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Press release from a Waltham Forest campaign against cuts to school meals.

After three short weeks of campaigning that seriously rattled councillors, the Leader Clyde Loakes yesterday offered to extend the school meals subsidy at least until 2009. In our books that is an unequivocal victory.

And what a marvellous campaign! In a few short weeks thousands of leaflets distributed around schools alerted everyone to the danger of losing a properly funded school meals service. The local press helped to arouse indignation from all quarters - and not only parents! London Radio carried it and the national press and TV started investigating. Then Jamie Oliver pledged to get involved.

But the pots and pans demo was the icing on the cake. Around 250 dinner ladies, teachers, parents, children and supporters gathered in the town square armed with pans, tin lids and wooden spoons, rattles and whistles, determined to make as much noise as possible. We marched along Hoe Street all chanting. "If you want to keep school dinners - bang a pan". A young education worker with an Asian drum joined in. Passers-by and shopkeepers took leaflets and cheered us on.

At the town hall everyone was in no mood for compromise. From his office Loakes said he would meet with a delegation of only three! For several tense minutes there was a real stand-off. Eventually, accompanied by deputy leader Keith Rayner he came out onto the steps. A truly Big Conversation took place. With demands and questions from a sceptical but elated crowd, he promised

> A continuation of the subsidy until 2009

> To bring the 10 schools, already opted out, back into the fold

> A strong steer to schools to remain part of Waltham Forest Catering

There was a further demand to run all private catering companies out of the borough! This he baulked at (naturally,privatisation is part of Labour policy).

But we are not standing down the campaign. We intend to monitor the situation closely. We need to hold all Cllr Loakes' promises to account. Union members in each school need to be vigilant and report any developments through the campaign network. Fundamentally our success has been due to two things - the determination of the unions involved UNISON and NUT, who represent thousands of workers in the borough, and the marvellous response from parents and the general public. If we have helped councillors change their minds once through serious campaigning - we can do it again. Come and help us.

Hands Off School Meals 7pm Tuesday 5th June Town Hall, Forest Road, E17 All Welcome

If you DO nothing you get nothing. If you FIGHT TOGETHER, you get something.

DM's comment:

You know as well as I do that attempts to unify the left in the UK have been a bit fraught. It has been compared with getting the Popular Front and the People's Front to work together. (Life of Brian). However this campaign shows what people can do. Members of the campaign were at the Campaign for a New Workers' Party conference.

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