Good Bye from York Stop the Cuts

After a period of online discussion and a final meeting, York Stop the Cuts is coming to a close. In 3 years of existence, we have done a lot, but now is the time to stop and hand over to other groups and projects who will keep the spirit of the group alive whilst bringing in fresh energy. We want to emphasise that this is a positive move, allowing new activities to grow up in our place.

York Stop the Cuts has catalysed to the rejuvenation of York Trades Council and Food Not Bombs York (the folks who feed us on protests), and the formation of York’s Alternative History and York’s Housing Crisis, and played a role in building up York Welfare Campaign and Defend Our NHS York. But deeper than that, the group leaves in its absence a big network of people who remain connected and ready for action. When the EDL threatened York Mosque, many of those connections were in evidence among the familiar faces who showed up.

The small sum of money in our bank account is being passed forwards to York People’s Assembly to support their launch conference on Saturday 12th October. We invite everyone who has supported this group to support that event and the growing group behind it. We also want to highlight these groups for you to stay in touch with:

ATOS protest: Solidarity with the Hardest Hit

In the week that saw some 8000 disabled people and supporters marching through London under the banner of “The Hardest Hit”, York campaigners have targeted a company deeply involved in the current witch hunt against disability benefit claimants. ATOS Origin hold the Department for Work and Pensions’ contract for carrying Work Capability Assessments. In line with the experiences of campaigners in other places, including Leeds, we found that ATOS had decided to shut-up shop for the day, which campaigners hailed as a success.

Campaigners with a banner reading "Don't Cut Disabled People Out"

York Welfare Campaign Group, a new initiative of Stop the Cuts, organised the picket and fliering of the ATOS-run Health Assessment Centre on St Deny’s Road and Piccadily this morning. Fliers were handed out, a banner was displayed and later the York Press turned up and a phone interview was given to Minster FM. The protest was part of a national week of protest called by “Benefit Claimants Fight Back“. The Welfare Campaign holds its next meeting in the Black Swan (Stop the Cuts’ regular venue) on 17th May at 7.30pm.

Third Coach filled… Final Week push!

On Friday we finished selling coach 3, taking us to 150 tickets sold. After Saturday, we’re a good way in to coach 4. Tickets are still available online. Combined with everyone travelling by union charter trains and other means, this takes us to 300 attending from York. We hope to gather as many of those as possible at our London meeting-point in Mallet Street, opposite the University of London Union at around 11.30am on the day.

On Monday, we’ll be meeting outside the Art Gallery in Exhibition Square at 5.30pm to get fliers out to houses around the Groves and surrounding areas. With lots of people, we’ll cover the entire area very quickly, and we often get a good response in this area. If you particularly want to cover your local streets, we may still be able to get fliers to you. We’ve covered somewhere close to 5000 houses already.

On Tuesday morning, we’re fliering workers from 8am, meeting outside the Aviva building on the corner of Station Rise/Rougier Street. This may be our last fliering event for the protest, so please come along – we get a surprisingly good response from people at this time in the morning.

The Guildhall Seven Speak Out

(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.

Yours,

The Guildhall Seven, York Stop the Cuts.

City Budget Week News Clippings

All these links have been doing the rounds, but here’s a reminder of some of our York Press articles from the last week. We’re generally thankful for their coverage, though some of the comments they printed unchallenged from Lib Dem and Tory party leaders will be getting further responses.

The budget process started with exec member hearings, and for the session covering Adult Social Care, group members organised this creative vigil. We got our first coverage before even doing anything, as we announced our week of action, and a week later, we were back with our march through a rainy York last Saturday, taking front page photo for the first time, alongside a series of cuts news stories. Tuesday’s public meeting also got reported, and group member Denise Craghill made an appearance in the letters page.

There was some distinct scare mongering going on before the council meeting, with the police having their own coverage, despite their vulnerability to cuts. Whilst over 50 protested outside, including a delegation from UNISON, the headlines were written in the chamber with a table-top occupation. The leaders of the Lib Dem and Conservative groups have weighed in, and a response from those involved will shortly appear on this website.

Fast Forwards…

So somehow everything went past at huge speed in the last 2 months of 2010, and we failed to update this site giving you all the important information on the group’s happenings. Since we updated, York has seen half a dozen different protests, plus the establishment of a new group focused on the NHS and some interesting plans for future events that we’ll leave to another post.

On 24th November, around 40 students and supporters took part in a “degree auction” at the University of York, where a dozen mock degrees were auctioned for specially designed ‘monopoly money’, as a theatrical representation of a Market in Higher Education. The group’s banner was held from Central Hall, overlooking the site of the auction, and the action got York Students Against Cuts several media appearances.

Responding to criticisms that the degree auction wasn’t visible enough on campus, “March on York” was announced, and on November 30th over 500 people, many of them school or college students, descended on the city centre. A nice pile of snow provided a stage for speakers, before the march set off – first one way, and then the other, leaving police rather confused. In St Helen’s Square we stopped to make noise at the council offices, before heading for Lendal Bridge. After another pause, the march went past the station, in through Mickelgate Bar and down Mickelgate, before returning to the city centre.

The next day, the Great York Sit-in began at the University of York, commencing 12 days of activity at the Exhibition Centre attached to the Physics and Electronic departments. Music, workshops, films and lots and lots of decision making meetings followed, but if nothing else, the outcome has been a great communal spirit amongst campaigners. Saturday 4th saw the Ghost Tax Tour of York wend its way from shop to shop, bank to bank, informing the public of tax avoidance. It turns out that Tax Avoidance is a lot more fun if you talk about it in a conspiratorial tone.

On Sunday 5th there was again a Student march, but this time with notable numbers of Trade Unionists joining in. The march took in York St John University, where the Vice Chancellor has claimed that students will get a perfectly good deal. As Leeds didn’t have a protest planned that day, we became the focus for regional TV news attention. With the vote set for the following Thursday, back to the streets we went for round 3. Both the 5th and 9th saw over 200 taking part, and although the mood changed noticeably once people knew the result of the vote, people really didn’t seem defeated.

We got a new venue for our meetings; the Black Swan are giving us a room almost twice the size of the room at the Corner Pin, and although its a shame to move on, we’ve come close to people sitting on each other’s laps! With more space, hopefully the meetings will continue to grow gradually. A meeting took place at York District Hospital aimed at establishing a campaign group to defend the NHS, and York Housing Action is also forming.

Vodafone stores in York shut by protests

Following revelations a couple of weeks ago that Vodafone has got away with a £6billion tax avoidance ruse, activists around Britain have been shutting down some of Vodafone’s most prominent stores. We had agreed not to actively shut the Vodafone stores in York, but instead we would use our small presence to inform the public and keep the damage to the realm of PR – something Vodafone takes seriously – but when we arrived the door was quickly locked and a sign appeared informing potential customers that the store was closed.

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