Tagged: North East People’s Assembly

People’s Assembly’s mass protest in Newcastle

Three generations of a North East family joined more than 1,000 demonstrators in the North East to protest against Government cuts.

John and Isabelle Baker, their daughter Abby Schoneboom, her husband John and their children Oscar aged eight and four-year-old Maisie were part of the North East People’s Assembly event in Newcastle on Saturday.

Abby, 44, said: “We’re here because we’re appalled by the cuts.

“I grew up in Fenham which had excellent libraries and there was a welfare state when you needed it. I was able to go from a council estate to study at Oxford University. I think that’s not possible now because the support systems are being ripped away from under our feet.

“Communities are being shut down in an almost vengeful manner.”

Abby returned to Newcastle five years ago after living for 15 years in the US where she met husband John, 55, from New York.

He commented: “I come from a country where the health system is broken and you don’t want that.

“I think it’s a great shame about what’s happening to the NHS – it’s one of the things that makes Britain great.”

Isabelle, 69, added: “I worked in the public sector all my working life in libraries. It’s not just about libraries, everything is being taken away from us. It’s time to stand up and be heard. That’s why we’re all here.”

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/72/peoples-assemblys-mass-protest-newcastle

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Sunderland Labour councillor suspended for speaking out against cuts

A Labour councillor has been suspended after she joined protesters opposing council cuts.

 Councillor Rosalind Copeland (Southwick) was hit with a three-month suspension by Sunderland’s Labour Group for going against the orders of party whips.

The ban means she will not be able to take part in the group’s meetings or sit with Labour members at full council meetings.

Members voted to take action against Coun Copeland at a party meeting on Monday.

It appears the row was ignited after the grandmother-of-two joined placard-carrying protestors in the city centre, ahead of an annual budget-setting meeting last month.

A group from North East People’s Assembly met to lobby councillors before the meeting, during which £35million of cuts for 2014/15 were given the green light.

Carrying placards in the shape of coffin lids to signify each public service they said will suffer because of the cuts, the group handed out leaflets.

Coun Copeland attended the lobby in Park Lane before the meeting and supported the demonstrators.

Pointing out that she was not there to criticise the council, but to defend what it is legally bound to do in the face of Government cuts, she said: “I am here to defend my council and the decision my council will have to make – the agony we are facing as councillors.

“As council members, we are having to do things we don’t want to do. The Coalition is pilfering the working class. It is not this Labour group at fault.”

Supporters have given their backing to the 65-year-old, who was elected in May 2008.

Anti-cuts protestor Gary Duncan set up the online petition and a Facebook page calling for the suspension to be lifted.

He said: “As a Sunderland resident and Labour voter who actively opposes cuts to public services, I am absolutely disgusted by this suspension.

“How can the leaders of Sunderland’s Labour Party justify punishing one of their own councillors for fighting the cuts?”

> Labour voter ? So he’s not the same Gary Duncan who, if I remember correctly, stood as a Respect candidate then ?

Though he probably is the Gary Duncan who last year got into bother with Sunderland Peoples Assembly (presumably a  different entity from North East People’s Assembly)

see http://peoplesassemblytyneandwear.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/a-statement-from-sunderland-peoples-assembly/

A Labour Party insider, who did not want to be named, said: “Coun Copeland signed a letter in 2011 to say she would not talk to the press, unless it was ‘on message’.

“But if you started slinging people out of the Labour Party for opposing Tory cuts, there would be nobody left. She is a good local councillor.”

A spokesman for Labour Party North confirmed Coun Copeland had been suspended from the Labour Group for three months for going against the party whip.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “There is an internal Labour Group enquiry live at the present moment. It is against party rules to discuss the situation until we have an outcome and the process is fully concluded.”

Source – Sunderland Echo  12 April 2014

Sunderland – £35million budget cuts

PROTESTERS who gathered outside Sunderland civic centre have said £35million budget cuts will be the final nail in the coffin for city residents.

A group from North East People’s Assembly met to lobby councillors ahead of the annual budget-setting meeting yesterday, during which the multimillion pound cuts for 2014/15 were given the green light.

Carrying placards in the shape of coffin lids to signify each public service, which they say will suffer because of the cuts, the group handed out leaflets.

Among the protesters was Sunderland University chaplain Chris Howson.

He said: “The coffins represents the killing off of council services. We wanted to make a point as the councillors went in.”

Despite huge division in political opinion, all 53 councillors who attended the meeting – just over two- thirds of the 74 current elected members – voted through the motion presented by council leader Paul Watson.

One of them, Southwick Councillor Rosalind Copeland, attended the lobby in Park Lane before the meeting, supporting the demonstrators.

Pointing out that she was not there to criticise the council, but to defend what it is legally-bound to do in the face of Government cuts, Coun Copeland said: “I am here to defend my council and the decision my council will have to make – the agony we are facing as councillors.

“As council members, we are having to do things we don’t want to do. The Coalition is pilfering the working class. It is not this Labour group at fault.”

> The revolution will not begin in Sunderland…official.

To streamline finances, the council is focusing on three approaches; recommissioning services, reprioritising spending and exploring alternative ways to deliver services.

This includes reviewing car-parking charges, pest control and burial and cremation fees as well as reducing the authority’s fleet of bin wagons and the introduction of a four-day working week for recycling staff.

At the meeting, Coun Watson said: “Two years ago I said we were experiencing the most difficult economic period in living memory. This position has not changed. Even more pressure has been put on the council, with further reductions in public sector finances.”

He added: “The council has risen to the challenge and has managed these considerable risks.”

Opposition leader Robert Oliver agreed that the budget was “realistic”, and that while the Tory group welcomed the council tax freeze for a fourth consecutive year, the Labour administration should not complain about cuts, which he claimed had arisen as a result of lost revenue.

He said: “The workforce has been reduced and services have improved so it’s a case of go figure.

> And Sunderland is the 5th worst place in the UK to find work. Go figure that. Reducing the workforce might save money, but it also means more people unemployed. More chasing a pitiful few jobs. More coming under the frankly vile regime in the Jobcentres.

“The leader of the council has given us a slightly two-faced speech. You can’t complain about cuts which could have been avoided if there had been a council tax increase.”

On top of the £35million slashed from the coming year’s budget, the authority will have to find an identical amount to cut the following year.

Coun Watson says some of the savings are being mitigated by “hundreds of milllions” worth of capital investment planned until 2018.

Source – Sunderland Echo,  06 March 2014