Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Protest at Budget Cuts - Evening Post article

Unions demonstrate outside Weston Town Hall at the start of yesterday's meeting. Protesters waving placards gathered outside the Town Hall in Weston-super-Mare to lobby against North Somerset Council’s budget cuts, which they say will impact on some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Dozens of people turned up at a council meeting on Tuesday evening to have their say on the authority’s draft budget.

The council faces making savings of £42.4 million over the next four years – with up to £15.8 million of cuts proposed in the first year.

The cutbacks follow a reduction in the funding the authority receives from central Government because of the austerity cuts.

So far millions of pounds worth of savings have already been identified, and although the council says it does not have to a choice but to make savings, protesters said they disagreed with the cuts.

National Union of Teachers representative Ann Lemon said: “Cuts to Children and Young People’s Services will have a huge effect on education, but one of the biggest hits will be to early years, which affects some of the most vulnerable children. “There will be no more School Improvement Teams, who go into schools and provide huge support in a number of roles, including supporting new teachers, new initiatives and who are experts in the community. “We are also very concerned that if these cuts continue, that more schools will be become academies.”

Eve Wilson has worked in social care and child care for the past 20 years. She said: “I am concerned about how services to the local community through social services will suffer, and the care impact on the elderly and disabled. “The cuts will prove costly to service users, and give them less choice. “It will impact on the community as a whole.”

Helen Thornton is the spokesperson for Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council, which was lobbying outside the Town Hall.

Ms Thornton said: “We believe the council has a legal duty to ensure it has assessed the impact of its budget proposals on particular groups of people, including people of different ethnic origins. If a detrimental impact on a particular group is identified then revisions can be made in order to remove, lessen or mitigate that impact.

“We have seen little evidence that the council has undertaken equality impact assessments for its budget proposals, and we have also seen little evidence that it has consulted with service users. There are a number of proposals in the budget document which should be of particular concern to councillors, and the people of North Somerset, as they will impact on the most vulnerable groups in our society.

“These include many of the proposals for reducing services to children and young people, to people with physical and learning disabilities, to older people, and reductions to library services.”

The union is holding another meeting on February 17 at 7.30pm at the Blakehay Theatre in Weston- super-Mare ahead of the council’s budget setting on February 22, when members will also be lobbying.

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