Local campaigners heckle councillors set on slashing services

By Ryan Bridgewater


As Tory and Lib Dem councillors gathered in the Guildhall on Wednesday 29th February to announce that they were cleaving £9 million from the budget they were heckled by protesters from the public gallery. Indignant Kingston residents shouted “They’re not ‘savings’ they’re CUTS, call them what they are” before unified chants of “Shame on you!” met the councillors. The 40-strong crowd, who first held a demonstration outside, were a combination of local service users, trades unionists and students.

Kit Leary from Surrey County Unison gave a spontaneous speech to the demonstrators assembled on the steps of the Guildhall, some of whom waved flags from the GMB union. There were lively chants aimed at the leader of the council: “Derek Osbourne get out, we know what you’re all about- Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”. Campaigners also shouted “Save our Services- Stop the cuts!” and gave out leaflets to other members of the public. A Christian group held a prayer vigil outside the Guildhall, complete with a cross and lighted candles.

Despite threats of arrest from aggressive security the campaigners were pleased to have confronted the councillors directly. The cuts they are imposing on Kingston will wreck lives as jobs are lost and public services that working-class people rely on are scaled back. The most vulnerable residents will be particularly hard hit, as much of the cuts are coming from adult social care and services for children with Special Educational Needs.


Kingston Right to Work shuts down workfare stores again

By Richard Donnelly.


About twenty activists congregated in Kingston town centre today to take on companies that are still involved in the government’s “workfare schemes”. Buoyed by the success of the recent protests in forcing company after company to pull out of the schemes, and by the government’s concessions over one of the programmes, they targeted high street shops that continue to use welfare claimants as unpaid labour.

The demonstration was organised by Kingston Right to Work, and hit McDonald’s first, where activists made speeches explaining that, though Chris Grayling, the employment minister, had given the multibillion pound company £10 million to create jobs, they had not used the money to open a single new position.

Wilkinson’s was next, where police and security guards had to lock one of the doors to stop the store being occupied. Shoppers were turned away as the protesters made the case that no one should buy goods from a shop that uses forced, free labour. As the demonstrators headed towards McDonalds, one of the union reps from the shop congratulated the protest for its work, explaining that workfare was being used to undermine the pay and confidence of retail workers.

Demonstrators were angry not only about the crude way in which the government wants to use unemployed people to drive down wage bills for massive companies, but also the attacks on benefit claimants being made in the media and by Tory politicians. Speaking outside Superdrug – which has suspended involvement in workfare, but not pulled out of the scheme completely – one protestor said, “Chris Grayling, the employment minister, calls unemployed people scroungers – but he claimed public money to pay his rent for a flat in Pimlico, even though he owns two in Wimbledon and one in Epsom. The real scroungers are in parliament.”

Kingston Right to Work resolved to keep up its campaign against workfare and continue shutting down stores until the schemes collapse. Members of the group will attending the Austerity and Resistance conference next Sunday to plan their campaign against the Tory attack on benefits and the welfare state.

Kingston activists shut down slave labour stores

By Richard Donnelly.

Activists shut down McDonalds in Kingston

Unemployed people, students and low paid workers took to the streets of Kingston last night to protest against the workfare scheme, which forces unemployed workers to work for their benefits. The action was called by Right to Work, and was joined by members of the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group.

About thirty activists met at Kingston train station to target shops that use unpaid labour. They went on to occupy Tesco, MacDonalds, Boots, TopShop and Primark in central Kingston. Disabled and unemployed people made speeches denouncing workfare as slave labour, and slamming the Welfare Reform Bill, which will force disabled and terminally ill people off Disability Living Allowance and into low-paid work or workfare programmes.

The protestors were applauded by people on their way home from work, and were warmly welcomed by on looking pensioners and workers, who were given leaflets about the workfare scheme. Schoolkids and other passing young people joined the protest, chanting “the Tories stole our EMA, but we won’t work for JSA.”

Campaigners are angry that the schemes mean that retail chains don’t have to pay people to work for them and that young people are being forced to do 40 hour weeks in low-skilled jobs for only £53 a week. The workfare scheme is an attack on the unemployed and on trade union organisation.

The government claims that the scheme helps unemployed people back into work, but actually it just decreases the amount of paid jobs available. It undermines the confidence of retail workers to fight for better pay and conditions, because unemployed people can be forced to work the same jobs for 30% of the minimum wage.

Right to work have called a new protest against firms that use unpaid labour, and will be back on the streets at 1pm, Saturday 3rd March. Meet at the top of Kingston High Street, at the junction with Eden Street, outside Starbucks.

Workfare, no way!
Make the greedy bosses pay!

Petition launched to save Kingston Hospital ward

From Kingston Guardian.

A petition has been launched in a bid to stop a hospital ward being axed.

Derwent ward, which looks after rheumatology, haematology and general medicine patients, is under consultation to be closed from level six in the Esher Wing of Kingston Hospital by the end of the month.

The closure, which comes as the hospital looks to make £2.6m in savings, would mean 20 general medicine beds out of 500 will go.

The rheumatology service would be relocated elsewhere in the hospital.

The petition, which has 28 signatures so far, calls on the hospital not to close the ward, which helped former patient Richard Cranefield.

It also calls on Surbiton and Kingston MP Ed Davey, who campaigned against cuts to accident and emergency and maternity in the past, and Kingston Council to condemn the job cuts and ward closure at the hospital and across the NHS.

A spokesman for Kingston Hospital NHS Trust could not confirm if there would be any redundancies but said a consultation was in progress.

He said: “In the past 12 months, Kingston Hospital has successfully reduced the average hospital stay for medical patients from 7.2 days to 6 days.

“As a result, our patients are now spending less time in hospital and so we need fewer beds. Consequently, we are in a process of consultation to close 20 beds.

“Our services to patients will not be affected by the proposed changes; in fact, the decision has been made in order to improve efficiencies.”

A Unison spokesman said the threat of job losses and the reduction in beds were a major concern.

To view the petition visit gopetition.com/petitions/save-derwent-ward-stop-the-cuts-at-kingston-hospital.html.


Pensioners call on Kingston Council not to close sheltered housing

From Kingston Guardian.

A vulnerable pensioner has made a last minute plea for Kingston Council to halt plans to close a communal block of sheltered housing flats.

Executive councillors are due to decide tonight whether to close sheltered housing at Waters Square in Norbiton.

Read more.

Kingston budget day demonstration: fight back against the cuts!

Say no to Kingston Council cuts!

Kingston’s Lib Dem council are planning swingeing cuts to the borough’s adult social care and education in the upcoming budget. With cuts of over £8.6 million year and planned cuts of£4.4 million next year, Kingston’s councillors are wilfully participating in the destruction of the welfare state.

With between 50-100 job redundancies within the council and privatisation of children’s services, the budget also pushes for cuts of up to £1.4 million to mental health facilities. Already last year seen the closure of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre for mental health patients, Rose Lodge, and plans to sell off resident care homes.

It’s clear the council is determined to make the most vulnerable pay for a bankers’ crisis they didn’t cause. And this all while all but one of Kingston’s senior schools are being turned into academies and 600 job are lost at Kingston Hospital.

All the while £20 thousand is being spent on car park rebranding!

All those who want decent schools, hospitals and other public services, should be opposing all cuts being forced upon us by a council ideologically in lieu with the ConDem government of millionaires. We should say no to all cuts, invest in our public services to create growth and give jobs to the million young unemployed people, every five of whom are chasing one job.

Say no to the council cuts! Join us to demonstrate at the council when the budget is set, 6pm, Wednesday 29th February 2012, Guildhall 1, High Street, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1EU.

Organised by the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group.

For more information call 07795190036 or email kingstonanticuts@gmail.com

Read the budget here.

Facebook event.

Trades Council endorses Kingston anti-cuts demonstration

The Kingston and District Trades Council has thrown its support behind the demonstration against Kingston Council’s austerity budget outside the Guildhall at 7pm on Wednesday 29th February, and issued the following statement:

The Kingston and District Trades Union Council ask members of the public to support the demonstration to be held outside the Guildhall on Wednesday 29th February (early evening) to lobby the Councillors as they go to the Council meeting to set the 2012/13 Council Budget.  Proposals for the cuts are to be found on the Council’s website. Cutting through the tedious “apple pie and motherhood” spin, the proposed cuts make sickening reading. 

Once again, the most vulnerable among us are being targeted to make up the shortfall in Council finances imposed by Central Government to fill the hole left by irresponsible bankers and greedy city gents.

The K&DTUC ask demonstrators to make Councillors aware of the long term consequences of these cuts; the prospect of more youngsters on the street when there is nowhere else to go, the loss of library activities for the very young to encourage a love of books and to enjoy the company of their peers, elderly and disabled residents left without adequate care services that will tip them over the edge into the more expensive care homes, council tenants driven into debt and homelessness.  But of course that will be next year’s problem.

Above all, Councillors should be reminded that they are elected, and paid out of the public purse, to represent all of the residents, not just the ones they play golf with.

Please lend your voice to those disenfranchised by infirmity, poverty, social deprivation and youth.

6pm on Wednesday 29th February at Kingston Guildhall.
Stop all the cuts! Fight for every job!