Angie Waller, Kirklees local government Unison (personal capacity)
250 people from several campaign groups chanted: “Kirklees Council, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue”. We questioned each councillor, asking them not to vote for cuts, and instead save 750 jobs.
Many people made deputations to speak to the full council meeting, including two from Unison trade union. But the council refused many of these.
This didn’t stop each campaign speaking on the megaphone outside, giving moving reports from their areas. One in particular was from the wife of a resident, speaking about the Save Claremont House campaign.
She graphically outlined the needs of her husband, who has dementia. Closure would devastate the family if he is moved, and destabilise her husband’s condition as he battles with unfamiliar surroundings.
Councillors felt compelled to applaud the same speech when it was given in the council meeting. The councillor responsible for social care said she sympathised with the situation, but expected that the council would make ‘tough decisions’ after a consultation.
In other words, the council will make cuts of £47 million. This includes two dementia care homes, three leisure centres, Cleckheaton Town Hall, and Batley Library.
The Labour council’s crude response stated that they “fully appreciate council finances are absolutely not a priority for you or your families at this time, but, unfortunately, they have to be for us.”
Campaigners from Kirklees Active Leisure spoke about recent knife crime in the area, and that young people see the centre as a lifeline. They pleaded for councillors to bring the service back ‘in-house’ after the council reduced its subsidy to them.
Batley Baths has closed, and Deighton Centre has begun limited weekend opening. Campaigners against the closures of Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite and Deighton Sports Arena managed to speak to the council.
Pressure has now forced West Yorkshire Combined Authority to return £9 million to Kirklees Council to plug the funding gap. This should be used to keep services open and save jobs.
Kirklees Unison’s agreed strategy is to call on the Labour council to set a “no-cuts needs budget to defend all jobs and services, and campaign for adequate central government to protect jobs and services”.