On Wednesday 23rd Feb, workers, students and unemployed of Leeds shut down the City Council meeting and temporarily stopped them passing their cuts budget.
Leeds council, a council with a Labour majority, planned to vote through £90 million of cuts meaning 1500 council workers would be sacked and essential services slashed.
A rally called by Unison and supported by trade unions, service-uses groups and anti-cuts campaigns convened outside the civic hall at 12:30. There were speeches about services like Leeds Crisis Centre, bin collections and youth centres that would be decimated by this budget. Trade unionists spoke about the need to unite workers and service users in the campaign against cuts.
The rally then entered the council building, with 50 people making it into the council chambers before police blockaded the doors. Protesters filled the public galleries and the building’s lobby chanting “Leeds council hear us say: not our crisis, we won’t pay!”
Those inside the chamber filled up the seats and spoke against the cuts, demanding that the Council pass a no-cuts budget.
The council executive announced that the meeting wouldn’t be held that day, an announcement that was met with cheers. After the protest disbursed, the Council met in secret – completely violating their own rules and undermining what little democracy we have to hold them to account.
However, the Council may have been successful in passing their cuts budget but they still have to implement it. The four trade unions that represent local government workers in Leeds are currently balloting on an offer that the Council has made to them but if the members vote to reject the cuts then the Council are likely to face prolonged industrial action. We need to unite service users and workers to defeat every cut – we must actively support the strike if it takes place, but also take other action such as occupying services like libraries and youth centres when the Council tries to close them.