Town Hall protest – but no walkout

First published in News

PROTESTERS gathered outside Bolton Town Hall to voice their opposition to more funding cuts, which were agreed by Town Hall chiefs.

A protest organised jointly by the Bolton branches of the Unison and GMB unions saw about 50 council workers joined by friends, family and supporters as the borough’s cabinet met to approve a proposed 3.5 per cent council tax rise and more than £5 million of additional spending cuts, which could lead to up to 50 further job losses.

The cabinet had approved £34.6 million of cuts last month with the loss of 486 posts.

In the last two years, 833 jobs have already gone at the council.

Objectors gathered outside with banners and blew whistles, but there was no organised walkout from the 30 or so people — some of them with their children — who sat at the back of the meeting and observed.

There was even brief applause for Cllr Morris when he announced the council would look into raising the salaries of the authority’s lowest paid workers to combat what he called “an erosion” of their minimum wage.

Following a presentation by the council’s Deputy Chief Executive and finance chief Steve Arnfield — who himself is due to be made redundant by the cuts — there was no discussion of the plans by members.

Conservative leader David Greenhalgh — who has said in the past his party would oppose any council tax rise — signalled his intention to wait until a meeting of full council next Wednesday when the authority’s final budget for 2013-15, and the proposed tax rise, are poised to be rubber-stamped.

Speaking outside the Town Hall, protester Jeanette Pemberton-Billing, who works in business support at the council, said the situation was the worst she had seen in her 22-years at the authority and that morale was low.

She added: “There are people saying ‘we’re lucky to have a job’ but they’re being asked to do more work and are taking time off sick with stress.”

Phil Ramsell, a health improvement specialist who has now moved to the council from Bolton Primary Care Trust following government health reforms, said: “I’ve been a union member for 25 years and came to show some support.

“My personal opinion is that councillors have a moral duty to stand up to these cuts.”

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