Leeds City Council protest security review

Student protesters occupy the council chamber in Leeds Civic Hall. PIC: Simon Hulme
Student protesters occupy the council chamber in Leeds Civic Hall. PIC: Simon Hulme
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Leeds City Council is to review its security after demonstrators poured into the historic council chamber and derailed the most important budget meeting in years.

Apparently only a single member of the internal security staff was on duty on the doors when anti-cuts campaigners walked past him and took the seats normally occupied by councillors and officers.

The meeting looking at how to implement £90m of service cuts was delayed for an hour and a half while police cleared the chamber.

A spokesman for the council acknowledged that security needed “looking at”.

During the budget meeting, Coun Robert Finnigan, Morley Borough Independents’ group leader, said it was clear that for many years Leeds had not got a fair share of central government funds compared to other cities such as Liverpool and Manchester.

He said a Royal Commission was needed to consider how local authorities were funded.

Despite the cuts decisions, the towel is not being thrown in by many of the campaigners.

Senior councillors have vowed to continue the fight to save a Leeds centre offering service to mentally ill people.

The city council has set a budget for 2011-12 that includes the closure of the Leeds Crisis Centre, Headingley, which provides a counselling service.

Its closure will save £471,000 next year and the council argues a range of alternative counselling and crisis services are available through the NHS.

At the council’s annual budget meeting, proposals from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for £471,000 to be taken from the council’s reserves to keep the centre open for a year while its future was discussed further were defeated.

Coun Stewart Golton, Liberal Democrat group leader, said it had been announced that £400m was to be spent on mental health nationally but it was not yet clear how the NHS would spend that cash locally. He argued the facilities provided by the centre should be safeguarded until there was clarity.

Coun Andrew Carter, Conservative group leader, said: “After visiting the Crisis Centre and seeing for myself the hugely important work they do, it seems to me that this decision should be reconsidered.”

david.marsh@ypn.co.uk

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