It is no surprise that Sefton’s budget meeting was dominated by the library closures that I posted about a couple of days ago. Indeed, it is fair to say that the budget debate, whilst ranging over many issues, was mainly about the libraries and the dodgy goings on at Maghull Town Council, which I have also posted about recently.
It was not as party political as it could have been though because despite the Labour Council Leader going through the motions of criticising the Coalition government for the cuts it was just that, he was going through the motions rather than blasting the Coalition as he has done in the past. Me thinks that Labour is now hearing a penny drop that they have closed their ears to in the recent past. The penny is one that says ‘we really are in a terrible financial situation’, that ‘if Labour were in government we would be cutting pretty much as the Coalition is doing’ and there is maybe a bit of ‘we helped cause this mess’ amongst Labour politicians thoughts ‘so probably best to tone it down a bit’.
My Party Sefton Leader, Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne, reminded the now controlling Labour Group how they opposed and ranted and raved about the savings when the previously ‘balanced’ all-party run Council had to make savings. He contrasted that with Labour making the cuts now they are running the Council. Yes, Labour muttered a bit but I think they understood only too well what Iain was saying.
The media coverage of the meeting has, however, clearly hit on what happened just before and during the first part of the meeting; the disruption caused by a small group of anti-cuts activists – maybe 40 of them I would guess? They were outside Bootle Town Hall mingling with the Library closure protesters from Southport and Aintree but two more dissimilar groups of protesters you would go a long way to try to find.
The Library protesters were single issue focused, mainly middle aged to elderly and predominately middle class. Their protest, as with all the other library closure protests was measured and almost too polite. The anti-cuts protesters were noisy, very far from polite (especially to the Labour Council Leader and his members) and seemingly from a very different walk of life to the Library folk. Probably socialist to a man and woman and from every sect of the socialist creed as well they were opposed to any and all cuts being made by anyone.
Obviously both groups of protesters had the Labour led Council in their sights but I suppose you could say that the library protestors were using the power of persuasion and debate to make their point whilst the anti-cuts campaigners were using their voices to shout out their message whether the Council Leader wanted to hear it or not.
Having been a trade union officer for many years I have always thought the former approach works best and the latter one, whilst making those who do the shouting feel that they have achieved something, probably makes little progress in most arenas.
The irony of all this though was what the anti-cuts campaigners were doing this year was what the very same Labour councillors, who were doing the cutting this year, did a couple of years ago on the streets of Sefton. Labour led the protests then but now they are in power on Sefton Council they are the ones axing libraries and many, many, many other things. In a period of two years Labour have gone from heroes to villains in the eyes of the anti-cuts campaigners and probably polite library campaigners as well.
It’s a funny old political world indeed.