Lutfur Rahman pledges to join anti-cuts march while explaining his own budget decisions

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman vowed to join in an anti-cuts march in central London on March 26 despite heading a council that plans �72m of its own cuts over the next three years.

Mr Rahman was joined by Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow at the “No to Con-Dem Cuts” meeting at the Central Foundation Girls School in Harley Grove last night.

Ms Ali also pledged to join the Trades Union Congress march and said the current Government was dismantling the work the previous Labour government did to address inequality.

Mr Rahman adddressed a packed hall of trade union members, public service workers and parents to explain the package of �72m cuts outlined by his cabinet which will be voted on by a full council meeting on February 23 and said he wanted to pass a budget that is fair and shared the burden.

He said: “No leader or mayor has faced this level of cuts.

“We live in unprecedented times. Even in the Thatcher years which I remember well we weren’t in such a serious position.

“If I don’t pass a balanced budget, council officers will do it.”

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That led to cries of “better them than you” from the crowd to which Mr Rahman said the axe would fall more heavily in their hands.

Specific concerns raised by members of the Joint Trade Unions, who called the meeting, and audience members included fears over the future of children’s centres, after-school care and the housing link service in the borough.

The budget for the children’s centres and early years services is to fall by �3m; spending on after-school care will be cut by �873,000 and the housing link which supports people with mental health problems facing evictions will be scrapped.

The mayor said there would not be “frontline cuts” to children’s centres, that after-school care would continue based around eight schools and that he would look again at the housing link service.

Ms Ali said she agreed that the deficit had to be reduced, but the issue was where the cuts would be made.

The audience also heard from John McLoughlin, secretary of the Joint Trade Unions, Alex Kenny, the branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers and Rebecca Short, 15, a Morpeth pupil who wrote a first-hand account in the East London Advertiser this week about marching against education cuts on Saturday.

Mr McLoughlin addressed Mr Rahman in asking him to “stand with people like us” against the Government.

He said: “Isn’t it better to break the law than break the poor?”.