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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 May 2011

Campaigners put pressure on Lambeth council

Tory-run Wandsworth council hit the headlines recently with its outrageous plans to charge children 2.50 to use the local playgrounds at weekends. Councillors in its Labour-run neighbour Lambeth hypocritically criticise this while making plans to cut adventure playgrounds across their borough to reduce the council's deficit. Lambeth's plans however are meeting resistance from local trade unions and community campaigners. ANDY TULLIS from Lambeth Unison reports.

Following the launch of Lambeth Unison's Save Children's Services Campaign, parents, staff, children and local anti-cuts activists lobbied the full council meeting on 11 May, together with Lambeth Save Our Libraries and the Save Park Rangers campaign.

100 campaigners gathered on the Town Hall steps were joined by successive waves of parents and children from different adventure playgrounds around the borough, who kept up a noisy protest throughout the evening with vuvuzelas and whistles.

The council had very heavy security arrangements, closing the main town hall doors and putting security barriers and a police guard on the side entrance. As a Unison steward pointed out: "That is not a sign the council are in control, it's a sign of weakness because they fear you, the workers and community".

Deputations from the three campaigns went in to address the council meeting; the 'Save Children's Services' deputation told Labour councillors they had broken their promises to children earlier this year when they said they wouldn't be closing adventure playgrounds (APGs). Under their proposals, the APGs would hardly ever be open!

Worse still, because opening hours have been so vastly reduced and staff can't live on the wages, this will create a mass exodus of staff, threatening to collapse the APG service almost overnight.

We called for alternatives like using some of Lambeth's unallocated reserve funds (the fourth highest in London) or using 1.9 million of new government money to stave off the worst cuts.

Our deputation warned the Labour group of what happens to parties that break their promises and betray the trust they had; reminding them of the Lib-Dems' recent election meltdown.

The Labour group were dismissive of our alternatives but did make some 'concessions' around APGs, agreeing to extend staff contracts until after the summer holidays, and then make them redundant! This only adds insult to injury but does show there is still everything to fight for.

The Labour group also seems to be very rattled over the libraries and park rangers campaigns so now we have to increase the pressure. Lambeth Unison is holding an indicative ballot to decide on industrial action against cuts and redundancies. Strike action united with community campaigns can force the council to retreat and will save many services and jobs.

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In The Socialist 18 May 2011:

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