The VOAG joined the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group for a demonstration outside Kingston Council’s Budget meeting at the Guildhall, Wednesday, 29th February.
The council approved cuts of over £8.6million with another £4.4million planned for next year and a further £12 million the year after. They follow cuts of over £15million last year.
Kingston Council has already made a 100 redundancies, cuts to children’s services and £1.4million cuts to mental health facilities. At the same time the council has spent £20,000 on car park “rebranding”. A further 600 jobs are to be lost at Kingston hospital, together with £6million cuts to adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs. Another £500,000 is to be cut from “One Kingston” projects.
Kingston TUC, the CWU and GMB unions, the Communist Party, Kingston Anti Cuts Group, Kingston SWP, the Socialist Party, Surrey Unison, the IWW and Kingston Labour Party were represented in the 60 strong demonstration.
The demonstration was joined by the Christian Peoples Alliance, who held a candle-lit vigil and said prayers for “those less fortunate than themselves” (us), before taking off in their brand new cars.
As the Tory and Lib-Dem councillors arrived for the meeting, they were met with chants directed at the Tory council leader: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our services- stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to passers-by.
Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstration assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, he said: “With all these job losses, it’s a time when we need our public services more than ever.” When the meeting was due to start the campaigners joined the councillors in the warmth of the Guildhall.One fat balding Tory, councillor Priyen Patel, spoke of the council becoming a “commissioning council”. This is Tory speak for privatising services, where-by public services, presently provided direct by the council, are bought, or commissioned from private companies who profiteer from the tax-payer. He spoke of boosting charities rather than providing services.
Campaigners and residents in the public gallery were outraged. They shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” and chanted “Shame on you!”. The mayor Councillor Patrick Codd was forced to adjourn the meeting whilst half the public gallery were escorted out of the meeting under a threat of arrest. They chanted “shame on you” and “why don’t you stand up for the people you represent?” Some of the protesters broke away from their escort to run back into the meeting via another door to continue their berating.
The demonstration attracted a very positive reaction in the local press and won some great publicity for the Kingston Anti Cuts campaign. Once again the Super-Swappies (SWP) of Kingston, who organised the event, show the rest of us how it’s done. Some of those present asked after the South London Anti Capitalists and wondered why they hadn’t come out to support the demonstration. Well, the VOAG thinks the clue is in the acronym.