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Posted on 28 February 2014 at 10:05 GMT

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo K Jones

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo K Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Powys council backtracks on two flagship cuts

Kate Jones, Socialist Party Wales

Powys, one of the most rural counties in Wales, with no large towns or cities, is not known for political protest. Yet a very vocal and colourful lobby of the county council's budget meeting on 25th February resulted in two major climbdowns from the council, which is run by various so-called 'Independents'.

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo by K Jones

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo by K Jones   (Click to enlarge)

A campaign by parents and teachers to save Additional Learning Needs units in the county's schools has developed into a broader 'Powys Uncut' campaign taking as its starting point opposition to all cuts, and Tuesday saw a real grassroots lobby by over 100 adults and children.

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo by K Jones

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo by K Jones   (Click to enlarge)

One mother movingly described how her autistic daughter, who is unable to speak, had flourished in the unit at brand new Golwg Y Cwm school in Ystradgynlais. She told me her daughter was able to take part in whole-school activities such as assemblies, but got the special support and attention she needs in the ALN unit. "There's no way she could cope in a mainstream classroom, no matter how much support she had."

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo by K Jones

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo by K Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Parents and children were joined by other supporters of Powys Uncut, opposing cuts to the schools library service, respite care, day centres and home care for elderly and disabled people. While other political parties were conspicuous by their absence, the Socialist Party's bilingual leaflets and placards were well-received.

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo K Jones

Lobby of Powys county council's budget meeting, 25th February 2014, photo K Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Faced with an unprecedented show of 'people power' the council backtracked on two of its flagship cuts - the ALN units are to stay, and the sixfold increase in charges for using Day Centres has been dropped. The council failed to agree its budget and was adjourned for a week. It's clear that the bulk of the 20 million cuts will go ahead - the struggle to save our services has only just begun.

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