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Posted on 4 February 2011 at 17:10 GMT

Tower Hamlets anti-cuts meeting

Nearly 200 people came to a meeting in Bow, east London, on Thursday 3 February to protest against cuts in services. The event was organised by the Tower Hamlets council joint unions.

Tower Hamlets, which is now run by a newly elected mayor and his cabinet, is proposing to axe vital services, including closing whole departments, as well as cutting hundreds of jobs this year alone.

Pete Dickenson, Tower Hamlets Hands Off our Public Services.

One section to be cut entirely is Housing Link that provides support to mentally ill patients to find accommodation when they leave hospital. David Amery from Housing Link pointed out that only in December the council newspaper, East End Life, had run a feature on his section explaining how it was a vital service for the community and without it, people with mental health problems would be left on the streets to fend for themselves, but now it is facing closure.

Helen Granger who works in school support services said that everyone in her area is to be made redundant except for four senior managers who all earn over 70K.

This is despite the mayor's assurance that senior management positions would be first in line for the chop.

The organisers of the meeting invited the mayor, Lutfur Rahman, who stood as an independent in the election with the backing of Respect, to come along to answer questions from council workers and residents.

He was no doubt hoping that he could pose as an opponent of the cuts even though he announced that he would vote for them, but in fact was subject to angry workers and residents demanding he take a stand to fight the attacks and was heckled throughout his speech.

His only defence was that it was better that he made the cuts than the council's finance officer, but he didn't explain why. Not surprisingly only one person in the audience spoke up to support this position.

For some reason the meeting organisers also invited the local Labour MP, Rushanara Ali to speak, even though she said she supported cuts, in line with Labour policy.

She got a rough reception though with many pointing out Labour's record in introducing tuition fees and in cutting EMA. Apart from giving an undeserved platform to Rushanara Ali, the main drawback with the meeting was that no one was brought in to speak who put forward a programme to beat the cuts, by for instance drawing on the lessons of the Poll Tax and Liverpool council campaigns in the past.

The only concrete proposal was to back the TUC demo in March - which is important, but not enough.

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