Socialist Worker

Cuts anger boils over as protesters storm town halls

Issue No. 2240

Rage at the cuts exploded last week, with protesters confronting councillors as they tried to vote through cuts.

In Southampton, council workers stormed the meeting where the council was setting its budget on Wednesday of last week.

More than 400 workers held a noisy and lively protest in front of Southampton Civic Centre.

They booed and jeered at Tory and Lib Dem councillors as they went in. Council workers shouted, “Cut our pay—lose your seat in May.”

Trade unionists queued up to get into the public gallery, but were soon told it was full.

But the budget was set to impose a 5.4 percent pay cut on council workers—and they weren’t going to take that lying down.

About 50 protesters, many of them refuse workers, managed to storm into the building.

Inside the public gallery, the protesters loudly heckled councillors as they attempted to discuss the budget.

Labour councillor Simon Letts said, “This is the largest public protest we have seen here since the council tax [poll tax] riots.”

Eventually the mayor ordered the public to be removed from the public gallery to stop the shouts of “Shame on you”, “No pay cuts” and “Same old story, same lying Tories”.

Mike Tucker, local Unison branch secretary, said: “There will be outrage among council workers at the decision and the manner in which it was made.”

It came after furious protesters blockaded Cambridgeshire county council on Tuesday of last week as councillors tried to vote through the cuts.

They set up roadblocks and picketed the entrances. Inside the chamber, the protesters shouted “shame on you” and “resign before you sign”.

The meeting was stopped several times while the police threw people out of the public gallery for “breach of the peace”.

Heckling

Later in the week, in Islington, north London, police were called to physically remove around 60 protesters from the public gallery on Thursday—even though all they were doing was heckling.

Shirley Franklin, joint chair of Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, said “They asked the police to evict us for protesting—despite [councillor] Catherine West heading up our demonstration last week against the very cuts she led.”

It came after a protest of 200 marched on the town hall, stopping traffic on the busy city streets.

The council later met in secret in a committee room to pass the cuts budget.

In Preston, around 100 people protested as Tory-led Lancashire county council set its cuts budget on Thursday.

They streamed into the public gallery—where they were met by police officers who had been called in especially to watch over them.

Tory council leader Geoff Driver was heckled as he explained how the council planned to cut “waste” such as the “under-occupied” respite care homes.

One mother of a disabled child tried to ask a question. She was ejected from the meeting by two police officers, while Driver sat back and smirked.

This caused outrage, and the meeting had to be adjourned for 20 minutes as police and security attempted to clear the public gallery.

The wave of anger at the cuts is growing. One thing is clear: cutting councillors have a battle on their hands.

Thanks to Bobby Noyes, Richard Plant and Nick Clark


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News
Tue 22 Feb 2011, 17:52 GMT
Issue No. 2240
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