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Anger as council forced to make big spending cuts
3:57pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in News
NEWCASTLE City Council is pressing ahead with £100m of cuts despite widespread opposition.
The Labour-run authority blamed its predicament on the Coalition Government for reducing the money it gives for council spending in the city,
The cuts package, which will be spread over three years, was approved at an emotion-charged meeting of the council, at which security guards were present and members of the public jeered as the cuts were debated.
Last month there was a major demonstration in the city against the cuts by service users and unions.
More than 55,000 signalled their opposition, urging city councillors not to implement them. North-East artists such as Mark Knopfler and Sting were among those protesting at the cuts. The proposals, given the title Fair Choices for Tough Times, were amended to reflect public concern.
A proposed 100 per cent cut to arts funding was reduced to 50 per cent.
The council also agreed to establish a new £600,000 Newcastle Culture Fund and decided not t to close the City Hall rock venue.
Ten of the city’s libraries will close by 2016, although five could be saved if community groups come forward to take them over.
About 1,300 jobs could be lost among the council’s workforce as the authority embarks on a restructure.
Two respite care centres that were originally billed for closure Councillor David Faulkner, Liberal Democrat opposition leader, accused the council’s Labour leader Nick Forbes of misleading the public and not being fit to run the council.
He said the council was cutting deeper than it needed to and proposed alternative savings Mr Forbes said: "The budget forced on to us sets us back nearly two decades."
He said that the cuts could only be avoided if the council tax was increased by 50 per cent rather than being frozen at the current level.
In response to calls from the public gallery not to implement the cuts, Mr Forbes said the council would be a "civic basket case" if savings were not found.
He added: "The damage to our growing reputation as a place to do business and create jobs would be incalculable. It is simplistic, playground politics.”