Tower Hamlets to take anti-cuts fight into the council chamber

Tower Hamlets Socialist Party

Tower Hamlets Independent Group councillors will move an amendment to the east London borough’s cuts budget on 24 February.

This follows a second ‘people’s budget’ meeting where 50 people discussed how best to fight the cuts proposed by Labour mayor John Biggs.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and Tower Hamlets Independent Group have been working together. We have invited residents, campaigners and council workers to say how the cuts will affect them, and what should be in a people’s budget for the borough.

There was determination to oppose these devastating cuts from everyone who spoke.

Hugo Pierre from Tower Hamlets TUSC explained that a detailed examination of the council’s financial position has identified £70 million reserves. These could be used, alongside borrowing powers, to avoid cuts outright.

This would give time to help organise a national movement, linking in with other councils, which could force the government to retreat. Councillors who oppose cuts could act as a beacon, giving confidence to anti-cuts councillors around the country.

In a rousing contribution, Councillor Mahbub Alam declared: “The youth is the future of our country. University bursaries are being cut. Very recently Tower Hamlets came top ten in the country for education.

“You want to put Tower Hamlets 20 to 30 years behind? If this was done by an Independent mayor, as God is my witness I would be standing right here and saying the same.”

Abhab Miah, secretary of the Stifford Centre that hosted the meeting, spoke about cuts to school crossing patrols. “If the schools have to provide the school crossing patrols [instead of the council], that will mean cuts in the schools.”

Councillor Muhammad Ansar Mustaquim and local resident Abutayer Chowdhury said the cuts to community organisations and services for young people were so severe they could lead to increased anti-social behaviour.

Pete Dickenson from Tower Hamlets Socialist Party pointed to the success of the campaign of the Liverpool Council in the 1980s, which forced major concessions from the Thatcher government.

Councillor Oli Rahman, the leader of the Tower Hamlets Independent Group, concluded the meeting with a determined speech. He said plans to cut services for young people and the elderly have to be opposed.

“On Wednesday we will put an amendment to the budget. It says not to increase the council tax or cut the laundry service, or free homecare for the elderly.”

A lobby of the budget meeting will present two anti-cuts petitions to the council, including TUSC’s call for a no-cuts budget: 24 February at 6pm, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, London E14 2BG.

Socialist Party public meeting: How Liverpool fought the cuts. 25 February at 7.30pm, Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, London E2 6HG (nearest tube Bethnal Green)