Kent ‘peasants’ storm Rochester

Sue Berry, North Kent Socialist Party

The peasants are revolting again in Kent! Dubbed by Medway Tory leader Alan Jarrett as ‘peasants’ for refusing to shut up at a council meeting, 200 angry Strood Library activists took to the streets on 29 March with local trade unionists and marched to Rochester for a rally.

As they swept past Rochester Castle, which was stormed by rebels in the 1381 revolt, local Tories must have wondered what they have taken on.

Strood Library Action Group was set up following a council decision to close the current purpose-built site and merge facilities with other services in a so-called ‘community hub’ while ousting Strood Community Project, a popular charity delivering services for vulnerable people, from its High Street location.

This has caused a storm of opposition including a 5,000 name petition, three council lobbies and a public meeting attended by 60 local residents.

Addressing the marchers, local resident and Unison NEC member Jacqui Berry said: “This isn’t just about the downsizing of one library.

“It’s about the loss of widely used and much loved facilities to pay for the Tories’ austerity agenda.

“What’s fantastic about this campaign is that it’s linked up local residents with trade unionists fighting cuts in their workplace. It’s a powerful combination that can win.”

At the Rochester rally Tania Earnshaw, representing Medway local government Unison, laid into the plans to create ‘community hubs’ by cutting jobs while stealing money from other services.

Tory arrogance

A number of people representing local voluntary groups spoke along with Kim West who runs Strood Community Project (retail).

Kim said that the arrogance of the Tory administration is down to the lack of local opposition. Her comments highlighted Labour’s feeble council chamber politics and inability to mobilise grass roots campaigns against Tory cuts.

It has taken local community activists, supported by Socialist Party members and trade unionists, to galvanise the opposition and take the fight direct to the council.

Many are asking ‘what’s the point of Labour’ and the ground is being prepared for TUSC and anti-cuts candidates to make strong challenges for council seats next year.