All local authorities in Britain have their roots in the organisations created by the UK government following terrible cholera epidemics during the first half of the nineteenth century. Their role then was to provide clean water supplies, cleaner streets, better sanitation and to regulate slaughterhouses.
Today’s local authorities are still responsible for some of these things, but they have also been empowered by successive governments since to be responsible for many more local services.
Since shortly after the First World War, local authorities have had the task of providing homes for working people and a high proportion of Islington residents still live in housing provided by the council.
Some other services are easily idenitified and relied upon by many residents, businesses and visitors to the borough every day, such as refuse collection, street lighting and street cleaning.
The council also looks after many of the most vulnerable in our society; children in care and foster homes and adults who either need support to live independently or who are not able to do so. Local authorities also have responsibility for a number of regulatory functions such as planning, licensing and food safety.
Local authorities were given responsibility for all these services because central government recognised that they are too essential to the running of our towns and cities and the care of vulnerable people to be left to chance. It was also recognised that some needs vary from place to place and that some services are therefore best delivered locally.
To ensure that local people have a say in how services are delivered, local authorities are run by elected councillors. Most councillors are unpaid, and receive a small allowance each year to cover their expenses. They represent their local communities, make important decisions about services and the council’s priorities and provide community leadership.