Protesters took to the streets of Gateshead to oppose plans for another £46m worth of cuts over the next two years. Report by Tony Dowling
In the first ever Gateshead march and rally around 300 people protested against coalition government cuts last Saturday.
Organised by Gateshead Public Services Alliance & supported by North East People's Assembly, library and leisure services users, keen swimmers and pensioners united to campaign against proposed closure of local libraries, sports facilities and services for mental health and older people.
All three local MPs - Ian Mearns, Dave Anderson & Stephen Hepburn - joined together with campaigners from Save Felling Library, Save Dunston Activity Centre to speak out against the Tory-LibDem coalition Government’s current financial deal for local authorities.
Gateshead Council is proposing a further £46m worth of cuts over the next two years, including the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre, Dunston Activity Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre, as well as reducing funding for older people’s and mental health services.
Other cut backs - including the older people’s service which helps people with their shopping and paying bills on time - could lead to job losses.
Alison Chapel, area organiser for the Public Services Alliance, said:
“These cuts affect real people because they use the service and they need the service and in some cases, particularly the older people’s service, it’s a false economy anyway because it’s quite a low level service but it means people can stay in their homes and it prevents them taking up beds in hospitals."
At the rally outside Gateshead civic centre Stephen Luke, a mental health services carer who looks after his brother said of the cuts: "it's been pure hell, it's nearly cost my brother's life!"
Clutching a placard saying "I'm too old to be this angry" pensioner Sidney spoke up for the Save Felling Library campaign with Alison, who said: "I never thought in my life I'd be alive when this government decided to take schoolkids books off them!"
And Gateshead MP Ian Mearns declared that: "60% of cuts are still to be enacted, so it's vital we keep up this fight!"
Gateshead Public Services Alliance will be organising lobbies of council meetings to protests further cuts. Visit Gateshead Stop the Cuts, Save Our Services facebook page.
Tony Dowling is a teacher, socialist, trade unionist, antifascist, anti-war & anti-cuts activist. He is currently chair of North East People's Assembly and a member of Counterfire.
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