£100million axed as violence flares across north London
PUBLISHED: 13:00 04 March 2011
DESPITE hundreds of frustrated protesters making their anger loudly heard outside town halls this week, councillors across three north London boroughs have voted to impose more than £100million of cuts in the coming year.
Violent scenes in Haringey, where two people were arrested, a huge march in Camden and vocal protests in Barnet saw members of the public barred from town halls as councillors rubber-stamped budgets that will see libraries, children’s and youth centres, care homes and day clubs for the vulnerable axed following the coalition’s swingeing local government cuts.
Normally only visited by a handful of enthusiasts, council meetings were fronted by police lines as protesting residents urged councils to reject the cuts. Councillors said this would only put un-elected bureaucrats in charge of budgets.
In Camden, protesters chanting “Camden Councillors: Blood on your hands” marched from Mornington Crescent to the King’s Cross Town Hall where public entrances to the chamber were closed-off by shutters and a heavy police line.
Following several attempts by the crowd to force their way past police, officers decided no-one could enter the meeting on public order grounds except those who had tickets to make deputations. Some eventually made their way into the public gallery, where constant heckling forced two adjournments.
Branch secretary of Camden Unison, George Binnette, told councillors: “You are all bit players in a drama being enacted at council meetings up and down the country.
“The worst cuts to the public sector since World War Two mean the demise of the last remaining vestige of local democracy. I am sure no Labour councillor believes these cuts are necessary, especially in the sixth richest country in the world where bankers’ bonuses have returned and corporation tax is down.
“But we need your opposition. That does not mean going on the anti-government march – it means rejecting this budget tonight.”
Speaking after the meeting about the protests, finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said: “I think 80 per cent of the people there were local people and people who were very frustrated at not being able to get in.
“There was a small minority who have been on this pan-London protest-fest and they ruined the democratic right to come to the meeting of Camden residents who actually care about their playcentres and older people’s services.”
His comments were echoed by Haringey Council leader Claire Kober, whose meeting was set back by an hour and a half after protesters clashed with police and occupied the chamber, scrawling “No more cuts” across the front of the room and forcing councillors to be evacuated..
She claimed that at least one member of staff was assaulted, glass doors smashed and two arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. One of those arrested is a prominent member of the Haringey Alliance for Public Services.
Cllr Kober said: “I am livid with the actions of a minority, many of whom I don’t believe are local, who assaulted staff, damaged our building and prevented local people from being heard. They are a disgrace.”
But Dave Morris of HAPS, said the door was accidentally broken by police as they tried to prevent people entering the chamber.
“Many people became anxious and fearful after the council called in the paramilitary-style ‘heavy mob’ Territorial Support Group unit who were very aggressive compared to the local police,” he said. Some residents were injured by police as they pushed people out of the building, and two Tottenham residents were arrested for no reason. A friend with learning difficulties was pushed around by police and became very distressed.”
At Barnet there were angry scenes after some residents were barred from the overflow room and were not allowed to enter the council chamber, despite the availability of empty seats.
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