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Hundreds lobby Wirral councillors to fight Government cuts
HUNDREDS gathered at Wallasey Town Hall to lobby councillors to fight against Government cuts.
Protesters packed out the council chamber's public gallery as they called on the authority to rethink plans to cut jobs and vital services.
Presenting a petition of more than 3,000 signatures was Ross Quinn from Wirral United Against Cuts who warned of the "devastation" that the changes would bring.
The petition is in response to almost £40m worth of cuts which are to be made next year.
Mr Quinn told the meeting: "Please think about the devastation that you will cause if you administer these cuts.
"We need to send them a message – if they attack, we are going to fight back."
Council leader Phil Davies said the cuts were "not right" for Wirral but that the council faced a "huge budget challenge."
However he added that a legal budget needed to be set to avoid commissioners stepping in.
He said: "I am totally committed to doing everything in my power to persuade the Government to change course.
"But I do not believe the way forward is to refuse to set a legal budget because what will happen is that commissioners will be sent in and it will be done for us."
He added: "In terms of the petition, as we all know we are in the middle of a consultation exercise and I don’t believe it would be right or appropriate to make a commitment now."
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Tom Harney and Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green backed his suggestion to note Mr Quinn’s comments and consider them "seriously."
Labour councillors later voted for an "emergency plan" to be put together to help local people cope with welfare benefit cuts.
Claughton councillor George Davies submitted a notice of motion calling on the chief executive to devise a plan which would show how the council will work with other organisations to assist those affected by benefit changes.
He said that forthcoming reforms to incapacity benefit, disability living allowance and the controversial "bedroom tax" would affect people of all ages and backgrounds.
However in a separate Tory notice of motion regarding budget cut proposals, Cllr Green said the ruling Labour administration was "hiding behind the chief executive."
He said he would "take no lectures" from Labour councillors.
Councillor Green said: “The Labour administration lack any sort of coherency or strategy and they are taking this slash and burn approach.
“You do have a choice and to hide behind officers as you constantly seek to do is cowardice.”
Chief executive Graham Burgess said the options set out in the What Really Matters consultation had been designed to “reduce the impact” on Wirral residents.
His comments come as the exercise enters its fifth week with more than 4,000 responses submitted.
Mr Burgess said: “The options we’re proposing have specifically been designed with a view to reducing the impact on residents as much as we can. And – to that end – we have been largely successful.
“However, some very difficult decisions remain. Council services have to change and, as well as reducing senior management and staffing costs, we have to look at the ways to either reduce or reorganise many of the services we provide.
“I cannot stress enough how important this consultation is. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that this is likely to be the most radical change Wirral Council has ever been through and it is vital that people make sure their voice is heard by getting involved in the consultation.”
The consultation closes on January 31 2013 and people can still have their say by calling into any one of Wirral Council’s One Stop Shops or visiting: www.wirral.gov.uk/whatreallymatters.
The matter will be decided on Thursday at a crucial meeting of the ruling cabinet.