Mayor Bullock responds to Lewisham anti-cuts protests

Mayor Bullock has released a statement in response to last night's demonstrations:

On 29 November Lewisham Council met to consider a package of savings which had been proposed by the Mayor and agreed by the Labour Group. The measures in this package concentrated on making cuts to "back office" services and increasing efficiency. I firmly believe that if a Labour Government had been returned in May we would have been able to balance the budget with relatively little impact on the service areas we consider to be a priority. The fact that this Tory/Lib Government is forcing us to make half of the 28% cuts this year means that we will forced to continue to make cuts that will generate these kinds of protests.

At the meeting of the Mayor and Cabinet the previous week a minority of members of the public attempted to stop the meeting taking place. During the following days this group made threats via social media to disrupt the council meeting with the intention of stopping the meeting continuing. They encouraged members of the public to bring paint, flour and shoes to throw from the public gallery. Peaceful protest and the right of residents to raise issues they are concerned with must be protected, however it is being undermined by these attempts to prevent meetings taking place

It is clear that there was an organised attempt to prevent a democratic meeting taking place. The Labour Party must always support the democratic process and anyone who believes that direct action to subvert democracy is appropriate has no place in our Party. I have made clear that I will not make decisions on the basis of who shouts the loudest. Those people who will be most affected do not always have the ability to make their voices heard and I have a duty to make sure that their needs are taken fully into account as we make the difficult choices.

The Coalition will announce the funding allocation for London boroughs in the next few days. If this is as bad as feared it will force Labour councils to take even more difficult measures early next year. The Government has the legal power to force councils to balance their books even if the majority of members of that council believe that the funding is inadequate to deliver the services the borough needs. It is easy for other parties to either vote against or abstain from voting on these proposals, but no other party in Lewisham has come up with a fully costed budget alternative detailing how we should make these cuts.

When the Government makes its announcement we will expose the real threat that it contains and look to our parliamentary colleagues to challenge the government by every means at their disposal.