Hundreds stage protest ahead of Cardiff Council budget vote

February 28, 2013 No Comments »
Hundreds of campaigners crowded outside City Hall prior to this afternoon's council meeting.

Hundreds of campaigners crowded outside City Hall prior to this afternoon’s council meeting.

More than 200 anti-cuts protesters have staged an at-times angry demonstration ahead of the Cardiff council budget meeting this evening.

Musicians, riders, swimmers, parents of disabled children, union leaders and even ponies took part in the protest outside City Hall.

Councillor Russell Goodway, cabinet member for finance, was confronted by demonstrators as he arrived with fellow Labour cabinet colleagues.

There were chants of “scum” and “shame on you” directed at the former council leader from some protesters.

Others said they felt betrayed by the council, while a union representing staff said it had been ignored.

The council is proposing to make cuts worth £22m in its budget for 2013/14 to balance the books, but is also planning to freeze council tax in April.

It has already confirmed Cardiff Riding School will stay open for another year, but half a dozen further budget amendments are expected to be announced in the meeting. Follow our live updates from the meeting here.

Michelle McSorley, 37, from Maindy, was protesting to secure the future of the riding school, based at Pontcanna Fields.

She joined the school two years ago as a volunteer after discovering that interaction with the animals helped her depression.

“It has made a dramatic difference to my emotional state of mind. I don’t think I would be here if it was not for Cardiff Riding School,” she said.

“I’m absolutely devastated. I just cried when I heard they wanted to close it. I can’t imagine not having the horses there anymore.

“One minute they are saying they are closing it, then they say they were never going to and now they want to bring in a third party which would kick us out the backdoor. It’s sly.

“I feel betrayed by them. They don’t see the vulnerable people that rely on these services out and about in the public. They just sit behind their desks. One day they should come out and see what a difference it makes to lives.”

Michele Wood, 67, from Penylan, attends the school every Friday with her friend Linda Cadogan.

Michele said: “The Riding School is slightly different. We’re not asking for money but just to stay in the control of the council. Officers and the cabinet seem determined to privatise it and I don’t know why because it’s such a gem.”

Michele said she hopes the council can work with the Riding School over the next year on thinking of ways it can continue to be run by the council.

She said: “Staff and users have come up with really good ideas.”

Michele said she fears that if the Riding School is privatised that the quality of the teaching will go down and that people will have to go elsewhere.

Linda said: “There’s plenty of enthusiasm and willing hands wanting to work with the council. The council should be proud of owning it.”

Martine O’Callaghan, mum of Cledwyn, four, who is disabled, is campaigning against £80,000 cuts to overnight respite care.

“They say it is because of an underspend, but this means overnight respite will be even harder to get and it will soon be impossible,” the Fairwater mother said.

GMB branch secretary Ken Daniels said he had never seen such anger at budget cuts, saying the council had “ignored” it’s alternative proposals.

“We are going to have cuts, but we can do this in a humane way. They are changing their policies on the hoof, we have given them ways to save money but they have just ignored it.”

Pupils, parents and supporters of Cardiff and Vale Music Service showed their presence outside City Hall by playing a series of hymns such as Abide With Me before the meeting started.

Cornet player James Dickinson, 18, was one of the service’s pupils who was involved.

James said he started playing the cornet at the age of eight and has had lessons from the service and through school.

He said: “I think it’s disgraceful. The music service is such a big part of people’s lives. We’re just hoping that we can change people’s minds and stop the cuts.”

A spokeswoman from the group of supporters, who did not want to be named, said: “The service is doing something positive in communities. A lot of pupils go on to pursue music as a profession or can use it on the UCAS applications. Taking part in ensembles also gives them confidence.”

She said she feared the cuts proposed by the council would see a gradual long term decline in the music service.

She said: “Some may drop out now especially if they have two or three children. In the longer term very few will be taking up lessons in the first place and this is supposed to be the capital of culture.”

She said a petition against the cuts to the music service has now collected more than 3,000 signatures.

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