London riots: Is this the real price of the cuts?

What started as a potential race related shooting and death of a young man in Tottenham has boiled over into a wider issue of disaffection and equalities more generally. The family of Mark Duggan are now lost in this bigger story of riots across our country and his name is rarely mentioned as part of this story.


The peaceful march in Tottenham on Saturday turning violent needs investigation, as does the shooting that led to the march. But, the question now is why are areas right across the country rioting? Looking at the pictures of the young people rioting and looting it is mixed racially, there is a gender mix and there even appears to be a class mix.


I am sure for some that race is an element but I get a strong sense that this is a bigger disaffection of a generation of young people, black and minority ethnic, white, women and of all sections of society, who feel that there really is nothing to lose.


Those that warned of potential unrest from rapid and ill thought out cuts are not celebrating this hollow victory. Many of us have been here before. I was so saddened to see that the riot in Hackney started because of a stop and search that fanned the embers of old unrest on the Pembury Estate. I know how much work, money and effort has been put into the physical and social regeneration of Hackney. Most of the young people involved are too young to have experienced the problems in Hackney that led to that regeneration effort and yet we are witnessing the same disaffected behaviour.


The sense that these young people have nothing to lose was really brought home seeing the news footage of young people helping a young man back onto his feet in Hackney and yet, at the same time, robbing him. How have we come to have such inhumanity whilst appearing kind in our midst? Why has it become fashionable to copy the bad behaviour of others without considering the consequences?


Sadly, I feel that we have modelled this for our young people. They are coming of age at a time when the ideology of cuts and the big society have trumped common sense. We have been mugged by central government whilst being fed the rhetoric of a Big Society will look after us.


Making cuts to the social fabric activities vital to young people was bound to have a price.


I for one thought we would be paying it at a later date than this in long term youth unemployment and rising health costs. We have a tragic false economy of rapid public spending cuts in our lives and businesses. We are experiencing cuts to policing (1600 on duty tonight in London alone), fire services and insurance.


Local authorities in some of the poorest areas in our wonderful country have lost the neighbourhood funds that supported youth and community activities. Local authorities in some areas seem to have been competing to see who could cut most and follow the central government fashion without considering the local consequences. Cuts to provision for families, children and young people have been easier to make as the consequences were not expected to be immediate. We can now see how false that economy is.


Voice4Change England exists to ensure that the BME voluntary and community sector has access and representation to central and local government. Our role has been downplayed by a government that does not feel it is necessary to support equalities any more. We don’t have the full analysis yet of how the cuts have affected equalities organisations, and we may never be able to get it as more immediate issues take prominence. We do have reports from our networks that equalities organisations, not just BME but women, LGBT and other specialist organisations, have suffered worst in the cuts that have been made. It is our collective work that supports that other piece of ideology, the Big Society.


It is vital now that we all pull together to restore stability and work to a Big Inclusive Society. This means including the Voice4Change membership, the women’s sector, the community representatives and the large mainstream organisations. Twitter has been alive with a call for local people to clean up their areas after the riots and people have responded.

We need a policy clean up response too.

In the days, weeks and years to come we need to keep that response up at the political level to target the causes that have made these riots possible.


Elizabeth Balgobin, Chair

Photo by Vital1na from Pexels