Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/477/2156
Lambeth demo against cuts
Andy Tullis, Lambeth
Lambeth Councils ruling Labour Group were forced into a retreat over its plans to for services to vulnerable adults last Wednesday when a demonstration nearly 500 strong marched through Brixton and descended on Lambeth Town Hall.
This remarkable demonstration, the biggest Lambeth has seen for years, was called by the SOS campaign, an alliance of Voluntary Sector organisations, service users and community groups. The demonstration itself was made up of many disabled service users, elderly services users and their carers alongside voluntary sector workers and local Trade unions.
After a very vocal and lively spell of chanting "Save Our Services"on the Town Hall steps, to the cheers and applause of many passers by and motorists, Council officials threw open the doors to the assembly rooms for all those unable to get into a packed public gallery, the crowd were able to watch the full Council meeting on the big screen via a live audio-visual link up..
A deputation from the SOS campaign made a moving address to the Council meeting imploring the council to rethink its shameful proposals. Proposals that include 700,000 worth of funding cuts to the voluntary sector, increases in home care charges from £7.55 an hour to £17.50, a huge raft of new charges for previously free services, and the raising of the councils 'eligibility criteria' to 'Critical' (meaning that only those adults in the most imminent and dire need even qualify to receive a service).
Local Socialist party members and UNISON activists were invited to address the crowd, we lambasted the council and the hypocrisy and opportunism of the Lib-Dem/Tory opposition. We reminded them the previous Lib-Dem/Tory coalition that run Lambeth closed Day Centres, made Care Workers redundant and reduced services for vulnerable adults, to wild applause from the crowd in the assembly room and much to the embarrassment of Liberal-Democrat and Tory councillors smarming around everyone crying crocodile tears.
When Labour leader Steve Reed refused to come and address us in person a section of the crowd attempted to storm the council chamber, the Labour group were so startled by the whole thing they agreed to postpone a decision on increasing service charges and extend the consultation period, although a partial victory for the SOS campaign cuts to the voluntary sector were voted through as part of the councils overall budget.
By extending consultation on some of its proposals the Labour group are undoubtedly just playing for time, they are inviting campaign leaders to join them in asking central government for more money. Certainly council budgets have been under-funded for years leading to constant crises as need for statutory services increase, but for Labour councillors pleading with Blair's government will remain just that. None of them have the stomach to stand up to central government like the socialist councillors of the 80's in Lambeth and Liverpool who refused to make cuts, and instead set "needs budgets". In light of the levels of poverty in Lambeth and the recent increase in gun crime amongst local youth implementation of a "needs budget" is more urgent than ever
The Socialist Party in Lambeth calls for
1. Support the SOS campaign: Save Our Services. Keep up the pressure on Lambeth Council. Link up the campaigns.
2. A mass demonstration and lobby of parliament to demand proper funding for local services from central government.
3. A "Needs Budgets" for adult and youth services, worked out by community organisations and local trade unions.
4. A New Workers Party: Elect our own socialist representatives who will refuse to make cuts, who will fight for the millions not the millionaire
5. Trade unions break with Labour, stop funding the Labour Party that are viciously attacking public services, pensions and jobs and fund candidates that support union policy .
In The Socialist 8 March 2007:
International Socialist Resistance
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party review
International Women's Day
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis