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Around 150 workers, students and service users attended a lobby of the Leeds City Council budget setting meeting on Wednesday 23rd February. The council is making a brutal £90m worth of cuts this year, including the loss of 3,000 jobs, closure of around 14 libraries, several leisure centres, adult day centres and the Leeds Crisis Centre to name a few. The protest was mainly composed of council workers, with a group of adult social care service users and a feeder march of students joining it.
 
A Leeds Socialist Party member
 
Despite the bad weather, there was a lively mood on the rally, with chants of ‘Labour Council hear us say, bankers crisis, we won’t pay’, and a mood grew amongst those assembled to sit-in the council chamber to stop the council passing its cuts budget. Despite being stopped first by council officers, then by the police around 50 made it in to the council chamber where they proceeded to stage their own vote on the councils budget.
 
One Labour councillor who described herself as someone who used to do this sort of thing, cam over to speak to Socialist Students members and said she was encouraged by the lobby and occupation as she was concerned over the cuts, particularly those to education. Whilst welcoming this, we argued that in that case she should be opposing cuts in the council chamber too, it isn’t enough to wait for a mass demonstration in London or to the election government in five years time that might not make cuts, ordinary working people in Leeds want a lead now. Unfortunately she didn’t to oppose the budget in council meetings and argue for the council to lead a mass campaign to defy the government like we asked her to.
 
After around an hour of occupation, the council Chief Executive came in to announce that the meeting would be postponed, which was met by huge cheers and anti-cuts chants. Councillors then filed out of the room, and sensing they were trying to reconvene the meeting elsewhere, many that were occupying then left to follow them. However, by this stage large numbers of police reinforcements had arrived to protect the councillors from their angry constituents, and ensure that the council could go ahead and hold the meeting. Whilst we haven’t prevented the meeting from taking place altogether, we view the fact we were able to delay them as a real acheivement and a stepping stone towards building a mass campaign throughout the city to stop all the cuts.
 
Further reports and photos to follow.

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