Brent: Unions plan strike action

Residents fearing the devastating impact of the funding cuts gathered to discuss ways to stop them from being implemented, writes Andrew Cheng. In a packed public meeting at the Willesden Green Public Library, organised by Brent TUC, residents and panel

Residents fearing the devastating impact of the funding cuts gathered to discuss ways to stop them from being implemented, writes Andrew Cheng.

In a packed public meeting at the Willesden Green Public Library, organised by Brent TUC, residents and panel speakers emphasised the need for the community to mobilise and take action in the form of strikes and occupations to resist the cuts.

Ann O'Neill, director of Brent Mencap, a charity that aims to reduce social exclusion of people with learning disabilities, was on the panel and she warned that David Cameron's vision of the Big Society, the Conservative Party's flagship policy of getting people to volunteer, is not a solution for the cuts and that volunteers should not replace paid workers.

She said: "I haven't always been a fan of volunteers and I'll tell you why. I was a volunteer for an old lady of 99 in Harrow, and when I did her shopping she'd open her purse to me and say: 'Oh, just take the money.'


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"Well I'm very honest and I don't 'take the money,' but not everybody who badges themselves as a volunteer is going to be that honest, so I think there is going to be an issue about that.

"We have to do CRB checks on people. Not everybody out there in society is nice and there are people out there who are paedophiles, or people that actually target vulnerable people.

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"What's to stop them pretending to be a volunteer?"

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, was also on the panel and said it was important to explain to others why the cuts are happening.

He said: "If you remember three years ago, the veil was pulled back and we saw the whole operation of our economic system taking place before our eyes in which we hadn't seen really before.

"We saw it in all its raw reality, the bankers themselves with their overblown wages, bonuses, and the speculation.

"They exploited the system for short-term gain and the casino wheels were going on. We witnessed that."

He said: "But within three years, it's now nothing to do with bankers' bonuses, or that of the capitalist system, or the casino economy, it's down to our expenditure on public services.

"We employ too many teachers, too many police officers, too many health workers, doctors and nurses."

He urged people to monitor the cuts and work together to find creative ways to resist them.

"We can defeat this and we don't have to be standing back at the moment waiting for this

tsunami of cuts to hit us.

"I think we need to start going to them. I think we need to start being in their face, in every possible way we can by forms of direct action, protests, and industrial action."

One resident summed up the mood of the event when he said during the discussion period: "Nationally, the last government and the current government talks about protecting frontline services. I have asked NHS Brent and the local authority - for a definition of frontline services.

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