‘THESE CUTS WILL HIT THE POOREST IN CAMDEN’ – says Camden UNISON branch secretary

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A section of last Wednesday night’s over 300-strong lobby of Camden council
A section of last Wednesday night’s over 300-strong lobby of Camden council

Over three hundred angry Camden trade unionists and residents lobbied the Town Hall last Wednesday night over suddenly announced plans to cut services.

The Tory-Liberal Democrats led council executive was meeting to decide on cuts, including a 42 per cent cut in funding for Camden Law Centre.

Messages of support were read out from Labour leadership challenger John McDonnell MP and UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis.

GMB member Steve told News Line: ‘This is all rubbish, it shouldn’t be happening.’

Estate worker Jeffrey French, Camden Town DHO UNISON shop steward, added: ‘I feel this is about the privatisation of the caretaking and other services in Camden that are not already outsourced.

‘We’ve been through Best Value and all the tests, and now they are trying to cut services that are important to the tenants and residents of Camden borough.

‘They plan to cut services that are badly needed.

‘I believe there should be industrial action.

‘We are not just talking about our jobs, we are talking about the residents and tenants of this borough.

‘All the unions should come out over this. We want to get the council listening properly.’

UNISON member Sally Hunter, an employment adviser at Camden Law Centre was furious.

‘We’re here because the council is proposing a 42 per cent cut.

‘This will very likely close the centre down.

‘We have massive support from the community. I would doubt the council has considered that.

‘Neither have they given any indication as to how they arrived at that huge percentage cut.

‘We have no idea how they can want to cut 42 per cent from the entire funding.

‘Demand for our service has increased, it does not diminish.

‘From whichever political angle you look at this service, we help our community – in work, in housing, productive members of society.

‘We have got to be worth the money, however you vote.

‘The community will lose money if they close us and we will have massive social problems.

‘We’ve been in operation for over 30 years. It’s cheap to cut a service like ours, but it’s incredibly expensive to re-establish, if not impossible.’

Anne Stewart, leader of Camden Labour group of councillors, told the lobby: ‘This is a right wing budget.

‘The Labour group will be fighting to defend services.

‘We are opposed to the meals on wheels charges being proposed.’

She told News Line: ‘We will be holding the executive to account in their decision.

‘The budget is out for consideration, we hope demonstrations like today will make them take notice of the strength of feeling and stop the worst excesses of the cuts.’

Clare Glassman from women’s disabilities group Invisible said: ‘We have to all stick together to demand they don’t end our entitlement.’

Caretaker Paul Tanner, a UNISON member told News Line: ‘We’re here to save our jobs.

‘We don’t want any cuts whatsoever.

‘We want to keep our services and stop any job losses.

‘I don’t like what is happening, we’ve been through this before in the 1990s.

‘There was a big cut in public services then and a lot of redundancies.

‘I’d support a strike over these cuts.

‘We voted for an indefinite strike at our union meeting yesterday. Now we have to go for a ballot.’

Camden UNISON branch secretary Dave Eggmore told the lobby: ‘This administration said they want to improve services when they were elected.

‘They are doing the reverse of that.

‘These cuts will hit the poorest in Camden, and this is the beginning as far as the council is concerned in making cuts.

‘They want a five per cent cut year on year.

‘This is not the end for us either. UNISON is organising a campaign around the whole community to fight these cuts.’

Jean Oedrago told News Line: ‘I’m here representing the Congolese community in Camden.

‘We have been fighting hard to work with the council. Now things have stopped working.

‘Now they are cutting all the services and privatising them.

‘It will really affect our people.

‘We don’t see the private sector taking care of the refugee people that we are.

‘The private sector works for their profits not for the benefit of people.

‘We are people living in isolation, deprivation and poverty.

‘Our council group says it is working for inclusion. These cuts go against all that.

‘The trade union should take strike action against the privatisation and cuts. we need their support.’

Kentish Town resident Samuel Osei added: ‘I want to stop the cuts.

‘The Law Centre is under threat. It helped me out of homelessness and on several other issues, including health.

‘Without the Law Centre, I don’t know if I would be here today.

‘I’m here to give my support to the demonstration.

‘These services are vital for communities across the whole nation.

‘The trade unions should take strike action to defend their members’ jobs and stop these cuts.’

UNISON member Sonia Claris said: ‘I’m a project officer at Holborn District Housing Office, and they’ve decided they don’t need us anymore.

‘We’ve been through many reorganisations but this is the worst.

‘There should be industrial action over these cuts.

‘First we have to get the support of the residents.

‘The council is trying to win over the residents by saying they will freeze the council tax.

‘But that has a price and the price is cutting services which are vital to residents.

‘Our campaign is just starting, the cuts were announced suddenly.

‘We are going to fight this. I’m a resident as well, so I have two vested interests as my job is on the line.’