CROWDS turned out to protest against cuts of £45million by Northumberland County Council yesterday.
Union members from Unison, GMB and Unite, alongside family, friends and members of the public, joined the mass rally at County Hall, with strike action a possibility if issues with the authority are not resolved.
This was prior to the full council budget-setting meeting to try to sway politicians on budget proposals which could lead to more than 1,000 job losses.
But despite the rally, the budget was approved.
Allan Douglas, county council Unite Chairman, said: “We are here because of the cuts that the public is going to suffer under the proposed county council budget and to protest against workers losing 20 per cent of their wage through the bonus section being taken away.
“If they do not sign these new contracts, they will be served with a notice of dismissal by the council.
“There are other issues such as overtime rates being cut and discrepancies with holidays.
“We are prepared to compromise on certain items and know we can’t win on everything, but at the moment we feel our suggestions are being ignored. And if action is not taken over single status and equal pay issues, we will consider balloting our members for industrial action.”
Morpeth resident Ian Fleming, Joint Secretary of the Northumberland County Unison branch and a county council employee, said: “The cuts will hit a lot of key services and the purpose of this demonstration is to put the message across to the council that it must lobby central government a lot harder than it is at the moment, instead of sitting back and letting the cuts happen.
“I’m concerned that they could lead to even a vibrant town like Morpeth becoming a ghost town in a few years.”
The protests were also against the public service reductions across the country by the Government and calls were made for it to consider alternative measures such as a fairer taxation system.
County council employee Barry Vaughan, who lives in Morpeth, said: “It’s just a disgrace that the county council has got to the situation where people are standing outside County Hall protesting against cuts which will be on-going for years.
“The council has been told to make the cuts by central government, but it doesn’t seem to care about the effect they will have. We went from seven district councils to a single unitary and this was supposed to make savings, but where have these savings gone?”
See www.morpethherald.co.uk for full details.