Hope for all those fighting against the cuts comes from Blackburn in Lancashire. Tuesday evening witnessed a significant milestone in the fight against a programme of swingeing cuts in local public facilities.
After a series of protests and campaigns over the last few weeks councilors voted by 32 to 21 to reject the latest cuts package.
Blackburn’s local Con-Dem coalition's proposed cuts include the closure of Shadsworth, Blackburn’s biggest sports and leisure facility, plus the chop for four community centres.
An extraordinary meeting of Blackburn and Darwen’s full (64 member) council had been initiated by the Labour group in response to a 5,800-strong public petition.
Six hours of a horrendous downpour made the planned two-mile demo from Shadsworth impossible, so protesters filled the council chamber to hear a 15-minute appeal from a leading Shadsworth activist. This was followed by a prolonged and very heated debate.
On average, the Blackburn population die eight years earlier than their national average and the area has received funds to encourage sports and fitness for several years.
Tony Humphries, a Labour councillor for Shadsworth, poured scorn on the Con-Dems “You’ve had millions and millions....After taking the cash now you want to rip the heart out of the most deprived communities.”
After almost three hours, the debate ended with the cuts programme rejected. The successful motion requires the council executive to reconsider or revise their proposals.
However, due to the undermining of local democracy by the previous Labour government, a vote of the full council is not necessarily binding on the ten person executive. The campaign to protect public facilities is far from over.
A public protest meeting is being held in defence of the Little Harwood Community Centre on Thursday 22 July. As the local Labour councillor Pat McFall argued in the council chamber: “The community centre is the heart of Little Harwood, and we are not going to see it shut down.”