By Elliott Patrice –
Demonstrations outside of Huddersfield Town Hall took place on Wednesday, 18 October, as hundreds of protesters came together in support of a number of services across Kirklees, which are under threat of being cut.
Kirklees Council has to find savings of over £47m in order to balance its books for the current financial year, and proposals have been made to close a number of public services, from sports centres to nursing homes.
Many in the community of Kirklees have countless questions and concerns about how and why these decisions are being and where the council is deciding to make its cuts.
In a bid to stave off bankruptcy and restore fiscal health, the local authority has announced a series of austerity measures. Among these measures are the distressing prospects of reducing its workforce by up to 750 members and the closing of two care homes, at least three leisure centres, and Cleckheaton’s town hall.
Many different groups from across Kirklees came together on Wednesday to show the council and its members who these cuts will affect most. Protesters booed several councillors as they entered the meeting.
Tanisha Bramwell, one of the lead organisers of #stoptheclosures, said: “Right now, there’s a lot of closures taking place. And this is because there’s been poor communication between Kirklees Council and the cabinet members and local people.
“There are several closures that are taking place right now, but as you can see, there’s a lot of pushback.”
“[These protests] make sure that we can evidence that the community is in uproar. So when that consultation comes out, if they say ‘nobody fed back appropriately, nobody pushed back, we didn’t, we didn’t hear those concerns’, and these closures took place.
“This is evidence that that’s not true. And all we’re saying to the council is work with us.”
“We’re not now, and we don’t want to be against the council. We want to say to the council we want a seat at your table when it comes to this decision-making process. It is impacting our lives.”
Lousie Lewis, representing those from Deighton Sports Arena, gave a speech at the cabinet, which you can read below.
“As a member of the community and a PE teacher, I was concerned when the Leisure centre’s temporary closure was announced last year. KAL and the Council appear to be earmarking several Leisure Centres for closure now. We are hearing of redundancy notices being issued to staff before the consultation has been concluded. What information can the Council provide, and how has this escalated to this level.”
“We set up a campaign last December to save Deighton Sports Arena in an attempt to safeguard the future of the centre. It has been temporarily reprieved with very limited opening over the weekend and unable to accommodate the full sporting teams we had there. We remain unclear about future alternative options. It appears the centre is being wound down with no further information from KAL, our local Councilors or the Cabinet lead other than to push for a community asset transfer.”
“Our community continues to face multiple problems. Since we last spoke to you, another tragic murder has taken place in our area. Young people have no alternative outlet or provision. Deighton Leisure Centre is literally a lifeline. It can be dangerous for some of our young people to risk travel to other centres. There is no amount of improvements to travel arrangements which can help that. Our community suffers disproportionately from deprivation and poverty. Our schools struggle with its impact on a daily basis. We asked for equality impact assessments six months ago. None have been forthcoming. You are leaving this community, my community, with little hope or commitment.”
The meeting wasn’t without its controversies, with people in attendance in the public gallery spotting several councillors and members appearing to be looking at their phones during the public’s deputations.
Members of the community invited to speak on behalf of those affected felt they were being actively ignored at certain points.As reported by the BBC, Kirklees Labour member Steve Hall spent more than 15 minutes watching a football match. Things like this added to the tensions already at a high level.
Official complaints have since been passed on to Councilor Graham Turner and the Chief Whip.