The Independent London Newspaper

 

IHOOPS marchers urge council to resist budget cuts - axe hangs over lifeline services

The marchers make their way past Islington Town Hall

Published: 11 February 2011
by TERRY MESSENGER

THEY came to express their alarm over the future of schools, libraries, hospitals and jobs as public authorities embark on spending cuts on a scale never before seen in post-war Britain.

Days after Islington Council announced a swingeing budget reduction of £52million, 1,000 people marched from Holloway Odeon past the Town Hall to a rally at Islington Green to express their fierce opposition.

All were agreed on their opposition to the Coalition’s austerity programme and where primary responsibility lay – with bankers and their allies in government.

But big cracks in the anti-cuts alliance were also apparent as some speakers at the rally called on Islington’s Labour council to abandon its policy of implementing the reduced budget while protesting against the government.

They called for strikes, sit-ins and a campaign of civil disobedience to louder cheers than those which greeted the speech made by council deputy leader Paul Smith absolving the authority and blaming the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

The march was organised by Islington Hands Off Our Public Service (IHOOPS) – a coalition comprising members of trade unions, the Labour Party and left wing groups, as well as non-aligned individuals.

It set off from Holloway Odeon at noon on Saturday led by Councillor West holding up the main IHOOPS banner declaring: “Islington Strikes Back Against the Cuts.”    

It was accompanied by a bus blaring out rap and reggae protest songs – notably a splicing together of lyrics “He’s a liar, liar, liar”  with a speech by David Cameron in which he promised “this government will not cut the deficit in a way which hurts those in most need”.

Cllr West left the march early to attend New Year celebrations being staged in Archway by Islington Chinese Association, leaving her deputy Paul Smith to take any potential flak.

With news of the council’s closure of Sotheby Mews, the cutting back of advice services for teenagers leaving care and reductions in community police services, fresh in people’s minds, they chanted: “No ifs, no buts, no public service cuts.”

They were in good voice and good mood but the carnival atmosphere disolved as the rally began at Islington Green and angry speakers addressed the crowd from the top of the bus.

Although there was no malice towards the council deputy leader, Paul Smith, his speech was greeted politely rather than enthusiastically.

He said: “We must all stand together and that’s why the council is looking to work to support everybody and bring our community together to oppose the government.”

He called on marchers to join a national anti-cuts protest next month, adding: “We’ve had a thousand people today but I think we should have one hundred-thousand people from Islington out on March 26th showing this government that we won’t take any more cuts to our community.”

A much warmer reception was given to Sotheby Mews user Liz Clare. 

She told the crowd: “There are people there who come for respite because they are   carers. 

“There are people who are paralysed down one side, people in wheelchairs, on zimmerframes, on crutches. 

“We look after one another.”

Trade unionist Paul Brandon, a Unite rep at Holloway bus garage, called on the crowd to occupy Islington Town Hall on February 17 if, as expected, a full meeting of the Labour-run council votes through the £52m cuts package.

Asked to comment on the speeches calling on the council not to implement the cuts, Cllr Smith said: “In Islington Labour was elected to be on the side of the working people in the borough, and that’s why we’ve brought in free school meals, set up a Citizens Advice Bureau, and prioritised the building of more housing".

 

Comments

Post new comment

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.