Flintshire protesters are set to voice their views

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

FURIOUS protesters are set to descend on Clwyd Theatr Cymru to voice their anger at £10m of controversial budget cuts.

Campaigners against proposals to close libraries, charge for music services and reduce eligibility for free transport are to show their opposition ahead of a crunch vote on Flintshire Council’s budget tomorrow.

They are hoping they can prevent the plans being approved and force a rethink of the cuts with the budget for 2011/12 still needing full council approval.

Library users will be demonstrating outside the meeting as sites at Queensferry, Garden City, Bagillt, Halkyn and Gwernaffield are set to close with more than a thousand signatures collected in opposition.

Sealand councillor Christine Jones said visitors at Queensferry library will be there to show their support.

She has prepared a speech to read out at the meeting raising her concerns.

She said: “The council is pulling the plug on everything.

“We will certainly be having our say and taking up our own issues. They are in for a rough ride and they know they are. We have got the bit between our teeth and we are not going to let go.”

Shotton town councillor Elwyn Jones has been contacted by residents asking how they can protest ahead of the crunch meeting.

He said: “It is ridiculous for the council to even be considering shutting our libraries, especially when they are in a Communities First area.

“They should be fully ashamed of themselves. This is the wellbeing of future generations of children at risk.

“Closing them should be the last resort.”

Flintshire Council has been hit by a reduced settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government, the impact of inflation and increased pressure on services with the cuts set to be the biggest in the authority’s history.

Chris Phillips, secretary of the Friends of Flintshire Music Service, is urging the council to rethink its policy of charging for youngsters to learn instruments for the sake of future education in the county.

He said dozens will be attending the protest on behalf of the group.

“We must keep the music alive in Flintshire and we fear this won’t be the case if the charges are brought in. We have got one of the best music services in the country,” he said.

“But what we want is to be sure that the cuts made are proportional and all areas are being treated fairly.”

The proposals, which carry a provisional charge of £120 per year, would affect about 2,500 children who use the service and a campaign led by the group has snowballed with a petition receiving more than 600 signatures.

Cuts to free transport for pensioners and adults with learning disabilities could save the council £2.6 million in the next three years.

The cuts will affect those on a higher rate of mobility allowance and each case will be judged on an individual basis.

Councillor Aaron Shotton, leader of the opposition Labour group in Flintshire, said he expected people affected by transport cuts to also show their support.

“Cuts to free transport are the most emotive in my eyes,” he said. “People won’t
understand the ramifications if this is actually put in place.” 

- DURING a meeting of the council’s corporate resources scrutiny committee on February 17 council bosses defended the cuts.

Chief executive Colin Everett said: “It is about investing in the culture and the people, not just taking money from the budget.”

Cllr Arnold Woolley, leader of Flintshire Council said the council had not “hacked” away at staff or front line services.

“The budget fits with the aspirations of the authority and the residents of the county.

“It is something that will see us through to better times ahead,” he said.

See full story in the Leader

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