Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/397/4843
New Labour's sham democracy exposed
ON SATURDAY 18 June, workers and users from the Walthamstow Learning Centre, local residents and the Walthamstow Socialist Party will be protesting against the proposed closure of the adult education centre.
At a lively Community Council meeting on 6 June, supporters of the campaign against closure were howled down by local councillors who later pleaded that the decision had been taken away from them.
This whole issue highlights the sham democracy operated by Blair's cohorts at local level. No consultation took place into the decision not to renew the lease on the Greenleaf building; no cabinet discussed it; no council meeting voted for it.
Before the meeting had even started, the ex-mayor instructed us that we wouldn't be allowed to speak because we weren't residents of those particular wards. When we told him our objections to the closure of the centre (used by all the people of the borough), he threatened to physically remove us from the meeting.
In effect this decision was made by a quango - the Learning Skills Council - along with council service managers, and has completely by-passed the elected representatives.
Campaigners only heard about the closure in late April. Since then they have tried to organise opposition to the very obvious asset-stripping taking place in the borough, linked to the closure and sale of other council buildings. Workers from these buildings will be expected to 'hot-desk' and squeeze into smaller, more cramped buildings.
Land is at a premium in London. It is being bought by property developers and big retail operators at an incredible pace, with the connivance of local and national government.
The Socialist Party has raised the need to organise community defence of community services - when the possibility of occupying the centre was raised it gained an enthusiastic response at the meeting. Unfortunately, it is not applicable to this campaign but asset-stripping is gathering pace across the country and we should give people the opportunity to physically defend their services.
There is also the distinct feeling of a witch-hunt in this campaign with management and council adopting a real authoritarian response. Lecturers were told not to speak to councillors or the press, individual members involved in the campaign have been threatened with disciplinary action and Socialist Party members have been threatened.
In The Socialist 16 June 2005: