Demo to stop Portsmouth City Council budget cuts fails to come to fruition

A LAST minute plea to try and force a council to rethink its budget '“ which includes almost £1m in cuts to public services '“ proved fruitless.

Trade union supporters staged a protest in Guildhall Square in an effort to lobby members over the authority’s latest spending priorities.

Critics were unhappy about the council’s decision to approve its revenue budget, made in December last year, which sees £900,000 slashed from services as part of an overall £9m savings plan.

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The rally came ahead of a council chamber debate where councillors approved a £150m masterplan to transform education, roads, flood defences, schools and heritage assets.

Darin McCloud, of Unite union, said: ‘We’re fighting for people losing their jobs.

‘The council wants to cut the union by 50 per cent, but that funding allows me to go to meetings.

Jon Woods, from Portsmouth Trades Union Council, added: ‘The cuts will have a direct impact on the services and the staff.

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‘The unions support members through very difficult issues like employment and redundancy and our ability to negotiate for our members.

The council’s 2017/2018 budget sees £6.6m set aside for education, £5m on a new road network that aims to breathe new life into the city centre, and £2.4m going towards upgraded computer systems and buildings for children’s services.

But Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader, warned of problems ahead. He said: ‘This budget is tough with continuing cuts in services across the council.

‘I completely recognise that this is not a position that any of us would want to be in, but continuing cuts from central government will continue to make decision-making tough.’ Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour leader, said residents should have more of a say.

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He said: ‘I want local people to have a much greater say on what services this council provides to them, and on how we provide them.’

Council tax will be increased by 4.99 per cent, although Tory and Labour members both agreed the increase came too late and said the Liberal Democrats avoided pushing up the rate when they were in charge of the council for political gain.

Cllr Donna Jones, Tory council boss, said: ‘No one wants to increase council tax if it can be avoided, but unfortunately the financial situation the council is in means we need to generate more money so we can keep services. Most of this money will go towards adult social care and protecting our most vulnerable residents.’

‘Without this increase, we would have to make greater cuts to services people rely on.’