Islington marches against the cuts - 05 Feb 2011

Photo: Islington Labour Party joined the IHOOPS march, 5th Feb 2011, despite the fact that it is the Labour Council implementing the cuts.
Photo: Islington Labour Party joined the IHOOPS march, 5th Feb 2011, despite the fact that it is the Labour Council implementing the cuts.


Thousands of Islington residents took to the streets on Saturday 5 February, marching against proposed cuts in the borough. FRFI supporters joined the demonstration, organised by Islington Hands of Our Public Services (IHOOPS), which marched from Holloway to Angel.

The budget drawn up by the Labour Party council is brutal, with £52 million being cut this year alone. Up for the chop are services for the most vulnerable, including Sotheby Mews day centre. Sotheby Mews provides day services for elderly residents, and is a lifeline to its users – however, the Labour-run council has declared users are ‘not heavily reliant on it for their well being’. Users of the centre who joined the march disagreed. Speaking to FRFI, one user of the centre, Elizebeth Clare, said that  ‘so many people depend on it, and it's a lifeline, especially to those who have the first stages of alzheimers’. Refuting the other council claim that the centre is underused, Ms Clare said that ‘We've counted up the amount of people who come there. It's well up to full capacity. They are using this to close it down’.

The demonstration was greeted by honking car horns and cheers as it passed through the borough. FRFI supporters led lively chants along Upper Street, as demonstrators passed by the council headquarters. FRFI speakers on the march highlighted the role of the Labour council and ConDem government in implementing the cuts, and called for councillors to stand down rather than make cuts budgets. This was supported by many of the demonstrators, but did not sit well with Labour Party members, who were aggressive and threatening towards FRFI supporters on the march.

At the head of the march was Labour council leader Catherine West. Cllr West is one of the members of the council responsible for the recently-released cuts budget, which details the swingeing cuts that they are set to make over the forthcoming year. With acrobatic skill Cllr West has managed to chant for a fightback at the same time as she prepares to push through brutal cuts on public spending. Her hypocrisy was highlighted by numerous residents through the march, who called for her to refuse to make a cuts budget. Sotheby Mews user Elizebeth Clare hit the nail on the head - Cllr West “does not have to stay there as leader of the Labour council, she can resign tomorrow. And that's what common decency she should do.”

This is far from the first time when Cllr West or the Labour council have shown their own hypocrisy on the cuts they will implement. On 15 December 2010, Cllr West declared to a protest rally outside her council office that “We will be defending public services. We will be defending pensions and our community. We must stand together.” How fickle her words sound. Cllr West is far from being the only member of the Labour council to have shown their true stripes in recent weeks. Cllr Charlynne Pullen of Caledonian Ward recently announced that she would approve a cuts budget, claiming that voting against cuts is “an idealist position”. Despite this, and without a trace of irony, the SWP-dominated Right to Work campaign is placing Cllr Pullen on a panel discussion on “How can councillors resist the cuts?” at their forthcoming People's Convention meeting.

The involvement of Labour party councillors in the cuts is far from being a phenomenon isolated to Islington. One thing is clear from all this. Whether it's a Labour council or a ConDem government, cuts are cuts, and we have to rise to fight them. The people of Islington are beginning to do just that.