Newham Council cuts demo chaos

Scuffles at East Ham Town Hall meeting

MORE than �47 million of cuts were passed in less than 45 minutes by Newham councillors at their crunch budget meeting.

Heated protests outside Newham Town Hall saw a 14-year-old boy led away from the demonstration in handcuffs.

He was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and bailed to return to Plaistow police station later this month.

Inside the council chamber, all 59 members present voted in favour of the austerity measures.

One councillor - Forest Gate North representative Shama Ahmad - was not at Monday’s meeting.

The package agreed will see around 200 job losses, a freeze on recruitment and councillors’ allowances and the axing of 15 PCSOs.

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Council fees and charges - including those for care and car parking - will also be reviewed.

But there will be no increase in council tax, free meals for primary school pupils will remain and the Every Child a Musician scheme will be rolled out to Year 5 students.

The Workplace employment service will also continue and children’s centres serving 29,255 under-fives will remain open.

Mayor Sir Robin Wales said the council had been placed in a difficult position by what he described as “savage” cuts by central government.

“We will defend the services for our residents,” he said.

“That’s what matters to us and I think we’ve done very well on that.”

Outside the council chamber, around demonstrators 50 demonstrators gathered in advance of the meeting to protest against the looming cuts.

Some later clashed with police as they tried to force their way past officers and into the public gallery.

At least five people - including Plaistow South councillor Sheila Thomas and a senior trade unionist - claimed they had been assaulted in the ensuing scuffle.

Just 20 were eventually allowed into the public gallery, with others forced to watch the meeting via video-link.

Earlier, Sir Robin had been jeered as he entered the building.

He later said he had been willing to engage with the protesters, but used the council meeting to claim they had been whipped up by far-left agitators from outside the borough.

“We will keep spending money on the things that matter to our residents,” he said.

“Not on the Trots from elsewhere.”