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Councillors heckled out of Camden cabinet meeting by protestors

Protestors outside Camden Town Hall where speakers included representatives from Crossroads Women's Centrein  Kentish Town Protestors outside Camden Town Hall where speakers included representatives from Crossroads Women's Centrein Kentish Town

Friday, December 7, 2012
1:00 AM

A Camden Council cabinet meeting was held up for more than half an hour by welfare protestors booing and shouting at members from the public gallery on Wednesday (December 5).

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Labour leader of the council, Cllr Sarah Hayward, left the room to chants of “shame on you” and “liars” as demonstrators requested she organise a public meeting on benefit cuts.

Earlier, more than 50 protestors gathered outside the Town Hall in Judd Street in the freezing cold to bring attention to sweeping welfare cuts being rolled out across the country.

Budget cuts have meant people who receive benefits because they are in low-wage jobs, part-time work, or are disabled, will receive less money.

On Tuesday, December 4, Chancellor George Osborne announced a further £10billion cut to welfare spending.

Local councils are responsible for implementing the cuts and protestors called on Camden to organise an emergency public meeting to discuss plans for next year, in particular the proposed abolition of council tax benefits.

Representatives from Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town organised the campaigners, who beat drums and cheered on the speakers.

Claire Glasman from the charity Winvisible, which supports women who are disabled, said: “A humanitarian disaster is unfolding and we are dealing with women who are worried about their benefits and if they’re going to have to pay council tax on top of rent increases.”

Single mother Sian Evens said many of her son’s friends at Kingsgate Primary School, West Hampstead, have been forced out of the area because their families cannot afford the rent.

She said: “Eighteen families disappeared from school because of benefit cuts and that’s scary for the children to see. Most of them are immigrant families.”

After the demonstration, campaigners were allowed three minutes to speak at the cabinet meeting inside the Town Hall.

Petra Dando, chairwoman of the Camden Association of Street Properties, said: “We don’t want a tenants’ meeting that takes place when no-one could make it and we don’t want a meeting at a community centre all the way across Camden.

“We want an open, public meeting in this chamber.”

But when she was told she had spoken for the full three minutes, campaigners in the public gallery started shouting over councillors, who left the room.

Half an hour later the cabinet returned and cabinet member for finance, Cllr Theo Blackwell, calmly asked the campaigners to “listen” rather than shout, adding: “This isn’t a public meeting, it’s a meeting held in public. I know it’s a fine distinction but I hope you will allow us to have a very important debate.”

The meeting continued although Cllr Hayward was occasionally interrupted with shouts of “give us a date”.

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