Islington Labour Council sets police on anti-cuts protesters - 17 Feb 2011

On 17 February, around 200 demonstrators, including supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, marched on Islington town hall in north London to demonstrate against the council's 2011/12 cuts budget. The budget will contain £52 million in cuts to jobs and local services, including 350 job losses and swingeing cuts to youth services, day centres, transport services and rises in tenant charges. Demonstrators made their presence felt on the steps of the town hall, before entering the public gallery to make their feelings felt.

In an Equality Impact Assessment delivered to the meeting, the council declared that its priority was to ‘make Islington a fairer place’. The blatant untruthfulness of this was demonstrated only a few paragraphs later, where it noted that the cuts would have ‘a direct impact on residents who receive services from the Council and this will mainly be younger, older, disabled and poorer residents’. With cuts that mean slashing essential services to these very people, the Labour council has shown just whose side it stands on.

Islington's Labour councillors had spent much of the run-up to the budget meeting shedding crocodile tears over the cuts. No such remorse was shown as the council met and prepared to implement vicious cuts and job losses, with cynical smirks on their faces. As demonstrators in the public gallery heckled the meeting, Labour councillor for Caledonian ward Paul Convery waved his hand in dismissal at them. The true depth of the councillors’ contempt for their constituents was shown, however, when the police were called in to remove protesters from the public gallery. Sixty demonstrators were dragged away, with individual policemen making threats of violence against a number of them. One protester was arrested but released shortly after. Four LibDem councillors left the meeting in disgust at the police actions – but not one single Labour councillor complained. The council then shamefully reconvened in a private meeting room to pass some of the deepest cuts in the borough's history, hidden away from the people it claims to represent.

The hypocrisy of Islington Labour was demonstrated in action. On 5 February Labour leader Councillor Catherine West actually took part in the Islington Hands Off Our Public Services demonstration against the cuts; less than two weeks later she was calling the police on protesters demonstrating against the exact same cuts.