Siege of Canterbury City Council
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
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
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
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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