A noisy, colourful, 1,000-strong march wended its way along Holloway Road in north London last Saturday.
This was the fruit of a month’s campaigning by IHOOPS—Islington Hands Off Our Public Services.
Young families, pensioners, students and trade unionists joined the march. Their anger at the damage being done by the cuts was palpable.
Retired Islington teacher Sue Seifert told me, “It will take years to recover from what they’re doing. We are only just getting over Thatcher! Education is being run down by a bunch of public school boys with no understanding of the needs of our children and the communities they live in.”
Deborah Caplan and Jo Holoway, both local voluntary workers, were equally furious.
Deborah said, “I’m defending our public services because otherwise Islington will not much longer be a very nice place to live—especially if you lose your job, get your benefits cut or are a victim of crime, which inevitably rises along with unemployment.”
Jo pointed out that “Disabled people are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society. The services which support them are being lost.”
Gary Heather, president of Islington trades union council, commented: “We’re here to oppose the cuts. We do not accept that we are all in it together. There is an alternative: investment in public services and jobs and cutting fat cat bonuses and tax avoidance.”
Local youth Connexions worker Dean Ryan, who provides advice and support to local teenagers, said, “My service is being cut by 80 percent and I’m witnessing firsthand the distress caused by the cuts.
“The trade unions should organise a general strike.”
It was good to see council leader Catherine West at the head of the march. But she must know she will get a less friendly reception if the council goes ahead with £52 million cuts at the full council meeting on 17 February.
IHOOPS will be lobbying the council meeting that night, at the protest called by Unison and supported by other council unions.
Ken Muller is assistant secretary, Islington NUT