Hundreds march through Islington against Government cuts

HUNDREDS of people marched through Islington yesterday (Wednesday) in an attempt to stop the swingeing cuts planned for the borough.

Because of Government cutbacks, cash-strapped Islington Council needs to find around �100million in savings between 2011 and 2015.

Officials are currently poring over every item of council expenditure in an attempt to find the money – but a hit-list recently leaked to the Gazette reveals that proposals include axing Christmas lights, getting rid of lollipop men, ditching staffed adventure playgrounds, hiking up pay-and-display charges, putting up the cost of meals on wheels, and getting rid of hundreds of council jobs.

In an attempt to stave off the savage cuts, Islington Unison led a candlelit march from Highbury Fields to the Town Hall in Upper Street, Islington – and around 400 people turned out in support.

The coalition Government has just announced local councils’ finance settlements, which reveals that around �40million of Islington’s �100million-odd cuts will need to be made in 2011-12.

Mike Calvert, deputy branch secretary of trade union Islington Unison, said: “The council proposes around 300 job cuts to permanent London Borough of Islington services from April and around 800 over the four years to 2015.

“Members are particularly angry at the decimation of children’s services, which is cutting 136.5 posts next year - nearly half of all the cuts. This is terrible when the council’s core priorities are meant to include children in need, and when youth unemployment is so high.

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“Unison is marching because of these and hundreds of other cuts across this and every other council across the country.

“We need to resist these cuts. There is no way we will allow our members and service users to pay for the crisis of the bankers. They will still get their big bonuses while our services are slashed to the bone.”

Branch member Andrew Berry, who works in Islington social services, added: “Islington is one of the poorest boroughs. It’s very unfair. So we are not only standing up for our jobs but for the people in the community. These cuts will hit people very hard.”

In protest at the Government’s announcement, councillors on Labour-run Islington Council also joined the march.

Councillor Richard Greening, the council’s executive member for finance, said: “We think that what the Government has done is very unfair to the poorer districts of the country, including us. All the poorer councils have received the largest cuts.

“Labour councillors were on the march. We don’t believe that what we are being asked to do is either fair or necessary and even if you did agree that the reductions were necessary, they could have been shared out more fairly.”

Islington Unison wants Islington’s councillors to stand in opposition to the cuts and for Unison as a whole to call for strike action.