During the excellent Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair we had a chance to meet up with Terry, a long time Anarchist Federation member who lives in Pontypool. He was busy organising a protest against cuts to local services planned by the County Council. We agreed to join him, before we realised it’d mean a 6am train to Pontypool & New Inn!
Not deterred (too much) by the early start a couple of us made it along last Tuesday to support Terry and others who were picketing the council meeting and distributing leaflets to councilors, council workers and passers-by.
We headed into the council chambers with an anticuts banner and anarchist flags. Later whilst being escorted out of the building we were asked how we’d managed to get these (apparently contraband) items inside, never under-estimate the power of confidently walking through the front door!
The meeting started with a petition against one of the cuts already made by the Council – switching off 66% of the areas street lights in order to save £70 per light. As you can imagine the impact this has had on residents, especially the elderly has been huge, and the call for the lights to get switched back on met with a deserved round of applause from the public gallery, but sadly no promises from the council.
The Labour led council then began the debate on the budget, its £11million of cuts and its rise in tax. Their leader spent most of the introduction blaming the Conservative led government, although he was later called out on the fact that Labour planned to make similar cuts to Welsh Council budgets. The heckling (most of it from the Anarchists!) intensified throughout, with the loudest round of applause reserved for Terry’s suggestion that perhaps if the mayor was committed to preserving services she should give up her chauffeur driven car and get the bus!
We were ‘asked’ to leave and escorted out of the building before the budget came to a vote, but we did stop to get a picture of a mural honouring the Chartists on the way out. I don’t think any of the council employees were bothered by us giving councilors a hard time – especially not whilst they were voting through cuts to pay, employment and services!
Predictably the labour led council passed its budget cuts, and predictably much of the organised opposition abstained or voted against to avoid getting their hands dirty – but we all know had the council been Tory led (like many are) they would’ve been voting through the exact same cuts!
After retreating to a pub for lunch we got to hear more about the activism Terry pursues in Pontypool. From the local trades council and run ins with the far right, to getting anarchist magazines stocked in the library, handing out 100s of anarchist papers single handed and organising a campaign against the privatisation of council housing. Inspiring stuff!
We are making a concerted effort to link up with and support anarchists in towns and villages across the South West and South Wales. All too often action can focus on larger cities, but the struggles in places where anarchists may be isolated or small in number are just as essential.
If you’d like support in your area get in touch!