Some 500 people rallied outside Camden Town Hall in central London for three hours last night in the bitter cold as the Labour run cabinet met to discuss making cuts that will decimate services and jobs in the borough.
Eight deputations were made to the council cabinet including the Unison and NUT trade unions, play workers, library users, under-five workers and Defend Council Housing. The council had initially refused to listen to deputations but changed their mind on the day when protesters made clear their intention to get their voices heard.
While some 100 people packed the public gallery to listen to the debate, hundreds remained outside in the snow, chanting anti-cuts slogans and listening to speeches.
Protesters included pre-school and primary school students fighting to defend their after-school and play projects like the Winch, Plot 10, Fortune Green Play Centre, and Three Acres Play Service.
Amisha, who works in a children’s centre, joined the protest with a group of local play workers. She told Socialist Worker that two of the four centres in Camden are facing closure and that children’s services will be destroyed by the cuts. “This fight is about our jobs but it is also about the service we provide. Young children will suffer the most—what will happen to them if they have nowhere to go? We want our kids to have a better life.”
Children as young as five took to the microphone to defend their play services. One child from Plot 10 praised the programme saying that it is “multicultural and has good workers.”
A group of students from the King’s College occupation against education cuts marched to join the protest. Ellie, one of the occupiers, told the protest: “We are here to show our solidarity. We went into occupation yesterday against education cuts but we are opposed to all cuts.” Cheers went up when she said, “Workers and students must unite and fight.”
Tasha, one of the students from Camden School for Girls who joined the demo with other sixth form students, said “It is not just students under attack, it’s everyone. We have to make a stand.”
Local trade unionists from across the borough joined the protest.
John a member of the RMT transport union in Camden said that we should not accept a penny worth of cuts. “I’ve struck this week on the underground to defend jobs”, he said, “and I am here today in solidarity with people in Camden facing cuts.”
Anna Owens from the civil service workers’ PCS union said that there is an alternative to the cuts—the £120 billion tax avoided and evaded by the rich and big business. She joined the protest with workers from the HMRC tax office at Euston Towers and the British Library.
She said, “The students have been an inspiration, they have shown us how we need to fight. We need protests, marches, occupations and strikes.”
This message was echoed by speakers from SOAS university, from the lecturers’ UCU union and the Unison union.
Inside the council chamber the deputations made the argument that the Labour run council should refuse to make the government’s cuts. Labour councillors made speeches attacking the Tories and Lib Dems but also went on to say that, while they opposed the cuts and would consult with the local community as widely as possible, they had no choice.
“They were very uncomfortable and rattled,” a Unison member who was part of the delegation told Socialist Worker. “Everytime they talked about ‘savings’, people from the balcony shouted ‘cuts'. No one was prepared to let them forget that their actions will impact on our lives.”
Camden Unison is meeting on 13 December where a motion is being put for an indicative ballot for industrial action.
Although the cabinet voted unanimously for the cuts package, the final council decision will be made in February. Activists are planning further protests and actions including a People’s Forum.
Protests need to intensify to force the council not to make the cuts.
To read the deputation made by Camden NUT go to: http://bit.ly/eE2r7y