessment of the reassessment of claimants was vital and believe this should be carried out by the council if it has not already been undertaken. In addition it was suggested that Islington Council funds the development of an independent advocate to support disabled residents through the assessment and appeal process. Figures show that 70% of claimants supported at assessments by informed advisors are placed in the group ready for support into work. The will also reduce the demand for local government services.

From available records 16% of Islington residents declared as being disabled whereas Islington Council (LBI) has approximately 5% of employees declared as disabled. Accurate and well informed records of the number of people declaring as disabled are crucial, since they can demonstrate a lack of funding from Central government related to specific need. They are also necessary to plan adequately for services locally such as Social Care.

Disability – Key Demands for the Council:

    1. An impact assessment of the Incapacity Benefit reassessments and appeal process.
    2. The funding and development of an independent advisor and advocate to assist claimants in the assessment and appeals process.
    3. The establishment of an accurate and well informed record of the number of people declaring as disabled within the borough.
    4. A plan to address the gap between the low number of disabled people employed by the council both in house and through contractors and the much larger number of disabled people living in the borough.

One Million Climate Jobs: Solving the environmental and economic crisis

The Environment Workshop at the Islington People’s Assembly brought together representatives from IHOOPs, the Green Party, the Council’s Energy Team and Greenspace Team and the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group and others.

It was agreed that inefficient use of energy was a threat contributing to rising carbon emissions leading to irreversible climate change, increased fuel poverty and future energy efficiency. It was also agreed that tackling the inefficient use of energy was an opportunity for tackling high unemployment levels particularly amongst the young.

It was agreed that the most effective action in reducing carbon emissions in domestic properties, combating fuel poverty and reducing dependence on finite supplies of fossil fuels was the mass insulation of homes. It was agreed that the Coalition’s withdrawal of funding and reliance on the market to fund home energy efficiency, the Green Deal, was unlikely to improve homes fast enough to meet carbon targets. It was also unlikely to play a significant part in reducing fuel poverty, in fact due to the nature of the scheme could even make the problem worse and was unlikely to secure future energy security. Instead the workshop agreed we should engage with a programme of mass insulation of homes, initiated by the council.

Environment – Key Demands for the Council

    1. The main aim of Council energy policy should be through mass insulation across the borough.
    2. Islington Council should endorse the One Million Climate Jobs report produced by Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group.
    3. The council should implement a pilot scheme to insulate every property in an area, across all housing types. Training for the relevant skills should be provided in local colleges. The project should draw in community groups, unions and young people. It should employ local residents. The effects of the project on carbon emissions, health, and unemployment and fuel poverty should be measured.  (It was recognised that the Archway Low Carbon Zone went some way towards this area based approach but that the scheme suggested would be much more far reaching insulating every property in the area).
    4. Begin to engage in a coalition of groups to campaign on this issue

Cuts, racism and homophobia: the fight for equality

The workshop discussed the way that the cuts will disproportionately affect those who are already disadvantaged.  It was argued that deep economic crisis and the proposed austerity measures will create a climate in which racism increases. It was suggested that it is vital that anti-cuts activists and others understood the way that racism is integral to the narrative used to promote the cuts. The situation at Dale Farm, Essex with the proposed eviction of traveller Families is an example of this. The workshop agreed to support the Travellers defending their homes at Dale Farm. There was also concern about the activities of the far right in this climate. There was support for the establishment of an Islington Unite against Fascism group, and a group at LondonMetUniversity.

Racism and Homophobia – Key Demands for the Council:

  1. To provide a detailed comparative breakdown of the Council budget for 2010-11 and 2011-12 in order to identify the impact on black, ethnic and minority groups in the borough both as service users and staff employed by council services.

Arts and Leisure: why the cuts are no fun

The workshop raised concerns that cuts in arts were seen as more palatable than other “priority services”. The workshop argued that all cuts including those on the arts have a damaging impact on the community and all cuts are unacceptable. Access to music, theatre, arts is a right not a privilege. Cuts will mean that access to the arts will become more difficult for those on low incomes. The workshop suggested that art and culture can inform the anti-cuts movement. It was agreed that Ihoops would explore a monthly podcast in conjunction with 104.4 Residents FM to allow every campaign to be articulated across London. Ihoops would also explore an Islington anti-cuts X Factor to promote the talent the cuts have stopped funding.


Islington People’s Assembly – THE VIDEO

November 2, 2011

Interim Report from Islington Peoples Assembly

October 15, 2011

This Interim report has been sent to all of the relevant Councillors in Islington Council.

On Saturday 17th September 2011 over 80 people attended Islington People’s Assembly, organised by Islington Hands off Our Public Services (Ihoops). The following is a report on the outputs from the People’s Assembly that relate to Islington Council. Other actions, such as NHS issues, will be progressed in other ways. There are eight sections and the theme for each is briefly summarised and then followed by our demands on Islington Council, including aspects where we hope we can work together.

Introduction

The Tory-led coalition government is implementing a wide programme of devastating cuts in public sector spending. The cuts threaten a huge range of services that ordinary people rely on, from the NHS and pensions to local public services, community organisations, benefits and access to education.

On Saturday 17th September 2011 over 80 people attended Islington People’s Assembly, organised by Islington Hands off Our Public Services (Ihoops). Workers, trade unionists, community groups and local residents met to debate and discuss what could be done to stop the government’s assault on our communities, jobs and lives. There were a range of speakers and workshops covering the many areas in which the Tory cuts are impacting on the local community.

In February 2010 Islington Council voted through a range of cuts totalling over £40m in cuts to public services, and have stated a figure of £39m in cuts for 2011-12. It is clear that these cuts would not only further decimate a community already struggling following last year’s cuts, but would also lead to huge increases in social problems such as crime, youth offending, mental health problems and homelessness. All problems, which, in turn, will cost significantly more to remedy than the preventative services originally funded to avoid them.

The following is a report on the outputs from the People’s Assembly that relate to Islington Council.  Other actions, such as NHS issues, will be progressed in other ways. There are 8 sections and the theme for each is briefly summarised and then followed by our demands on Islington Council, including aspects where we hope we can work together.

***

Education for all: schools, colleges and universities

The education workshop brought together students, parents and teachers from different sectors – primary and secondary school, FE College, youth services and Higher Education.  There was a wide ranging discussion. Cuts and privatisation are destroying existing structures and many vital services that provide for the most vulnerable children. Retired head teacher Sue Seifert spoke of her dismay that vital services were being cut and that, once gone; they are likely to be lost forever.  The cuts in funding which have resulted in a total of twenty six staff, both teachers and support staff in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) being made redundant is an example of significant services, impacting often on the most vulnerable children,  being lost.

It was recognised that the council, Ihoops and local education unions had worked well together campaigning against the specific threat of academy conversions. It was felt that a similar approach to youth unemployment, the cuts to EMA and the introduction of tuition fees could benefit from the same alliance approach. However some of us felt that by implementing Coalition cuts the Council is making it more difficult to achieve this unity. We want to work with the council in opposing cuts and want to see Councillors leading the whole community in a fight against cuts as a matter of urgency. We would like to see the council engage in a wide ranging discussion with all those involved, seeking to democratise the decisions about education provision. Ihoops are keen to work with others  in such a forum to produce an alternative manifesto for education and youth services in the borough: outlining what needs to be done to improve education, and to make it more democratically accountable, involving children, young people and their parents as well as workers in the education and youth services.

Education: Key Demands for the Council.

1.       There is an existential threat to public education from academies and free schools. We have to be positive and proactive in defending public education, and we want the council to be equally proactive

2.       To encourage local trade union branches and workplace groups to invite local councillors to attend their meetings to discuss educational issues and to urge the councillors to take up the invitations.

3.       To call on Islington council to create a forum for all those involved to discuss the future of education in Islington after it is brought back “in house” in 2013, following the end of the contract with Cambridge Education

***

Decent Pensions for All: The fight for dignity in old age

The pension’s workshop discussed the need to campaign for Pensions for All. The demand has now been adopted by the TUC. The 30th November which is likely to be a date of strike action by public sector unions is a key date to campaign around Pensions for All.

The importance of building solidarity across the generations was discussed. Supporting and developing the kind of forums that had been begun at the People’s Assembly is a necessary part of doing this.

The workshop also discussed the issue of fuel poverty and its impact on elderly people. The need to defend winter fuel payments and campaign against cuts in them was identified. A free national health care system was seen as necessary to establish dignity in old age. Similarly maintaining a warden service in sheltered housing and preventing cuts to lunch clubs which provide a range of support and services for elderly people was seen as vital.

Pensions: Key Demands for the Council

1.       The council to ensure no cuts to wardens in sheltered housing

2.       The council to defend and protect lunch clubs and ensure no cuts to these services.

3.    To work with other organizations including Ihoops and Islington Pensioners Forum to build solidarity across the generations and find ways of developing opportunities to do this.

4.    To work with local public sector unions to support the Nov 30th pensions strikes and demonstrations.

***

The attack on the NHS and mental health services: Keep the NHS public

The workshop discussed the huge attack facing the NHS. The Health and Social Care Bill currently on its way through the Houses of Parliament will result in the privatisation of the Health Service. The workshop discussed the opposition to it and the importance of the campaign to stop the Bill. In addition the workshop also discussed the need for a focus on mental healthcare where devastating cuts and changes are taking place. It was agreed of the need urgently to involve health worker trade unionists in the broader campaign against the Health and Social Care Bill. The workshop agreed to support the upcoming public sector strikes and include case studies in campaigning leaflets.

The workshop discussed establishing an Ihoops working group on health, aiming to support the  Defend the Whittington and wider HNS campaign. The idea of a petition which could be used to get GPs surgeries and dental practices to sign up against marketisation of the NHS was raised. Finally the workshop suggested a Defend Islington NHS conference in 2012 with a focus on participation by grassroots organisations.

***

Housing: why the cuts are breaking up communities

The Housing workshop agreed that council housing should, in principle, return to council control where it is more accountable and secure. There was concern that Government policy will drive up rents and that secure tenancy agreements will no longer be available for future tenants. There was also concern that former local authority housing which is transferred to arms length companies will, like Housing Associations become accountable to shareholders rather than tenants, leading to a poorer service for tenants in all areas.

If Homes for Islington keep control of housing stock, will they merge with other ALMOs to become large business concerns? Will they push for more part buy/part rent stock as other housing associations have, at the expense of less housing for rent in social housing?  It was argued that if council housing is returned to local authority control that there will be an opportunity to have the service scrutinised by democratically elected councillors making it more accountable and transparent.
The workshop argued for full consultation and a ballet of all tenants on the issue who runs the local authority housing stock by 2014. Tenants should be given an opportunity to examine equally the case for local authority control and against it. The material provided should not be biased propaganda produced by wealthy ALMOS, as it has been on previous occasions when tenants have been asked to make decision. The decision over the original contract won by Homes for Islington and the contract for refurbishment of bathrooms and kitchens were both given as examples where tenants were asked to make decisions based on one-sided information.

Housing:  Key Demands for the Council

1.       To join with Ihoops and other groups to campaign for the return of local authority housing to Local Authority Control.

2.       To organise a ballot of tenants by 2014 on the issue of which organisation should run local authority housing.

3.       To ensure that the ballot process allow tenants to make an informed choice based on material which allows the case to be made equally by both sides.

***

Attacks on disability benefits and services and how to resist

The workshop discussed a number of important areas. At the moment the benefit system is undergoing major reform both locally and nationally. Over 1.3 million Incapacity Benefit claimants are being re-assessed. The assessment has three possible outcomes; ready for work – straight onto Job seekers Allowance, ready for support into work qualifying for Employment and Support Allowance, not ready to work placed onto Employment and Support Allowance. In the latter case a long term sick review may not take place again for eighteen months.

This affects thousands of people in Islington, currently 70% of claimants are assessed as ready to work – which affect Housing Benefit entitlement, Council tax levels of contribution and charges for services locally. Many people appeal their decisions and 40% of appeals by claimants are won. However the appeal process can have a major impact on mental and physical health during that time, sometimes requiring crisis intervention. It was agreed that an impact assessment of the reassessment of claimants was vital and believe this should be carried out by the council if it has not already been undertaken. In addition it was suggested that Islington Council funds the development of an independent advocate to support disabled residents through the assessment and appeal process. Figures show that 70% of claimants supported at assessments by informed advisors are placed in the group ready for support into work. The will also reduce the demand for local government services.

From available records 16% of Islington residents declared as being disabled whereas Islington Council (LBI) has approximately 5% of employees declared as disabled.  Accurate and well informed records of the number of people declaring as disabled are crucial, since they can demonstrate a lack of funding from Central government related to specific need. They are also necessary to plan adequately for services locally such as Social Care.

Disability: Key Demands for the Council

1.       An impact assessment of the Incapacity Benefit reassessments and appeal process.

2.       The funding and development of an independent advisor and advocate to assist claimants in the assessment and appeals process.

3.       The establishment of an accurate and well informed record of the number of people declaring as disabled within the borough.

4.       A plan to address the gap between the low number of disabled people employed by the council both in house and through contractors and the much larger number of disabled people living in the borough.

***

One Million Climate Jobs: Solving the environmental and economic crisis

The Environment Workshop at the Islington People’s Assembly brought together representatives from IHOOPs, the Green Party, the Council’s Energy Team and Greenspace Team and the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group and others.

It was agreed that inefficient use of energy was a threat contributing to rising carbon emissions leading to irreversible climate change, increased fuel poverty and future energy efficiency. It was also agreed that tackling the inefficient use of energy was an opportunity for tackling high unemployment levels particularly amongst the young.

It was agreed that the most effective action in reducing carbon emissions in domestic properties, combating fuel poverty and reducing dependence on finite supplies of fossil fuels was the mass insulation of homes.  It was agreed that the Coalition’s withdrawal of funding and reliance on the market to fund home energy efficiency, the Green Deal, was unlikely to improve homes fast enough to meet carbon targets. It was also unlikely to play a significant part in reducing fuel poverty, in fact due to the nature of the scheme could even make the problem worse and was unlikely to secure future energy security. Instead the workshop agreed we should engage with a programme of mass insulation of homes, initiated by the council.

Environment: Key Demands for the Council

1.       The main aim of Council energy policy should be through mass insulation across the borough.

2.       Islington Council should endorse the One Million Climate Jobs report produced by Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group.

3.       The council should implement a pilot scheme to insulate every property in an area, across all housing types. Training for the relevant skills should be provided in local colleges. The project should draw in community groups, unions and young people. It should employ local residents. The effects of the project on carbon emissions, health, and unemployment and fuel poverty should be measured.  (It was recognised that the Archway Low Carbon Zone went some way towards this area based approach but that the scheme suggested would be much more far reaching insulating every property in the area).

4.       Begin to engage in a coalition of groups to campaign on this issue

***

Cuts, racism and homophobia: the fight for equality

The workshop discussed the way that the cuts will disproportionately affect those who are already disadvantaged.  It was argued that deep economic crisis and the proposed austerity measures will create a climate in which racism increases.  It was suggested that it is vital that anti-cuts activists and others understood the way that racism is integral to the narrative used to promote the cuts. The situation at Dale Farm, Essex with the proposed eviction of traveller Families is an example of this. The workshop agreed to support the Travellers defending their homes at Dale Farm. There was also concern about the activities of the far right in this climate. There was support for the establishment of an Islington Unite against Fascism group, and a group at London Met University.

Racism and Homophobia: Key Demands for the Council.

1.       To provide a detailed comparative breakdown of the Council budget for 2010-11 and 2011-12 in order to identify the impact on black, ethnic and minority groups in the borough both as service users and staff employed by council services.

Arts and Leisure: why the cuts are no fun

The workshop raised concerns that cuts in arts were seen as more palatable than other “priority services”. The workshop argued that all cuts including those on the arts have a damaging impact on the community and all cuts are unacceptable. Access to music, theatre, arts is a right not a privilege. Cuts will mean that access to the arts will become more difficult for those on low incomes.  The workshop suggested that art and culture can inform the anti-cuts movement. It was agreed that Ihoops would explore a monthly podcast in conjunction with 104.4 Residents FM to allow every campaign to be articulated across London. Ihoops would also explore an Islington anti-cuts X Factor to promote the talent the cuts have stopped funding.

***

Conclusion

Many people feel this is a defining moment in which the outcome of the battles over the austerity measures being proposed and imposed will shape the kind society we live in for generations to come. The Welfare State, which the majority rely on is about to be dismantled.

Ihoops has been formed to ensure that the battle to defend our public services and welfare state is successful. We recognise that this will require the greatest possible unity in campaigning and the involvement of the largest number of organisations and people, from community groups to trade unions to the many individuals whose voices are often not heard.

We believe that the best way to do this is for the council to refuse to implement a budget which makes cuts. We recognise this is most effective as part of a mass mobilisation and mass public support. We call on the council to work with others including Ihoops, trade unions and local people in building such a campaign to defend an alternative budget and defeat the Coalition government’s cuts.  We recognise that there is disagreement between ourselves and the current position of the council on this issue. We will continue to campaign for and publicise a no cuts budget and work with others where we can to further this aim. We will also continue to campaign against all cuts in the borough.

We recognise the commitment of the council to a Fairness agenda as demonstrated through the Islington Fairness Commission. We also recognise that there are many opportunities to work with the council in opposing cuts and challenging the attack on the Welfare State. At the Assembly Councillor Catherine West specifically spoke about the campaign against Council Tax subsidy cuts and the importance of housing as a campaigning area. We want to ensure that we work together in such campaigns.  The current battle to defend public sector pensions must be one such opportunity to work together to support the proposed strike action and campaign for decent pensions for all.

We also hope that the demands that have arisen from the People’s Assembly are areas where we can campaign together to defend and improve services and the Welfare State.


Report from the Islington People’s Assembly

September 21, 2011

An IHOOPS activist reports from the People’s Assembly –

On Saturday, Caxton House hosted IHOOPS’ Islington People’s Assembly. Over 80 people attended to be inspired by a range of speakers and participate in workshops covering the many areas in which the Tory cuts are impacting on the local community.

The day was kicked off by performance poet and local resident John Hegley who entertained the Assembly with songs and poetry.

The speakers: Think Globally, Act Locally

The opening session – ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’- was introduced by speakers from the unions including Peter Kavanagh from UNITE and Sean Vernell from UCU, who called for activists to get behind the strikes on Nov 30th.

Other speakers included local MP Jeremy Corbyn, Lee Jasper from BARAC and Costas Lapavistas who explained how the crisis which began in 2008 continues, threatening even more pain for working people unless resisted. Lapavistas also spoke of the need for alternatives to capitalist crisis.

The debate: How should we organise to defend local services and jobs?

The Assembly continued with a debate between Catherine West, Labour Leader of Islington council, and IHOOPS Secretary, Suzanne Jeffery, about how to defend local services. Suzanne called on the council to defy the government and set a budget which did not involve cuts and to begin a campaign to organise the local community and unions around the defence of such a budget. Some speakers argued that defiance was not possible as the government would come in and run the council, however many speakers from the floor argued such a campaign was necessary, as a “dented shield “ policy could not defend the most vulnerable in the community. Speakers from the floor also urged the council leader to stand shoulder to shoulder with IHOOPS in building for the strikes on the 30th November.

In the break, Sunnie Dae played several of her anti-cuts tunes – you will find videos for these in the post below.

The workshops

The next section of the Assembly saw activists attend workshops covering issues on education, health, disabilities, pensions, racism, housing, the environment and arts and leisure. Each workshop was a great opportunity for local activists to work together and produce a series of campaigning demands and actions reflecting how to defend local services and what kind of services that we would like to see. Afterwards, the demands and actions were read out to the Assembly and added to the IHOOPS manifesto which will be developed in the next few months into a campaigning pamphlet.

A taster of the actions and demands:

– Demand that Islington council create a forum for all those involved in education to work together across sectors

– No cuts to winter fuel payments to pensioners

– Organise Defend Islington NHS conference in 2012, focus on organizing grassroots (not just big name speakers)

– ITUC want to hold a public meeting with tenants unions and Defend Council Housing – Set up Islington Defend Council Housing group

– Encourage as many people as possible to sign up for Boris Johnson’s conference on 20/10/2011, 9-4pm, on how ‘great’ the Tories have been at dealing with provision for disabled people

– Demand that the council endorse the One Million Climate Jobs report

– Calling for support for the establishment of Unite Against Fascism group in Islington, and in London Met

The closing plenary: Alternatives to privatisation and austerity

The Assembly finished with a final plenary with speakers talking about the way ahead. Weyman Bennett from UAF reminded people of the potential for victory, particularly after demonstrators had beaten the EDL in Tower Hamlets recently. John McDonnell finished the assembly arguing that the tide had turned and that people are no longer willing to live in fear, instead they are angry and ready to fight. He called on activists to join with others during the strikes in November to make the country “ungovernable”.

Some comments from those who attended:

“Excellent event today. Really glad I came” – Pete Beadle

“A great day for Islington and its people from now on we must build and expand” – Padraig Lynch

“A fabulously productive day. Made all the more brilliant by the always hilarious and poignant John Hegly and his awesome accompanist Andrew Bailey, dancing around in front of Lee Jasper and Jeremy Corbyn bashing an inflated rubber glove a’ top his head. Great day” – Steve Parry


An Invitation to attend the Islington People’s Assembly

September 8, 2011

Dear IHOOPS Supporter,

We would like to invite you to attend the Islington Peoples Assembly on Saturday Sept 17th, 12.30pm-5pm, at Caxton House, St John’s way, N19 3RQ.

We hope this is an opportunity for people to come together to discuss how to stop the government’s devastating cuts.

We have an excellent range of speakers, including: Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, NUT: Dr Brar, NHS surgeon and campaigner; and Weyman Bennett, Joint Secretary, Unite Against Fascism.

We also want the Assembly to be an opportunity to discuss an alternative to cuts and austerity. The workshops will aim to produce an alternative sets of demands for Islington.

We hope the Assembly will bring together many different people who are affected by the cuts, are campaigning against them and have ideas about the alternative to them. We hope you are able to attend.

Timetable

12.30-13.00 – Opening and Keynote speakers (including Ellie O’Hagan from UK Uncut, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Costas Lapavitsas from SOAS)

13.00-13.45 – Debate, ‘How should we organise to defend our local services and jobs’ (with Council leader Catherine West and IHOOPS activist Suzanne Jeffery)

13.45-14.45 – Workshops:

– Education for All: schools, colleges and universities

– Decent Pensions for All: the Fight for Dignity in Old Age

– The Attack on the NHS and Mental Health Services: Keep the NHS Public

– Housing: How the Cuts are Breaking Up Communities

– Attacks on Disability Benefits and Services: How to Resist

– One Million Climate Jobs: Solving the Environmental and Economic Crises

– The Cuts, Racism and Homophobia: the Fight for Equality

– Arts and leisure: Why the Cuts are No Fun

14.45-15.15 – Break (refreshments will be available)

15.15-16.15 – Reports from workshops

16.15-17.00 – Build an Islington People’s Manifesto from the results of the workshops, and Closing Speakers (including John McDonnell MP and Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners Convention)

To register in advance email:  islingtonhoops@gmail.com

Find the event on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=116578225107234


Report on Academies Resistance

June 7, 2011

This is a report from Ken

Three weeks ago we heard that three primary schools in Islington were proposing to form a chain of academies.

None of them had NUT reps and we had struggled to get in to them to meet with our members – Tom and I were turned away at the the school gates before Easter. “Consultation” had already begun before we found out what was going on and is due to end in three days time – with governors coming to a final decision in the second week of June. It all looked pretty hopeless but we decided to have a go, prioritising the school – New North – where we had the least contact with members.

We have leafleted the schools from outside (New North twice), held meeting with members in two of them and organised a meeting at the third later in this week. At the New North and William Tyndale meetings – which were well-attended – members all took AAA briefings and agreed to hold staff ballots on the academy conversion proposals.

Two weeks ago we set up a meeting between the Islington Council Leader, Catherine West, the Executive member for Education, Richard Watts, NUT officers (including Alasdair and me) and officers of the GMB and UNISON.

Where we agreed a plan of action to oppose the academies, starting with a public meeting close to New North, to be followed by ones at the other two schools. We have had two weeks of excellent coverage in both the local Islington papers. We have rattled the heads and governors of the schools – who have accused Alasdair and me of “intimidating” parents by giving them AAA briefings outside one school, abusing our access to e-mail addresses by sending governors at New North an article by Peter Downes and me of “harassing a member of staff”, presumably because I told the head’s PA (by e-mail) that we wanted to be consulted on the academy proposal itself and not just TUPE after the decision in principle had been taken.

Tonight we had the meeting at New North. It was brilliant. Speakers were meant to be me, Catherine West, an LA school governor who was opposed to the academy conversion and a GMB branch officer. In the event, the Chair of Governors who had accused me of harassment told the LA governor that he was “strongly advised” not to speak at the meeting so his place as chair was taken by a local (Labour) ward councillor, Gary Doolan – who had previously been refused entry to a consultation meeting at the school. About thirty people turned up, including a few teachers and a lot of Somali parents (whose kids make up a sizeable proposition of the school roll).  Everyone spoke well, especially Catherine West who stressed out what parents would lose by the school becoming an academy – notably the free school dinners still financed by the Council. (The head and governors hadn’t anticipated that the Council would refuse to continue paying for this and now they are spitting blood, threatening to go to court!)

All of us made a lot of the fact that a private company, Strictly Education – which currently provides HR to the three schools and stands to gain enormously by expanding its involvement in the event of the school converting, is not only carrying out the consultation but also writing up the final report.

When we finished speaking one Somali mum started speaking very angrily in her mother tongue. Was she for the academy (the head had told Somali parents they would get extra money spent on their children) or was she against? Then someone translated.

“We are being bulldozed in to something none of us want. We don’t want or school run by private business. We don’t want it to break away from the local authority.” Other mums who could speak English supported her furiously. “At first they kept it quiet. Then they allowed only a couple of weeks to find out what its is all about after giving us one leaflet written only in English in small print so many parent can’t understand it. And now they are getting Strictly Education – which stands to make a lot of money if the school becomes an academy to carry out the consultation and report back on it.”

Several other parents asked, “What can we do?” Julie Hunt, who is a parent at another local school, told them how her child’s head and governors had rejected becoming an academy and that New North parents should find out who the parent governors are and demand they do the same. Inspired by these wonderful women, I told them that the head teacher, the pro-academy governors and Strictly were treating them as if they had no voice and no power. But they had proved tonight that they did have a voice and they did have power. Just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia had done they should demand the right to vote about decisions that affected them. They should draw up a petition, get as many parents as possible to sign and they should organise a demonstration outside the next governors meeting when they could hand it in.

All the parents supported the idea – and Catherine West invited them to the town hall to help them draw it up and produce it, which they are now going to do. This petition can now provide an organising focus for involving a wide number of parents, teachers and support staff. The would be school privatisers of Islington schools now have a real fight on their hands. Game on!