Rally against council cuts in Gateshead to take place on Saturday

Library users, keen swimmers and pensioners will unite to take part in a rally through Gateshead town centre on Saturday.

The demonstration against Gateshead Council’s budget cuts will bring dozens of protestors together, as well as three MPs, who will speak out on Central Government’s current financial deal for local authorities.

Those affected by proposed library and swimming pool closures, and cut backs of hours at Gateshead facilities, will meet with people who use the borough’s older people’s and mental health services.

Gateshead Council’s leader Mick Henry must make up to £46m worth of savings over the next two years and proposals include reviewing how they run the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre, Dunston Activity Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre.

Other cut backs – including the older people’s service which helps people with their shopping and paying bills on time – could lead to job losses.

Together service users will march from the Gateshead Interchange towards the Civic Centre at 2.15pm on Saturday (07 Feb), in a protest organised by the Gateshead Public Services Alliance which is part of the union Unison.

Speeches will be heard from Labour politicians, Dave Anderson MP for Blaydon, Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow and Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead.

Alison Chapel, area organiser for the Public Services Alliance, said: “We have people coming on behalf of the libraries, and older people’s services in Gateshead which are all under threat with closure of the scaling back of hours.

“We know that the council have to make cuts because the Government is reducing their budget.

“The council has to decide how these cuts are going to be implemented and we are trying to show that they are not just dealing with statistics.

“These cuts affect real people because they use the service and they need the service and in some cases, particularly the older people’s service, it’s a false economy anyway because it’s quite a low level service but it means people can stay in their homes and it prevents them taking up beds in hospitals.

“It is Central Government who are cutting the council finances and we do understand the difficulty the council is facing but they need to make the decision in the face of people’s actual experiences and needs.”

Councillor Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council said:

“Setting our Budget is a fine balancing act as we have so many competing priorities. It’s getting harder and harder to continue to protect those services that people want and need, but we will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.

“We know that in future there will be some significant changes to services that people hold dear, but we need to start making those decisions now as the money simply won’t be there to continue to provide them in the same way.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  05 Feb 2015

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