Police ejected protestors from County Hall as politicians voted through £179 million cuts at an extraordinary budget meeting.
The tense meeting had to be halted twice, once when police were called to clear the public gallery and, again, when a fire alarm was activated an hour later, sparking a mass evacuation of the staff, councillors and members of the public.
It was the first time in 20 years that the gallery had been cleared.
During the meeting, Conservative county council leader Geoff Driver was involved in a spat with anti-cuts protestors, who he later branded “unruly louts.”
The decision means that thousands of jobs will now be axed from the authority and many services scaled back over the next three-years. One of the most controversial proposals voted through is the move to shut at least one respite centre for the families of disabled children within the next 12 months, sparking an angry response from the scores of angry protestors who gathered at the meeting. Before the start of yesterday’s meeting dozens of parents affected by the proposals made their feelings clear by staging a protest outside. Some told how important the county’s eight respite centres were to them.
After the meeting Manoj Majhi, 47, whose 14-year-old disabled daughter Amy attends Maplewood House respite centre in Bamber Bridge, which is one of the centres facing the axe, said: “I am totally deflated.
“I came here to see democracy in action and what I got was a sham. They didn’t care one iota what we had to say or how these cuts will affect our families.
The county council budget was approved 42 votes to 23 after more than four hours.