Protesters leave meeting as cuts are discussed
9:51am Tuesday 4th September 2012 in News
PROTESTERS staged a mass walk-out as Town Hall bosses discussed plans for £35 million worth of cuts.
Shouts of “shame on you” were directed at council chiefs as more than 100 people left the ruling cabinet meeting yesterday in protest at the cuts, which could lead to up to 500 job losses.
Members of the Unison and GMB unions had earlier gathered outside the town hall to stage demonstrations, where they banged drums and blew whistles.
One protester with a loudhailer shouted abuse at council leader, Cllr Cliff Morris and there was a banner stating “ConDems say cut back, Bolton says fight back’.
The meeting had been moved from its normal location to the much larger Festival Hall in the Albert Halls .
There was heavy security outside and as the meeting began more than 100 people — including children — took their seats to listen.
But before the cabinet could discuss the cuts, almost everyone in the seats stood up and left in a co-ordinated move.
Others shouted “shame on you” and “thanks for nothing”, while council leader Cliff Morris was also subjected to personal insults from one man.
Speaking to what was now virtually an empty audience, Cllr Nick Peel said: “It’s a bit of a pity people left before this report.
“It’s important for people to understand the situation this council is in.
“To simply say ‘don’t make any cuts’ is impossible, people need to understand what that means.
“If this council was not to pass a budget we’d be in dereliction of our duties.
“A government inspector would take over, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles would be in charge, and what political influence we can bring — which in the past has been considerable, with avoiding compulsory job losses during the last round of £60 million of cuts, and protecting the vulnerable — would be lost.
“I don’t believe the people of Bolton want us to behave in that way and want a period of civil disobedience in this town.”
Liberal Democrat leader Roger Hayes claimed some members of the government “didn’t care” about the impact of spending cuts on councils.
Speaking before the meeting as the demonstration was under way, Bolton Unison branch chairman Matt Kilsby said: “They’re saying they’re going to protect services but they’re going to find it very difficult.
“We’re under no illusions this will change their decision, but we want the council to understand how our members feel.”
Social worker Andrea Egan, who has worked at the council for 25 years, added: “I’ve never seen cuts as devastating as this.
“Our biggest fear is while the public might be reassured the council wants to protect the most vulnerable, the services that support the most vulnerable families are being cut, so social workers may still be in a job but their stress and pressure they are under will rise.”
Sean Warren, senior convener for the GMB has worked at Bolton Council for 14 years.
He said: “We’ve never faced this level of cuts, not just to jobs but to services — and they go hand in hand.
“The people of Bolton need to understand that.”
Speaking after the meeting Mr Kilsby said the walkout had been organised earlier that day.
He added: “We knew there weren’t going to be any changes so it was a way of saying “we’re not all that interested in the theatre”.
“It wasn’t just members of Unison and GMB there, but members of the public who are concerned about the cuts.”
The proposed £35.6 million savings will now go out to consultation, with five public meetings due to take place around the borough.
A final decision on whether to approve them will be taken by full council next February.