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Language protesters release balloons in bid for Town Hall cash

PUBLISHED: 08:00 23 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:07 05 October 2010

BALOONS were released on the Town Hall steps for each language class being lost in London's East End. Lecturers and students from Tower Hamlets College held up banners urging councillors to fund English classes

By Else Kvist

BALOONS were released on the Town Hall steps for each language class being lost in London’s East End.

Lecturers and students from Tower Hamlets College held up banners inside the council chamber, urging the authority’s members to fund English classes for non-native speakers.

But they failed to persuade the majority Labour councillors to back a motion by Opposition Tories to use reserves from the Town Hall coffers for the classes.

Respect and Liberal Democrats were also in favour of funding the college’s language classes at last week’s full council meeting.

Earlier in the year the college’s lecturers went on strike in protest at jobs and languages courses being axed. They went back to work after the college agreed to use its reserves to save jobs. But lecturers say they are still fighting to save hundreds of language places.

Labour councillors who claimed to support language classes were met by shouts of, “Put your money where your mouth is!”

Council leader Lutfur Rahman said the council had allocated just over £1 million to language classes from its Working Neighbourhood Fund of which Tower Hamlets College would get a share. He said it would save 650 language classes.

Tory Shirley Houghton then did some quick math and suggested 162 language places could have been saved if former chief executive Martin Smith had stayed with the council. Martin Smith received a pay-out of £325,000.

Opposition councillors also argued it was Tower Hamlets College which had build up expertise in teaching English to non-native speakers and that they should continue to deliver the classes.

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