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Devon anti-cuts alliances oppose callous Tory cuts
On Thursday 17 February, Devon county councillors met to vote on a proposed budget which would slash £54 million from services, ranging from support for abused women (which was initially slated for a 100% cut and was reduced as a result of mass revulsion and anger in the county), to youth services, public transport and support for children in care, with much else besides.
Remarkably, the Tory-led council also proposed to add to the reserves, rather than use them to protect services.
Around 60 campaigners, from north Devon and Exeter anti-cuts alliances, as well as single-issue opponents of cuts to domestic violence and homelessness services, protested loudly outside and inside County Hall.
With the council meeting due to start at 2.15pm, the protesters gathered outside and at one point, a few challenged council leader John Hart on the effects of cuts to abused women.
He patronisingly dismissed these valid concerns as 'over-dramatised', typical of his arrogant and callous approach. Unwisely, he did this in full view of the TV cameras.
Another Tory councillor was seen cheerily mocking protesters while waving a bottle of wine at them. It seems councillors prepare for crucial meetings with a 'wine club', before they enter the council chamber to destroy lives.
In the council chamber, dozens of questions from the general public challenged the cuts, and Hart was asked by a member of North Devon Anti-Cuts Alliance whether he agreed that the cuts will result in lives being damaged and lost.
He did not respond to this, or the correct assertion that the councillors who vote for the budget should be ashamed of themselves.
From the outset of the budget debate, protesters, led by Exeter and north Devon anti-cuts alliances, noisily made their feelings known, with many ejected and others walking out.
The councillors clearly do not like to hear opposition to their disastrous measures.
The budget was passed, mainly with Tory votes but with the help of a few Lib Dems. All opposition political groups on the council proposed amendments to the main budget motion, but such is the weakness of the approach of the Labour councillors and Green councillor that their proposals were just watered-down versions of the Lib Dem amendment.
The Green councillor in her amendment even made pains to acknowledge the "apparent necessity" of the cuts.
The fight continues, with councillors fully aware of the anger and depth of opposition to the reckless and damaging course they are taking. At the moment, in Devon there is a pressing need to ensure that single-issue campaigners are brought into the broader anti-cuts groups which stress 'no cuts to any services or jobs', to undercut false arguments for cuts as well as to prevent councillors playing off campaigners against each other.