Posts Tagged ‘Lambeth SOS’

The demo was great last night I thought, especially given that we are now in the long hard grind of the 3rd year of cuts, and services have been cut, coworkers made redundant, and contact with friends and families lost. We wanted to highlight the deep cuts to children’s services that have already taken place by building our own adventure playground on the steps of city hall. We painted a backdrop over the weekend while leafleting for the demo


And the miniature inflatable playground gave everyone a taste of the joy that the lost adventure playgrounds once brought Lambeth’s kids


We created a library backdrop as well, as our libraries are still on the block. Only a small delegation was allowed in of course, though many joined us in the gallery. Public speaking isn’t quite my forte, but this is what I did my best to say:

Good evening Mr Mayor and Councillors. Thank you for agreeing to listen to me.

My name is Andrea Gibbons and I am speaking on behalf of Lambeth Save Our Services.

We set up Lambeth SOS in 2010 because we could see the cuts that were coming and we could see the damage that they
would do.

Over the past two years you have made £66 Million in cuts, and they have done real damage.

We have lost the Park Ranger:s.

We have lost the Ethnic Minority Achievement Team.

Two years ago,  I was there when the former Leader promised that no Adventure Playgrounds would close – but if you visit our Parks this weekend you will see the tragic sight of deserted Adventure Playgrounds standing empty. There is nothing more tragic than a deserted and locked up playground.

At the same time you have made more than 550 redundancies and outsourced 100 jobs, jobs belonging to friends of mine, and half of them to Southampton.

These have been some of the effects of the cuts so far.

Now you face making cuts of £108 Million over the next four years, most of which have yet to be planned. These cuts will devastate our services and our communities and throw hundreds more workers on to the scrap heap of unemployment.

We all know two things about these cuts.

First, they arise from the policies of Central Government, who are forcing through spending reductions not to reduce the public sector deficit, because they haven’t and won’t, but in order to destroy our Welfare State.

Secondly, this is not a poor country that is short of money.

Seventy years ago, after the Second World War, when we had far less, the Attlee Labour Government created many of the services which are under attack from this Government.

If they could do that then, we do not need to tolerate these cuts now.

The cuts to our jobs and services are a political attack upon our communities by a Cabinet with a majority of millionaires.

Lambeth SOS believes that Lambeth, the whole borough, all of us, should fight back against this political attack.

And that includes you Councillors.

We believe that, instead of planning only how to live within the ever tighter financial limits which the Government set for you, you should be leading the fight against these cuts.

The Co-operative Council is not going to be an antidote to these cuts – particularly not when your next step is going to be to appoint three new Commissioning Directors each on more than £100,000.

Labour Councillors have rightly taken a strong line in opposition to the threat to Clapham Fire Station. We think you should fight just as hard to protect all our services.

I think that if you are going to set a budget which makes further cuts that you should not meet in this chamber.

I think you should meet in one of our closed down Adventure Playgrounds so that you can reflect upon the consequences of your actions.

Whatever you decide, Councillors, there are citizens and staff who will resist further cuts, whoever is making them.

In reply they said everything I said had been true, we were facing something unprecedented, we had to lobby the central government…but in response to our request for a council that will lead us in the fight? I’m afraid I don’t really see them leading much of anything.

But we will continue to fight, Lambeth residents and staff.

Lambeth council cut £12 million from youth services this year. This has meant:

  • The almost total destruction of the in-house Adventure Playground
  • Severe cut backs in opening hours in One O’clock Clubs
  • Mass sackings of dedicated children’s services staff

They mean to cut £13 million more in the coming year. I confess it makes my stomach hurt to think about how our demo on Saturday fits into our history and our present circumstances.

Croydon riots

A society that believes in its own future cares for its youth, nurtures its youth, provides for its youth.

Our government is turning its back on our future.

Even in the face of riots we are watching the destruction of desperately needed services and the sacking of those who have dedicated their lives to our youth, at the very time we need to be building and improving them, at the very time when quality jobs are most desperately needed.

Massing in the square with us was a ‘march for black justice, black unity and against deaths in custody and state brutality’ called by the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM). It underlined the point that there are two paths down which a government can choose to tread, that of caring for youth, or that of repression and incarceration. Who chose to move towards the second? But we have. Prison populations in the UK have hit record highs, and it is vital that we recognise the deep racism inherent in our system made so visible in the racial breakdown of arrests and convictions. In march, Met officers were asked to explain why Blacks were the victims of tasering at such a higher rate (50% of recorded taserings, though about 2% of the population). Since then more black men have died in police custody, joining a list of 3,180 people who have died since 1969.  These are two sides of the same campaign and we need to combine and fight for both: to stop rising incarceration and repression, and to preserve and expand our youth services.

So we fight now, but there are not enough of us. The rally was lovely I thought, especially the One O’clock Club choir! But I could not disagree with the disappointment expressed by one of the One O’Clock Club workers. She asked just where were the parents and the children who use their services, now that we must fight to keep them? Now is the time to think about what we do next, how we do it better, how we can build a movement large enough to shape our own future.

As Labour Party councillor Kingsley Abrams has said “We have to stand up and fight the Condem cuts. It wasn’t the young people that caused the economic crises – it was the bankers. Yet youth unemployment has risen to nearly 1million, the EMA cut, tuition fees tripled and local Councils are closing down youth centres and adventure playgrounds. Oppose all cuts and fight for the alternative.”

In a recent article about Occupy St Pauls’, a protestor was quoted saying “I don’t understand the purpose of unions”.

Since unions were smashed by Thatcher in the 80s, and the introduction of further anti-trade union laws first by the Tory government and then by Labour, membership of unions in the UK has dwindled from 13 million in the late 70s, to 7.1 million in 2009.

Right-wing and anti-union commentators often gloat that only a minority of the country is a member of a union, implying that trade union action is insignificant and alienates non-unionised workers and the general public.

It isn’t surprising therefore that protestors at the Occupy camps which have sprung up across the globe have sometimes struggled to make the links between their protests and the work of trade unions and the Labor movement in the US.

But trade unions, despite the decline in numbers, are directly connected to the Occupy movement, in its calls for a more equal society. Every time a trade union takes strike action over pay and conditions for their members and wins, they improve conditions for all people who work in that area, whether they are a member of the union or not.

And by pushing up the benefits of people in the workplace, they force employers to use some of the profits to reward the people who produced those profits with a better salary and better working conditions. In other words re-distribution of wealth from the top to the bottom.

Strike action by trade unions is often portrayed as holding ‘the country to ransom’ or ‘a gun to the government’s head’. When in actual fact, what successful strike action does is make sure that workers receive benefits for the work they do and that any profits from their work are shared more evenly between workers and employers.

This idea of making sure that work is enjoyable, sustainable and rewarding for everyone, not just those at the top, is what permeates all union activities and is what unites us with the Occupy movement. And like the Occupy Movement’s idea of a better, fairer society, this is something that everyone who works, or wants to work or has worked, should aspire to.

Non-unionised workers, many in the private sector, who feel powerless and at the mercy of the whims of their employers are understandably unhappy. A life of unrewarded, demoralised labour and uncertainty, to be then thrown on the scrap heap and left to fend for yourself when you reach retirement age is something that private sector workers are right to complain about. It is indeed a dire existence.

But that is where agreement tends to end. From this point the argument goes 2 ways – either those with better conditions ‘stop whining’, ‘live in the real world’ and everyone is reduced down to the worst possible conditions.

Or, we stand and fight together to bring the level of conditions, pay and pensions up, for every worker. In doing this, we also agree that the money is there and dispute the theory that the ‘pot is empty’, based on the evidence we have seen such as the recent increase in energy-company profits and FTSE company directors’ salaries. That is what a trade union does. And that is why so many trade unionists support the new global Occupiers.

And it’s also why the pensions strike on November 30th is a strike for anyone who works, or who wishes to work, or who has worked, and for all those who strive for a more equal society.

Because cuts to pensions affect everyone and it is another small struggle in the fight for a decent way of life for ordinary working people. It is a stand against those who wish to see a further increase in the gap between the 1% and the 99%.

And so it is important that not only all the members of all those unions come out on November 30th, but also that people from every workplace, as well as students and the Occupy movement, show their support for this strike and indeed for any form of resistance to the greed of the current system. A system which takes money from the poor and lower-paid members of our society in order to increase the wealth of the rich, no matter whether it’s from our pensions, our childrens’ playgrounds, or winter-fuel allowance for the elderly.

Mandy Brown
Lambeth SOS,
Teacher and UCU Member

If you are a a trade union member and support the St Paul’s Occupation, please sign the petition below:

Known as Los Años Dorados to those of our elders for whom this day centre is a lifeline, today they turned out in force to Phoenix House in the first action to preserve it.

Day centres provide a resource for the entire community, build well being, create a place of safety and ensure that someone is watching out for each and every one of our seniors. I find it so infuriating that Golden Years is being cut, particularly as it serves a community for whom English is a second language and who are even more at risk of isolation.

But I confess I am inspired by my elders.