Listening to people across Islington, these are long term positives for us all that could come out of the awful COVID crisis - if we are determined to make change happen.
This is why we put a series of questions to Labour Council leader Richard Watts in his Facebook Live broadcast (Friday May 22). He didn’t directly answer any of them! So we are repeating them in this article.
To be fair to Cllr Watts, he did talk about pavement extensions for walkers and cyclists and the need to preserve clean air. However, it was very much a case of ‘wait and see’.
He pretty much acknowledged that Islington has been slow in introducing measures, but said this was because there are ‘big ambitious plans’ that he will be able to tell us about shortly - ‘details within a week or so.’
Liberal Democrats want to see a healthier, cleaner Islington and will cooperate to make this happen. While some things have been done, it is worrying that Islington lags behind neighbouring boroughs in bringing about positive changes.
We will keep pressing for answers and for positive change - and hold Cllr Watts to his promise of ‘big plans’ in very short order.
Questions for Council Leader Watts’s Facebook Q&A, 22 May
- Hackney Cllr Jon Burke announced a set of measures on April 28 including interruption of traffic on some roads to protect the public. Additional road closures have been put in place in Hackney since. Is Islington Council going to implement such measures besides those announced by TfL? Are there issues specific to Islington that makes implementation of the Mayor’s Streetspace scheme more difficult?
- What are your plans to accelerate the development of long-term safe cycling routes in the borough, both for commuting and for local journeys, and when do you expect to make the necessary changes?
- People are trying to avoid public transport. When the schools return, how will you ensure that Islington’s streets are not clogged with cars during commuter hours, coinciding with the times children are going to and returning from school? Will you undertake to restrict car traffic at such times to essential travel only (hospital and clinic visits, care for vulnerable people, transport provision to those with mobility challenges etc.)?
- One unexpected positive from this awful crisis is that Islington people are breathing clean, healthy air. The Mayor’s office reports that in the first few weeks alone of lockdown, nitrogen dioxide levels in London fell by 40% in central London streets. What do you consider acceptable levels of air quality and what you going to do to keep our air healthy once the lock-down is lifted?
- At a time when we want to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and with the sheer number of parked cars making it hard for pedestrians to social distance, does it make sense that electric cars get free parking and a spot in a bike hanger costs £107.75 a year, plus a £25.75 key deposit? Doesn't this punish people trying to do the right thing?
- Living Streets remind us that, even before the lockdown, a quarter of all trips in London were made on foot. A third of trips made by Londoners as a driver or passenger could also be walked in less than 25 minutes. Social distancing means that we need to relieve the pressure on our public transport services. What are you going to do to encourage and celebrate walking in Islington?
- During this time of crisis, the Council needs every penny going to support our local businesses & charities and to invest in new cycling and walking infrastructure. Claudia Webbe is still pocketing an Islington councillor's allowance, paid for by Islington council tax-payers, and still intends to do so for another whole year, when she now earns £81,900 per year as an MP in Leicester. How long can this go on? How does Cllr Watts defend this ? When is he going to put a stop to it?