by Gerry Warren
The expected siege of the Guildhall in Canterbury over the city council’s controversial budget cuts, which prompted the authority to draft in extra security, failed to materialise on Thursday night.
There were around 60 protesters, half the number expected, but they were unable to persuade the council from passing key elements of the savings, including closing the Westgate Hall, public toilets, increasing parking charges and cutting grants to voluntary organisations.
But there was some shift in the most contentious proposal of the evening surrounding the planned closure of the Roman, Westgate Towers museums in Canterbury and the Herne Bay Museum.
Although the Tories still voted to axe £112,000 from the museum’s budget, they pledged there would be no museum closures this year and the council would work with other organisations to examine ways of keeping them open without the financial burden on the local taxpayer.
The opposition Liberal Democrat group tabled six amendments to the budget with leader Cllr Alex Perkins saying the council should put people first and insisting his proposals could be fully funded, simply by making different choices.
In particular, he wanted to drop longer terms plans to move the Canterbury market and refurbish St George’s Street and use the money to keep open and renovate the Westgate Hall.
But one by one, all the amendments were defeated by the majority Conservative administration.
Council leader John Gilbey (Con) said the council had to be prepared for years of severe financial restraint and the crisis in public finances.
He said: “People know the world has changed, that money is not growing on trees and when it is short you have to make choices and take difficult decisions.
"The watchword for the coming years will be vigilance and careful budget control.”
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