There will be no “frontline cuts” to children’s centre workers and none of the 22 centres will be closed, Lutfur Rahman pledged at a meeting organised by Tower Hamlets Joint Trade Unions, at the Central Foundation Girls School in Harley Grove on Wednesday night. He also said that the housing link scheme would be reviewed again.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman was addressing a 200-strong crowd at a ‘No to Con Dem Cuts’ meeting where he had been asked to explain the decisions behind the £72 million public spending cuts in Tower Hamlets.
In the prospective budget, children’s centres and early learning provisions were to be cut by nearly £3 million, while the housing link scheme was to be scrapped. Rahman told the meeting: “Last year, £7 million was taken out of the budget, this year £13 million and for the next three years we have to cut £72 million. These cuts have no precedent but I would like to share the budget in a fair way and to protect the vulnerable.”
The Mayor was responding to questions from the audience about the fate of services in the borough. Douglas Pratt, a worker for the housing link project, which supports people with mental health problems facing eviction said: “The cuts are attacking vulnerable people. We are trying to save our project. We already have a petition and we will give it to the Mayor at the end of February.”
There were also concerns raised by the audience about the transparency in the cuts decision. One attendee said: “There should be an open decision, rather than just deciding within the borough council.”
Residents also vented their anger over the scale and scope of the cuts, Sue Nolan, a family support worker for the Meath Gardens children’s centre in Smart Street said: “I don’t understand why ordinary people are paying this price and I can’t believe the speed of these cuts. We can hardly understand what is going on.”
John McLoughlin, secretary of the Tower Hamlets Joint Trade Unions and Alex Kenny, branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) called on all present to join the anti-cuts rally in Hyde Park at the end of March.
Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, who joined Mayor Rahman at the meeting, pledged to join the protest against the government: “These services that we want are being dismantled as we speak. I am not denying that the deficit needs to be cut. That is not the issue. The issue is where the cuts will be made,” she said.
Thousands of people are expected at the ‘Cuts are not the Cure‘ demonstration in Hyde Park on March 26.