Demonstrators against public spending cuts in Tower Hamlets were told by the borough’s Mayor last night that he shared their anger.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman told the crowd of around 100 demonstrators gathered in freezing temperatures outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall: “I do not accept the current cuts.’’
He was speaking ahead of a meeting of the full council which was considering plans to cut £20million in the next financial year and a possible total of £80m over the next four years.
Mr. Rahman was both heckled and applauded during his speech, in which he called the cuts “unacceptable” and “disgraceful”.
He said: “I am here to demonstrate my support for you as the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. The cuts of some £75-80 million…over the next three or four years will devastate our community. What I can assure you is this; I whole-heartedly condemn the current cuts. I do not accept the current cuts.”
Some of the protesters were sceptical about Mr Rahman’s anti-cuts message and said he failed to offer any guarantees that he would resist them. Naomi Byron from the Tower Hamlets Socialist Party said: “Rahman only promised not to implement the cuts so that people would vote him in. His promises were an appeal for popularity. In that respect he is just like Helal Abbas, the Labour candidate who was imposed on us.”
The protestors included Green Party, unions, students and campaigns such as Defend Council Housing.
Another speaker, Eileen Short of the Tower Hamlets Tenants Federation, told ELL: “The Government is trying to push through an attack on secure tenancies; people will be effectively vetted about whether they are allowed to stay in their homes. They’re also, by cutting housing benefit on a massive scale, going to force tenants move out of their homes and out of the borough.
“What we’re saying to the council is we want commitments from them. We want them to agree now that they won’t change our secure tenancies for fixed term tenancies. We need more investment in new and improved council housing which is the only alternative we’ve really got to high rents.”
Ms Short echoed many protesters’ sentiments saying: “We don’t see why our councils should be forced to implement policies which aren’t democratically voted on, and which they are saying they do not agree with; so we’re saying ‘don’t implement them, then’.”
Film recorded by Charles Alderwick
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