Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Protest at Budget Cuts - Weston Mercury article

Video of Protest at Budget Cuts Meeting

Crowds of protestors gather at council meeting


PROTESTORS clutching placards heckled North Somerset Councillors as they arrived at Weston Town Hall on Tuesday night.
Members of the Weston and North Somerset Anti-cuts Alliance attended the full council meeting, which had budget items listed on the agenda, and gathered around the entrance giving out leaflets of support while chanting.

The demonstration was in reaction to the news that North Somerset Council must make more than £45million worth of cuts over four years, with 17.4million of these reductions earmarked for this financial year.

Before the protest the ‘fuming’ and ‘worried’ residents gathered in Weston to discuss concerns and possible strike action in relation to the current public spending cuts.

Last week more than 50 people from the town and villages such as Congresbury, Wrington and Banwell attended the meeting organised by the alliance at the Salvation Army Hall.

Teachers, nurses, social workers, small business owners and parents all spoke vehemently about their concerns over the impending cuts that will see a lower level of services across the region.
Despite formerly being against strike action, many speakers said they could now be swayed if it would help raise awareness about fighting the cash-cuts.

Theatre nurse, Judy Massa, said: “It’s the vulnerable people that are most at risk here. “My big concern is patient care and patient dignity. As a theatre nurse I would never leave a patient on the table as that would not be ethical, but if strike action is what we need to make a stand then we should look at this.”

Speaking on behalf of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Anne Lemon, criticised the idea of North Somerset schools, such as Wyvern Community School, changing into academies and said it was a ‘myth’ that this would benefit students.

Worle Community School teacher, Nancy Powell-Brace, said: “They are coming for your children and in education we are becoming barren and going back 20 years. We are going back to the dark ages.
“I never ever thought I would live to hear the day when I would take action but if it is going to make a difference then I would chain myself to railings.”

Yatton parent, Lesley Byron, said she would start a campaign to prevent her child’s school in Backwell from changing into an academy. The Rectory Way resident said: “I am absolutely fuming about it and astounded that this could happen.”

Weston library worker, John McLorinan, said it was a stressful time for staff due to job uncertainty and said money is driving policy as opposed to people. He said morale was low and ‘worried’ staff believe they will be replaced by self-service machines or will have to take a downgrading.

NUT member, Andy Prior, said that attendees had more than doubled since the first meeting and as confidence was growing a 24-hour public sector strike and a general strike could be the way forward.

The next alliance meeting will take place in Weston at the Blakehay Theatre in Wadham Street at 7.30pm on February 17.

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