Angry residents confront council

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A well-meaning meeting at Liverpool Town Hall nearly descended into chaos as city residents showed their anger and displeasure towards the council.

Before the meeting had started there was a tense feeling outside the Town Hall as protesters gathered to vent their fury over the new cuts.  Residents were shouting phrases directed at Council Leader Joe Anderson from a megaphone as police kept the crowds at bay.

Comments such as: “Come out Joe, don’t be scared, come out and face us…” and: “Come out before it’s too late…” and: “We want to be famous for fighting…” were directed towards Councillor Anderson.

Liverpool City Council had set up a meeting to discuss the £50 million cuts imposed by the Coalition Government in a Question Time-style debate over ideas for the cuts.

Phil Dickens, 26 from Walton spoke to JMU Journalism before  the meeting and said that the council had other alternatives than cutting jobs: “I think these £50 million savings are unnecessary and I think the council should start by collecting unpaid tax.

“I work in the public sector and I am going on strike on November 30th because I think these cuts are an attack on everyone as a class and we need to stand up and fight.”

Inside the meeting, BBC Merseyside talk show host Roger Phillips had trouble controlling the public when the discussion became heated as they challenged Cllr Anderson over the decisions he has recently made.

Some residents stood and shouted at Cllr Anderson, calling him a “coward” and a “liar”.

Audrey O’Keefe, who was unhappy with the way her autistic son was being treated by the council, shouted midway through the meeting: “He’s [Cllr. Anderson] a disgrace, he’s bought this city to the ground.”

Cllr Anderson began the meeting with a warm welcome and addressed the audience: “We will face these challenges together and continue to talk to people and engage with them as we look to manage the cuts.”

However, after an amicable 20 minutes which was spent discussing improvements to the city, where options such as fortnightly bin collections and later night-lighting were brought forward, the debate moved onto issues such as the closure of Surestart centres and the reduction in services for the elderly.

The crowd became bolder as the meeting went on and there was a period of incoherent shouting from the 200-strong audience before they were calmed down by Roger Phillips once more.

Catherine McCarron, a parent who uses Mossley Hill Surestart centre, which is set to close next February, was not present at the meeting, though told JMU Journalism how the closure of the centre would affect locals. She said: “All of the parents at the centre would of course be devastated if the centre closed. It is a lifeline for many parents.

“It is of particular help to women who have suffered depression, needed breast-feeding support, support with multiple births or special needs children.”

Protests against the cuts continued long after the meeting started at 6pm and could be heard from outside throughout the discussion. A chorus of: “No ifs, no buts, no unexpected cuts!” rang out throughout the evening as protesters circled the Town Hall.

The debate, which lasted two-and-a-half hours, ended with Councillor Anderson attempting to assure the public he would do everything he could to support them saying: “We will defend everyone in this council as much as we can.”

Many at the meeting called for Cllr Anderson to set an illegal budget and ignore Government spending targets, as the city did in the 1980s, but these requests have been rejected by the council.

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