Protesters at Islington budget meeting for second year running
Protesters angry at huge cuts to the council’s finances marched on Tuesday’s budget meeting and heckled the council leader outside Town Hall.
For the second year running, demonstrators gathered at Highbury Fields then staged a rally on the steps of the council building.
Around 50 people cheered their approval as speakers from Islington Hands Off Our Public Services and the GMB union condemned the �18.2million of cuts in the budget.
But when Cllr Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, addressed the crowd, her speech was drowned out by cries of “hypocrite”.
Inside, as the meeting started, paper aeroplanes floated down on the councillors from the busy public gallery, before security and one police officer restored order.
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It was a far cry from angry scenes 12 months ago when members of the public were ejected from the meeting and one man was arrested for breaching the peace.
The budget was given the nod, bringing 140 job losses – 42 compulsory – increased child care fees, more parking bays, reduced library opening hours and the removal of flower beds from many parks.
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Council rents were also hiked by an inflation-busting eight per cent, although council tax was frozen.
Meanwhile, the council will spend money giving all council workers earning less than �21,000 a �250 pay rise, putting into place a 24 hour anti-social behaviour hotline and creating a youth council with its own mayor.
Cllr John Gilbert, finance spokesman for the opposition Lib Dems, who revealed their alternative budget last week, said: “The council talks about fairness...this was an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is – but this is a plodding and unimaginative waste of a budget. It’s a betrayal of people in Islington.
“Is it fair to put up council rents by well above inflation?”
Cllr Richard Greening, Islington Council’ executive member for finance, said: “Setting a budget is never easy at the best of times, but fairness is at the heart of what we do. We have protected front line services while cutting out inefficiencies.”