(Written in response to this article and part-published here).
Dear York Press,
Last Thursday, seven members of York Stop the Cuts held a protest inside the Council Chamber. We took this action to show our dismay at the Council’s budget cuts of £21 Million, which will hurt the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society. The cuts include 170 job losses, the privatization of day and night care services, cuts to the Supporting People and Mental Health Grant, to youth services and childrens’ centres, to care for older people, and to funding for York’s Holocaust memorial.
We have been disappointed with the personal attacks some members of the council have made against us since our protest. Conservative group leader Ian Gilles called us ‘hooligans’. If he thinks that a few people standing on a table is hooliganism, we can only suggest that he must have led a very sheltered existence. The real hooliganism lies in the devastating cuts that his party and the Lib Dems are foisting on the rest of us.
Cllr Andrew Waller says that we disrupted democracy, yet his Executive did everything it could to prevent democracy during the meeting and showed utter contempt for the people that they are supposed to represent. We were dismayed with the way in which councillors sneered and laughed during the public participation section of the budget session. Several members of the public even had the microphone snatched from them when they were wrapping up their speeches. Therefore, Cllr James Alexander was absolutely correct in stating that we, and many other members of the public, have not been listened to.
On the York Press website, Tory Councillor John Galvin arrogantly stated that he left the room because we were not worthy of his presence, and questioned whether we pay council tax. This should be irrelevant. As an elected Councillor, is John Galvin saying that people who, for a variety of legitimate reasons such as low pay, being a carer, have a disability or severe mental impairment, do not pay council tax, then they have no right to an opinion or to take action? Does he not have people in these categories in the Ward he represents? Shame on him.
We are proud to have participated in this direct action. If it were not for people taking direct action in the past, the British people would not have statutory holiday days, sick pay, a limit to working hours, or the right to not be discriminated against. Without direct action, York certainly would not have a female Mayor.
We would like to thank the people in the public gallery and the councillors who chose to remain in the chamber as a show of solidarity, and especially those who clapped along with our chants.
We would also like to thank the police, who handled the situation excellently. We are fighting for their jobs as well.
If anyone wishes to come to our next planning meeting, this will be held on Tuesday 1st March at 7.30pm in the Black Swan pub on Peasholme Green.
The Guildhall Seven, York Stop the Cuts.