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Anger as city passes £91m cuts budget

Larry Neild in the eye of the storm on Dale Street

Published on March 7th 2011.

Anger as city passes £91m cuts budget

AN attempted storming of the Town Hall, turning Liverpool's iconic seat of governance into a fortress...it was never like this in the Militant era.

But if anyone thought peace had broken out in local politics, last night's special budget meeting of the city council proved its war out there.

Solidarity, togetherness, all in it together? Forget it

The excitement outside Liverpool Town Hall came as city councillors inside the chamber were discussing controversial cuts forced on the city by losing more than £90m in government grants.

Earlier in the day the big story was the decision by the Lib Dems to effectively walk away from its pact with Labour to produce a joint budget.

PM David Cameron had accused Liverpool of playing politics to score points. Here had been a chance to show the millionaire leader of the nation that politicians of all shades in Liverpool were as one.

So the big question was how would Labour Leader Joe Anderson react to this shock U-turn by Warren's waverers.

The last thing on anybody's mind was a battleground at the doors. What if it the protesters had succeeded? They would, no doubt, have disrupted the proceedings hoping the meeting would collapse, and no new budget passed.

Lord Mayor Hazel Williams was sent to investigate and reported a group of people had used placards to try to force their way through the front doors.

A number of glass panels and parts of the frame were damaged and two people – a council security guard and a Merseyside police officer - were left badly shaken.

Staff managed to hold back the protestors, who reached an inner door. One guard said about 50 people were involved. The Lord Mayor said those responsible were not 'ordinary' protestors campaigning to save local facilities from closure, but political activists.

But if tempers outside the building were hot, inside they were spewing volanic ash as elected members came to terms with the Lib Dem decision to walk away.

Let's be pragmatic for a second. You are a local Lib Dem councillor, your esteemed, but thoughtless leader, Nick Clegg, has jumped into bed with Cameron and you realise … “this May my political life is at an end”.

Forthcoming Lib Dem political leaflets will be collectors’ items.

To make matters worse, your local leader signs up to a deal to hold hands with the enemy, paving the way for closures in YOUR ward.

By suddenly deciding to distance themselves, the Lib Dems can now say …. well they're closing the children's centre but honest guv, we tried to save it.

The reality is this: when Labour's deputy leader, Paul Brant, suggested an all-party budget, it was discussed with Warren Bradley and his top people. It seems the idea of this pact divided the group down the middle – it was carried by just one vote.

At this Monday's group meeting, there was the change of heart. The result – a string of amendments, each suggesting new savings to pay for the retention of closure-threatened services and facilities.

Some Lib Dems tried to convince councillors it was healthy politics at play. Nobody was buying into that.

Labour's Malcolm Kennedy said as much when he intimated Labour leader Joe Anderson would not be jumping into bed with Warren in the future.

The Lib Dems knew their last minute rescue package didn't stand a cat in hell's chance. But now they can say on their leaflets, we tried to save it.

Solidarity, togetherness, all in it together? Forget it.

Some Labour folk predicted the Lib Dems will pay a heavy price for their budget treachery.

Not only did the Lib Dem moves amount to the declaration of a virtual civil war, the council's chief executive was forced to announce that their proposals would not produce a balance budget.

Effectively this meant what they had in mind would spark an illegal budget. We went down this route in 1985 – and the consensus has been never again.

After almost five hours of intensive debate, Labour's budget was passed by 53 votes to 29. It means no council tax rise for householders, but some tough decisions in the coming months. Then we'll learn what is staying and what is going.

Quotes from the night...

Parent Lisa Dempster, pleading to spare Knotty Ash Nursery: “We are not numbers, we are not statistics.... we are people with real lives.”

Michael Eakin, CEO of the RLPO: “We have been surprised and moved by the support by people saying how much the Phil has meant to them.”

Chants from outside the Town Hall: “No ifs, no buts, no public service cuts” ….. memories of 1985.

Alan Lewis, Chief Exec of LCVS: “The importance of these cuts on people's lives will be a nightmare.”

Darren Ireland, President of Liverpool Trades Council: “Do you (councillors) want to side with the people of Liverpool or with Cameron and Clegg … set an illegal budget and we can work together.”

Paul Brant, Deputy Leader: “If we run out of money the Government will come in and run the city …. and be sure it will be more painful.”

Warren Bradley: “The actions of the national politicians are a disgrace.”

Labour's Wendy Simon: “We haven't slept for weeks. People have been in tears.”

Former leader Mike Storey, now Lord Storey: “The way Liverpool has been treated is appalling.”

Lord Storey: “I'm sorry the anti-cuts march was led by the Lord Mayor.”

Lord Mayor: “I make no apologies for leading that march.”

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMarch 3rd 2011.

Excellent analysis showing the people of this city what the Lib Dems' about-face is all about really. A more cynical, self serving bunch you could not make up. Are they taking lessons of Redmond.

SOS(SaveOurSurestart)March 3rd 2011.

Joe Anderson will be a hero if he manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the four Surestart centres likely to close. Nobody, but nobody with a sense of decency would even contemplate on pulling the plug on these amazing centres. In Liverpool where we have a higher level of deprivation than most towns and cities, we should actually be opening more. You can do it Joe, the people of Liverpool will adore you for it. The people depending on you are aged just three and four, too young to understand what is happening.

OhEcMarch 4th 2011.

The Lib Dems suggested scrapping the council's own mouthpiece rag, City, to save a shedload of money. It's full of garbage anyway and shouldn't we be saving the planet by using less paper. If City mag does go it won't matter, as Labour will be handsomely courted by the Official Organ of Labour Controlled Liverpool Council, known to others as the Echo. This is the paper that closed its printing plant in Old Hall Street and is now produced in Oldham. This is the paper that got rid of shedloads of journalists, making it more reliant on council press releases. This is the paper that has dramatically reduced its Liverpool workforce. So what is the council doing about the shrinking employer in Liverpool, why awarding it the Freedom of Liverpool. FFS, is there no depths to which our councillors will not sink. Just last week Billy Butler on Radio Merseyside read out the headlines off the front page and posed the question of what visitors arriving at Lime Street Station would think when they saw the bloodthirsty banner headlines. Why don't we organise a boycott the Echo on the day its smarmy editors head off to the town hall to collect their freedom. The council will earn a good year's positive publicity on the back of this. If the Echo had any credit it would have politely declined the freedom offer on the basis it wishes to be seen by its readers to be free of any civic influence. I don't buy this shite rag any more and wouldn't miss it if it folded.

Old Hall Street insiderMarch 4th 2011.

The Echo lobbied the new Labour rulers hard to get the Freedom of the City, because Granada and Radio City have it already.

Yes, lobbied.

The question is: freedom of what city? Oldham?

AnonymousMarch 4th 2011.

So why doesn't Liverpool Confidential lobby for the gong as well. The Echo really begged for it? pathetic, should be ashamed of themselves. They should be happy to be outside of the establishment. No LC don't do it, don't sell your soul to the political devils.

EndGameMarch 5th 2011.

Watch out Warren, let the Barnsley election result be a warning of the price the Lib Dems are going to pay for its pathetic thirst for power and glory. The problem is not that the LibDems will be eliminated, but the fact it is still important to have some form of opposition. Pity your party has blown it.
Funny thing is there's nothing you guys can do, no hiding place, the damage has been done. Anyway Warren best not to give up your day job.

Champagne socialistMarch 5th 2011.

The word "freedom" is somewhat ironic isn't it? The Oldham Echo, which sacked 100 printers and Joe Anderson cosy up together. How will that make for impartial reporting?

Joe says the Echo has championed Liverpol for 150 years. How has it done this? By relocating to Manchester?

Nice one Joe. But as long as the Echo keeps its flow of income from council advertising that's ok. You'll never get a rough ride

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