Riot police and protesters in battle at town hall

Protesters fought with police and smashed a glass door as violence erupted at another London council budget meeting.

Riot police were called in as about 20 people stormed Haringey’s civic centre last night, shouting and daubing graffiti. A 34-year-old man and a woman, aged 39, were arrested for breach of the peace, but not charged.

There were no injuries. The latest disruption comes as town halls across the capital are voting through at least £500 million of frontline cuts.

The scenes follow the protest at Islington’s budget meeting last week and scuffles at Lambeth on Wednesday. Police were also called to keep order at a Tower Hamlets meeting on Wednesday.

Labour-controlled Haringey’s £41 million cuts will see more than 1,000 jobs lost and most of its youth services axed – although it will still spend £1.5 million on publicity.

A demonstration of about 200 people – mostly council staff, community groups and Haringey Alliance for Public Services – gathered outside the civic centre in Wood Green for what Unison described as a “peaceful protest”.

But a breakaway group rushed civic centre security and police to occupy the council chamber. The budget meeting could not go ahead and tensions escalated.

Police officers had their numbers boosted to about 50 when reinforcements arrived including the Met’s specialist public order unit, the Territorial Support Group. During angry exchanges, a glass door was smashed and a table in the council chamber was daubed with graffiti.

Councillors were moved to a side room, but protesters burst in and were held back by police. Councillors were left standing outside in the dark when a fire alarm went off. Eventually, police emptied the whole building.

Haringey chief executive Kevin Crompton blamed the violence on “a determined minority”.
An hour late the meeting reconvened in the main council chamber with a handful of public allowed to make deputations.

Claire Kober, Haringey’s leader, said she was “livid” that the chance was lost for the budget debate to be held in public. Andy Lawson, a union rep for Job Centre staff, said: “It’s shameful the council weren’t prepared to discuss the budget with us in a full public meeting.”

Some £41 million cuts this year were voted through, about half of which are from government grant reductions. The other half reflects increased services demand and spiralling costs in departments such as children’s services.

The youth services budget will be slashed by 75 per cent, nearly £2 million. All four of the older people’s drop-in centres and luncheon clubs will close to save £425,000. Another £700,000 will be slashed from the voluntary sector. Total cuts forecast for the next three years are about £84 million.

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