Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/11741
Hands off Westminster children's services!
'Save Our Children's Services Westminster' organised a protest on Friday 8 April which was lively and effective in holding London's Westminster council to account.
It started at 7am when campaign member Finola Inger was interviewed on BBC Radio London. Finola criticised Westminster councillors for voting through a 20% cut to children's services whilst at the same time rejecting a proposal to cut their own expenses by 10%.
Then at 8am, Westminster cabinet member for children and young people, Nicola Aiken, was questioned by BBC Radio London about the cuts. She was forced to answer questions on the generous expenses councillors receive, including perks such as free parking permits which residents have to pay for.
Ms Aiken's main argument was that central government had made cuts, so Westminster has to do the same. There was a notable absence in her answers of any reference to the needs of children and parents in the borough.
Also missing was any alternative to a cuts agenda.
At 10.30am, approximately 50 campaign supporters, including children, gathered outside Westminster City Hall on Victoria Street, wearing 'hands off' t-shirts and carrying banners and placards.
We cordoned off an area in front of the building and created a children's play area on the pavement with chalk, musical instruments and balloons.
Passers-by took leaflets and signed our petition in support of the campaign. Our message was that we do not accept that there is no money to fund children's services in Westminster.
There continues to be money for some things, like expensive consultants and executive pay, but not for the services we need and rely on.
At 11am, we presented 500 petition signatures to Michael O'Connor, Director of Children's Services, who accepted them on behalf of Nicola Aiken. Ms Aiken herself was unavailable.
Parents expressed their opposition to the cuts and invited Mr O'Connor to come and speak to the children who would be affected by the cuts Westminster plans to make. He declined.
Campaigners were supported at the lobby by Westminster Anti-cuts Alliance and Westminster Unison.
The support for our protest shows that many Westminster residents do not agree with the cuts and want properly funded children's services in the borough. The campaign continues.