Socialist Worker

Town halls occupied as councillors vote for cuts

Issue No. 2241

Anti-cuts protesters have been occupying town halls up and down Britain as councillors vote through slasher budgets.

Up to 300 people occupied Lambeth town hall in London on Wednesday of last week.

The protesters rushed into the council meeting chanting, “That’s not what democracy looks like—this is what democracy looks like.”

The campaigners, including many council workers, then held a “people’s council” in the chamber.

They took over the meeting, elected their own chair and discussed opposition to the cuts for around two hours.

Andrew Smith, a parent, said, “The council’s got to listen to us. What’s the price of our children’s future?

“We’ll keep coming back and we won’t give up.”

Their protest is part of a growing wave of resistance.

More than 100 council workers stormed into Rhondda-Cynon-Taf council chamber the same day in protest at the Labour-led council’s cuts budget.

They chanted “Shame on you” and “Don’t do the Tories’ dirty work”.

Every worker at the council is being threatened with the sack if they don’t accept worse conditions—and the council plans to sack one in ten of them anyway.

The mayor halted the meeting and threatened to have the police evict everyone from the gallery. Plaid Cymru council members briefly left the meeting in protest.

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bold = The anti-cuts movement marches on

“Clegg, Cameron, hear us say—make the greedy bankers pay!” That message echoed through Birmingham’s streets last Saturday as over 1,500 trade unionists, students and people from community groups marched against the cuts.

Birmingham Unison union joint branch secretary Graeme Horn said, “This is a great turn out and will give heart to activists campaigning for a yes vote in the forthcoming strike ballot of workers in Birmingham City Council.”

Some 300 demonstrators joined a Unison march through Stockport, Manchester, to the town hall on Thursday of last week.

Trade unionists rallied in Canterbury on Saturday and marched trough the city demanding an end to cuts and rejection of the Tory NHS bill.

There were also protests in Southwark, York, Reading, Weston-super-Mare and Bournemouth.

The workers’ rage was clear to see. One worker accused the council leader of “being like Mubarak—denying us a voice whilst you shit all over us.”

Over 200 protesters charged into a Leeds council meeting on Wednesday, shouting, “They say cut back, we say fight back.”

The council suspended the meeting. Although the budget was eventually passed, the protest set down a marker of militant resistance.

Tory leader Andrew Carter said, “We have had some sizeable demonstrations—over pit closures and the Iraq war—but never has a meeting of council been disrupted in such a way.”

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In Hull the next day some 1,000 people besieged the Guildhall with a massive sound system. They disrupted and delayed the council meeting for nearly an hour.

And hundreds of protesters marched into Haringey civic centre.

The councillors went and tried to meet in a canteen—but the protesters got in there too.

In Bolton over 200 anti-cuts activists lobbied the council. Some draped a banner from the balcony saying “Cuts no way—make the bankers pay!”

And in York six activists jumped on a table as the meeting started, chanting, “No ifs, no buts, no public service cuts.”

Where there have been occupations, councillors have run off to vote through the cuts behind closed doors.

But that won’t be the end of the story.

If we can occupy the town halls, then when they come to shut down our libraries, our nurseries, our day centres and our care homes, we can occupy them too.

Thanks to Ben Rutherford, Phil Sanderson and Adam Collins


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News
Tue 1 Mar 2011, 18:46 GMT
Issue No. 2241
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