Islington’s Mayor speaks to the Forum

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Councillor Teresa Debono said “My eight months as Mayor of Islington have been an eye opener!” Speaking at the January Forum meeting, Teresa said that in her 11 years as a councillor she had dedicated her time and energy to the residents and organisations in her own war.

Now as Mayor she had attended over 500 events, cutting ribbons, giving certificates, opening fairs and generally giving support to organisations, big and small, which are doing so much in and for the community. With a full-time job and chairing the Council meetings this has been a time of “ducking and diving” to make sure that all commitments are met.

She told us that she is so pleased to be making the experience and sorry that she only has four months left, especially as she represents a Council which stands up for fairness, justice and equality. What she found in all of these activities, whether a tenants’ association event, a citizenship course, a school or college graduation, the people taking part are only looking for enough to eat and a warm comfortable home – not a holiday in the Bahamas! She found that campaigning is what is good about Islington.

Her own charities were chosen because they are both young charities, started because of need: Islington Foodbank (Pentonville Rd) and Homestart Islington. Both are making a difference to thousands of people. The foodbank gives people who are referred to them three days’ supply of food and help with formfilling for their GP or social services. In 2011 they served 300 and this rose to 2,000 by 2013. They expect to serve 10,000 people in crisis by 2016. It shows what is happening; there are so many people living below the poverty level!

Just before Christmas the Mayor joined a team outside Waitrose giving out a list of items, asking for donors. Within two hours they had collected enough to fill a big van. People realise that many are facing difficult times and they want to help. Homestart Islington trains volunteers and visits families and children. Problems often arise in families where the breadwinner is now out of work, or where a young mother who used to be at work feels isolated. The pressure builds up and there are breakdowns, so the charity aims to get early intervention.

Meeting so many volunteers is humbling, and many services in the borough would not run without these volunteers. For the council has lost half of its grant income in the cuts and so it is more and more difficult to pay staff. The Mayor said she was lucky to have the Mayor’s Parlour, a comfortable, antique old-fashioned room. This gives her the opportunity to invite 15-20 people for a drink and a bite to eat. It means she has the chance to talk with people and make friends.

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