firstname.lastname@example.org (Working Class Heroine) | 23.02.2012 22:55
On Thursday 23rd February, Nottinghamshire County Council met to debate and vote on its budget for 2012-13. Following from previous years, this will see millions slashed from the budget and further job cuts.
The council meeting began at 10am, while the protest commenced at 12.30pm.
The demonstration had been organised by Unison who'd asked people to come in purple. In practice most people had dismissed this, but the union were able to dish out a number of purple tabards which did give the event a fairly uniform appearance.
I had a go at counting people and am fairly confident there were about 40 people there, although I'm not so confident they were all actually protesters.
This isn't a massive turnout, but recall that this is the third year the council has pushed through massive cuts. There were protests at budget meetings in 2010 and 2011 (which coincided with a strike by Unison members) with little obvious effect.
The Tories have a majority. With the "independents" essentially indistinguishable from them on almost every issue and the LibDems no more principled than they are in central government the outcome of the day was always inevitable. The Labour group's vocal opposition was always largely symbolic (and to my mind cyncially orientated towards electioneering.)
Locally, as nationally, what is needed to defeat the cuts is a major increase in resistance, which moves beyond the limited confines of the dissent endorsed by Unison. Unfortunately, it appears that things need to get a lot worse (as they very well might) before many people are prepared to take that step.
In the meantime, we're left with a large number of people who feel uncomfortable with what's happening, but unable to do anything. How and whether these people can be mobilised by the anti-cuts movement is an open question, but I suspect we'll need to offer them something more than just standing around outside County Hall.
The demonstration attracted a handful of non-council protesters - including some from Notts SOS, Occupy Nottingham and local Trots - but not as many as in past years. This perhaps suggests a need to look at how publicity is distributed to the local community.
Probably the largest contingent on the demo was from Sherwood Industries, a council owned company that builds and sells furniture. Most workers there have a physical or learning disability. This is one of the services which the council voted to cut.
Hoping to attract council workers on their lunch, the protest was kept mercifully short. There were a couple of speakers on behalf of Unison, one from Sherwood Industries, a representative of the Nottinghamshire Disabled People's Movement and (inevitably) Alan Rhodes, leader of the Labour group on the county council. When speakers finished sooner than appeared to be accepted, the megaphone was made available for anybody who wanted to speak and another Labour councillor, wasted no time in putting himself forward.
With the speakers over, the protest wound up with some chanting, before people drifted off. This reminded me of the most pressing need facing the anti-cuts movement: to find some new, better chants than the tired cliches that we seem to rely on. This alone might not bring down Kay Cutts, but it would certainly make these sorts of events more enjoyable.
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