Protests outside town hall as council approves further cuts

Protesters outside Lambeth Town Hall
Protesters outside Lambeth Town Hall

Lambeth council has voted through plans to make £12m in cuts over the next year, amid loud protests from trade unions outside Brixton’s town hall.

Protesters gathered outside the building to voice their objections to the budget and call on the council instead to reject any cuts from central government.

But inside the chamber councillors agreed to the budget, which Labour councillor Mark Bennett described as “making the best out of the worst situation” because of drastic cuts imposed from Westminster.

Under the plans the council will cut £12.5m from its spending in 2013-14, having cut £30m last year and £37m in 2011-12.

It has to cut a huge £174m from its spending between 2011-12 and 2016-17, which totals almost half of its budget. It means the level of cuts is set to increase again next year.

Budget meeting

At the annual budget meeting on Wednesday, Andrea Gibbons from the campaign group Lambeth Save Our Services said Lambeth had already lost its park rangers, ethnic minority achievement teams and adventure playgrounds.

She said councillors should hold their meetings at closed-down playground sites rather than in the town hall, so that they could see the consequences of their decisions.

However, Labour councillor Rachel Heywood insisted that no adventure playgrounds had been shut.

Gibbons also criticised the council for paying more than £100,000 each to three new “commissioning directors”.

The Liberal Democrat councillor Christine Barratt said the council’s plans concentrated too much on internal restructuring under the “cooperative council” agenda, arguing that money should instead be spent on delivering services.

The Conservative councillor Clare Whelan also criticised the plans, saying the council could save £400,000 by cutting its spending on “spin doctors and glossy magazines” which she said would be enough to protect the parks maintenance budget.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups had drawn up alternative budgets – but Labour’s council leader, Cllr Lib Peck, said these plans were “tired, vague and impossible”.

Cllr Peck also said at the meeting that welfare cuts due to come into force this April would hit one in six Lambeth residents. “I think we have a duty to campaign very hard against the cuts”, she said.