Hundreds of protestors rally against cuts in East End at fiery council meeting

Mayor lobbied on Wednesday

HUNDREDS of angry East Enders descended on the town hall in protest against the unprecedented cuts facing the borough.

Students, union members, residents and an anarchist group gathered at Tower Hamlets Council’s Mulberry Place base this evening demanding new mayor Lutfur Rahman take a hard stance against the government proposals.

Scores of cops held guard both inside and outside the building as the protest turned ugly.

At one point, about ten men from the Whitechapel Anarchists – who warned they would wreak havoc – stormed out of the council chamber shouting obscenities.

The scenes remained raucous, with fiery residents cheering and hissing as the council discussed the 500 job losses and �20 million cuts to be brought in by the next financial year.

Critics claim Tower Hamlets will be hardest hit by the cuts because it relies heavily on the public sector.

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Vikhas Chechi, a Unite member who works at Queen Mary university, was one of the many protesting in the cold.

He said: “This borough is the poorest in the country and yet the cuts are bigger than elsewhere. We want to see the mayor do something.”

East Ender Sultana Ali said: “We came here because we are worried. They have to make some cuts but my concern is that they will remove posts from the frontline and save the top jobs. There’s no point in having ten managers. They should look at which projects are delivering and which aren’t.”

Describing his “anger” over the cuts, Mr Rahman admitted the future was very uncertain.

He said: “These are not our cuts. The full extent of what the government wants to take from us is not clear.”

Several groups spoke during the three hour-plus meeting.

Eileen Short, of Tower Hamlets Tenants’ Association made a plea for the council to promise that they would not replace residents’ secure tenancies with fixed term deals.

Mr Rahman responded that housing would be one of his priorities, adding: “People have enough to worry about without the fear of the council taking away the roof over their heads.”

John McLoughlin, Trade Union member, spoke about the scrapping of the �30 a week education maintenance allowance, which more than half college age students in the borough rely on.

He said: “You don’t need EMA in Eton but if you want to keep our children in Tower Hamlets College then you do.”

Councillors also voted to oppose the cuts and support peaceful protest over the coming months, agreeing there is a disproportionate burden of cuts facing Tower Hamlets.

Some 32 councillors voted for the motion, seven against it and one abstained.

Despite loud cheers over vows to resist the cuts, job losses are already being felt by public sector workers.

Up to 99 posts will go at NHS Tower Hamlets and more at the council in the next month.