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Fight Cuts In Jobs And Services
THREE HUNDRED people marched in Waltham Forest, north-east London from the town square to the town hall to protest about cuts in social services. It was extremely lively and noisy.
Simon Donovan, Chair Waltham Forest UNISON
The favourite chant was: "Buckley, Buckley, Buckley, out, out, out", Buckley being the leader of the council.
There were lots of UNISON members whose jobs are under threat and many of the groups whose services are being cut. There was a big contingent from Handsworth nursery, members of the Alzheimers Association, pensioners groups, and many other community groups facing cuts.
The council want to cut nearly £7 million by April and £2.6 million right away. This will mean the closure of three children's day nurseries, two elderly people's day centres, numerous cuts to social work teams and community development and there will be compulsory redundancies.
80% of social services across the country are also facing cuts. But this is extremely short-sighted. According to Ron Wallace, head of community services in Waltham Forest, the budget overspend isn't due to his mismanagement but increased spending on the "heavy end" of social services.
But this "unprecedented increase" is due to the policies of the New Labour government. These cuts might be at the "lighter end" ie nurseries, day centres for the elderly. But if you get rid of this safety net people will just fall through and put more pressure on the "heavy end", with no savings.
Also the authority is relying heavily on agency workers. It can't recruit social work staff because it is the third poorest payer in London and has the reputation of being a badly managed authority.
Undoubtedly these cuts will result in deaths. It could be a social services 'spectacular' such as a child murder or simply a pensioner passing away this winter, lonely and cold because a day centre has closed.
Unison is linking up with community groups to fight these cuts. We are holding a second organising meeting and many groups are proposing occupation of their nurseries and day centres. Unison is organising a ballot in six weeks time to bring the whole of social services out on strike. And we are hoping to expand that to other service areas where budget cuts are threatened.
At the lobby Socialist Party speakers explained that we stood against New Labour in the general election and would be doing the same in the local elections. We called on people there to join us and stand as anti-cuts, anti-privatisation candidates and already people are coming forward to stand against New Labour councillors.
"New Labour have tried to encourage people like me to go out to work and claim Working Families Tax Credit. Now I'm going to lose my job if my daughter's nursery closes".
"We are working with vulnerable elderly people. They need care not despair".
"I've got three grandchildren at Handsworth nursery. My daughter was given ten weeks notice that the nursery was closing. She's having to phone around private nurseries which charge up to 100% more than council nurseries. This is the end of affordable childcare".
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