Protest over Nottingham City Council cuts outside the Council House

Many gathered outside the Nottingham Council House to protest the talks of service cuts after the city council issued a Section 114 notice.

Over the past ten years, according to a leaflet and speakers at the event, £1 billion has been cut from Nottingham City Council by the central Government – as explained in a Guardian piece from January this year David Mellen explained: “The reduction of funding from government, £100m less every year since 2013 in the case of Nottingham city.”

This protest comes in light of fears of risks to 554 council jobs and closures in care homes, youth centres, libraries, museums, home care services and welfare rights services.

Shenna Wheatley, NEU secretary, said in a speech at the event in regards to the effect of cuts on young people: “Where will our young people get opportunities if all around them the cultural sector has been cut away?

“Our future cannot be put up for sale and cannot be cut to pieces before these young people even have a chance to live.”

A view of the early parts of the protest

One leaflet was given out at the protest and explained three key messages – stop council cuts, fund council services and save our community.

Council leader David Mellen said: “I’m not afraid of being accountable to people; we will be standing up for the people in Nottingham as we always tried to do but we are in a restricted situation where the government have underfunded us for to the tune of nearly 1 billion pounds over the last 10 years and you can’t take that amount of money out of the budget without there being effects on everyday people in our city.

“We are working to try and stop the cuts, we consulted on cuts to our public transport network, and we found another way of funding that – there is some one-off funding that the government have allowed us to use, it’s not a long-term solution but it means that the link buses will continue the buses that particularly used by our disability community, the real-time signs we can see here in the square will continue and the Victoria bus station will stay open. 

“In a year we will have a devolved Combined Authority with a mayor who may be able to help us because they are going to have a lot of money to spend on strategic transport.”

One sign echoing the sentiment of the day as protestors ask for more funding

According to the Local Government Association, almost one in five council leaders and chief executives in England surveyed think it is very or fairly likely that their chief finance officer will need to issue a Section 114 notice due to a lack of funding to keep key services running.

Once a finance officer issues a Section 114 notice, the authority may not incur new spending unless the finance officer permits it to do so.

It can be argued that there has been some mismanagement by Nottingham City Council, for example, losing millions in the failed Robin Hood Energy, a not-for-profit company set up by the council in 2015 in competition with the six main national energy suppliers and later sold at a loss.

Christina Sanna, the branch secretary of Nottingham City Unison, said: “The council is about to launch the most devastating cuts we’ve seen to date and part of those cuts is to cut 554 jobs.

“Those are our members’ jobs and those people are going to be left facing all sorts of financial problems as a lot of our members are low-paid, so they’re really going to struggle.

“They need to demand more funding from central government and the central government – they found the funding for all sorts of other schemes and the government have cut Council funding by one billion pounds in the last 10 years, 40 per cent of their funding, so it’s no surprise that they can’t run the services that they need with the funds that they’ve got.”

A large Unite the Union banner

Gary Freeman who attended the protest said: “Labour councillors were not elected to do the Tory’s dirty work and it’s absolutely vital, even at this late stage, that the council votes and councillors voted against the budget.

“What they need to do so have to take a leaf out the lessons of the Liverpool City Council, the Labour Council in the 1980s, that council actually said this is what you’ve given us, we’ll fight for the money.”

Signs from protestors decorate the lion statue outside the Council House

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