Liverpool City Councillors were met by hundreds of protesters at the Town Hall on Wednesday when they attended their annual budget meeting, with cuts of £156 million on the agenda.
People gathered outside the High Street entrance to the building to make their anger and frustration known, with a range of protests against measures such as cuts to children’s centres, care for the elderly and vulnerable, the fire service and the implementation of the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’.
Chants included: “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts…” and: “You say cut back we say fight back!”
Merseyside Police gathered in numbers for what proved to be a noisy, yet peaceful demonstration against the cuts proposed by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and the ruling Labour party.
Police vans and officers lined Dale Street and Castle Street to help keep the protest in check during the evening rush-hour, whilst passing traffic showed support by beeping car horns.
Unite Safety Representative Larry Bowles, 59, who has worked in the NHS for 40 years, was one of the protest leaders and he spoke about his disgust at the cuts. He told protesters: “It’s going to affect men, women, children, the disabled – you need to stand your ground. No more cuts in the city. Stand up to Joe and be counted.”
The crowds cheered as locals were introduced to speak.
Dave Walsh, president of Liverpool Trades Council, believes the cuts are not driven by economic necessity. He said: “I’m going to call on these councillors to refuse to implement this budget that they’re being asked to pass tonight of £156m [cuts].
“I’m going to say don’t implement this Tory government’s cuts – refuse. Represent the working people of this city, fight for them, they are the people that elected you, they are the people that you are accountable to. Don’t do the dirty work for this Tory government. It’s unfair, it’s unjust and we are rightly angry.”
Unison placards were held aloft and leaflets were handed out, with home-made banners also used by members of the public to demand that the council listens to the people.
One of the leading figures of the Labour council that ran the city between 1983 and 1987, and former president of the Liverpool District Labour party, Tony Mulhearn, joined those outside the Town Hall.
The 2012 Socialist mayoral candidate told JMU Journalism: “I’m here to protest against the savage cuts being imposed on the city. Libraries are closing, kids’ facilities are closing, all the facilities we rely on are being slashed.
“The poor are suffering and I feel angry, frustrated and ashamed of the name of the Labour Party being dragged through the mud.
“I am absolutely outraged at the role of a Labour Mayor carrying out these cuts.”
Green Party Councillor, John Coyne, 65, called for a complete change of government policies to transform the current economic situation. He told JMU Journalism: “These cuts are entirely avoidable. It’s very difficult for local authorities to deal with the situation.
“We propose budget amendments that would raise council tax by 5% to try and reduce some of the harm, but that can’t transform the situation – it would make things a bit less impossible.”
Campaigner from Reclaim, Juliet Edgar, 49, told JMU Journalism: “There have already been three years of cuts, this is the fourth year. You can see libraries that have closed, you can see the state of the streets, you can see the looks in people’s faces – they can’t survive.
“We’re talking about people who are destitute and that’s happening in the seventh richest country in the world and a glorious city like Liverpool. This is supposed to be a Labour administration, it’s suppose to protect the poorest, the vulnerable, the people – it’s not doing that.
“We can’t eat, we cannot feed ourselves and that’s not on. People are suffering.”
JMU Journalism TV report by Nathan McCrae, Georgie Leigh-Moore, Loren Mitchell & Hannah Newman-Jones.
Photo gallery by Jack Maguire. Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the images.