Lincoln activist nan chains herself to council sign in anti-cuts protest

“Cuts are stripping us of dignity” was the message of 64-year-old activist Elaine Smith, who chained herself to the Lincolnshire County Council offices sign on Monday, February 1.

Elaine, who plays a key role in groups including Lincoln Elders and the National Pensioners’ Parliament, and is an anti-austerity campaigner, braved the winter elements to spread her message while a fellow campaigner held onto the key for her shackles.

Marking Dignity Action Day, a national day giving people the opportunity to uphold their rights to dignity, Elaine spoke out for older people in the county who will be affected by the wave of cuts proposed in the council’s budget for 2016/17.

Elaine Smith chained her self to the Lincolnshire County Council sign in order to get her message out.

Elaine Smith chained her self to the Lincolnshire County Council sign in order to get her message out.

She said: “The most vulnerable people in our society are being stripped of dignity.

“I am particularly concerned about the cuts that Lincolnshire County Council are making across the board, not only to social care, but they are going to have a massive impact on older people.

“I’m referring to the rising costs of social care and the fact that within a couple of years there won’t even be a ceiling on the amount people can be charged for their care, as well as the loss of many bus routes. 

“I’ve chained myself here as a means of getting publicity and I will stay here until I am released.”

Elaine is also voicing her opposition to the council’s handling of recent cuts to central government funding.

She argued that residents should not have been asked to choose between essential services in a public consultation and that councillors have not done enough to campaign for a better deal from central government.

“I, like, many others, do not want public services to be a thing of the past. I am not prepared to rate a hierarchy of services. All the public services that remain are necessary, could be improved and should definitely not be reduced.

“I stood as the only anti-austerity parliamentary candidate in Lincoln last May (Elaine was the TUSC candidate for the Lincoln seat) and my views are that austerity is unnecessary and affects the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged.”

Elaine Smith and Peaceful Warrior outside Lincolnshire County Council offices.

Elaine Smith and Peaceful Warrior outside Lincolnshire County Council offices.

Fellow Lincoln campaigner and member of the Green Party Peaceful Warrior joined Elaine in support on February 1.

He said: “It’s not that people are being made to tighten their belts, but they are literally starving to death, freezing to death and unable to deal with the anxiety that these cuts cause.

“The cuts aren’t necessary. There’s plenty of money out there and it’s being funnelled into a few pockets instead of the public arena.

“Of course the council has has its budget cut, but someone need to get a backbone and say to the government it’s just impossible to run the services, which are all as important as each other.”

As previously reported, Lincolnshire County Council’s government grants have been slashed by £27.58 million (28%) – a much more drastic reduction than predicted.

As such, a number of cuts across the board have been proposed in the council’s budget proposals for 2015/16.

Cuts of £42 million are expected, with the county council holding a consultation with members of the public to decide on which services to reduce or stop funding for.

Councillors have previously spoken out against the government in reaction to funding settlements.

Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Councillor Martin Hill said previously work was ongoing to find a more “equitable solution”, stating rural councils were “aggrieved by the settlement.

He said: “Because our budget is a lot worse than we thought, we are using our reserves and savings to see us through this year.

“We also have to go back to the drawing board to see how we can get more savings and that’s going to be very difficult. We are talking about things that we really don’t want to do.”

An anti-cuts protest will be staged outside the Lincolnshire County Council offices on February 19 ahead of a full council meeting, in which the proposed budget and reductions to services will be considered.