Islington budget protest called again despite chaos last year

Anti-cuts campaigners will stage a protest at Islington Council’s budget meeting – 12 months after the town hall erupted in chaos when police were called in to eject the public.

Last year residents and activists were dramatically hauled out by officers after derailing the budget-setting with furious bursts of shouting and chanting, in anger at the �52million cuts package being nodded through.

One man was arrested for breach of the peace, while many complained of rough treatment and the council was left facing accusations of being heavy-handed and too eager to call in the police.

But union leaders who have once again called a demonstration – the budget meeting takes place on Tuesday February 28 – do not hope for a repeat of those startling scenes.

Ken Muller, of anti-cuts group Islington Hands Off Our Public Services (IHOOPS), said: “Clearly there were strong feelings last year and the people protesting were very angry about the cuts, but our aim is not to disrupt the council meeting again. The cuts should not be happening, but the main cause of them is the government and not the council.”

A further �18.2million is set to be slashed from the budget as the Labour-led council continues to grapple with huge central government cutbacks.

That will bring another 140 job losses – with 42 compulsory redundancies – and more cuts in vital frontline services, including the scaling back of library opening hours and raising of childcare fees.

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As they did last year, protesters will march from Highbury Fields to the steps of Islington Town Hall, in Upper Street, Islington, to stage a rally, before packing into the public gallery for the meeting.

Cllr Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, said: “Everyone has the right to protest against the government’s unfair cuts to inner-city areas.

“In the face of these massive Government cuts our budget absolutely prioritises services for Islington’s most vulnerable people, to build a fairer borough.”