A cross-party, cross-community rally held at the Strand in Barnstaple on Friday vows to show Devon County Council the backlash against cuts is not about to go away...
A broad cross section of service users and political parties of all stripes gathered for a rally in Barnstaple this evening to protest at looming Devon County Council cuts.
Around 100 people turned out to listen to speakers at the event on the Strand, called by North Devon MP Nick Harvey.
Despite cuts to the youth service, closure of care homes and day centres looking almost certain, the message was clear – ‘we are still fighting and will continue to fight’.
Liberal Democrats, the Green party, independents and members of UKIP were on hand to lend their voices to the gathering of vulnerable service users, the elderly, young people and their worried relatives.
Mr Harvey said he wanted to thank everyone who turned out to show their support ‘against these appalling cuts’.
He accused Devon County Council of failing to deal with the budget for social services for several years, boxing itself into a corner and being forced to make ‘callous’ choices.
As suggested by Government Minister Eric Pickles, Mr Harvey said councils should be looking to run down their reserves to help ease services through the current crisis, alleging the county was ‘sitting on £129million’.
“They could have given themselves the time and space to get things right to work out proper solutions that would have given people the dignity and care they need for the years to come,” he said.
“We must make this a cross-community effort, there are more issues yet to be resolved, we have not given up or gone away and with your support we will keep on fighting – and if the county council think it is all over they have another think coming.”
Independent County Councillor Frank Biederman also spoke, saying he had been ashamed to be a councillor when the public wasn’t allowed to speak at three separate meetings to discuss the cuts.
“It’s those people without a voice that they are willing to attack first,” he said.
“It’s vital that people like Barnstaple Town Council and the rest of us keep fighting and keep making our voices heard.”
Elisha Spurway, a member of the youth team at St Georges youth centre in Barnstaple said the cuts had seen them lose many of the staff and a lot of their equipment.
“Everything we have worked for we now don’t have,” she said.
“We now have lots of young people that are upset and don’t know what to do. They don’t have a safe place where they can feel secure and just hang out.”
Barnstaple councillor and Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate Ricky Knight said the gathering was a ‘grassroots rejection and reaction against the cuts from a Conservative-led coalition’.
“It’s the duty and privilege of a civilised society to support and protect the most vulnerable in our society and the exact opposite of that is happening.”