Ken Loach, the award winning film director, will be speaking in defence of the Broadway Theatre and against cuts in Barking on Thursday 16 February at 7:30pm the Spotted Dog pub, next to Barking station. The meeting will also be addressed by Councillor George Barratt who resigned from the Labour group in protest at the cuts, and Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the lecturers union UCU.
The meeting has been organised by Barking Against the Cuts and the Coalition of Resistance to protest at the cuts in services being carried out by the Labour Council. The theatre, a very popular venue not just for performing arts far from the West End but also for classes and community groups, is threatened with closure at the end of the financial year.
But the cuts in services by the council also affect also many other services. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government coalition has reduced by 28% the funding to Barking and Dagenham. The Labour council is passing this onto to local residents, the effect of which will include:
Up to 200 council staff to be sacked;
Slashing redundancy pay for sacked workers by more than half;
One-stop shop services to be reduced;
Loss of post-school educational facilities in facilities in the Adult College.
These cuts are taking place in an area of London which desperately needs decent well-funded public services for all. Even before the recession, Barking and Dagenham had been identified as one of the four most deprived London boroughs for:
Number of working-age benefit recipients
Low pay for those living and working in the borough
Working-age people with limiting long-standing illness
Under age pregnancies
The cuts are being imposed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government coalition but are being carried out without resistance by Labour Council. These cuts affect a wider range of services.
Primary schools are at breaking point due to a rise in the number of children and the government cutting the school expansion budget by half from £4.4 million. The council may have to rent out empty commercial premises such as those of MFI or Woolworths, and classes may have to operate on a shift system.
The local NHS trust of Barking, Havering and Redbridge financed through Private Finance Initiative loans has to find £49.8million which it does not have to pay back the debt. Government emergency funding to meet this contractual obligation may result in cuts in health services.
And now the Sunday Times revealed on the 3rd February that Liam Smith, the leader of the Council, was awarded a council flat weeks after separating from his wife while 11,000 people are on the waiting list.
Cllr George Barratt yesterday said that “It is appalling that ordinary people and the community are being made to suffer through these massive cuts in services. The main parties all argue that cuts are necessary because of the economic crisis and that we are all in it together. But the crisis is not of our making and we should not have to pay for it. Clearly there are some in Britain who are not in it with us. They extremely rich and think they should get bonuses worth millions for simply doing their job. Those millions could instead help out instead the community in Barking with for example more classrooms and keeping the Broadway Theatre open.”
The meeting on Thursday 16February will hear how we should unite to resist the cuts and defend our public services and welfare state.