PROTESTORS fighting council cuts gathered in vain in Wakefield this week as a budget slashing £67 million in jobs and services was voted through unanimously by councillors.
Anti-cuts supporters from trade unions lobbied the Wakefield Council budget meeting waving placards and flags as councillors heard what council leader Peter Box described as the biggest cuts in funding since the council was formed in 1974.
Kevin Osborne, regional officer of Unison, the public sector workers’ union, said: “I think when people see the effect and reality of what these cuts mean it will generate even more protests and demonstrations.
“If you start making big job cuts in one of the biggest employers in Wakefield, it will have a knock on effect on the economy. The focus of our anger is central government. But we are here to make sure the council knows there is huge concern about these cuts.”
During the meeting Coun Box laid the blame for the severity of the cuts, which will include the loss of 1,700 council jobs by 2011, squarely at the feet of the coalition government.
Coun Box said: “This is the budget report that we have to present. We have to because of government cuts to our funding – its that simple. I bitterly regret having to put forward some of these savings – it’s not why I came into local government. But we’ve got to set a balanced budget. We’ve done what we can to make it as fair as we can.”
Conservative group leader Coun Mark Crowther joined Coun Box in questioning the speed at which the government was asking local authorities to make savings and said he feared it would “choke off” the potential for recovery and regeneration in the district.
Cost-cutting measures include raising the price of school dinners, halving garden waste collection and huge cuts to family services. Council tax levels however have been frozen at last year’s rate.