Hundreds of people took the the streets in Dorchester to protest over proposed cuts by Dorset County Council.
The march and rally in Dorchester on Saturday made history as the first to begin within Prince Charles’ dream ‘village’ of Poundbury, the urban extension on Duchy of Cornwall land on the edge of Dorchester.
Police kept a watching brief but all was orderly as the march, organised by the Trades Council, wound its way through the showcase estate and the old streets of the town to a rally at County Hall.
Protesters were urging Dorset County Council not to rubber-stamp cabinet recommendations for £11.5 million cuts when it meets on Thursday. The proposal is the first year of a three-year plan which will see more than £40 million shaved off the budget.
The cuts include £5.8 million from services to the elderly and £1.9 million from children’s services. Among recommendations are the closure of homes for adults with learning difficulties, with their transfer to supported accommodation in line with national policies, and cutting more than £200,000, nearly half the budget to support schools that are causing concern.
In a message to the organisers the Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt Rev Graham Kings said: “I’m seriously concerned about the government cuts and am glad to hear about your demonstration.”
West Dorset district councillor Alistair Chisholm criticised the county council’s cabinet system, which he said led to less debate and a concentration of power.
The council’s Conservative administration says it has no alternative as it juggles increasing costs, and reducing Government funding.
Dorset-based Pamela Jefferies of Unison said: “The £11 million cuts in the year ahead are going to decimate public services but this is only a taste of what is to follow.
“The council will have two more years of cutting in excess of £13 million a year.
“I’ve never met a single service user who caused the global financial crisis. I have, however, met lots of people who are going to find themselves without the support they rely on to have a decent standard of living or a living at all. Those who rely on public services may never have seen a ‘casino banker’ but they’re finding out now what happens when the gambling fails.
“The scandalous practices of the private banks – bumper bonuses, fraud, interest-rate fixing, tax evasion, money laundering – have all continued since the crisis financial crisis broke. The banks continue to fail the economy. The ordinary workers, the ill, the disabled continue to suffer.”
Local Trades Council secretary Tim Nicholls added: “You only have to look at the expansion of food banks to know there’s a poverty problem in this county. Food banks are the growth industry in Britain today and we have them serving the communities in Dorchester, Bridport and Weymouth. Whilst we support and thank the churches who’ve provided this lifeline, we must challenge the root causes.”
Take a look at the protesters marching through Dorchester.
Take a look at Cllr Alistair Chisholm speaking out against cuts below.
Take a look at our photo gallery of Saturday's protest in Dorchester over proposed cuts.