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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 169 NO 15 3 York Quaker speaks truth to power 4 Quakers at the arboretum 5 Gaddafi and Quaker faith & practice? Alexander Macpherson-Glasgow 6 The Coalition, the cuts and the costs Tom Jackson 7 Walk the walk Leo Vincent 8-9 Letters 10-11 Life in Bethany Marigold Bentley 12-13 Rowntree Visionaries:
Karen Chouhan Rosemary Hartill 14 April in Paris Anthony Boulton 15 All truth is a shadow except the last Jan Arriens 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings 17 Simple life at the Meeting house
Cover image: Lambs near Hereford. Photo: Trish Carn.
Images this page: Top: Skyscape Planet: James Turrell's skyscape at Kanazawa twenty-first century museum of contemporary art. Photo: Vitroid/flickr CC. Bottom: James Turrell’s Skyspace at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo: Barkaw/flickr CC. See page 4.
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the Friend, 15 April 2011 York Quaker speaks truth to power
A YORK QUAKER has turned the tables on her local council to defend disabled people. City of York Council was obliged to debate the impact of its cuts programme last week after Ceri Owen gathered enough signatures to trigger a special discussion.
Ceri Owen, who belongs to Friargate Friends’ Meeting, collected 1,400 signatures for a petition highlighting the damaging effect of cuts on disabled people. The council is required to debate any petition with more than 1,000 signatures.
It was the latest example of York activists using the council’s own regulations to challenge cuts to public services. Ceri Owen has previously addressed a number of council committees. She said information on the procedures allowing her to do so was ‘buried’ on the council’s website.
She told the Friend that York Quakers have been ‘really supportive’ of her activism. She said: ‘Quakers have a strong tradition of standing up for people who are vulnerable.’
The petition called on the council to maintain ringfenced funding for disabled and older people. Ceri Owen told councillors: ‘I’m not part of any political party or trade union, and the Bible is the closest thing I have to a manifesto’. She then quoted the Book of Proverbs: ‘Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy’.
Council leader Andrew Waller, a Liberal Democrat, insisted that removing ringfenced budgets had enabled the council to shift money around and reduce the severity of cuts resulting from central government policy. Conservative councillor John Galvin described the debate as a ‘complete waste of time’ because the budget had already been set.
None of the councillors mentioned the part of the petition urging them to raise the issue with MPs. A
spokesperson for the council’s Conservative Group admitted that councillors ‘ought to have’ discussed it.
Andrew Waller told the Friend that the council is working hard to reduce the impact of cuts. He insisted: ‘In terms of frontline services to vulnerable people, we have protected them.’
In contrast, Ceri Owen argued that some cuts will not only be harmful but will cost taxpayers more in the long run. She gave the example of calling a mental health support line which had not been answered after three hours, which meant that she had to visit an accident and emergency department instead.
Esther Leighton, a disability rights campaigner who belongs to Jesus Lane Meeting in Cambridge, told the Friend that ‘cuts are probably the biggest threat to disabled people’s equality in the UK’. She added: ‘Social care is about very basic rights in a humane society.’
She urged Quakers to campaign against the cuts and to adopt an ‘equality-focused’ approach to disability rather than a ‘charity model’.
Ceri Owen explained that her own activism had been encouraged by Quakerism. She was part of a group who took nonviolent direct action at the council’s budget meeting in February, when she considered that councillors were not listening to public concerns. Seven activists stood on the council table and were removed by police.
‘I’m quite a quiet, shy person,’ said Ceri Owen. ‘I don’t really like being out there and putting myself in the spotlight’.
She told the Friend she had found the campaign ‘a bit scary at times’, but felt she had to act. ‘It just seemed so obvious to me that what was going on was wrong,’ she explained, ‘I never really thought of not doing it’.
Symon Hill the Friend, 15 April 2011
the Friend, 15 April 2011