Justice, and Ingratitude, or justice of sorts
LAST night I joined the crowd outside Brent town hall, in Wembley, calling on the Labour-led council not to vote for a series of cuts in public services and community resources. There were teachers - branches of three different teaching unions under one banner, there were people from the law centre, and library staff, there was someone from Mencap, and someone representing council tenants. There were people from two Asian community centres which are facing loss of grants. A speaker from the campaign against library closures told us about popular reading protests held in Cricklewood and Kensal Rise.
Brent Trades Union Council was there with its banner, and so were Kilburn Unemployed Workers. Brent Fightback, the anti-cuts campaign which unites trades unionists with service users, produced an 'Open Letter to Brent's Labour Councillors' which was distributed, urging them not "to pass on the ConDem government's cuts".
"None of you stood for election wanting to cut back on Brent's much needed services. The attack on public spending is clearly an attempt to destroy the gains in the welfare state made over decades. Together with their backing for pay restraint in the private sector, and their attacks on employment and trade union rights, this is an attempt to make the working class pay for a crisis of the system, for which they have no responsibility."
It went on to urge Labour councillors ad MPs to "stand up to this assault. But opposing the cuts should not just mean protesting against them -though we could do with more of that -or simply relying on people to elect an alternative when the next general election comes around, by which time many services will have been privatised or destroyed. It means working to defeat them now."
Police reinforcements were called to the town hall after demonstrators, hearing that only a limited number had been allowed into the public gallery to listen to the debate, tried to press their way in. From time to time slogans and songs rang out from those (including the Red-Green Choir) who had made it into the building, and a big cheer when it was reported that a much bigger demonstration in the neighbouring borough of Camden had caused the cuts debate there to be halted. For a time the Camden anti-cuts protesters blocked the busy Euston Road outside the town hall.
For more on the Brent and Camden protests, and results, see:
(Thanks to Louise Whittle for report, and heads-up to three videos )
It seems that Brent's 30 Labour councillors could not bring themselves to oppose the cuts on principle, although there were some reprieves. They say they have no alternative, that otherwise the Tories, specifically Local Government minister Eric Pickles, will simply take over and make things worse. But anti-cuts campaigners, including loyal Labour Party members, say it would be better to let the Tories do their own dirty work, so the campaign could take on the government directly.
Martin Francis, of Brent Green Party, who blogs on Wembley Matters, tells us about the vote last night and the response it got from the Tories, but first I'm also grateful for him for breaking some other news. In April last year I told about the Wembley teachers suspended for drawing attention to the generous bonuses which the head and his deputy had obtained, part of what could happen the more schools are freed from local authority control.
In June, whether through union backing for the teachers or embarassing publicity for the school, the head and his deputy were suspended instead. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but here's the news:
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Arrests over allegations of financial mismanagement at Copland High School
Three people were arrested today in connected with the long-running financial scandal at Copland High School. Newspaper sources suggest that those arrested were Sir Alan Davies, former headteacher, Dr Richard Evans former deputy headteacher, and Lesley Evans his wife who was also employed at the school.
Martin Francis also provides the following example of what thanks a Labour council can expect for doing the Tories' work:
Pickles condemns 'tragic' Brent Council
Exchange in the House of Commons yesterday:
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning Labour-run Brent council, which at tonight’s budget meeting proposes to close six libraries and all its day care centres, introduce fortnightly refuse collections, and hammer street cleansing and the voluntary sector, while taking the £2.5 million grant that was meant to freeze council tax and applying it to balances?
Mr Pickles: What a tragic council that is. All it needs to do is take a short ride on the tube to see adjoining authorities in London that are protecting libraries, expanding their services and protecting the front line. No doubt it will get its come-uppance.
The sad thought is that decent Labour supporters who oppose the cuts could suffer with the guilty when it comes to election time. We can only hope that it's the anti-cuts movement and not the Tories which is able to give those doing the cutting their come-uppance; and that we can prepare a political alternative from within and without the Labour Party to fight for working people, the way the other politicians dedicate themselves to looking after the bankers.