Protest planned at Sunderland Council budget cuts meeting

Coucillor Harry Trueman
Coucillor Harry Trueman
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COUNCILLORS will face protestors when they arrive for a meeting to discuss multimillion pound spending cuts.

Members of Sunderland Against the Cuts will be outside the Civic Centre before tomorrow afternoon’s full council meeting, to set the budget to plug a £37million funding gap.

City leaders have warned that tough decisions have to be made, as they aim to freeze council tax rates for the third year running.

Emma Richardson, who will be among the protestors, said: “Local councillors – Labour and Tory – aim to push through another £100million cuts plan that will devastate our city.

“This cannot be allowed to happen. The first cuts budget, in 2011, led to thousands of job losses and the deletion of many services and this second phase, if it goes ahead, will be even more severe.”

The 33-year-old, from Hendon, said: “We urge all those who are angry at the state of our city and wish to protect jobs and services to join the demonstration.

“If enough people turn up, our elected representatives will have to listen.

“Together, we can stop the cuts, reverse the destruction and make the bankers pay for the mess they created.”

Deputy leader Councillor Harry Trueman admitted the outlook for Sunderland was “challenging”.

He said: “The city council has a funding gap of £37million for the next financial year and a similar amount for the year after.

“Because of unfairness in-built into the new system of funding that is being implemented from April, it is a very challenging outlook for Sunderland and many other local authorities.

“As we move towards finalising our budget proposals, the city council continues to prioritise statutory service delivery, to helping and improving the lives of the young and vulnerable, and attracting investment and jobs.

“Yet, there is less room for manoeuvre and flexibility than last year or the year before.”

Conservative group leader, Coun Robert Oliver, said: “It’s the financial reality that cuts have to be made.

“The council has choice about how it makes the cuts and what it decides to cut and what it decides to protect.

“At the end of the day, Sunderland is still getting four times as much as wealthier areas. It is a case really of looking at new methods of working with arts, museums and libraries to ensure that we can still get a service with a reduced budget.”

Independent leader Colin Wakefield added: “Obviously, we are facing difficult times and as far as protests about cuts, people need to be constructive.

“These are difficult times for everyone, so unless people have a better alternative, we don’t have a great deal of choice.”

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